How, and why, should I keep abstinence in my relationship?


#1

Hi! :)
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 :)


#2

I am sorry you are going though this. It is very hard when you are young and your boyfriend “expects” certain acts from you. (I met my now husband at 17/18). I am glad you have spoken to him about it and you are both willing to be abstinent. What you need to do is set clear boundaries at the point at which you leads you to fall. If it is long kissing, or cuddling on the couch, or whatever that is where you need to set the boundary. If you fall, you need to reset the boundaries so you prevent it from happening again.

Abstinence is workable in a modern relationship. If this boy loves you he will respect you and try to do this for you. You need to go to confession. You both might fall into sin again, but each time you do, you need to go to confession and ask God for forgiveness. Do not use a fall to bend the rules more than you have. (And yes having your boyfriend finish outside (and inside as you are not married) is a sin).

I understand how hard it is, and how you can feel pressure from the boy (even if he doesn’t mean to) and society. It is very encouraging that he is willing to do this and it is not all on you to remain chaste during this relationship. I was there myself not 2 years ago.


#3

Premarital sex will never be permissible. And letting him masterbate is a sin as well.

I am sorry about what you went through in grade 7. I pray God will help you.

However, sex is intended to be the ultimate expression of love between a man and a woman to potentially create a child (I use the word potential, because there are times when the woman can not get pregnant.) Sex brings 2 souls together and if you are not married this person will always have a piece of your soul and you can never be complete.

I know at 18 you do not want to hear you are young. But trust me, a lot will change in the near future.

Also, it is NEVER your duty to satisfy him. And as sorry as I am that his mother attempted suicide, sexual activity does NOT bring an unmarried man comfort, If anything, I have concerns you might be co-depandant for thinking you could help him by degrading yourself

CM


#4

jilly4ski and cmscms : Thank you so much for replying. It means a lot to me that I got thoughtful answers in response to this.

I just hope all of this isn’t too much to be asking from a boyfriend, you know? :confused: I’ll be honest in that I’m not an expert on men’s sexual health… will I somehow be depriving him if we go through with this and end it? Would he still be able to function normally when the time comes for it to happen rightfully?


#5

Please be careful!

Having unprotected sex, even using the pull out method, can be dangerous, as it increases your chances of getting pregnant or getting an STD. I am glad you are not using contraceptives. The correct way to have sex in the church is to be married. Any other form of sex is not allowed.

however, as other posters have noted, you can go to confession, become clean again, and try not to go down that road again.

In addition, I am concerned about your heart. This man has not offered you marriage - you are not certain he will until he actually walks you down the aisle. So until then, he could walk away with your virginity and a piece of your heart. I do not know that he will, but 18 is kind of young to be with your future spouse already. You both need to go to college, get a degree and a job, and then reconsider. Until then, you can still date.

I am a little concerned that he goes to you for sex when he is feeling stressed or upset about something in his life as well…


#6

Also, check out the “Chastity” link at the top of this page! (between encyclopedia and pilgrimages, at least on my computer)

It appears to be geared towards teenagers / early college students and talks about purity and how to maintain it, how much is too much, etc. I found it helpful!


#7

Never feel like you are depriving a man by denying him sexual satisfaction. It is an opportunity for the two of you to learn self control by setting boundaries and sticking to them. Self control is a virtue that helps one to live a holier life. In fact, by allowing him to have sex with you means you are actually depriving him of the opportunity to learn to love you the way God intended. If you believe that he is the one you will eventually marry then you need to understand what it means to be married. Your desire for him should be above all else his sanctification. By permitting him to sin you are jeopardizing his chances (as well as your own) to obtain heaven. Husband and wives lead each other to heaven, not pull them away. I hope this is helpful and I will pray for the two of you.


#8

Well, I thought based on the topic title that this was going to be one of those sorts of threads where the poster is all up in CAF’s grill about the Church’s sexual teaching, and that the forumgoers were getting called out to defend the Church like a boxing student gets called out onto the court with the words “defend yourself!”

Instead, I read a very tender and painful story about someone trying to reconcile the Church with “real life,” written in a spirit of humility and confusion. Not at all what I was expecting. Very moving.

