Ask a Priest

Giving Up Sex

May 09, 2008

If a couple who are yet to be married, but have previously engaged in sexual relations, realise the error in their ways and try to make a change and give up sex until they are married, do you have any tips of advice on the best way to achieve this and not fall back into old habits?

(i’m pretty sure that sentence was grammatically incorrect, but i hope it makes sense)

Asked at 02:04 am on May 09th 2008

I think there are a number of aspects to this question. First of all many people today just don’t accept that chastity before marriage is something to strive for, but from your question it seems we don’t have to deal with this as the couple are convinced about doing this.

Then, I would preface any advice on how to live chastely with a couple of numbers from the Catechism.

2342 Self-control is a long and exacting work. One can never consider it acquired once for all. It presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life (Tit 2:1-6). The effort required can be more intense at certain periods, such as when the personality is being formed during childhood and adolescence.

2343 Chastity has laws of growth, which progress through stages marked by imperfection and too often by sin. “Man … day by day builds himself up day by day through his many free decisions; and so he knows, loves, and accomplishes moral good by “stages of growth” (FC 34).

So it’s clear that there are no magic formulas or absolute guarantees. Rather, it is a continual process of striving to be faithful to God and is also tied up with the state of spiritual life as a whole, our prayer life, and our emotional and psychological level of development.

I think that there would be two main levels of action for the couple. First of all is the spiritual facet.

On this you can read no. 2345 of the Catechism: “Chastity is a moral virtue. It is also a gift of God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort. The Holy Spirit enables one whom the water of Baptism has regenerated to imitate the purity of Christ (1 Jn 3:3). ”


– Repent. Come to God asking for his grace. Ask him to forgive you and heal you. Following this regular confession is also useful, both in order to maintain the state of grace and to receive the help of grace through the sacrament to be able to resist temptations with God’s help.

– Renew yourself through prayer and if you can seek out a spiritual director who can guide you and offer advice.

Then there are a number of practical steps to consider.

– Look at your selection of friends, music, magazines, movies, and other things that influence you.

– Avoid the near occasions of sin. When together don’t spend time alone together, but prefer to be together in public settings.

– As well, if the couple talk the matter over between themselves and draw up some guidelines for behavior this is a help. Then, they should help each other out through prayer and motivating each other to follow these guidelines.

There are quite a few resources available on the Internet with advice on this issue.

The Pure Love Club has a section of questions and answers, plus a lot of other very useful information. There is a page that deals with what you are asking about.

There is also a useful article with advice on how to live chastely before marriage.

Then, if you wanted to go deeper into the area of theology and what John Paul II taught in his theology of the body there is a very good site – – that you could have a look at.

Replied at 06:39 am on May 09th 2008

Yeah… Don’t stress over it because I think God is going to overlook a bit of sex in a loving adult relationship… Just denying yourself sex isn’t a great way to teach yourself responsible adult behaviours about sex and relationships.

In fact – sometimes supressing those feelings has the opposite effect.

A great way to interpret Christianity is to do it according to your own heirarchy of beliefs. Is helping the poor more important than worrying about sex with your partner? For me, yes.

Replied at 04:56 am on June 18th 2008

James, I know it is a temptation, but we can’t pick and choose which moral principles we will follow and make our own decision about what is important and what we can ignore. It is a very popular way to consider religion these days, a sort of supermarket religion, where you pick and choose the bits and pieces of doctrine you like and make up your own sort of Church. You can of course do this, but you should not thing that in doing so you are living the sort of Catholic faith that God is calling us to follow.

Certainly, it is difficult to live faithfully the call to chastity, but this is no reason to just say I am not going to do it and there are other more important things to do.

Replied at 04:46 am on June 18th 2008

Complete chastity just seems so…extreme. I’m not saying that its ok to have sex with whoever whenever but surely in a commited and loving adult relationship its ok? Are you really saying that if I have sex before marriage I’ll go to hell??? Even if I’m ‘good’ in other areas of my life?

And also that bit about repentance…is there anyway, other than confession, to repent properly? I really dislike going to confession.

