Fully Engaged Statement
# 46. I understand why the Catholic Church teaches that living together before marriage is unacceptable. (Yes)
I have heard from some mentor couples, one of the hardest discussions for them is on the topic of cohabitation. This may be because many engaged couples feel society has so normalized cohabitation, that the Church must follow. For us as mentors, it is important to take this opportunity to address with the couple why not only the Church, but empirical data finds living together before marriage problematic and our desire for them to have a happy and holy marriage.
While discussing the Church's views on marriage as a holy and sacred union can be difficult, it is a beautiful message of hope and one that couples rarely hear. Our job, then, is to share with the couple the concerns we have about cohabitation and that living under one roof and sharing the gift of sexuality is to be reserved for marriage, for it is the only place it can find its full meaning. It is only after stating that they are free to marry and vow their willingness to enter into a permanent, committed, faithful love, that the treasures of intimacy can be realized.
That is why the Church wants to ensure a individual's freedom. So must so, that the first Intention the couple will agree to before they state their vows during the Rite of Marriage is:
N. and N. , have you come here to enter into Marriage, without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?
The statement of true freedom to marry is also of grave concern when a couple is cohabiting. Does the couple truly have the freedom to say “yes” to marriage, if their lives are so entangled financially and emotionally? Family pressure, pressure from their partner, and concern over the length of time and energy that has been given to the relationship may all be contributing factors that hamper a person’s freedom. It is important to ask the couple if they are free to say “no” to marriage. It is only when they have the freedom to say “no,” they have the freedom to say “yes.”
Later in the Couple's Workbook on page 17 in the section on "Intimacy," the confidential pledge to chastity is offered. While talking about cohabitation, this is a good time to bring that up for their review and to mention you will be discussing it at a later meeting.
Challenging couple's to reflect and reconsider decisions they have made in the past is always good and healthy. When a challenge is offered out of love and compassion, the results can be fruitful and appreciated. It is our duty to help couple's in their formation for the sacrament to provide them ample opportunities to discern how they can apply the wisdom of Christ and His Church to lead a lasting and faithful commitment in the bonds of Holy Matrimony.
Other articles on Cohabitation: