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Chastity, unmarried couples, and pre-marital relationships: what to do?

COUPLE
4 PM Production - Shutterstock
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"My boyfriend and I have been dating for a little over a year and half. Initially we struggled to practice chastity, but that effort lessened over time."

Q. What advice do you have for an unmarried couple who have been intimate, but then decide to practice chastity? Specifically, what struggles might we face, and how can we prepare for or best handle them? My boyfriend and I have been dating for a little over a year and half. Initially we struggled to practice chastity, but that effort lessened over time. In any case, sexual intimacy became part of our relationship. However, I recently made the decision to practice chastity and he accepted that decision. But even though we both have good reasons for doing so, I know that certain challenges lay ahead, practical challenges like avoiding certain situations, activities, etc., but I’m wondering if there will be other challenges, as well. 

A. My question to you is, what goal do you have for this relationship? Certainly after a year and half you’ve discussed what that goal is. Are you just dating or is this relationship a genuine courtship? I know the word “courtship” sounds antiquated but it clearly defines a purpose. The term “dating” can be a bit ambiguous and sound aimless, but “courtship” has a clear intention. So what are your intentions with each other?

I’m afraid if marriage isn’t in your near future then you’ll be contending with physical and emotional tensions and frustrations. You asked what challenges you can expect; the main one will be thinking clearly now.

Sex can create a false sense of intimacy or bonding. Sex can also be a way to prolong a relationship that probably should have ended some time ago. It can provide false pretense, false hope, and false intimacy. You two had managed to be chaste in the past, so what happened? Was it truly just a moment of physical weakness or was it a way to force a stagnant relationship “forward” and mimic intimacy?

I’m not a fan of long uncommitted relationships, and it seems yours is at risk of being one of those. Most of my married friends would agree that they knew they were going to marry their spouse fairly early on in the relationship, and by year one and half were either married or engaged.

My advice to you is going to be undoubtedly unpopular, but there’s really only one thing left to do at this point. You can try to be chaste again, avoiding physical contact or being alone together, which may work for a while but you might end up right back at the same place. This will be a continuous struggle for the both of you.

Fish or cut bait, as my grandmother was fond of saying. If you’re committed to your relationship, which I think you may be because you want to try being chaste again, now really is the time to set clear goals for your future together. If marriage isn’t something for you both in the very near future it might be time to cut bait, and end things before more entanglements develop.   

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