Friday Linkage

Everything I Am Afraid Might Happen If I Ask New Acquaintances To Get Coffee [New Yorker]

Why You Should Go To The Movies Alone [NYMag]

What I Learned About Marriage by Hiking the Camino with My Husband [Verily]

The Time I Ruined a Relationship Because I Tried to Be Perfect [Verily]

The Spinster Agenda [New Yorker]

A complicated institution

Marriage was an economic institution in which you were given a partnership for life in terms of children and social status and succession and companionship. But now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long. So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide. Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise.

—Esther Perel

The realities of living a chaste life

Don’t believe in sex before marriage? Congrats, you are part of the counterculture! Not sleeping with a monogamous boy- or girlfriend is something completely radical to many people. We can’t say what it’s like there for the gents, but as single women we had an especially hard time with secular men when we put up boundaries; having to deal with pouting or outright rejection once these went up. The man who respects your sexual boundaries is worth the wait. Unfortunately we know of stories of Christian men who, upon being told that there will be no sex outside of marriage, think they “ought to try anyway”.

Whether or not you’ve had sex before, if you decide that you’re not going to have sex outside of marriage, you should go into it knowing you are following a difficult path. Inexperienced young people with firm resolve find that it tends to melt after meeting someone attractive and feeling the force of what your body is meant to do. We do not live in a culture that places many constraints on single people spending time together (and really, do we want to go back to chaperoned dating for people above the age of 18?). So toning down the physical part of the relationship is important.

If you do have sex anyway, though, please don’t beat yourself up. Go to Confession, reconfigure your boundaries, be gentle with yourself. You get to make mistakes. But what you do next really matters. Avoiding sin isn’t about “staying pure,” it’s about healing and striving to draw closer to God. No matter what you’ve done or haven’t done, you still get to and need to draw closer to Him.

In the last post on chastity, we mentioned it’s good to have a goal or a reason beyond “you should”. So, here are some reasons that might be helpful:

  • Get to know each other more fully. Oxytocin is a powerful drug, and it interferes with neurological function. We’ll write more about that sometime, but suffice to say you’ll learn a lot more about each other if you can stay sober in the beginning.
  • Build a stronger relationship without using touch to paper over problems. It’s very difficult to address issues, and, if you have to say “I need reassurance right now” out loud instead of just snuggling close, it makes life easier in the future. Vulnerability is a beautiful thing.
  • Learn more ways to communicate. If you can communicate with words, with thoughtful gestures, and with touch, you’ll have an advantage over the years to come—even if you’re using those communication skills with other people.
  • Simplify your life.
    • Sex complicates your emotions,
    • It means you have different medical needs. Some medications affect your libido, and pap smears are nobody’s favorite thing. There’s a chance of pregnancy, and it opens up a different dimension of communicable diseases. These are all pragmatic things that can be mitigated (especially by monogamy, say in marriage!), but they’re problems you don’t need to deal with.
    • Also…breakups are hard. The closer you were to the person the more it hurts and the harder it is to move on. Close includes emotionally, physically, in terms of intertwined social circles or favorite haunts or shared cell phone plans. Remembering touch from someone who mattered can be excruciating if things ended poorly. It’s a heavy weight to carry. (NB: The Orthogals are firmly against any nonsense about “purity” or a person’s value being related to how much touch they’ve had or haven’t had.)
  • Build discipline for chastity in marriage. Even if you marry this person, there will be times you can’t be intimate for one reason or another. Maybe someone’s ill, it’s Holy Week, you’re living separately for work, or you’re postpartum. There will be times when the relationship struggles and your charming coworker starts dropping hints. If you learn chastity now, it will help with your chastity then, even though married-chastity and single-chastity look different.

It’s worth remembering that kissing is foreplay. Some people respond to that by waiting til the wedding day to kiss at all; others make sure they aren’t snuggling alone in an empty house. We’re not advocating specific physical guidelines (cf. setting boundaries that work for you), but use those lingering kisses wisely. Too often people get swept away by emotion and oxytocin, and end up having to choose godparents for a new little human. Be mindful, be intentional. Know what your limits are before you walk into the room, and don’t set yourselves up for failure.

Oh, and one more pragmatic piece of advice—have your more intimate conversations while taking a walk, or on long drives. Opening up emotionally ➝ wanting to be closer physically. Every time. Intimacy leads to intimacy. That’s not a bad thing! Just something to keep in mind.

A few important definitions:

Chastity: Treating yourself and others as whole people. Sexual beings, yes, but also spiritual beings, emotional beings, thoughtful beings. Like all virtues, it’s about striving for a positive, not avoiding a negative.

Lust: Turning yourself or someone else into an object. You are not just an appetite to be fed. They are not just a decoration or a sex toy.

Modesty: Tied to humility. It’s hard to define, but it generally looks like not holding yourself up to be admired or putting yourself on display, and refraining from self-aggrandizing talk. This is about your own passions, not about controlling other people’s, and it’s something we all have to work for—whether there are others around or not.

Courtesy: Thinking of others’ comfort in how you speak, dress, and behave. In the sexual realm, it can include things like avoiding off-color jokes or wearing more conservative clothing.

Links:

Modesty, Chastity, and Other Complicated Virtues [Orthogals]

Is Female Purity Bull****? [BadCatholic]

Good for the Gander [The Sounding]

How Delaying Intimacy Can Benefit Your Relationship [Art of Manliness]

Linkage

(Nice Guys™) Anatomy of a Scar [Book of Jubilation]
Why do some guys think if they’re nice enough then women should owe them something? A deeper explanation: “Nice Guys™ believe no one would ever love them just as they are. That’s why they try to ‘earn’ it.”

Reflections from Tea with Bonnie [Praying in the Rain]
A reflection on prayer, marriage, and dispassion.

If Disney Princesses Had Moms [HuffPo]
Also interesting: if Disney villains had served as mother figures.

How to Use the Five Apology Languages [Get-It-Done Guy]
Because we all have different things we look for in an apology.

What Jane Austen Taught Me About Being a Strong Woman [Verily]
My favorites are Anne and Elinor. What about yours?