Children's Emotional Health and Behavioral Problems, Part 2

The Problems with Cohabitating

By Christopher Schwinger

The Series

Part 1: Causes of Rebellious Behavior
Part 2: Problems with Cohabitating
Part 3: Redeeming a Difficult Standoff
Part 4: The Importance of Proportionate Discipline

In April, I was assigned a mind-numbingly difficult question about what a parent should do if a son who has recently come of age takes overnight trips with his girlfriend. The mother who asked me the question said talking about Biblical morality hasn't made much difference with her 19-year-old son and that his girlfriend has a 3-year relationship in her past. She wondered what I thought about cutting off financial support for college and almost everything else under such circumstances, concluding with "I think we should limit our financial support and ask him to help pay for some things like car insurance since he has enough money to pay for vacation as a deterrent."
Relationships of a romantic nature are not something I have experienced personally, but I understand the philosophy because of how ordinary friendships work. In some cultures, hugs and kisses are done with casual acquaintances, and in our society, physical trust is established with a handshake. This doesn't mean everyone who shakes hands deeply trusts each other, but it is a way of saying you're willing to take that person at his word if he's willing to take you at your word. Definitely the most intimate and vulnerable physical connection is the sexual one, but people make a mistake when they think everything leading up to it is fine as long as it doesn't go that far, or when they think sex is fine as long as it's consensual. Just as it's not admirable for people to cheat on their spouses, it's just as bad to have numerous girlfriends or boyfriends at a time. What this says is that the promiscuous guy or girl thinks having the same partner is boring, which is quite an insult to the other's value. I think God made us naturally monogamous because the family structure is naturally monogamous and strife always results from having more than one partner. Marriage is important because it provides legal protection for the woman if she gets pregnant and the guy wants to leave her, but that's only its practical importance. It has spiritual importance as a way of inviting God and the community into the marriage and, in New Testament theology, displays how kind-hearted Christ was toward the church, His bride, which we seek to emulate with our spouses. When people choose to get married after years of living together, it seems to me they were using cohabitation as an escape hatch if things got too hard. I understand this more with people who are unconfident after having one or more failed marriages, but it's become the norm for people who haven't even got the maturity to evaluate the potential financial and emotional consequences, people who are in their adolescent years. Obviously it's more important to have commitment in the relationship than whether sex or the marriage ceremony came first, just like the custom of the past where people got married right after getting pregnant to avoid social and legal pressure.

There's also the New Testament principle of our "testimony" involved, because even if we aren't having premarital sex but people think we are, it's sometimes incumbent on us to work extra hard to dispel that notion. For example, if people would think that taking an overnight trip together involved premarital sex, it'd be better for one's Christian testimony to avoid telling anyone about the trip. It's also better to stay in separate rooms in general, though this would depend on the money situation and whether one's testimony is compromised and whether there's enough physical distance and self-control to avoid premarital sex.

The issue of how to exert pressure on this mother's son was probably the hardest for me to think about. I don't know what kind of relationship she already has with him. Some places in the world, including Europe, have hostels where groups of young people of both genders stay in rooms together while traveling. Bad sexual activity is a possibility, but that depends on the group. There wouldn't be an issue with the testimony her son displays if he's with a trustworthy group that can testify that he's not getting intimate, but in a motel kind of situation, he should be staying with his own gender in a room.

Next week: Redeeming a Difficult Standoff

Image Credit: Prinz-Peter; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsChristian-Life  | Family-Life  | Personal-Life  | Personal-Relationships  | Sin-Evil

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Published on 5-31-16