In an earlier post, I wrote about my decision to wait until marriage to give myself to another person. In just six days that wait will be over, and I fully intend to write a follow-up post about the fruits of that decision, particularly in light of some people’s objections that I don’t have the experience needed to write on the topic of waiting until marriage. At that point, my musings will be more creditable, I suppose. In the meantime, I’d like to consider another aspect of my decision to wait until marriage: my choice to avoid cohabitation with my significant other.
Most of the time, cohabitation is accompanied by premarital intercourse, but I’ve met several people who have told me that they are cohabitating, but still plan to save themselves for marriage. Most of them sleep in the same room, even in the same bed, but they enter into this arrangement with the desire to abstain until marriage. Unfortunately, most of these stories do not end well. More often than not, chaste cohabitation leads to premarital sex, even when the original intention is to wait until marriage.
Most of the time, when people declare that they’re cohabitating with their partner but waiting for marriage before they become sexually intimate, the first response against their arrangement is that it places them in the state of perpetual temptation. And that’s absolutely true. Yes, there are some strong souls that can stand firm in the face of temptation, but in my experience, most souls are weaker than that. Most souls cave to the temptation in time. They claim that they changed their mind. They claim that there’s nothing wrong with their change of heart. They claim that they never really wanted it in the first place. But most of the time it’s clear what they’re hiding. Most of the time it’s clear that they know what they did. They gave in. They gave up. They were too weak to stand firm against the temptation. But they were also too proud to admit the truth.
But I think there’s an argument that runs deeper than the moral argument. There’s a reason that the moral argument is often unconvincing, that most cohabitating couples wind up sleeping together (metaphorically speaking), even when that wasn’t their original plan. Deeper than the moral argument, there’s an ontological argument: when you cohabit, you play-act, and in time it becomes difficult to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. As more than one cohabitating couple have declared, “we were practically married anyway.” And if they’re “practically married,” they should do what married couples do: have sex.
Such couples often have genuine intentions at first. They move in together because it’s financially smart, because it doesn’t make sense to pay two rents when you can pay one. They move in together because the drive home becomes more unbearable the longer you do it. They move in because they’ve grown tired of saying goodbye every night. Most engaged couples who choose to wait until marriage to live together know what a challenge it can be at times. No one wants to leave the warmth and comfort of a lover’s arms so that they can go out into the cold and back to their empty bed. The decision to wait until marriage comes with temptations too, but you’re more prepared to rise against them when you both see eye to eye and recognize the rightness of waiting.
Not every cohabitating couple will inevitably end up sleeping together, but I think I’m right in saying that many, if not most, will. Why? Because playing at being married isn’t as fun when you don’t get all the perks. A young engaged couple decides to move in together, vowing that they will remain abstinent, and at first, all things go according to plan. Maybe they sleep in different bedrooms, but most will share what will become their marriage bed. They fall asleep wrapped in each other’s arms, and wake up beside one another in the morning. She showers while he works out. He showers while she prepares breakfast and checks her Facebook. They go off to their separate jobs after eating breakfast together, and seven hours later, they come home. They sit down to dinner as they tell stories about their day. They snuggle on the couch for a little while, and eventually they move to the bedroom. Midnight comes and goes, and eventually they fall asleep only to repeat the routine the following day. This is their daily routine, and with time, they begin to “feel married.” Their lives don’t sound that different from their married friends’ lives, and eventually they begin to think of themselves as already married. They’ve become so good at play-acting that they begin to think it’s reality. But that doesn’t change the truth: it’s not.
In time, that well-meaning couple forgets the truth. They feel married, so they act married. And what do married people do? They have sex. And so the couple that feels married starts acting married, and suddenly they’re not just sleeping together.
It’s not inevitable, but I would say that the temptation to engage in premarital sex becomes a lot more powerful when you’re already living together. Without the boundary of separate living arrangements, there is no jarring reminder that you are not yet married, no matter how much you may “feel” as though you are. What you feel won’t be able to change the fact that you have to drive home every night to sleep in your bed by yourself. It won’t change the fact that inevitably she will leave your arms and your home, leaving you alone in your bed every night. It’s an awful feeling, but a valuable reminder that you are not yet married.
I myself can attest to this fact. I have the experience to back it up even. Andrew and I have chosen to wait until we are married to live together. Right now, we live more than 30 minutes away from one another, and every night that I spend at the apartment ends the same way: I climb into my car and drive away. Despite the joy of our time together, we repeatedly resist the urge to prolong it past its proper time. As much as I do not want to go, I do. As much as he does not want me to go, he lets me. We say goodbye and good night, and we go our separate ways. Every goodbye becomes more difficult than the last, and yet we persist. Why should we, when it goes against what we desire and what makes us feel good?
We continue to part ways every night because our goodbyes are a daily reminder that one day we will not have to say goodbye anymore. One day we will be able to fall asleep in the same bed, and that day will make all the waiting worthwhile. In the end, I can only pity the woman who chooses not to wait. I know that my wedding night will be special; it will be totally unlike the night before. When we return from our honeymoon, we will go to the apartment that we have prepared together, but that Andrew has kept warm for me. We will begin our life together, and our wedding night will mark a passage into this new state of life. My dream will become a reality, and there will be no need for fantasy or play-acting. I’ve never needed to pretend. Andrew and I have never “played house.” Why pretend when you can have the real thing? And why be satisfied with a weak replica when you can wait for the reality in its fullness? The best things are truly worth waiting for.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!