The high price of not putting out.

Dear Anthony,

I’ve had it with men!  Once again, I have been rejected by a guy because I would not have sex with him, and made it clear (after his many attempts) that I’m not that kind of girl and it’s not going to happen until I’m married.  It never fails.  Things are going great and then the guy breaks up with me using any excuse, but I know it’s because I’m not “putting out”.  And these are nice, Catholic guys.  I am so crushed right now.  I can’t help thinking I’m doomed to a life of loneliness because I won’t have sex until I’m married.  But I DON’T want to be alone!  Maybe I should just give in since even the great guys are expecting it.  I’m so depressed.  Why do Catholic guys expect sex from a Catholic girl?  I just don’t understand.

It always deeply saddens me when a woman writes to me about this exact scenario.  Unfortunately, I hear this very same thing all time, and have for years.  So let me first say that I am sincerely sorry for what you are going through, and all women like you go through this kind of rejection (and God knows there are many).

I believe that there are many good, Catholic men out there who are authentically good men and would make good husbands and fathers, but because they have allowed themselves to adopt certain modern ideas and practices about approaching women, they are ultimately too toxic to be capable of marital love.

There is much about today’s society and its obsession with sex that bombards men involuntarily and affects men negatively without them realizing it. Have men really become so intoxicated with this culturally pro-sex lifestyle that they cannot see the value and beauty of a woman who is clearly a good catch for them?  Are they really too sex-driven to be willing to endure a time of chastity in courtship with the woman he will spend the rest of his life loving in every way (including physically) within marriage?

Perhaps the answer is yes, they are too sexually intoxicated.  And like a drunk who denies they have a problem with alcohol, a sexually intoxicated Catholic man will never admit that they have been influenced by this substance which affects his judgment when it comes to love and marriage.  We cannot discount the power of intoxication on anyone, including genuinely good people; nor can we discount the power of the culture to intoxicate a person ever so subtly and without resistance.

I would like to believe that however powerful the culture is to intoxicate for the worst, the exposure to purity and beauty in a good woman is that much more powerful to wake a man up from his blindness and see just how wrong he is about how he treats a woman and approaches sex.  No, scratch that.  I DO believe that this kind of good woman is more powerful than the power the culture holds over a man.

So why are so many good women being rejected by men who should be thanking God for sending such a woman into his life?  That I cannot answer.  I could offer my opinion and some theories, but I don’t have a clear answer.  Maybe the men aren’t as close to Christ and the Sacraments (sources of the only power to combat such evil) as they should be.  Perhaps they are too far invested in the lifestyle of having sex or living together prior to marriage.  Perhaps they really don’t want to be married.  Who knows?

Too many good women are paying the high price of remaining faithful to their belief that sex is for after marriage.  And too many of these women are in pain because they are made to feel like they are somehow idiots for taking that belief so seriously.  And too many of these women are beating themselves up trying to figure out what else could be wrong with them that caused the man to break up with her, not willing to believe he was so shallow to do it just because she wouldn’t put out.

I can’t sugar coat this one, ladies.  You do pay a high price, in that you don’t have someone to share your life with when you want that so very much.  But you can’t ever forget (please, don’t ever forget) that you also paid a high price to Christ for standing your ground, and that price is deep union with the greatest love of your love, Jesus Himself, and the eternal happiness you will possess as a result.

I suggest you hold your head high and continue being the beautiful woman you are for yourself and for the sake of Christ.  Don’t allow these men to take away who you are.  Keep becoming more and more beautiful, and live as if it’s them who are missing out.  You always have your union with your ultimate love, Jesus Christ.  That is no pious sentiment.  That is real and true.  And it’s better than anything.  Pray for these men.  They need it.

But also stay open and hopeful. There are lots of single men out there who share your commitment to chastity, or who will respect and admire you.

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Sex fogs the mind.

Love is in the will.

When a man and a woman get married, they pledge their love to each other with the words “I do.” That “I do” is a consent of the will. Our will is that aspect of us that decides and acts.

The will differs from feelings and emotions. Your will is controllable. Feelings and emotions are not. Therefore, what the couple is saying at the altar on their wedding day (or what they should understand that they are saying) is that they will to love that person, despite any feelings and emotions that might be in conflict.

Love is a decision. Love is also a feeling, and very emotional. The act of loving is hopefully accompanied by feelings of love, but the feelings aren’t necessary for action. Before you get married, you have to come to terms with the “I do” of the ceremony. Being in love doesn’t mean those feelings will always be there to help you with the commitment to love.

