I will start by saying I don't like the phrase living "like brother and sister". It is simply a euphemism for a relationship between a man and a woman who are living under the same roof but who would not dream of sexual relations because it would be as wrong as if a brother and sister were to engage in this. There is no grey area, there isn't even black and white, it is simply the absence of sex; end of. Brothers and sisters fight and are competitive. Brothers and sisters do not usually have the bond that brings two souls together in such circumstances. When two souls come together under that roof, they are usually in trouble, something has broken down, something is already very wrong, they come together for mutual support, they are trying to get their broken lives back on track.
They can't. Only God can do that. Unless, they give their lives totally to God, they will fail. God must come first.
I want to tell you a story about two such broken souls: the dear departed 'husband number 1' and myself.
I'd reached rock bottom; I'd strained my intellect as far as I could possibly take it, I was 'experimenting' with life, and not particularly enjoying any of my escapades. I had no faith but in the blackness and emptyness I called out to a God I didn't really believe in and said, you are the only plausible reality left, help me, this life I'm living is hell and I need a guide. I need help.
The next day I went to my voluntary job at a centre for souls whose rock-bottom involved drugs, criminal convictions and abuse. The man with whom I was to spend the next 17 years of my life bounded up to me in a far too cheery manner and introduced himself, but I knew, I just knew, that this other volunteer was going to be my special friend along the way. So I ignored him. But he wouldn't give up, and simply for his persistence, I agreed to a date: something public, a football match (away at Port Vale to watch his team not mine), on the terraces with a pie and a pint in a plastic beaker (those were the days...). I was tired of sex, I didn't want this to start in that way.
We were soon seeing quite a bit of each other and it became obvious to me that he too was broken, but desperately wanted someone he could trust. We'd walk round Manchester and he'd point out in a very matter of fact way where incidents in his life happened; the school where he was abused, the street where he watched helpless and stoned as his best friend died, the public toilets where he'd go when he'd got his heroin, the places he'd slept rough, the clubs where he'd got a reputation as a 'speed king'. I listened, no judgement, no amazement, he wanted someone to listen, it was the least I could do.
Then one day, when he'd walked me back to my one bed flat in Salford, he pulled a bag of needles and vials out of his coat pocket, and said "here, look after these for me." I nearly cried when he'd gone. Nobody had ever trusted me like that before. I knew what he had meant. He was giving up his drugs, he was going to clean up. And he did.
He was married, but his wife had (understandably) run off with someone else. He was a Catholic but not at that time going to Church, I was nominally also one. We moved in together. We needed the support and friendship of each other. We were both learning how to live again. We discussed religion and within a few weeks he'd decided that as we were both Catholics we'd better start living like we were. We went to Mass, but not Communion at Salford Cathedral. It was a start.
We slowly got oursleves into our local parish. He had to show me how to go to Confession, I hadn't a clue. They heard him sing and we were in the choir before we knew what was happening. We were sharing my one bed flat in Salford, we were sharing the bed in the flat, there was no other room.
We never made a conscious decision to "live like brother and sister". We both wanted to live. We both knew we couldn't do so without God. We were normal, healthy, libido laden creatures, but certainly once we were members of the choir, we simply couldn't entertain the hypocrisy of having sexual relations. Besides it was simply more fun, more life affirming not to.
And God's grace penetrated our corrupted sinful lives to enable us to live together in such a state for 8 years (till we got news that his wife had died and we were free to marry).
It is possible. It is only possible when you know you have no alternative.
Terracing at Port Vale