Fornicating vs. Shacking: What’s the Difference?

06 Apr

Shack (also: shack up, shacked up, shacking) – To live with a partner in sexual intimacy without being married.

I have quite a few friends who are either shacking, have shacked, or soon will be shacking with their significant others.  When I was growing up, shacking was always looked down on mostly because of religious reasons.  I can only speak from my standpoint, but my parents told me not to shack more than they told me not to have sex.  I respected that, but now that I’ve gotten older and done more research, the line between sex and shacking has become much more blurry.

I can’t emphasize enough that I am not judging or making indictments against anyone.  Believe me, I have no room or right to judge because I struggle with my own demons.  Now that that’s out of the way, let’s have a real discussion about this. Religiously speaking, God frowns on sex outside of marriage.  Whether it’s fornication or adultery, the Bible is very clear about this.  The more I’ve read and researched, though, the Bible doesn’t specifically say anything about living with a girlfriend/boyfriend/fiancé//fiancée.  Shacking isn’t a recent phenomenon, but it has certainly become much more accepted by society over recent years.  People who quote the Bible (or misquote it) seem to equate shacking to fornication.  They’re not wrong for that notion because let’s face it; the vast majority of couples living together are sleeping together, but why does shacking seem to trump sex?  Why do so many people treat shacking like it is the cardinal sin?

What I’ve come to realize is that there is no difference between those who shack and those who fornicate.  Those who are “just” fornicating are doing the same thing as those fornicating and shacking from a Christian standpoint.  The shackers are just more frugal (paying for one household is better than paying for two, right?). Like I said, I’m not here to judge or determine what’s wrong or right, but it seems like there’s some kind of hierarchy of wrongdoing and shacking is near the top of that list.

Personally, I’m not a fan of living with someone I’m dating because it’s hard enough just to date.  Living with a person opens up a new can of worms.  I know people want to test drive a car before they buy it, sample the milk before putting a down payment on the cow, or see if they are compatible with their partner before exchanging those vows, but it’s just not my thing.  I understand the logic behind it, but it’s just not for me.  I’m not ready to be married yet, so the mere thought of playing house freaks me out.  As far as marriage is concerned, when I do find a woman I want to spend the rest of my life with, I will be more willing to share everything and make “my” “ours” after we jump over the broom.  I’m not at that point right now.

I’m somewhat young, childless, and single, though.  What about an unwed couple who already has a child or children?  Should they not shack because it is wrong to fornicate?  Too late.  Obviously, the easy answer would be for them to get married, but I don’t think marriage is something that should be rushed.  In the interest of the child or children, though, if the couple has a healthy relationship, wouldn’t shacking be best for the child?

Maybe I’m trippin’.  Maybe I’m just ignorant since I haven’t come across anyone I’d be willing to give up half my living space for.  Maybe my parents are the only ones who stressed for me not to shack up or have a “live-in girlfriend”.  If I were keeping score from home, it would look something like: Don’t Shack Up- 953 / Don’t Get Your Ears Pierced- 541 / Don’t get tattoos- 630 /  Wait Until Marriage to Have Sex- 82. Oops. Well, at least I listened to a few things one thing they said.


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Posted by on April 6, 2011 in Relationships, Sex


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15 responses to “Fornicating vs. Shacking: What’s the Difference?

  1. tavalava

    April 6, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    Interesting point made about how it is never mentioned in the Bible the views of cohabitation. I personally would not live full time with someone unless we were engaged and planning the wedding and were transitioning to move in and start our lives together. (ie. Wedding is in September, lease is up in June and I’m not paying full market price for those last 3 months). I can’t think of any other reasons other than being frugal for living together.

    I also agree with your hierarchy. I have several classmates that are living with their significant others and aren’t married nor engaged. One of the couples even has separate bedrooms (not sure if they actually sleep in separate bedrooms). I guess their situations do not seem as bad because each of them has been with their significant other for 5+ years and they both moved for said significant other.

    But at the end of the day, if it’s working for you and your partner then great.

  2. MYH

    April 6, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    Well said

  3. Beverly Simpson

    April 16, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    I am amazed. Let me clarify…apparently we are looking at a complete disrespect for marriage and family here. Sex outside of marriage is wrong..regardless. God’s plan is for us to meet, fall in love, get married, have sex with only that partner for the rest of your life and have children. Fornication is sex outside of marriage between two single people who have never been married. For all of you single mothers out there who are raising children alone…you can feel the pain of why God’s plan was that you were to have a partner in this. Adultury is when a married person has sex outside of his/her marriage. I cannot begin to list all the pain and suffering this results in. Shacking, as you call it, could be either, depending on if the people have ever been married or not. In the old testament, Jews had several wifes and sometimes became divorced. But Jesus said that a man is never allowed to divorce his wife unless he catches her in adultury….and it does not permit her to remarry after that. If you want to be a “Christian'” you should do what Jesus says…because he also says “My sheep hear my voice and obey my commands.” Christianity is not about picking and choosing what you want to make a part of your life and asking forgiveness later…if you love should obey him. (Or risk hearing “Depart from me, I never knew you”) Please don’t continue to disrespect our Lord by flaunting your disobedience in your church. Young children are watching…you are formulating their values. Going to hell is your choice…Leave hope for the next generation.

    • realist23

      April 16, 2011 at 1:53 PM

      Wow, so much to say here. First off, thank you for your thoughts and opinions. I wouldn’t say that this is disrespect for marriage, it’s just assessing what is already happening. I realize sex outside of marriage is wrong from a Christian standpoint, and I pointed that out repeatedly. I also know what fornication and adultery are. I don’t understand why you equated premarital sex to single motherhood because that is not always the case. That may be what the media or society wants you to think, but that is not always the case. This “pain” you speak of is also coupled with the greatest gift that can be given to anyone, and that is a child. I bet if you asked any mother (single or not), if they called their parenthood a “pain”, 95% of the responses would be something far from “pain”. Throughout your response, I couldn’t help but feel some sort of judgment coming from you. Whether you’re judging me or the people who somehow relate to the post is beside the point. What we do as Christians and non-Christians in this life can only be judged by God. The rest of us have no place or right to judge anything people do. You’re absolutely right that Christianity is not about picking and choosing what you will and will not follow, but life is also a series of lessons and opportunities to learn. Some people learn quickly and some people learn the hard way. I’m not really following you on where you get the notion of me disrespecting God or my church, either. I’m not perfect, nor do I pretend to be. I’m merely expressing an opinion and my thoughts on a touchy subject without coming off as if I am better than anyone else.

    • MichaelYoungHistory

      April 16, 2011 at 2:08 PM

      “Young children are watching…you are formulating their values. Going to hell is your choice…Leave hope for the next generation.” <— wow…a bit strong, don't ya think? You must never sin…Sheesh.

    • MichaelYoungHistory

      April 16, 2011 at 2:09 PM

      And here I was thinking only God could judge…

    • utpipeline

      April 16, 2011 at 2:43 PM

      Honestly, I feel that you were so caught up in your emotions of disrespect that you missed the point of the post. Realist23 brought up the point that shacking doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is fornicating. And with that, it’s interesting that people look down more on shacking than fornicating when shacking is the most ambiguous of the two. Go back and read. As you sin with your judgmental tone, remember that no sin is bigger than the other. If we really want to get technical, you should go right now and cut off your fingers because the things you typed offended me and possibly Realist23. It’s in the Bible. It’s the Christian thing to do. We are suppose to be fishers of men, and how can we be fishers of men if we’re fishing with “sour bate”. Not trying to sound cliche`, but what would Jesus do? He wouldn’t come on a blog and bash someone’s opinion.

      Following the 10 commandments doesn’t get you into heaven. Having a relationship with Christ does. Let’s not be quick to judge others’ relationships with God. Let’s not be quick to rank our Christianity because the truth is we all fall short. Is that an excuse? No, but it’s a tool to keep our relationship with God fresh and keep us working towards his Holiness when we fall down. I don’t want to say I’m ashamed of your actions, but I do ask you not to judge someone else’s relationship with God because you just don’t know. I posted a blog awhile back entitled “Never Say Never”. It’s an eye opener read as we lash with our iron tongue (in this case fingers).

