By Scott Smith
Today, it appears that a majority of pre-marital couples are choosing to “test drive” marriage before buying into it. What do I mean by that? Dawn and I are finding that upwards of 3 out of 5 Christian couples are choosing to cohabit prior to marriage.
It is highly recommended and even wise to “test drive” a car before purchasing it. That same logic, unfortunately, appears to be driving the decision of many couples today with regard to cohabitation. The reasoning goes something like this, “You wouldn’t buy a car before test driving it, so shouldn’t you test drive a relationship before buying into it?”
On the surface, that appears to be fairly sound logic. But, when it comes to a life-long relationship, like marriage, marital “test driving” is not recommended. Why not? At the risk of sounding archaic and puritanical, let me explain why we believe cohabitation is a bad idea:
- Scripture forbids it. For those with a high view of scripture, this would be reason enough to abstain from pre-marital sexual activity and cohabitation. See verses like 1 Corinthians 6:18, Ephesians 5:3 and Hebrews 13:4.
- God doesn’t bless it. According to scripture, the only sexual activity blessed of God is within the confines of marriage between one man and one woman. Anything outside those parameters violates God’s design. Anytime scripture speaks about sexual intimacy outside the confines of marriage between one man and one woman, it speaks of it in the context of sin. God forgives sin, but He cannot bless sin. Even after God’s forgiveness of sexual sin there are often painful consequences that have to be dealt with.
- Cohabitation weakens relational strength. Time and time again, prior to viewing a cohabiting couple’s pre-marital inventory, we can generally predict some of their relational struggles—insecurity, distrust, jealousy, outbursts of anger, as well as, poor communication and conflict resolution skills. There are rarely exceptions to this rule.
- Sexual frequency and satisfaction in marriage is decreased. If you’re a male reading this, I bet I just caught your attention! Here’s a trend we see over and over again—couples that live separately and abstain sexually prior to marriage tend to experience a heightened state of sexual desire and satisfaction in marriage. Conversely, couples that are sexually active or cohabit prior to marriage tend to experience decreased levels of desire, frequency and sexual satisfaction after marriage.
So, why do so many couples today choose to cohabit prior to marriage? I believe there is at least one plausible explanation. In his book, The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis observed, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Could it be that many couples today have an inability to imagine what a God-blessed relationship could or should look like? Could it be that some couples are simply unable or unwilling to delay pleasure now for a greater pleasure later? Let me ask you a few questions. If you are in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex and have yet to marry:
- Do you want to set your relationship up for God’s blessing?
- Do you want to experience the fullness of marriage as God designed it?
- Do you want to bypass the unintended consequences of sin many of your peers are presently or will later experience?
If so, let me challenge you to not settle for less than God’s best in your relationship. Abstain sexually until marriage. Choose to live separately until after marriage. These choices are not easy. As a matter of fact, they are now counter-cultural—even within the Christian community. But, I can promise you this: you will never regret your choice.
After working with hundreds of couples, Dawn and I have yet to hear from one that regretted not having engaged sexually prior to marriage. Nor have we heard a couple bemoan having never “test driven” their marriage through cohabitation prior to the day of their union.
You should “test drive” a car before purchasing it. It’s the wise thing to do. But, I can’t, in good conscience, suggest you do the same with your relationship. A marital “test drive” is not recommended. You and your relationship are far too valuable to risk it.