Reader Question: I Want to Stop Sleeping with My Boyfriend, But What if He Won’t Marry Me?

Reader Question of the Week
Every Monday I like to post a reader question that I received, and then take a stab at answering it.

Today’s question is definitely from God, because I got FIVE variations of it in one 24 hour period. So I know God wants me to write about it. Here’s a snapshot of two of them (the others are pretty similar):

My boyfriend and I have been dating for three years. We agreed that we wouldn’t have sex until we were married, but one year into our relationship we started sleeping together. We stopped going to church. But lately I’ve felt God calling me back. I decided that we really needed to stop having sex, and I told him, but he’s really upset with me. Does God want me to lose what’s most important to me? How can I make my boyfriend understand?

Here’s another:

I’ve been living with a man for seven years. Two years ago we both became Christians. I felt very convicted that we should get married, but my boyfriend says that he was married before (we both were), and he’s never doing that again. We’ve tried counseling and all kinds of things, but he won’t set a date. What should I do?

Here are a few thoughts:

How do I Stop Having Sex with my boyfriend?

You already know the answer.

No matter how you ended up at this blog post–whether you were one of the initial letter writers, or you searched Google, or you followed a link from Pinterest–you had that same question: “how do I make my relationship right with God?” And if you’re asking the question, you already know the answer. It’s just that it’s really hard to accept.

I understand that.

But that voice that’s telling you, “what you’re doing isn’t right” is God’s voice. He’s trying to woo you back. He wants you to do what’s right. And having sex before you’re married isn’t right. It’s not because God’s mean, either. It’s because He honestly wants what’s best for us.

If you were comfortable with the way things were, you wouldn’t be asking the question. So the question really isn’t “should I stop sleeping with my boyfriend?” You already know the answer is yes. The crisis you’re likely having is this one: “what about my relationship? Will I lose him?” Let’s look at that.

You can’t take a bad route to a happy ending

You want that happy ending: you want to be married to a guy who loves you and respects you and will be a great dad for your kids. You want to be married to someone that can cherish you and that you can love and share your heart with.

But here’s the thing: you aren’t going to get there using the wrong route.

Yes, occasionally people live together, and get married, and then both turn right with God together and they end up blissfully happy. Certainly that does happen, and you’re hoping that it will happen with you.

But usually that’s because NEITHER of them knew the right thing to do at the time, and then BOTH of them came to God together. It wasn’t that one person was deliberately tuning out God’s voice.

So let’s take a step back for a second and examine what you want: you want someone who loves you, respects you, and shares your heart. Yet if your boyfriend isn’t willing to value your opinion and honour your deeply held beliefs, does he respect you? Does he share your heart? Does he love you?

If he doesn’t respect you and love you now, he will not suddenly start respecting and loving you once you’re married. Believe me, I get so many OTHER emails from women who married in exactly your situation. They loved the guy, but the relationship wasn’t a good one, and they hoped that marriage would fix it. It doesn’t. It just magnifies all those problems. I wish I could put these letter writers together with the women who are in agony ten years into the marriage, because I think it would be very illuminating. If he doesn’t respect you now, he won’t respect you then. He just won’t. And he won’t suddenly become the kind of man that you want. So there is no point in just waiting around, hoping that one day he’ll marry you, because marrying you won’t fix those problems.

Besides, if he won’t set a date now, what makes you think he will in five years? In ten years? I have known women who have lived with the same guy from age 25 to age 40. They missed out on their childbearing years, because they kept thinking, “next year he’ll marry me and we can start a family.” It never happened.

Sacred SearchIf he won’t move out (or stop sleeping together) until you’re married, and set a date for the wedding, then he is not a stable person who loves you and respects you. You won’t get what you want from him.

To wrestle through this more, Gary Thomas has written a book that I can’t recommend enough called The Sacred Search. He talks about what you should look for in a mate, and how the mate’s CHARACTER is the most important ingredient for a happy marriage. It’s a great read!

Do the right thing

So I would encourage you to do the right thing. If you’re living with him, move out. If you’re sleeping with him, stop.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you break up. It could be that he will agree with you. But take that time apart to really examine your relationship and make sure it’s a good one. Sex confuses things. It makes us feel closer than we otherwise would, and it bonds us together. It can obscure what are obvious problems. So don’t just move out and then rush into marriage. Take at least a few months to work on spending time together doing things OTHER than sex, and see if you still feel the same way about him.

Remember: if he is the one that God has for you, then the relationship will survive the split, and will in fact grow deeper and better, because you’re doing the right thing. God blesses you when you do the right thing. So moving out won’t end a good relationship; if it’s a good relationship, it will survive. Moving out will only end a bad relationship, and even though that may hurt now, in the long run, it is so, so much better.

What about Kids?

Here’s a twist in the problem, though. Here’s another letter, with an added element:

A year ago I moved in with my boyfriend. It was supposed to be a prelude to marriage–we just hadn’t set the date because we weren’t sure of his work schedule. Now we’re still not married, and there’s still no date, but in the meantime I’ve had a daughter. I know what we’re doing is wrong, but what should I do? I don’t want to hurt my daughter.

In this case, there are children to consider. I take that very seriously. I firmly believe that children should grow up with two parents. So I’m a little more ambivalent about this one. But here’s what I would say:

God does not ask us to sin in order to save another person. He is not saying to you, “keep living with him and sleeping with him for the sake of your daughter.” What He is asking you to do is trust Him: Trust Him that if you do the right thing, God will be there for you AND your daughter. It may be that your boyfriend changes his mind and gets serious about his family. Or it may be that God has another future for you. But He will carry you, and He will be enough for both of you.

