Cohabitation vs. Chastity

Housing is expensive. Can a thrifty engaged couple live chastely under the same roof?

My fiancée and I are getting married in just over a year. We have both just graduated from college and are moving to another town for new jobs. Because we have little money, we are considering moving in together to save some up. We are committed to chastity, but we’re still unsure if this is the right thing to do.

Let’s cut to the chase: This is a very bad idea. It is commendable that you have the intention of remaining chaste before marriage; however, the intention alone is not nearly enough to produce a successful result. The key to avoid succumbing to temptation is to heed the age-old advice of the Church: Steer clear of the near occasion of sin. And if living together isn’t as near as you can get, we’re not sure what would be.

When a couple has fallen head over heels for each other and intends to pledge the covenant of marriage to one another, it is perfectly normal for their desire to be together in the most intimately self-giving way to intensify as they await the big day. So it is crucial that they not add to the pressure by creating a situation for themselves where all they are relying on is their own sheer force of will to maintain self-control.

Since we are all sinners, we are all afflicted with good old concupiscence; that is, the inclination of the flesh to sin. Fortunately, because of Christ’s victory over sin and death, his grace is available to us to strengthen us in the face of temptation. This assumes, though, that we are also using prudential judgment to avoid circumstances where we are likely to fall.

Let’s be realistic. Can we really expect a young couple in love, eagerly anticipating their big event, to resist giving in to passion for nearly 400 consecutive nights in the same apartment, accountable to no one but themselves? This brings to mind the wisdom of the practice of St. Francis and St. Clare, very close friends in Christ who never permitted themselves to be alone with each other; a third party was always present. Here we have the good example of two of history’s holiest saints who recognized that the path to holiness is clearest when purity thrives and even the slightest question of impropriety cannot be raised.

And for that matter, think of the message you would be sending to the world by living together. Wouldn’t a more powerful witness be to live apart?

Certainly, on the level of finances, there may be an advantage to living together, but this is small potatoes when compared to the spiritual danger that results. We speak this from experience. The two of us were in this exact situation: penniless and in a new city when we were engaged. We bit the bullet and rented two separate apartments, each with roommates. Roommates are a huge help on two counts. First, the arrangement helps financially; more important, it helps with chastity. Frankly, it is easier to live out chastity when other people are around — a lot.

The McDonalds are family-life directors for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.