Today almost half the couples who come for marriage preparation in the Catholic Church are in a cohabiting relationship. Cohabitation, in a commonly understood sense, means living together in a sexual relationship without marriage. Living together in this way involves varying degrees of physical and emotional interaction. Such a relationship is a false sign. It contradicts the meaning of a sexual relationship in marriage as the total gift of oneself in fidelity, exclusivity, and permanency.
Over the past twenty-five years cohabitation has become a major social phenomenon affecting the institution of marriage and family life.
There are both broad cultural reasons and a range of individual reasons for cohabitation.
*The cultural reasons are descriptive of most first world countries: changing values on family and decline in the importance of marriage; (Bumpass, NSFH #66, 1995; Clarkberg, Stolzenberg & Waite, 1995; Parker, 1990)
*Declining confidence in religious and social institutions to provide guidance; (Nicole & Baldwin, 1995; Thornton, Axinn & Hill, 1992)
*Delaying of marriage for economic or social reasons while sexual relationships begin earlier. 85% of unmarried youth are sexually active by age 20. "Marriage no longer signifies the beginning of sexual relationship, the beginning of child bearing or the point at which couples establish joint households" (Bumpass,#66, 1995). (Popenoe & Whitehead, 1999; Peplau, Hill & Rubin, 1993; Rindfuss & Van den Heuvel, 1990)
Only 50% to 60% of cohabitors marry the persons with whom they cohabit at a given time. 76% report plans to marry their partner but only about half do. The percentage of couples marrying after second and third cohabitation is even lower. (Brown & Booth, 1996; Bumpass & Sweet, 1989)
Excerpts above obtained from Marriage Preparation and Cohabiting Couples-USCCB.
Cohabitation and Catholic Church Teaching
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.”
- Excerpts above from Cohabitation-For Your Marriage
"There is a certain relationship between love and the Divine: love promises infinity, eternity-a reality far greater and totally other than our everyday existence. Yet we have also seen that the way to attain this goal is not simply by submitting to instinct. Purification and growth in maturity are called for; and these also pass through the path of renunciation. Far from rejecting or 'poisoning' eros, they heal it and restore its true grandeur. It is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves. Only when both dimensions are truly united, does man attain his full stature. Only thus is love - eros- able to mature and attain its authentic grandeur. The contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness. The love of man and woman tends to rise 'in ecstasy' towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing."
- God is Love is the first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI
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