My Advice on Cohabitation

I recently read an update from The Methodist Church of Great Britain in which it reports: “The Methodist Church will look at cohabitation, at the urging of the Youth Assembly. The annual report from the Youth Assembly, which was received by the Conference, requires the Methodist Council to work with young Methodists to produce advice on cohabitation “in a 21st century context”.”

So the youth of Great Britain are looking for guidance on cohabitation in a 21st century context…

Last week I listened to, Kids First, Marriage Later — If Ever, a story on NPR summed up as: “Federal data from 2007 says 40 percent of births in America are to unwed mothers, a trend experts say is especially common in middle-class America. In one St. Louis community, the notion of getting married and having children — in that order — seems quaint.”

I found the story to be fascinating and commend it to you…

Here is my simple guidance for all you couples out there:

  • Do not live together before you get married.
  • If you are living together before you are married, do not have sex.
  • If you are engaged and having sex, I challenge you to abstain until your marriage night as a way of setting aside the time for preparation.

It is pretty simple.

How can I avoid sexual immorality?

Email Received:

I’m still trying to deal with the fact that I am a divorced man. Life has been strange. I am dating someone who was a friend of mine for many years. It started out as a mutual enjoyment of an activity. We would take part in the activity. In between we would discuss religion. Eventually I ended up attending her church. It was a bit intimidating. So I convinced her to attend Resurrection one week a month. that lasted about one visit. Now we attend every weekend. I don’t understand why, but it seems like the stronger my faith becomes the better our relationship becomes. At the same time we struggle with exactly what is proper for a dating couple. I know it’s a taboo question, but I have been searching and I can’t exactly figure out what is proper for a dating couple. I know pre-marital sex is out. I did that the first time around and learned my lesson. I just can’t figure out what the term sexual immorality means. It seems like the bible has no information on dating. what are your thoughts on this? I know this is a rather intimate subject, but I refuse to make the same mistakes twice so I apologize for the nature of my questions.

My Response:

Thanks for sharing the story of your relationship. I think that it is a very real experience to grow stronger in your faith and stronger in your relationship. Faith can be a very strong binding force in relationships and in marriage. It can also be a wedge between two people if they are headed in different directions in their spiritual journey.

No need to apologize for the nature of your questions. They are real questions and I appreciate your honesty. The question that you seem to be asking is what is it that I can do to avoid sexual immorality. I would agree with your conclusion that sexual intercourse outside of a marriage relationship is not God’s intention. Beyond that there are many different ways of interpreting as a couple “how far to go.” Sexual intercourse, oral sex, mutual masturbation, touching body parts – all these are areas that you will have to talk about as a couple. I encourage you to engage your partner in this conversation. Make a decision together about how you feel comfortable together. I believe that it is very important that you do not go further than either partner is comfortable going sexually. I also believe that it is important that you set boundaries as a couple that excludes activities with which you may be comfortable, but which you recognize is not the way in which God is calling you to be in relationship.

I also encourage you to ask a question with some similarities and some distinct differences. In addition to, “How can I avoid sexual immorality?” you might also ask the question of yourself and as a couple, “How is God calling us to be in relationship?” This has many different aspects, one of which is physical. You might also talk about your spiritual journey together, future life plans and goals, your emotional connection and many other areas. This shifts the question from what to avoid to what to strive for. Does that make sense?

I would also suggest that you consider reading as a couple the book, Making Love Last a Lifetime by Adam Hamilton. It may also provide some insight on dating, relationships and preparation for marriage. You can pick it up at the bookstore before or after worship on the weekend or you can order it online here – http://thewell.cor.org/detail.aspx?ID=4.

Please feel free to ask any other questions or let me know if there is any other way that I might provide guidance or care.

What do you think?