I Can Do All Things

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So I would move out, and I would tell him that you will no longer sleep with him until you are married. Your daughter needs the stability of married parents. If he agrees, and sets a date, I would seriously consider going through with the marriage, even if he isn’t an ideal husband, because you have already had a child with him. Obviously if abuse or alcoholism or porn is involved, you should take a step back. But all of this is still dependent on you stopping the relationship the way it is now. God is asking you to stop; that’s why He’s been nudging you. He wants to take the situation you’re in and redeem it. I don’t know how He will do that; it may be with this man, or it may be that God will plant you in the middle of a Christian community that will be there for you and help you raise your daughter. But I do know that He does not ask us to keep sinning.

Pray Lots

Pray

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Pray a ton right now. Turn to Scripture and start reading it regularly. Go to church and get some support around you. You’re going to need it! Doing the right thing is always hard. But I do know that God honours it. He really does.

This will likely be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. Your heart is breaking. But it is better to do the right thing, and to do it early, than to drag out something that you know is wrong and is leading you down a bad road.

I pray that you will have the courage and the trust to listen to God.

Do any of you have any words of advice? Have you ever been there? Let’s encourage each other in the comments!


Comments

  1. ButterflyWings says:

    Hi Sheila, I just had a quick question. I have a few friends in the situation above. A few with kids, a few without.

    In all cases, the cost of living here is very high. I’m married to a man with a good job and even we can’t make ends meet with just one child unless I go back to working. Many families I know are earning little more than minimum wage. It’s hard enough for a woman with no children who has a job to move out and live by herself while her boyfriend makes up his mind, but my friends are all pensioners or mothers. They’re boyfriends can’t support them to live somewhere else, and if they move out, they can’t access government benefits for single pensioners or single mothers because that would require telling the government they don’t intend to reconcile (and they aren’t willing to claim that because they know it’s a lie).

    I understand the sex has to stop, but would it be ok for these people to keep living together but in separate rooms?

    The friends I have facing this issue are so lost. There is no one for them to move in with (I wasn’t even able to help a friend who was facing domestic violence find someone to stay with), the majority of my friends are back in my old hometown so I can’t offer to have them stay with me, and hubby wouldn’t allow it anyway as he barely coped with having my best friend crash on our couch for less than two weeks.

    Also, none of the local shelters could help as they are just so overwhelmed with women fleeing violence, they’d tell a woman who left a seemingly good boyfriend for moral to grow up and go back to him (we’re not a very christian society in Australia and moral decisions seem to be mocked constantly).

    Would it be ok for women who have really tried to find somewhere else to stay in a separate part of the house so they can still share finances and only have one lot of living costs but just to cut off the sex?

    • My question is this: can two people who have had sex and are living in the same house stop having sex while still living under the same roof with no one who will know where they slept? I think that sounds like a lot to ask. I think if two people are living together and know they want to marry they should get to the preacher posthaste for some premarital counseling and accountability and set a date. If it’s totally impossible to live in separate houses during that time they may need lots of accountability so they know someone is going to be checking up on them…and they have to believe stopping the sex until the wedding night is the right thing to do.

    • Disobedience to God’s word is never the only option! God always provides a way for those wanting to obey Him. Can they speak to their pastor? Is there someone in their church who would help them out temporarily until they find their own digs? There are always people advertising for flat mates in Aussie papers! Temporary bording house? Move home with parents/siblings? There are ALWAYS options.

      • ButterflyWings says:

        I counted myself lucky that I was able to marry my husband when I did, but sometimes those options aren’t that easy. I went through a very messy family court battle with my exhusband. The conditions of me retaining majority custody were not living with anyone other than a partner or immediate family. My parents are abusive and my siblings live with my parents so that was out. It ruled out living with people from church or random flatmates. The family court makes divorced single mothers lives a nightmare.

        I hope myself in the very near future to be able to get a bigger house so I can help out any friends who are faced with difficult situations in regards to living with their partner unmarried, but not sure what I can do for people who are in the situation I was in. Not so much because they are facing moving in with an unmarried partner, but I know several people who have had to move in with very abusive relatives because family court left them no choice. It’s so sad that the family court leaves women the choice of homelessness or living with abusive relatives but won’t let them live with good friends or people from their church.

        • I’m not at all suggesting it’s easy. Obeying God’s word will rarely be easy or straightforward – the devil will always see to that! But it will always be possible – God Himself will see to that! He is bigger than our difficulties, and He will always make a way for his child who is prayerfully looking to Him and trying to be obedient. You found a way – albeit difficult. He can provide for others too!

          • Exactly! 1 Corinthians 10:13:

            No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

  2. ButterflyWings says:

    Sorry just remembered another question. When there are kids involved, what if the guy flat out refuses to get married? ie he wants to stay together for life, but for whatever reason, doesn’t believe in getting legally married. I’m just not sure it’s fair to split up a child’s parents

    • What if they just have a church wedding? My church does weddings that aren’t recognized by the state but only by God. You don’t have to be recognized by the state to be married(God knows, and in the Biblical past I don’t think there were marriage licenses). Some people just don’t like the paperwork.
      Hannah J recently posted…How far is too far?My Profile

      • ButterflyWings says:

        I personally think that’s a great idea. I know some people who are actually thoroughly opposed to having a state based marriage because they are against what the state defines as marriage. A commitment in front of God and witnesses is what should matter.

