Is it worth living together before marriage
Living together before marriage?
Questions and answers about unmarried people living together in the light of faith
A letter from American bishops to couples who want to get married
From: FMG INFORMATION No. 70, April 2000
As in Germany, the attitude towards living together before marriage has spread in the United States. In 1999, the Catholic bishops of the American state of Pennsylvania, in a letter * to couples who want to marry in church, very openly and clearly illuminated all the arguments that seem to speak in favor of young people first “trying out” whether they fit together and taken a position on this from the Catholic moral doctrine. A thought-provoking document!
* "Living Together. Questions and Answers Regarding Cohabitation and the Church's Moral Teaching "Source: US magazine" Lay Witness, Nov. 1999 or www.cuf.org. German translation: FMG
1. What is meant by “living together”?
“Cohabitation” is generally referred to as “living together unmarried”. It describes the relationship between a man and a woman who have sexual relations and share the household, even though they are not married.
2. Why is unmarried coexistence such a concern for the Church?
As you prepare for marriage with the help of the priest, you will discuss many topics with him. But the Church is particularly concerned about the coexistence of unmarried people because it is common practice today and because, in the long run, it causes great calamity for families in the Church. It really is, mainly because - even if (civil) society approves of this behavior - living together simply cannot be reconciled with the DIVINE plan for marriage. That will also be the reason why most couples who live together before marriage find life in marriage too difficult to keep going.
The church does not make laws. It only passes on and interprets what GOD has revealed to us through the ages. No one in the church has the right to change what JESUS taught. To do so was to rob people of the saving truths that are forever. Our Christian faith teaches that a sexual relationship only belongs in marriage. Sex outside of marriage is disregard for the sacrament of marriage, disregard for the sanctity of sex, disregard for human dignity.
3. We have good reasons to live together before we get married. Why can't the church accept that?
The Church cares for you as parents care for a son or daughter they love. Knowing that unmarried people living together increases the likelihood of marriage failure, the Church wants to protect you and keep you happy. Incidentally, most couples don't really think about the reasons they are giving to justify their decision.
Just think about it:
■ Argument 1: "It is more convenient for us."
Convenience is a good thing, but it cannot be the basis for decisions that affect your whole life. Marriage life is sometimes uncomfortable and sometimes demanding. Living together for the sake of convenience is poor preparation for such a bond. Research confirms this. Studies show that those who lived together before marriage tend to prefer "variety," "experimentation," and open-ended lifestyles, all of which can lead to marital instability. A study by scientists from the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan found that couples who previously lived together are prone to superficial communication and noncommittal decisions when they are married. Coexistence for convenience does not allow careful reflection and does not allow adequate space for making wise life decisions.
■ Argument 2: “We are trying to save money for the wedding; it is more economical if we live together. "
Sure, you will save the monthly rent, but you are sacrificing something much more precious for it. Being engaged is more than just the time to plan the wedding party. It is a time of deeper discussion and reflection, and it is best done in a light-hearted manner. Couples who already live together do not have the luxury of this light-heartedness. Whatever expense you save, you'll end up paying more. Dr. Joyce Brothers put it aptly in an article on unmarried people living together: "Saving for a short time is much less important than investing in a lifelong relationship."
■ Argument 3: "Because of the high number of divorces, we first want to determine whether things are going well."
Studies consistently show that unmarried couples who live together show significantly less intellectual exchange (“communication”) and satisfaction in general. On the surface, a “trial marriage” seems to make sense in that it allows one to weed out partners who are less suited to one. But it doesn't work that way. Couples who live together before marriage are actually 50% more likely to divorce than those who do not. And over 60% of couples who live together separate without getting married. Living together before marriage is very different from living together in marriage because there is no binding bond to sustain the relationship.
Argument 4: “We have to get to know each other first. Later we will have children. "
Living together without being married is, in fact, the worst way to get to know another person because it short-circuits (i.e. does not allow the time necessary to develop) the real development and maturation of a lasting friendship. Those who lived together before marriage often report exaggerated sexual expectation and less interest in conversation and other modes of communication - and these would ultimately lead to more fulfilling sexual unity in marriage. Traditionally, the process of making friends and courting has led the couples to an ever deeper appreciation for one another through conversation, through sharing ideals and dreams, and through a mutual understanding of the other's values.
