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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I’m dating a Catholic, now what?

Dear Anthony,

I could use some advice as the non-Catholic party in my relationship.  My boyfriend is a very nice Catholic guy.  He knew I was not Catholic.  We get along just great.  But he’s “really” Catholic, and I’m “really” not.  He isn’t insisting on me being Catholic or anything like that.  But I can’t help feeling like that is going to come up sometime soon.  It makes me nervous, because I don’t want to get so far in our relationship and then have heart broken because I won’t become Catholic.  Should I just save both of us a lot of time and grief and end it now, or is there some hope that we could actually get married even though we have two different religions? I understand if you can’t answer this, but I thought I would give it a shot.  Thanks so much.

I’m very glad you reached out to me.  I have discussed matters that involve non-Catholics before, and I am very interested in the concept of mixed marriages and their potential to be successful.  

It’s obvious from your question that have a religion that you practice.  You didn’t share specifically what it is, so I can’t be as specific as might be needed.  It does make a difference if you are a baptized Christian of one of the thousands of Christian denominations, or a non-baptized person of another religion.  What makes no difference, however, is the fact that you belong to another faith, and that causes concerns for both parties.

We live in an age where is extremely easy to meet someone under normal, everyday circumstances who is attractive in many ways, but does not share your religious affiliation and beliefs.  For most of us, we are exposed to all kinds of people.  That makes it very easy to find people we get along with, share common interests, career goals, and are attracted to.  Making friends is easy.  Even getting a date is pretty easy.

Unfortunately, what’s also easy is having sex.  No matter what your religion, in today’s society, moral issues surrounding sex (i.e., chastity, premarital sex, contraception, etc) seem to have become a non-issue.  It seems that everything about society has a pro-sex message and purpose.  Having sex is as commonplace and expected as dining together.  It’s not questioned.  If there is concern, there is fear and guilt about bringing it up.

This leads me to your concern about being involved with a Catholic.  If your boyfriend is a practicing Catholic, there will be several key things about his religion that he will be committed to that should give any non-Catholic concern when it comes to considering a Catholic as a prospective future spouse.  These key things are:

1) The Holy Eucharist.  Any Catholic worth their salt believes that Jesus Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul and divinity, in the Holy Eucharist.  That the bread and wine on the altar at a Catholic Mass is changed in substance (though not appearance) into the body and blood of Christ at the hands of the Catholic priest.  A true Catholic must never, ever, believe it is only bread and wine, or just a symbol. A non-Catholic must accept that the person they love believes this, and never attempt to dissuade them otherwise.  A true Catholic attends Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation.  The non-Catholic also supports the Catholic’s need to attend Mass every Sunday and is encouraging.

2) Confession.  The act of confessing mortal sins to a Catholic priest, being absolved of those sins, and performing the penance.  A practicing Catholic will go to Confession when they know they are in mortal sin.  This implies that the practicing Catholic stays on top of what the Catholic Church teaches in order to know what is sinful, and examines their conscience to determine when they have sinned.  A non-Catholic must accept that the person they love submits to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church in their life and needs to have their mortal sins absolved by a Catholic priest.  

3)  Pre-marital sex is not allowed.  Genital intercourse prior to marriage is wrong and a mortal sin.  If committed, the sacrament of confession is necessary.  A Catholic is not permitted to have genital intercourse until married, no matter how much it seems right or you love each other, or if there is a desire to live together to see if it will work out first, etc.  A non-Catholic must accept this AND show respect for the person they love by not ridiculing this belief and not tempting them to have sex.  If it still happens, there must be sorrow and remorse, and encouragement by the non-Catholic to go to confession and a stronger commitment to keep it from happening.

4)  Artificial contraception is not allowed.  A woman on the pill, a man using a condom, and any other apparatus or method used for the purpose of preventing conception of a child.  A Catholic can never, ever, agree to the use of artificial contraception IN marriage, as well as prior to marriage.  A non-Catholic must accept that the person they love is pro-life and open to life, and believes contracepting is contrary to life and true love.  

5)  Loves everyone, including enemies.  Jesus Christ gave a new commandment and called all His followers to live it; “love one another as I have loved you.”  This call to love is a call to love the unlovable, enemies, those who persecute you, those in need, those who won’t love you back.  A Catholic is ready to forgive and have mercy on those who wrong and hurt them.  They don’t hold grudges or seek revenge.  They are ready to sacrifice for the good or need of another.  A non-Catholic must accept that they person they love is someone who does not love selectively or conditionally, nor is a hypocrite.

6)  Prayer.  A Catholic makes time to pray to God and strengthen their inner, spiritual lives, and includes God in all important decisions.  A non-Catholic must accept that the person they love is a person of personal prayer and includes God in the relationship.

7)  The Resurrection.  That Jesus Christ, who was crucified, died and was buried, rose from the dead on the third day.  All aspects of being a Catholic is in vain if Jesus did not rise from the dead.  A non-Catholic must accept that the one they love believes this as historical fact and as the cornerstone of faith.

So what do you think so far?  Perhaps you don’t see your boyfriend going to Mass every Sunday, or ever going to Confession.  Perhaps he is totally open to having sex with you, and doesn’t care that you are on the Pill or about using a condom.  Perhaps he loves you but is critical or annoyed or mean to others who have wronged him or you.  Perhaps he rarely prays, and doesn’t show interest in including God in decisions that affect his life.

