How can I turn around an impure relationship?

Hi Heather - 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?

 

Dear Friend,

 

It’s good to hear that both you and your boyfriend seek to build a strong, faithful relationship that gives glory to God.  That is the first step in creating a healthy Christian relationship – the desire to please God.  Because your goal is to do God’s will, I believe that He will honor your request and guide you to making the right decisions.

 

First of all, it sounds like you two have progressed from stage 1 to stage 2 and are hoping to get to stage 3.  You might be asking, “Heather, what are all these ‘stages’?”  Well, they refer to my own story of discovering and eventually living chastity.  I described this progression in one of my blogs – Do You Hate Rules?  Please read this blog before reading further.

 

So, as you can see, I can relate.  I have also been at a place where I had gone further than what is pure and I wanted to turn the tide.  Unfortunately for him, the guy I was with did not want chastity for his own sake.  However, both you and your boyfriend can turn the tide of impurity at the same time if you’re both open and desire it.  Living a life of chastity means learning how to love purely.  Your sheer desire to love your boyfriend and vice versa should help move both of you from stage 2 into stage 3.

 

In speaking to a college audience a couple months ago, I gave my story, similar to what is written in “Do You Hate Rules?”  Then, I fielded their questions.  The most common question I received was “How do you progress from Stage 2 to Stage 3?”  Since this question is so important, I’ll give you some specific things that have helped me.

 

1.) Strengthen your relationship with Christ – I have even recently found that when I take my relationship with Jesus to the next level, He always pours out abundantly graces and mercy.  Especially when I’m going through a difficult time or just sense the need for more of His graces, I try to do something new, different, extra in my prayer life to connect with Him on a deeper level.  A few years ago, I started praying the Rosary daily.  Then, I picked up a new way to read Scripture, called Lectio Divina, and started journeying immediately afterwards.  I made a commitment to one silent hour of prayer each week in Eucharistic Adoration (in addition to my daily prayer time).  And, now I am trying to go to daily Mass everyday.  I know a lot of these suggestions are Catholic, but, if you’re not Catholic, you can find other ways.  Even as a Catholic, my next step is to do my own Bible Study on a specific book (still debating which one).  As a young person, making a commitment youth group or a small prayer group is another great idea.  Find ways you can connect with God and take it to the next level.  If you see this as, “Darn, I’ve got to do more for God,” then you might want to step back and wait until you’re ready.  The way I try to see it is that I’m a pretty miserable sinner and without His grace, I’m lost, lonely and clueless.  I just need Him.  That’s why I’m always trying to strengthen my relationship with Jesus, especially when I know I need him.

 

2.) Be Accountable on Numerous Levels – Find formal and informal ways of being accountable.  For me, I have a sister and two or three friends who informally keep me accountable by asking me what I’ve been doing with guys, where is my heart, am I being pure.  I specifically told them they have the right and duty to ask me these questions.  Also, on a formal level, I have a small women’s prayer group that I connect with every two weeks.  I must be honest with them on what I’m doing in several areas (God, self, others, vocation/men).  They pray for me all the time, especially when I’m struggling.  Also, I have a spiritual director (I’m meeting with her today actually), who I must be honest with about my heart, soul and body.  AND, as a Catholic, I utilize the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular basis – to say outloud to another that I am sorry for my sins and hear from Jesus (through the words of a priest) that I am forgiven.  If you’re not Catholic, you could do this with your local youth or Church minister.  You can even find a way of being accountable with your boyfriend.  Maybe you two can write a list of ways you want to love each other better and every Sunday evening (or whenever you regularly talk) you can check in and see how you’re both doing.  Just make sure, however, that a guy is never your sole accountability.  In relationships, people can tend to slack and these things can be conveniently “forgotten” too easily.

 

3.) Learn More about Chastity/Purity – This has been huge for me.  There are many great articles, books and websites to encourage you in growing in love and purity.  My favorites are listed on our resources page -  I really love the books “When God Writes Your Love Story”, “Passion and Purity” and so many of the articles and links. You should read these resources separate from your boyfriend, but some of them you probably want to share with one another.  Reading on love and purity will go a long way in helping each of you desire more and more chastity.  When you know a ton about real love, you will not want to settle for less.

 

4.) Get a Love Life – Whether you or dating or not, it’s always good to fill your life with love.  Find things you love to do and people who love you well so that you’re always at peace and overflowing no matter what happens – boyfriend or not.  If people ever ask you, at any time in your life, “How’s your love life?”, hopefully you can respond, “It’s wonderful”.  Fall in love with an activity, a series of books, your grandma or grandpa, friends who love you for you, playing games with you family, whatever.  Most importantly, fall in love with Jesus, who is the source of all love.  He already loves you more than you can imagine, but in loving him, you’ll feel and experience His love more than ever.  Your cup will truly be overflowing with pure love.  When you’re overflowing, loving your boyfriend (current or future) will become easier and easier.  You’ll seek physical and sexual attention much less when you know you’re loved no matter what happens.

 

One last thought, however, that ties into all four suggestions, is that you focus on growing in chastity individually.  If you both build your chastity through the strength of one another, what will happen if the relationship ends?  Although Christ can use others to speak to us, give us courage and guide us, He rarely uses our “significant other” in that capacity.  Here’s why – if that person leaves or the relationship ends, too much of our faith is wrapped up and gone with their absence.  The hole we feel is not just in our hearts, but our souls feel empty.  Also, even if we end up marrying this person, we find our faith more built on him than on Christ.  When our husband or boyfriend fails to love us unconditionally, we are disappointed at the deepest of levels.  Yet, no human can love unconditionally except Jesus. 

 

Therefore, it’s important to build your own relationship with Christ, not a “couple” relationship with Christ.  If you pray together, make that only a small portion of your personal prayer time, certainly not the majority.  Your accountability should most definitely be based on others outside of the relationship who have a more objective view on what’s happening.  And, even your growth in understanding and living chastity should be based on your own reasons and growth in Christ.  Living chastity should start with your love life with Jesus, the love you experience in so many other ways and then, later, that love can outpour to your boyfriend and vice versa.

 

I hope this makes sense.  These are truly the things that have helped me the most in moving from Stage 2 to Stage 3 and staying in Stage 3 (it does take work to stay in Stage 3 and not revert back to Stage 2, or 1 for that matter). I will be praying for you and for your boyfriend.  May God bless you with abundant wisdom, courage and strength.