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Is Cohabitation a Sin?


I spend a good deal of my time spiritually mentoring 20-30 year old men, often single. And I’m still shocked when they freely disclose, without a hint of embarrassment, that they’re living with their girlfriend. I’d expect this indifference to violating God’s moral laws from non-Christians. But, I often get the same response from men raised in Christian homes and who actually attend church with their girlfriends!

So, why is this happening and how can you frame the discussion for your own cohabitating children, grandchildren or the singles you’re mentoring? Here’s how I try to address this issue. It’s not cohabitation that’s the sin – it’s sex!

Later in this blog, I’ll get to why cohabitation is so very unwise and actually toxic to marriage. But I’m unaware of any actual biblical prohibition against two unmarried people living together. However, I have yet to meet a man and woman living together who denied they were having sex. So, that’s the first problem!

While unmarried Christians might try to minimize the seriousness of sex outside of marriage, (fornication) because everyone is “doing it” (largely true) or “we intend to get married” (probably not, statistically), the Bible calls it sin.

Why cohabitation is both unwise and toxic to relationships.

  1. Cohabitation hinders a couple’s witness as followers of Jesus to other people. Even non-Christians generally know the Bible prohibits or at the very least, frowns on sex outside of marriage. So when they meet “Christians” living together, what do you think they think about God? Jesus said this; “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16Cohabitation by Christians serves as an excuse for non-Christians to not take God seriously, if Christians themselves don’t!

  2. Cohabitating Christians lose the moral high ground for speaking truth to their future children. The maxim, “do as I say, not as I do,” is generally thought of as the very definition of hypocrisy. Someday, cohabitating couples, either together or with some other spouse, will likely have children. And when those children grow to being young adults, and are tempted to make sin sexual choices, just what moral gravitas can these parents draw on to encourage purity. The answer is none, even if they come to be serious followers of Jesus. There’s another old maxim that comes to mind, “Christianity is more caught, than taught!”

Data and Conclusions from non-Christians The University of Virginia, in partnership with Rutgers University of New York, have spent years studying the effects to cohabitation, not from a moral view point, but from the long term effects on future marriages, children and personal happiness. Their groundbreaking, professional work is called the Marriage Project. ( Their conclusions ought to make every rational cohabitating person give their keys back to their roommates today!

Here are several of their conclusions:

  1. If you live together before getting married, you’re putting your future marriage in danger! The Marriage Project (MP) found that cohabitating appears to be so counter productive to long-lasting marriages, that unmarried couples should absolutely avoid living together, especially if it involves children. They concluded that living together in this fragile family form, poses risks to women and children. Why?Men often enter such relationships with less intention of marrying than women. They are often pressured into “moving in” by a woman hoping the move will lead to marriage. And men gladly accept the invitation generally for sexual reasons, without the restraints of a long-term commitment – marriage.The absence of any strong moral or legal restraint, that generally forces married couples to get counseling to “make it work,” when they encounter difficulties, makes it far less likely that cohabitating couples will actually stay together. Children in these fragile relationships have an even higher degree of anxiety and antisocial behavior, than the children of divorced couples do.

  2. Depression rates among cohabitating couples are three times higher than married couples! The researchers believe the probable answer is that the uncertainty of commitment to each other, leads to even higher anxiety. And since break ups by cohabitating adults is roughly double the rate of those getting divorced, that anxiety appears to be warranted.

  3. Cohabitating women are far more likely to be abused by their boyfriends than married women. Their findings are grim. Women in cohabitating relationships are more than twice as likely to suffer physical and sexual abuse. And women in cohabitating relationships are nine times more likely to be murdered than married women!

So why are so many men and women cohabitating today? In my opinion, because they are believing the lie, born in sin, that their own relationship will be the exception to the rule! However, the very fact that they are unwilling to commit to marriage, ought to be a flashing red light, indicating “I’m not in love with you enough to marry you.”

Next week my blog is entitled, “The Lies We Tell Ourselves and Why We so Desperately Want to Believe Them.” The truths of scripture, prayer, fasting and good godly counseling are the only antidotes for these inconvenient truths, countering the lies of cohabitating.

How following Jesus works in real life.

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