Sex

Is it wrong to think about being physically affectionate . . .

Is it wrong to think about being physically affectionate with each other (in the chaste ways that we actually do in real life) when we're not together?

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Is showering together unchaste?

Hey Paul, I have a question concerning chasity

My friend told me that he and a girl took a shower together!?  I won't go into much detail, but apparently there was touching involved.  My friend reasures me that he did not go too far and that he stayed chaste the entire time. He even said, "I've read Heather's book, nothing I did was unchaste!"

So my question is:  was he staying chaste? And what should I do? Read more »

Isn't sexual compatibility important for marriage?

Dear Paul,

I came across the REAP team website while researching the virtues and values behind chastity, and your team seems to have great advice on the subject.  I'm starting to practice chastity and learn the values behind it, but I have a question for you if you are willing to answer it for me.

If I start dating someone and continue living chastity, what if we get along in every aspect of our relationship, but then get married and aren’t sexually compatible? Shouldn’t we reconsider our marriage because of the sexual aspect? Is it not actually realistic and healthy to have sex during the relationship, to make sure that spark is there? Wouldn't it be awful to find out after marriage that you two do not connect at a sexual level?


Dear Friend,

I’m glad to know that you found the REAP Team website and that you appreciate our advice on chastity.  I am also very happy to know that you have made a decision for chastity, and that you want to understand the implications that living a chaste lifestyle will have upon your current & future relationships.  The question you are asking is a good one, and it is a question that many others have wondered about. 

There are several very key reasons why I do not believe you should have sex before marriage – even if your primary reason is to ensure that you are sexually compatible with your future spouse.

Your question seems to reflect, possibly, some misunderstanding of what sex in marriage is really all about – and I understand how this might happen, especially with all of the cultural influences bombarding us in our oversexed world.  Today’s culture, especially the media, gives us all the impression that sex is everything – that sex should be the center of our lives, and that being sexually satisfied is the key to being happy in life, whether one is single or married.  Though some people believe this to be true, it is a lie.  Though sex (and being sexually compatible) is an important part of a healthy marriage, it is critical to have a proper understanding of God’s plan for the gift of sexuality in marriage, because it is only in following God’s plan that we can truly be fulfilled.

Sex is not primarily about satisfying our own desires – sexual activity is supposed to be a “mutual self-gift” where you give yourself completely to your spouse.  It is supposed to be a renewal of our marriage vows, wherein we give ourselves freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully to the other.  Sadly, our culture has (in many ways) reduced the act of sexual intercourse to simply satisfying one’s own desires, when in fact the focus should be on the other person.  Sex in marriage is not supposed to be about satisfying yourself; although certainly that can and will happen when your focus is on your spouse.

But there is far, far more to a successful marriage than sexual compatibility. I’ve read several reliable studies which indicate that, on average, happily married couples in the United States have sex 2-3 times per week.  That means that those couples spend a lot of their time each week engaging in things other than sex… which shows that although sex is an important part of a healthy marriage, there are many things far more important, including spirituality, communication, shared values & interests, enjoying your spouse’s company, and the ability to laugh and have fun together. These are the kinds of compatibility that should be tested during the dating phase of a relationship. If you have these essential components of a healthy marriage in place before the wedding day, you won’t have to worry about sexual compatibility – it will naturally flow from all of these other components of a good marriage.  And, having all of the other essentials in place actually helps in the bedroom, where they are all necessary…

There is some other research available that shows that saving sex/cohabitation for marriage improves the success of a marriage in a lot of ways (you can check out http://www.economist.com/node/17956905?story_id=17956905;  http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/000302/cohabit.shtml; http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/news/20101227/theres-benefits-in-delaying-sex-until-marriage?ecd=soc_fb for the specifics). Couples who live together before marriage have a higher divorce rate, and couples who wait for marriage (and remain faithful to their marriages) are more satisfied with their marriages and sex lives.  Testing sexual compatibility before marriage does not guarantee that you will enjoy sex more in marriage – in fact, the opposite seems to be true. Furthermore, simply being sexually compatible is not a sign that two people should get married – as I’ve said, there is so much more to love than sex. Some research even suggests that a relationship can survive on good sexual chemistry for three years… but after that, there had better be substance to the relationship to ensure its survival.

