I'm eighteen years old, and a Catholic by upbringing. I am a deeply religious person by choice, but I was not always this way.
Throughout middle school and the first two years of high school, I was not outright immoral, but I was very weak spiritually; I spent years struggling with doctrinal dissent towards the Church, alongside depression, negative influences from friends, and shame from being molested in seventh grade. I do not at all regret my decision to become more devout, because I've been so much more outgoing and healthier overall. God has truly been there for me.
With that in mind, here is my question:
I have been in a dating relationship for about the past eight months now. I'm a senior in high school and about to graduate, ready to move on to college. But even at this point, I feel at a loss about how to handle the issue of sex with my boyfriend, who is also eighteen.
He and I are, first and foremost, best friends. We are like two peas in a pod! :) We are very attached, and I feel such a deep and genuine care for him.
He does not profess to any formal religion, but he is such a prayerful and intellectually curious person like I've never seen in another eighteen-year-old. He is taking that same journey for God that I took, and I am still taking... and I'll never forget the day when he told me that I had inspired him to think more closely Catholicism. He did not make any promises yet, but he told me that he is thinking of joining RCIA and becoming baptised.
Although it might seem premature to some, I have a deep intent to marry him. I have had this prayer in my heart for almost a year... And because of this, I gave him my virginity almost seven months ago.
The first time I we ever had sexual contact.. that had been a particularly tragic weekend, because his mother had attempted suicide only the day before. I did it because I thought that it would comfort him when he was very clearly distraught. Although intercouse was strictly reserved, we had other forms of sex-- but I never felt any less guilty, and I almost always ended up in tears, before him or in private. I just wanted to be a good girlfriend... a "normal" girlfriend, I guess. Other girls my age engage in sex without blinking an eye about it... I felt geeky and "prude" in comparison.
It seems that at first, sex between him and me was used as a means of escaping pain. I was not as interested in the bodily pleasure so much as I was interested in the satisfaction I got from his comfort and trust in me. And, in a way, I felt like my role to him was my chance to redeem myself for what happened in seventh grade... I saw my virginity as something that needed to be sacrificed, however painful the process. I hoped that God might forgive me for having sex with someone I love and trust, rather than someone who would steal it.
There are probably a lot of psychological terms to describe the situation, but the answer I'm looking for is one of a religious nature. Can I even justly consider myself a true Catholic anymore?
I don't wish him to be considered "just another horny teenaged boy" just because he more easily succumbs to the temptation than I guess I do. When I tell him about my desire to be chaste, he doesn't just dismiss me or pretend to acknowledge me... he understands that I'm a religious person, and he knows my history. He takes it to heart and makes the effort to limit it, but he still sees it as a legitimate way to relax and communicate in a loving way.
Although things between my boyfriend and me have definitely improved over the course of several months and we (happily) took on a more mutual approach towards abstinence, I can't seem to shake my lingering traces of guilt about sexual touching-- unfortunately or not, I can't just snap my fingers and have his sexual feelings go away. I even feel guilty about him "finishing." I am steadfastly against contraceptives, but I feel hypocritical for believing so because he has simply finished elsewhere.. is it the same sin?
Will abstinence work in a modern-day relationship, or is premarital sex ever morally permissible? Should I let him masturbate instead? Is it physically and/or spiritually healthier to wait until marriage to have sex, or is it okay to let him fulfill "biological needs" beforehand?
... I'm sorry that this post is so long! If you've gotten to this point, thank you so much for taking the time to read and consider this. I really appreciate the help :)