I have been divorced for six years because my husband cheated on me and had a child with another woman. I have a boyfriend now… but he doesn’t want to get married. What should I do? I don’t want to live in sin because of him. Should I leave him and pray for a new boyfriend, or should I stay with him?

Dear Friend,

We can understand why you are having difficulty making this decision. There are cultural influences all around you that would lead you to believe that cohabitation is acceptable and possibly even preferable to marriage. Television and movies make it appear that marriage is an option that some families choose only because they want to impress their friends with a big wedding ceremony and a lavish party afterward.

So, how widespread is cohabitation? In a detailed study that was performed using the census data from every Latin American country from 1970 until 2010, it was found that cohabitation increased among every age group in every country of Latin America during that time period.(1) Of course, similar studies undertaken among other language groups in other areas of the world would probably find similar results, as the trend toward cohabitation is certainly not restricted to Latin America.

Many people have speculated about the reasons for this increase in cohabitation and the corresponding decline in marriage rates. We believe that one of the contributing factors is the widespread ignorance of the teachings of the Bible. Many of those who do believe in God don’t understand the need to know or follow His teachings.

On the other hand, those who don’t believe in God not only reject His teachings regarding one man marrying one woman, but also reject His other teachings, such as the commandment that says that we should not commit adultery, and the teachings of the Apostle Paul about the unique relationship between a married couple.

Another contributing factor to the rise of cohabitation is the economic excuse. We have heard many people say that they can’t afford to get married. They equate getting married with a wedding and a party. They know that they don’t have the money for those big events, so they believe that they can’t afford to get married at all. In reality, the marriage contract itself costs very little, and the economic excuse shows a lack of understanding of its true significance.

You say that you don’t want to live in sin because of your boyfriend. You are wise to identify cohabitation as sin in God’s eyes. We congratulate you for caring about what God thinks!

Please read Case 417 and Case 600 to learn about two other women who had to make the same decision that you must make. In their cases, it wasn’t till after they were already living with their boyfriends that they realized that cohabitation wasn’t good for them. In your case, you have the chance to make the right decision before you have to go through all the pain and disillusionment that they suffered. We urge you to learn from their mistakes.

We wish you the best,

1 A. Eteve, R. J. Lesthaeghe, A. López-Gay, and J. García-Román, The Rise of Cohabitation in Latin America and the Caribbean, 1970–2011 (2016), cited in A. Esteve and R. Lesthaeghe (eds), Cohabitation and Marriage in the Americas: Geo-historical Legacies and New Trends (Springer, Cham).