Also, I want you to know that just as a relationships grows and develops and deepens, so does a married couple’s love life.  As spouses grow ever more deeply in love, the love making in the bedroom is simply a reflection of the ways they make love happen in every other part of their lives.  Personally, my wife and I waited for marriage and I am glad we did.  By waiting for marriage, we were able to focus on the compatibility of our hearts, instead of our bodies, which prepared us for a very happy marriage. To be quite honest with you, the first time we had sex – on our honeymoon – it was great, but throughout the 22 years that we have been married, it has gotten better and better.  The more we know one another, grow in love with one another, and become best friends, the more compatible we have become in the bedroom.  As I’ve indicated, compatibility in the bedroom is actually a reflection of how well a marriage is going, and if a couple’s sex life is rocky, it is probably symptomatic of greater issues outside of the bedroom which they need to talk about, perhaps even with a professional.

I am madly in love with my wife, and she is the one and only source of my desire.  But I have to be brutally honest with you – if something were to happen to one of us that resulted in us no longer being able to have sex, it would not be the end of my world nor would it be the end of our marriage.  Our marriage is about something far deeper and far more awesome that any sexual experience could ever be.  I hope that some day you are able to know the kind of love that I have for my wife; a love that transcends physical expression.  Married love is primarily about sharing life, and sharing our hearts – what the Bible refers to as “the two becoming one.”

Finally, I would urge you to keep in mind that St. Thomas Aquinas defines love as “to will the good of another.”  This means that when we choose to love someone we always want what is best for that person, that we are willing to make sacrifices for the other person, and that we will work to ensure that the other person lives a fulfilled life.  As a Christian, I believe that the ultimate “good” that any of us can ever attain is Heaven.  Therefore, we must do all that we can to help others attain that goal – including helping them to avoid sinful behaviors (like sex outside of marriage) that cause a rift in one’s relationship with God.  If we are truly loving people and honestly desire what is best for others, we will also want them to experience all of the benefits of a chaste life, including all of the freedoms you will find listed in this article:

http://www.reapteam.org/chastity-gives-you-freedom

Thanks again for taking the time to write.  I think that it is awesome that you are asking tough questions; it indicates that you are taking this decision for chastity seriously and thoughtfully.  I hope my thoughts will prove helpful as you continue to learn about chastity and reflect on how you can be the most loving person possible, not only to everyone in your life now, but to those you will meet in the future - including your future spouse, if God calls you to the incredible sacrament of marriage!

Peace,

Paul Masek

How can I stop masturbating?

My problem is masturbating. I've tried to stop many times but can't.  How can I stop doing this?


Dear Friend,

Thanks for writing. It takes a lot of courage to send out an email like yours about an issue like this, even anonymously. Admitting that you have a problem and that you want to stop masturbating is the first and most important step that you can take. I hope it doesn't sound too crazy when I tell you that I am proud that you are seeking real freedom in your life!

You mention that you have tried to stop many times, but that you can't. What I would like to do is to offer you some really solid options of additional things to try that will definitely help. When something (whether masturbation or anything else) reaches the level where it is so hard to stop, it may be an addiction, or something close to it. Only you can determine the level of the problem for you; but in order to become free, radical steps may need to be taken.

I guess the first thing I want to encourage you to do is to stop trying to stop by yourself. You need help. I know that you already know that, since you wrote to me for advice. The best help I can point you to is Jesus. The Bible says that He was tempted in every way that we are, but never sinned. (Hebrews 4:15)

Therefore, I think it is safe to assume that Jesus may have experienced some form of sexual temptation. I know that might sound scandalous, but to me it is awesome. Being fully human, and fully a man, He knows what it is like to have sexual feelings and urges. How cool that our God knows what it is like to be one of us. Call out to him; cry out to him! When you are tempted, ask Him to be with you and to help you refrain. In this area, and in every area of our lives, we have a God who has "been there" and who therefore has tons of compassion for us.

I want to encourage you, as your first line of defense, to work on developing your prayer life. Learn how to pray, not only at times of temptation, but also when you are not tempted. I love that line from the Lord's Prayer "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." That's powerful.

As a Catholic, I also know that Mary and Joseph are powerful sources of help in times of sexual temptation. Ask them to pray for you; the Hail Mary in particular is an awesome prayer. The Rosary rocks, too! Mary and Joseph are models of purity, and they love to help us. Develop your relationship with each of them. Regarding St. Joseph, there are several cool litanies, devotions, and prayers that you can find on the web that will help you to develop your relationship with him.

As part of your prayer life, I also encourage you to strengthen and grow in devotion in your sacramental life. As Catholics, we have regular access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist. I encourage you to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation every time you fall; this sacrament not only offers us the grace of forgiveness, but also strengthens us to avoid temptation in the future. There is a lot of power in that sacrament. I encourage you to find a priest that you trust who might be willing to meet with you regularly (maybe even once a week?) until this habit of sin is overcome. Such regular Confession will help you to increasingly dislike this sin and will allow you to regularly receive sacramental grace, which will help you resist temptation when it comes your way.

