I’m looking for encouragement and/or advice with regards to “starting over” with chastity within the context of an existing dating relationship. I’ll try to keep the background short.
My girlfriend and I are 22 years old and have been dating for nearly three years. We’ve both prayed and worked to discern our vocations and believe we are called to marry each other. However, these last few years have been anything but particularly chaste. Thus far, we’ve been far too intimate physically and not nearly intimate enough emotionally or spiritually. Recently, God has blessed us by leading us to consider this carefully and to agree that we need to change things right away. We have a particularly good opportunity for a fresh start right now because we’re about to start living in the same city again after 10 months of separation.
We would both like, with God’s help, to turn away from our sexual sins and build the kind of foundation we’ll need for a happy and holy marriage. We also know that God can heal us and mend our hearts and souls if we stay close to Him. Even so, I find myself very discouraged about our chances, even though we’re just at the outset. I’m worried that by getting too close physically we’ve prevented ourselves from ever getting close intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually; I’m having a hard time envisioning what our “new” relationship should look like, let alone what we should do to try to build it. I’m also finding it difficult to honestly desire a better relationship (as opposed to simply doing it because I know it’s the right thing to do); it’s tough for me to view this as an opportunity gained (to draw closer to each other in a way that pleases God) instead of an opportunity lost (to be physically intimate after a long time away from each other).
Can anyone offer any perspective on introducing chastity into a relationship that’s sorely lacked it for a long time? I’ve found some helpful advice online about starting over after an unchaste past, but it often feels geared toward singles who want to improve future relationships, rather than couples who want to rebalance existing ones.
Any tips or encouragement would be much appreciated. If nothing else, please pray for us and other couples in our situation. Thanks!