I’m not very good at advice. Arguments, yes; advice, no. So I will try to reassure you in the way that I can, and leave the more personal touch to others. Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

First, let me affirm that your unconscious instincts here are good. The Church does not say that sex is bad – perish the thought! Sex is one of the Church’s favorite things! – but she does teach that sex can only be practiced in very very limited ways. A lot of people think that the reason she imposes these limits is because the Catholic God is arbitrary, and just wants to make life hard on eighteen-year-olds. Others (who have learned their theology from Monty Python) think the limits are because God says “every sperm is sacred,” and sex outside marriage is somehow a “waste.” Still others think it’s because God hates pleasure, and if something feels good, it must be somehow wrong.

This is all stupid. Actually, the limits are there for your sake. And this makes sense, when you think about it. Jesus Christ doesn’t make rules in order to make life hard on you; He makes rules in order to make your life (and afterlife) better. So what benefit could there possibly be to limiting sex and insisting on abstinence before marriage?

Let’s think about sex for a moment. In fact, let’s think about the body, as a whole. A lot of modern people think that the body isn’t really that important. They think of it as a container for your soul – a vehicle, like a car. The Church disagrees. We believe that the body and the soul are deeply linked, so much so that they are almost indistinguishable. We believe that the body is as much “you” as the soul. We believe that the soul is incomplete without the body, which is why we believe in the resurrection of the body as well as the soul. We believe that the acts of the body, in a certain sense, speak a language, and this language can be as important as the language of words. In short, nobody in the world today thinks the body is more important, more miraculous, than the Church does.

And suddenly it becomes clear why the Church teaches such care about sex. If the body has a language, then what does sexual intercourse say?

It says, I love you. It says, I want to be a part of you. It says, I want to create new life with you. It says, Together, we are responsible for what happens here, because the Two of us have become One Flesh. It says, I give myself completely to you, without reservation, now and for always.

When you get right down to it, sexual intercourse is the body’s way of saying, “I do.” I mean that literally. Sexual intercourse is the physical expression of a wedding vow. It is the means by which we give ourselves away physically to another person, part of that deep intimacy of total gift involving the whole person – spiritual, mental, everything – that we call marriage.

And so of course you feel confused and guilty and fearful. With your body, you have been saying, “I do,” and so has he, but with your voices, with your minds, you’ve held back. You’ve given each other your bodies but not your lives. Hopefully that day will come, and on that day, when you promise before the community to make your lives one forever, then you will find sex to be the most spiritually rewarding thing you’ve ever done with your body. But right now, sex is “out of place,” and the dissonance you feel is going to continue. That’s not so-called “Catholic guilt.” That’s your soul screaming at you to stop, this isn’t right yet, you’re not truly giving yourselves to one another until you are willing to take that public committment to become one forever. Your fear and sadness are warnings. To draw an analogy: having sex before you take wedding vows is as strange as taking your wedding vows but then waiting ten years to have sex. Either way, you’re sort-of-married-but-not-quite. Either way, you’re going against the rules Jesus laid out for your own happiness. And so, either way, you will be miserable.

{CONTINUED}


#9

So, no, you’re not a prude for feeling the way you do. In fact, I don’t know your friends personally, but I do know a ton of statistics. Scientific surveys show that college women claim to be much happier about their sex lives than they are. In fact, almost everyone – not quite everyone, but almost – feels a lot of what you’re feeling. Many of them don’t know why, because they’ve adopted the modern philosophy that says the body isn’t important… and yet they do feel that something is terribly wrong. Some are able to hide it, maybe not even admitting it to themselves, using willpower or substances… but it shows up in the surveys and the studies. The point is, most of the people whom you think can have sex “in the blink of an eye”? They are (according to scientific evidence) as miserable as you are, and probably even worse. You’re normal.

What’s more, you’re normal and Catholic. You have committed a sin, which means you’ve said in your heart that you know better than God does about how to make you happy. You will have to go to confession to get that taken care of. But you are baptized: you have the life of Christ: you are a true Catholic always. Right now, you might not be in a position to participate in the Eucharist (until confession), but you do still believe – that seems clear – and as long as you believe, there’s great hope. You are having some problems, but you have a life preserver that most people your age don’t have. Grab hold and praise God.