■ Argument 5: “The church is old-fashioned and in this respect its thinking is unrealistic. Birth control has overtaken the old rules. "
That is precisely what is not true. In the early Church, cohabitation outside of marriage was common among non-Christians in the Roman Empire, as was artificial contraception. But these practices were destructive to individuals, families and society. The women were treated as freely available objects, toys for sexual pleasure, and were thrown away when passions subsided. The Christian view of marriage and family led to happiness and fulfillment for individuals and families - and to a comprehensive renewal of culture and society. Far from being old-fashioned, the teaching of the Church is revolutionary then as it is now - and effective!
4. Why does the Church interfere in the sex life of couples? It's really just a private matter between us.
Sexuality is very private and personal, but it also has a deep moral and social dimension. It acts as an elementary bond in families, and the family is the building block of society. Right and wrong sexual behavior affects the health and happiness of individuals, families, and the environment. Therefore, sexual behavior has always been the subject of many civil laws. The Church, of course, wants to protect the family and society. But more than that, she wants to protect your relationship with your future husband and with GOD. Sexual intercourse is the act that seals and renews the couple's marriage bond before GOD. Sexual sins are therefore not just sins between a man and a woman, but between the couple and GOD. And that is the responsibility of the church. Sex is not just a private matter. If it is a thing between you and GOD, it is also a thing between you and the church. You must ask yourself, “When do I stop being a Christian? As soon as I close the bedroom door? When does my relationship with GOD stop being important? "
5. But how should what we do with our own body affect our relationship to one another and our spiritual relationship to GOD?
The gift of your body in the sexual act is a deep symbol that you give yourself completely. In the act of love, husband and wife say to each other in "body language" what they said to each other at the altar at their wedding: "I am yours - for the whole of life!" GOD created sexuality for physical pleasure and emotional fulfillment. But it is more than all that. Above all, it is the deepest sign of the perfect gift of oneself that husband and wife promise one another. This mutual gift empowers the couple to be co-creators with GOD by giving life to a new person, a baby. According to GOD'S plan, sexual union has two basic purposes: to strengthen the love of spouses and to share that love with their children.
The only "place" where this complete bestowal of man and woman occurs is in marriage. It is the only “place” where children can be raised with the secure, committed love of their mother and father. Therefore, sexual intimacy only belongs in marriage. Outside of marriage, sex is a lie. The plot says: "I give you my whole self" - but the man and the woman in reality withhold their bond and their fertility and deny their relationship with GOD. Before you hand over your body to another person, you must hand over your whole life, and in return you must receive the whole life of your husband - and that, in turn, can only happen in marriage.
6. Why can't I follow my conscience when I believe that it is okay to live together?
People can, and often do, err in their consciences. Where our self-interests are concerned, our capacity for self-deception is tremendous. Here, as in everything we do, we need an objective norm that tells us whether our conscience is properly formed and able to make correct judgments. Morality is not a matter of opinion or "feeling good". Conscience is the voice of GOD that proclaims the truth deep in our hearts. It is improbable, even impossible, that GOD will contradict His own commandments just for the sake of your convenience or your wishes. You act with a clear conscience when you do what GOD wants. The decision to live together unmarried is always wrong and sinful.
7. Why does the Church claim that living together is a nuisance to others? Many of our family members and friends do the same.
Just because everyone is doing something, it is not right or less serious. A couple's decision to live together is not simply made in isolation. It affects everyone who has a relationship with these two - parents, brothers, sisters, friends, and even other members of the parish. An unmarried couple living together unspokenly communicates that it is not wrong to break GOD'S law. This can be particularly misleading to younger children - nieces, nephews, children of friends - who are easy to impress and whose moral judgment is still immature.
8. How can we best prepare spiritually for our upcoming marriage?
"Wedding is only one day, marriage is a whole life". It can be a long and happy time, but only with good preparation. The best way to prepare for marriage is to live your faith. Catholics do this by faithfully worshiping St. Celebrate mass, go to the sacrament of reconciliation (confession), pray and do works of charity. If you do not regularly attend St. Your pastor will want to see you again. If it has been a long time since your last confession, the priest will help you. Confession is a necessary step if you have already lived together. During the preparation time, you are strongly encouraged to pray as a couple, read the Scriptures, and live according to Christian virtues. For guidance, look to other couples with powerful Christian values.
