Dear Dr J
You have discussed cohabitation in your writings, but not "sleepovers". In our college culture, it is common for dating couples to routinely spend the night at each other's house. In our campus ministry community, I have several friends that say that while they do share a bed they do not have sex.
I want to believe them, however, even without having sex, I do not think that this makes for a healthy relationship. It is also difficult as I live with several girls from my campus ministry that routinely sleepover with their significant other. I am torn between how I should respond to this; I do not feel like it is right but I realize we all have different moral compasses. I was wondering what your take was on this overlooked issue.
Katie in Kentucky
Thanks for your question. I have never heard this particular question. I think your instincts are sound. It is hard to believe that they aren't "having sex" when they are sharing a bed routinely. (In the Catholic tradition, we call this putting oneself in the near occasion of sin. We are responsible to keep ourselves out of occasions of sin!) Also, the evidence about the hormonal bonding suggests that sleeping together, even touching, can trigger some of the hormonal response. That means that your friends are bonding with each other and getting some of the "involuntary chemical commitment" that can cloud a person's judgment about whether the relationship is really right for them.
All in all, I suspect your friends are kidding themselves if they have convinced themselves that this is ok. It would be a better use of their time to spend time "doing stuff" that is not sexual, and that would allow them to get a realistic picture of whether this person is really right for them. If this is the right person for them, then, think about getting married. For most people, getting married right out of college is not too young. If you've really got a good match, you might as well get on with the business of building a life together.