“Ask a Priest: Is It OK to Date Someone Who Is Cohabitating?”

Q: I know this woman who does not believe in the sacrament of marriage. Her culture believes that living together is like being married. She has been living with a boyfriend for quite a while. Recently, she has shown a strong interest in me. I am Catholic and recognize a couple as married only if they did it in Church. My question is, if I pursue her and date her would it be considered adultery? I have been avoiding her out of fear of committing adultery, but technically she never got married. So what is the best approach? – J.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Technically, it wouldn’t be adultery if you simply date her. She isn’t married and, at least in theory, is eligible to date.

However, you might ask whether dating her is going to put you in the near occasion of grave sin. A woman who has been living with a man for a while is probably accustomed to and likely expects, shall we say, a certain level of physical intimacy in a relationship. Which in this case would mean fornication, an objectively grave sin.

Beyond that, there is the basic decision of whether you want to get involved with someone who is living with a man. This could lead to a lot of tension, to put it mildly. One wonders what this woman is thinking about, as she lives with one man and sends out signals to another.

You would want to proceed with great caution. Ideally any romantic relationship you are in should have marriage on the horizon, and a big part of marriage involves the spouses helping each other grow in holiness and get to heaven.

You might want to take this question to prayer: Is this a woman who will help you grow in holiness and reach heaven? I hope you decide wisely. 

By the way, the Church respects marriages that are contracted between non-Catholics and non-Christians. There is a natural bond in marriage that needs to be respected, even if, in the case of non-Christians, the bond isn’t sacramental.

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