“Shacking Up” (Part 2)

Well, there have been some great comments in light of the last post regarding my cohabitation dilemma.

Technically, I sort of knew that I wasn’t going to be able to marry them while they were living together, but I really wanted them to take a week to wrestle with the issue themselves and see what conclusion they would come to in light of some new thoughts on sex, scripture, & purity.

After a number of e-mails and conversations, I sent them this e-mail summary of our phone conversation:

Hey [couple’s name]

Just wanted to provide you a review of what we discussed on the phone.  (& [guy], thanks for your honesty in telling me that you have made your decision and are now living together.)

As you have been discussing your options with each other & friends, I too have had to make sure I am following Chapel guidelines in accordance to our wedding policies & our wedding pastor (who oversees all of the weddings that take place at The Chapel.)

Due to our desire to maintain a high value of the marriage process, making sure it is done with honor in the sight of God and witnesses, The Chapel cannot allow a public marriage ceremony of a couple currently living together.  In light of this dilemma, here are your options to have your wedding at The Chapel:

  1. Separate residences until [wedding date].
  2. Immediately obtain a marriage license at a Court House or a private service at The Chapel (I could do it tonight if needed), and then have a full church wedding/vow renewal service on [wedding date].

Again, I can understand your decision to cohabitate in light of finances being so tight…at the same time, I hope you can understand our need to uphold certain standards that we feel maintains a high value towards the covenant relationship between a man and a woman and upholds the sound integrity of Scripture.

Obviously, you may decide to have your wedding at another location, by another pastor, and that is understood.  If that is the case, please note the following:

  • Just because you aren’t having a wedding here at The Chapel, please don’t think you can’t be a part of the pre-marital classes.  No matter what, we want your marriage to be a long-lasting and fruitful one.
  • Keep staying connected to your ABF, as they will be a great source of strength in the thriving of your marriage ministry.
  • Be sure to have a very strong accountability system during your time of cohabitation, seeking God’s design for sex within the marriage relationship (as previously discussed).  Again, I think your current situation places you in an overly strenuous environment for greater temptation, so even greater and more strenuous check points are in order.
  • Though I think your current decision to live together is unwise (& possibly a lack of faith in God’s provision), I don’t think any “less” of you (as none of us are innocent in having times of being unwise or losing faith in some areas).  I truly enjoyed our brief time last Monday night and the sincere dialogue via e-mails wrestling through this issue.  You both seem like you are suited for each other, with great “marriage ministry” gifts…and that is why I so much want to see you begin well and wise.

Continue on in your praying and discussions, and let me know how I can best serve you through this very hard decision time.

Well, there you have it.  Other than an offer to meet with my wife and I for dinner, no other contact has been made.  So, in agreement with Ben, I too am assuming there will be a wedding…just not at The Chapel.

So what do you think?  Was I too legalistic or judging here?   Not sensitive enough?  Realizing you don’t know all of the other conversations and the full context, is there something else I should have considered?  Any mistakes or cautions to address for next time?  Final thoughts before we wrap this one up?


~ by Dave Smith on February 23, 2008.

9 Responses to ““Shacking Up” (Part 2)”

  1. Dave…it’s easy to nitpick…so take this FWIW.

    “Again, I can understand your decision to cohabitate in light of finances being so tight”

    Do you “really” understand? I guess I think of understanding in terms of identification…meaning I might make a similar decision if I were in a similar situation.

    I don’t think you mean that. Perhaps you’re saying, “I understand (or acknowledge) the decision making process you are going through.”

    Again…I don’t know these people or the situation…so FWIW…

    Your appeal seems to be on the grounds of Chapel’s policies…not on any scriptural evidence. Maybe you already shared that? You called their decision “unwise”. A euphemism for “sinful”? I know it’s a delicate situation…you don’t want to bring the sledghammer when the fly is on the glass table.

    Your concluding questions to the group ask whether you were sensitive and gracious enough…I think so.

    Do you think you were prophetic enough? Just my .02 with the information on hand.

  2. Dave – gootat retract here a little…I re-read your first email and saw that you clearly outlined scripture to this couple. When reading this in isolation, I felt there was some hiding behind the policies to lessen the force…but I see you’re not doing that.

    Speaking the truth in love is such a hard balance, very hard me.

  3. No worries…I think your pushback is a good one nonetheless. Some good things to think through next time around.

    One the phone prior to the e-mail I sent as a review, there was definitely no surprise that we were unable to do the wedding. It was almost like they (he) expected the decision.

    Thanks for the input…but hoping there won’t be a “next time” to use it!

  4. I guess I don’t understand why they didn’t just move the wedding up. If they feel they are emotionally mature enough, and their relationship is solid enough to survive cohabitation, then why wouldn’t they be ready to get married?

    Don’t mean to sound like a pessimist, but I’d give them a month before sex just feels like the natural thing to do. And to be honest, a relationship that intimate should find its natural expression in those terms… it’s the context that’s the problem.

  5. Yea, good question Ben. (how can one be bored in Princeton!?)

    Who knows, maybe “sexually pure cohabitation” can happen. I am sure it has been done before…but again, it goes back to some of the things you mentioned about unnecessarily setting yourself up for potential failure.

    Another issue is that if a couple does commit to separation for such a lenght of time and then all of a sudden can have intercourse…does that set oneself up for a possible sexual dysfunction? Who knows though? Maybe you and your honey can test this out for us? :>)

  6. I agree that it’s setting oneself up for potential failure, but I would want to push it a bit further.

    It seems to me that sexual expression is the natural outworking of two people sharing their lives together so intimately. Then question I have is: why would you want to put yourself in that intimate, shared life without putting yourself in the situation to fully enjoy it?

  7. Great point Ben. It reminds me of some of Lauren Winner’s comments in her book “Real Sex” when one of her friends challenged her on an experience where she spent the night at her boyfriend’s house…splet in the same bed…but remained pure. Great read.

  8. A quote from Winner that I think you’d enjoy would be: “It’s not going to work if you wait till they’re 13 and sit them down and have one conversation about the birds and the bees. Rather, that should be a process that starts from day one. It’s unfortunate that socially we’re in a situation where we have to have curricula about these things. You don’t form character by having experts come in and teach a seminar to 9th graders.” Lauren Winner, Real Sex.

  9. Yea Dave



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