This is why having sex prior to marriage can be a very dangerous enterprise. Sex fogs the mind. The pleasure people experience when they are engaging in sexual intimacy at any level has a natural effect that turns off the ability of the will. Sex creates a fog the mind is no longer able to navigate through, nor have a clear focus for making good judgments and right decisions.

The safe place for sex is within marriage. A married couple is free to express themselves sexually within all the rights that come with marriage. For those who are not married, the sex drive is alive and well, and must be dealt with. Many have given in completely to the modern acceptance of pre-marital sex without responsibility.

However, I don’t believe people have full knowledge of all that surrounds this acceptance. I think they have natural physical attractions and a healthy, normal sex drive, and they simply want to respond to it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with what they experience inside. It’s how they act that matters.

That leads us back to the will. All feelings and emotions surrounding the sex drive have no power to act. Only the mind can do that. Emotions certainly work very hard to convince the mind, but they can’t force you to act.

When there is a general acceptance that certain physical actions are okay, the mind is sufficiently deceived into doing some things that appear to be harmless. Those things fall into the realm of petting, embracing, and kissing. Tenderness during the dating process is wonderful and important. You can touch and embrace and kiss without being excessive or prolonging. But start French kissing and you will see what can happen.

Single people have the ability to combat this. It takes strengthening the will. A strong will is not easily distracted by sexual feelings. Faith commitments lie in the will. If you profess to believe in God, to love Jesus Christ, and want to do His will, you must conform your will to His Will. We say “Thy Will be done” in the Our Father prayer, yet we fail to strengthen our own will. It takes a lot of practice, and it takes prayer to build up the will.

And the love that is true and that lasts is found in the will. Are you able to love someone with all your will? Does the person you’re dating prove his attraction to you by having control of his or her will?

Love is not just a feeling. Love lasts when it is an act of the will. The feelings that are associated with love are natural, normal, and necessary. They have their place. But they cannot be put in charge. They cannot be permitted to rule. Only your mind is capable of rational, prudent, and wise decision making.

Sex is beautiful in its proper place and time. Use your time dating and in courtship to focus on each other as a person, building friendship, preparing for the responsibilities of committed love, and enjoying each other chastely.

Should I conquer my pornography habit before thinking about marriage?

Dear Anthony,

I’m struggling with a continuing problem of looking at pornography. I’ve managed to stay away from it in the past month, and I pray about this problem and go to Confession frequently. But I’m beginning to wonder if I’m really ready for marriage right now. Do you think I should hold off trying to meet anyone until I have this under control?

I’m sorry to hear of the struggles you are having. But I do want to commend you for recognizing your issues and desiring to work on them. You have every reason to be hopeful about overcoming these issues and living an authentic chaste life. It’s wonderful that you are frequenting the Sacraments to be reconciled with God and to receive grace. God’s grace is the most important thing that will help you order your life again. It’s also important that you strengthen your will and resolve not to partake in pornography any longer by actually resisting temptation (by God’s grace) and not doing it.

However, I do hope you are getting some kind of help from a qualified person who works with sexual addiction. We must never forget that God’s grace acts in accordance with developed human virtue (also known as “natural virtues”). “Grace builds on nature” is what the Catholic Church teaches. Pope Pius XII spoke very specifically about this and pointed out that the grace of God needs a place to settle, and is operative based on the human virtue of a person. This is what it means that grace “builds” on nature. If a person is in the habit of doing less virtuous things (or vice), the grace available at Confession or at Mass will not be as operative and powerful as it could be if a person has or is working at acquiring those virtues that are available to all persons naturally in human nature.

It is a very human thing to be kind, respectful, prudent, loyal, modest, or thankful, etc. These are natural, and actually to be expected of human persons. With God’s grace, a person is then able to become supernatural in their life. This is the universal call to becoming a saint. As we are fully human in our nature and developing the human virtues, God’s grace helps us to become “superhuman” (i.e., living in sanctifying grace) and acquire, sustain, and grow in supernatural virtues. We can become heroic in virtue, and should never settle on just being a good person. We are not called to be merely “good people”. We are called to be “heroic”. And we cannot be heroic without the grace of God, which is the very life of God in us.

You are in a situation where you need to be heroic. You are doing the right things when it comes to grace. I just want to make sure you understand that you need to be doing the right things when it comes to practicing virtue. We overcome our vices by practicing virtue. You have been tainted and wounded by your indulgence in pornography, and not just in the obvious ways. This is where a professional can really help you. And also you should try to avoid being on the computer or watching television during times when you are isolated. Make a point to do more reading, or praying, or hobbies of some kind. It’s good to have alone time, but hours on the computer all by yourself can be dangerous and not a wise use of the God-given gift of time. I often encourage single people not to live alone, either, and to get a good roommate who shares your faith and morals. It’s a good way to stay engaged with reality. So is spending more time with friends. Our same-sex friends who are strong in faith are great sources of inspiration for each other. It’s important to have those kinds of friends. The more isolated you are, the harder it is going to be to overcome this addiction. I would also encourage you to give someone accountability to your computer. In other words, give them complete access to your computer to check up on you. No passwords, nothing private. Make yourself accountable to this person. This is another act of virtue and will help you psychologically as you work at this problem.

