Is It Wrong To Cohabitate Before Marriage?

The answer to this question depends somewhat on what is meant by “living together.” If it means having sexual relations, it is definitely wrong. Premarital sex is repeatedly condemned in Scripture, along with all other forms of sexual immorality

but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. Acts 15:20 (ESV)

Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 1 Corinthians 6:13 (ESV)

We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 1 Corinthians 10:8 (ESV)

just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Jude 7 (ESV)

The Bible promotes complete abstinence outside of (and before) marriage. Sex before marriage is just as wrong as adultery and other forms of sexual immorality, because they all involve having sex with someone outside of the marital covenant.

If “living together” means living in the same house, that is perhaps a different issue. Technically, there is nothing wrong with a man and a woman living in the same house—if there is nothing immoral taking place. However, the problem arises in that there is still the appearance of evil. People assume you are sleeping together when you live together. It is sinful to promote the appearance of evil. It is also not honoring Christ to lead others to think you are a Christian living in sin before marriage.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Ephesians 5:3 (ESV)

In addition, living together provides a tremendous temptation for immorality. Most engaged couples living together find themselves frequently failing to live in abstinence. The Bible tells us to flee immorality, not live in temptation with it. Exposing ourselves to a constant temptation for immorality by living with the person you want to marry is unwise and according to 1 Corinthians 6:18, probably sinful.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18 (ESV)

The Bible also tells us to abstain from any type of evil. Living with the person you want to marry is not abstaining from sexual temptation. It is encouraging sexual temptation.
Two Fish In A Bowl

Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (ESV)

In addition, practicing abstinence while living together as if you were married is bad practice for marriage. It is training a couple to sleep apart in the same house. When marital difficulties arise, it is easy for a spouse to retreat to the same couch in the basement he/she slept on for 6 months before the wedding night because that is what he/she trained himself/herself to do—to live together and abstain. That is not God’s will for a couple.

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Corinthians 7:5 (ESV)

Statistically it is unwise to live together before marriage. It decreases your odds of marital success.

  1. You have a higher divorce rate if you live together before you are married (67% vs. 45%)
  2. A woman who lives with a man before marriage is 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
  3. She is twice as likely to be beaten.
  4. She is nine times more likely to be murdered.
  5. Virgins who marry have a high level of marital satisfaction.
  6. Of 100 cohabitating couples, 85 break up before 10 years together.
  7. Men and women who live together are more likely to cheat on one another.
  8. Only one-sixth of live-in relationships last at least three years and only one-tenth endure five or more years.1
  9. Living together increases the risk of domestic violence for women and the risk of physical and sexual abuse for children. One study found the risk of domestic violence for cohabitating women is double that of married women.2
  10. Couples who live together before marriage are more likely to have an affair during marriage than those who don’t.3
  11. Cohabitating couples are three times more likely to say, “hitting, shoving and throwing things” occurred in the previous year.4
  12. Cohabitating couples report less sexual satisfaction than married couples.5
  13. Not only is sex more satisfying for married couples but those who report the highest level of satisfaction with sexual intimacy are those who have experienced only one sexual partner.6
  14. Those least likely to suffer clinical depression are those who are married and never divorced. Those who cohabitate are more likely to be depressed than those who are single and those who are divorced. The only category more prone to major depression than those living together are those who experienced multiple divorces.7
What should I do if I am living together before my wedding night? Moving apart before the wedding night and living in total purity, even if it is for a short season before the wedding. Repentance of sin and honoring God even when it is not convenient is always the key to God's marital blessing and increases the likelihood of marital success.

(1) — Karen Peterson, “Wedded to Relationship but Not to Marriage,” USA Today, 18 April 2000.

(2) — David Popenoe, “Cohabitation: The Marriage Enemy,” USA Today, 28 July 2000.

(3) — Brian Holman, “Co-habiting First May Not Improve Marriage,” Scripps Howard Foundation Wire, 5 August 2000.

(4) — Murray Dubin, “A Mission to Remedy Marriage, “ Philadelphia Inquirer, 6 August 2000.

(5) — Robert T. Michael, John H. Gagnon, and Edward O. Lauman, Sex in America: A Definitive Survey (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1994), 124.

(6) — Robert T. Michael, John H. Gagnon, and Edward O. Lauman, Sex in America: A Definitive Survey (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1994), 124.

(7) — Lee Robins and Darrel Regier, Psychiatric Disorders in America: The Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study (New York: Free Press, 1991), 72.