To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
BY TOM & CAROLINE MCDONALD
We are troubled by
our daughter’s plans to purchase a new home with her fiancé and move in with
him several months prior to their wedding. They say the arrangement makes
sense, since they are taking up jobs in this new city before the wedding. They
assure us they will remain chaste, staying in separate rooms until they are
married. What can we say to discourage their willful entry into the near
occasion of sin?
couples who might normally be opposed to living together before marriage make
an exception for themselves during the engagement period. These couples make
the common mistake of thinking that they have already made a commitment to each
other. This may come off as harsh to engaged couples in love, but the fact is
that they have only expressed an intention
to make a permanent commitment in the near future. There is a world of
difference. So they should continue to live as a couple that may, even probably
will, make a commitment — not as one that already has.
It is critical that
both the man and the woman maintain the freedom to end the engagement if they
discern that getting married is not what God is calling them to at that time.
If the marriage preparation process is done well, some couples will, upon
reflection, opt out — and that’s a good thing. The trouble with living together
is that it inhibits a person from making that decision to opt out. This only
gets messier if the couple has actually purchased a house together, even if
only one of them is living in it.
By making such a huge
financial commitment together, one that is not easily undone, the one who is
having second thoughts may very well feel forced to suppress those feelings.
After all, they already feel boxed in by the house. Any kind of financial
entanglements (such as shared accounts) entered into prior to the wedding carry
this risk, but none so dramatically as a house. The couple should do nothing
before getting married that will create a feeling of coercion.
Aside from, and more
important than, the financial complications, living together as an engaged
couple carries with it the likelihood of emotional and sexual complications and
sin. The couple may have every intention to remain chaste, but we all know the
old saying about good intentions. The key to remaining chaste is to not get the
passions tied up in a fight with the mind that the mind can’t win. Just like in
sports, the home team always has an advantage. A man and woman in love, living
together, with no accountability to anyone — well, that’s just playing on
temptation’s home turf. In other words, not only are they not avoiding the near
occasion of sin, they’re inviting it in for coffee and dessert. It is foolhardy
and naïve for a couple to think they can remain chaste under such conditions.
What options can you
offer? Help them find a couple of willing friends or relatives who can house
them in their new city. Help defray the cost of renting a modest place for your
daughter until after the wedding. We even know of a convent that housed a young
woman until her wedding.
Above all, communicate
that you will neither approve of nor support their decision to move in together
before the wedding. You might be surprised what a difference you can make just
by taking such a strong stand.
McDonalds are family-life coordinators for the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama.