Can We Spend the Night Together?

vacaybed-4

Question: I know the Church’s views on cohabitation and premarital sex, and I agree with those. But how does the Church feel about spending the night together without having sex? My boyfriend and I are going on a trip in a couple weeks and are planning on staying in the same room. I am comfortable with him, and although I know we won’t be having sex, I am still feeling guilty about sleeping in the same bed as him for a few nights. Is this considered sinning? Should I feel guilty?
Answer: I’m thrilled to hear that you are living the Gospel message in a way that is very counter-cultural. Reserving sex for marriage is a powerful way to celebrate the beauty of our sexuality. You are embracing the belief that to love means to serve a higher purpose in a way that honors God, your relationship, and the beauty of the way God has created us as man and woman. I want to start by applauding your decision and providing you much needed support, as my experience is that friends and even family may not understand your decision. My husband and I chose chastity prior to marriage, even though both of us had previously been sexually active. When one of our mutual friends discovered that we were not sleeping together, he literally fell out of his chair laughing. I hope you have not experienced something similar, but if you have, I want you to know that you will find great blessings in living by your values and spiritual beliefs.

My personal approach tends to take into account each couple’s unique capacity for living out the reality of chastity. Some couples choose not to kiss until their wedding day. Other couples are able to share some appropriate physical intimacy without “falling” into bed together. The most important aspect is communication between the two of you about your expectations.

As with any choice to sacrifice now for the greater good, there are going to be challenges. And, trying to decide how to travel together is one of those challenges. I know many people in the chastity community would tell you not to make the trip. I like to use the analogy: “If you don’t want to go to Neverland, don’t get on the train that goes to Neverland.” It’s one way to avoid the near occasion of sin. Sleeping in the same bed is getting on the train to Neverland — it very easily could lead to having sex. I would advise most couples to avoid overnight visits. Why make it more difficult for both of you?

At the same time, my personal approach tends to take into account each couple’s unique capacity for living out the reality of chastity. Some couples choose not to kiss until their wedding day. Other couples are able to share some appropriate physical intimacy without “falling” into bed together. The most important aspect is communication between the two of you about your expectations. Have you discussed what it is going to be like to be in the same bed? Why are you choosing to be in this situation? How you are going to handle the temptations? What are the consequences if you don’t live up to your standards? If you both have the maturity and strength of conviction to be together in the same room, then it may not be a problem for you. Only the two of you can make that assessment.

I also want to highlight your question regarding feeling guilty. I don’t think guilt is a great motivator, so I won’t be the one telling you that you should feel guilty. Rather, I’d like to turn the mirror around and provide you with an interior reflection: What exactly do you feel guilty about? Are you worried that other people will judge you or think you are having sex? Or, do you think you and your boyfriend are likely to be sexually active in every way except having intercourse? If so, you may be playing with the “loophole” of chastity. Sometimes on the journey of living our faith we find ourselves with one foot on the path and one foot off. Experiencing everything short of intercourse is still falling short of a lifestyle of chastity. If you are acting on your desires for physical intimacy, even in a limited or controlled way, you are not able to make a complete offering of your sexuality to God. If so, this may be one source of your guilty feelings.

There is a difference between guilt and godly sorrow. Guilt is focused on the self, and it brings with it thoughts that keep us separated from God. This is why I don’t think guilt is always from God. Godly sorrow is focused on our relationship with God, and within the pain of our heart is the acknowledgement that we need God in every aspect of our life. Godly sorrow is open to grace and to seeing the impact of our actions. Godly sorrow calls us to reach out to God and ask Him to come closer, to send the power of His Holy Spirit. Guilt many times leads to despair, anxiety and more rebellion. Examine your heart and decide where on the continuum you fall.

I hope you find this helpful, and both you and your boyfriend take the time to pray, listen, and discern about the decision of whether to be together in the same room.

Michele Fleming

Michele Fleming

Michele Fleming, M.A., is a counselor, national speaker, and writer on Christian relationships for CatholicSingles.com. Michele has a master's in clinical psychology with an emphasis in the integration of Christian theology. She is currently completing her Ph.D. and her research is focused on dating and relationships. She is a member of the Christian Association for the Psychological Sciences and the American Psychological Association. Her website is www.michelefleming.org.