        My worry is though for a friend whose boyfriend doesn’t want to get married, period. He’s got it into his head that getting married guarantees divorce because his parents are divorced, her parents are divorce, all the extended family are divorced. How does one counter that? I mean, saying to them “God says sex outside of marriage” is one thing, but not everyone who calls themself a christian listens to what God wants.

        • If he won’t listen to God’s word, he is probably not a Christian. Or so far away from God that he’s not going to be of any use to a Christian woman who does want to live for God. If he won’t marry her, and if she is under conviction for living in sin, then she should leave. Period. Shelia’s already covered that pretty clearly above.
          Secondly, I’m in Australia too. The 1994 amendment to the Marriage Act defines marriage ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’ (http://www.humanrights.gov.au/marriage-legislation-amendment-bill-2004)
          Honestly, I can’t see how on earth a Christian could take issue with this! It’s pretty clear that it agrees with the Biblical model pretty well!

          • ButterflyWings says:

            Our marriage is all good now – I was more thinking about what some US friends of mine are facing in states where gay marriage is legal and they are thoroughly opposed to it. But I do wonder how aussies will feel in a few months with Rudd and Abbott both appearing to have changed their minds on gay marriage.

            Personally, I’d still go for a legal marriage for the legal protection it provides if things go wrong (because no matter how much of a christian your spouse appears to be, you can never 100% tell what is in another person’s heart – only God can), but I can understand people who want a church only marriage. Although I liked what another person wrote about drawing up a legal arrangement if people choose to do that. I just can’t imagine any churches here in Australia (mainstream ones anyway) agreeing to do church-only weddings.

            All we can do is pray for politicians leading up to the election next month that whoever gets in will honour God’s wishes when it comes to marriage.

          • Christine C. says:

            Frankly, I think it’s quite illogical to have extramarital sex because one doesn’t believe that gay marriage should be legal. An individual is responsible for his or her own actions only, and it seems silly to engage in one sin because another one is legal.

      • My husband was a pastor and had a couple come ask him to do this.While there are some couples he may have been willing to do this with he wouldn’t with this couple because he felt it was going to be done to ease the woman’s conscience while giving the man a loophole if he got bored in the relationship- it had none of the strings of marriage. If you choose to get married without a state license please at least have a marriage contract written up by a lawyer. This helps protect both people in the marriage.
        Brooke recently posted…Lots of Growing Going On HereMy Profile

      • Like Brooke said, it might just be a convenient cop-out for some. Also, if it’s not legally recognized, there is no protection for the woman and children, if there are any.
        Interesting thought… does God recognize a marriage that is not recognized by the state? Aren’t we supposed to obey the secular law unless it collides with God’s law (which I don’t think is the case here)? Just thinking…
        But back to the original thought, Do – or Don’t. But don’t muddle like that, and don’t drag the/your church into it. I understand that “common law marriages” were meant to be like that — the guy doesn’t like the “marriage thing”, and after some years living together “as if”, he might at least be willing to sign some papers… Oh my. Respect yourself and get OUT. Same as with Facebook relationship status’ “I’t’s complicated”. :-P

    • Jean (In The Valley) says:

      Wow! If he is that stubborn that he might not want to ever marry her, then definitely she needs to leave him and allow him full access to their daughter. That is the problem, she slept with him and gave him the milk for free. Women need to always do the right things and not fall head over heels in love with the man. Men always keep a piece of their hearts away from their woman……. ALWAYS ! Didn’t know that…… did you women??

  3. Purplecandy says:

    I’ve been there. I met my husband a couple of years after becoming christian. I wanted to wait for my husband before having sex again, though I wasn’t really convinced that I should wait for the wedding night. So when I met him we did have sex quite early into our relationship. We had our first child before getting married, a few months later.

    I actually wondered a couple of times if we should have done things differently. We couldn’t have lived into separate places, it was financially impossible. We could probably have cut off sex, at any point. I know my husband wouldn’t have left me because of that and we both agreed to get married as soon as possible, things just took time because it involved immigration procedures. I guess none of us saw the point of stopping it.
    Our situation made me wonder : when does marriage really start ? When an administration finally stamps your file and “agrees” for you to get married after months and months of procedures, of “losing” documents and of requiring proofs of the nature of the relationship (that actually involved same address, shared finances etc.) ? Is it when a church leader “agrees” to bless your union ? Or is it when both of you, in your heart of heart, together and in front of God agree to commit to each other ?
    We did sign some documents in three different languages, and we never had a church blessing. But in my heart, I was married to him long before it became “legal”.

    I don’t know if our story should be an example to follow, but I had to share it anyway.

    • ButterflyWings says:

      PurpleCandy not sure if others would agree with me, but I think it takes more than just a commitment in front of God – it takes a commitment in front of human witnesses too. God matters more than anything else, but it is our human witnesses who can physically keep us accountable to our word. God gave us friends/family/community for a reason and part of that is to linked to helping us be committed to our marriage.

      • Purplecandy says:

        I agree with you on the witness thing. But if I look at our “wedding” : we signed documents in a language we both couldn’t read, on a weekday, in a lost office somewhere, in front of a man we didn’t understand either. A few processes by our respective embassies later and we were “legally” married. When was our wedding date then ? No ceremony, no vows. Was it the day we signed ? Or the day it was recognized in my country ? or his ? Or was it when we started to publicly live our life as husband and wife, in front of friends and family ?

        Where he comes from, a lady becomes a man’s wife once she moves in with him, and people (usually in the same village so the word spreads fast) can attest it. It is also recognized by law, if need be. I tend to feel things went a bit like that for us.

        • I know a lady from my native Germany (she herself has a German mother and a Nigerian father) who married someone from Nigeria, IN Nigeria. They were married three times: First, in the German embassy (so it would be recognized by German law), then in church, so the Christians would recognize it, and also according to tribal laws, so those who were NOT Christians in their Nigerian community would recognize it. This was very important to their Nigerian pastor — he didn’t want ANYONE have reason to slander them, members of his church and in his care. And that’s what they did. Not sure if it was all in one day or close, and I don’t know which day they count as their wedding day. ;-)
          BTW, why did you not have a ceremony? Just curious… if this is important to you, one does not have to pay an arm and a leg… I know one couple who just had a simple ceremony, and then took their immediate family and the witnesses out to eat — that’s all they could afford, but they wouldn’t let that stop them from getting married.

  4. This may sound idealistic, and maybe among some groups it is, but I don’t think that among believers it should ever be impossible for an unmarried couple to live separately. Among my church, this issue has been addressed many times and countless couples have found themselves able to do the impossible and live separately before marriage through the help of their Christian community. This can mean finding roommates in the church to live with or allowing someone gifted in financial planning to look over the couple’s finances and help them to see how they can make it work. God is so much bigger than financial limits, and he doesn’t leave his children in sin with no way out.

    • ButterflyWings says:

      Lauren in an ideal world, in an ideal church that would be the case. But as someone who for several years often went hungry and always without at least half the medication I needed, and having to delay things like surgery for years and not being able to access basic medical care despite having spent the first 30 years of my life in the one church and being surrounded by other churches too, I can say for sure there are lots of time when people simply don’t have the support of believers that they should. I have since moved states for my husband’s work, and we attend a great church where they would support an unmarried couple to live apart, but back in my hometown this simply wouldn’t happen. They don’t even support starving, ill single mothers who became single mothers through no fault of their own (hubby being a violent, serial cheat before abandoning the family to marry his mistress).

      God gives us all free will, and some of us pay the price of other’s bad decisions made in free will, which means in cities and towns where “believers” choose not to act like believers should, it means things are tough for those who need help. I agree that God does not leave us with no way out, but sometimes things aren’t that simple either. Of course we can choose to stop sinning (no one is forcing an unmarried couple to have sex) but sometimes living together is the only option for some people, at least in the short term.

      I count myself as one of the lucky ones. (second) hubby and I were able to get married before things totally fell apart financially but it came at great cost. Choosing not to have sex before marriage meant we were forced to spend three years living in different states which was torture when I was sick and was having to borrow money at very high interest just to put food on the table and going without medical care because hubby didn’t have money to help me out on top of maintaining a home by himself. We will be paying off that gigantic debt (got up to around $25K at 21.9% interest plus fees) for years to come and we still struggle to make ends meet to make repayments on that debt. Having maxed out all lines of credit, too physically broken to keep working at my previous job even the lousy 2 days a week I was working, we were at the end of the line. For us, we were lucky, we were able to get married and move in together just before I lost everything (my health, my home and everything I owned), but I have known other couples who weren’t so lucky.

      We couldn’t continue living apart, my autistic daughter was at absolute breaking point too, I had no one to turn. And that “someone gifted in financial planning” WAS ME. Maths and finances has always been my special gift but when you have massive medical costs, left in great debt from a deceitful exhusband, and trying to get by on the joke the government calls a disability pension here and no child support, even the best financial wizz can only do so much. I always kept getting referrred to financial counsellors by charity organisations who made seeing their financial counsellor a condition of getting help, and I would always spend the appointments teaching their counsellors better ways of managing money. Got very tedious after a few years of that.

      I consider myself one of the really lucky ones, to have made it our marriage without being bankrupt or homeless or both, “only” going without medical treatment and sometimes without food and utilities, but I’d have been bankrupt within a month and homeless within 2 months otherwise. So I have great compassion for those who aren’t as lucky as I was.

      The most important thing is people stop sinning (ie having sex without being married). The living together is something that is a little more complicated and there needs to be more believers willing to help out struggling couples rather than condemn them. In the church I grew up in, there was only condemnation. Couples living together were bullied horrificly until they got married and now (5-15 years later) all but one are divorced and the other couple have very serious issues. People need to get married because God convicts them of their sin, not because the local church bullies them into it. Of course we need confront people (in a loving and appropriate way) who are living in sin, no matter what that sin is, but most people need help not condemnation. And sadly the church I grew up in threw nothing but condemnation and not a single bit of help towards struggling couples.

      • Butterfly Wings, I truly am sorry for all the hard stuff you’ve had to face, and do respect the way that you’ve put your life back together.

        At the same time, though, you frequently say really critical things of “the church”, and I don’t know that that’s really helpful. Yes, some church communities are awful. But most are not. I have lived in countless different places over the last twenty years, and every single church I’ve ever been in has been there when I’ve had a crisis–the death of a child, the end of an engagement, etc. etc. In fact, I’VE been there for friends who have gone through crises, too–and often not even real friends, but simply people I knew at church that I knew I could help.

