Advice for cohabitator considering Catholicism

Okay, so here’s my situation in a nutshell:

(Situation: Help, I’m in a nutshell! How did I get in this nutshell?)


I’m 22. I’ve been with this girl, 20, for about a year and 2 months now. Both of us come from protestant Christian backgrounds, but neither of us have considered ourselves religious for many years.

We both attend the same university, and about 5 months ago we moved into an apartment with a 6-month lease together. In so doing we felt we would be saving money and making a greater committment to each other, both of which we have done. We also have been having premarital sex throughout the course of our relationship.

About a month ago, I began researching Catholicism, and I am coming to a point where I feel confident about attending an actual mass and enrolling in RCIA. About a week ago, I began discussing all this openly with my girlfriend, and while she is obviously skeptical of Catholicism and of my intentions, she is at least open to the discussion. I have made her aware of the implications this would have on our relationship as far as sex goes, and even as far as the possibility of marriage goes. In one of her more gracious moments, she actually commented “What if I became Catholic with you?”.

Since my conscience has begun to weigh heavily on the matter, I have suggested to her that we stop having sex until I have more completely evaluated the matter. We talked about some of the virtues of waiting until we’re married to continue having sex, but It’s too soon to tell at this point how she really feels about it.

As far as the cohabitation goes, we’re approaching the end of our current 6-month lease and we have had plans to move into a new, cheaper 2-bedroom apartment elsewhere. At this point, even though I know the general consensus among Catholics is that premarital cohabitation is not a good decision, I feel like it’s a little late to say, “Sweetie, maybe we should try living separately.” Her current economic situation is such that, if she were not living with a roommate, she could not afford to continue to go to school, and there are no other alternate living arrangements for her at school at this point in time. Not only have I not given her enough forewarning about seeking other living arrangements, but we have both made our intentions clear to each other months in advance about continuing to live together for the next 6 months, so I feel like backing out at this point would not be the right thing to do.

I am seeking advice on our situation. Any advice is appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

I would still pursue seperate living arrangements.

One thing I’ve learned about life is that when we know something to be morally right, and we pursue it EVEN THOUGH it seems an impossible situation, somehow things work out better than we could have imagined.

Make a real commitment to each other and to God.

I would go to the college Newman Center (Catholic on campus parish) and speak to the priest. They may have a program in place that will help you find appropriate roomies to share expenses.

One of my favorite scripture passages is the one where it speaks of God taking care of the birds, so why would we doubt that He would take care of US?

Enjoy learning about Catholicism, and Welcome Home!

I am also unclear as to whether or not the act of cohabitation in and of itself is sinful.

[quote=ESimmons]I am also unclear as to whether or not the act of cohabitation in and of itself is sinful.

Well it’s kind of a tricky thing.

For one your putting yourself in the position to be under great temptation

Second you could easily be commiting the sin of scandal. If people see a couple of the opposite sex (unless they are relatives) living together they will automatically assume they are being intimate. This gives the impression that intimacy between unmarried people is ok.

I would consult a priest for advise in this matter.

Cohabitation, especially if you’ve already been sleeping together, is a very near occaision of sin. How about instead of apartments, you get rooms in a house? This is usually considerably cheaper. Maybe you might both have friends you could move in with so you’d essentially be paying 1 whole rent.

Catholic Answers sells Theology of the Body for Beginners which I think would greatly help you two see the beauty of chastity before marriage. You won’t regret it!

E Simmons:

Congratulations! It takes guts to face one’s faults and change. Cohabitation gives a psychological habit that doesn’t match up with the disposition of marriage–as much as it looks it, it doesn’t. That being said, get your hands on Christopher West’s materials, he has marriage prep and marriage related cd’s that you and your girlfriend can listen to. I also highly suggest his series Naked Without Shame, a synthesis and explaination of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. I promise you that after you both listen to it, you will find the right answer to your situation.

It takes greater love to refrain from sexual union until married than to indulge in it prior to that. If you don’t marry her or if she doesn’t marry you, both of you will carry around this attachment and will not help your next relationship. If you do marry each other, it would be that much more glorious if you remain chaste until your wedding night.

God bless your search and stick around.

in XT.

As a follow-up to my inquiry about the sinful nature of cohabitation, I can find two instances in the CCC where the issue is addressed in some respect, after taking leads from one of the responses in the Ask an Apologist forum.

The first is addressing the offense of scandal (2284-2287):

2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. the person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.

2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing.

2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.

Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to “social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.” This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.

2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!”

So, basically, one could argue that by living together with my girlfriend, I’m tempting my neighbor to have premarital sex, even though I’m not actually having sex with my girlfriend.

But, the CCC appears to stress that scandal is committed by those in a position to educate or set up social institutions or rules.

I could also argue that if anyone were to inquire, I could tell them that my girlfriend and I sleep in separate beds, for the record. Surely, I am not responsible for other people’s assumptions? Just as well, people could also assume that because I’m wearing pink I must be a homosexual, but it would seem ridiculous to accuse me of scandal for wearing pink.

