The days of moving straight from your parents' house to a dorm room to a house with your husband are pretty much over. Particularly as more young people delay marriage, most 20-somethings find themselves living with roommates.
Roommates have replaced spouses for this age group, reports The Atlantic, citing survey data from Pew Research. In 1968, only about 6 percent of young people—aged 18 to 31—lived with roommates; that figure has since quadrupled. It's the norm to move in to a house or apartment with a bunch of girls or guys. Young people aren't working on their wedding invitations and picking out china in the days following graduation, they are posting ads for roommates on Craigslist and Facebook.
The roommate setup has been a cultural phenomenon on TV for years—think Friends and New Girl. As marriage rates continue to decline, as young adults focus on careers and dating relationships (The Atlantic cites the normalization of the Pill as contributing to the rise in roommates), it's no surprise that more college graduates choose roommates over wedlock.
But for Christian singles, the rationale for splitting an apartment is often different. I think marrying young is a good thing and would have preferred to plan a wedding right out of college, but God had other plans. I ended up living with roommates for seven years before I tied the knot and eventually moved in with my husband (after the wedding day, of course).
What I learned during those seven years taught me so much about the "life on life" relationships the church talks about. Roommates shape you. Roommates teach you that life isn't all about you. By having roommates I learned that not everyone likes using the coffee table as her personal office or laundry room. I learned that some people prefer hanging their clothes up after every wear, rather than leaving them on the floor for a later use. And the refrigerator won't clean itself. My roommates learned that some people have very set routines in the morning (and evening) and can't live without their morning coffee.
But I didn't just learn to clean up after myself and incorporate others into my routine. I learned how to be a friend, deal with conflict, and live life with another person. Through it I gained some of the best friends I have ever had. My roommate experience helped me become a better person and a better wife.
The church plays an important role in helping Christians foster healthy relationships, and we certainly talk and teach extensively about marriage, family, and neighbor relationships. For the many single men and women in the pew each Sunday, their current relationships involve the person who's splitting the cable bill with them or constantly leaving their dishes in the sink. They need to know about relational difficulties and living life with another person just as much as the married couple sitting next to them in the pew.
The Bible talks about living with others well, also. In teaching the disciples what following Jesus looks like, Jesus tells them to love their neighbors as much as they love themselves (Matt. 22:36-40). Also, we can't forget the Bible's mention of "one anothering" (John 13:34-35; 1 Thess. 5:11). And while we often use these references in the context of the general Christian community, where else can we get any closer to someone than when you are crammed with five girls into a four bedroom house?
Living with another believer, whether as a roommate or a spouse, presents a tremendous opportunity for applying God's word in our own lives and the lives of another. Even with non-Christian roommates, we are surely given opportunity to demonstrate the spirit of Christ as we both live life together. It is in the daily grind of living life that we see these truths lived out. Roommates teach us what it means to die to ourselves and our own desires. Roommates give us a glimpse at what God is doing in the life of another. Roommates afford us the chance to learn from another person's experience. Roommates can show us that we don't have to live this life alone. And that is a very helpful thing for singles in every stage of singleness.
Roommates are a great training ground for a future marriage. At my rehearsal dinner, both my husband and I were "warned" by former roommates about what to expect from the other. And while it was mostly intended to be humorous, we were thankful that God had afforded us the opportunity to live with such friends. But they were more than friends in that moment. They were family.