The Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries said on Tuesday that couples living apart should either stay separate or "test the strength of their relationship" and move into the same house.
Dr Harries was asked whether couples from separate households could see each other, to which she jokingly replied: “I’m clearly going to start a new career here in relationship counselling, so I will tread very carefully as I work through this answer,
“If the two halves of a couple are currently in separate households, ideally they should stay in those households.
“The alternative might be that, for quite a significant period going forwards, they should test the strength of their relationship and decide whether one wishes to be permanently resident in another household.”
She continued: “So perhaps, test really carefully your strength of feeling, stay with the household, either together or apart, but keep it that way while we go forward, because otherwise we will not all be working towards achieving our outcome.”
Premier has been speaking to Christian couples who have made the decision to stay in separate accommodation because they believe they should not live together nor have sex until they are married.
James Doc, who attends a church in South London, is due to be getting married on 2nd May. He told Premier: “My fiancé and I are longing to get married...but the Bible is really clear about sexual purity and Jesus is really clear about fleeing from temptation. Jesus talks about if your eye causes you to sin, cut it off. He talks about not even giving the devil a foothold.
“We're really convinced that cohabiting is a really bad idea at the moment and these are our values. Even in a time like this - when it's hard and all I want to do is being able to see her and the Government right now is saying that I'm not allowed to do that, I'm not allowed to leave my house, I'm stuck in a cave - we're not going to budge. We're not going to move on this because we're convinced about what it means to stay sexually pure and actually not putting in anything that will tempt us to violate that because Christ is worth so much more than that.”
Author Nell Goddard is a Christian in the same position, with her fiancé living just a mile and a half away. She said:“It’s provoked a few interesting discussions as a household about why my fiancé and I have decided to stay apart for the foreseeable future, especially as we’re not just dating but engaged. They were already a little bemused by the fact that we never hang out in my bedroom! I think the Deputy Chief Medical Officer’s suggestion is a reasonable one if you would already be staying over at your partner’s house a few nights a week, but for a Christian it’s just impossible.”
Nell and her partner are planning how to celebrate both their birthdays remotely and also how to make the most of the strange circumstances: “Before we parted on Monday night, we spent some time praying together – asking that God would use this time to surprise and delight us as we get to know each other from a distance.”
Speaking about how Christian couples can keep growing their relationship while apart, co-founder of the Christian dating app SALT, Paul Rider, told Premier: “It's gonna help people to think differently, more creatively about how you build and develop relationships. Where you can previously do things together, now it's a case of having a conversation or talking or maybe even writing to people. Something we did last week on SALT is actually give away loads of postcards to everyone so they can write to people and take the moment to actually put pen to paper, which is a completely different dynamic to sending a WhatsApp or doing a video call."
Giving advice to Christian couples in the same boat, Paul explained: “I think communication is key. Have that conversation around the practicalities of how difficult it is not to see someone and to really engage with the person you're going out with to say 'what are you going to find most difficult?' or 'How can I communicate my care or my affection or my love towards you in different ways?'
“If we can share how we value being encouraged and being built up and communicating and pointing each other back to the Father then actually I think it can be a blessing. It's not to say it's gonna be easier, it's probably gonna be more difficult but, like so many things, it's probably well worth the effort as we step out and try to do something differently."