I think about the future of my relationships, and I'm unsure of what to do

Hello everyone, so this might be a bit of a wall of text, I apologize if that is the case.

I have been addicting to pornography and masturbation for a while now, but I am finally starting to get out of it, and am doing well so far.

But now I have a new concern: my love life in the future. I saw some statistics where 98% of couples or something like that has sex before marriage. I want to avoid having sex before marriage, but not for a reason I’m proud of. Which is not for the faith, but so that my parents would not be disappointed with me.

But I am interested in several women, some of which are not religious, so chances are if I got in a relationship, they would want to have sex. So I am struggling with the urge to do so with my past of pornography, but I don’t because of the guilt I would end up feeling.

Another concern was living together before marriage. One of the most crucial things to find out in a relationship is, can you love and do life together on a daily basis? Well if it’s a sin to live together before marriage, how can I be sure I can do ‘daily’ life with someone? And what if they are unhappy because of this? What if I lose someone special because these things get in the way?

Sorry if this wasn’t very lucidly written, but that’s pretty much what my brain is like at the moment. Any clarity would be appreciated.

As a side note, I am a 17 year old guy, so I am just starting to try and figure all of this stuff out.

Several things came to mind when reading your post.

First, not wanting to disappoint your parents is a legitimate and decent reason for not having sex before marriage. Obviously we would want all of our choices to be born of a passionate love for God. But we are human beings with often very human reasons for doing things, even the right things. Thanks be to God for preserving you from sin, even if it happens to be for human reasons.

Second, it is utterly normal for a 17 year-old guy to have a basic desire to have sex with the women you’re interested in. What would be a problem is if you had no such inclination at all. I love my wife very much, but I assure you that my inclination towards other women is pretty much unchanged from when I was single. The Catholic faith doesn’t ask you to be a eunuch or an angel. The Catholic faith asks you to be holy and in that way fully human. So you find other women attractive—even really attractive, to the point of temptation. So what? Holiness happens when you actively choose to resist that temptation and offer yourself to God. If some girl at your school wants to go on a date, but you think that date will lead to sex, then don’t go on the date. And, yes, it really is that simple. Instead of beating yourself over the head for having a desire for sex with attractive women, focus on using that energy and passion to love our Lord more and more each day. When you date you should be looking for a girl who will help you love our Lord, and if she acts as a stumbling block, then it probably is a bad idea to date her.

Finally, my wife and I didn’t live together until we were married (and we’re pretty young, too, so what we did was and is counter-cultural). The whole point of marriage is that you DON’T know what it is like to live with that other person day-in and day-out for years and years. Even cohabitating couples don’t really know what it’s like, because for them it is often just theatre, two people playing house together without the gritty, beautiful bond of matrimony that sticks two people together for life whether it is easy or not. So cohabitation won’t help that, anyway. You commit yourself to a person for life in marriage, and there will be many days in your married life that you emphatically do not enjoy living with your wife. Sometimes you will most definitely NOT appreciate the daily living with that person. But marriage is marriage and that vocation to love is aided by a lot of grace that helps you every day be a better husband.

Your focus should be on overcoming addiction through a greater love for God. Ask him over and over throughout the day for a deeper love for Him, and that will help translate into a deeper love for those around you, allowing you to treat other women as human beings and not objects.

When your future wife asks you some years into the marriage, “so, how many women did you have sex with before you married me?” what will your answer be? How many women do you intend to make promises to with your body, which your heart and mind does not intend to keep?

If some girl at your school wants to go on a date, but you think that date will lead to sex, then don’t go on the date. And, yes, it really is that simple.

This. The key is to NOT put yourself is a position of temptation to start with. It’s much easier to say no to a situation in which you know you will be tempted than it is to say no to the actual temptation.

You don’t need to live with someone before marriage if you know in your heart that you are committed to the marriage for life and know they are too. You’ll work out any issues. That’s why it’s important to date people with similar values.

