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Is it a sin for a man and woman to live together before marriage?

Living together before marriage, sometimes called “cohabitation,” is a common occurrence for couples who are dating seriously or engaged to be married. However, there is debate among Christian denominations and believers on whether cohabitation is biblically acceptable or a sin.

What the Bible Says About Cohabitation

The Bible does not explicitly prohibit a man and woman living together prior to marriage. However, there are some verses that can be interpreted as speaking against cohabitation:

  • 1 Corinthians 7:2 – “…each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” This implies couples should be married if living as spouses.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 – “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable…” Unmarried cohabitation often involves sexual relations, which the Bible says should be reserved for marriage.
  • Hebrews 13:4 – “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” The unmarried living together could be considered sexually immoral.

While the Bible does not clearly prohibit cohabitation, some Christians argue these principles imply God’s design is for couples to live together only within the commitment of marriage.

Perspectives on Cohabitation

There are three main Christian perspectives on whether cohabitation is permissible or sinful:

1. It is a sin

Some denominations and churches teach cohabitation is always sinful. Reasons include:

  • It violates biblical principles for purity and honoring marriage.
  • Living together often leads to temptation to have premarital sex.
  • It deprives the couple of blessings that come from committing fully in marriage.
  • It can be damaging if the couple breaks up after bonding so closely.
  • It is a stumbling block for other believers and nonbelievers.

Overall, these Christian advocates believe the Bible calls couples to make a commitment to marriage before setting up a household together.

2. It is acceptable in some circumstances

Some Christians acknowledge cohabitation is often used for convenience and can lead to problems. However, they believe it may be permissible in certain circumstances, such as:

  • A couple is engaged and setting a near wedding date.
  • A couple needs to live together for financial reasons but plans to marry when possible.
  • A couple wants to test compatibility before marrying.

These believers argue the Bible does not specifically prohibit cohabitation and that marriage is still God’s ideal plan for couples. Living together first may help in the transition to married life.

3. It is permitted like any lifestyle choice

Some Christians do not view cohabitation as essentially different morally from two single adults living together as roommates or family members. Reasons include:

  • The Bible does not directly address the subject, so Christians are free to follow their conscience.
  • Many couples live together successfully before marrying.
  • It is impractical to prohibit cohabitation in modern culture.
  • Sexual purity is still possible for cohabiting couples.

These believers tend to place emphasis on allowing personal freedom regarding life choices not plainly forbidden in scripture.

Does Cohabitation Impact Marriage?

Studies give mixed results on whether living together prior to marriage impacts the future marriage:

Potential Benefits Potential Drawbacks
  • Get to know partner’s living habits
  • Spend more time together
  • Share expenses
  • More likely to divorce
  • Potential relational pain if break-up
  • Temptation to sexual sin

Research on divorce rates is mixed. Some studies show cohabiting couples divorce at higher rates, while others suggest no difference or that common-law marriages are more stable. Compatibility while living together does not guarantee compatibility in marriage.

However, most marriage counselors caution unmarried couples about the risks of cohabiting, such as becoming unable to fully commit to each other. The status quo can erode communication and intentionality over time.

Advice for Christian Couples Considering Cohabitation

For Christians seeking biblical guidance about moving in together, here are some points to consider:

Examine your motives

Look honestly at what is motivating you toward cohabitation. Are you avoiding commitment? Trying to establish financial stability? Seeking convenience? Giving in to temptation?

Talk through underlying reasons and whether they reflect godly character and wisdom.

Consider the long-term impact

Think and pray about how cohabitation will affect your relationship and witness. Will living together help or hinder patterns needed for a strong Christian marriage?

Are there steps that can meet your goals without compromising biblical values or causing others to stumble?

Seek wise counsel

Talk to mature believers who know you well about the pros and cons of cohabiting. Seek perspectives from your parents, pastor, and mentors.

Ask them to speak frankly and help you view the situation through a biblical lens.

Establish boundaries

If you move in together, set clear guidelines to avoid sexual temptation and protect the spiritual health of your relationship.

Safeguards like separate bedrooms, modesty, accountability, and limited alone time can help couples maintain purity.

Make a timeline

To avoid relationship stagnation, establish a clear plan and timeframe for either marrying or separating households.

Set a wedding date or target time to reevaluate if marriage is the right next step. Stay connected to Christian community for support.

Focus on godly commitment

Rather than cohabitation, the stronger foundation for marriage is godly commitment grounded in faith, wisdom, and the Word. Allow God to guide your path.

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)


Christian traditions vary on whether cohabitation is sinful or acceptable. The Bible does not directly address the subject, though biblical principles suggest God’s best is for marriage to precede setting up a household.

Research on the impact of living together is mixed. While potential benefits exist, there are also risks for the couple’s relationship and testimony.

As with any major relationship decision, Christian couples considering cohabitation are wise to pray, study scripture, seek counsel, and weigh motives carefully before deciding.

Above all, they can trust God for guidance in how to honor him in their relationship and walk in wisdom.