Cohabitation and Engagement

This week’s guest writer, James Rooney is proof that the Holy Spirit is intimately involved with the inner workings of your life and will do anything, and use anyone to bring you closer to him.  I am so honored that this blog was chosen by God to play a role in building a stronger marriage for James and Alyssa.  Their story is an inspirational example that it is never too late to begin following God’s will in your relationship. James and Alyssa were married November 2013.

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The Holy Spirit has taken me for a spiritual roller coaster ride these last couple months and for that I would like to thank the Holy Ghost and blame Janelle!! J Seriously though, I am so grateful for my sister in Christ having tasked me with the writing of this blog. It has forced me to take a long hard look at my spiritual life and remedy the sinful nature of my relationship. When I was initially asked to write this blog on chastity and engagement I thought Janelle knew my fiancé and I were living together. I proceeded to write a draft of my blog and sent it to her. She informed me she couldn’t post anything condoning cohabitation, which in turn motivated me to contemplate even more about the state in which I was living and the damage I was causing to my relationship by continuing to live contrary to what I believed was right. I figured it would be ok for my fiancé and I to live together so long as we weren’t engaging in sexual activity. Long story short, I called off the engagement and we separated shortly thereafter. The following couple months would be full of heartache and spiritual growth, both for myself and my fiancé Alyssa.

  I think it is important to first understand how the Catholic Church defines cohabitation, which is exactly how it is defined in the dictionary. Cohabitation is living in a sexual relationship with your significant other as if married without legal or religious sanction. I justified living with my fiancé because we were not having sex. However, there are two parts of that definition. Though we weren’t having sex, we were still living ‘as if married.’ I’m not even going to begin making excuses for why Alyssa and I decided to move in together. It was a whole series of events and circumstances that led us to make that decision and I admit it could have been avoided if we had been willing to live with those events and circumstances. Now that hindsight is 20/20, we gave up certain hardships to take on a monumentally more difficult one. Remaining chaste while living under the same roof was far more difficult than I had anticipated.  

Why is it so difficult? Why is remaining chaste so important if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will be marrying this person? If we started fooling around, there is no sense in stopping now right? The damage has been done hasn’t it? And there is no way either one of us is moving out now that we have a place together, which would be ridiculous. Well that’s what I used to think. And with the permission of my ever loving fiancé, she has allowed me certain liberties so that I may share a little about her life as well as my own.

We had both previously been in sexually active relationships throughout our high school careers and college. I had only been with one person ever, in a relationship that spanned the better part of 6 years. I had been raised Catholic and I guess I harbored some good old fashioned Catholic guilt so for the longest time my girlfriend and I refrained from actual intercourse and just did everything else as if that was better in some way. I also convinced myself that it didn’t matter if my girlfriend and I were sexually active because we “KNEW” beyond the shadow of a doubt that we would be married one day. HA! As the years went on our relationship became nothing more than hanging out and fooling around. About a year before our relationship would come to a close, a night of heavy drinking led to the “actual” deed being done. And since the damage had been done, why not just keep doing it? So from that point on our relationship took a nosedive and finally we went our separate ways. I spent that next three years remaining celibate and swore that I would not make the same mistakes in any future relationships.

I felt much guilt and regret over the course of those years. And looking back on it I felt that way because of what I was doing to her, not necessarily myself. I should have been her rock and not taken advantage as I did. You can nit-pick a relationship to death trying to figure out what went wrong, but I promise you that if you are sexually active with your significant other outside of marriage THAT is what’s wrong. If you love someone enough to have sex with him or her, then why aren’t you married? We come up with all sorts of creative and seemingly believable excuses as to why we won’t marry someone, yet we will continue to selfishly take advantage of that person’s body while possessing no respect for our own as well. It is important to understand that when you have sex with someone out of wedlock, you are consummating a marriage that doesn’t exist!! You are telling that person that they can have all of you, except your hand in marriage. When we realize that marriage is far more than a couple signatures on a piece of paper, is when we can truly start to understand why this no having sex before marriage thing is so important.

            My fiancé had also been sexually active in the past and had no real intentions of saving herself until marriage. I remember when we were first talking I had mentioned that I would not be engaging in sexual activity until I was married. She later admitted to not taking my claims seriously and entered into our relationship with expectations of sex before marriage. When she realized I was being serious she was somewhat intrigued as to why I held those beliefs so firmly. I explained to her my past experiences and gave her a brief overview of Catholic theology on the matter and she began to see the parallels between her past relationships and my own. Having come from sexually active relationships, living together was definitely a difficult task and ultimately led to our separation.  

My advice to couples who are cohabiting, whether engaged or not, is to respect each other as children of God. Furthermore, the need to live separately should be seriously discussed and followed through with. If your marriage date is close, maybe someone lives with a friend or family for the time being. If not, someone needs to move out and find a place of their own. The sacrifice may seem extreme but your relationship will benefit from it greatly. Know that marriage is more than the signing of documents and moving into the same building as the other. If you are sexually active with your future spouse, please consider learning more about the Theology of the Body and abstaining till you are both bound in marriage. Understand that marriage is a beautiful way that God channels his grace through two individuals and it is not until then that we can truly be open to life and love. I would ask that you and your significant other pray about your current sexual state and consider a life of loving sacrifice over a life of selfish desires.

As of about two weeks ago Alyssa and I decided to continue with our engagement. We are living separately until the wedding and couldn’t be happier. We have both grown so much in such a short period of time. I realized that the Lord had a plan amidst all the heartache and now I feel we are better because of it. Know that if you claim to love your significant other you will do anything to preserve your relationship. I avoided weighing this blog down with statistics and percentages because I believe that these matters, and whether they are right or wrong, are written on our hearts. Know that if you are living together before marriage the odds of your marriage lasting, or even making it to your wedding day, are not in your favor. Remember, Christ didn’t say it would be easy. He said it would be worth it!!!  

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