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Oct 8 2013
New living patterns teach 20-somethings valuable lessons about relationships.

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.

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