There are certain topics that Catholic singles discuss with ease and comfort. Most of us can share about our less than enjoyable dating experiences. Many people have had dates or relationships that have surprised them in the best possible way. However, as I talk with my male and female Catholic friends, there is one conversation topic that sometimes does not get honestly discussed when it comes to dating or relationships. I’m referring here to chastity—especially ongoing conversations about chastity with your partner.
I’m not about to tell you to go deep into this conversation about chastity on the third date during the dessert course. However, I do think these are some of the most important conversations to have in an ongoing way with someone you are seriously dating.
I have made plenty of mistakes regarding chastity along the way. Before I got married, we struggled a lot with chastity. I was a virgin when I got married, but we crossed a lot of boundaries. Fast forward to our marriage which was sexually unhealthy in many ways. Eventually, I found myself divorced and going through an annulment all by the ripe age of thirty-one. After my annulment went through and I felt ready to date again, I knew I had to learn how to date and approach chastity and healthy sexuality in a brand-new way. I had to unlearn the unhealthy and learn from my past mistakes.
I am far from perfect. However, my dating experience in my thirties has been the healthy dating experience I never knew when I was younger. Here are five conversations to have in an ongoing relationship with your partner, especially if the struggle of chastity is difficult from time to time.
1. Talk about physical boundaries
There are all kinds of different boundaries. However, physical boundaries in serious relationships can sometimes be tricky. It is no secret when two adults who are physically attracted to each other are going to want to express that to the other. So make time to discuss what the physical boundaries are in your relationship.
What are the hard and fast things you do not want to go past? How will you handle if one person is pushing the other a bit more physically? How would you handle things like traveling together? What feels healthy and safe to you in your physical relationship, while not objectifying the other? Do your physical boundaries lead you to lust or selflessness?
I know it can feel awkward and maybe messy to bring up these conversations. But I am convinced they are some of the most important ones to be having.
2. What happens when you go past your boundaries?
I know, I’ve been there. Perhaps you have gone past your boundaries too. Maybe you didn’t have sex, but you come close to that murky, gray area of realizing you and your partner went too far.
So what do you do? Start by taking responsibility for your actions and choices. You own that to yourself and your partner. Don’t shame shame each other, but do take personal responsibility for your own part.When things go further than you wish, stop and take time to process and discuss as a couple.
After you talk with each other about the situation, take time to receive the grace of the sacrament of confession.
3. Discuss your sexual past and/or trauma
Everybody has a sexual past. We all have experiences, mindsets, perspectives, and sometimes trauma that impact our sexuality as an individual. If we don’t discuss our sexual past and/or trauma, we will drag unforeseen issues and wounds into a relationship.
As the relationship develops and the time is appropriate, share vulnerably with each other about your sexual past. Knowing where someone is coming from can help moving forward into a healthy relationship together, striving for chastity.
4. What is the meaning of healthy sexuality and chastity?
What is your understanding of healthy sexuality? How does this understanding impact your daily life? These were questions my counselor had me sit with for a while, and I think they matter for Catholic singles.
Our sexuality is formed by lots of different ideas, experiences, and things we learned in our families of origin. Sometimes they were good and healthy. Other times, it was the complete opposite. Understanding what healthy sexuality means to you will help you have more open, honest conversations on this topic with your significant other.
5. What is your arousal curve?
You might think this last conversation topic is a bit strange. However, my counselor has shared this with me and I have found it helpful in my own dating experiences navigating things like physical boundaries or how far is too far.
Every man or woman has a sexual arousal curve. No one arousal curve looks the same and it is unique to an individual. Any particular man or woman could experience particular actions or touches that raises their level of sexual arousal. If you are seeking to live chastely, knowing what you find especially sexually arousing is important so it does not lead you to make choices you may later regret.
Know your own physical body and take responsibility for it. The virtue of chastity is much more than just not having sex. Instead, it’s about fostering a healthy relationship between our bodies, desires, and sexuality. Maybe you are (or are not) struggling with chastity in your relationship. Regardless of where you are, having these important conversations in an ongoing way is critical growing together with your partner.
Would you add anything else? What has your experience been in having these conversations in a relationship?