Is Living Together OK? by Lane Jordan Burday

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. (Psalms 119:9).

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity (I Timothy 4:12).

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality… For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life (I Thessalonians 4:3,7).

The perils of cohabitation have been linked to later divorce.

Between half and two-thirds of Americans think living together before committing to marriage will help couples forge a lasting relationship and a marriage that endures.

They’ve got it backward, according to findings of two University of Denver research psychology professors who note that unless a couple is at least definitely engaged before they move in together, the relationship is at increased risk of falling apart.

In the just released report called “What’s the plan? Cohabitation, Engagement, and Divorce?” authors Scott M. Stanley and Galena K. Rhoades note that “with 70% of couples living together before marriage, it is important to understand how and when cohabitation is associated with poorer odds of marital success.”

The two have studied aspects of cohabitation for more than two decades. But both remain surprised that as the world has changed—and three decades of cohabitation patterns with it—the finding on marriage durability has not.

Cohabitation is now more a part of dating culture than of marriage culture, according to Stanley. The exception is when couples have already agreed their plan is to wed.

“Waiting until after marriage, or at least waiting until after you’re engaged really seems to be protective,” Stanley told the Deseret News. “It’s an amazing thing that that finding is still there, with what are otherwise massive changes in the landscape of cohabitation.”

The report is based on a national sample of Americans who married for the first time between 2010 and 2019, looking at what had happened and how stable the marriages were in 2022. They found marriage dissolution was higher for those who lived together before tying the knot. That’s not new.

In relative terms, the marriages of those who moved in together before being engaged were 48% more likely to end than the marriages of those who only cohabited after being engaged or already married,” the report said.

The worst odds for marital stability and lasting power went to those who moved in together to “test” their relationship before marriage or who were driven by financial reasons.

Everybody does it.

The report found that by the late 1990s, more than 60% of high school students in the U.S. had accepted the idea that “it is usually a good idea for a couple to live together before getting married in order to find out whether they really get along.” The estimate is that 70% of couples live together before marrying now.

“Our theory,” they write, “is that moving in together can prematurely increase the inertia for remaining together prior to a couple making a clear commitment to a future in marriage.”

But it doesn’t increase commitment. While living together makes it harder to break up, it doesn’t make marriage more bulletproof. And per Rhoades, “sliding” into a live-in relationship instead of actually deciding shared future goals is linked to higher risk of breaking up before getting married or divorcing if you did marry.

One reason those couples have a higher risk for divorce may be that “when you move in together without having a clear mutual commitment to a future together, they didn’t really make a decision. That may set them up to slide through other traditional milestones,” she said.

The report offers some advice on achieving a successful marriage. Among the tips:

  • Don’t believe suggestions that cohabiting will improve the chance of a lasting marriage.
  • Slow down. “Timing and sequence can help you land on the right relationship path,” the two researchers write.
  • Make decisions about romantic relationships, instead of drifting, including decisions about living together outside of a formal, declared commitment. Stanley calls that “Decide, don’t slide.”
  • Don’t cohabit to test drive the relationship.
  • Don’t do it to save money, either.


Lane Jordan-Burday is the Pearls of Promise Ministries Prayer Co-Coordinator; POP Talk TV and Radio Co-Host and Writer. She is also is an award-winning and best-selling author of over ten adult and children’s books. She is a speaker with Stonecroft Ministries, seminar leader, professional life coach, Bible teacher, and artist. She served as the Associate Producer for the program In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley. She prays for women to come to know the Lord is God!

Lane’s latest book, Evangeline, is a historical fiction based on the book of Esther. You can reach Lane at: Her website:

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