Alright, men. Let’s talk about what it means to be a man. I know that emotional attachment and long-term commitment are really icky things for the average modern man to talk about these days, but this is a very under-addressed issue.
There are a number of reasons why you might be convinced that cohabitation is a good idea. “Trial marriage,” they say. “Test your compatibility” they say.
But there is a significantly higher amount of reasons why you should not live with and have sex with your spouse before you marry.
I can boil it down to one: it’s cowardly. And here is why.
You Might Not Really Love Her
When you move in with your girlfriend, it’s for the sake of convenience. Is it not convenient, and is that not one of the major reasons you choose to become a live-in couple? You can say that you love her, but love is not an emotion: it is decision and action proven by commitment.
Moving in with a girl is an ignorant attempt to enjoy the benefits of marriage (namely sex and constant companionship) without proving that you love her and making a commitment to her. And don’t tell me sex (or the hope for it) isn’t a part of it.
What if you stop being attracted to her? What if she becomes disabled? What if she gets too fat, annoying, or boring? And what if any of those apply to you? Love does not take these things into account but is completely unconditional and unrelenting regardless of them. (1 Cor 13)
If you do not know how to “love thy neighbor” then you do not know how to love a woman. In other words, if you can’t love and enjoy her in a chaste and platonic relationship then you can’t love her in any other situation either.
You Want an Easy Out
Why else would you refuse and fear a public, permanent commitment? Men tend to cohabitate because they do not want to actively and intentionally keep their relationship strong, but instead hope that things go well and have the ability to run off if things get rough.
Marriage is not “just a piece of paper.” It is a public, civil, legal, social, and loving commitment under God to stay true to your partner for a lifetime. If marriage is a trivial “piece of paper” of no importance, why not just go ahead and tie the knot for tax purposes?
Living with your partner without marrying is essentially saying “I kind of like you and I enjoy being with you, but I don’t want to get too serious in case I want to back out. Also, I don’t truly trust you.”
Imagine How She Feels
If your girlfriend has moved in with you, it is likely because she desires stability, security, and intimacy. In reality, she has none of those because a relationship without a formal and proven long-term commitment is by definition unstable and insecure. As far as intimacy, true intimacy is only discovered after having the assurance that you will both be together until death do you part.
Even most strong, independent, go-getter types of women who date still usually desire stability in relationships. If you are refusing to integrate every part of your lives and be together as one unit, you cannot effectively care for a woman in a non-platonic way.
Women typically see cohabitation as a possible segway into a stable marriage, while men tend to see it as a way of delaying (or avoiding) marriage. She wants you to see her in a beautiful dress, make a public confession and promise of your undying love for her, and be sure that you will be together for as long as you both shall live.
If you are failing to do that for her and yet are still living with her to experience companionship, convenience, and sex, that is not only a failure to properly love a woman but also an outright manipulation.
Even if she denies these things, she may still have these feelings beneath the surface. I’m not saying she is lying, but when you live together without commitment there are generally topics that are unspoken taboos. Call me sexist all you want, but living with your girlfriend is unloving and borderline cruel. It is perhaps even more hurtful and unfair for women than it is for men.
Research and Evidence
There are plenty of non-religious reasons why it’s a bad idea to cohabitate and plenty of studies to back up those reasons. Regardless, live-in partners put their fingers in their ears and the practically irrelevant and decades-old free-love movement continues to ramble about sexual repression.
Although many sources claim that most foundational studies about cohabitation are outdated or of low value because of undefined “complexities,” even some of the more progressive schools of thought have to admit that living together before marriage has its faults.
Another common argument is that cohabitation in and of itself is not bad, but that the types of people who choose cohabitation over marriage are typically the type of people who would end up badly in a live-in partnership situation. Here is my argument: even if cohabitation were not inherently destructive, that does not mean it can’t become destructive extreme easily (like consuming alcohol or failing to get proper exercise). The risk is not worth it.
There is much debate over the topic among sociologists and demographers, but there is very little evidence that shacking up can actually be beneficial for a long-term relationship or a future marriage.
It’s Time to Man Up
If you know that you don’t actually want to be with your girlfriend for the rest of your life, stop being a coward. End the cruel, manipulative charade and break up with her. Move out. Stop having sex. Let her move on and heal, and never play with anyone’s heart like that again.
But assuming you really care about your girlfriend as much as you think you do, it’s time to prove it and start really loving her. There are two ways to do this:
1: Propose to her and marry as soon as possible. Read marriage books. Get pre-marriage counseling. Learn how to love effectively and study how to have a great marriage. It’s an intentional choice that takes hard work, not a what-if situation that begs hope.
2: Move out, live separately, and stop having sex. Do this until you either decide not to marry and then break up, or until you are already married. You need to prove (to her, yourself, and the public) that your love is unconditional, and the best way to do this is to abstain from sex until marriage.
An amazing, freeing, excellent, lifelong marriage is possible. Accept the ups and downs, the risks and possible hurts, the fear and anxiety of the unknown future. It’s worth it.
And if you’re not ready for marriage, then don’t pretend that living together is the next best thing. Grow up, learn to love, and stop being a coward. Manhood, fulfillment, and maybe even love can be right around the corner.