Marriage Is More Than A Paper

By Vladimir Savchuk | March 16, 2023 | 11 mins

Marriage Is More Than A Paper

The best time to prepare for marriage is when you are single. Why? Because I’ve found that we develop habits when we are single that need to be dealt with and addressed long before we enter into marriage. If not, they can turn out to be extremely damaging.

Three Types Of Marriages

1. Cohabitation Marriage – “I Don’t Love You Enough To Marry You”

18 states in the United States including Washington DC recognize common law marriage. Common law marriage is a marriage that is legally recognized between two people who are not married in the eyes of the law or church but receive the same benefits and protection.

In the 1970’s, 0.2% of couples cohabitated. In our culture, 87% of people aged 18 to 29 say it is acceptable for unmarried couples to live together, even if they don’t plan to get married, according to Pew Research. 

41% of Christians and 58% of white evangelicals believe it is okay to live together as long as you plan to get married. 

Statistically, 70% of women had cohabitated at some point before they got married. What is referred to as the science of shacking up has become a cultural norm in today’s society. When we read Scripture we see what God’s original design with marriage was.

Therefore a man should leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:24

This is God’s idea of marriage from the beginning. It says they were naked and they were not ashamed. In other words, you should not be naked with anybody who is not your husband or wife. From the beginning, being naked was reserved for a man and his wife. Sex belongs in marriage from the beginning, not just in a cohabitating relationship but in a covenant relationship.

Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.

2 Corinthians 7:2

This means that cohabitation, from the scriptural viewpoint, is the sin of fornication. In today’s culture, it is seen as acceptable but it is clearly not acceptable in the Bible. Our desire is not to conform the Bible to our culture but to conform our lives to the Scripture.

The Bible is the Word of God and it does not need to be updated. God’s Word is true, it is living and we will not embrace progressive Christianity. We will embrace Christianity that is based on the Word of God, not that which embraces cultural stances and perspectives. The Bible clearly states that marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman. This has nothing to do with hating other people but with loving God’s Word and showing what it teaches and that doesn’t change with time.

The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.

John 4:17-18

Living together doesn’t constitute marriage. If it had, Jesus would have referred to the man she was living with as her husband.

Most couples who live together unmarried don’t do it with the intention of rebelling against God, although it is disobedience to His Word. They want to test their relationship but the statistics say their chances are actually worse of having a successful marriage after doing this.

Research Into Cohabitation

Dr A Patrick Schneider II did a statistical analysis of cohabitation in America, based on the findings of a number of academic resources. He concluded:

  • Relationships are unstable in cohabitation.
  • 1/6 cohabitating couples stay together for only 3 years.
  • Only 1/10 survive 5 years or longer.
  • Cohabitating women often end up with the responsibilities of marriage – particularly when it comes to caring for children – without legal protection. Research also shows they contribute more than 70% of the relationship’s income.
  • Cohabitation brings a greater risk of sexually transmitted diseases because cohabitating men are four times more likely to be unfaithful than husbands.
  • Poverty rates are higher among cohabiters.
  • Those who share a home but never marry are 78% less wealthy than the continuously married.
  • Those who suffer the most from cohabitation are the children. The poverty rate among children of cohabitating couples is five times greater than the rate among children in married-couple households.
  • Children aged 12-17 with cohabitating parents are 6 times more likely to exhibit emotional and behavioral problems and are 122% more likely to be expelled from school.

Generally speaking, men are the ones who win in cohabitation because they get the benefits of marriage without any of the responsibility. This might not be the rule in every case but generally, women are drawn to things like the man’s resourcefulness, finances, leadership skills, ability to communicate, and generosity rather than his appearance. Men are usually drawn to a woman’s appearance. 

For those who drink from the sewage of culture, I want to let you know culture does not honor women.

It provides safety and stability for both men and women to go through the vicissitudes of life, financial struggles, and changes in appearance. Marriage is about more than income and appearance, it is a bond that two people share which becomes a friendship and partnership in life.

If you are cohabitating, you have three choices:

  • Continue to shack up knowing that both Scripture and statistics are not in your favor.
  • Find separate living quarters and stop having sex until you are married.
  • Get married legally quickly and have a formal wedding later.

Marriage is not a piece of paper; it is more than a piece of paper. If you are questioning what difference it will make, let me tell you a parable. A sick dog is better than a dead lion. A struggling Christian marriage is better than a cohabitating couple doing well in disobedience to God’s Word. We have to embrace Christian values and habits.

