I grew up in a religious family where my mother would only marry my father if he converted to Catholicism. She dropped out of college once he converted to marry him and was pregnant with me soon after. I went to Catholic grade school and was raised to have strong values.

Once I went to college, I met a guy from my hometown, and we have been dating long distance for four years now. He is a year older than me, and is in "the real world" with a job while I am finishing up my senior year.

In the past four months my boyfriend's mom was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, his dad passed away from a heart attack a couple weeks after, my grandfather who lived in my house at home passed away of old age, and then I found out that my dad has been cheating on my mother for three years. I have been an emotional wreck but found comfort in God. He is the only thing that kept me going through all of this.

That being said my home is no longer "home" to me. My mother and father are working things out and staying in their marriage. She has known about it this whole time and never told anyone until now. I still cannot wrap my mind around all of that, but it is what it is.

My boyfriend and I have talked about marriage and moving in together. I was always told never to move in with anyone until your married. But looking at my life now and how much has changed, I cannot see being with anyone else for the rest of my life other than my boyfriend now. We have been through so much together, more than I could have ever imagined.

I cannot move back home in a couple months. I can't be home after everything that has happened. Don't get me wrong, I have forgiven my dad and talked to him about everything because I know that's what God wanted me to do and it is the right thing to do, but I don't feel comfortable living there anymore.  

I know my boyfriend and I will be getting married in the near future. I wanted to wait until I have a stable job first. He had also asked me to move in with him after I graduate, which is what I was planning on doing.

I received an e-mail today forwarded from my mom with an attached article on 5 Secular Reasons Not to Live Together Before Marriage. I read the article and some of it was pretty strange, I was expecting to read a lot about pre-marital sex and such, but it contained things like "why would you have a bachelorette and bachelor party" or "why would you ask for wedding gifts if you already live together". It bothered me that this is how she brought up the situation as well. It's hard to listen to this when I sometimes catch myself thinking well she was with my dad all that time even though she knew what was going on...

I guess what I am trying to say is I am a religious person and I want to move in with my boyfriend before we get married. I feel like the relationship my boyfriend and I share is much different than anything I have seen before. We used to hear all the time from our families that we are a strong couple, because of our long distance relationship. I am ready for this and I am ready for marriage, but it may have to wait a year after we move in together. What does the church think of this? Will I not be able to get married in the Catholic church if I do this? Are there consequences?

You are going through a lot of stress.  However, if you and your boyfriend are really serious, I would recommend that you get married (just the two of you, no huge wedding, etc) in a Catholic ceremony.  There are some places (Las Vegas, Maryland, Hawaii) where it takes very little time to qualify for a Catholic wedding, provided that there are no other impediments (You also need to have your own pastors send information to them -- contact the Guardian Angels Cathedral). (I assume your boyfriend is Catholic). The beauty of this solution is that you are showing the world (including your family) that you are willing to forgo a traditional marriage because of your loyalty to the Church; and that you and your boyfriend are committed enough to make a public permanent commitment.  In working with pre-Cana couples, we've met a few who have done just that usually because of insolvable family problems.  
You can also move in with him, just have separate bedrooms and avoid intercourse. That can be pretty hard, especially on your boyfriend.  But again, some couples have made it work.  
Finally, if you are already having sex, just know that most of the time the Church does not insist that you live apart or tell you you can't have a Catholic wedding.  In our marriage preparation program, we council many couples who share the same address.  Although we can't prove they are having sex, we suspect it.  Once in a while when a "cohabiting" couple approaches a pastor to arrange for a Catholic wedding, he may require that they live apart for a while. Most of the time, though, the pastor recognizes reality and if the couple have a stable, viable relationship, the wedding can go on.  
Option number one seems to me to be the very best solution, since a) you and your boyfriend make a genuine public commitment; b) you make a public statement about how you value your Catholicism; and c) your whole future will be based on real sacrificial love, which will really help.
True story:  one couple were committed Catholics, had school issues, had parental disapproval (on her side). They arranged a Catholic wedding in Hawaii, and spent their wedding ceremony money on a great honeymoon.  They came home and about six months later their parents gave them a huge reception.
True story:  another couple, the girl has a Lesbian sister who is in a "marriage".  She wanted her sister to be in the bridal party; the parents refused to have anything to do with the wedding (which she had arranged in her home Catholic church) if the sister was part of the bridal party.  She and her fiance then arranged a quiet wedding in another town with only the maid of honor and the best man in attendance.  
Be assured that the Church will never refuse to marry you if you and your boyfriend live together.  The Church would rather you did not, and there might be some hoops to jump through down the line depending on the rules of your diocese and your pastor, but the Church really can't deny you the sacrament if you qualify.  But pray over it and think about what God is asking of you right now; perhaps your approach to this will be a wonderful blessing for everyone who knows you.  
I'll pray for you as well.  


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Donald Higby


Most any question about Catholic teachings, the structure of the Church, issues related to Catholic teachings on sexuality and marriage; I also know a lot about biblical foundations for Catholic teaching, and apologetics. As a scientist and a deacon, I am conversant with the dialogue between science and religion.


Deacon, 13 years; Religion minor, Catholic University of America. Self study.

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Diaconal Formation, four years (college level courses) Catholic University of America, religion minor, philosophy minor. (AB)

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