If this is the case, then you are not actually dating a Catholic.  He might say he is Catholic, but he is not a practicing one.  So I guess you’re safe from worry about him every trying to convert you or being “too Catholic” for you to handle.  Sadly, there are many baptized Catholics who still call themselves Catholic, though they no longer believe or live it.

But if he holds true to these key things, then you have to decide if you can live them, even if he never attempts to get you to become Catholic.  You still have to live with a Catholic.  And what’s more (and it’s MUCH more), you will have to marry this man in the Catholic Church before a priest.  AND, you will need to agree to raising your children to be Catholic.

I truly believe marriage between a Catholic and non-Catholic can work, primarily because marriage itself does not require the same religion to be successful.  Love between two persons can have such a strong mutual respect that there is never an inclination to do anything to hurt the other, and always a mutual encouragement of what is important to the other.  However, it helps a lot if you are the same religion, primarily because of the children.  It seems inevitable that once children come along, each parent starts realizing that it would be important to instill stronger religious values and practices in their children.   

In my experience, interfaith marriages only work if one or both of the persons involved have no serious commitment to their religion prior to marriage.  If one or both get serious about religion after the marriage, that has its own set of risks and problems.  So best to know where you both stand prior to marriage.

You have every right to be concerned about the Catholic you’re dating.  I have provided you with the key specifics that should be the focus of your concern.  I wouldn’t be too concerned about his trying to convert you.  Be more concerned about how serious he is about his Catholic faith and if you can live with a person who lives that way.   

Marriage is successful primarily if your love is built on close friendship, mutual respect, mutual sacrifice, and compromise rather than religious affiliation.  But when it comes to religion, the non-Catholic party has more to compromise and concede to.  I know that’s a lousy deal, but that’s the way it is.  Much is demanded of Catholics, and the Catholic Church does not allow its members to decide what and what not to believe.

Get Over It!

Have you ever had someone tell you to get over it when you’re expressing the pain of a failed relationship?

It’s not easy to get over it.  Whatever “it” is, you have been affected, and you can’t control your feelings or your memories. In your mind, you wonder how you are supposed to get over what happened to you, and how you can possibly get over the hurt.

Just when you think you are making progress, something happens to trigger what happened, and you play it all over again in your mind, making it as fresh as the day it actually happened.

Unfortunately, there are many people unequipped to be truly helpful at these times.  It doesn’t make sense to expect a person who is going through an emotionally painful experience to “get over it,” as if it’s a matter of decision.

Have you ever noticed that the people who say “get over it” typically present that advice with frustration?  That’s because they don’t want to go through your pain with you.  They want you to be over it so they can be spared having to deal with your unhappy state. They want to help and do care, but they just want you to feel better quickly so things can move on.

But what’s needed most is a friendship that allows for the painful emotions to be experienced without apology.

Why should you “get over it”?  Is it wrong to feel what you feel?  No, it’s actually very important for you to get through it as you are able to, because it’s real to you.  Everybody’s emotions are unique to themselves.  It’s not for anyone else to judge.

In fact, you are getting over it.  Just not at the pace those around you would like. You have to be honest with yourself.  If your emotional state tells you that you aren’t over it yet, then that’s fine.  Don’t be over it yet.

It might be true that we should not allow certain things to affect us and our ability to function normally and happily in life.  But yet, we are affected, and it does affect our ability to function.

This is to be expected.  St. Paul so beautifully expresses his own human complexity (which is true for all of us) in Romans, Chapter 7, when he shares that he does not do what he wants to do, but instead what he does not want to do.

All us experience things that we don’t understand.  Nothing exemplifies this more than when we try to process and deal with negative things that happen to us.

The brain does not provide human beings with the capability of a black and white approach to life.  There is nothing standard about processing things that come into the brain from the outside world.  Every person’s brain is different, because every person experiences life uniquely.

It’s a mystery why two people can witness the same event and remember it differently, or why it’s possible to have no memory of certain details of an event.  This is very common in dating.  Two people remember their relationship very differently, even though they were both there together and experienced the same things.

This does not excuse a person for behaving badly when something happens that they struggle to get over. The recovery process does not include causing more harm. The hurt person can be tempted to spread information about the experience that is skewed, misrepresented, or out of context. This can cause more damage.

We see a lot of this in the dating world.  Two people break up, and the one who has been hurt (or has determined they are the victim) tells everyone around them how horrible the other is.  Often, the core problem was simply that they were not a good fit for each other.  Yet, hurt people can spin their experience in a way that makes the other look like someone all people should stay away from.

You have a right to recover at your own pace, but you don’t have a right to judge what others did to “cause” it.  This is fundamentally because each person internally processes external information uniquely. It is extremely difficult to ever really know objective truth to situations.

This is why relationships are so much more about communication than about sexual attraction, financial security, or any other thing people tend to focus on.  And by communication, I mean the ability to share thoughts and feelings openly, and provide a safe place for each other’s complexities.

A person who is hurt can’t just “get over it” without people to help them do so on their own terms and in their own time.  The time period for moving on can often be shortened because of a good friend who helps you through or prolonged because there is no one to help you navigate outward expressions of that hurt in a healthy and productive way.

Hurt people don’t get healthier by force.  They have to get there on their own, but cannot get there without others to help them.  Most of all, they will never be at peace with themselves without forgiveness.  To ultimately “get over it” is to have forgiveness for whomever hurt them, as well as forgiveness of self.

Love is a light that navigates the way.  Jesus said He is the light of the world.  A true friend in your life shines that light of Christ while you’re in that pain so you never wander off toward the darkness.