“Ask a Priest: Should I live with my boyfriend if I sleep on the couch?”

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Q: I live with my boyfriend. I know having sex before marriage is wrong, and I definitely have done my fair share of sinning. The guilt is eating at me, and I just feel as though God wants more from me. I want to be a better follower of Christ. My question is, if I sleep on the couch, and my boyfriend and I make sure to do nothing that stirs lust in each other, is it a sin to live with him? My parents went through a five-year divorce and it was very toxic. I’m confused where to turn. I love my boyfriend, and he has done more for me than anyone in the world. But I want to make sure God is happy with my decisions too. -C.R.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is good to hear that you want to make sure that God is happy with your decisions. You are a beloved daughter to him, and he only wants the best for you.

Part of any plan for your happiness includes living in accord with God’s commands. He has a purpose in mind when he gives us the gift of sexuality. For most people, that means using this gift only within the bonds of holy matrimony. You already recognize that having sex before marriage is not pleasing to God. It is good that you now follow through on that awareness and try to commit to the perfect practice of chastity.

Sleeping on the couch shows that you are moving in the right direction. But you need to consider putting more distance between you and your boyfriend.

Continuing to live in the same quarters — no matter how much you resolve to live chastely — is problematic for two key reasons. One, the close proximity to your boyfriend leaves you in the near occasion of grave sin. That is, the opportunity to sin again is very easy. You are there, he is there. You remain a temptation for each other.

The second problem is scandal. You are an unmarried couple living together. Your family knows that. Perhaps your neighbors and friends and co-workers know it. Your example might be even more scandalous if you are perceived as someone with religious sensibilities who is trying to live her Christian faith.

That your parents have gone through a divorce must be very painful for you. Surely you don’t ever want to face that same kind of trauma in a possible future marriage. One thing that increases your chances for a happy marriage would be for you and future spouse to help each other grow in holiness. That includes, but isn’t limited to, helping each other live chastely. (For more reading, see here.)

That means you and your boyfriend should think about separate living quarters. And don’t let finances be the guiding principle here. The salvation of your souls and the success of a possible future marriage are not worth jeopardizing in order to save money on rent. Where there is a will there is a way.

Commit yourselves to a life of holiness, of helping each other to grow in closeness to Christ. Maintain a prayer life and cultivate your devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She will help you. And count on my prayers that you make the right decision. God bless.

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