Life together before marriage: Two couples, two choices
By Carrie Madren
As a dating couple, Sarah* and Tylers* decision to live together was rooted in financial practicality.
|Kristin Clark-Banks and Brady Banks|
|Courtesy Kristin Clark-Banks
We were living and paying rent separately, says Sarah. It didn't make sense because I had a very large apartment. Living together, she says, allowed them to save for the down payment on a house.
We were living in a committed state, says Sarah, a United Methodist who believes the decision about living together before marriage is a faith issue. We knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.
They were discussing marriage, Tyler says, when they merged their households. Six months later, they became engaged and moved into their first home. A year later, they wed.
Six years into marriage, the couple says the relationships transition was smooth. They noticed little difference between the day before and the day after the wedding, other than the logistics of legal and financial issues, such as health insurance and bank accounts.
It's not like there wasn't commitment just because there wasnt a ring on her finger, Tyler says.
Today Sarah is active in a United Methodist congregation. Tyler attends special events with her. They plan to expose their children to a variety of religions to allow them to make their own faith choices.
In Tennessee, Brady Banks and Kristin Clark-Banks charted a different courseÂ living separately in the Nashville area until their wedding in 2007. She lived with her parents, he with friends.
For me, there was a natural progression from dating to getting married and living together, says Clark-Banks. (Cohabitation) is not something Im comfortable with. Im a (childrens) minister and as leaders, we are looked to hold a certain moral standard.
Banks says he might have raised co-habitation to simplify finances, but both were content with their premarital living situation.
For Clark-Banks, waiting to live together made tying the knot more significant: To me, marriage was that beginning point. It was exciting to look forward to after the wedding and the honeymoon, coming back and starting our life together.
Two and a half years into their marriage, the couple does "our best to pray together," Banks says. "I have always felt that we could talk about faith in a way that was very natural. It's easily the central dynamic at play in our marriage."
Both couples are typical of those that United Methodist pastors meet when weddings are being planned. While cohabitating before marriage is by no means the choice of all, it is for some.
Couples already living together have tackled the nuances of combined dwellingÂ including sharing chores and paying the bills, says the Rev. Allison Posell, a licensed mental health counselor at First United Methodist Church, Niceville, Fla. Theyve already learned to deal with problems or created friction, she notes.
Her approach to premarital counseling is basically the same, whether or not the couple is living together. She talks about marriage as covenant as opposed to convenience.
The sacredness and understanding of what marriage is about gets lost in trending toward casual sex and cohabitating, she says. Weve lost the flavor of what covenant means. Marriage is a whole lot bigger than is this person making me happy, Posell says.
The whole issue of cohabitation can be a thorny topic to talk through, but the advantages of waiting are huge, believes the Rev. Jay Tenney. He is pastor at First United Methodist Church, Barnesville, Ga., and founder of www.MyMarriageCoach.com.
During premarital counseling, he will go so far as to ask a couple who have been living together if they can find a way to live apart for a season leading up to the ceremony. We talk about how that can help with restoring the sacredness and specialness of marriage.
It's important to educate about the marriage covenant, but not to pronounce judgment, Posell says. We might be the first touch of Christ that they have.
*Names have been changed.
Carrie Madren, freelance writer, Olney, Md.