Answer (Dr. Gary Chapman):
I often encounter couples who are dating or engaged even that say to me, “What’s wrong with living together for awhile before we get married? We love each other. We’re going to get married. So why not live together before we get married?” You know, it sounds logical that you could get to know each other sexually before you get married.
However, research indicates that couples who live together are less likely to get married. That’s whether they’re dating or engaged. It may be because they come down off the in love high if they live together long enough—the average life span of the in love high is two years. So, perhaps they come down off that high after they decide to move in with each other. After a while, they realize they don’t have the same values, they don’t march to the beat of the same drum, and they don’t even like the same things. Consequently, they break up.
That probably would have happened whether or not they were sexually involved. If you date long enough before you get married, you’re going to come off the high. But often people postpone marriage by living with each other for months or sometimes years. So, the break up may be related to the fact that they have now come down off that high and are now being realistic about the other person.
Here’s the other factor, and maybe more importantly: Research indicates that couples that live together before they get married are far more likely to be unfaithful to each other sexually after they’ve been married for a few years. There’s something about having sex before marriage that makes a person more inclined to have sex with someone else outside the marriage. That doesn’t mean it’s inevitable but, statistically, it’s far more likely that one of you will take that road. And, that of course is absolutely destructive of a marriage. I can’t think of anything that strikes at the heart of a marriage than having sex with someone other than your marriage partner, which is why it’s so difficult to get over that when it happens.
The best pattern is always to reserve sexual intercourse for marriage, but to date long enough that you come down off the high and recognize some of the realities about life. Then, you can make a wise decision about marriage.