        I agree that sometimes the church isn’t helpful, but then I think it’s incumbent upon every Christian to find a Christian community that IS helpful. Instead of talking about how hopeless everything is and how there isn’t a solution, I believe that God wants us to use our brains and pray lots and get out there and take initiative. And the best way to find a healthy Christian community is to be part of one. Join a church and serve. Get to know the others who serve. Don’t join and then expect them to be there for you. Join and make yourself a member who helps others, and you will find that others help you, too. That’s what a community is. (I’m not saying you don’t do this; I’m just making a generic comment).

        So yes, it’s difficult for some people. But there are ALWAYS choices. Unless you live in a country where you face jail for practicing your faith, you have choices (and even there you have the choice about how to respond). So I guess I’d say instead of looking at how difficult it must be and how some people don’t have choices, I’d tell people: go out there and take the initiative and identify the choices God is giving you.

        Maybe it means finding another church. Maybe it means having a roommate for a time. Maybe it means moving to a different place. I don’t know. But there are always choices, and the vast majority of churches are places where people can find help.

        I’m sorry that you didn’t, but I don’t want people reading this blog to be under the impression that churches are horrible at helping, because that has never been my experience at all.

        • ButterflyWings says:

          Sorry, I didn’t want my post to be misunderstood. Hubby and I go to a fantastic church now. They are incredibly helpful, were there for me when I was really sick early in my pregnancy when hubby had to go away for work and we have a wonderfully supportive bible study group from the church as well.

          Until a particular change three years ago, I had stuck by my previous church because I felt God had called me to be there. I knew there were issues, and I wanted to be the person there that people my age could turn to as a friend and to help out as much as I was physically able when on top of being involved in one of the children’s ministries. Right up until the day they shut down the night service (the only service I could get to at the time) and they totally got rid of the young adult’s ministry (including young adult-friendly bible studies so I no longer had somewhere to invite seeking friends to) , I believed I was supposed to be there to help the other young adults falling through the cracks, and I know I was definitely able to be that for some people. Unfortunately it never led to anyone being there for me, but that’s not why I tried to help others.

          I feel very blessed to have found the church family I have now and I keep praying for my old church as I fear within 5-10 years it will simply have too few numbers to continue to exist.

          Just so people know… most churches are a wonderful community, don’t let my experience with the church I grew up in scare people off all churches

      • This is more in the way of a general comment than specifically towards ButterflyWings, but it addresses some of what you’ve said. I’ve been in churches that are both ways: some are very unhelpful and other abound in support. Sometimes it depends on the size of the church, location, leadership, demographics, culture etc. Sometimes you have to change congregations to get your needs met. But sometimes, (and I’ve been on both sides of this) the reason there isn’t help forthcoming is because it’s not candidly asked for (from the right people, people who are both spiritual and able). Sometimes fear, or pride, or shame prevent us from really seeking help. We might mention something, vaguely, in passing or ask for prayer and then sit back and wait. Then waiting turns to upset, hurt or anger when nothing tangible happens. When no one “notices” that we need help/encouragement/etc. But sometimes, that can be because no one really know, or those few who do, aren’t in a position to help. Or maybe they can’t relate. So before you lump “the church” in together, recognize that it’s made of people, and people are limited and falliable. Sometimes you have to actively search for (“SEEK AND YE SHALL FIND”) the help you need to get your needs met. It may not be where you are presently, but God does provide.

  5. I have definitely been in this situation and I can say from experience that your heart has to be right with God before God will bring you (or show you) you’re future husband that He has planned for you. In my case (not every case) the Lord used my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) to bring me to the Lord and we both made the decision TOGETHER that we wanted a relationship that glorified God because we loved Good more than ourselves and each other. We knew that if we wanted our relationship to have any chance of survival and to thrive that we had to honor God first. And what’s even more interesting is that almost immediately after we made this decision we started getting attacked. Not physically but spiritually. Things started happening that would have broke people who didn’t know the Lord up but we both had this peace with the Lord that assured is that we were in His will. No conviction to leave. Just the confidence of being in the Lords presence. The result was that 3 years later we got married and we have been married for a little over a year. Obeying God, especially with your relationship, will give you tremendous peace and blessing. If you choose to ignore the conviction of God, you will only be missing out on the wonderful blessings He wants to give you. It may not be the easiest thing to do, but it will be the most rewarding. Don’t settle for anything less than God’s best.

    • ButterflyWings says:

      BC I know what you mean. My husband and I didn’t live together before we got married or have sex, but I certainly went through unimaginable attacks for making that choice. I won’t say it was the hardest time in my life (not even close sadly) but it was incredibly hard being sick, trying to support a special needs child, having a sometimes abusive family nearby that I couldn’t avoid because of family court orders, stalking by my exhusband’s mistress and friends, all with my now-husband a thousand miles away, out of contact for days at a time, and lucky to see each other in person 4 times a year. But in the end it was worth it. Things aren’t perfect now, but they are ok, and I feel great that God gave me the strength to stand my ground when it would have been so much easier physically to just give up and move in with hubby before we got married. There are consequences I’m still suffering from the choice to follow God, but I have my conscience intact and that is what matters most. I wouldn’t trade my conscience to relieve even all the stuff I went through.