Jesus provided the Sacraments and sent the Holy Spirit so that He might live HIS life through us. The more we are disposed to live His life in us, the greater His presence will be, and thus the greater power of God we will have to affect the lives of others.

I think all of us have encountered people whom we know go to Mass every day and frequent Confession, yet are (shall we say) not very good examples of Jesus Christ in their families or in the world. From my experience, this is not because they choose to be a bad example, but rather it is because they don’t have very good character to begin with. In other words, they lack human virtues for grace to build on, nor are they working at acquiring them.

I’m sure you are a person who possesses many human virtues, which is why you are responding to God’s grace as the Holy Spirit convicts you of your disorderly behavior. I said all this just in case you, like many people, have not given much thought to this connection between the human virtues and the grace of God. Hopefully, you will take a closer look at yourself in the way you live as an everyday person, and your own character. If anything is lacking and needs work, you need to address those things as well as frequent the Sacraments. They are necessary in conjunction with each other, not one despite the other.

It is so interesting that there is a certain type of grace that works outside of us called “actual grace”, which primarily works “on” us to wake us up, get our attention, lead us somewhere. These are the graces of God because He is always interested in our salvation and keeps after us. But the grace that is God’s very life in us and working through us, known as “sanctifying grace”, is not something that happens despite us, nor remains despite our actions. This grace is an intimacy with God by invitation. God wants to dwell inside us and live through us. He wants to affect other persons and lead them to Him through us. Most of all, He wants to have a deep and loving relationship with us personally. Human virtue is the key to just how intimate a relationship we will have with God.

Yes, we sin every day, but it is our character (human virtue) that gives grace the opportunity to work on us and in us, and help us to grow, and be a powerful instrument of God. Grace builds on nature.

Now to answer your question. Yes, I do think it would be wise to refrain from dating for the time being. You probably are not capable of bringing to a relationship what you need to bring at this time. Focus on healing for a while. You should concentrate fully on developing good habits, developing human virtue, and strengthening your relationship with God. You don’t want to bring any sexual disorder into your relationships or marriage that is not totally identified and under control. No one is saying you need to be perfect, or totally cured, or incapable of sinning in these areas again. But you do need to have a stronger will to combat any temptation, and have this under control. This will allow you to be at peace as you work at developing a relationship toward marriage, and able to speak about it with the other person. Once you are to the point where any temptation related to this problem is much easier to resist, then you will be ready to move forward.

Keep doing what you are doing, but please make sure you get some help, too. It will make a world of difference in your efforts to be healed completely and be the person God wants you to be.

How may I express intimacy in a chaste manner while dating?

Dear Anthony,

I saw one of your Road to Cana segments that talks about romance, friendship, and intimacy as part of dating. Can you expand on what is appropriate in a dating relationship for encouraging romance, affection, and intimacy in a chaste and holy manner, especially for those in their 40s? I haven’t been able to find any literature on this subject.

The same rules pretty much apply to older singles that apply to younger ones. Dating is a process, and within the process are expectations. The first expectation is that both persons are positively open to finding their future spouse and they are spending time with each other specifically because they want to determine if the other might be that person for their future marriage. The second expectation is that both persons are serious about staying close to God and having a chaste dating experience. That means both persons are interested in making sure the relationship develops without having sexually related things happen that are reserved only for marriage. What are those things? Obviously, intercourse is the big one. But also any physical actions that would stimulate or cause arousal. For example, kissing on the lips for a few seconds can be a nice sign of affection and does not typically stimulate or arouse. But a “French kiss” (a kiss with the tongue) or prolonged kissing on the lips along with pressing the other against you will naturally stimulate and arouse.

So the rule of thumb is to avoid anything physical that can stimulate and arouse you or the other person to desire something more sexually. You don’t want to put each other into an occasion of sin, and you want to respect each other. However, as fallen human nature will have it, people fail in this area and they either try to get the other to do more than they should, or both concede to do more. Scrupulosity would cause one or both persons to see these failures as a sign that the other person is no good for them and to end the relationship. Or one of the persons might see the other’s desire for them sexually as a sign that this person is no good for them because of their sexual interest in them outside of marriage. It’s good to not be too hard on each other. It’s a challenging age we live in, so we should be quicker to give people the benefit of the doubt and not quick to make them feel bad. Just something to think about.

