Marriage and Cohabitation

It's no secret that many couples are cohabiting, that is, living together in a sexual relationship without marriage. But, fewer than half of cohabiting unions end in marriage and on average, 46% are more likely to end in divorce.  

Social science studies point out 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.

Many couples mistakenly believe 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, companionship, security, and a desire to move out of their parents house.

The Catholic Church teaches 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.  Total commitment is possible only in marriage.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church  stresses that human love is not compatible with "trial marriages." Rather, “it demands a total and definitive gift of persons to one another."

A cohabiting couple who has chosen to marry, the Catholic Church welcomes your decision to marry. Since cohabitation can have an effect  on the marriage, couples are encouraged to explore with the pastoral minister certain questions about living together, decision to marry in the Catholic Church and marriage.

Pastoral ministers may encourage cohabiting couples without children to separate for a period before marriage as a sign of their free, loving decision to follow the Church's vision of marriage and sexuality. Couples are also encouraged to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

People have a right to marry; therefore, cohabiting couples cannot be denied marriage in the Catholic Church solely because they are cohabiting. However, cohabitation may raise questions, about the couple's freedom to marry, that need to be explored.