  6. Christine says:

    My boyfriend and I were Christians and were having sex before we got married. We got pregnant with our daughter and decided to live together. I wanted to make things right for us and our daughter so I said we should get married. He agreed it was time to stop playing house and take responsibility for our child and family. We went to premarital counseling and our Pastor told us to stop living together if we wanted to make things right in the eyes of God. So for the time we weren’t married we lived in separate places but kept the apartment. We needed a place to live after we got married. During the weeks I lived in it and he would live on the military base. On the weekends he would live in the apartment and I would stay with my parents. This was about 2 1/2 months before we got married. We still went to premarital counseling too. This separation was the best thing for us because we were able to make our relationship right before God. I’m not saying it was easy because I was already pregnant and saw no problem living together but I knew deep down in my heart it was wrong and I wanted to make things right before God. I believe making that drastic change living separately and stop having sex until we were married allowed God to make things right and become our foundation. Throughout the years God has honored and blessed that commitment to Him and to each other. We are now approaching our 13 year wedding anniversary and have two other children. We are Blessed! We ended the bad relationship and God blessed us with a new and better one with each other.
    Trust God to see you through. He won’t ever leave you or forsake you. He knows what is best for you and your children. All you have to do is trust Him!

  7. The name of the post reminds me of the tired saying of why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free? Don’t sell yourself short and stay with someone who only wants free milk. If you’re already living together and aren’t married I can only think of a couple reasons why not: one or both of you doesn’t want to get married, you’re trying to save up for too big of a wedding, or you don’t see the point of getting married. I think Sheila is spot on here. I just skimmed parts of it, so I don’t remember if she addressed this, but why would your boyfriend marry you if you *don’t* stop having sex with him? If you’re already living as though you’re married what benefit is going through a ceremony and signing a few papers, other than a few tax benefits and making the will easier? Stopping the sex and focusing on the relationship and wedding plans is the best, and in some cases I’d argue only, way to make sure the relationship will last.

    • I agree.

      Look ladies, a man’s primary interest in marriage is sexual fulfillment. A man gets married because he wants to spend the rest of his life with his wife as lovers. If you fulfill that need outside of marriage, then you have removed the primary incentive for the man to marry you.

  8. A friend of mine was living with her boyfriend and she really wanted him to commit and get married. He just kept saying “What’s the point?”. Some people may not see the point but for this girl (and most girls) having that commitment was important to her. After all actions speak louder than words. But she just couldn’t get him to understand this. She was advised by her mother to just leave, to tell him that she wanted to continue the relationship but that she would no longer be living or sleeping with him. She was terrified that he would just break up with her. Her mother told her that if he broke up with her than he wasn’t meant for her. So she finally left and he was furious! She moved in with her mom and a week later he showed up at the door with a ring and they were married a couple of months later! Doing the right thing wasn’t easy but it was the only way to get him to do the right thing!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Purple candy, the idea of when marriage begins is very interesting. I would encourage you to seek scripture for that answer. From my understanding of scripture and from pastors I believe that marriage begins when you vow before God and men to one another. Some churches do not recognize marriages that were not performed by a clergy member before witnesses. I understand what one commenter mentioned about requiring legal paperwork to hold people more “accountable” but one day we are all going to be much more accountable to God for our marriages and the way that we treated that sacred union that is so beautifully designed to be a picture of Christ and his bride, the church! I do not in any way claim perfection (far from it) but I would encourage anyone reading here who claims Christianity to take seriously the expectations and commands laid out for us by God.

    • Purplecandy says:

      Thank you, it is actually interesting how writing my story got me thinking about that too… I never thought about looking more deeply into it in the Bible, I will certainly do that.

  10. Excellent advice, Sheila. I do think that it’s incumbent on these women to set the boundaries themselves, not wait for change on their partners’ part. Oftentimes, when one person says, “I am going to do X,” and then follows through, it jolts the other person into realizing that they must make a choice–in this instance, commit or move on. I pray that these women will be welcomed into the arms of other Christians who can help them through this challenging situation.
    J (Hot, Holy & Humorous) recently posted…What?! You’d Rather He Have an Affair?My Profile

  11. ….it jolts the other person into realizing that they must make a choice–in this instance, commit or move on.

    This. People are incentive-based creatures. We can be very stubborn about not changing our selfish and/or destructive behaviors until there are genuine consequences to be paid for failing to change. Pastor Mark Gungor makes the point all the time that men behave badly in relationships because women let them, i.e. there are no consequences for the bad behavior, thus it continues.

  12. mrs Becky says:

    I’m talking to my husband as I read this. One thing we agree that people are missing is the commitment to eachother for life. The point of commitment for many is a ceremony, for others it can be when papers are signed. For couples committed to each other for life, before God if believes then it is a ‘marriage’ whatever you want to call it.

    Our society loves to celebrate the joy of two coming together to start their lives. They want to help them get started, shower them with gifts to make life easier. (Weddings are also one of the last things in the American cultural that people treat as a formal event!!!) It makes me sad that the church feels its their job to regulate when that union happens (forcing couples to live separately when that commitment to eachother has been consummated) verses being welcoming to people who want to make things right before God and honor each other in the culturally acceptable way to display the commitment.

