What to reply about co-habitation?


I mentioned to somebody that I would wait with living together until after marriage.
I also mentioned that I was writing this from a faith point of view and that I meant well and hoped she wasn’t angry at me for saying this.
She answered that it was no problem and asked me what would happen if one lived together before.

What is the right thing to reply?
Is it really outright forbidden by the Church, or just a precaution because most people would not be able to stay pure in such a situation?

I replied that as far as I knew, accoriding to the Catholic Faith living together before marriage was not ok, just as sex before marriage is not ok, and that I assumed that the two went hand in hand. But that i was afraid I would write something wrong if I tried to explain it, because I hadn’t really dealt with this matter at all lately.

So maybe somebody here knows what the right answer is.
What happens if two people live together before marriage?
Is it automatically sinful?
My guess would be yes… in most sitautions, maybe there are some exceptions, like when it is not possible to live apart, due to extreme circumstances… being fugitives or something… ;))?? I really am not sure.


Co-Habitation, in and of itself, is not a moral or ethical issue. There are potentially legal issues (check with your state) for non-family members in a co-habitation living arrangement. Essentially, all families co-habitat (^_^).

The problem with co-habitation for those that are romantically involved is the potential to have “martial relations” outside of the context of the Sacrament of Marriage.

All too often, the living arrangements are a single room, the couple shares a bed and so forth… leading to temptation, leading to the fall.

Even with separate rooms, the possibility to have “martial relations” outside of the context of the Sacrament of Marriage for the romantically involved is quite high.

With that said, if they could lead a brother-sister type arrangement, with neither lusting after the other, no intercourse, etc… there wouldn’t be an issue… and such a relationship would be the exception (in my experience) rather than the norm.


Co-Habitation, in and of itself, is not a moral or ethical issue.

From the CCC

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."184 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.

Q: What if the a man and his girlfriend did not have any sexual relationship for the entire period of cohabitation?

Even if a couple does not engage in sexual relations for the entire time of cohabitation, their “shacking up” gives scandal and can be become an occassion of sin. For “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"(CCC no. 2284). “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!” Luke 17:1

It most certainly is a moral issue and the CCC treats it as such.


A man and a woman living together who are not married is a cause for public scandal. It should never be done. Extreme situations are very rare. In the early 1970s, the common excuse was “But we love each other.” In that case, talk to a priest, and ideally, her parents and your parents. After all, both of you will have in-laws after marriage, and barring the possibility that some may not be suitable from a moral standpoint - that is, they disagree with Church teaching to the point that they will not approve of your situation, they will be family.

The other problem is a near occasion for sin. Generally, two people who are living together would be more inclined toward sexual temptation. So, if you really know each other and have a solid friendship, then get married. A simple ceremony, not thousands of dollars.

It took 40 years to reach this point. Unmarried couples who have sex are more common today. The normal, moral thing to do is get married. But it has to have a solid foundation as opposed to the sex is good. I mean, find out, before the ceremony, what the other person expects from married life. You don’t want to find out after the fact that “Oh no! He’s a drug addict or addicted to gambling or an alcoholic or a lazy bum that expects me to work and the best he can do is a part-time job followed by a lot of excuses.” Real relationships take work. You don’t start thinking about divorce after your first argument. You think of constructive ways to solve the problem - together. Yelling and screaming usually occurs because one or both have “held it in” for too long and let it get to a boil. If something about your souse is an issue, cussing him or her out is not the solution.

But some have decided the ‘good in bed’ part is the most important. That’s the cart before the horse, like this gorgeous woman I met who told me she was divorced. I asked her what happened. Her reply? “I had to kick him out of my house because I found out he was a nut.” So, I asked her how long she had been married, “Nine months.”



It is against Church teaching because it is sinful. Also, statistically, those who cohabit before marriage are far more likely that’ve their marriage fail. That alone should be reason enough to avoid living together before marriage.


