Cohabitation: A Secret To Lovely Marriage

It’s no secret that many couples are cohabiting, that is, living together in a sexual relationship without marriage. Currently, 60% of all marriages are preceded by cohabitation, but fewer than half of cohabiting unions end in marriage.
Many couples believe-mistakenly-that cohabitation will lower their risk of divorce. This is an understandable misconception, since many people are the children of divorce, or have other family members or friends who have divorced. Other reasons for living together include convenience, financial savings, companionship and security, and a desire to move out of their parents house.

What social science says about cohabitation
On average, marriage preceded by cohabitation is 46% more likely to end in divorce.

The risk is greatest for “serial” cohabitors who have had multiple relationships.
Some studies indicate that those who live together with definite plans for marriage are at minimal risk; however, there are no positive effects from cohabiting.

Cohabitation puts children at risk . Forty percent of cohabiting households include children. After five years, one-half of these couples will have broken up, compared to 15% of married parents.

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.”

Cohabitation and marriage preparation

If you are a cohabiting couple who has chosen to marry, the Catholic Church welcomes your decision to marry but not for premarital sex.
Because cohabitation can have an effect on the marriage, couples are encouraged to explore certain questions with the pastoral minister who is preparing them for marriage. These include:

Why did you choose to live together?
What did you learn from the experience of living together?
Why did you decide to marry?
Why do you wish to marry in the person?
What does marriage as a sacrament mean to you?