Ann Marie Williams is a sales and marketing representative for Catholic Answers. The second of eight children, she was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Ann Marie started researching Catholic teaching on chastity while in high school, and has developed a love of spreading the message. She graduated from the University of La Verne in 2013 with a Communications degree.
How to Keep Your Relationship Pure
Why do we keep making the same mistakes? How do I stay pure with all of today’s modern pressures?
In reality, it boils down to two main concepts:
Lead Us Not into Temptation
Remember that line from the Our Father? It doesn’t say “lead us not into sin” but “lead us not into temptation.” See, we aren’t called merely to stay away from sin; we are called to avoid temptation. To do otherwise is asking for trouble.
Imagine you are watching TV and a news alert flashes across the screen: “Rabid dogs loose in your neighborhood. Do not go near them.” You warn your younger sister, who is home, about the dogs. Then you open your windows, garage door, front door, back door, doggy door, and the skylight on the roof. True, the dogs might not enter your house right away, but there’s a pretty good chance that eventually they will. Once they’re in your house they might not injure anyone. But if you love your sister—and yourself—why would you take that chance?
The same concept applies to a dating or courting relationship. Sitting together cuddled up in a dark room on a comfy couch, alone, for hours on end, is placing you both in temptation’s way. Likewise deciding to place yourselves in a situation where you have been previously tempted or amorous is also irresponsible. Why would you place the one you love in the near occasion of sin? As disciples of Christ, we are called to stay away from not just sin itself but from temptation. We should strive to remain pure of heart (What is your intention in this relationship?), pure of mind (keep your thoughts chaste and do not dwell on activities that belong only in marriage) and pure of action (refrain from anything sexual in nature, or actions that create sexual arousal).
Battle of the Wills
“My boyfriend said he would leave me if I didn’t give in.” “We got lost in the passion.” “My teammates said I wasn’t ‘man enough’ if we didn’t.” “I wasn’t thinking.” Do any of these excuses sound familiar? They have one thing in common: “It’s not my fault”. Well, I hate to break it to you, but unless a crime was committed, at least 50 percent of the blame is yours. Of course, remember, if you have messed up, you can go to confession and start over with a clean slate and a pure soul.
No one can make you will to do anything you don’t want to. Not your boyfriend, girlfriend, hormones, classmates, teammates, buddies, society, anyone. Sin comes down to one person: you. In the end we will be held accountable for what we choose and don’t choose. You can make the change, you can make the effort, you can prove your love through your actions and inaction. Will there be those around you who laugh at, scorn and belittle you? If so, remember, they don’t have your best interest in mind. Your focus is discerning marriage which means doing what is spiritually best for yourself and the person you are dating- in other words, loving her the way Christ loves us. Is this easy? No. Love, the way Christ intended it, is not easy, but it is eternally rewarding - and there are no regrets.
Tips to Remember
- Pray individually and as a couple for purity, fortitude, courage and discernment. Put Christ into your relationship. In fact, Christ should be present in all your relationships.
- Be honest with yourself and with one another about what makes purity difficult, and avoid those situations, places, actions, ways of dress, etc. Do not try to find loopholes but strive to preserve the purity of one another. This will foster selflessness, communication, and Christ-like love.
- Decide together, prayerfully on limits of physical affection. Ask a trusted friend to hold you accountable. Satan is full of ingenious lies, and accountability combats many of them.
- Purity begins in the mind, so it is crucial to guard your thoughts. Remember what Christ said: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28) We are bombarded with impure language and images whether on the radio or billboards or in movies or magazines- so it is no wonder we have difficulty keeping our thoughts pure. The fewer of these lyrics, images and movie scenes you consume, the easier purity of mind will be.
- Don’t spend copious amounts of time alone together; hang out with friends and family. After all, you should be discerning whether the person you are dating is the one you want to marry, so it’s important to get to know his friends and family. We often put our best foot forward in relationships, but it is difficult to hide our true nature around friends, family, and especially siblings. It would be wise to ensure that the time you do spend alone is spent in public places.
- If your family and friends who truly love you have reservations about the person you are dating, you should consider their concerns. They may see red flags you have missed.
- Have fun, be silly, get to know one another, and don’t do just the romantic dating thing. If you’re hoping the person you’re dating will be your spouse, then fostering a solid friendship is even more important than romance. The honeymoon stage of a marriage doesn’t last, so when the real world settles in, you need a foundation of more than just romance and chemistry to get you through.