I grew up in a very conservative Christian environment and as I have grown into adulthood I have gravitated away from that view of Christianity in favor of, for lack of a better word, liberal Christianity. Recently I brought up to my parents that my girlfriend and I plan on getting an apartment together (my girlfriend and I are both 25 and have been together for a year now). They reacted like I murdered an entire village of orphan children and vowed to disown me should I “live in sin.”
As a Christian myself I have been doing a lot of research on this topic, but I have struggled mightily explaining my views to my parents. My mom has told me many times that by doing this I am going straight to hell. I find this very troubling because she was there when I sought Jesus as my savior and knows how that event changed my life. She is convinced that I did not mean it at that time and that I have let Satan enter my life and tempt me. I love my girlfriend and we plan on getting married and ideally I would like to have a relationship with my parents, but I am at a loss as for how to reconcile our differences on this issue. I would very much appreciate any insight you could give on this topic. Thanks
Really? Satan? Your mom goes straight to Satan?
Worst debater ever.
How come she couldn’t just talk to you about this first? You know; what about the ol’, “Well, honey, you might want to think about living together before getting married. Because . . . ”
Wait. What is the reason people aren’t supposed to live together before getting married?
Oh, duh. Sex. It’s not a sin for you to live with your girlfriend; it’s just assumed that doing so means you’ll also be sleeping with her. Which makes sense. Even if you tried to not have sex with your live-in girlfriend it’s only a matter of time until the two of you are working together in the kitchen and one of you accidentally trips and stumbles into the other one’s genitals. And that, right there, is exactly the kind of accident that keeps restaurants in business.
So let’s not get in a conversation about whether the Bible does or doesn’t proscribe [moderately big word alert: it means forbid, prohibit, ban—unlike prescribe, which means recommend, suggest, endorse, because English is difficult, challenging, sucks] premarital sex. Like so many things that apparently God wanted Christians to bitch at each other about forever, a decent case can be made either way with quotes yanked out of context from the Bible and wielded like weapons in some epic battle in World War Stupid.
Have you already slept with your girlfriend? If so, maybe you should tell your parents that. It’s not like you can put that cat back in the bag. I think a good biblical argument can be made in support of the idea that once you have slept with someone the honorable thing to do is cleave your life to theirs in the way that moving into together does do. It shows how seriously you take the relationship.
Fundamentally, of course, I have no idea how to advise you on this. I don’t know your parents. If they’re crazy and intransigent [uncompromising, stubborn, pigheaded] dogmatists, then you’re screwed. If they’re just having a knee-jerk reaction to their little boy being all grown up, then do what you need to do and trust they’ll come around.
Lately I’ve had a spate of letters from young Christians asking me what amounts to this same question; namely, “I’ve changed my theology and my parents are freaking out. Help!” And what I’ve been generally recommending to such people is that, if it’s true, they tell their parents that they still believe in Jesus. That’s what parents really want to know: they’re much less concerned with their child getting Jesus wrong than they are with them altogether abandoning Jesus. (As long as we’re talking about this: if you can’t tell your parents that you believe in Jesus, tell them [again, assuming it's true] that you believe in some sort of God, and that all you want to do is spend some time figuring out what exactly that means—and that they should trust that if Jesus was God then in time that truth will be revealed to you, and all will be well.)
In your case, you do believe in Jesus. If I were you, I would insist that my belief in and understanding of Jesus, God, and the Bible does not tell me that it’s a sin to live with the woman whom I fully intend to marry. You’re twenty-five, for bleepssakes. That’s old enough for your reflections and conclusions on such matters to be taken seriously. You’re reading the Bible differently than they are. Thoughtfully and lovingly make your case for why—have the conversation with them about what Scripture does and doesn’t actually say on this matter—and then leave them to their thoughts and convictions.
In life we have to choose our battles. This sounds like one you’re going to fight; that is, wanting to please your parents doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a strong enough reason for you to choose not to live with your girlfriend. If that’s the case, then make your best argument for the morality of what you’re doing, do it, and see what happens. Always remain good-natured and respectful: always let your parents know that you love them. Then it’s on them.
You know what? If you’re really planning on marrying your girlfriend, why not make that official? I wonder what your parents’ attitude would be if you were planning on moving in with the girl to whom you were Officially Engaged: with a date set and invitations sent out and all of that? Seems reasonable to believe that might loosen them up a little.
Also, what’s your girlfriend say? Is she, like, “Screw ‘em. We wanna live together; they can deal.”? Or is she concerned with maintaining the integrity of your relationship with your parents? I hope it’s the latter. Because (assuming you and your parents are pretty close) she should be concerned about that. Not to mention that if you guys do get married, she’s likely going to have to live in harmony with your parents. Might as well start preparing that table now.
Anyway, good luck. Let us know how it goes. (Hey, have your girlfriend write in. I’d like to hear her take on this.) Thanks for writing.
In case anyone cares (and hasn’t read it before) here’s a short thing about my wife Cat and I on the morning following the day of our wedding–which came after some three years of our living together: The First Day of the Rest of Our Lives