Chastity after Separation

I have a question about adult struggles with chastity, for anybody who feels like answering, but especially for people who are in my situation. In a nutshell:

  1. I married a Catholic woman who abandoned me after less than a year without any stated warning, and without ever telling me she had a major problem with me or the relationship, let alone trying to save the marriage. Without going into unnecessary detail, there were definitely some emotional/psychological issues present that I perceived in her, but failed to understand for what they really were before the wedding took place.
  2. I took my own vows very seriously, and as a devout Catholic, “divorce” was never even in my vocabulary. So, for almost two years, I gave her every opportunity to have a change of heart and reconcile, praying intensely every day. When it became abundantly clear that no reconciliation was to be, at the advising of my pastor, I then obtained a civil divorce in order to be able to begin the tribunal process.
  3. My case is now in the tribunal, two-and-a-half years after it all started.

Given my faith, even entertaining another relationship before a decree of nullity from the tribunal (God willing) is not possible, and the process could take at least another year. So, I have been living a single life of prayer and penance these past couple years, which has produced tremendous spiritual fruit, and I will continue to do so for the duration.

This leads to my question. Although a sexual relationship with a woman is currently so far out of the question as to not even be a temptation for me, I have struggled periodically with personal chastity since this started. To enjoy regular sexual intercourse and to know how wonderful it feels, and then to suddenly have it taken away, can be a lot more difficult than simply remaining chaste while still a virgin. Although it’s gotten better as I’ve gotten used to my current state in life, I do get caught off guard from time to time and succumb to the temptation to masturbate. I don’t look at things that are visually stimulating, I just start to get mental visions of sex that are very hard to get rid of without giving into them. Whenever this happens, I go to confession within 24 hours and then I’m ok for quite a while until I get weak again.

I’ve talked to confessors about it, but I’m just wondering - for others actually in my situation, how do you remain pure and chaste? Other than regular prayer and fasting and doing one’s best to avoid near occasions of sin, what other ways are there to subdue this natural urge?

Well buddy it’s not a popular way, but it works. I recommend having an ugly picture within reaching distance whenever you get that urge. Look at it and the urge is gone. Done deal.

Just some picture of someone who was born without lips or has some other deformity. Sorry if that offends anyone out there with that problem. I mean for me it was always that lady who lost her face in that chimp attack a while back. I also have a starving child. And a couple of others. I mean you just aren’t in any kind of mood after that.



um…pease, no :frowning:
This is not the worst thing I’ve read today, but it’s up there…

Due to my own circumstances, I am also practicing chastity for some time now. When I feel any sexual urges, I try to pray. Also, having a crucifix close by helps. Just look at Jesus on the Cross & that may help you.

I have been doing well …but sometimes my dreams betray me.

God Bless you during this time.

That is a new one, but an excellent one.

I see the other person in their old age, with grey hair and wrinkled face like I remember my grandmother. And that is the way it will be for all women before they die. It is a real turn off yet at the same time it makes me pray for them.

The biggest sexual organ in the body is the brain.

Two and a half years with the tribunal?

This might be exactly what the Pope may have something to say about in his statement on annulment coming out on Sept 8…good luck!

First of all, I’m so sorry for your sufferings. I’ll keep you and your ex-wife in my prayers.

My ex and I separated nine years ago, and I’ve been working on chastity ever since. I understand the struggle as well as the value of it.

Physical activity has helped me a ton. When I start to feel tempted, I change my location, try to find something physical to do. Talk a walk, pull some weeds, mop the floors, go for a dive (maybe to the adoration chapel).

God bless you and keep you strong!

No, no - 2.5 years since she left. The civil divorce was finalized a few months ago, and it’s only been in the tribunal since then. The process could take anywhere from 8-16 months total.

Thank you all for your words of advice and encouragement. Pray for me, as I pray for you.

Sorry about that. Well the alternate one is similar to what Fred suggests a few posts down. But for a different reason. A picture of your mother might work. I mean it’s not shocking like the other one, but it does reset the priorities. I’m just not sure about how other people would read that so I don’t usually suggest it first off. That and the fact that I don’t have a picture of my mother anyway. Well never mind.

A final option is a picture of Mary. Something like that to hit the kill switch. I mean some people cope with praying, but I know me. I know I’m not going to be praying in that moment. But I do know that those pictures exist. They’re within arm’s reach even.



Still way too long.

I don’t know what too long or too short is when it comes to this. Do I wish this could have been overwith by now, or better yet, could have been avoided entirely? Sure. But when dealing with something as sacred as a supposedly permanent vow to God and a spouse, I’d rather have properly done than quick. If there’s a way for the process to be done just as thoroughly but in a shorter amount of time, then I’m all for it.