The heroic goal, however, that all good people of faith should strive for is that they never give up the gift they have to give their spouse on their wedding night, which is their body, given to the other in sexual intimacy that bonds the two in marriage and is open to children. For older single persons who might not be able to have children, this purpose is still the same. Sexual union is meant to bond the two in mutual love and to be open to life. That openness to life might not come from natural children, but their love will desire to reach out to the children of others and touch their lives.

You asked about romance, friendship, and intimacy. All of these things can be expressed chastely before marriage. And what we are really saying is that to be chaste is to not allow those things to happen that pertain to the bodies of each other that only a husband and wife have the “rights” to give each other in marriage. In marriage, a woman gives one man “rights” to her body for a lifetime, and the man does the same for that one woman. It is an exchange of rights to their bodies for those purposes in marriage.

Romance and friendship build intimacy. They can also build sexual desire. Once sexual desire is aroused, that is when new things have to be addressed, including preserving chastity and determining marriage. Romancing during dating is simply the process of making the other feel special and uniquely loved. Some people overdo it with what romance is and what they expect romance to be during the dating process. It does not have to be expensive dates and unusual or exotic places to spend time, or love songs or poems written, etc. But whatever it is that can be done to make the other person feel special or make them smile is romance. Nothing wrong with any of that in dating.

Building the friendship is much more important than romance. To marry someone you can count on, feel secure about and with, whom you can trust, and whom you just can’t imagine spending your life without is a precious gift. Friends do still hurt each other, we must not forget. But friends are always “there” for you. They can be counted on. They do not come and go based on moods or feelings. They can be trusted to be your friend, even when you might not be that good of a friend. When you marry someone, you almost want it to be more important to hear “I trust you” than “I love you”. Anyone can just say “I love you”, but it’s hard to say “I trust you”. And if you do, you better mean it, and the other person better step up to being trustworthy.

This is why I strongly believe that a man and a woman cannot be “close friends” without there being romantic developments. Friendship that grows leads to intimacy. You would be hard-pressed to find a woman who is married or serious with a man who will be comfortable with her fiance or husband having a close friend of the opposite sex. Friendship is powerful, and it is so special. Men need other close male friends, and women need other close female friends. Those friendships have an intimacy that is important for their well-being. Same-sex friendships are critical. But opposite-sex friendships have to be very careful.

So what I really want to advise you here about friendship during the dating process is 1) encourage each other to have same-sex friends and spend time with them, and 2) be very careful about how you both handle opposite-sex friends. So many terrible things happen to ruin good relationships based on these two things alone. Having same-sex friends is so important, even in marriage. A man needs to have his time out with other male friends and so does a woman need her time with her girl friends. It makes the marriage much healthier. Sometimes you see a person give up their friends because they want to spend ALL their time with the person they are dating. That is not good, nor healthy, and it is a sign that there might be other problems. And sometimes a person gets jealous of a friend that the person they are dating has. For example, a woman who gets defensive or insecure about a woman her boyfriend is very close to and the way they interact. That boyfriend would do well to understand he has to be mindful of how his opposite-sex friendships can affect a dating relationship. It’s never good or healthy to feel threatened by the relationship of your fiance or spouse with a person of the opposite sex. But it is also dangerous to get “too close” to someone of the opposite sex when you are serious with someone else, or engaged, or married.

What people need to realize is that “intimacy” does not mean “sex” or intercourse. Physical, genital expression is a kind of intimacy that is reserved for a man and a woman who are married. It is a fulfillment of something begun in their relationship that is now able to be fully expressed in their marriage. But it is one kind of intimacy. There are other kinds of intimacy. Romance and friendship help develop intimacy. Intimacy affects the whole person. It is emotional, psychological, physiological, and spiritual. People who are dating have to develop intimacy. But they must never allow their intimacy to get expressed sexually. There can be signs of affection, but they cannot go too far, for the intimacy that is reserved for a man and a woman in marriage is too sacred to be abused. The dating process is time of mystery that builds up toward a great unveiling. Marriage is a lifetime of unveiling.

You also want to be careful about your dating time going on too long. For older singles, there should not be the need of as much time dating as younger people might have to do. Most older people know who they are, what they have, and what they want. They should have a maturity level that can allow for a reasonable amount of dating before entering exclusivity (courtship), and then shortly after that, engagement to be married. If you are able to see each other for several days at a time at least a couple of times per month, you should both know if you want to be exclusive within three months or so. After another three months or so of exclusivity, which is a time period used to determine a reason why you both should NOT get married, there should be engagement. Then, of course, marriage should take place six months or so after that. This timeline depends on spending your time together (and apart) wisely.

