Please Help: What Is The Specific Catholic Church Teaching on Living Together Before Marriage WITHOUT Having Sex

I’m a 26 year old Catholic female. I’ve been Catholic for a long time but really started being Catholic a few years ago, which is around the time I was introduced to the Latin Masses. At first, I didn’t like it because I couldn’t understand it but I wanted to keep going because my soul was craving what it offered, actual prayer during mass.

I spent a long time praying & getting closer to God - praying to meet my soul mate. I received a message from the Holy Spirit telling me that the next person I enter a relationship into with will be the person I marry. Not too long after I began praying did I meet my current boyfriend but our relationship was turbulent at first because he wasn’t Catholic and was very much living an immoral lifestyle so I chose to walk away.

Fast forward to today - My bf has cut out watching porn, playing addicting violent video games, ogling other girls(ones dressed immodestly are the issue), internet searching for “hot girls” in compromising positions online(even the dressed ones), and even gave up lying and an inappropriate friendship he had with a female who he at one point was having sex with( she was also still very attracted to him - she was nasty to me and she didn’t like him having a gf). He does struggle with keeping custody of the eyes but he’s working very hard to change this behavior.

We as of right now, live together. He started classes to convert to Catholicism and our parish priest gave him a pamphlet stating that living together before marriage is always a mortal sin, the only thing it emphasized and explained was that premarital sex is wrong. It also read that living together out of convenience is not a reason to live together – which is not why we live together, our relationship is anything but convenient. It states that couples are attracted to living together to have more free to have sex – which we are actively abstaining from, it also stated that unmarried couples use sex as a way to avoid communicating real issues and dealing with them which leads to shallow communication and breakups because couples don’t talk their issues out - we talk about all of our problems and find solutions to them together, we’re definitely doing the resolving issues as they come. We even refrain from “heavy petting” as we understand it could lead to having to stop ourselves from having sex. We have both agreed that it is better to be abstinent. Our priest told him that even not having sex gives the appearance that we are - I have no problem telling people we are abstinent and that there are extenuating circumstances for the reasons we live together.

I moved from my grandparents house and I’m not able to live there anymore - not because of this because they know we’re abstinent but because my grandfathers mother may be moving in with so they can take care of her and they need the room I was using. I do not have any other options at this point.

Our schedule goes like this - My bf works from 12:30pm to 10pm - I clean the apartment, do my homework, and look for a job (I had a job but needed to leave it) - then I make dinner, when he gets home we eat dinner, talk about the day briefly, brush our teeth, pray, and go to sleep. We fall asleep next to each other but it’s honestly just sleeping, we don’t even touch each other in a way that could lead to anything else. We’re both old enough to understand what leads to what and refrain from doing that. We’re both committed to abstaining. I’d love to marry my boyfriend, I have expressed this to him. We’ve been together for almost 9 months and we are each other’s best friends. Part of the reason we aren’t engaged is because we are both undoing much of the damage that has been brought about from the unhealthy relationships we had before, we’re figuring out how to handle issues and how we can be better for each other and for God. Our relationship is very healthy and we care deeply for each other. He’s working on his relationship with God and I believe that with time he will understand the importance of marriage and want to do right by God, so far he has but he needs clarity on the marriage issue (he’s 24). He said that he would consider getting married eventually, as of now we have no plans but I know that with time that will change like everything else has thus far. So far, the Holy Spirit has been right with how our relationship would go and I continue to have faith in God. We’ve been attending mass every Sunday together. We do adore each other and look at each other with admiration. We are attracted to each other but we look at each other in a loving way not an animalistic flesh devouring way like the pamphlet and many people’s opinions on this issue seem to envision with this type of relationship. There’s a genuine goodness between us.

Our priest has asked him to tell me that I should refrain from receiving communion until we both sit down and speak with him about this next week. Will someone tell me where it specifically has been said not to live with someone even if you aren’t having sex or how it’s a grave matter when nothing is going on? I want to be able to describe to our priest that this relationship isn’t what he may think it is, I understand his concern however.

I’ve prayed about this and I asked someone close to me who is about to become a priest if it’s a grave matter if we’re abstinent and I was told there’s no grave issue because the act of sex without marriage is removed, simply living together isn’t a mortal sin. He did say that there could be near occasion’s of sin but we are proactively not being inappropriate, it’s really not even that difficult to not be inappropriate.

I have read it’s more of a preference of the priest that a couple shouldn’t live together before marriage even without sex. Most information I find on this topic is surrounded by two people having sex. Yes, we could easily have sex but we are strong enough to resist together.

You should be extra-vigilant about causing scandal (e.g. letting as few people as possible know you’re living together, making sure those who know also know you’re celibate, etc,) but there’s nothing inherently wrong with living together before marriage if you guys have extenuating circumstances for doing so, provided you can withstand sexual temptation.

