Does Cohabitation have more Benefits than Marriage?

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Does Cohabitation have more Benefits than Marriage?

Is it Better to Stay Unmarried

I was recently asked about marriage from a non-religious perspective at one of our staff meetings. I have been teaching a series on Sex, so we have had a few discussions about marriage, relationships, and the feedback we have been getting from this teaching series. The question was asked by a person who does not attend church but is a Christian. It was presented to a staff member who brought it to the staff meeting. Here is the question:

 

COHABITATION MARRIAGE

 

“Outside of religious reasons, what is the benefit of getting married?”

The reality is that our society rewards people for not getting married. There are tremendous financial benefits to living together rather than getting married. For example, more than once, I have worked with couples struggling because they know God wants them to get married, but once they are married, they may lose the social security of a previous spouse who passed away. I came across an article from a lawyer promoting cohabitation over marriage for a variety of reasons.

The article quotes a study from the Pew Research study where 70% of US adults say they are happily cohabitating without considering marriage. They go on to list some of the benefits that I will share with you. These benefits reflect a thought pattern damaging the spirit, soul, and person. They are not truly beneficial for persons to reach their highest potential and pass the highest potential to their children for the best life.

Cohabitation allows two people to establish clarity and security in the relationship. The article says that “if you decide to part ways,” it will be less stressful. Another reason listed I have already mentioned. It is financial compatibility. Many see a benefit to delaying or avoiding marriage as not entangling finances if one spouse is not as far along as the other would like. Another benefit is the idea of trying out the relationship before taking the plunge. This article says that marriage isn’t necessary to raise children and that marriage isn’t essential to living a fulfilling life. 

I do not want to suggest that a person or couple cannot raise children well or live a fulfilling life. However, what fosters the highest potential for the healthiest home in the present and for the children? In other words, there are anomalies where people thrive in conditions not conducive to success. However, as a culture, our goal would be to find the best system where most people succeed at a higher level.

From a Christian perspective, we have to ask why the Lord teaches us to get married through the Scripture and the Holy Spirit. Fornication is the sin of sex before marriage, and the Bible clearly teaches against this. But the question is why? Why is marriage so important to God?

 

“Why is marriage so important to God?”

We read in Genesis that God desires that the two shall become one flesh and the man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife. In this, we see a transition in the relationship position. There is a move from a parental relationship to a spousal relationship. To understand why God desires marriage, we must consider the difference between these two different types of relationships. 

As a child, we are in the position of being cared for. We are the ‘receiver.’ This is especially true for children. Our parents are responsible for providing for our protection and provision, along with emotional and mental stability. However, selfishness becomes embedded if an adult remains childlike in his approach to life. Once humans have the ability to provide for themselves, if they stay in the mindset of a ‘receiver,’ they will become a ‘taker.’ We have all seen children become spoiled teenagers, then entitled young adults who eventually become bitter old persons. They approach life based on what they want as a higher priority than what others need or want. The modus operandi of human interaction works against this. Selfishness causes strain in all relationships, and many relationships experience deep pain caused by the selfishness of one partner or both. Even those who choose to cohabitate would agree that selfishness can destroy a relationship. 

God chooses marriage over cohabitation because the nature of the institution works to form selflessness in each person. It also works to do the same in the children produced by the marriage. Children learn the ways of human interaction most from the family, especially their parents. 

Marriage does not guarantee the end of selfishness. Even as Christians, we do not believe this because selfishness is the heart of sin, and the Bible says no one can claim to have no sin in them, and if they do, they are liars (1 John 1:8). Many marriages indeed end because of selfishness. However, when this happens, it is because one or both persons have entered into the legal agreement of marriage while still stuck too far in the mindset of a child. They go into the relationship ready to give, but only to the degree they receive. 

In my book The Sacred Union, I discuss the common thought that marriage must be a 50-50 partnership. This philosophy misses the point of marriage.  We should enter into marriage because we are choosing and committing to love the other person for better or for worse. In other words, the love of one spouse should never be dependent upon the love of the other spouse. 

 

Marriage must be entered into as a 100-0 commitment”

Every person will have days when life is too hard for them to give what their spouse desires in attention, affection, emotion, or behavior. In those moments, if the spouse withholds their love because they are not being loved, this pattern will expand and escalate until the marriage is miserable or ends in divorce. For a marriage to reach its goal, when one spouse is struggling to give what the other desires, the other must keep giving. Doing this sends the message that they love the other even at their worst. This message is powerful in strengthening their spouse and re-awakening love again. When this pattern is practiced, it also expands and escalates to a love that continually grows deeper until death do they part.

 

“The institution of marriage when enjoined with the philosophy of Agape forms us to be selfless and to form selflessness in our children.”

Love is more than an emotion. It is also a behavior. The Bible says love is patience, and we can all work to improve our patience. Many people will divorce as a result of not getting what they want from their spouse. And when they divorce, they can honestly say they still love that person. What they are referring to is the emotion of love. But what they are missing is the behavior of love.  A person can tell their spouse they love them and truly mean it, but if they choose to work through the night when they don’t have to repeatedly, their behavior is not loving. Love is patient. When people lose their patience with their spouse, they will continue loving them emotionally, not behaviorally. When this happens, it is because they are not receiving what they want from their spouse. And if their spouse responds the same way, it is a negative cycle that is hard to stop.

God intends marriage to be a moment of one person taking legal responsibility for the other to provide, protect, and love unconditionally. This requires behavior. It means doing the things that are loving, which go further than the emotions of love. The emotions will come and go depending upon the day, and if there is not a commitment to the behavior of love, the emotion will slowly die. This is what happens when people say they have fallen out of love. Actually, what has happened is that the behavior of love stops happening because of selfishness, and without the consistent behavior of love, the emotion dies.

 

“The benefits or detriments of co-habitation will be seen generationally.”

Children see how to interact romantically through the relationships they observe daily. Our children are being exposed to the “Housewives” culture. The housewives of Hollywood, Miami, or NBA players pervade the current media environment, and our children are watching. They do not see marriage modeled in the idea of agape, where selflessness for the benefit of a spouse is elevated, but the opposite. Our social structure emphasizes the dysfunction that comes from operating in relationships as a ‘receiver,’ or worse, a ‘taker,’ more than a ‘giver.’ Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I am not suggesting that everyone who cohabitates is selfish. I am saying that the philosophy behind cohabitation fosters being a ‘receiver’ more than a ‘giver.’ The idea is to try someone on to see if they will keep giving in a way that keeps the other happy. 

Cohabitation fosters the highest priority of what one receives in a relationship. Marriage works to foster the highest priority of what one gives to the other in the relationship. The institution of marriage works to develop children who are selfless givers more than the institution of cohabitation. Marriage starts with a promise to love the other for better or for worse. Co-habitation starts with a proposition to see how it goes. These are distinct philosophies that form people in two different ways. And it is more blessed to give than to receive.

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