Pray for patience; habits like this often take some time to overcome, and it is possible that the temptation might (in various degrees of strength) be with you the rest of your life.  However, just because you are tempted does not mean you have to give in to the temptation, right?  Every time you are able to resist the temptation, be sure to thank God for the strength that He has given you to resist, and in so doing you will grow stronger in your ability to resist.  As you strive to cooperate with His grace and grow in virtue, know that God loves you more than you can possibly imagine.

Definitely don't forget the Eucharist. Go to Mass every Sunday, if you don't already do that. Try to find ways to go on weekdays, too. The more frequently you receive Jesus, the stronger you will become, and the more you will become like Him. If your parish has an Adoration chapel, I encourage you to visit Jesus there. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to spend time with Jesus and receive Him in the sacraments.

Besides prayer and sacraments, what has helped me a great deal in reforming my own sexual impurities and lusts has been spiritual accountability. Check out this article for my thoughts on this topic. Is there anyone in your life to whom you can be accountable? I would even encourage you to consider starting a men's prayer group, or Bible study, or accountability group. If your parish or a neighboring parish has a youth minister, maybe you could talk to him or her about starting such a group. The bottom line is that we cannot do this alone. We need help.

Recently, I talked to a friend about your email (guarding your confidentiality, of course) and this friend suggested the discipline of fasting. Have you ever fasted? This can be something as big as going for a certain amount of time without eating at all, or only consuming bread and water, or just giving up something you like (like your favorite candy, or French fries, or soda). Not only is fasting an excellent form of prayer which unites us to Jesus' suffering on the Cross, but it also is a discipline that helps us develop more self-control, which is obviously something you need in order to overcome your habit of masturbation.

I also want to give you the link to a very cool and fun resource page for you to check out. There is a ministry called XXXCHURCH whose mission is to help people overcome their struggles with both porn and masturbation. They have this crazy weird campaign called "save the kittens" which makes me laugh and is a little "out there," but it also gives us men a non-threatening way to talk about this issue with other people who have the same struggle. If you have a close friend that you trust, maybe you could make an accountability agreement to go on a "save the kittens" campaign with him. Think and pray about this, OK? The link to the campaign, which also will give you to chance to browse their website, is here.

There is much hope for you because you are humble enough to ask for help. I believe with all of my heart that God loves you, is proud of you, and wants the best for you. If you continue to trust in Jesus, cling to Him, and rely on Him, you CAN and WILL experience freedom from this sexual sin. You will need to stay humble enough to rely on all of the spiritual resources at your disposal, but don't forget that these are all ways that God wants to help you. He is with you at all times; don't ever forget that.

I am praying for you, my friend. Feel free to keep in touch, if you want to. I'd love to know what you think of this advice and how you are doing on developing your relationship with Christ and experiencing the freedom that only He can bring!

Peace,

Paul

PS One of our staff members has posted an additional resource on our website which might prove helpful. Check it out here.

How do I transform lust into love?

Do you have a dirty mind, too? Can't shake images, memories or impure motives? If you want change, there's more than just not looking at porn or stopping sexual activity. Find out how you can be filled with overflowing love for sex and the opposite sex.

Dear Heather,
I'm a guy who has been trying to avoid sexual stuff, but lustful thoughts still come to mind. I can stop thinking about them for the moment, but they come back later. I want to get rid of them. I want a clean mind again. Is that possible? -Dirty mind


Dear Dirty Mind,

It sounds like you have discovered that the first way to fight impure thoughts is to not intentionally subject yourself to them - on TV, in music, on the Internet and even from peers that talk or act overtly sexual. That being said, it's important to know that your mind can be transformed - it can be restored to purity; you can have a clean mind again. The memories may not completely disappear, but they can be transformed through God's grace. So, let me explain how to experience this transformation.

Story time...Many centuries ago, there were two bishops walking down the street. They walked past a prostitute. One bishop immediately shielded his eyes, as she was wearing a very sexually explicit dress. He didn't want to stare and become lustful. The other bishop, however, looked at her for several seconds as they passed. He did not divert his stare one bit.

Which bishop responded with purity? Both actually achieved purity. The first bishop needed to divert his glance to avoid lusting - he did what he needed to do to stay pure. However, the second bishop shows us that there's a deeper form of purity. The second bishop looked into the eyes and the heart of this woman with pity and love. He was able to see her as God saw her - a beautiful, precious creation. In fact, his look into her eyes was so moving to this prostitute that she followed him, spoke with him, converted to Catholicism - and they both became Saints (St. Nonnus of Edessa and St. Pelagia of Antioch). Pretty cool, huh? All of that from a pure, clean mind!