Replied at 12:00 pm on June 19th 2008

Emily, yes these matters are hard to deal with and it is so difficult to be faithful to what God asks us to do when the current cultural and social context is so hostile to Christian values.

Concering what you say about the gravity of sexual sins, well yes sex outside marriage is a mortal sin, so if you do commit such sins and do not confess them then you do place your soul in serious danger.

I know it is difficult to confess sins and you are not the only one who feels reticent, but Christ instituted this sacrament and he offers us this great opportunity to be forgiven – which is an enormous gift. God is like that image of the father of the prodigal son, he is waiting for us to return and ask pardon. And not only is he waiting, he is anxious for our return and is looking for us and if we only take a step towards him then he will do the rest. I can also say to you that as a priest when someone comes and confesses and receives forgiveness then it really is as Jesus says, a cause for joy and celebration.

On the importance of waiting until marriage for sexual intimacy I think it might help you to read some of what John Paul II has said on this subject. In this address to young people in Uganda in 1993 he said:

“Essential to preparing for marriage is your vocation to chastity. I know that young people reject hypocrisy. You want to be honest with yourselves and others. A chaste person is honest. When God created us he gave us more than one way to “speak” to each other. Besides expressing ourselves through speech, we express ourselves through our bodies. Gestures are like “words” that tell who we are. Sexual actions are “words” that reveal our hearts. The Lord wants us to use our sexuality according to his plan. He expects us to “speak” truthfully. ”

He also explains the role of sexual intimacy in a way that I think shows that it is not the case that the Church is calling people to repress themselves, but to really value the great gift that it is.

“Honest sexual “language” requires a commitment to lifelong fidelity. To give your body to another person symbolizes the total gift of yourself to that person. But if you are not married, you are admitting that you might change your mind in the future. Total self–giving would then be absent. Without the bond of marriage, sexual relations are a lie. And for Christians, marriage means sacramental marriage.

Chastity – which means respecting the dignity of others because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit – (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19) leads you to grow in love for others and for God. It prepares you to make the “sincere gift of self” (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 48) that is the basis of Christian marriage. More important, it teaches you to learn to love as Christ loves, laying down his life for others (cf. Jn. 15:13).”

Replied at 11:36 pm on June 19th 2008

I found that quote from Pope John Paul II to be quite inspiring. Thanks for posting it.

Replied at 01:40 am on June 20th 2008

does it make a difference if you know that you are going to marry that person?
as in soulmate, other half, whatever you want to call it.

i almost feel guilty for asking that, but does it make a difference in God’s eyes?

what if you feel and know you’re married in your heart, but for whatever reason (social, financial, etc.) you can’t get married, but plan to at a later date, one in the near future?

Replied at 03:15 am on June 20th 2008

Dear Anna: I can understand you and in no way doubt your intentions and good will. Nevertheless, the sacrament of marriage is not just a formality, but a sacrament of the Church in which the two people promise fidelity for life and their bond is blessed by the Church. It marks a vital moment in the life of the couple and forms a bond that is only dissolved by death. In this way what John Paul II refers to when he talks about a total self-giving becomes not only a human bond but one blessed by God.

I realize that there can often be many valid reasons that mean a marriage both of the persons want has to be delayed. On the other hand, as the years go by your eventual marriage and family life will also require many sacrifices and go through moments of trial. So if from the start of your relationship both of you support each other in fidelity to God, even though this is difficult, then it will also be a valuable period of preparation for the decades of life together ahead.

Replied at 03:27 am on June 20th 2008

thank you Father.
it’s quite a consolation, that all this waiting is vital.
i get so impatient sometimes.