Masturbation I won’t go too much into, as it’s sort of “his” issue, and he’s not even Catholic yet, so what does he know about the language of the body? I will say a couple things, though. First, masturbation is a pretty bad thing. It’s incredibly common – I’d estimate 100% of boys have done it at least once – but that doesn’t make it any better. Premarital sex is a misplacement of vows, a total sharing of bodies without a total sharing of lives. But at least in premarital sex there is a sharing going on, a flawed gift of the self but still a gift. Masturbation takes everything good about sex and turns it upside down. Instead of unifying, it isolates. Instead of giving, it takes for oneself. It damages the person who does it, treats the body as a tool instead of a temple, and it can really injure the person’s entire sex life, because he begins to see sex as something he does for his own sake instead of as a gift for the other person’s sake. As a man, I speak from experience. Deep down, even though many don’t consciously realize it, all men know this. It’s not your place to make him stop, but you should encourage it if you can.

And don’t buy that “biological needs” tale. Men invented that story, and I promise you it is only a story. Testes don’t “fill up” with sperm and then “they’ve gotta go somewhere”; the body recycles them after a little while and starts up again. A regular masturbator could easily have an addiction to sexual pleasure (you’d be surprised how easy this is), but that is starkly different from a need.

I hope that answers your doctrinal questions, anyway, and encourages you that, yes, it is healthy in so many ways to wait for marriage. I haven’t even mentioned STD’s! Or the responsibility you could end up sharing for a new life, without a marriage to raise a child in! No, all you need to know in order to embrace abstinence is that the body and the soul are only happy when they speak with one voice. You cannot say “I do” with your body and not with your voice, or you and your bf will be unhappy.

(Note: for further reading, pick up The Theology of the Body for Beginners or, for lighter but skimpier fare, Good News About Sex and Marriage, both by the ever-controversial Chris West.)

On a practical level, it is possible to live chastely before marriage. It is not easy, but I am now in my fourth year of dating my own best friend – we started when I was your age – and, well… it can be done. And, whether you’ve been chaste from the start or are only now finding abstinence, it is a very rewarding path. I hope it will be most rewarding on my wedding night, but I guess we’ll see. :slight_smile:

I hope your boy is as crazy about you as you are about him. If so, you’re in very good shape for the rest of your life.

I really hope I helped a little.

In Christ,
James


#10

P.S. One more thing: YES, he will still be able to function normally.

There is a myth that modern relationships are especially hard because people have to wait so long to get married. A lot of people today think that, in ancient days, everyone got married when they were twelve, so nobody ever had to deal with chastity. This is just false. In ancient Rome, the average age of first marriage varied a little – just like it does today – but it held steady in the long term. For males, that average age was somewhere between 24 and 28. Today? The average age of first marriage is 28. So, throughout history, men have had the same difficulties that they do today. It’s never been easy, but every human civilization has dealt with this. A chaste relationship before marriage is not something that’s become harder in the modern world. Hard, yes; harder than before, no.

If anyone has it harder, it’s actually women. Their average first-marriage age today is, I think, 27, and in the ancient world it swung anywhere between 16 and 22. (With some outliers; Israeli Jews of the first century had some really remarkably low marriage ages for women.) So there’s been a bigger change for them than for men. And yet it’s the men who are complaining that they need sex now.

It’s enough to make you think that men are willing to say anything to justify sex anytime, anywhere. :slight_smile:

So, yes, yes, a thousand times yes, there are absolutely no medical drawbacks to abstinence. None at all. Zilch. (In fact, there’s one big benefit: no risk of STD’s.) So go for it!


#11

Can chastity work in a modern relationship? I’m here to say YES.

My fiance and I have been dating for just over 5 years. Met when we were both 18. We’ve been going these 5 years chastely. We’re both still virgins and will remain so until September when we get married.

Will he still function normally? Of course! Do you sincerely think that the Church would advise us on something that would harm normal body functions? The Church is out there to help not to harm. That’s one positive aspect of NFP also, how much more healthy it is for your body than contraceptives.

I feel saddened by the fact that you felt you were giving him something special because of your intent to marry him. Rather, you should have seen saving yourself for marriage as the ultimate gift. But, that’s past now.

I will say this, that it will be harder to remain chaste when you both aren’t on the same page. With him not being Christian it will be harder for him to understand you. But, if you are committed he will want to remain chaste.

On that note, allowing him to masturbate, or finish outside of you are both sinful.

Using sex to bond while he or you are emotionally down is not a good indication in my mind. During this time of dating you should be finding other non-sexual ways of bonding. In my experience, when sex is out of the question we find other ways of bonding and solidifying our relationship. What will happen if you get married and find the need to avoid to prevent children for a time? How will you bond without sex? Will he want to turn to a vasectomy or demand the use of condoms? Or what happens if something sad happens in his life, how will you both cope? Always have sex? You need to work on your emotional abilities and communication.