It will be interesting to see what the “streamlining” directives coming out tomorrow entail. I just hope it doesn’t bring us back to the pre-1980s days of annulments being handed out for any reason whatsoever.

We all really need to be praying for the integrity of marriage, not only in our country, but in our very Church.

To pray for the gift of a deeper love for Jesus Christ to me is the most powerful weapon against sin no matter the type. To actually feel, and understand His love for us, and what He went through to prove it. It is even possible to weep when we are caught by the strong influence of sensuality, feeling remorse, or helplessness. Jesus will come to our help. Also every time we fail, become reconciled with Him as soon as possible. Like St. Paul who said “the things I do, are not the things I want to do, and the things I want to do are the things I don’t do, who will help me, Jesus Christ, my redeemer” The late St Padre Pio stated that the concupisence of the flesh always haunted him. To resist is meritorious. One of the saints, maybe ST. Margaret of Cartona, was married, but found her husband gored to death, and decomposed, due to a boar hog on a hunting trip. When she saw the scene, it was the occasion of her conversion. (to the best of my aged memory), she realized her priorities in this life, and how short it is.

I’ve been separated for seven years and divorced for two. A similar problem still persists. I agree with what you are saying is the nature of the problem. I didn’t know that filing for annulment would even possibly allow me to remarry, as I have OCD (the obsessions/fears associated with anxieties such as when my children got hurt; but the diagnosis is part of why I’ve waited so long, as I don’t expect to be allowed to remarry.) I don’t presently have the masturbation problem, although impure thoughts, especially at night for long periods of time are a definite problem. I can understand perfectly how you would have the problem; as St. Paul says,“It’s better to marry than burn” for people who can’t “contain”, but st. Paul overlooks the case where someone marries a spouse who uses them sexually and denies sexuality during marriage and eventually ends up divorcing them. Far worse to marry and burn twice as hard. I find the occasional comment about God’s grace being enough difficult to understand for a person who was weak enough to be unable to “contain” so as to need to marry in the first place. eg: That such a person after divorce is meant to suddenly have the graces to avoid fornication or lapses in chastity when they didn’t have it before marriage. Nor is it God who puts such a person to the test, but the spouse whom divorces them.

I too, have definite memories of sexual relations with my-ex wife come back to mind, unfortunately mixed with whatever beautiful person I’ve come across recently. Usually late at night when I’m tired. Regular prayer is nearly useless in defending against such thoughts at night, although I do find that praying for whomever the temptation fixates on gives me a measure of peace over time and reduces and nearly stops the temptation toward that person. eg: looking out for someone’s good (altruistically) aids in changing the mind from a selfish desire to be held.

Most confessors I’ve talked to either say,“do something else when the temptation strikes.” or something along the lines of “smile” God wants you to be happy.

I try to get library books or clean fantasy (sometimes difficult to find), which I read during the times when I am most troubled. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to judge a book by it’s cover.

I think having a photo of people in need of prayer, or who are “turn offs”, as other poster’s mentioned is a good idea. The proverbial cold shower is almost worthless for me but many anti-depressant medications, such as SSRI’s (Prozac, or Setraline,etc.) have a relieving effect that can reduce the strength of erections; though most doctors are loathe to prescribe them if you tell them why you want them other than being depressed. The bias that strong sexual urges are a good thing is far too prevalent in our medical/freudian communities. Remedies of the urban legend type, such as salt peter, are both hard to get, dangerous and generally worthless. I would caution to avoid even bothering with anything not prescribed by a doctor.

Also, a man’s genitals are designed in such a way that erections are easier to create than stop; any type of constriction or pressures tends to make the outer blood vessels collapse and that makes the draining of blood out if the genitals slow. So any kind of restriction or pressure merely adds to the length of an erection. Wearing looser underwear is recommended. Going pee before going to sleep is also recommended, even if you don’t think you have to.

Rich foods, a lot of food, and little physical activity can add complications to remaining pure. Also if one has an obsessive mind it can make it really hard. Hard work, or exercise can dispel the sexual urge, and a control of diet, reducing energy foods. A strong spiritual determination is needed ( spiritual warrior), avoid loneliness as much as possible, make social contacts. Distract the mind by developing new interests. Seek Christ and His strength. You are at war, and you can not fight it alone, especially in our day and time with so many temptations in our society. I’l pray for you, and you pray for yourself.

Thank you, ynotzap. I do appreciate being directed to the saints, and I ask for their intercession regularly. Spiritual battle for sure. I’ve taken to praying my daily rosary on the “Warrior’s Rosary” available through EWTN - even something so seemingly trivial helps put the mind in the right place. Whenever I fall, I don’t rest until I’ve been to confession, or know exactly when the next opportunity is. I can’t stand to be in a state of mortal sin at all.

Huiou Theou, I’ll pray for you. In my case, what I’m talking about is definitely not a problem that requires medication, just a natural concupiscent urge that’s very strong at times. The difficulty I usually have is separating the urge (i.e. just suddenly finding myself with an intense flashback of my wife and I having sex) from failing to flee it once I’m fully aware of what’s happening. It’s a very blurry line sometimes. I appreciate your practical advice on not being constricted as well - I wear boxers or boxer briefs during the day, so it’s not too bad of an issue. I always go to bed nude, so it’s even less of an issue then, because erections are allowed unlimited space under the covers while I sleep.


Unfortunately, heavy lifting and work did nothing for me in the past. I gave up on a gym after 6 months. My muscles bulged, but that didn’t help one bit with the drive. Medication and distraction are the only things that generally reduce the drive. Although your advice is similar to what doctors suggested to me in the past so that it might work for others.

Generally, however, my condition is affected by excesses of omega-6 in the diet causing depression. Many so called health foods, especially those with canola oil, are a real problem for me. If I wasn’t allergic to fish, that would have been the normal solution. But as I am allergic to fish, I found that trail mixes with lots of nuts were beneficial; particularly walnuts. Omega-3’s oils help with the depression issues and OCD without increasing sexual drive.

I think you have hit the nail on the head, though, when talking about social issues. Lonliness is a prime problem for me. You are absolutely right about social contacts. Unfortunately, I live in a place that has few people with similar interests to mine and which is geographically isolated. (On top of living in a place with the dubious distinction of being the least churched state in the union.) However, if I move away from the place I am (which is fairly isolated), I will loose access to my kids. Spending time with my kids is probably the most effective way of avoiding OCD thoughts about my ex-wife, but of course the divorce limits that to every other week; so it’s not a practical solution.

I have visited other places with people, for a few months, and in general my depression lifts when I have social contact. But life is seldom fair; my kids live where they live.
Peace to you.

I can identify with that. I don’t have the masturbation problem, but my memories are so strong that even without doing anything physical, I can loose my continence. I don’t mind the occasion “wet” dream, but its unfortunate that I generally wake up first and struggle consciously with something that I really can’t stop; especially when my mind wanders into that “blurry” line as you call it. I’m afraid my memory is extremely vivid and I am generally lethargic for the first 15 minutes after waking up.

I appreciate your practical advice on not being constricted as well - I wear boxers or boxer briefs during the day, so it’s not too bad of an issue. I always go to bed nude, so it’s even less of an issue then, because erections are allowed unlimited space under the covers while I sleep.

Hmmm… I wouldn’t recommend sleeping nude. Psychologically, you are far more likely to remember thoughts when you are in a similar situation physically. Sights, smells, and bodily dress, all contribute factors which can remind you of times or places when similar sights, smells, or clothing were encountered. Generally speaking, most people get nude just before having sexual intercourse. So, I suspect that continuing to sleep nude to bed is actually helping you remember other times when you got nude. Wearing your looser boxers to bed might actually help reduce instances of remembering sexual relations with your ex-wife. Of course, it’s up to you… :twocents:

Aromas are one of the stronger reminders of places and situations, so that changing the odor of your room to a smell that was never involved with your wife; or better, a smell which is tied to another memory that is very strong can be very effective in interfering with memory recall in idle moments. A simple change might be the shampoo you use, to a different brand that smells completely different than anything you or your ex-wife ever used; but a noticeable smell.

Another thing that can help some people is folding your hands and placing them on your stomach. That stimulates the basal ganglion nerves, and tends to reduce all kinds of appetites sexual and otherwise. Folding your arms across your chest or hugging a pillow is generally a mistake, although I am not sure why.

Hugs during the day when awake/from other people is generally helpful. Especially if you have any kids.


I understand where you’re coming from, but I’ve slept nude since a very young age for comfort and freedom of movement in bed, not because of her or because of sex. It just makes for better quality sleep than in situations when modesty dictates that I wear something. I live in a different place now, with different sights and smells, etc., so none of it has any direct connections to her. The thoughts come and go at any random time of day, and aren’t necessarily linked with bedtime or with what I’m wearing or not wearing.

Even when I sleep, I usually wear the brown scapular (so I guess I technically do have something on when I go to bed ;)). When I’ve given in to temptation, it’s generally happened in the shower when the scapular comes off, or in bed when I’ve awakened in a semi-conscious state on the verge of a wet dream. In the latter case, even if I had been wearing any clothes, I almost certainly would have taken them off in the heat of the moment. Keep in mind, this only actually happens from time to time, like I stated originally - not regularly and predictably.

But this is just me. For people who associate sleeping nude directly with sex, then I agree, it’s not wise to do it because you would be knowingly putting yourself in a near occasion of sin.

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