  13. I kind of struggle with this topic and the comments posted because of the way our relationship went.

    I moved in with my husband shortly after we met. He is an atheist and at that point in time I had walked away from God because of a lot of disgust, confusion and frustration with ‘churchianity’. Very quickly it was obvious to me he was ‘the one.’ I was 36 and had dated a lot and had HUGE commitment issues but had no qualms at the thought of spending the rest of my life with this man. I really really really believe he is the man God intended for me for a variety of reasons. We got engaged within the year and set a date for a few months from that point, in summer. I had begun attending church again and when I mentioned to the pastor we were getting married in a conversation he latched onto that and absolutely refused to marry us unless we lived separately, despite the fact that I hadn’t actually asked him to do so. The thing was I had no such conviction from GOD about this. The only conviction I had was to make it legal, which we had already set in motion. I had fully committed in my heart to God at this point to remain with this man and felt I had His blessing. I still do and we celebrate our 6th anniversary next week. 7 and a half years so far. I still feel no guilt over having lived together.

    Having said that, I do not think it is right to live unmarried when you are following God, with zero real plans to do so (get married), and I think that if you are being convicted at all about your situation then you need to act on that. I hope this makes sense?

    • Purplecandy says:

      I can relate to your story. I had the same experience with a pastor who refused to bless our union (after we were legally married) if we didn’t stop having sex before (but before what ? the legal wedding ? the church blessing ?). I felt it extremely disrespectful to me and my husband. As if what we were doing was something bad or dirty, when our two hearts were committed to each other and to God and we already had a child together.

      • ButterflyWings says:

        Purplecandy that pastor is just weird. Many people due to circumstances can’t have the legal wedding and church ceremony/wedding/blessing at the same time. What is most important is your public commitment (and that can include a registry office) in front of other people (as legal ceremonies do) and in front of God (doesn’t have to be in a church).

        I discussed similar with my husband when we were struggling to afford our wedding, and I said to my parents maybe we should get married in a registry office and do the church ceremony a few months later and my mum’s response was “oh if you get married in a registry office, God won’t recognise it”. I loved my husband’s response – “does your mum think a registry office is a magical place God can’t see inside or something”.

        That pastor is wrong and you’re right, it is disrespectful. Did you end up going to someone else to bless your union? Not that I think it’s a necessity, but it’s nice to get done.

        • Purplecandy says:

          No, I felt really hurt with his reply, it actually kept me from asking anything related to any other pastor. We are planning to have a traditional wedding ceremony in my husband’s country in a few years time, that will be a bit like a “renewing our vows” thing since we’ll be over 10 yrs married by then, and we’ll probably use that opportunity to have a blessing. But we did have our own blessing in some way, we prayed a lot together, and alone, and I know for sure that God approves of our union. that’s what matters most, though it still makes me sad to know that in some churches we would be regarded as “not real”.

  14. Normally, I just enjoy reading, and I don’t bother to comment, but today, I’ve been there. My husband and I made some serious mistakes while dating, and it caused a lot of heartache for us and our families. Yes, actions that were supposed to be just between the 2 of us affected our families as well. My parents still will not speak to him, and we’ve been married for almost 2 years. It was difficult. We knew we needed to stop sleeping with each other. We knew what we were doing was wrong, but being together all the time, it was nigh impossible to control our actions after a while. We didn’t live with each other, but we saw each other every day. When we finally got engaged, things got worse because it become the mindset of “We’re getting married anyway. It doesn’t matter now.” But we realized that we couldn’t keep going like that. We knew God was not happy with our actions, and we wanted to repent. There were so many times that we tried to be good, as we called it, but once you’ve slipped down that path, it’s hard to stop. In the end, I moved out of state to live with my sister for 6 months before the wedding. My husband was very supportive of that; in fact, it was his idea. It was difficult. We talked every day, but I missed him a lot. I moved back the month of our wedding, but I stayed at a friend’s house who was kind enough to let me share her room, and that definitely made sure nothing would happen there. It was a difficult, heartbreaking experience, but I know God is happy with our choices now, and I know that I’ve made things right with Him. I’m grateful he gave me the courage to do what is right.

  15. This is an idea that I find quite disturbing — that all it takes to make a “real” marriage is heartfelt commitment to each other. Don’t get me wrong; heartfelt commitment between spouses is certainly a necessity. But it is not a marriage. Our hearts are unreliable. If the bonds between a couple only “married in their hearts” begin to dissolve, it’s even easier to leave the partnership, break commitments and promises, and go separate ways. I’m married in the conventional sense, sanctioned by a state marriage license. I am committed in my heart to my husband, yet there have been days where it would have been much easier to simply walk out of the house than to stay and work through the difficulty of the moment. That promise made before God and witnesses helps keep my commitment to my husband strong, because I gave my word. What does a couple whose only bond is a heartfelt commitment fall back on when things get really tough?

  16. heart broken says:

    I am a divorced woman living with my (still married/separated 4 yrs. Bf) I served god faithfully for 10 yrs but fell into sin with my current bf & left my husband. Now 3 yrs later, I’ve turned back to god & want to make this relationship right with God. We’ve lived together & indulged in sex for 3 yrs & it’s been a very bumpy road but we’ve gotten past every bump so far. We dated when we were teenagers & 27 yrs later got back together. Now, since I turned back to god (this past Saturday) I told my bf we are not going to have sex nor sleep together until he is divorced & we marry. Yesterday he kept putting himself in front of me. I kept telling him to stop & no because I want gods blessing in our relationship. He stopped, But later in the evening, he tried again. Had me on the bed, pulled my pants down (me pushing him away, saying no & stop the whole time) He finally stopped & didn’t proceed. We went to eat, came home, & I got ready for bed. All was good. He came to give me a kiss goodnight, but started again. I kept saying stop, but he continued & wouldn’t stop. I could have cried because I not only felt like he disrespected my wishes, but God’s commands. I’m not saying I didn’t end up enjoying myself because I always have. That’s been the strongest part of our relationship. This morning I am playing over & over in my mind how it could be in a marriage with him. Is he going to force himself on me if I say no because he thinks he owns me after marriage…. I’m so torn right now because I do love him & I know it’ll hurt him terribly when I do what I feel I have to do. He’s got to go! :'(

    • Hi heart broken, I’m sorry that you’re going through such a hard time, but I’m so happy that you’ve turned back to God! That’s wonderful!

