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Anonymous Arianna wrote:

Hi, guys —

My boyfriend and I have been dating for a while. We are a year and a half off from being old enough to marry but it's becoming hard to stay chaste with each other because of our love for one another and our desire to begin our lives together.

  • Would it be against Church teaching to say our vows to each other and unofficially marry one another?

That way if we did have sex, it would be in marriage and it wouldn't be sinful.

If we did so, we would stay faithful recognizing the Church's rules for marriage and keeping them as any normal married couple would.


  { Since keeping pure so hard, can we say our vows unofficially until we get married? }

Mike replied:

Dear Arianna,

Based on the question you asked, I am concerned that you have an incorrect, secular understanding of marriage.

When a man and a woman make life-long vows in front of witnesses, it involves not two parties but three parties:

  • the single man
  • the single woman, and
  • God, giving them the sacramental bonding grace that only the Lord can provide

If you said your vows privately to each other and unofficially married one another, you would not be married, even if you thought you were married.

Interestingly enough, this is one instant where the state would agree with the Church!

Making your martial vows in an unofficial, private way, is like driving a car without having first taken driver education classes and being certified by the state to drive.

You said:
That way if we did have sex, it would be in marriage and wouldn't be sinful.

Yes, it would sinful. Concupiscence or a desire for the flesh, according to the Catechism, is a life-time struggle that we all have to endure, whether we are married, or not.

As my mother drilled into me, Christian marriage and having children is a lifetime commitment. The Church wants to encourage Christian marriage and family life but in a responsible manner (with a level head on both spouses) as to the joys, sufferings, and glories of the married life that awaits them.

No matter how long you have been dating, if you are not even old enough to marry, I would suggest that you continue to develop your friendships.

That's my two cents.

My colleagues may have additional advice.


Fr. Jonathan replied:


I admire your attitude toward this situation so much! Here you are so much in love and wanting to act upon your natural instincts but you also have respect for the teachings of the Church at the same time. Your sacrifice in God's name is something to admire.

Find someone in the Church you feel comfortable speaking with about these things.

  • Is there a youth minister or pastoral associate in your parish?

I know it is hard but people who wait until they are the right age to marry and have sexual relations have a much better chance to stay together after marriage then those that give in.

If he is the right man for you, he will respect you and your faith.

Fr. Jonathan

Paul replied:

Dear Arianna,

God is calling you to selfless sacrifice. Yes, it can be very difficult to remain chaste while being attracted to one you love. However, real love does what is right, not what feels good, and premarital sex is a matter of serious sin.

Marriage is not simply a personal relationship but it has an important public dimension too.
The family is the building block of society hence private vows can never be marriage.

The Church has good reasons for having a minimum age for marriage. So for now, chastity is demanded; which includes doing nothing that would:

  • arouse either of you, or
  • place you in a situation that is very tempting.

There are good websites on what is needed for singles living the chaste life. is one of them and don't forget to pray and regularly receive the sacraments.



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