Why do some people not move in together before marriage?

Does government provide incentives for people to get married?
Is cohabitation the right way to build lifelong married love?

I find Lindsay’s blog useful for getting a bird’s eye view of marriage. I like it because she and her husband Doug are running such a tight game plan and it’s clearly working. It makes me feel good about not blindly following the culture’s rules for relationships. One of the cultural norms that’s really popular these days is cohabitation.

Here’s a post by Lindsay about cohabitation.

I’m going to quote some stuff from her post, and you see if you catch sight of something she is talking about that is missing from relationships today:

Marriage is meant to be a lifetime commitment between a man and a woman in which they physically, spiritually, and emotionally bond to become one. This bonding of the entire self only works properly when all other options are permanently rejected. It is the nature of erotic love to include only two people. Each person has only one self and can only give that self wholly to one other. In order to bind oneself so tightly to another, it is necessary to forego binding in that way with any other at any time. Thus true love requires commitment.

[…]A person who is “keeping their options open” is not exhibiting love.

Marriage is designed to be a safe and loving environment for the sharing of self. When two people commit to each other before sexual intimacy, they affirm that their love for the other person is not contingent on bedroom performance (or anything else). True love says “I love you, whatever the cost may be, no matter what I may find out about you in the future, and nothing you do will ever change that.” When two people who have remained sexually pure commit to one another in marriage, they show the ultimate expression of love. They commit to one another without reservation, without exception clauses, without knowing everything, but having decided that whatever they may learn will not induce them to reject the other person. It takes courage and sacrifice to love like that. But anything less than full commitment is not true love. Conversely, cohabitation before marriage is not an environment that builds love and trust. Cohabitation, as a “trial period,” says to the other that they better measure up or else. It is an inherently selfish relationship that objectifies the other person. The emphasis in cohabitation is on getting what you want out of the relationship, which is the exact opposite of the emphasis in marriage, which is giving of yourself for the good of the other person. What is loving about taking pleasure in another’s body with the understanding that you may simply walk away if they don’t please you enough?  Cohabiting couples end up evaluating each other’s merits rather than giving of themselves. Their relationship is based on scrutiny rather than acceptance. Such an environment is not likely to build a healthy and lasting relationship.

Cohabitation before marriage also takes the joy of discovery out of the first part of marriage. The first few months of marriage are meant to have a lot of surprises. The newlyweds should have fun finding out what the other likes and how to please one another in an environment of mutual trust and commitment. There should be an air of excitement as they try new things together for the first time. Experiencing new and intimate things with the other person under the umbrella of a marriage commitment takes much of the performance pressure off and is crucial in building a strong and lasting bond between them. It allows both partners to be themselves without fear of rejection since the other person has already committed to them for life.

Contrary to everything you heard in the culture, romantic love is not about getting your needs met by someone else who is “perfect” for you. It’s about making a selfless commitment to love someone no matter how much he or she changes, no matter how much he or she fails. The point of the relationship is not to have happy feelings, it’s to enjoy building your little castle around this other person who is building his or her castle around you. Marriage is about enjoying the intimacy that you are building up by making an exclusive promise to that one person, instead of being distracted by everyone else, and even your own changing feelings.

People who know me well know that I have a pet bird. His species normally lives 15-20 years with excellent care. Mine is now 27 years old. When I would fly away to interviews in other cities, I would always get emotional when coming home and flying over my home airport – because I knew he was waiting for me to come home. In graduate school, I would call home from the computer lab to see what he was doing. I can completely understand why women hate leaving their children during the day. Now, I always had big plans for him, like teaching him to talk and teaching him to be toilet-trained. And I spent a lot of time with him trying to get him to do those things. Sometimes he learned, but sometimes he didn’t. I see lots of other birds of his kind who are younger on Youtube. Some can talk and do neat tricks. But my bird is my bird, and because he is mine, I am loyal to him. He is the only bird in the world who flies towards me instead of away from me. He is the only bird in the world who sings to me when I come home.

Love isn’t about thinking about what you can get that’s better than what you have. It’s about making commitments and enjoying the experiences you have together, and how you build familiarity and intimacy with this one other person. I really think that what premarital sex and cohabitation teaches people is to enter relationships with one eye on the exit, and sabotage things at the first opportunity. What break-ups teach you is how to prepare for break-ups, how to hold back, how to not trust, how to separate your feelings from touching, how to not be vulnerable, and how to not invest in other people because something is “wrong” with them. It’s sad that it’s come to this. Everyone seems to be jumping straight into sex thinking that this is what relationships are about, and they are ruining their ability to marry and find out what relationships are really about – giving each other a sense of safety and belonging. What’s much more important than compatibility and happy feelings is the ability to make a commitment that survives disappointments.

13 thoughts on “Why do some people not move in together before marriage?”

