Years ago, I overheard two guys having a conversation about housing options for the summer, at my Catholic college. One of them was considering moving in with a girl for the sake of convenience and finances. He wasn’t dating this girl or anything, but he still had serious reservations.
The guy he was talking to didn’t seem to have the answer for him, about whether or not this living arrangement would be a good idea. But as I have thought about the issue over the years, my conclusion is: probably not.
“Men and Women Shouldn’t Live Together”
I once heard the creator of that ’90s Tim Allen sitcom “Home Improvement” give a talk to new screenwriters, and he said something interesting. In his mind, the whole premise of his show was that men and women should not live together.
If you’ve ever seen this show, you know that despite all the clashes between Tim and his wife, clashes that typically come from the intrinsic differences between men and women in our fallen world, Tim and his wife are always all right in the end.
Because that’s what marriage does—emphasis on the marriage part.
But what about when you’re not married?
There are probably a lot of different situations that would lead a Catholic single person to consider living with someone of the opposite gender before marriage. And while a lot of those reasons probably seem perfectly solid and legitimate, there are also several issues that make it a pretty bad idea.
Chastity is Hard Enough as It Is
Let’s start with the obvious.
If you’re dating someone, you probably have some basic ideas about what is and isn’t conducive to chastity in that relationship.
And while these ideas might vary a little bit from couple to couple, probably one thing that is a consistently going to be a chastity killer would be a lot of alone time in a house together. So moving in with your boyfriend or girlfriend as a “roommate,” however helpful it might be for financial reasons, is typically not a chastity-conducive option.
The Chastity Question in a Platonic Situation
But say you’re not the least bit attracted to this person of the opposite gender that you could move in with. They’ve got a spare bedroom and you need one. Maybe it’s a friend, or just an acquaintance. Should you move in with them?
I’m not going to say that a situation like this has never worked. And maybe I’ve watched too many rom-coms. But all I can imagine is the people eventually hooking up.
Maybe you really are completely sure you’ll never be attracted to this other person. But then, can you really be 100 percent certain that the other person isn’t attracted to you?
Even if you yourself can be sure you’re never going to be tempted to hop into bed with this person, will the living situation end up being a temptation for them?
Like It Or Not, You Have to Think About Scandal
You might say, “None of these issues apply, we know ourselves and there’s no way sharing a roof is going to lead one or both of us into sin.” Great. Except, what does the rest of the world think?
Maybe you say, “Who gives a crap? God knows our hearts and our hearts will be clean.” Cool.
Except, how will you evangelize when your coworkers or your classmates or your random non-Catholic friends hear you mention your opposite gendered roommate and make the assumption that you’re doing what the rest of the world does?
Of course it’s still possible to evangelize, but this living situation could certainly muddy things a bit, maybe even make you look like a hypocrite.
Would You Live with Your Brother or Sister?
I have to think the answer to that question is probably no, if you could avoid it.
I spent 12 years living in the same house as my brother. No offense to my brother at all, but I wouldn’t choose to live with him as an adult if I didn’t have to.
It goes back to the idea that men and women shouldn’t live together. What woman is really thrilled about putting up with things like body odors and stinky socks and a toilet seat left up? What man really wants to have to deal with PMS mood swings, makeup paraphernalia, and need I mention the tampon trash in the bathroom?
In marriage, we deal with these things from our spouse. Sometimes it’s not a big deal, and sometimes the clashes that come from gender differences really suck.
But at the end of the day, in marriage, you can always make up and remember why you love that other person in an act of total self-giving (i.e. sex). When your opposite gendered roommate is not your spouse, you get no such luxury as a faithful Catholic.
Can Living with Someone of the Opposite Gender Ever Work?
Sure. Of course it can.
But can it be absolutely disastrous? To chastity, reputation, or daily sanity? You bet.
No judgment at all to people who have no other option than to move in with someone of the opposite gender. I’m sure they’re doing the best they can.
But if you’ve got any other option whatsoever, take it. There’s no reason to make your life with roommates more difficult than it will already be.