(Many times we receive emails asking similar questions. We have turned some of these questions into posts so others can benefit from them. Brian and I aren't experts and we simply share our experiences with you. When available, however, we like to have a more experienced person also comment to supplement our answers, as we have with this question.)
My name is Jane and I am engaged and really struggling with chastity. My fiancé has recently come back to his faith and is on fire, but the one thing that he and I struggle with is chastity. It is putting a wall up between God and I. We have both come from different pasts. I have given myself away to two other men before my fiancé (John Smith). And John has given himself a number of times before me. Before he met me sex has never been something spiritual or emotional. He now understands why we should wait, but struggles how can we give up something so incredible? Why wait now? How could I have given myself away to someone I did not love when I in my heart I wanted to wait until I was married? Both of us don't know how we are going to get out of this when we know how incredible making love is. We really need help! We want to conquer this before we get married in a year. If you have any literature or tips that would be helpful we would appreciate it. -Jane Smith
Part I - Why Not?
Hi Jane. I am glad you found RoL and stopped by to talk. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding with John. I first want to commend you for realizing that God is calling you to make some changes in your relationship and seeking help to make those changes. Just to reach this point is a grace from God!
It is wonderful that John has become on fire with his faith. It seems that God is working on both of you. You say that your premarital sex is putting up a wall between you and God. You also ask why you and John should stop having sex if it is so incredible. Well, first off - precisely because it is putting a wall between you and God!
There is a reason why that wall is there. God doesn't say "don't have sex until your married" just to deprive you of any fun. Rather, he knows just how incredible sex is - yet how damaging it can be when it's not kept in its proper perspective. It is like a fire. It's great to have a campfire at the beach or to sit cozy on the couch in front of the fire place on a cold winter day. But if that same fire were to spread into the living room and burn down your house, it is destructive and could even kill you.
Sex is the same way. It is powerful, passionate, intimate and sacred... but what you and John are doing is desecrating it. It is a mockery in the eyes of God. He meant sex to be a special gift for you and John to share on your wedding night; a way to consummate your marital covenant. It would be more than just a physical bond...you would be showered with grace and bond spiritually in an awesome way because it is blessed by God. Instead, premarital sex is a slap in the face to God saying, "What do you know, God? We want to have our fun now."
Well, I seriously doubt you MEAN to say that - but that is what your bodies and souls are saying every time you are intimate with each other before you are married. Although engaged you are not yet married. You have not yet entered into a marital covenant with John. Either you believe God and His Word or you don't. Either you trust Him to be the center of your life (including your sexuality) or you don't. There are no "ifs" "ands" or "buts". It's yes or no.
Okay, with that said, it's obvious that although you may not use the same words as I just did, something inside you KNOWS that something is wrong but you don't know why. You realize that there is a wall between you and God and you want to change that. Jane, that desire is God calling you. It is Christ saying, "Jane, do you love John more than you love me?" Christ needs to be at the center of your life and then everything else will fall into place. If you truly want have a loving, lasting and joyful marriage with John, you must settle this first.
Please forgive me if I sound like I'm being harsh! I don't mean to be because at the same time I totally sympathize with you because I know firsthand how difficult it is to deal with those strong sex drives and desires. I, too, have made mistakes in the past and it was such a struggle for me (for us) to keep the physical aspect in check while Brian and I were dating/engaged. I remember after my engagement my mom talking with me and explaining that now that we were engaged the temptation to be more intimate will be even stronger. I didn't believe her then but later I found out, dang, mom was right again!
Your situation is more difficult because you've already crossed the line and have already been sexually active with each other... but is it too late? Is it worth stopping now? YES!! You can enjoy a "secondary" virginity. The future of your marriage (not to mention your souls) may depend on it! Yes, it will be difficult but it is NOT impossible. I promise you that if you and John are willing to fight this and work at it together, God will give you the grace you need to accomplish it AND he will bless your efforts in an awesome way. Not only will you feel closer to God individually but also you will be able to receive all the marital graces ready for you on the day of your wedding. (You cannot receive those graces when you are in mortal sin. And that is the absolute worse way to start a marriage!)
Part II: How to Not
Okay, okay, enough of the "why" (although I can go more into it later if you'd like!) now let's deal with the "how". First thing I would recommend is to start up (or improve) your spiritual life. Whatever level you're at, increase it by the following:
--Go to confession and do it often. If you haven't gone yet, conquer your fear and just do it. You will feel better and you will receive the grace that you'll need. If you say, "I went to confession but I just keep sinning again", that's okay, go again and again and again. Don't forget that having sex with someone who is NOT YET your husband/wife is a mortal sin (if you fully know it and do it anyway). If you fall don't put your soul in jeopardy. Ask for God's forgiveness right away then go to confession ASAP and confess it as Christ has asked you to. (Trust me, it will help!)