I hope this helps a bit and didn’t come across as too harsh. I just feel very strongly about no premarital sex. And I’ve lived it so I don’t see myself as talking the talk but not walking the walk if you get what I’m saying.


#12

Please check out the Chastity link. If you have a chance to see Jason Evert speak in person, please do so, he is life changing. If not, please look for one of his dvds. May God bless you and guide you through this time in your life and always.


#13

I am glad you are seeking help with this issue. Most people would and do simply justify premarital sex away using the same justifications you’ve brought up (biologically necessary for the male, stress relief, etc.) and never see anything wrong with it. The fact that you are even considering this being wrong is in your favor. It will help you overcome it a little easier I think. You are at least a step ahead of where I was, since I was not brought up Catholic, and so I had to learn from scratch the Church teachings on this issue when I had been brought up “naturally” thinking the justifications were just how things were supposed to be.

Chastity is HARD. It will be HARD for you. It was and is extremely difficult for me. Having been in relationships involving sex previous to my conversion (8+ years worth of it too), I know how hard it is to simply quit. You at least are young, and don’t have as many years of sex under your belt like I did. But if I can do it, so can you. :thumbsup:

It is IMO, EXTREMELY important to your spiritual health in this matter that your boyfriend is ABSOLUTELY on the same page. This page isn’t a “well **maybe **we shouldn’t” page, it’s a “we should NOT” page. Having been tempted and giving in before, it will be nearly impossible for you to remain chaste if your boyfriend is not 100% with you on this. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but the odds are not in your favor. I truly believe one of the main reasons I have been successful in my attempt is that my boyfriend is fully in agreement with me. And the longer I go on this path, the easier it gets.

Good luck!!


#14

Please listen to a voice of someone who has been where you are.

Leave your boyfriend. If he truly loved you (by the true meaning of love) he would not have taken your virginity.

Listen to this audiosancto.org/sermon/20090111-Holy-Families-Dont-Just-Happen.html and check out other sermons on the topic. This is solid, sound, Catholic advice that sadly just isn’t being said in the majority of parishes.


#15

Hi dear, you have already received wonderful advice so I wont say much. As a convert with a history of sexual sin and a baby boy to show for it, I seek to help lead others to make chaste decisions as I know firsthand the destruction sexual sin can bring upon one’s life. Just know that I am praying for you and your boyfriend. God loves you no matter what and He certainly is pleased with your efforts to reconcile. :thumbsup:


#16

Thank you everyone, for your responses :slight_smile: They are honestly quite helpful and I feel so much better about going through with this.

I am not going to give up on my boyfriend without giving him a chance to see things differently, and finally understand what the implications of sex really are. That’s why I’m putting my faith into moral education for him first… I really like that Chastity website, in fact. I’m going to refer him to it. I know he cares enough to sit down, read it, give it a chance, even though it might be hard at first. I have no power to change him all by myself; which is why I’m asking for God’s intervention to give him a new perspective.

The difference between him and me is that he didn’t know why premarital sex was a sin, but I did. And I did it anyway. I have gone to confession for this in the past, but of course I am not still without the need to repent. I have hope that he, too, will formally confess someday, when he realizes it for what it was… He has apologized to me, but God is the one who needs the apology, no? I think that he actually does realize somewhere in his heart that it isn’t right… Otherwise, he never would have genuinely agreed to think about abstinence, would he have?

I hope I don’t seem too doom-and-gloom about this because things really have been looking up for us both. The messagae is starting to kick in and truthfully, ever since we stopped using sex for purposes for stress relief (as of about five months ago), we have been so much happier. Sex didn’t stop altogether (which is what prompted me to ask this question), but I am encouraged by all the advice I got here to really and truly say “no” for good. Thank you all for the wonderful input :slight_smile:


#17

Well, you probably don’t want my advice, but if you and him should break off your relationship. Yes, I read that he is the one you want to marry. If both of you are truly ready to get married, do that. But, from what you have written, you do not come across as ready for marriage. So at your age, I would strongly suggest breaking it off. You can always get back together a couple of years down the line. Maintaining a long-term chaste relationship will be very difficult for both of you. Being chaste is very important. It is not worth risking.


#18

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