At my old parish, I had friends who weren’t engaged but were living together out of financial necessity. They were very clear with people their necessity for living together, and it was never a big deal. They’re now married and very happy.

However, you do have to consider that obedience to a priest is our obligation except in cases where we would be led by one into mortal sin. If this priest’s advice seems unreasonable to you, you should find a different priest.

Thank you for your response. I want to be obedient to our priest but I do disagree that it’s as black and white and it doesn’t feel morally wrong. I at one point did want to know for myself so I inquired and I came up with the act of living with someone isn’t a mortal sin, but fornicating would be and I understand that and we’re abiding by it.


I first want to say that I strongly believe that it is obviously ideal for an engaged couple to live separately prior to marriage. However:

My husband and I struggled with the same question during our own preparation for marriage. The problem stemmed from a similar situation to your own, neither of us were practicing Catholics when we first began our relationship. The process of discovering and growing in our faith was a long process, but thanks to the grace of God he brought us both into the Church.

We are part of a local parish that is served by a group of very wonderful and learned Dominican friars of the Province of Saint Joseph. Two separate priests reassured us that living together even under extenuating circumstances is not ideal, but it is not sinful in and of itself. Cohabitation simply creates the exponential potential for sinful behavior – fornication, indulging impure thoughts, frustrated desires leading to impure acts with oneself, etc. A couple could also easily cause scandal among their peers if they are not discreet. (As SMG noted whilst I was still writing!)

I think it is perfectly reasonable to have the two of you sit down with your parish priest and discuss the entire situation with him. He can help you to discern what may or may not be sinful and how best to avoid it. Hopefully, he will also be a good resource for learning more about Church teaching on the subject of marriage.

I pray that the Holy Spirit will share His wisdom with you during these difficulties, that you both may grow closer to God, and reflect the light of Christ in your relationship.

I have read it’s more of a preference of the priest that a couple shouldn’t live together before marriage even without sex. Most information I find on this topic is surrounded by two people having sex. Yes, we could easily have sex but we are strong enough to resist together.

That’s because it is, what used to be called, “a near occasion of sin.”

Just to make certain I understand you correctly, you are living with a 24 year old man who has no intention of marrying you? And whose background consists of addiction to porn and violent video games?

I don’t think you will find a specific Church document that states in black and white that it is always sinful, but I strongly believe that Catholics should rule out the option of living together, for many reasons. There are the issues of scandal and near occasion of sin (which should not be brushed aside), but more than that, it is also sad to be robbing yourselves of the special time of setting up house together for the first time as newlyweds.

It’s not just the issue of sex that makes living together before marriage morally questionable. There is something very intimate and special about beginning a life together and sharing a house. It’s really something that belongs to married couples and is improper for those who are not.

Well, obviously it’s not always a mortal sin just to have persons of the opposite sex live together, or every brother and sister sharing a house would be committing incest.

However, it’s not super-prudent for unrelated persons to do it, and it can cause scandal when becomes obvious that two people living at the same address are in love but not married. So generally one wants to avoid it.

(Societally, young Americans tend to treat unrelated persons who are their close friends like they’re members of the family or at least distant cousins. I think we kinda suffer from not having big hordes of relatives to give us that feeling. So yeah, I can see how this situation could happen with your boyfriend without you guys meaning anything by it.)

One way of getting around problems is to have a temporary live-in chaperone in the place. If you have a sister or he does, for instance, that would reduce problems a lot.

Another way would be to temporarily trade living quarters, without actually moving out your stuff. If you’re staying at a female friend or relative’s place, that obviously makes it clear that you guys are living separately even if your address is the same.

Some parishes actually will help with this, by having somebody with a big house invite one member of a couple to stay with them until the wedding. It would be something to ask the priest about.

Sometimes people do things like deciding that a house should be shared more separately by using separate entrance doors, bathrooms, etc.

I don’t think it’s fair to question the man’s background. We are all sinners and we are all tempted in different ways.

And while I am also concerned that he doesn’t seem to have an intention to marry KMarie, she did state that he just started attending classes (I’m assuming RCIA?).

The problem that people in KMarie’s situation have is truly determining what is sinful and what is not. This is an important part of forming our conscience on all matters. Your post seems to put the near occasion of sin on a back burner and make the emotional issues “more than that.” While there may not be a black and white teaching on cohabitation, there are many on matters of sin. These are the important questions and why it is helpful to seek the advice of the priest, so that extenuating circumstances and the like can be taken into account.

We are both the oldest siblings in our families and all of our siblings have moved away. When I say we are resisting, I mean we’re not putting ourselves in a compromising situation that would lead to anything else. We don’t actually have a huge problem moving on to something else. I am in control of myself and he’s in control of himself. We’re doing really well with it.