What is a “wise” use of this time of dating and courtship? Getting to know each other, spending time with each other in person and with each other’s family and friends, asking as many questions as necessary, and discovering love. There will be a point when you both discover that you really can’t see living your lives without the other. That is the time to get engaged to be married.

Be careful of men that prolong dating and will not go exclusive. You need to see a man making “commitment moves” all along the way. These commitment moves will be a sign to you that this man is serious about the process of finding a wife. If he is already not interested in seeing other women, then, in a way, you are already exclusive. But the courtship period should be accepted by both “officially”. You will want to hear him say that he is not open to any other women during this time of discovering a reason why you should not get married. So to go into courtship means that marriage should already have been talked about.

There is no need to get obsessive about how all these things will play out. All I am doing is giving food for thought. Things should and will happen quite naturally. What I want to make sure you avoid is investing too much time in a relationship that goes nowhere. In other words, you should not be just “dating” after six months. That’s too long to not be committed to a serious phase of your relationship and moving toward engagement. Otherwise, you not only may be wasting your time, you might invest your heart to the point of really getting hurt unnecessarily.

That brings me to the word “love”. Don’t use it unless you mean it in a way that desires permanence. A man will use the word “love” much more quickly and loosely than will a woman. Your job is to make sure you don’t use that word until you know he is the man you want for the rest of your life and that you are pretty certain he DOES love you and is not just saying it at an emotional level. Saying “I love you” too early can cause confusion as you go along. So be careful of this.

There is so much more I could share with you, but I think this should suffice for now to help you along. I hope you find it helpful.

Doesn’t intercourse create a bond that cannot be undone?

Dear Anthony,

I appreciate your insight regarding what premarital sex does to future marriage. You’re more optimistic than I am on whether the act of becoming one flesh can be undone. In your article you mention that the subject “is too deep to cover here.” Will you consider taking the time to cover it more deeply?

The problem with going more in depth on this matter is that there is so much that is a mystery, and I’m not sure anyone can say anything “absolute” about it. I would think that it would suffice for people to realize that the act of intercourse is much, much more than just a moment of physical experience, and does do something to both persons. What that “something” is can vary based on the persons (I am thinking here of psychological and emotional effects). But since so many people (even good people of faith) act on the temptation to have genital sexual experiences outside of marriage, this issue needs to be addressed.

For some people, it is a matter of dealing with the guilt of a promiscuous past, and the need of healing to move forward. But for others, there is a real concern about being with someone who actually belongs to someone else (whether that person believes it or not). Those most particularly concerned with this are the men and women who are virgins and dedicated to saving themselves for marriage. But it also concerns anyone living chastity before marriage. The struggle, therefore, is with whether or not to ever consider marrying someone who has had intercourse with another person, and the belief that marrying the person would mean having more than just the two of you involved with the marriage.

This position is based on the belief that the biblical concept of “two become one flesh” is literally the physical act of intercourse.

Obviously, I cannot argue that two people who have had intercourse have some kind of lasting bond that is a mystery, and that bond is there no matter what other person or persons they end up with. It does seem to make sense, and I can’t offer any absolute proof otherwise. But I do believe it is completely and utterly possible to have a wonderful, blessed, loving, successful marriage with a person who is NOT a virgin. I know many, many, many, many married couples who are living marriage as a true witness to what marriage is and to Christ Himself, and one or both persons were not virgins. There is no denying the blessings of God in their life, and the fulfillment of married love in their marriages. How does one explain these marriages?

So in mind, there must be some additional mystery of love that supersedes whatever mystery takes place between two people who have physically had intercourse. Perhaps it has something to do with the Sacrament of Matrimony as a “sacrament”. In other words, perhaps the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony provides a mystery of love that goes higher and deeper and is more vast than the reality of the actual bond that happens via the act of intercourse. Perhaps the actual physical act of intercourse is not the only aspect of “two becoming one flesh”. Or maybe it has nothing at all to do with physical intercourse.

The sacrament of marriage is indissoluble. That is for certain. The indissoluble reality is actually (according to Church teaching on what makes marriage a sacrament) the free-will consent of both persons given to the other. It is completely possible that a marriage is valid and indissoluble at that moment WITHOUT intercourse (or consummation, as it is commonly called) taking place. Look at the marriage of Mary and Joseph. They are both virgins, but absolutely and indissolubly married. To deny this is to become outside of Catholic Church teaching.

