Is Common Law Marriage Acceptable Before God?

Most of us know what common law marriage is. This happens when two people, who are afraid of commitment, shack up for so long that they become legally recognized as husband and wife, by the government and other people. These types of couples tend to consider themselves to be married when it suits them, and not married when it doesn’t  It is a false commitment or an oxymoron at best, because you cannot be “committed” in a non-committed relationship.

Nevertheless, the concept of a common law marriage is not as unbiblical as it may seem. In actuality, what creates a marriage covenant is sexual intercourse. The courts create a marriage contract, but sexual intercourse – with or without the involvement of the courts – creates a marriage covenant. When two people become sexually active and then decide to live together, the inbred human instinct is likely the force that is driving them. You see, from the beginning of time, it would have been unlawful to follow any other course of action.

As the old saying goes, “You break it, you buy it!” In other words, whenever a man was the one to break a woman’s virginity, or her abstinence after divorce or widowhood, she became his to keep for life. She became his responsibility and obligation. If you were a woman, who allowed yourself to succumb to the temptation of sex with a man, you became that man’s property, his wife.

What we call “common law marriage”, was the only type of marriage that existed in early times and amongst the Children of Israel. Paperwork was not necessary to establish, solidify or validate a marriage covenant that two people made in private. As a matter of fact, amongst those cultures of morally strict beliefs (such as the Jews), if two people had sex and did not accept each other as husband and wife, and it became publicly known, there were serious penalties – sometimes as serious as execution! For the woman found in this situation that was not killed, she was labeled a prostitute, and the man a whoremonger. So in actuality, “common law marriage” was common place.

Yet at the same time, because marriage in most cultures is such a significant and honorable event, there was quite a bit of ceremony surrounding the making of a marriage covenant. The village of the husband and wife to be – the elders, family members and friends – rallied in support of the new couple. The village also stood as witnesses of the covenant, to ensure that the union be made publicly known. This was to hold the new couple accountable to the guidelines of the covenant, and to discourage the couple from living as if they were still available. These traditional practices led to what we now know as the wedding ceremony. However, these ceremonies were not paramount in the establishing of a marriage, the way it is in our culture today.  In some instances, the covenant was made privately between the new husband and wife; then publicized and celebrated later. It was perfectly legal and acceptable to do so, as long as the female was free to speak for herself (meaning she was not still of her father’s household, a slave or in another marriage).

So if you are involved in a common law marriage, you might be jumping for joy right now, feeling like you are “OK” in your “shacking” situation – BUT HOLD YOUR HORSES. No covenant can ever be established without a meeting of the minds. In every covenant recorded in scripture, the terms of the covenant were clearly outlined to all parties involved. Furthermore, the covenant was not binding until all parties, with full understanding and by their own choice, agreed to abide by the terms. “How can two walk together unless they agree?” There cannot be the establishment of a covenant without full AGREEMENT. And since a marriage covenant is made between a man, a woman and God (because it is God who designed and ordained the marriage covenant) – the man and woman must be in agreement with each other and with God, in order for that covenant to be a legitimately established and binding one.

A covenant is such a strong, life-altering, forever-binding commitment, which such great consequences for violating any of the terms. It would be beyond unjust to bind someone to a covenant, without their knowledge.  As it were, it is actually impossible to do so! You can forge someone’s name on a contract, but you cannot forge a covenant. The issue here is that we are talking about the difference between a contract and a covenant. A contract is created on paper and can therefore be nullified on paper, but a covenant is created in the spirit. It is something that cannot be established on paper, but is instead written on the tablets of the heart. It is a solemn, sober-minded, life-long pledge of commitment that is literally engrafted into the heart and soul of the parties of agreement.

A contract can be cancelled, but in order to break an established covenant, something or someone has to die. You are forever changed after making a covenant and whatever or whoever you were before that covenant was made, no longer exists afterward. You can never go back and be that person again. You are so radically altered that you are literally no longer the same person. The only way to get around the obligations of a covenant – and I do mean “get around” in every sense of its significance – is to drastically alter your life once again. You have to recreate yourself, in order to be able to function and work around whatever in you had to die, for that covenant to be broken.

So you may be asking yourself, “OK, what is the point she is trying to make here?” The point that I am making is this:

Any sexual blood covenant that you create with the person you are having sex with, will not stand as a binding marriage covenant before God – unless that was the full “heart intent”, of both you and your partner, before the first sexual act took place.