9. Why should we separate now? That is just an arbitrary regulation of the church.
The Church's teaching on the coexistence of unmarried people is not an "arbitrary" regulation. Living together before marriage is a sin because it violates GOD'S commandments and the law of the church. St. Paul counts this sin - with the technical term "fornication" (whether with or without living together) - among the sins that can exclude someone from heaven (cf. 1 Cor 6: 9). Unmarried people living together goes against the deepest desires of the human heart and greatly increases the likelihood that the marriage will fail.
If you are honest with yourself, any practical consideration will tell you that it is right to give up living together before marriage. It is a decision to turn from sin and follow CHRIST and His teaching. This is always the right decision. But it's a good decision for other reasons too, namely:
• This decision will strengthen your marriage
• it will deepen your friendship
• It will foster a deeper familiarity and community
• It will enhance your problem solving and communication skills
• It will give your marriage a greater chance of success. You may think that you are unique and that your passion for one another will never let up. But that is how most couples think. Nobody goes into marriage and plans its breakup. Still, the majority of couples break up again. So you want to be the "big exception": one of the couples who succeed in marriage after living together happily and fulfilled!
Some couples who live together feel that it is artificial or unimportant to be separated before getting married. Some fear that stopping sexual activity will be detrimental to their relationship. But that is seldom the case. In marriage, too, the sexual relationship must sometimes be neglected for a while because of illness, military service, business travel, or for the spouse's well-being. Not only will the relationship survive this, but it will grow stronger as a result. GOD rewards such sacrifices with grace for a good relationship. If you abstain from intercourse, you will be able to rely on other forms of communication, and this will ultimately allow you to get to know each other in a deeper, more lasting way.
10. What good will it do us if we follow the teaching of the Church?
Catholic teaching on this matter brings abundant blessings to couples who willingly accept it. The good news of JESUS makes you free to enjoy your intimacy even more:
• by appreciating your husband as a person, not an object
• by living in a stable, secure, lasting and believing relationship
• by expressing true, faithful love rather than simply satisfying a physical urge.
Marital love has a special place in GOD'S PLAN. Like everything good, it also demands sacrifice. But these are small compared to the wages. First seek the kingdom of GOD; everything else you want will be given to you - and much more!
■ Questions for reflection and prayer:
1. Why did you, as a married couple, choose to live together before marriage?
2. What did you two learn from living together? What did you learn about yourself as a couple and as individuals?
3. What is the driving force behind your decision to get married now? What changed in your relationship and what moved you to desire that you get married and that your marriage be blessed in the Church?
4. Was there any reluctance or hesitation to get married in the past? If so, what was the reason? Are these problems now completely resolved?
5. Why do you want to get married in the Catholic Church?
6. What does marriage as a sacrament mean to you both?
7thHow do you see your faith and love as an intimate part of your marriage?
8. How do you want to be open to life in your marriage? "
The Pennsylvania bishops add a few more quotes on the subject to their letter:
“In the beginning the Creator created man and woman and said: That is why the man will leave his father and mother and bind himself to his wife, and the two will be one flesh. So you are no longer two, but one. But what GOD has connected, man must not separate. "(Mt 19: 4-6)
“The intimate communion of life and love in marriage, founded by the Creator and protected by its own laws, is established by the marriage covenant, i. H. Founded by an irrevocable personal consent ... GOD himself is the author of marriage. "(2nd Vatican Council, Gaudium etspes, 48)
“The sexuality in which man and woman give each other through the acts that are proper and reserved for the spouses is by no means something purely biological, but concerns the innermost core of the human person as such. It is only performed in a truly human way when it is integrated into that love with which man and woman unconditionally commit themselves to one another until death. Total bodily surrender would be a lie if it were not a sign and fruit of total personal surrender.
“The union of the spouses realizes the double purpose of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. One cannot separate these two meanings or values of marriage without compromising the spiritual life of the couple and jeopardizing the goods of marriage and the future of the family. The conjugal love between man and woman is thus subject to the double requirement of fidelity and fertility ”(Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2363)
“Good preparation for Christian marriage is in itself a journey of faith. It is a special opportunity for betrothed to rediscover and deepen the faith received in baptism and nourished by Christian upbringing. In this way they will recognize and voluntarily accept their calling to follow CHRIST and to serve the kingdom of GOD in a married state. ”(Pope John Paul II, The role of the Christian family in the modern world)
Publisher: FREUNDESKREIS MARIA GORETTI e. V., Engelbertstr. 21, D-81241 Munich
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