The second is addressing free union/trial marriages (2390-2391):

2390 In a so-called free union, a man and a woman refuse to give juridical and public form to a liaison involving sexual intimacy.

The expression “free union” is fallacious: what can “union” mean when the partners make no commitment to one another, each exhibiting a lack of trust in the other, in himself, or in the future?

The expression covers a number of different situations: concubinage, rejection of marriage as such, or inability to make long-term commitments. All these situations offend against the dignity of marriage; they destroy the very idea of the family; they weaken the sense of fidelity. They are contrary to the moral law. the sexual act must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes a grave sin and excludes one from sacramental communion.

2391 Some today claim a “right to a trial marriage” where there is an intention of getting married later. However firm the purpose of those who engage in premature sexual relations may be, “the fact is that such liaisons can scarcely ensure mutual sincerity and fidelity in a relationship between a man and a woman, nor, especially, can they protect it from inconstancy of desires or whim.” Carnal union is morally legitimate only when a definitive community of life between a man and woman has been established. Human love does not tolerate “trial marriages.” It demands a total and definitive gift of persons to one another.

Here, the sin appears to be the premarital sex and it does not mention anything about simply living together with someone.

If someone could point me in the direction of additional sections in the CCC that address cohabitation, I would very much appreciate it.

My mindset is not one to make excuses, but to find out the truth.

Also, I have been using the term “cohabitation”, perhaps incorrectly, as my intention henceforth is to live together with my girlfriend in a NON-sexual relationship. I feel very confident this can be accomplished, unless of course someone shows me that it is inherently sinful.


First of all, congratuations and welcome! May God truly continue to bless you in your journey for the Truth.

My “husband” and I became Catholic, I from a Baptist background, he from not to much of a background. We were happy in the Church and had found such a great peace. We were engaged at the time and actually postponed our wedding date so we could study to join the Church. The one thing we struggled with was not being to intimate. We did not realize nor understand the meaning of marriage.

I got pregnant before we were married…and we were then “married” in the court. We had a beautiful baby girl whom we named Elizabeth Rose. She is now 2 years old.

About a year and a half ago we read Christopher West’s Theology of The Body. God is good and opened our eyes to the True meaning of marriage and what it is to be. For the last year we have been living as brother and sister. Now, this has been REALLY difficult for the both of us…and I will not say we never messed up again…but things have gotten easier as time goes by. We are simply waiting on our priest to let us know when he thinks we are ready to enter into the marriage covenant. I thank God first of all, for a priest who loves us with a passion and would lay down his life for us. He is truly Christ made present in the world. Second, I must thank God for Christopher West. It was his book that made us see the relationship between marriage and the Eucharist. Thank God we now receive the Sacraments on a weekly basis. We are so much happier living in abstinence.

Anyway, all this to say…you can “cohabitate” but is this a girl you may want to marry? Is the relationship this serious? If not, please do not live together. Also, do not pass off to people as though you are married. They must know you are not and you need to use the term" living as brother and sister." That way, they know.

Also, if you do continue to live together pray daily that the devil does not tempt you and when he does…pray you will resist his temptations. Because beleive me, he will hit you with everything he has…just to get you to fall.

Last, but not least, if you and your girlfriend do not have a marriage commitment I don’t think I would suggest living together. Why? Because as you both embark on this journey your minds need to be clear…she should not become Catholic only because you are…and you should not stay Protestant only because you love her and you want to be with her.

I will pray for you and ask any questions you need to!!

I am sorry for your predicament. . .The good news is that I think you have a pretty clear picture of the cross you are being given to carry at this time. I totally understand all the nuances of your situation and how your love for your girlfriend and your desire to help her weighs heavily on your mind. It is a tough call. However, I think from reading your posts here that you already know the right answer.

As a college student, I’m sure you are filled to the brim with stuff to read, but may I suggest THE BEST book that could help you and your girlfriend find a way to help each other. It is Christopher West’s THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT SEX AND MARRIAGE.

It is the easiest reading. . .Q&A style. And he is really straightforward and quite honest in his own journey towards a real understanding of sex and love in relationships. A group of young adults at our church just finished a study of this book and it opened our eyes so much. We ended almost every night of discussion with the thought, “Ah, if we had only read this in college or high school!”

Please read it and read it with your girlfriend. . .It will open the conversation in ways you may not be able to and it will put you both on some common ground to do some serious discernment.

Praying for you!

I think you are both taking a very mature approach.

Try to find other arrangements, but if you can’t then by all means move to the 2 bedroom, live in separate bedrooms, and then continue to work the situation don’t just leave it at that. For example, continue to look for a female roommate for her and then possibly sub-let and you move out to a one bedroom or with a male roommate. And definitely have arrangements by the end of the lease term.

Keep to your pledge to be chaste.

I say to get the appartment with the 2 separate bedrooms. Living apart will probably not do much to inhibit your sex life, unless you both live in the dorms, because a place can always be found to ‘do it’. So long as you both are committed to not having ‘relations’.

You might want to submit it to

He’s done another article on college living arrangements here:

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