You’re in Love? “Living Together” Is Not God’s Plan for You

You’re in Love? “Living Together” Is Not God’s Plan for You November 8, 2015

Image: Pixabay

But everyone’s doing it!

Indeed, to look around at contemporary society, it does seem that living together without benefit of marriage is just another option for a young couple in love.

  • Perhaps they’re engaged to be married, and it’s cheaper to pay rent for only one apartment.
  • Perhaps they’re not engaged but are simply trying out the relationship–and later, if everything goes well, they’ll consider making more definitive plans for a life together.
  • Perhaps there’s no intent to marry, but the couple have discovered the pleasure of sexuality with one another, and simply want the sexual partner to be close at hand, available on the other side of the bed.

Anyway, it seems that all of society says that it’s no big deal–that unlike in years past, today a woman can talk openly about living with her boyfriend, and no one will question her character. One big reason for the change is contraception: If there’s little chance of an “unplanned pregnancy,” then why not have fun snuggling up together, even if you’re not totally committed to your partner?

The recent Synod of Bishops on the Family acknowledged that cohabitation is a growing problem, calling on the Church to show mercy and to “support her children on the path of reconciliation”; but it did not change Church teaching.

The Irish News reported that this week Archbishop Eamon Martin, the archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, has reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s strong opposition to cohabitation before marriage, explaining that sex must not be treated in such a trivial way. “Just because something (cohabitation) has become more common,” he said,

“…and because it may be part of the culture of the day doesn’t mean that we have to say that it is something good or morally right…. the Church has a full understanding that sexual expression is within a marriage between a man and a woman.”

He added:

“I would believe that it is not good that we have become so permissive… I don’t think it is good for young people.”

In Northern Ireland, as in the United States, many couples who plan to marry live at the same address prior to the wedding. Often, these couples cite fear of divorce as one reason for their decision to give their relationship a “test drive” before committing to marriage.

But living together doesn’t prevent divorce. In fact, statistics on divorce and living together before marriage would seem to suggest that the opposite is true. The website LoveToKnow reports that according to statistics gathered by US Attorney Legal Services,

living together before getting married doesn’t accomplish the goal that couples think that it will. A couple who does not live together prior to getting married has a 20 percent chance of being divorced within five years. If the couple has lived together beforehand, that number jumps to 49 percent.

If the couple chooses to live together as an alternative to being married at all, the likelihood that the relationship will break up within five years is 49 percent. At the 10-year mark, a married couple has a 33 percent chance of breaking up. For the unmarried couple who is living together, the likelihood of a breakup is a whopping 62 percent.

Here in the United States, the bishops of Pennsylvania issued a statement in 1999 on cohabitation and the Church’s teaching. Their clear teaching addressed many of the common questions couples have, including:

  • We have good reasons for living together before marriage. Why can’t the Church just accept that?
  • Why does the Church interfere in the sex lives of couples? It’s really just a private matter between us.
  • But really, how does what we do with our own bodies affect our relationship with each other and our spiritual relationship with God?
  • Why can’t I just follow my conscience if I believe living together is okay?
  • Why does the Church claim that living together is a scandal to others?

The statement begins with a “letter to an engaged couple”:

Dear Engaged Couple:

We congratulate you on your engagement and want to offer a word of encouragement to you during this special period of preparation for marriage.

While there are many issues which you will discuss over the course of your preparation period, one important area in which many priests and couples have shared their concerns with us is that of engaged couples living together before marriage. While many in our society may see no problem with this arrangement, living together and having sexual relations before marriage can never be reconciled with what God expects of us.

In addition, countless studies have shown that couples who live together before marriage have higher rates of divorce and a poorer quality of marital relationship than those who do not.

Your engagement is meant to be a time of grace and growth in preparing for your marriage. In the months ahead, we urge all engaged couples who are living together to separate. All Catholics should seek to be reconciled with God and the Church by going to confession and by going to Mass and Holy Communion regularly.

Living chastely during your remaining months of engagement will teach you many things about one another. It will help you to grow in the virtues of generous love, sacrificial giving, self-restraint and good communication – virtues which are essential for a good and lasting marriage.

We pray that as you seek God and his way more deeply, you will be rewarded with an abundance of his grace. May your love for each other always be strong and life-giving.

With every prayerful best wish, we remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Bishops of Pennsylvania
September 1999.

You can read the rest of their statement here.

Image: Pixabay

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Why do conservative Christian bloggers constantly reduce romantically intimate relationships down to sex? How absurd to suggest that the only reason for two people to join into one household is easy availability of sex. You betray a serious misunderstanding of human coupling – a vulgar perspective to be sure.

    If you insist on writing a column intended to shame and stigmatize those who behave differently than you would like, please start targeting those who masturbate.

    • DanH

      Homosexuals are the ones obsessed with sex. They have no comprehension of tender emotions. Our local news frequently runs stories about them having sex in public parks. They behave more like animals than humans, not even knowing each other’s names. Amazing that people who obviously are unable to commit emotionally claim they wish to “marry.” It’s just a big joke.

  • Dave Snyder

    Great essay Kathy. The stats were interesting. Unfortunately, many of the fathers of the Synod left the door open for conscience of the faithful to decide on cohabitation and other previously clear sexual acts outside of marriage.

  • KarenJo12

    You unwittingly answered your own question in this phrase: ” unlike in years past, today a woman can talk openly about living with her boyfriend, and no one will question her character.” In the past, sex was always the woman’s fault, and it was a terrible character flaw for her, always. Men were the helpless, mindless victims of conniving females. Women finally decided that we were tired of being blamed for things that were at the absolute most only half our fault and almost less than half. Catholic doctrine related to sex still blames women and absolves men for any wrongdoing. Until your church addresses that inequity, women will continue voting with our feet away from you and your rules.

    • kathyschiffer

      KarenJo, that is absolutely untrue. The Catholic Church calls both men and women equally to a higher view of the meaning of the sexual embrace as a pledge of lifelong commitment. God, through the sacrament of matrimony, confers his blessing on the union and, as He did in Genesis, calls it good.

      As for “voting with your feet”–Well, if you prefer getting laid to having a relationship with Christ and welcoming Him into your heart in the Eucharist, well, so be it. God bless your search for greater happiness, but you won’t find it.

      • KarenJo12

        That call to holiness has been a lot quieter when directed toward men than toward women. I suggest you Google the phrase “maitresse en titre” for an example. No French or Spanish king was ever excommunicated for having a mistress, and mistresses were winked at generally in Catholic countries for centuries. Yes, at the moment, the hierarchy makes a great show of condemning men who stray, but I fully expect that to go back to the historical pattern of blaming women and exonerating men.

        • Baron Kaza

          I bet you really believe there is a “rape” crisis on college campuses these days, when its nothing more than girls waking up with regret . Take your sexual anarchy and go pound sand, did you make your monthly stop at the abortion …

    • Baron Kaza

      KarenJo12… don’t go away mad, just go away you and the rest of the sexual anarchists have done enough to rip society to pieces in the name of sexual freedom…

  • Ben Welliver

    Great insights. In most cases I know of, shack-ups are situations where the guy is unwilling to commit fully, wants to keep his options open, so he and the woman move in together as kind of a compromise. Women, here’s a real “Well, duh!” – if the guy wants to keep his options open, he doesn’t love you and he sure doesn’t deserve your love. Move on.