The Bible’s Viewpoint

What About Living Together Before Marriage?

WOULD you buy a suit or a dress without first trying it on? Likely not. After all, if you later found that the garment did not fit, you would have wasted your time and money.

Many people apply a similar logic to marriage. They feel that it is better for a man and woman to live together before making a commitment to become husband and wife. ‘If things do not work out,’ they reason, ‘a man and woman can walk away without having to deal with the complex and costly process of divorce.’

Perhaps some who feel that way have seen a married friend endure an abusive relationship. Or they may have witnessed the traumatic effects of a loveless marriage. As a result, they might view living together as a wise precaution.

What is the Bible’s viewpoint on this matter? To answer, we first need to consider what God’s Word has to say about the institution of marriage.

“One Flesh”

The Bible promotes a lofty view of marriage, and this is not surprising, for the arrangement was authorized and established by Jehovah God himself. (Genesis 2:21-24) From the beginning, Jehovah purposed that through marriage a man and woman would become “one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) After quoting the passage in the Bible where this is pointed out, Jesus added: “What God has yoked together let no man put apart.”​—Matthew 19:6.

Granted, some who marry will later divorce. * When this occurs, however, it is not because of some lack in the marriage arrangement itself; rather, it is because of the failure of one or both mates to live up to their wedding vows.

To illustrate: Suppose a man and woman own a car, but they do not maintain it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If the car breaks down as a result, who is to blame? The manufacturer or the owners who failed to perform routine maintenance?

The same principle applies to marriage. When a husband and wife maintain their relationship  and are determined to work out their problems by applying Bible principles, divorce is far less likely. There is a feeling of security in the marriage because a personal commitment has been made by each spouse. Marriage then becomes the basis for a loving relationship.

“Abstain From Fornication”

Still, some might wonder: ‘Why not live together first? Would not testing the relationship before making such a commitment show regard for the sanctity of marriage?’

The Bible’s answer is clear. Paul wrote: “Abstain from fornication.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3) The term “fornication” refers to all sexual relations outside of marriage. That would include sex between a cohabiting couple, even if they intend to get married. According to the Bible, then, it would be wrong for a couple to live together​—even if their intention was to marry later.

Is the Bible’s view out of date? Some might think so. After all, in many lands, living together​—with or without intending to marry—​is considered normal. But think of the results. Have those who cohabit found the secret to family success? Are they happier than couples who marry? Do couples who live together before marriage have a higher rate of faithfulness after marriage? Studies indicate the contrary. Indeed, married couples who previously lived together have been found to experience higher levels of marital discord and eventual divorce.

Some experts would say that such studies are flawed. “People who choose to marry without first [cohabiting] are already a different group of people than those who decide to [cohabit] first,” writes one psychologist. She asserts that living together is not the key factor; instead, the issue is “valuing the state of being married.”

Even if that is true, it simply underscores the importance of cultivating God’s view of marriage. The Bible says: “Let marriage be honorable among all.” (Hebrews 13:4) When a man and a woman vow to remain one flesh and then show honor for the marriage arrangement, they have a bond that cannot easily be severed.​—Ecclesiastes 4:12.

So to return to the opening analogy, it does make sense to try on a suit or a dress before buying it. However, the parallel to that is not living together. Rather, it is taking sufficient time to get to know the person you are considering as a marriage mate. This vital but often overlooked step is one of many secrets of family success.


^ par. 9 The Bible allows for divorce and remarriage if a mate engages in sexual relations outside of marriage.​—Matthew 19:9.


▪ Why does the Bible limit sexual intimacy to marriage partners?​—Psalm 84:11; 1 Corinthians 6:18.

▪ What qualities should you look for in a mate?​—Ruth 1:16, 17; Proverbs 31:10-31.

[Box on page 29]


The Bible states: “He that practices fornication is sinning against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) In recent decades the truthfulness of those words has been underscored by the millions who have died from AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. But that is not all. Studies suggest that depression and suicide attempts are more common among youths who are sexually active. Promiscuity also leads to unwanted pregnancy, which in some cases presents a temptation to abort the unborn. In view of the facts, we can conclude that the Bible’s moral code is not old-fashioned.