Therefore, if the act of intercourse is such a secondary aspect of marriage when it comes specifically to validity and indissolubility, then it must be that it is the act of the will between two persons to “decide” and to “give” themselves to each other in commitment through the words they pronounce to each other that makes the two become one flesh.

“One flesh” is symbolized in the act of intercourse, but realized first in the free-will consent. This makes sense to me specifically because of the marriage of Mary and Joseph. How else could you explain why it is true that Mary and Joseph had a true, valid, indissoluble marriage and never had genital sexual expression?

It subsequently makes sense to me that the act of intercourse between two people who are NOT giving their free-will consent to each other for a lifetime (the act of marrying someone) may produce a bond that cannot last when each of those persons experience true married love.

In our new series, “Marriage of the Lamb”, Fr. Connolly and I discuss this matter more in depth, and Father brings up the good point that in Old Testament times, marriages took place by a man taking a woman into his tent and “knowing her” (the biblical term for the act of intercourse). So biblically, intercourse is more than a symbol of marriage, it actually is the act of marriage. Father goes on to say that perhaps what we need to teach people is that when they have intercourse with a person, they just literally got married.

It sounds a little funny, but it is interesting to consider what would happen if society would make it part of their laws to declare the act of intercourse as the action of marriage. It might make people think twice about having intercourse too loosely.

Obviously, I am not speaking as an authority of the Church, nor on anything that is official Catholic Church teaching. I am simply sharing with you things that I have been thinking about and considering when it comes to this issue you are struggling with. There seems to be more that needs enlightenment surrounding all the realities of the act of intercourse outside of marriage.

However, these things should not weigh down the minds and hearts of people. We have to remain practical, and we have to maintain a healthy respect for the things we may never know about this side of heaven, nor should need to know in full before proceeding with acting on the necessary things of life, especially the vocation to marriage.

I don’t want to see good people capable of being good husbands and wives over-thinking, or second-guessing themselves about whom to marry based on past sexual experiences or virginity. There is no doubt that remaining a virgin until marriage is the ideal, and quite attainable for any person of faith. And a virgin has every right to feel strongly about marrying another virgin. After all, if you have saved yourself for marriage because of what it means to maintain virginity and have that to give your spouse on your wedding night, why shouldn’t you want someone who has saved themselves as well? But someone who is not a virgin I don’t think has that same right to insist on marrying a virgin. That seems hypocritical to me.

In the end, the most important thing is finding a suitable partner to give yourself completely to in marriage because of the vocation to marriage. Our vocation is the most important thing in our adult lives and what God is most interested in for us as adults. There are too many examples of good marriages between two people who were not virgins. Therefore, I guess my advice to you and anyone else who is struggling with this issue of what happens to two people when they have intercourse is to not let it bother you to the point of never seriously considering someone who is not a virgin. In other words, if you set out to date only a person who is a virgin, you are probably doing yourself a disservice toward your vocation, and probably going to pass up really wonderful people who will make excellent spouses and parents.

This whole thing may very well be just too much of a mystery for any of us to understand to the point of being able to move forward in making decisions in our lives. So it would be best to focus on the person and not the past. I don’t deny that there are other issues to consider with someone who has been very sexually promiscuous in their past. I am not talking about those persons. I am talking about persons who have made sexual mistakes in the past and are now committed to chastity. Those persons many times are “gems” that you just do not want to disregard so readily. In fact, I have found that people who are converts of pre-marital sex are often some of the most edifying, holy, grateful people who are well prepared for marriage exactly because they respond to God’s grace and believe in what He has done for them.

I believe in God’s grace, and that it has the power to transform anyone into a saint, regardless of their past. I hope you know that I understand your position and your struggles, but I pray that you will take this to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and give it to Jesus completely, and beg Him to release you from any aspect of this that is not of God so you will have a better pair of eyes to see the potential in any person you meet that may very well make a great spouse for you. Only then will you be a better spouse for that person you hope to marry one day.

Do chaste women have more difficulty finding a husband?

Dear Anthony,

It seems to me that women who have had pre-marital sex are the only women who get married. I find this very disappointing and the situation seems hopeless for those women who are committed to following the Church’s teaching. Do you have any comments?

Thank you for writing and sharing this with me. It is an interesting observation you have. So you are saying that only those who have had pre-marital sex are the ones who end up getting married? I assume this implies that men are not going to last in any relationship where sex is not involved, let alone marry someone who is living a chaste single life.

If that is truly the case, then you do have cause to feel disappointed and hopeless regarding your chances for marriage. I don’t personally believe there is a connection between openness to pre-marital sex and getting married. I also doubt very highly that most of those marriages are happy ones. There is a definite disadvantage to being promiscuous before marriage, and most marriages that have problems or issues can trace it back to individuals with promiscuous pasts.