So, how do we become like this second bishop? How can we have such a clean mind that we aren't very tempted to lust? With His grace, we CAN see as God sees, we can love others as He loves others. Here's some ideas to get us closer to this goal...

1. Recognize sexual attraction as a gift from God. The evil one wants you to think that every sexual thought is nasty and dirty. However, God came up with sexual attraction so we'd want to unite with each other in marriage - a most beautiful thing. It's a gift from God when you are drawn to a woman. The evil sneaks in when you start using her in your brain for your own pleasure. So, before you get to the point of entertaining or using this sexual attraction for your benefit, give glory to God. Say, "Thank you God for this beautiful woman and that I'm a sexually healthy young man."

2. Ask God to bless this person. Maybe you are dealing with lust toward a young woman who is seeking sexual attention (by dressing, dancing or talking sexually), or perhaps it is a past memory of you with a girl, or maybe it is a memory from viewing sexually explicit materials - regardless, you can pray for the person (or people) involved. Say a prayer that God would bless her abundantly today and with men in the future - that she'd be respected and know true love. This will help you see women as people deserving of respect and honor. Such a short, sweet prayer will start to change how you look at women - not as an object of your attention - but as a person needing prayers and real love.

3. Pray to be saved from the lust. Although any prayer is good at the time of temptation or even after you lust, to request forgiveness, I encourage you to be specific. First of all, know that the name of Jesus is the most powerful word ever to come out of your mouth. If you're being tempted or even bombarded by thoughts, simply say his name over and over again. He came to be our Savior, so ask him to save you. If you must say his name 20X for the temptations to stop, say it 20X. It infuriates the evil one that Jesus gets to be Savior again and again.

4. Transform thoughts in prayer. God created sexual desire and union. So, bring all your thoughts to Him in prayer, even in Adoration, if that's possible. Although this might sound strange, he can handle it. In doing so, you bring the darkness of your mind out into the Light. Let Jesus transform your thoughts. Sit, with the sexual image, and with God in it at the same time. Allow Him to walk through it with you. Consider asking yourself, "Is this what I really want?" Ask God, "How should I think of this?" When the lustful images pop in your brain, the first thought will no longer be "take, use", it'll be "this shallow act isn't what I ultimately want."

5. Untwist the lie. Under every perverted, impure thought is a pure, beautiful and noble motivation. You do not lust after women because you are a sick human, rotten to the core; you lust because you desire union, real love and real intimacy and the lie you've been fed was that taking sexual pleasure will fulfill your desire. You've been duped. Ask God to help you seek the truth - the real desires deep down that you have to love and honor women and the act of sex. Ask Him to get to the core of who you are and where you want to go in life. He will guide you to seeing and thinking as He does. Lies come from the evil one; truth comes from God. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door shall be opened to you. He will untwist those thoughts so you will even see your memories differently. He will help you see women and sex as ultimately a cry for union and love - nothing less. Jesus came to restore sight to the blind and heal the broken-hearted. He did that for and through bishop #2; He can do it for and through you, too.

6. Stay soaked in truth. It's difficult to live in this world, stay soaked in the truth, and not give into the lies. I need daily, personal prayer with God. I need to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation on at least a monthly basis (sometimes more frequently). I also need Mary's prayers, so I pray a Rosary all the time. And, I need union, as I wait for union with my spouse and for perfect union in Heaven. I receive a taste of Heaven (what sex is meant to be also), when I receive Jesus in the Eucharist. In going to Sunday and daily Mass, I not only get to hear God's word (the truth proclaimed), but I also get to experience perfect love and union in Him. Heaven kisses earth through the Eucharist. Jesus comes to us to love us, unite with us and heal us, as the last prayer we say states, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be...healed." Ask him to heal you, transform you and love you on a regular basis. It will change your heart and your mind dramatically.

7. Learn more about chastity. It's simple, the more I grow in understanding and living the virtue of chastity, the better I get at loving people. In reading about chastity, you'll discover the source and path of real love. Also, you'll hear all the benefits and positive effects of real love. You'll start to crave real love and resolve to live your life for nothing less than real love. Read more books, articles or websites on the topic. Our website has some great resources.

Over time, with prayer, God's truth and a desire to be transformed, you can have a clean mind and heart. It's not a simple or easy road to live chastity whole-heartedly, but it's worth it.  In this world, nothing beats real love...nothing.

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My boyfriend and I have been in a relationship for a little over a year, and though we have not had sex, I know there are parts of our relationship that aren't so pure. We want to be sexually pure in all ways, but are having difficulty. It seems really hard to introduce true chastity when we have already done things. How do I steer our relationship out of this bad direction?  Read more »

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