“Well I blew $326 on a plane ticket to Michigan that I didn’t need this weekend. What’s new with everybody else?”
At least five or six spoons stopped stirring cream into coffee at Greg’s outburst about his weekend financial loss. It was a beautiful spring Saturday morning, and half a dozen or so single Catholics from my hometown had congregated at a locally owned breakfast spot for our weekly dose of caffeine, fellowship, and Jake’s famous pancakes.
“Gee I’m sorry to hear that Greg,” remarked Susan politely. “Could you tell us what happened?”
Greg didn’t need much prompting to unfold his story.
Some weeks prior, Greg had met a girl on Catholic Match who greatly piqued his interest. She was smart, funny, attractive, had answered the interview questions and 7 faith questions in her CM profile all the right way….and the icing on the cake: she and Greg seemed to hit it off famously. They had enjoyed wonderful phone and email conversations over the past several weeks, and had decided they didn’t want to wait a long time to meet each other in person. They checked their calendars and picked a weekend a few weeks away that was wide open for both of them. Greg then purchased a plane ticket and confirmed their first face-to-face visit.
The next few weeks were even better than the past few weeks of getting to know each other. Great conversations, lots of laughs, so much in common…they could hardly wait for their weekend meeting.
Everything seemed perfect until about four days before Greg was supposed to head to the airport.
During an evening phone conversation, Greg mentioned that he needed to look into hotel options close to the woman’s home. “Do you have any suggestions?” he asked. Her reply caught him completely off guard: “You’re going to stay here at my house – why in the world would you want to get a hotel when I’ve got an extra bedroom? They are so expensive!”
What followed was the first and last argument they had together. Greg respectfully told her that he didn’t think it was prudent for them to stay in the same home, especially since they had never met. She came back with a reality check on the economy, the price of gas and plane tickets, and how paying for hotels on top of everything else was absolutely ridiculous and out of the question. He told her that it’s a lot of temptation for a guy to sleep over at the home of a woman he’s interested in…she told him he’s a prude who needs to wake up in the 21st century. No matter how much they discussed it, they couldn’t find common ground or a compromise.
“So I decided that it was better to eat the $300 or so I spent on the ticket and not get any more involved in what I very well knew was a dead end,” Greg finished.
After a few seconds of shocked silence, what followed was one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had with a group of single folks in a long time. Up to that point, I hadn’t realized how many different opinions Catholic singles have about whether or not it’s okay to spend the night in each other’s homes or apartments.
On the “pro” side, I’ve heard reasons such as:
• We’re not teenagers, we’re adults – so it’s different
• The economy is tough – we simply cannot afford hotels
• I don’t have any friends he or she could stay with, so it has to be at my house
• It’s not like we’re cohabiting or anything – it’s just a night or two at a time
• We’re both conservative, orthodox Catholics – we wouldn’t mess around
• I lock my door when I go to bed and she locks hers – and we don’t share the same bathroom
• Sleeping over is okay as long as there’s a third person there to hold you accountable
• We’ve been sleeping over at each other’s houses since we started our long distance relationship over a year ago – and we’ve never had any problems
• The Catechism and the Bible don’t explicitly condemn sleeping over at each other’s houses in separate rooms – why are you trying to make me more Catholic than the pope?
And the “con” arguments I’ve encountered include:
• Sleeping over is putting yourself in the near occasion of sin
• It causes scandal in your neighborhood and in the Christian community
• I’m a guy and I can tell you – it puts an incredible amount of stress on the guy fighting tempting thoughts and actions
• You might be strong the first couple times, but as you fall in love and become more attached and your guard wears down, it gets harder and harder
• Are you trying to explode an atomic bomb or just set off a Boston-style Independence Day display?
• If someone’s willing to compromise on this, what else are they willing to compromise that I don’t know about yet?
• Proverbs 16:17-18 “The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; he who guards his way preserves his life. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
It’s easy to become indignant, insulted, or become defensive with a topic that hits so close to home for so many single Catholics who are in relationships. It’s a practical topic that can quickly become a point of contention and division between many very good, very well-intentioned, very Christian people.
So what’s the answer to the “is it okay to sleep over” question?
It’s neither my desire nor my place to pontificate “the answer” to this question. Greater, wiser minds than mine should be consulted. All I can offer you is my own experience and my own thoughts on the topic – and give you some food for thought to wrestle with this question yourselves, in your minds and hearts, and perhaps in the CM forums.
Peter and I met on Catholic Match in January 2008. He lived in Pennsylvania, and my home is in South Carolina. I often tease Peter that I really didn’t qualify to be his girlfriend since I lived outside the 60 mile radius he had requested in his CM profile – in fact, I lived almost 10 times that distance away from him. Peter and I have been a plane ride or a very long car trip away from each other ever since we met. I think we both feel like we’ve poured every extra penny into the travel fees that make our long distance relationship possible.
Shortly after we paid our first plane ticket and hotel room bills, Peter shared with me that his goal was for us never to sleep under the same roof until, if it was God’s will, we would be husband and wife. On one level, I was extremely impressed. I’ve met a lot of guys that were willing to live up to (what I thought were) high standards for purity in a relationship, but I had rarely met a guy who had taken my “bar” and raised it much higher. It felt really really good to be cherished and respected by a man who was willing to go to such great lengths to protect and honor me.
I shamefully admit, however, that on another level I was secretly irked. Even when I flew up to Pennsylvania to visit Peter, he would insist on me staying at one of his sisters’ houses while he stayed with his parents, or vice versa. Surely, I thought, it would be okay if we both stayed at his parent’s house, in separate bedrooms and on separate floors, with a bunch of other people in the house! But even under those circumstances, Peter preferred driving me over to a sibling’s home or renting a hotel room.
As our relationship has progressed and our love has matured, I have come to understand how prudent and wise Peter’s behavior has been. As we’ve grown closer over the past year, we have fallen in love and our attraction to each other has escalated, not tempered. Sleeping under the same roof, especially if we were the only ones in the house, would be like dumping a few extra gallons of gasoline on an already raging fire. I am fully and humbly aware that even though I consider myself strong in faith and conviction, I am incredibly “weak” when it comes to my attraction to Peter. I am confident that without having prudent barriers in place, we could easily get burned.
Barriers and high standards have protected and sheltered our relationship in a profound way, but they have also increased our love and respect for each other, and also our freedom to love each other purely. I can honestly share that I’d rather be as poor as a church mouse without spending the night at each other’s houses rather than having a little extra cash for dinner dates and more plane tickets to see each other. It’s a small sacrifice that has reaped enormous benefits in our relationship. Looking back, I believe it’s the #1 decision, besides choosing to put God first, that we’ve made for our relationship.
Over a year ago I began collecting the plastic key cards used to unlock hotel rooms we’ve purchased. Peter scolds me that you’re supposed to turn them in at the front desk the next morning, but I’ve been collecting them anyway. It’s a reminder to me of a sacrifice of love that has opened my eyes to something very beautiful. And one day, sometime in the future, I have this dream of giving Peter a stack of plastic hotel key cards, tied with a ribbon and a little note that just says: “thank you.”
Stephanie Wood is the coordinator of NextWave Faithful, a young adult division of
Family Life Center International
that seeks to motivate, equip, and encourage young adults during
their “transition years” to live faithful lives for Jesus Christ and
His Church. She is the host of “NextWave Live” on the EWTN Global
Catholic Radio Network, and is a frequent speaker and writer on topics
relating to Catholicism and young adult life. Stephanie can be reached