I have several dear friends who are walking through difficult situations with their young adults, and you may be, too. So I thought I'd share a shortened version of a recent exchange I had with a family seeking counsel about their son's desire to move in with his girlfriend, in the hopes that it will be of some encouragement and help to you. Their names have been changed for privacy.
Jacob has a girlfriend we really like. She is a very sweet girl. Lisa and I would like any input you could give us about our Jacob and his girlfriend Amy.
He and his girlfriend are looking for an apartment. He assures me they are getting a two bedroom, and they intend on being pure. I tell him how misguided that is; it just won't work. He wants to protect Amy from her crazy mother. I can understand the desire to get her out of her home—but not this way. Lisa and I have talked with him until we're blue in the face. Lisa has been crying multiple times every day for the past couple of weeks.
We want to sit down with Jacob and Amy to discuss this with them. Can you give me some pointers or statistics for the long term when two people live together? How it hurts or ends their relationship and also impacts their relationship with Christ? Any input or advice for Amy would help.
My heart is heavy for you and Lisa. I'm thinking and praying. I've asked one of our team who ministers to youth if she has any input. Here is her response:
Obviously, this is not a wise choice from a purity standard. Josh McDowell has written extensively on the pitfalls of cohabitation. We covered it in The Bare Facts, the book I wrote with him.
Here is the short version:
There's quite a bit more info in the book on this topic; however, my sense is that this is the wrong approach.
- More than 40% of cohabiting couples break up before marriage.
- Of those who make it to the altar, cohabiting couples are almost twice as likely to divorce than those who don't live together first.
What strikes me about the situation is that the young man is actually stepping up to the plate to rescue this young girl. The pull of being able to rescue someone is very strong with young men. God wired them that way! With so many young men having extended adolescence, his heart to help her out of a hard situation needs to be the focus.
If I were the parents, I would help him come up with a better solution. Harping on the fact that this is a mistake for their purity will likely fall on deaf ears. No Christian couple ever thinks they will sin in this area, and yet many do. Instead, I would try to equip him to be the hero he's trying to be. I would encourage them to be willing to think outside of the box with him to try and find a better way to get her out of her home.
In the big picture, as troubling as this is for you and Lisa, I think it is important for the kids to see you leaning on the Lord and trusting Him in this process. You can present truth and appeal to them, but at the end of the day, you have to release them to the Lord.
Is Jacob a financial dependent in any sense? If so, I probably would not allow that to continue if they head this direction. But such consequences can be meted out with grace and love, rather than out of anger or frustration. You don't want to sin in the process.
Is there a way you can reach out to Amy and help her? Perhaps you could find a good family in the church who would be willing to take her in for a time? If the direction they are headed is more a matter of immaturity or lack of wisdom than of rebellion, helping them come up with a creative alternative may prove to be constructive.
They need to know you love them and only want what is best for them. In addition to "talking to them," it is important to "listen" to them—to hear their heart and affirm any praiseworthy motives or qualities. James 1:19 reminds us to be "quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger."
I would seek to focus more on their heart condition and their relationship with Christ than on the behavioral issues. If the former is right, the latter will be right.
Finally, remember this is not just about Jacob and Amy. It is also about you and Lisa, and how God wants to use this to make you more like Jesus. You can't let the kids' choices determine your peace and happiness. But you can let this "crisis" become an opportunity to change you and deepen your love and trust in Christ.
Remember: He loves your kids even more than you do and wants to be glorified in your lives and theirs. Be careful not to make an idol out of seeing the kids make right choices. But seek above all for Christ to be glorified both in their lives and in your response to this situation.
I pray the Lord will minister tailor-made, daily grace, and redeem this situation for His glory. God loves you and your kids; He is in this with you for the long haul, and He wants to write a story through this that will put His redeeming power and love on display.
Praying for you,