Let there be no confusion about what I am saying here. Irrefutably, you do create a sexual blood covenant, WHICH IS THE FORMATION OF A MARRIAGE, each and every time you have sex with someone. However, it is not a binding marriage AGREEMENT, unless marriage was your intent. In other words, your covenant exists, but is not honorable, legitimate or binding.

The core commitment never existed – when your initial intent was a moment of pleasure, as opposed to a life-time of serving.

So my final answer is this: Yes and No.

YES: Common law marriage (saying the term loosely because there was no such term or concept in ancient, biblical times) is acceptable before God, if marriage was the initial intent – with a full understanding that the sexual act would be the beginning of the commencement of that marriage. This basically means that two available (not currently married) people of the opposite sex, choose to come into agreement about a marriage covenant privately and without a public ceremony or court involvement. However such marriages would still be made publicly known.

NO: Shacking up in a sexually-based, non-committed relationship for years, and then just through the passing of time “ending up legally married” is not honorable before God. This covenant can and should be nullified and re-established the decent and orderly way, if you both agree and desire to have a legitimate, binding and blessed marriage covenant before God.

In the Power of Love,

Dr. Intimacy

Prolific Author and Speaker Specializing in Sex, Intimacy and Relationships from a Holistic Perspective – Spirit, Soul & Body

Copyright © 2012 by Laneen A. Haniah “Dr. Intimacy”. All rights reserved. Please see full copyright notice on front page for more info.

9 thoughts on “Is Common Law Marriage Acceptable Before God?

  1. Evangelist M says:

    Common Law Marriages we not accept by God in Bible, nor are they accepted by HIM now. It was not because people had sex and lived together. The marriage was consummated because of the blood convenant between the virgin woman and mixture of semon and a little blood from the man’s erection. Please read Deu. 22:20-29 and John 4:16-18. When Jesus address the woman at the well, who was living with a man and HE address him not as her husband, but the man she was living with.

    • Dr. Intimacy says:

      Evang M.,

      Yes, I agree with you. There is just a language barrier that we have to get by to make scripture relevant sometimes. There was no such term as this, nor such a thing as “common law marriage” in biblical times. Nor was there any acceptance of “casual sex”. People had sex because they intended to marry or to engage in adultery or prostitution. There was no broad view of the matter. That was the bottom line, so because of the mindset of the people at that time, they accepted that sexual intercourse was the entering into of a marriage covenant. That is not so today. Only in a country where judges control everything would there even be such a thing as a “common law marriage”. But is a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed. Good insight, thanks.

      • Evangelist M says:

        Yes, our culture has changed as well as our language and in some cases neither one has been for our good! We must remember yes, our culture will continue to change, but God and HIS principles will not. Your question was, is common law marriage accectable to God, right?

        • Dr. Intimacy says:

          The question is the title of this article. I both ask and answer the question in the article. To respond informatively, one would have to read the entire article. My theology can’t be questioned if it has not first thoroughly been processed. If I missed something or was off about something I wrote in the article, I would love to be enlightened with the scriptures that would give me full understanding. So far you just reaffirmed what I was saying in the article, for the most part. The only area in which I would elevate your understanding is that virginity is NOT required to make a covenant. The woman at the well reference was great insight and there is much more to that story as well. I will have to write an article about that soon. I like the topic!

          • Evangelist M says:

            Sis, I was not challenging or questioning your theology, because you didn’t express your view regarding the matter. My response was to your title and your response, regarding the culture and the times we now live in.

            • Dr. Intimacy says:

              I didn’t think you were challenging my theology. I was just putting emphasis on the main point which is my post on FB was an INVITATION to read the ENTIRE article. the matter is thoroughly discussed in the article. But your views are still appreciated. thanks

              • Evangelist M says:

                I missed something in your second respond to me. You said you were going to elevate my understanding, by enlighitng me that virginity was not God’s requirement for a marriage convenant. Sis, please elevate my understanding, from the Word of God to support your statement, because I am fully aware of all of the other convenants that and their requirements for making them, but our topic was regarding marriage and God’s accepting.

                • Dr. Intimacy says:

                  I like your question but I have a question too. Did you actually read the article yet? It is hard to have this dialogue if we are not on the same page. I will provide scripture to support my statement if you want to continue to discuss this based on what is in the article. thanks again.

          • I have been led in this direction for about 6 mos. Started writing a sermon on the laws of the land. My sermon is entitled “LAW ABIDING CITIZEN” I thank God and everyone for insight.

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