I encourage you if you are cohabitating as a man, God didn’t make you a wimp, He made you a warrior. It is easy to reap the benefits without giving commitment but you are better than that. Take on the responsibility. Propose. Make a difference in the lives of those children instead of just doing what the culture does. Be a man of God. Be a man who takes responsibility and care of that family for the glory of God. Don’t look at your friends; you don’t want their destiny. You want to be a man of God, not a man of this culture.

2. Contract Marriage – “I Love You If You Love Me

In other words, in a contractual marriage, the function is “I love you because you love me, you please me, and do the things that I like but, the moment we have problems, I will not love you anymore and can dissolve the marriage at any time.” This is how a lot of marriages are run in our culture around the world. Unfortunately, this is even how some Christians run their marriages.

But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

Luke 6:32

A Christian marriage is not based on I love you because you love me. We start with both people being in love. Sometimes, some people can fall out of love. Some experience distraction with work or children, experience certain hardships and disagreements, and even disaffection – where they no longer have affection for their partner. If you use any of these unpleasant circumstances as an opportunity to move on to pursue your happiness because your happiness is your primary reason for existence. If you are not happy in your marriage, you think you should quickly withdraw yourself and reenter the dating pool.

Happiness comes on you and it leaves you at times but joy is a choice. Happiness is not why you get married. If you only got married for happiness, you are mistaken. You might get married at first to be loved but you only stay married because you choose to love.  Marriage is not the place where you find love; it is first and foremost, the place where you share love. You must find love in God.

Your partner is God’s gift to help you see your anger, impatience, addictions, complaining, bad habits, and so on. Your spouse will expose things about your character. If you are just in the marriage for your benefit, you will quickly get disappointed with that and change your spouse instead of changing your character.

A contractual marriage that is all about you and your interests and happiness, though they are popular and may benefit your selfishness, they will never improve your character or glorify God. God didn’t give you marriage to make you happy first but to make you holy. You will be happier if you choose holiness. Holiness comes through humility and realizing that we need each other, and to grow in righteousness.

3. The Covenant Marriage – “I Love You As Christ Loves Me

In the law in the United States, we have civil marriages, common law marriages, and covenant marriages. This type of marriage requires you to go through pre-marital counseling and cannot be divorced without a legitimate fault. Even then, you have to go through a series of counseling sessions before you may finally divorce.

Marriage is not just a covenant with your spouse; it is a covenant with God, (Proverbs 2:17). Christian marriage is a triangle. The closer we get to God, the closer we get to each other. A threefold cord is not easily broken, (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The reason Christian marriages last, bear fruit, children, prosperity, joy, and happiness, is not dependent on our character but on God’s grace. You are not doing it alone. God is in the center and He is the glue that holds the husband and wife together.

Here are a few differences that truly highlight the beauty of a covenant marriage:

  1. Contract marriages involve promises. Covenant marriages are an oath. They are deeper and more sacred than a promise. 
  2. Contract marriages involve a part of your life. Covenant marriages involve all of your life.
  3. A contract marriage has an expiration – till I don’t like you anymore or divorce do us part. Covenant marriages do not expire. The only thing that ends a covenant is death.
  4. A contract is written in ink.  A covenant is made in blood. 
  5. Contracts are enforced by courts; covenants are enforced by your character.
  6. On a contract, you bind your name but with a covenant, you bind your heart.
  7. In a contract, I live in reaction to your sins or goodness. In a covenant, I live in response to God.

Final Thoughts

When you are married, there are a lot of arguments and fights. In order for us to live healthy Christian marriages, we have to fight. Fighting is part of a good marriage. The problem is when we fight below the belt. This is a term borrowed from boxing which is when you hit anything however you want, which is against the rules. When you are always reacting to your partner’s remarks and failures, we begin to build our marriage not as Christ loved the church but as you are treating me, I am treating you.

Read: Married But Suffering

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

Covenant marriages are painful because they depend on your relationship with God, instead of just your relationship with your spouse. It is about you living that out in your marriage and saying I love you because of Him, first and foremost. With Christ in the center and us living in response to Jesus, not to each other, we will grow in Jesus and have a deeper, closer, more intimate marriage. 

Remember that marriage is a covenant where the death of two wills births one.

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