Eight months into our relationship, Josh and I moved in together. We were 19 and 20, still heavily into the infatuation phase of our relationship. We had no desire to listen to the few naysayers around us.

To be completely honest, I don’t remember why we moved in together so soon. I guess we figured it made sense. We could afford our current bills, plus a tiny, one-bedroom apartment (all utilities included was a nice bonus!). Several friends were already living with a partner, and things seemed to be going great for them. We’d get to know each other better, spend the majority of our time together, and one day get married.

Looking back, I see a lot I wish we had done differently. Hey, hindsight is 20/20, right?

There was a lot I didn’t know at 19 (there’s a lot I still don’t know). While I wish we started our relationship differently, I’m thankful for what God has taught us through it.

Eventually we did get married. But if I could sit down with a similar, bright-eyed 19-year-old girl, here are the reasons I’d tell her why I wish my husband and I hadn’t moved in together before tying the knot.

1. We robbed ourselves of the honeymoon phase.

Once we married, it was hard to really feel like “newlyweds” after living together for more than a year. I remember the day Josh and I came back from our honeymoon. After unpacking and putting the shampoo back on the shelf, we went our separate ways for the day. I don’t remember what he did, but I went shopping.

There was no giddy feeling of starting a new life with my husband, because we did that already. I wish I could have been the blushing bride. He deserved that.

2. We started our “serious” relationship with a lack of commitment.

We’ve all heard the argument (as cliché as it is) for living together: “You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it first, would you?” Ugh.

Here’s the thing. When test driving a car, you take it around a few good bends in the road, mash the gas on the interstate, then cruise it back to the dealership. If it’s a good fit, you sign your name by the X and commit to purchasing the vehicle. If not, you hop out and leave it for the next potential buyer.

I wish I could go back to 19-year-old me and tell myself I’m worth more. Don’t compare your relationship to buying a car.

A car is something you use. Marriage is intended for something more than our own selfish desires—it reflects the relationship of Christ and His bride, the church.

Marriage is giving, sacrificing, and choosing to put your spouse’s interests above your own. No test driving and giving back. It’s commitment. Anything less is short changing yourself.

Is your love for real? Find out in Bob Lepine's new book, Love Like You Mean It.

3. Living together made it difficult to know what was mine and what was his.

I’m not just talking about material possessions here (although dividing those large appliance purchases would have been a doozy post-breakup). What about your time? Are you ready to forgo Christmases with your family to travel to his before you say “I do”? What about time with friends?

I remember feeling betrayed one Saturday night Josh chose to hang out with the guys instead of me. He had worked late the night before, and Saturday was our typical date night. At least it was before we moved in together.

Ever heard the old saying about what happens when you assume? Yep, me too. But I wasn’t his wife. I had no rightful claim to his time. We lived together. He no longer had to make plans to see me. I was just already there.

And it isn’t just complicated pre-marriage. After living together, yet separately as far as possessions and bank accounts are concerned, it can be hard to accept co-ownership after the wedding.

4. Now that I’m a mom, I want more for my daughter.

I sometimes wish I could tell our daughter I waited until marriage to fully give myself to a man. But I won’t lie to her. I’ve made mistakes in my life. Some still weigh on me more heavily than others.

I want more for her. I want her to enter her marriage with a clean slate, with no intimacy baggage from past relationships getting in the way.

I’ve spoken with several women from similar situations. I asked if any of them would want the same for their own daughters.

Not one said yes.

5. We hoped to get to know each other better by living together, and we did. But then we changed.

I often hear young couples say everything was great before they got married and then “he/she changed.” But if you and your partner/spouse don’t change at some point, something’s wrong. Living together to “get to know them better” creates false expectations. You will be living with who they are now. Not who they will be in 5, 10, even 20 years.

Josh and I were 21 and 22 when we got married. We aren’t the same people we were then. Different life stages change you and, hopefully, mature you.

When you have kids, you’ll experience more changes. Expect it—no matter how well you think you know your significant other now. But in marriage, you commit to love this person through those changes, for better or for worse, and they’ve committed to see you through your changes, as well.

My way or His way

In Proverbs 14:12, Solomon writes, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Living together before marriage falls into that category.

Too many young women come out of these relationships more broken than they entered. A friend confessed she didn’t believe she was marriage material after her live-in boyfriend left. It took a long time for her to heal from the consequence of her decision.

Josh and I recently celebrated 14 years of marriage, and we have two pretty cool kids. I wouldn’t change my past, because God used it to make me grow in more ways than I probably wanted to. He knew what my life was really lacking when I moved in with Josh 15 years ago.

Specifically, God moved us next door to the Wilsons. I had never met two people who so exhibited the love of Christ. Their relationship was everything I thought marriage should be and more than I imagined.

They prayed together. They prayed with us. They loved us despite our sins, and they loved each other in a way that made us love them even more. And they shined brighter for the love they had for one another, and for God. He used this couple to draw us to Him.

One thing I’ve learned since I was a naïve 19-year-old is God wants us to have the best life we can. In John 10:10 Jesus says “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” He refers to Himself as the shepherd, and we are His flock.

Doing things His way will always end better than me seeking my own will. No matter how right my way seems to me.

Copyright © 2019 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.