Religious Beliefs on Cohabitation

by Lindsey Landis
Cohabitation may serve as a "trial marriage" for some couples.

Cohabitation may serve as a "trial marriage" for some couples.

Cohabitation is defined as two unmarried individuals of the opposite sex sharing a household and a bed. Because every major world religion is based on a moral code and strong family values, cohabitation is discouraged, if not prohibited. Premarital sex is considered a sin by followers of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths. However, many millions of modern couples are taking this step and making cohabitation part of the cultural norm.

Reasons for Cohabitation

A 2012 article in the "New York Times" reported that more than 7.5 million couples live together in the United States. This is up nearly 1,500 percent from 450,000 couples in 1960. Many explanations are offered for this dramatic increase. One is that couples want to share expenses and that the cost of maintaining two apartments while sleeping together can be unnecessary. Another is that couples want to avoid divorce and see cohabitation as a way to test a relationship before making the commitment to marry. A variety of studies have shown both the positive and negative impacts of cohabitation, but the fact remains that it is growing exponentially in popularity.

Christian Views on Cohabitation

The Roman Catholic Church has strict views on the subject of cohabitation and considers premarital sex a sin. A priest may refuse to serve communion to a couple who lived together before marriage. Some Protestant denominations are more lenient. They do not specifically prohibit cohabitation, but they do view it as a sin and will often put pressure on a couple to make the commitment of marriage.

Jewish Views on Cohabitation

Judaism also disapproves of cohabitation. Additionally, if a Jewish man or woman marries into a different faith and does not have a traditional Jewish wedding, the couple's marriage is not recognized as such. Their union may be viewed as cohabitation by the Jewish community. As with many other social issues, individual synagogues can establish their own policies. Some may be more liberal than others.

Muslim Views on Cohabitation

Followers of the Islamic faith have the most orthodox views of marriage. Traditionally, the couple is not allowed to court or date before the wedding and must meet only with their families present. Cohabitation is entirely out of the question. Marriages are often arranged and some Muslim men choose to take multiple wives, however, the couple must give their consent to the marriage and a man's existing wife or wives must give their consent before he takes another.

About the Author

Lindsey Landis has more than seven years of combined writing, editing and marketing experience in the book publishing and media industries. She holds a journalism bachelor's degree from Indiana University and studied art history at the Universita di Bologna in Italy. Landis currently works at the Chicago Reader and manages her own author development services company.

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