--After you've gone to confession, go to Mass and go often. There is nothing more powerful than receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist (Remember, it is truly his body, blood, soul and divinity you're receiving!) He is waiting to do incredible things to your soul. Don't get discouraged it you receive communion and don't "feel anything". It takes time. Just trust and open your heart to Christ without reservation and he will help you become the woman of God you are meant to be.
--Pray and pray often. If you don't already, take a few minutes in the morning to offer your day to God. Get in the habit of turning your mind to Christ throughout the day. Then never end your day without thanking God for his blessings and reviewing your day. Ask God to forgive you for any action (or inaction) in which you've hurt Him or those around you. You can also thank him for the moments in which you were faithful to Him - since it was his grace that helped you.
--It is especially helpful to say the rosary (or one decade or even one Hail Mary). Our Lady was an incredible help to me when I was struggling with chastity. She has helped countless others do the same!
--You, Jane, pray each day a prayer something like this to God: "Lord, I love John. Thank you for bringing him into my life. I love his body, mind and soul and I never want to do anything to harm him physically, emotionally or spiritually. If we are to be married, that means you chose me to help him on the road to heaven. Give me strength to never tempt him or to seek my own pleasure over his well being. Help me to learn that true love takes sacrifice. I am willing to learn to love as Jesus loved so that John and I may be one in God now and forever. Amen." This is just to give you an idea, you can use your own words. (John can pray the same kind of prayer, changing the words to suit him.)
--Along with praying yourself, you and John should be praying the rosary and going to Mass together!
Along with all these spiritual helps, use common sense and self control.
--Okay, this is the hardest part. This is when you and John will have to test your love for one another. Will you be willing to say, "I love John so much that I will deny this strong desire to have sex with him"? Up until now you and John have been letting lust take over. Now it is time to let true love take over. Don't be fooled to think because you are having incredible sex that it must be right. A married woman could have incredible sex with her mailman but that does not make it right! The feeling is not the judge.
--You and John are going to have to make major changes in how you spend time together. You'll need to increase the time you spend outdoors or in public. Go places, start a hobby or and do active things! It may sound dumb but I'm serious! (There are many chaste people who are aided in coping with sexual energy by keeping their bodies physically active in running or other sports. Idleness and being alone together is ideal for temptation.) Now is the time to really develop and focus on your friendship. If your marriage is going to work you must be best friends!
Too many times couples get physically involved, have great sex, then deduce that they are "meant" for each other. Unfortunately, they weren't meant to be together and years down the line they come to realize it and they divorce. You don't want that to happen to you and John! By taking the sex out of the relationship now you'll be able to make decisions with a clear head and will better know if you are truly in love with each other or in love with the sex.
--Next, don't put yourself in tempting situations! You'll have to decide (in a prayerful attitude) at what point you will draw the line. Then keep the rest off limits. Some couples chose to hold off kissing all together and only hold hands. As hard as this may sound at times it is easier because it eliminates the how much kissing is too much. And if you are like most couples, it only takes a little to get things started. More and more couples are putting kissing on hold and I think they are the wisest of us! But even if you don't do that, stay away from the "no-brainer" temptations. (ie. Don't lay on the floor or bed together; forget the back seat of the car or the couch in an empty apartment. Hands off each other and don't kiss "target areas" that get things going etc.)
--Remember that living a chaste life is more than just "don't do this and that". It is a way of life, a change in attitude that is much more positive than negative! Read my article on chastity, Jason Evert's booklet Pure Love and Carmen's article on courtship to help you better understand.
--You may want to find a mentor, priest or another married couple that can help you along the way and hold you accountable. Some choose their parents if they are godly people but in any case, the person/couple should be older than you and trying to live a holy life and they should know well the Church's teachings on marriage and be able to guide you in Christian morality.
Well, Jane, I have to run now but I want to get this email off to you before I leave. Please do stay in touch with me, Jane. I want to help you through this or at least direct you to someone else who can help you. You and John are so blessed to realize all this stuff now. God is calling both of you to draw closer to Him now, before you are married. How many couples wish they had that chance again, now that they're married! You and John can do this with God's help! And even if you fail...even if you fail over and over...keep trying and keep seeking God's mercy! Don't give up! And Jane, although you may think sex is great now - wait until you experience it as God intended - with the man who's shared a sacred marital vow with you before God- it far outshines anything else! Much love to you and John. My prayers are with you.
PS- Jane, after reading over this I realized that it may sound a bit preachy or harsh to someone who doesn't know me. I just wrote a lot of things I feel strongly in my heart so try to see that I'm not judging you - I'm more like a big sister talking to her little sis! :)
To continue reading Part II, click Q&A Part II: Carmen's Answer.