Q & A

Why Get Married at All?

Q. I graduated from college about four years ago and have been working fulltime about three years now. I’ve been seeing someone for about two years and my parents have recently begun to ask about our future plans. I know what they are really asking is how soon we’re planning to marry. Many of our friends who were married in the past three years have already divorced. My boyfriend’s parents are also divorced and one of them is in a pretty rocky second marriage. So, we don’t see the point. We’re actually thinking about moving in together and would like to know what you think about our situation.

A. As people of faith living in a world without moral boundaries or constraints, it is essential to ask ourselves what norms we are living by and why. For Christians, the Bible is theoretically the guide used to determine what is appropriate or not. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that many are making decisions about important aspects of their lives based on what they see in the movies or read on social media. And many couples today are living together without being married.

Genesis 1 and 2 outline God’s plan for the preservation and stability of the human race. Genesis 2:18 shares: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” The remainder of Genesis 2 outlines the beauty of God’s intent for marriage, concluding with: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:24, 25).

While many suggest the Old Testament’s paradigm for permanent human relationships is outdated, it is important to note that when the Pharisees tested Jesus about the possibility of divorce for any reason, Jesus responds in the New Testament: “…Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:4-6).

In response to similar challenges on whether marriage was still required or necessary, the apostle Paul counsels: “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2).

We encourage you and your boyfriend to make the future of your relationship a matter of prayer. We also urge you to find a reputable premarital counseling facilitator that shares your spiritual values and commit to having pre-engagement sessions to help you discover your relationship strengths and growth areas. This will help you decide whether your current relationship has the potential to go the distance and be a blessing to your family and to the world.

About 25 years ago we met and trained with Dr. Scott M. Stanley—a psychologist, researcher, and co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver. Since then, we have remained engaged with Dr. Stanley’s work, reading many of his books and his ongoing study “Sliding vs. Deciding,” which he shares in a blog you can search for online and sign up to receive.

In a recent report (April 26, 2023) written for the Institute for Family Studies titled “What’s the Plan? Cohabitation, Engagement, and Divorce,”1 Dr. Stanley and Galena Rhoades offer the following statistics:

  • 65 percent of Americans believe living together before marriage will improve their odds of relationship success. Younger Americans are especially likely to believe in the beneficial effects of cohabitation, and to view living together as providing a valuable test of a relationship ahead of marriage. Yet living together before marriage has long been associated with a higher risk for divorce, contradicting the common belief that cohabitation will improve the odds of a marriage lasting.
  • Using a new national sample of Americans who married for the first time in the years 2010 to 2019, we examined the stability of these marriages as of 2022 based on whether or not, and when, people had lived together prior to marriage. Consistent with prior research, couples who cohabited before marriage were more likely to see their marriages end than those who did not cohabit before marriage.

In her book, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially2, Linda Waite, sociologist, demographer, and the George Herbert Meade distinguished professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, and Maggie Gallagher propose:

  • By a broad range of indices, being married is actually better for you physically, materially, and spiritually than being single or divorced. Married people live longer, have better health, earn more money, and accumulate more wealth, feel more fulfilled in their lives, enjoy more satisfying sexual relationships, and have happier and more successful children than those who remain single, cohabit, or get divorced.

We pray this information is helpful to you and others, as you carefully plan for your life in the days ahead. You remain in our prayers.

Bible references are from the English Standard Version.

First published in Adventist World, January 2024, and February 2024.

  1. 1. https://ifstudies.org/blog/number-5-in-2023-whats-the-plan-cohabitation-engagement-and-divorce ↩︎
  2. 2. Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially, (New York, NY: Broadway Books, 2001). ↩︎

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