There’s no doubt that we’re living in a culture dominated by casual hook-ups. That being said, don’t lose hope in finding a partner who thinks like you! In most modern relationships, indulgence comes first; pushing sacrifice and commitment to the back-burner.
As Catholics, we are called to pursue something higher. That “something” is full and faithful communion with another through the gift of marriage. Dating is just the warm-up! God has something much better in store for us if we’re willing to wait and watch his plan unfold.
That sounds well and good on paper, but how are we to live a chaste dating relationship, especially when those around us have chosen a different path?
Here are a few practical tips for staying chaste in the midst of our hook-up culture. These ideas will help you stay connected with your partner without falling into sin. Don’t forget, this journey is hard, but it is worth it! The challenge will strengthen you as a couple and help you develop a bond that will last through all of marriage’s ups and downs.
And take heart! Living chastely doesn’t require supervised dates. It also doesn’t require strict guidelines like my alma mater’s infamous “four feet on the floor” rule. If you’re willing to work with your partner and talk it through, you’re sure to find a system that works for both of you and that allows your relationship to flourish.
Temptation can become overwhelming when you feel like you’re alone in your struggle. Make it a priority to find friends who think like you. Get together often and share your successes and your struggles. Go out on double dates, or invite your friends over for a quiet dinner at home. You will find comfort in spending time with likeminded people. Also, you will be less likely to act on any feelings of temptation when friends are nearby.
There’s a reason God left us with a Church. His commands may be in our best interest, but they aren’t always easy to follow, especially when they go against what’s common in our culture. He knew we would need a group of people to inspire, guide and challenge us on our journey.
In St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he urged Christ’s followers to be there in support of each other:
“Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up…” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NAB).
In addition to looking for friends who support you, try to encourage others in their struggle. You may find that it strengthens your resolve as well.
Quick Tip: Make sure to find a group of friends that you and your partner both “click” with. That way you will look forward to your double dates, rather than viewing them as a chore.
Go Out Together
This journey may not be easy, but who said it can’t be fun? Go out with your partner as often as possible. Explore your city, discover new hobbies…enjoy each other’s company.
Forget about dinner and a movie. Try a new sport. Take a class. The world is yours to discover together. You will benefit from lots of quality time spent learning about each other, and you likely won’t feel overwhelmed by temptation when you’re out in public together.
Let’s be honest, it’s highly unlikely that you’re not attracted to your date. The pull you feel toward your partner is good! It’s God-given and it’s exhilarating. Embrace that feeling and run with it.
Consider the things you love most about your partner and plan dates that celebrate those features. If your girlfriend is artistic, consider a pottery painting date. If your boyfriend is outdoorsy, pack a picnic and go for a day hike. Whatever you do, approach this time as an opportunity to enjoy each other without distractions.
Whether you’re out on the town or having a quiet meal at home, remember to stay busy. It may sound cliche, but board games were a lifesaver for my husband and I during our long engagement. We still love to cook together and go on long walks when intimacy is not on the table for one reason or another. Have a plan and stick with it! Everything else can wait.
Quick Tip: Alcohol can dim your inhibitions, making purity even more difficult. Try going out for smoothies or milkshakes instead of hitting up the bar.
Burn Off Some Energy
We all know the benefits of burning off steam through physical activity, but did you know that exercise can be beneficial for your dating relationship? Not only is it a great way to spend time together, studies prove that exercise is a cathartic activity, meaning that it helps relieve tension due to nagging emotions.
As you grow closer and closer to your partner, the desire to be fully united with them will grow stronger and stronger. It’s important to develop a system for releasing these powerful feelings, or else your temptation will continue to grow.
One of the best ways to release any bottled up tension is to get your blood pumping. Exercising elevates your heart rate and causes your body to release endorphins—feel-good hormones that help you cheer up and mellow out.
So go for a run, a hike, a bike ride…whatever you enjoy most. The goal is to get your body moving. Whether you need to work out alone to clear your head, or prefer to have your partner there to spur you on, you’re sure to benefit from activity in many ways. Just communicate your needs to your partner and get moving!
Quick Tip: Try out a trendy exercise class like sword fighting or Surfset together. You will have a chance to bond as you burn calories and blow off steam.
Explore Your Love Languages
It’s true that certain things are “off limits” in a holy dating relationship, but that shouldn’t be an obstacle to the affection you show your partner. In fact, it should broaden and strengthen it. Abstinence allows you to explore other avenues for giving and receiving love. If you’re at a loss, don’t worry. There’s an app for that!
The 5 Love Languages—a book that has changed countless relationships for the better—is now accessible from your mobile device. This book is the key to understanding how you and your partner communicate love to one another. If you’re looking for a quick overview, visit the website for a crash course. You can even take a short test to determine how you give and receive love best.
Do you feel most loved when you open a surprise gift, or when you receive a hug? Is it more meaningful to you when your partner compliments you or helps you around the house? Once you know the answers to these questions, you will be better equipped to express love in your relationship.
Quick Tip: Feeling left out because you’re a “physical touch” person? Don’t worry! There are many ways to give and receive love through physical touch. Make sure your partner knows how meaningful their hugs are. Try cuddling, holding hands and dancing together.
Talk About it
Chaste living is tough. It’s a constant battle against very positive and productive feelings toward your partner. At times, it’s counterintuitive and it can be downright confusing. That’s why it’s important to stay in constant communication with your significant other. Express your likes and dislikes, needs, fears, successes and failures. Be there to support your partner as well.
James 5:16 says,
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”
This quote is often applied to reconciliation, but it is also relevant to relationships. Share with each other and support one another. Be forgiving and help your partner move past any feelings of fear or shame. Try to be open with your partner at all times and reserve secrets for surprise parties and fun gifts.
Stay on the same page and your relationship will grow deeper with every passing moment. This is a difficult journey, but you can do this!
Quick Tip: Speaking of reconciliation… Make it a priority to visit this sacrament together, at least once a month. The grace you receive will help you bond as a couple and will help you stay on track.
Most importantly, spend time together in prayer. Whether you begin each date with a Holy Half Hour or end each night with a quick Hail Mary, praying together will orient your relationship toward God.
Mutual prayer will remind you of your purpose and strengthen your resolve. It will help you celebrate your successes and mourn your slip ups. Not to mention, when you pray together, God will shower you with grace, which will help you along your journey.
“Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.” (Matthew 18:19)
Quick Tip: Here are some other ideas for incorporating prayer into your relationship:
- Share a holy hour.
- Go to daily mass together.
- Join a couple’s bible study.
- Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet on the first Friday of the month.
- Learn about a saint together.
- Venerate a relic.
- Pray a novena.