Please do not think I am being rude because I am not, what I suggest you do is buy a Catechism of the Catholic Church or and a book called Catholicism for Dummies, I have both myself and find them great if I want to look up Church teaching, plus I have started with two friends of mine every week doing two hours of the Catechism as one does forgot so its good to keep going over them along with the Bible, so we can try at least to know a bit. Hope your not offended by my suggestion its just a positive one I thought as I have these books myself to keep up to date.


I Clearly addressed this aspect of the issues involved with co-habitation within my post.

The following is not part of the CCC nether in the version I am looking at right here on my desk (nice big green book) nor in the version to be found online at the Vatican website (Click thru to the see the CCC2391 as given) it is a Q&A from somewhere and the opinion of one or more persons, it is however, not a teaching directly from the CCC.

The red highlighted text… I clearly addressed this in my original post… and I will not cover it again.

so lets take a look at scandal in its proper context CCC2284 and 2285 (click thru):

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."86 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.87

Last Sunday, a very pretty young lady, in a short black dress attending Mass was most likely the near occasion of sin, if not the out right cause of sin, in many a man attending that evening… she was on her way to a party after the Mass. I personally know her, she’s a good person. Was it her intent to cause scandal, to lead men into lust… no; however, she can no more control what the men are thinking than she can control the tides of the ocean… and as for that dress, it touched her knees and covered her shoulders with a 3/4-cap sleeve and a very modest neckline - something I pointed out to the three gossipers in the pew making comments loud enough to be “over heard.”
We don’t need our young ladies in Burkas because we men can’t keep our thoughts pure and those little gossipers were the ones causing/creating the scandal - bullies, even in the pews.

As for a cohabiting couple being a cause for scandal, at one point, a man and a woman, in a romantic relationship living together would certainly have been scandalous. This was also the time when a husband and wife were shown in the movies, and TV, as living in separate rooms - least we give rise to scandal (poor Ozzie and Harriet). Today, the standards have changed to the point that co-ed dorms are to be found all over the USA and people are renting houses and apartments with roommates of the opposite sex (think “Threes Company”) in order to find a place to live. We really do not need not even bring scandal into the argument to establish that co-habitation for a romantically involved couple is a bad idea…

The main concern I see for co-habiting couples from a faith point of view is near occasion for sin, which I’ve already addressed.
I also see this as a secular issue: The Perils of Playing House
Couples who move in together before marriage have up to two times the odds of divorce, as compared with couples who marry before living together. Moreover, married couples who have lived together before exchanging vows tend to have poorer-quality marriages than couples who moved in after the wedding. Those who cohabited first report less satisfaction, more arguing, poorer communication and lower levels of commitment.

So, no, the CCC does not directly deal with the general case of co-habitation. The CCC address cohabitation on the sly in CCC2391 in the so called “trial marriage” which directly deals with the couple having congress during this time… which cannot be supported.

(ok I’ve been up for an age, stepped away for a Holy Hour and been back… so the above as I type and re-read appears to be well reasoned… it most likely reads like a 3rd grade essay on the uses for peanuts; however, I need to go to bed and shut the PC down for updates and backup which seems to take the near side of eternity to do… good night and peace be with you)


edit: just to clarify, I am not asking this for myself. I think I didn’t make this clear enough in my post. I was trying to give sisterly advice to a young woman who is considering moving in with her boyfriend.

I am not offended.
I do have a catechism.
It is also easy to look it up online, to just put the moral issue plus “catechism” as search terms.
However sometimes it is easier to understand something if somebody explains it… somebody with expertise in moral theology ;)…
For example, these excerpts of the catechism… does it say anywhere whether or not cohabitation PER SE is a GRAVE offense? So I am grateful for forum members who can simplify such things (I tend to OVER-think such things). :wink:

I now wrote to my friend that I was not sure whether I had said it all right, that to be sure probably we’d have to ask a priest or theologian; but I wrote that I uderstood it that way that it was for two reasons: 1. because of the temptation, 2. because even if nothing happens, other people might think it happens, which is called scandal; that we have to be a good example to others.