But I do think those who are committed to chastity before marriage have a very hard time finding someone to build a strong relationship with, especially the women. They are discouraged because 1) they typically face dating someone they really like but that person is expressing or indicating interest in inappropriate sexual behavior, and 2) they really want to find someone who shares their commitment to chastity, primarily because it is an indicator to them that the other person has the same commitment to God that they do, and that this person is someone they can rely on to be strong when it counts. It is very difficult, however, to find someone whose will is NOT weak enough to be open to sexual activity before marriage when they are faced with the temptation. That is actually pretty “normal”, unfortunately.

However, I also think that sometimes those who are firmly committed to chastity (whether a virgin or converted in mind and heart after a promiscuous past) might be too antagonistic toward those they date who seem open to pre-marital sex. These persons are practicing Catholics who otherwise are good and attractive people. For whatever reason, they just are not willing to save themselves for marriage, though they probably “want” that. But that does not necessarily mean these persons are not going to make good spouses. In fact, I think many of them have the ability to have a deeper conversion and renewed commitment based on being edified by the person they are with that stands their ground on this pre-marital sex issue. Sure, it would be nice to find someone who shares that commitment, but it should not be made to be “necessary”. It’s the harshness that a weaker person experiences that not only turns of that person or makes them feel they have no further chance, but it also punishes the person taking the stand harshly because they have to start over in their search for their future spouse.

Therefore, to be open to someone you might end up having to “lead” in this area could work out very beneficially, if you can be kind and gentle and understanding, but firm. Obviously, you never allow anything to happen. But you also don’t have to make the person feel bad for a weak moment. Perhaps he or she just needed to have that leadership of the other to firmly say “No way”, but also (very critical) that it is done in a gentle way that does not make the person feel that it is over and they are unworthy. I think it happens more times than not that the person who is committed to chastity is shocked or scandalized by the attempt of the Catholic they are dating, and makes that person feel terrible. Then that person cannot recover, nor does the chaste person want them to recover. It is over! It is a deal killer!

I believe it does not have to be a deal killer. Give the person a chance to step up. If he or she continues to show weakness and a desire to give in to pre-marital sex, then there are probably other issues there as well, and best to break it off. But when the objective is to marry, we have to be open to the opportunities. We are not marrying saints, we are marrying sinners. And as sacred as our sexuality is, sexual weakness is historically one of the most common problems of mankind. That does not give people license to BE “weak”. In fact, in my opinion, sexual weakness says more about what other issues a person might have than just sexual weakness. Specifically, is this a person who is truly striving to be close to Jesus Christ and live His life? Is this person living a life of mortification and sacrifice in order to practice strengthening the will? Has this person given in to the philosophy that we are only “human”, when in reality we share the divine nature by Baptism into Christ, and therefore are capable of living a supernatural life?

Do you see what I am getting at? Sexual weaknesses should be forgiven. But if those persons who are sexually weak are isolating those moments as just being “weak moments” and not considering something deeper that may be there that needs to be worked on, then that is the aspect of that person that needs to be considered as to whether or not a relationship continues.

Having said the above, I think it is imperative to drive home the point that remaining chaste and never giving in to pre-marital sex temptations is something that so pleases the Lord, and will produce immense dividends within the marriage. And since it can be accomplished only by God’s grace, then observing that the person has a serious sacramental life is required. This commitment to chastity is something that must be rewarded, and God will do just that.

My wife and I waited (though there were struggles), and I can see all the ways He has blessed us. They are blessings NOT because we are better than anyone else, but because when inevitable moments of temptation were presented, we responded to God’s grace. To have a respect for marriage and for the most important and profound gift we had to give to each other on our wedding night that you can never get back once given before marriage is something everyone should be thinking about and talking about at all stages of a relationship.

Sadly, this kind of attitude toward sexuality and marriage is not easy to find in people, even good Catholics. There is still too much of a disconnect made by people when it comes to sex and love. Sex is still too much interpreted as being an okay expression and proof of love in a developing relationship. That means that there is still a lot of work to do, and prayers to be said. But it does not mean that the sexually weak are hopeless. They need edification and inspiration. And that is probably going to come only from those they date who are heroic in their position, BUT ALSO gentle and understanding toward the weaker person, and ready to offer a second chance.

So I suggest that you remain open to any man you date who might show signs of wanting things to go further, and treat him gently and keep him feeling welcome. Give him more time. If he does not improve, then move on. But also don’t ever give up your position. It is very admirable that you are chaste and are committed to stay that way until marriage. Though the whole world give in to pre-marital sex and you remain faithful, you are in the right and should remain there no matter what. You will be blessed more than you know, regardless of whether or not you marry. And what a treasure you will be for the man who finally finds you and wins your heart. It will be a very blessed marriage.

