Two weeks ago, we started a discussion on what it means to evangelize your wedding guests by choosing to wait until after the wedding to live together. The first post in this series described what that kind of evangelization actually looks like, alongside tips for engaging your friends and family in productive conversations about cohabitation. We're concluding these posts today with points to consider in your own relationship and in preparation for the everyday of uniting your life, your habits, and your belongings with someone else's.
Chastity is creative.
Whether a couple is practicing chastity or not, the implication with living together is that they are having sex. For the couple who is having sex, the emotional and physical bond it creates can make it harder to see the relationship with clear eyes. “Whenever a person is sexually involved with another person, neurochemical changes occur in both their brains that encourage limbic, emotional bonding...Two people may decide to have sex ‘just for the fun of it,’ yet something is occurring on another level they might not have decided on at all: sex is enhancing an emotional bond between them whether they want it or not.” For the couple who is abstaining from sex, there's not really a way to convince people outside the relationship that they are living together, but not sleeping together, creating an occasion for gossip and scandal.
Chastity, which differs from abstinence in part because it doesn’t end in marriage, is creative. It demands radical sacrifice and bears a life more fully and freely lived, and it challenges and encourages you as a couple to express your love in ways beyond the physical.
How to practice for married life, without moving in together
Take the matter of how to practically prepare for married life, for instance. While some put forth that moving in together is a way to “test run” your potential marriage and determine whether you’re compatible in your living habits, I’d argue there are plenty of creative alternatives to practice for your future roommate status, including cooking, completing wedding projects and DIYs, and building furniture or making improvements to your future home together. Activities like these offer a glimpse of how your future spouse deals with mental or physical challenges, differences of opinion, and the tension between collaborating or pursuing tasks independently. Chances are, they'll also hold up a mirror to how you handle these same concerns.
What’s more, working on projects and small daily tasks together during a time when you are proximately preparing for marriage takes the “test” aspect out of “test run.” Although discernment doesn’t necessarily end at engagement, the two of you have made a commitment to each other. What that looks like, practically speaking, is a level of respect and permanence that wasn’t there before. The “test” or “trial” mentality tends to cultivate a sense of waiting for the other person to make a mistake or to cast doubt on your certainty, rather than call to mind the strengths of the other and encourage honest discussion of areas in which the both of you can call each other on.
If you’re reading this and you are living with your fiance, believe that the Father knows your heart and the intentions behind that choice. He loves you so tenderly, desiring only your best good in a specific, personal way. It’s not too late to change your living arrangements before your wedding or to make the choice to abstain from sex until you’re married. It’s a bold, hard, and possibly inconvenient choice, but one that will strengthen your marriage before it starts by refining your ability to lay your desires down for the sake of the other. Bear in mind, as well, that some dioceses require couples to live apart for a certain period before the wedding as a part of their marriage preparation.
No matter what their living situation and what path they’ve been on, every couple’s path to the altar is a constant purification, constant fire. Whatever yours, know you don’t walk it alone. There is sweetness in the Cross’s heaviness, because on the other side lies immeasurable rejoicing. Living out our identity in Christ and our sexuality as they are meant to be lived makes us free. And freedom is for love.
We're eager to continue this conversation. Is there anything we've left out, or anything you'd like to add to the matters of chastity and marriage prep discussed here? What has your experience been of preparing for married life in the everyday?