  1. Agree completely, and it’s nice to know that this notion of purity and commitment isn’t so rare as our culture/media purport. The phrase, “it’s just sex” is so contradictory and damaging that I believe it plays a role in numbing the hearts and conscience of all who propose it, making authentic, life-long relationship a near impossibility. So many see the restraint of sexuality as an oppressive force, as if the “religious” folk condemn anything pleasurable as sinful, when in reality we’re offering a way that enhances everything good and healthy and, in the end, most pleasurable: the giving of oneself to another self entirely, permanently, and securely. To write off purity and meaning in sexuality is writing off of oneself and the other self as, as said in this passage, objects. It’s saddening, and I hope and pray our culture awakens to the vapidity of such carelessness.

    1. So, I’m a virgin, and I have not experienced this regret from making sexual commitments to a woman I have not married myself, but I have been in love enough to have the feeling that physical stuff feels a lot better if there is a permanent commitment. Also, I have friends who talk about their past sexual relationships, men and women. And believe me, so far not one of them thought that they were doing anything good for their future wife or husband by playing the field for fun and thrills. They know they are cheating their future spouse out on intimacy and commitment. The confirmed habit / repeated experience of pursuing fun and then breaking up does not help a person make a lifelong commitment, either.

      1. Just out of curiosity, why would you regret a sexual relationship? I’ve had few in my life prior to my current marriage. And regret is not the word I would use. More along the lines of gratitude and fond memories. Sex does not need to be complicated, nor is I the only thing life.

  2. Hallelujah, Wintery Knight for blasting this message out! Would you, please figure out a way to Share/Post this on every online dating site there is, including the one via FB, called Zook? I took time over the past 6 months to remove any & every single profile (yes, even the so-called Christian ones) that I could recall having up, intermittently, over these past almost 12 yrs. Numerous men do NOT understand the concept of ‘not trying out the car before you buy it’ I’m beyond sick & tired of hearing that comment; and yes, even from members/attendees of very Conservative, fundamental, doctrinally sound, etc. churches/believers! I am doing all I can & have shared your page/blog via 1)FB, 2) a long time ago via online dating sites, and 3) when on dates/meet/greets, etc. Thanks!

    1. Thank you for sharing. There is a LOT going on in the culture right now that is pushing pre-marital sex as normal / optimal. But if you look at the studies (I blog on them as they emerge), it’s pretty clear that early sexual contact is dangerous for relationship quality / stability.

      Here’s one:

      This is not unknown, it’s that people don’t WANT to know.

  3. “Everyone seems to be jumping straight into sex thinking that this is what relationships are about, and they are ruining their ability to marry and find out what relationships are really about – giving each other a sense of safety and belonging.”

    And that safety and belonging is exactly what will give people lasting happiness. Instant, counterfeit happiness can’t compare to that one bit.

    But as to the question of “Why do some people not move in together before marriage?”
    I don’t know, maybe some people just bothered to ingrain godly principles into the core of their being so much that the idea of them ever cohabiting just strikes them as physically repulsive.
    World: But feeeeeeeelings!!!!!!!
    Me: Reality check. Your ideas of romance are half-baked, and those aren’t half-baked molten brownies that would be tasty, it’s a half-baked turkey (also, the top of it is burnt). This is not a scenario conducive to your survival.

    All this time of being single and waiting has certainly allowed me to understand my principles, direction in life, and interests, such that it will be easier to find the right man when he comes since it will be clear whether or not the important things match. And when you go about it that way, there’s no reason to take an onerously long time to get married. Then you can have the happy feelings of building a home together that will actually last a lifetime.
    Doing it God’s way will give His blessing, it’s just that simple.

    1. I don’t think the people who jump into sex with people who are fun or hawt want “romance”. They want to boost their own self-esteem by having sex with people who meet a VERY shallow standard of what counts as a good man or a good woman. A standard that has nothing to do with commitment, I might add.

  4. What if you get married and are a virgin and do all this but you dont like your husbband or wife? Like you are just going through the motions of a marriage?

    Also WK, I don’t know if you have answered this in any of your previous posts but what about arrange marriages? Would the biblical traditional idea of marriage still work in that situation?

    1. What do you mean don’t like them? According to the research I have posted on, early sex is going to going to cut off the kind of premarital communication that ensures that you will like them.

      Arranged marriages sounds weird to me, but the parents, especially the fathers, must be involved.

        1. You can develop a lot of connection without having sex. We’re not talking about marrying someone you never met based solely on a checklist. You get to know a person with whom you have similar goals and views, then develop a connection as you talk and laugh and play ad enjoy each other’s company. By the time you marry, you ought to be itching to get between the sheets, but haven’t been there yet. But there should be a solid foundation of friendship, mutual respect and admiration, and attraction before you say “I do” that is then fulfilled by giving your bodies to one another in marriage.

          1. Ask because i have a friend who is asexual & so she doesnt feeling any sort of sexual attraction at all but she does have a fiance.

          2. Is your friend a virgin? Because a lot of women don’t know what turns them on until they start having sex and figuring it out. They might think they are asexual when really their sexuality hasn’t been awakened yet. A woman’s sexuality is rarely going to cause her to desire sex out of the blue. Women tend to be more responsive and aroused by touch and emotional closeness.

            In any event, if your friend is planning a marriage, she needs to be able to commit to having regular sex. Sex is an important part of a marriage, not an optional add-on. So if she can’t commit to that kind of frequent connection and intimacy with her husband, she should not get married.

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