      God never proposed a suffer free life if you follow him. Pain isn’t always seen as a bad thing. Sometimes we endure to make us stronger or to be a witness to someone else. What did Jesus do wrong to cause the pain on the cross? Nothing, so I’m pretty sure God doesn’t work that way.

      And lastly, did Jesus not pay for our sins? If he did, then how is the single mother paying for her own sins. Ma’am, you have a bless day in Christ, and I hope your relationship with God grows even more! Thank you, my sister!

  4. facecurtainista

    April 16, 2011 at 3:29 PM

    “Young children are watching…you are formulating their values. Going to hell is your choice…Leave hope for the next generation.”


    If this blog full of diverse, educated and talented individuals opening up much-needed discourse on societal issues/values is being read by young children, that means there’s one less kid watching Jersey Shore, BET or 16 and Pregnant right now.

    I think we can all be thankful for that. Be blessed.

  5. ginandcigars

    April 16, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    well, one thing is for certain: if Beverly Simpson has kids, they wont be reading this blog anytime soon lol

    Praise the Lord, Beverly! Have a blessed day!

  6. Eddie

    April 17, 2011 at 6:03 AM

    Wow, this is a pretty recent post… All i know is that fornication is wrong… shacking is pretty much the same as fornication… unless of course intercourse is not involved.. however if there is a choice of to shack or not to shack isn’t it better not to tempt yourself ? I’m in a very similar situation right now myself… I’m not perfect.. I’ve sinned.. but i’ve decided to get married before I move out, even though I find it agonizing sometimes to hear repetitive comments or questions at home… catch my drift ?

    Secondly… sins have different values I think… but since God can read a man’s heart.. I’m sure he can evaluate how a man and a woman feels for each other…. afterall fornication with several women without heart is much worse than fornication with your fiancee is it not ? however… I understand that it doesn’t give us an excuse to sin…. Here’s food for thought… which is what i’ve been pondering about for some time now.. which is what has led me to this post……

    If a man and a woman are really poor and cannot afford a wedding that is suitable to their family’s expectations such that they cannot afford to invite all of the guests.. they are saving and saving and yet trials keep coming up and they are unable to save sufficient amount of money… they cannot marry and so they cannot consumate.. now let’s say they are 40 now… and they still haven’t married… what is fair in this situation ? In my opinion… I know I might just be making excuses here… but I think maybe if two people make a vow to God on their own then maybe… just maybe it’s alright.. it’s technically getting married is it not ? As God as their witness ? The important thing is to keep that vow just as you would in a real marriage… if you can do that in plain sight of God… if you can be honest with each other and with God… perhaps with God’s omniscience and grace then perhaps God would grade it slightly below fornication.
    But ask a pastor… and maybe I mean if it’s money that’s an issue why not get married privately first and have the banquet later…

    like I said don’t judge, that was just food for thought

    • realist23

      April 17, 2011 at 7:55 AM


      Thanks for your comments and honesty. When dealing with an issue like this, I think it is important for us to be honest with ourselves and remember that none of us are perfect. Like I was saying to some of our other contributors, we all have our demons and things we struggle with. Some are just more obvious than others. God sees them all, though, and that’s part of the reason why I’m not certain God weighs sin the way we do. Straying from the path is straying from the path. I respect your decision to get married before moving in with your fiance. Like I’ve said, it’s not my place to judge. I’m too busy trying to get my life right to critique another man’s walk. I’m always available to listen, though. That’s why I think God gave us Jesus. He knew His people would need a redeemer. My hope is that when I kneel before the Creator on Judgment Day, He’ll look at me and say, “Well done,” even with my flaws.

  7. primemeridian11

    April 19, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    I’ve wondered about something a little different, but related to this. At what point does marriage happen in God’s eyes? Fornication is sex outside of marriage. The Bible says marriage is the union between a man and a woman, but it doesn’t define union. It doesn’t give a rubric for when that union happens and it definitely doesn’t say that it requires a license for it to be legitimate. I’m not trying to come up with a hyper-technical excuse for fornication (Lord knows I’m not), but this is something that has really baffled me. I have asked for years and haven’t found a solid answer. I guess in the end, it’s about the heart…that seems to be where the Bible always lands.


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