My issue is with what our priest thinks, I don’t want him to think there’s anything going on because there’s not. I think when people think of two unmarried people living together, they think that they are sitting at a corner of the house staring at each other while biting their nails because the temptation is so horrible. We don’t have the issue of fighting each other off because we know not to focus on sex or kissing for too long. Neither of us let it get too far and we don’t want it to get out of control because we both want to go to heaven.

We are so busy that at the end of the day we go to sleep and that’s all.

That is what I was thinking. This does not sound like a person to be considering marriage with at this time, although I don’t think you ought to be living together, regardless.

Reading your original post again, I wonder if part of the reason that you are staying with a man who may not be suitable for marriage is that you believe the Holy Spirit gave you a message that you should marry the next person that you enter a relationship with. If I can ask this gently, have you considered the possibility that you may be wrong about what the Holy Spirit told you? God doesn’t usually give us specific notes on situations like these; he gives us common sense to use.

I think, in your case, this is an additional reason not to live with this man: Being in the intimate situation of living together is clouding your judgment in a time when you need to be discerning whether or not to marry this man. Dating is a time for discerning the wisdom of potentially marrying a person, not for living as if you already were married.

Just some things to think about.

St Catherine, his background has made him into what he is today. If you don’t think that’s important, that is your prerogative, but please don’t tell me what is and isn’t fair.

And you don’t have to tell me, St. Catherine, that I’m a sinner. If I haven’t yet committed the sin, it is only because God has been merciful to me.

She came here asking for help. If you are going to critique every answer a CAF member gives her, then perhaps she should just rely on you to steer her through this. :thumbsup:

Of course. It is not that one’s background is not important, but the way which you described it seemed somewhat confrontational. I merely intended my post as a comment in response, not as a swipe at you or at anyone else. :slight_smile:

Having been a similar situation myself, I know how frustrating it can be to find that the waters are murky when seeking to answer to what seems like a simple question: Is cohabitation inherently sinful or not?

No, I am not putting those issue on the back burner at all. Those are very important things to consider, which is why I said they should not be brushed aside. But since other posters had already addressed those issues, I was proposing an additional reason why it is unwise to live together before marriage. We should use prudence when making important decisions such whom to marry and live with, and not limit ourselves to the question of whether we are technically sinning by living with someone of the opposite sex.

While it may not be a sin per se, I think that for many reasons it is very unwise. Especially in the OP’s case, when they should still be in the dating stage, living together will make it much more difficult to break up, should they discern that they are not right for each other.

We have not been living together for a long period of time. We’ve been together 9 months but have only been living together for about 2, a little over.

My boyfriend in all of this time has stopped watching porn and masturbating, he’s doing everything he can to break looking at other girls, he stopped playing video games, he gave up a friend that was intruding on our relationship and making it known of her intentions, and now he’s converting to Catholicism in May… for me and us, he’s paying his bills on time and is making himself accountable for his actions, on top of that instead of running away from our issues he talks them out with me to find solutions, he’s even excited about not having sex so we can have a better relationship and cherish when we can finally. We may not marry tomorrow, but we will get married. I do think he’s someone to consider marriage with, absolutely. Things take time, no one has ever done so much for me and cared so much for me as he does.

He is starting to talk about marriage with more, just like everything else so far. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Whether or not the priest believes that anything is going on or not, you should abide by his advice and instructions about what to do. Be honest and forthright when you speak with him. Priests generally have a good understanding of the Catholic faith. You need to trust him.

I would strongly advise you to meet with your priest and lay everything out - explain to him why you are living together and the precautions you are taking to avoid occasion of sin. You will get various answers on an internet forum. Listen to your priest. I would encourage you to not post any additional information on this thread until you do speak with him - then you can (if you wish) return and update us. God bless and good luck!

Well, we are set to meet with him at my boyfriends next class to talk about this. I came here to receive clarity on the issue.

The question - without opinion - Is living with someone you’re not married to a grave sin or not - the act of living with my boyfriend as I have described, a mortal sin?

I have been counseled by someone about to be ordained a priest that is close to me and I’ve been told that no, but it could lead to near occasions of sin, which we understand and are proactive with not putting ourselves in that situation.

I don’t know the types of things our priest will say to us because I’ve never dealt with a situation like this before. What questions should I ask?

That describes basically every 24 year old guy that I know. I’m just saying.

As has been recommended by several people, I think the situation just needs to be laid out for the priest who will be counseling you. I don’t know if there are any specific questions to ask, unless your boyfriend has specific issues regarding marriage itself. It is also possible to get what seems like a murky answer, even from a priest, so just don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if anything still seems confusing during your conversation.

Very unwise. There’s no reason the two of you should be living together. :confused: What would our Blessed Mother say?

Here’s a good sermon to help you:

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