I understand your concerns; I think that 17 is a quite young age to be sure that you are not called to marriage; I’m not much older than you (I’m 23) but I’m gonna try to give you some advices that worked for me and my friends: first, break your addiction to pornography. It prevents you to love, not just a woman but to love in general and consuming pornography you get used to use people instead of loving them. When you are tempted to watch a porn movie try to think about those women as persons: they are someone’s sisters and daughters and for someone (for God of course, but for someone else too) they are infinitely valuable. Do you have a sister or a dear female friend? Imagine you sister losing her way, starting to hang out with bad friends and getting caught in pornograpy. How would you want people to treat her? Usually women that start to work in the porn industry are desperate, alone and don’t see a way out. In the moment you will see them as people (with a face, hopes, desires, family) you will not be able to look at porn again. I’m not saying that you are a horrible person for watching porn, I’ve watched it too, you have infinite value and I would love for you to quit porn because porn is a poison that you put in your life. You deserve better. I know that this habit can’t be broken in two days. If you fall again, don’t get discouraged, go to confession, read books about people who succeed, pray (I highly recommend the website ‘the porn effect’ it is really helpful).
About sex and cohabitation and dating: dating without the intention of marriage is like going shopping with no money, it has no purpose. I understand that at 17 years old it is not easy to see yourself married but when you are really in love with someone you think “wow, she/he is so special, kind, fun amazing. I want to be with him/her forever and all I want to do is to make him/her happy”. Maybe if you don’t feel this way it is also because you are not really interested in those girls, maybe you are attracted by them but nothing more. Real love starts with a solid base of friendship, try to be friends with those girls first and try to see their qualities and struggles and see if you are compatible.
Saving sex for marriage is a wonderful help to not let your emotions rule over your minds. Sex bonds two people together and often this bond makes you feel more in love than you are and prevents you too see the red flags that will become huge problems in marriage. Also, sex means something. I know that our culture says that sex means what you want it to mean but it is a lie: sex means ‘I love you. What I am and will be is your and only yours forever’. And outside of marriage this is simply not true. You are saying with your body things that your actions doesen’t want to say.
It’s the same with cohabitation: you start playing marriage without being married. You sleep together, live together, buy furniture. But everything you do is precarious (“we’ll see if it lasts”). It is super hard to break such a relationship even if you realize that is something you don’t want anymore. A broken cohabitation is like a divorce without lawyers.
You know, you don’t need to cohabitate to know how a person is, you just have to really know this persons: is she selfish? Is she able to put the needs of other people in front of hers? Is she kind or not? How she treats her family? If you know those answers you know how your cohabitation will be.
I hope that what I said will be helpful!

Now that I’m a bit older, what I really value is friendships with both men and women. Learn to communicate and enjoy being with other people. It serves you in ever aspect of life and vocation. Even if you are introverted, which it sounds like you may be, I would at least have Christian friendships though most of my Christian friends have friends that they have met through school, sports, etc.

As far as vocation, you would discuss this with a potential spouse, and to get married in the Church a couples counseling or retreat is required to discern. God isn’t going to give you the marriage vocation and then not give you the grace to live the sacrament, though certainly you must be living a life in the Church. Frequent the sacraments, and pray about these fears. God will help you.

One thing that struck me was the “worldliness” of your views on marriage. Marriage is for the good of the couple, and for the raising and education of the couple. Certainly, after marriage you may have to change habits, but you also have someone to talk with about anything, help you get to Mass, remind you to take out the trash, etc.

As far as the the pornography, there are options available. Talking to a priest, someone you trust, etc. can be valuable. There are ways to combat addictions. You will have to find what works for you. I go to confession every two weeks to keep me where I should be. I find accountability helpful with any sort of sinful behavior. Again, pray about what would be best for you. Perhaps it’s a rule about only using the computer around parents, a pornography blocker, watching a movie or reading a book (or the bible) (or exercising) when the temptation arises. Part of confessing a sin is the resolve not to commit the sin again, and taking the practical steps to not sin again. I’ve found it’s unreasonable to expect to do much of anything on my own, but it is reasonable for you to experience temptations to sexual sin.

You are correct in thinking that some women will not want to date a man who will not have sex with them.

Some women won’t want to date a man with a beard, or a guy without tattoos or a man who has a blue collar job. Different strokes for different folks.

There are women who will be relieved and cherish a man who wants to date them without sex. There are women who will find that if they love a man, they are willing to wait or to forgo sex.

There are any number of things that shrink the dating pool for all of us, don’t get caught up thinking you will never find a person to date.

Though many people do become sexually active young, I am now 50 and have been very surprised at how many very normal and wonderful people I have known who did not become sexually active until their late twenties or later. They do exist!

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