High Risk

We are living in a world full of lies. One of them is that cohabitation is ok. "Cohabitation" is commonly referred to as "living together" or "shacking up". It describes the relationship of a man and woman who are sexually active and share a household, though they are not married.

"Today almost half the couples who come for marriage preparation in the Catholic Church are in a cohabiting relationship," reported the National Conference of the US Catholic Bishops Committee on Marriage and Family.

This cohabitation trend is creating a lot of unhappiness to many parents who still believe in the sanctity of marriage. A "real nightmare" one father described it, when his daughter decided to go and live with her partner. It makes a mockery of marriage. It implicitly communicates that there is nothing wrong in breaking God's law. And, the simple truth is that it increases substantially the couples' chance of marital failure.

The motives which lead many to live together before marrying are many. Some take a pragmatic approach. "We're trying to save money for the wedding, so living together is more economical." Sure, you might save the price of monthly rent or acquiring a homestead more easily, but you're sacrificing something more valuable. Cheap is expensive, as the saying goes. Short-term savings are much more costly than investing in a lifetime relationship.

Others reason that "because of the high divorce rate, we want to see if things work out first." What an illusion! It just works the opposite way! Couples who live together before marriage actually have a 50% greater chance of divorce than those who don't. And about 60% of couples who cohabit break up without marrying. These are real statistics. Living together before marriage is different from living together in marriage for the obvious reason that there is no binding commitment to support the relationship.

As a wise man said once, "If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it is yours. If it doesn't, it never was!"

"We need to get to know one another first. Later we'll start having kids. Going into marriage without living for some time together is like buying shoes you haven't tried on!" The try-before-you-buy attitude. What a naive approach! Sirach is right in claiming that "The mind of fools is in their mouth, while the mouth of the wise is in their mind." (21, 26)

Cohabitation is actually the worst way to get to know another person, because it shortcuts the true development of lasting friendship. Those who live together before marriage often report an over-reliance on sexual expression and less emphasis on conversation and other ways of communication - ways that ultimately lead to a more fulfilling sexual union after marriage.

Cohabiting couples are more likely to duck tough issues. The fragile nature of the cohabiting relationship makes a couple extremely cautious and reluctant to complain about the others' insensitive or irritating actions. They tend to repress anger and avoid criticism of each others annoying behavior. This can only lead to disaster. Eventually it surfaces, frequently in explosive eruptions hurtful to both parties.


Far from being outmoded, the Church's teaching is revolutionary - and it works! The Church is a wise teacher and a caring mother. She knows the right way to safeguard the relationship of the couple.

Pope John Paul II developed a whole theology around the body language of love relationships.

In making love, the husband and wife are saying to one another in "body language" what they said to each other at the altar on their wedding day: "I am yours, for life!"

This mutual gift empowers the couple to become co-creators with God in giving life to a new person, a baby.

The only "place" where this total self-giving between a man and a woman can take place healthily is in marriage. It is the only "place" where children can be raised with the secure, committed love of a mother and a father. So sexual intimacy belongs only in marriage. Outside of marriage, sex is a lie.

Dr. Laura Schlesinger, a marriage and family counselor, writes that data from the National Institute of Mental Health show that cohabiting women have rates of depression more than three times higher than married women -- and more than twice as high as other unmarried women.

And for those women who have children in such relationships, half will end up as single unmarried women, most of them by the time their child is 5 years old. That means poverty for the child and the mother in all too many cases.

Yes, even here, Jesus Christ is right again! Seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else you desire will be given to you - and more! The more we depend on God, the more dependable we find God is.

Try it. It works.

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.