Replied at 07:55 pm on June 20th 2008

And here I pop up again with another two cents.
Even if you completely disregard the Churches teachings, and look at it from a completely psychological point of view, once you engage in a sexual relationship, if that relationship ends, you get burnt harder and faster then a non sexual relationship… sinply becasue of the connection that is made through the act…
God bless all

Replied at 04:28 pm on June 22nd 2008

Dear Edith,

If you dislike going to Confession you may find it helpful to focus on what this sacrament provides for us, rather than just what it takes away. It is such a welcome alternative. To find out more about the many great benefits it gives us you can read a book I wrote called, “The Gift of Confession: A Positive Approach to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.” It contains 25 bite-size chapters, each describing a particular benefit this sacrament gives us. The book demonstraets that these benefits are not only many, for they are also striking and genuine. If you are amazed that there are so many benefits it is because fear blinds us. It even prevents us from seeing good things. You can get a copy with free postage directly from the publisher by going to the following website:

The appendix also contains answers to frequently asked questions such as your own. They include answers to the questions: “Why do I need to Confess my sins to a priest?” “But can’t God forgive me without this sacrament?” “What will the priest think of me if I confess this or that sin?” “If I have committed only one serious sin why should I go to Confession if my life is fundamentally faithful to Christ?”

Replied at 12:36 am on June 30th 2008

I engaged in premarital sex, I commited sin, I already confessed my sin, thank God because the burden was lifted, now I still struggling to forget what happen and move on according to God’s teachings, I still cant forget the intimacy happened between the two of us and there also times that I think bad thoughts about the man . I dont want to commit sin anymore, I have a habit  to confession for every other week  or after a month so that I will not commit sin anymore.

Please give me more advice, I dont tell this to my family because my family has a strong catholic background, I have a two friends who knew what happen to me, thank God also because they often said that I dont need to condem my self for what happen and God is forgiving.

Any bible verse will also help me to gain more wisdom  and courage to continue life according to God’s will

Thank you father for the response

Replied at 03:01 am on August 07th 2008

Dear Joy Joy: It is important to have faith in God’s grace and to really believe that God has forgiven you the sins you confessed. I am sure also that by continuing to go to confession regularly you will also be helped in your efforts to avoid sin.

You might find it helpful to say some of the prayers on a site dedicated to Saint Maria Goretti. They have a section with prayers for purity.

There is a site – – where you can find a lot of useful information and guidance on this subject. 

Replied at 04:31 am on August 07th 2008

Hi Thomas,
I am not sure that if you are in acomitted relationship it acutally helps, if you want behave in a way that minimizes the harm in case you break up. If your actions are guided by the fear to break-up the other person will notice it and think that your not quite comitted. It might apear  like you hedging your bets.



Replied at 09:30 am on August 08th 2008

Father John, I salute you on your valiant battle in this thread, to uphold and the Church’s teachings.

I hope I can offer some help as someone in a similar situation to you, Mary (and others).  I am 23 years old have been in a relationship with my wife-to-be for 5 years.  We always knew it was ‘wrong’ to have sex before marriage in the eyes of the Church, but we thought that the Church had got it wrong and was living in the dark ages! It was only when we reached the 4-year mark when we discovered the beauty of the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage that we decided to be chaste until our marriage later this year. 

It has been one year since that decision and I say in full confidence that it was the best decision we have ever made with regards our relationship, and just as importantly, for our faith.  We have more respect for one another as a result, and a better understanding of the incredible importance and fundamentality of marital relations.  This decision wasn’t made on a whim.  Firstly I want to say, even if you don’t understand the Church’s teachings, trust in her wisdom and refrain from your sexual relations starting today.  Start to explore Pp John Paul II’s teachings on the theology of the body, through the likes of Christopher West (Created and Redeemed DVD and books).  It will soon be easy to see that it was the best decision you made for your relationship and your journey of faith.  Never cease to search for and absorb the truth through the literary and spiritual treasure that the Church has to offer us.

To help you get started, confess regularly (once a week), and ask for spiritual advice from your priest.  This will help you to see more clearly how sexual sin separates us from God and from our future spouse.

I don’t know where to start or to finish, as the benefits of pre-marital chastity are boundless.  I will leave it at that!

Replied at 08:37 am on August 16th 2008

Thanks for sharing your story, J. 

I’m having a similar experience in rediscovering chastity.  some days its tough, but sometimes i’m filled with so much joy in the way our relationship is growing in Christ. 
Theology of the body has so much wisdom in it that is so wonderful to discover. 

Replied at 06:12 am on August 19th 2008