A recent study entitled, The Pre-Engagement Cohabitation Effect, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, affirms previous findings that married couples who live together before making a commitment to one another demonstrate lower marital satisfaction and greater potential for divorce.
The results are consistent with the sociological research referenced by Pennsylvania’s bishops in their 1999 statement, “Living Together: Questions and Answers Regarding Cohabitation and the Church’s Moral Teaching.”
Addressed to engaged couples, the bishops answer common objections to the Church’s opposition to living together before marriage and emphasize their genuine concern for couples and the success of their marriages.
“You want to be one of the exceptional couples who not only succeed in marriage, but also live together in happiness and fulfillment,” the bishops write.
Of course, the bishops’ objections to living together outside of marriage transcend sociological studies. As teachers of the faith, their concern is primarily a moral and spiritual one. “Our Christian faith,” the bishops write, “teaches that a sexual relationship belongs only in marriage. Sex outside of marriage shows disrespect for the sacrament of marriage, the sacredness of sex, and human dignity.”
The bishops’ statement is still relevant 10 years later as more than 70 percent of couples choose to live together before marriage. Many couples, even those cohabiting without intent to marry, are still ambivalent about its rectitude. Read the full text of the Pennsylvania bishops’ “Living Together.”