It seems to be common practice for couples to live together before they are married. This ‘trial marriage’ is entered into in the hopes that it will let them know if their relationship will withstand the pressures of a ‘legal’ marriage.

I don’t want to be a judge. But after being married to the same woman for over 30 years and pre-marital counseling with over 100 couples during my ministry, let me share three dangers of ‘living together’ (cohabitation) before marriage you may not have considered.

1. Cohabiting couples have a higher divorce rate.

Most couples who live together are considering marriage. At least one person in 90% of the couples wants to marry. Some are already engaged. But please consider the facts.

40% of all couples who live together will break up before marriage. Many suffer what has been termed ‘premarital divorce.’ So, of 100 couples who begin a ‘trial marriage’, 40 don’t marry. Of the 60 couples who do wed, there are 45 divorces after 10 years. That’s an 85% failure rate.

Marriages that are preceded by living together have a 50% higher disruption rate (divorce or separation) than marriages without premarital cohabitation according to the National Survey of Families and Households. Statistics show that living together hurts your chances of a happy marriage.

2. Cohabitation destroys the foundation of marriage.

Most engaged couples think that the road to a happy marriage is compatibility. So, living together puts the couple into a ‘mock’ marriage situation to discover how compatible they are. But marriage is not based on compatibility. A long, loving marriage is based on commitment. Compatibility may bring you together, but commitment will keep you together.

Marriage is like a jigsaw puzzle. When you first open the puzzle box, you find all the pieces that look like each other, have the same color, or are part of the edge. Most of what attracts us to another person is what we have in common (movies, sports, pizza toppings, etc). But like jigsaw puzzle pieces, what keeps a couple together is the areas that are different. These interlocking pieces will commit us to one another. Two are better than one, not because they are alike, but because they complement one another.

Living together is the enemy of commitment. Though a verbal commitment of “I’ll love you forever” may be made, the actions speak the opposite. If a person is willing to be physically intimate with someone they are not married to before marriage, there is little assurance they will not be physically intimate with someone they are not married to after marriage. I encourage all engaged couples to make this commitment to the one you want to spend the rest of your life with: “I will not have sexual relationship with anyone I am not married to, including you.” Proof before marriage will build trust after marriage.

3. Cohabitation may damage your friendship.

You may be thinking, ‘Our friendship won’t suffer by moving in together.’ That’s what you think. Your friendship may soon become tense and uncomfortable. You went from dating to “no man’s land.” You’re not married, but you’re not really dating either. It’s “friends with benefits….minus the unconditional, legal commitment.” There is always the fear of being kicked to the curb if you don’t measure up. No security. No deep peace. Hence, you end up with a strained relationship that is fraught with worry. Not exactly the ingredients of a healthy friendship.

Physical intimacy often gives couples the illusion of intimacy. But in reality it prevents them from really understanding one another. Intimacy is more than a sexual relationship. The problem for many couples is that they are swept away by romantic love and never take time to develop the skills required to make a relationship work. People tend to seek romance, somehow believing that a lasting relationship will be part of the package. But it seldom delivers.

God loves us and doesn’t want us to be heartbroken. So, He has instructed us to, “flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthans 6:18). He is clear: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, but God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).

So, what should a person do if he or she has blown it in this area. I encourage you to seek forgiveness, repent, and begin to live a godly and moral life. I encourage unmarried couples to commit to one another that from this day forward to save sexual intimacy until their first night as husband and wife. This will not only make the wedding night more exciting and memorable but it will also provide the best ‘Marriage Insurance’ a couple could ever obtain.

I’ve written some other articles about this issue you can read: The Best Advice I Ever Got On Marriage, Miley Cyrus – Sexuality and Modesty.