Guidelines for Facilitators - Special Circumstances

Cohabitation: p. 1, p. 2 || Convalidation || Second Marriage

Whether a facilitator decides to consider the topic of cohabitation with a couple is entirely up to them. As the research has developed on this topic, there are valid reasons for either approach. Many feel that since the couple has made the decision to marry, talking about cohabitation is beside the point. Others feel that it will put the engaged couple on the defensive to bring up the topic, just when we are trying to be welcoming to them.

On the other side, there are those who believe the reasons for moving from cohabitation to marriage provide clues to how well they understand the difference of the lifestyle they are now choosing, and that the couple should understand why the church does not condone living together before marriage.

Earlier research indicated that living together before marriage was high-risk behavior for marital success. More recent research has nuanced that approach. The report from the Center for Disease Control that came out in 2010 indicated that couples who lived together, if they had made the decision to marry before moving in together, had no greater probability of divorce than couples who had not lived together before marriage. So it is more important to know when in the progress of the relationship the couple moved in together than whether they moved in together.

Further research indicates the importance of knowing why they made their moving in decision. If they have moved in because they wanted to spend more time together or they found it more convenient, they are likely to have a good relationship outcome in marriage. Moving in to test their relationship is linked to more probematic things, such as relationship insecurity, more physical aggression, and more negative couple communication.

Also, cohabitation varies across people with differing educational and economic backgrounds. Poorer, less well-educated people tend to cohabit without deciding to marry first, and cohabitation is not as likely to lead to marriage.

Cohabitors with children are at greater risk. Those who have cohabited with more than one partner are also at greater risk. Females whose parents were not living together in their childhood are more likely to cohabit in a relationship not necessarily leading to marriage.

These are the most recent findings from the field of social science. Dr. James Healy, psychologist and Catholic family life minister, speaks eloquently to the church's approach in his pamphlet, "Living Together and Christian Commitment":

We in the Catholic Church believe that sexual intimacy finds its true home in marriage: a public, faithful, exclusive commitment to each other, and an equally important lifelong commitment to the children who may be created from this marriage. (p.3)

Cohabitation: p. 1, p. 2 || Convalidation || Second Marriage