God willing, there will be one man out there who is attracted to your unwillingness to engage in inappropriate sexual behavior before marriage, and finds himself to be a better man because of it. Certainly, love in a man is proven to a woman when he still proceeds to marriage having never had sexual experiences with her that are proper only to marriage. I do think those men are out there, and they just need to be gently led by a good woman who does not punish him for his weakness, but rather understands where he is, yet never will permit him to advance. A respectful and charitable man of God will cease trying to advance and put the woman into an occasion of sin.

I pray for you and all women, and even all men, who find themselves in this situation. I pray you maintain your chastity, but also pray that you not be quick to disregard those who are weaker until they give you continuous reason to move on. You just might find a diamond in the rough.

Living the Virtue of Chastity

Dear Anthony,

I have been having trouble meeting men who believe in living chastely. Even though they are supposedly practicing Catholics, they seem to have no respect for the sanctity of the human body. Do you have any thoughts on the matter?

It is important to first say you are talking about “chastity” for single people, which means no premarital sex … ever (a married person leads a different kind of chastity, though it is still “chastity”). With that, there are many single Catholics who don’t understand chastity as a “virtue”, but rather see it as nice idea and a goal to somewhat strive for. The problem is that too many people, including good Catholics, have subscribed to the erroneous notion that “we’re only human.” Once a person acknowledges that we are only “human,” then chastity is something that, though nice to talk about and strive for, is impossible. Human beings are social beings and have strong sexual impulses. As human beings, we live every day with the reality of fallen human nature due to Original Sin. Therefore, anyone can understand why someone gives in to the impulse of sexual desire when they are in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex.

Catholics have fallen for this, I’m afraid. They think one way and act another. They want Christ, but they also want sex. They agree with the principles of chastity and its definition, but deep down they do not believe it can be lived practically. More importantly, they do not believe they themselves can live it at a practical, daily level. They “know” they should be chaste, but they don’t want to “live it”. Many probably don’t even pray for it. It’s not that they are not good people. They just don’t see chastity as a virtue to strive for and prioritize on a daily basis.

As Catholics, we “must” believe that we are NOT only human, but rather that we are also DIVINE. By virtue of our Baptism, we are configured into Christ; we are transformed from being merely human into sharing the divine nature of God by virtue of our actually being baptized into Christ. We have a share in the divine nature of God ONLY because Christ died for us all and Baptism makes us adopted children of God because of the actual Son of God, into whose life we were baptized. Oh, how this should make every Catholic rejoice! What a profound reality that we are actually divine as well as human. What it means to our everyday, practical existence is that we CAN be virtuous, we CAN accomplish miracles, we CAN be perfect, as Jesus told us to be perfect. Because we are human, we will always fall short. But by grace, primarily through the Sacraments, and by faith (lived in a real way, not a sentimental one), we can accomplish what we are asked by the Church to accomplish.

Chastity, which means “no premarital sex”, can be lived, and must be lived. There is no excuse. Our sexual impulses are strong, yes. But we share the divine nature of God, which means we are not ONLY human, and therefore do not have that as an excuse.

I know that many good Catholics are open to premarital sex, even though they do not want to be, and even if they believe they really are not. And they REALLY might believe they are not open to it, and would be ticked off at me for even suggesting they are. But I know many are capable of giving in to it because of my long experience of working with single Catholics.

To those who really live chastity as a virtue and will not compromise, by God’s grace, then I say, “God bless you and reward you.” And God will certainly reward you. But please, please do not be hard on those who are not living chastity. Take example from Jesus, and pray for them for “they know not what they do.” The duping that we are only human stretches far and wide. Prayer and fasting along with education and example from those who live chastity will turn things around. But until then, you must be charitable toward them. Do not expect most to accept anything more than the “knowledge” of what chastity means and that it is taught by the Church.

My final point is to continue to demand chastity from any men you come in contact with. They will respect you for it. They may pass you by because you are not open to premarital sex, but you will have been a great witness to Christ. Men and women alike have the problem I described. But unfortunately, the men are the ones who ask women on dates, who ask women to marry them. They are the ones who lead. So if they are not leading in the chastity area, then there are many really wonderful women who are leading chaste lives and don’t want to compromise, and who DO believe they are NOT only human, who may end up never finding the right person. Please God, that will not be so and a good man who reveres chastity will come along for them. And to the men who live chaste lives, I say, “Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever,” and “Please help other Catholic men realize they share the divine nature and can live chastity.”