      But I can totally see how you now find yourself in a tough spot. It sounds like you started a series of bad things when you made the choice to leave your husband for your boyfriend. I think the thing to do now is to pray about how to make that right. It’s not about making the relationship with your boyfriend right; it’s about figuring out where you’re supposed to be. I think biblically it’s clear that you need to first reconcile with your husband. That may not mean that you get back together, but you do need to apologize and repent and say where you were wrong, and take whatever steps you need to there to reconcile a relationship, even if you don’t get back together. That is your primary relationship.

      Then, if you can’t get back together, it’s clear that God will want you alone until you can find another God-honouring relationship. Perhaps that relationship can be with your current boyfriend, and perhaps not. But we do know from Scripture that we aren’t to be unequally yoked–or we aren’t to marry someone who doesn’t share our faith.

      So I think the main thing is to deal with the root–which is the destruction of your marriage–and then to deal with getting yourself in a chaste, God-honouring lifestyle. That may mean separating from your boyfriend and then deciding whether to pursue a chaste relationship with him with the goal of marriage, or it may mean evaluating your life and seeing if there are other things you should be pursuing instead.

      I know that’s really hard, because you love this man and you have such history with him. But I’ve rarely found that relationships that start with a bad premise go well unless both repent and make things right with God.

      I think God needs to be your #1 priority, and then you can figure out what will happen with this man. And to do all that, you likely need some friends in your court who will help you. So find some godly friends who will hold you accountable and pray with you and who will help you make things right. I hope that helps! You have a long road ahead of you, but God so wants to make your life rich again–in the right way.

      • heart broken says:

        Thanks Sheila. My ex husband & I get along. There is definitely some serious hurt there still. At the end of our marriage, he turned to god. God used me to cast demons from him but I was still drawn away because I felt like I always had to look & act certain way to please him. Although I love my bf, I struggle daily with leaving my marriage of 20 years. He has been alone since I left (except my 16 yr old daughter that lives with him) I just saw my ex a week ago because I needed a loan & he gave. We hugged… he held me & said he’ll always be there for me. I’m fine if I don’t see him, but when I do, I feel like weeping like a little baby. My bf & I have broken up many times but always get back together. At the beginning, my ex was willing to have me back, but I never proved that I could stay away from my bf.
        I just read in the Bible yesterday that if you divorce, be reconciled with your husband, otherwise you are committing adultery. Hell has never been so real to me as now. Scary thought!
        My ex loves his alcohol, always has. But even though he was still drinking, he’d leave work on Sundays to come to church, return to work & stay late to make up the time. I’ve worried over & over if it’s my fault that he didn’t continue his relationship with God. :( If he would take me back now, I would seriously consider it. I need prayer & direction from God.

        • heart broken says:

          I sent my ex a message asking for his forgiveness and took responsibility for the wrongs I’ve done and the hurt I’ve caused & told him I turned my life back to god. His response was: that’s good for ya. Maybe one day you can pastor a church.

          • That’s really too bad. I’m so sorry for the hurt you’re going through. But honestly, it is so, so much better to know this now. He does not sound like a loving or gracious person. Let God be enough for you now and rebuild your life with Him. He is there for you.

  17. heart broken says:

    Hi Shelia. Thanks again for your response. I have to just forgive my ex husband for the hurt I felt in the marriage & move forward.
    I am still with my bf as of right now. We’ve lived & slept together for the last 3 years. He got saved on the 10th. I’ve told him that we can not sleep together until marriage (which I don’t need or want right now). He gets mad. I asked him last night for the 2nd night if he wanted to join me in reading the Bible. He said he might get too close to me & didn’t join in. Instead, while I was reading, he was sending me messages on my phone (I didn’t answer). When I finished reading I read his messages. He said he is tired of not being able to sleep with me & have sex & it’s bull…t. :(
    I believe God means what he says about fornication & adultery. I’m not saying it isn’t hard for me because it is. I struggled for years with temptation. A loving relationship should survive without sexual intercourse unless you’re married & fasting & praying for a time as the Bible says. I left my marriage & strayed from God because of adultery, therefore I believe it’s very important for me to save that for marriage (godly one) from this point on & by doing so; be able to resist the temptations which caused me to fall away from God to begin with. I’m not so sure this relationship is going to stand much longer. I’m just going to seek God & be in obedience to him & see what happens. Advice or in sight is welcomed. Thanks again.

  18. Hi there! i am staying with a man and we have two kids, we are not married. when I got saved I decided to stop having sex with him and he understood and wanted to marry me in their cultural way but I refused because their way is not God’s way. Now We stay together and he is a none believer. I do take him to church but you can see that it is not his desire. now I want to move out . with my kids because i’m now in the light. but in my mind im thinking maybe i’m selfish. he’s been supporting me financially but I’ve found Jesus now and I want to do things his way. Do you think Im selfish?

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