I am not sur eif she is catholic. I aske dher again. But in any case, it cannot hurt to know what the Catholic Church teaches, can it? :wink:


It does appear to be well-reasoned to me too. :slight_smile:

And you came to the same conclusion as me: It does not say directly whethe ror not co-habitation PER SE is a grave sin.
But in any case, since I am not even sure whether the person I am trying to advice is Catholic, I at least for now left out the word “sin” but put it in other terms (that according to my Faith, it was “not ok”, etc…)
Not sure if I did a good job.
Just trying. :wink:


Is it a grave sin?

What ever happened to "does it glorify God and make one Holy. because that is the job of a marriage, to help another get to heaven.

My my we have fallen so far with marriage that we argue over the Gravity of our acts, and not the righteousness.

How much can I sin before I go to hell?

has become the replacement, for “how can I glorify God and do His will all of my life?”


And yes, there is grave matter here.

What more would you like the CCC to say? Their names specifically? Then would they listen?


Of course, one could make an argument that there is a chance two women or two men living together might be having sexual relations as well. How do we know that they are not gay or lesbian?


I would just add that the sin of scandal does not consist in others being shocked by someone’s behavior. The problem arises when they are not shocked by the behavior.

In other words, if a person is shacking up with his girlfriend, even with no sex, he gives the impression to others that the behavior is no big deal, and many others will in fact assume that sex is a part of the relationship. And knowing the person involved, they will assume that if it’s okay for him, it’s okay for me. Scandal involves making sin or the appearance of sin seem perfectly normal, and that helps to lead others to sin.

In other words, scandal, in the moral sense, is seldom scandalous in the social sense.


Hm, maybe it would indeed have been better to explain it to her from this positive perspective.
However, she asked me what would happen if they live together before marriage.
So I kind of had to answer that question.
Well, I kind of explained around it; anyway I gave it my best try I guess.


I think you probably explained it fine.

But grave sin. Yes.

That active scandal is a mortal sin Christ Himself has taught (Matthew 18:6 sqq.) and reason makes evident.

Not to mention that I think it is beyond charity to think that a romantic couple in this society saturated with sex is not breaking more than just the sin of cohabitation. It is most likely adulterous.


I would just have explained that it’s against Church dogma. I agree that use of the term “scandal” is outdated and probably should only be used in extreme cases. I certainly do not personally know of any adult in my circle that thinks an adult couple living together is scandalous. :shrug:


Jim explained this quite well above. Did you read his post? That others do not view it as scandalous is one of the consequences of the scandal itself.:shrug:


Thanks HD, I went back and reread, and I agree.:slight_smile:


I assume you have a clear view that cohabitating as a convenient means to enable a sexual relationship is unambiguously wrong?

Thus, I assume this boyfriend and girlfriend have not had a sexual relationship, and do not intend to have one unless and until they marry. So far so good.

The decision to cohabitate must surely face these two issue:

  1. It must create great temptation to sexual activity. If they are romantically involved, how could this not be so? The Church calls us to avoid placing ourselves in serious temptations. That seems to be entirely “sound” advice doesn’t it, assuming we agree pre-marital sex is wrong?

  2. The matter of scandal is relevant, but hardly seems necessary to debate at length in light of point(1). It would be quite central were there, for some reason (which I can’t immediately imagine), no temptation possible to sexual relations from the contemplated cohabitation.


Without using any religion at all, you can point to the Psychology Today article I linked to and to several other such studies done from the secular point of view that show the same damage to the overall health of a marriage. IMHO, that should be enough in itself to discourage a romantically involved couple from co-habituating even if there are separate rooms.


An understanding of what it means to be in a real relationship does not require society’s approval. However, all of us - me included - need to develop a proper sense of shame and guilt. We can no longer afford to be indifferent. Speak up! Politely, of course. There is right and wrong, not “after enough time, people will stop complaining and get used to it.” Truth is truth. The message needs to be repeated every time it comes up.

Pope Benedict:

“If we cannot have common values, common truths, sufficient communication on the essentials of human life–how to live how to respond to the great challenges of human life–then true society becomes impossible.”

Cohabitation is a sin.


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