As a little girl, I loved the old swashbuckling tales of adventure and romance. Robin Hood, Zorro, The Black Arrow…Watching The Black Arrow I learned what an annulment was. When the evil lord tried to force the rich heroine to marry him by kidnapping her relatives that seemed like the worst fate in the world! My mom explained it wouldn’t be a valid marriage because she wouldn’t enter of her free will.
The Church requires that people enter marriage “freely and with full consent.”
Those simple words “freely and with full consent” have a far deeper meaning than a forced wedding. Marriage is (among other things) a sexual and emotional relationship. To truly give yourself sexually and emotionally, you need to be sexually and emotionally free. Otherwise, instead of giving you wind up taking, and using instead of loving. While there aren’t many evil lords hanging around today, there are two sadly common enemies to a person’s sexual and emotional freedom: lust and fear.
It’s very true that if you cannot say no, your yes is incomplete.
If you cannot deny yourself sexual pleasure, lust will color your perspective when approaching a potential spouse, and you marry the pleasure instead of the person. If you are terrified of being alone, fear will cling to any reasonable prospect that comes along, and you marry the relationship instead of the person. Because you cannot say “no,” you are not free to give full consent.
To be free does not require being free from temptation. You may struggle with thoughts or have moments of panic. To be free, those feelings must not control you. You should have strong, healthy sexual desires and you will be tempted. But you need the freedom and humility that can run away from the near occasion of sin and avoid illicit behavior. You should have the emotional health to form deep attachments that may break your heart. But you need the freedom and trust that can walk away from a relationship that isn’t right and accept living a single life with God.
Before you marry someone, you need to make sure you are in love with this unique, individual person, not with the pleasure or the relationship. When you do truly love the person, to build a healthy relationship you need the freedom to give yourself completely. So you need the ability to deny yourself sexual pleasure or the security of a relationship. If you sincerely strive for Christ, you will eventually reach the reliance on Him for strength and comfort that will break the grip of lust. If you truly seek God’s will, you will learn to trust Him and fear will lose its stranglehold. In three years, you don’t want to reach this freedom and peace, look at your spouse, and go “What was I thinking? We aren’t best friends. We don’t have a healthy relationship. Why didn’t I wait?”
Lust or fear has hurt you ENOUGH. Don’t be impatient and give them the chance to influence the decision or destroy the relationship that will hurt you or bless you for the rest of your life.
If you are dating someone addicted to lust or dominated by fear, step back. Tell your friend you’re seriously concerned that this will prevent your chance for a healthy relationship. This person may be “the one,” but you can take a break while they concentrate on improving their relationship with God first. If they won’t, you can’t move forward.
You will be called hard, self-righteous, and told to be more understanding because “they can’t help themselves.” You aren’t claiming to be God and judging the personal culpability of anyone. But if the poor people really can’t help themselves—that’s actually the problem! Because it means they aren’t free. You cannot ask someone to enter marriage when they are not free.
Pray for guidance, trust your gut, and never move forward in a relationship if both of you cannot do so with purity and peace. It will hurt, but in the words of one guy to the girl who had broken things off between them many years before: “Thank God you were such a sensible young woman!”
Sarah Karlyn Larue is a 26-year-old author of eight books, who loves her Faith and loves writing and is happiest when putting them together. Her latest series, That They Might Have Love, is for all Catholic young women who want to seek God first in their love lives and find greater love and joy when they are single, dating, and married.