It's no secret that many couples are cohabiting, that is, living together in a sexual relationship without marriage. Currently, 60% of all marriages are preceded by cohabitation, but fewer than half of cohabiting unions end in marriage.
Many couples believe – mistakenly - that cohabitation will lower their risk of divorce. This is an understandable misconception, since many people are the children of divorce, or have other family members or friends who have divorced. Other reasons for living together include convenience, financial savings, companionship and security, and a desire to move out of their parent’s house.
Every act of sexual intercourse is intended by God to express love, commitment and openness to life in the total gift of the spouses to each other. Sexual intercourse outside of marriage cannot express what God intended. Rather, it says something false--a total commitment that the couple does not yet have. This total commitment is possible only in marriage.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church points out that some couples claim a right to live together if they intend to marry later on. Although the couple may be sincere in their intention, the Catechism stresses that human love is not compatible with "trial marriages." Rather, "it demands a total and definitive gift of persons to one another."
If you are a cohabiting couple who has chosen to marry, the Catholic Church welcomes your decision to marry. Because cohabitation can have an effect on the marriage, couples are encouraged to explore certain questions with the pastoral minister who is preparing them for marriage. These include:
Pastoral ministers may encourage cohabiting couples without children to separate for a period before marriage as a sign of their free, loving decision to follow the Church's vision of marriage and sexuality. Couples are also encouraged to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
People have a right to marry; therefore, cohabiting couples are not denied marriage in the Catholic Church solely because they are cohabiting. However, cohabitation may raise questions, for example, about the couple's freedom to marry, that need to be explored.
Content on this page has been taken from the US Bishops Conference website For Your Marriage. Used with permission.
Why marriage can only be between a man and woman.
-Bishop Joseph Kurtz
Marriage is not something we invent or change to suit our own purposes…
Made for Life
A Catechetical and Educational Aid on the Gift of Children and the Indispensable Place of Fathers and Mothers in Marriage and Society