Guy meets girl, guy has secrets


I’ve joined the Catholic Answers forum because I have a question that has been worrying me for sometime. I’m posting here because I think it fails the rules of the Family Forum and because I am interested in the theological and moral thinking behind any replies.

I have been a Catholic for a year now and the grace of participation in the life of the Church and confession have helped me to leave my past sins aside though they resurface occasionally.

In the past I have compulsively viewed pornography and it has effected my sexuality and relationships. My past includes other and worse sexual sins. Deo gracias, I am leaving all this behind, doing penance, and finding my sexuality is being healed.

I have recently met a woman who I like and seems to like me. It is early days. But this is my question: Should I tell her about my past sins? And if so should I tell her before it gets serious or before marriage is discussed?

Or should I quietly leave the relationship before it gets going and allow her to find someone who is pure and worthy of her dignity?

I sometimes think that whilst my sexuality might be redeemed that it can only now be through celibacy and penitence, and so think I am called to a monastic vocation.

There are many factors involved. Honesty. Sexual integrity. Hiding. Freedom. Effect on the validity of the marriage. The effect on her and the relationship even if she does forgive me my past.

I would greatly appreciate your insights.

You seem to be confusing a couple of different issues here. If you really think you are called to a monastic life, then by all means pursue that. But not simply because you have been sinful and don’t think you’re worthy of forgiveness.

If you date and discern marriage, at some point your girlfriend may want to ask about your past. I do not think you need to volunteer this sort of information too early, but it’s hard to know exactly when this sort of discussion should be had. Perhaps a trusted confessor, who knows about your specific sins/past, could offer some advice on this.

I think it also depends on the sorts of sexual sins you committed. I think a potential spouse has every right to know about any sex you have had, and your general conduct in past relatsionships. But porn/masturbation is a different issue I think. Certainly, it would seem that most men by the time they have married would have struggled with masturbation and I don’t think a wife need know about this (though she may wish to ask and would deserve the truth). If you have ongoing issues, that could be a different matter though. Again, a trusted confessor could help you work through this.


Your sins are between you and your priest in confession.

Reality TV and America’s obsession with voyeuristic entertainment have seriously skewed people’s sense of privacy, modesty, and decorum. You should NOT spill your guts about your past sins to others, particularly not to ladies you are dating.

If you seriously believe yourself to be unworthy of dating her, you need counseling.


No, there is only the factor of you feeling unworthy, which needs counseling, and you for some reason believing you have to bare all you sins to other people, which is not correct.

You must discuss this at some point. Certainly prior to marriage.

I suffered greatly too, and thought that I was called to celibacy in some way, but realized that it wasn’t an authentic call to the celibate life but that I was running away from my past. I too am very attracted to monasitc spirituality, particularly Cistercian, but please be very suspect of what you think might be a call to monasticism.

This should be worked through with lots of prayer and under the guidance of a spiritual director.


I would agree with you about dating. I see where you are coming from, but at least a fiancè(e) or spouse should get to know things like that about your past.

Um, no, they have no right to know about such things.

That is true in the strict sense. However, they have a right to ask and a perfectly good right not to continue a relationship with somebody unwilling to tell the truth.

It’s good you’re taking steps to turn your life around. I wouldn’t bring this up - at least for now. it’s not like you’re concealing a prior marriage or having fathered a child. Go slowly, work on developing healthy and positive ways of interacting with this woman in a chaste manner. Don’t ruin things.

For what purpose. If it’s a spouse, it could potentially harm the marriage due to jealousy, worry about comparison, etc.

If they are engaged or dicussing it, what is the purpose? Let’s say someone shares their history and it’s too much for the other person. Then what? That information is out there and it can’t be taken back. Who knows who the information will be shared with, even if it’s to “discern”.

At what point should the conversation take place? Early on so it’s likely that it would be shared with even more potential romantic partners? Or closer to engagement or marriage when there has already been a significant investment of time?

Only things like a child, known infertility need to be shared.

I meant more along the lines of MarkThompson’s comment

It’s not that you should reveal your entire life story, just that you shouldn’t hide something like that if they ask

So at what point does someone have a right to ask? Other than the fact that it’s (the US) a free country, I don’t think most people have a right to ask personal questions like that. A priest or doctor are bound by confidentiality. A date isn’t bound and then we have to trust that the word isn’t going to get out because she or he isn’t going to gossip or ask anyone who will listen for “wise counsel.”

We might be thinking about a different stage of the relationship (although I’m trying to consider everything) but I still don’t see it.

Oh no, my comment was referring to engaged/married. It’s what I think is an exception to 1ke’s blanket “don’t tell her”

Okay, but what is the purpose of telling?

I totally agree with Ike. Disclosing past sins goes againt a person’s dignity. No one gets into a relationship with mr/s perfect (who always has been). The issue is trust & respect. If you trust someone it is not because you know everything about them, have had them investigated & have proof of their innocence in everything.

Wrong question, I think…what is the purpose of asking?

I agree, particularly if these sins are behind you now. When I was dating my (now) husband, I told him about a previous marriage (outside the church), for which I had already received a declaration of nullity. This he needed to know. I did not ask for more than basic details about his past. I had a friend who was shocked to learn that we hadn’t traded detailed information about our “sexual histories”. Apparently, that’s the thing to do, but we saw no point in it. Over the course of our relationship, details have occasionally emerged, but only as they related to our present situation.

If you are currently embroiled in some sort of sexual addiction, she has the right to know what she’s getting into, but keep the past in the past. If she asks, you can just be honest, but vague. For example, say "I’ve engaged in behaviors in the past that I’m not proud of. I’d rather not talk about them, but I can assure you that they are behind me and this is who I am now. " Be completely honest and open with her about your present and give her a chance to know who you really are.

You only really have to tell your spouse about it if it becomes a problem during marriage. Like if you struggle with in during marriage you should talk to your wife about it. If you are recovering now you don’t have to bring it up to the person you’re dating.

I have recently met a woman who I like and seems to like me. It is early days. But this is my question: Should I tell her about my past sins? And if so should I tell her before it gets serious or before marriage is discussed?

I sometimes think that whilst my sexuality might be redeemed that it can only now be through celibacy and penitence, and so think I am called to a monastic vocation.

These two statements are at opposite ends of the spectrum…

What you sometimes think may be thought of as recognition that in marriage you are called to celibacy with the exception of your allegiance to one woman. How does that thought set in your mind and how does that thought make you feel?

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