Chastity in marriage? Wait. What?
Let’s back up and clear up some misconceptions about chastity…
The word “chastity” isn’t synonymous with the word “abstinence”:
Within this context, abstinence is defined as refraining from sexual intercourse. Abstinence is an aspect of pre-marital chastity but isn’t the endgame. Chastity runs much deeper by giving us a deep reverence and respect for both our eternal souls and the heart of God. Loving someone never means sinning with them. Whether you are single, married or ordained you too are called to honor God through your body.
Therefore, the word “chastity” isn’t synonymous with the word “no”:
When I told my husband I would marry him, my “yes” to him was an implied “no” to every other man on the planet. This was a reality, but wasn’t at the forefront of my decision to spend my life with him. Similarly, chastity, at its very core, isn’t a “no”, but a “yes”. Chastity is a virtue; in other words it is a good habit that unites us with the Lord. Virtues propel us to what we truly want- God’s plan and Will in our lives! Clearly this means that chastity is a resounding and passionate YES! This “yes” has different applications and meanings at every stage of our life and is essential in every vocation.
Because of this, we can’t escape the c-word, and we would never want to! Chastity is the key to a successful marriage because it allows us to keep the Lord primary and our physical desires secondary. Married persons are still called to respect one another’s bodies and souls—which means never using your spouse for purely selfish fulfillment.
So how does chastity before marriage foster chaste marriages?
1. Fidelity insurance:
When you have sex with someone outside of marriage, you learn that they are willing to have sex with someone they aren’t married to. Chastity in dating conditions us to avoid tempting situations not just in the moment but in the future as well. This is one reason why a man who is married as a virgin, has a divorce rate that is 63 percent lower than a non-virgin. For women, it’s 76 percent lower.
2. It makes it easier to practice Natural Family Planning (NFP):
Natural Family Planning is an amazing practice that helps couples use women’s God-given cycle to determine windows of fertility. If, through prayer and discussion, a couple determines they should avoid pregnancy, NFP helps them to know when to abstain from intercourse. Chastity before marriage conditions a couple to work with God after marriage in order to make decisions about when to engage in or abstain from sexual relations.
3. Virtue breeds virtue:
A person who practices chastity learns temperance and moderation. It seems obvious that this would produce self-control in communication, finances, parenting and life decisions in marriage. Chastity has a positive ripple effect and when started early on, the ripple will be even wider!
4. Chastity helps us carry Christ from our dating relationship to our marriage:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it clear that all who are baptized are called to chastity at every stage of life. It goes on to say that the Christian has “put on Christ” who is our perfect model for chastity. A marriage takes three people: a man, a woman and the Lord. Having a Christ-centered dating relationship is great, but having a Christ centered marriage is sacramental. When Jesus is present prior to marriage He is able to bring about His full plan for his presence from the first day of matrimony on into Happily Ever After.
Let’s remember that just because a relationship is chaste, this doesn’t make it bullet-proof. All relationships are subject to temptation, which is why practicing chastity early on helps us build strength. Imagine your soul as a spiritual weight-lifter. The more you condition your spiritual muscles to grow, the more you will be equipped to handle heavier burdens in the future. When we say yes to God through chastity, in every stage of life, we find that He is never outdone in generosity.
Katie Hartfiel is an author and speaker dedicated to sharing the intense love of God. She graduated Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she received a degree in Theology. She served as a youth minister for seven years in Houston, where she now resides with her husband, Mark, and two daughters. In 2012, Katie released her first book, Woman in Love (available at womaninlove.org). This work coaches young women as they strive for purity through praying for and journaling to their future spouse. She has been blessed to watch hearts come alive with the realization that our faithful God hungers to exceed our deepest desires.