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In developing these suggestions we join with many dioceses in turning to free unions, i.e., those unions without any publicly recognized institutional bond, are an increasing concern.He recognizes that various factors can lead a couple into a free union.Living together in this way involves varying degrees of physical and emotional interaction. It contradicts the meaning of a sexual relationship in marriage as the total gift of oneself in fidelity, exclusivity, and permanency.Over the past twenty-five years cohabitation has become a major social phenomenon affecting the institution of marriage and family life.Copyright 1999 United States Catholic Conference, Inc, Washington, D. Cohabitation, in a commonly understood sense, means living together in a sexual relationship without marriage. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce excerpts in articles or newsletters or for reproduction and free distribution in its entirety.These include difficult economic, cultural or religious situations, extreme ignorance or poverty, and a certain psychological immaturity that makes couples afraid to enter into a permanent union.

It is this group of engaged couples who pose certain unique pastoral challenges.This, in turn, is set within a context of widespread sexual activity outside of marriage.In this section we provide highlights of what social science has discovered about cohabitation in general and with specific reference to cohabiting couples who eventually marry.In this present resource paper the NCCB Committee on Marriage and Family builds upon the foundation provided by This paper is neither an official statement of the Committee on Marriage and Family nor of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It does not offer formal recommendations for action.

It is intended as a resource paper, offering a compilation of resources and a reflection of the present "state of the question" regarding certain issues of cohabitation. Couples may engage in sexual intercourse without living together; other couples may share the same residence but not live in a sexual relationship.