The Challenge of Chastity in Marriage

One of the most challenging and equally liberating teachings of the Catholic Church is chastity. It is undoubtedly a virtue that is radically counter cultural and one that demands great self-mastery and sacrifice. It demands a right ordered love of God and consequently an authentic love for others.

My experience of chastity prior to and in married life has been less than glamorous. I will not claim to speak for all married couples who practice Natural Family Planning, but I will attempt to concisely share my own experience.

Chastity in my marriage has been an ongoing experience of examining the heart and mind. It has required the continual weighing of the most hidden intentions. This I find most especially true when communicating about postponing or achieving pregnancy, while at the same time attempting to reconcile understandings of true intimacy and the needs of another.

Though it is not always pleasant or easy, chastity in marriage has taught me to be accountable to the gift of sexuality by striving to live out what this gift means through marital love. Natural Family Planning (NFP) truly encourages the flourishing of chastity within marriage.

St. Augustine was definitely on to something when he said “Perfect abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.” As a newly-wed (married in 2014), I can humbly admit that I was unprepared in many ways for what chastity in marriage would be like and what Natural Family Planning in practice was all about. However, regardless of any difficulty my husband and I were both committed to seeing it through and remaining true to the teachings of the Church in this area. It has required us to stay united in moments of struggle and always communicate about any challenges that we may be having, either with the periods of abstinence, or learning to better understand each other’s expectations.

Chastity enables us to face that which is unpleasant and uncomfortable because it leads us toward an authentic experience of intimacy that does not seek to hide behind societal constructions of sexual fulfillment or the distortion of a disposable contraceptive mentality. It aids us toward achieving what is most beautiful.

Chastity in marriage has also highlighted the crucial importance of owning one’s own commitment to chastity prior to saying “I do”. This personal foundation of chastity strengthens the marriage bond. In my opinion, it is not enough to simply love a person and choose chastity; it must be rooted in a love of God, because it is only through God’s grace and providence that we can truly succeed in living out the call to be chaste in freedom. It is only when we are lovingly accountable to God and his plan for our sexuality that we can begin to love and value the other as a gift.

My husband and I both struggled with chastity prior to meeting one another and throughout the onset of our relationship; our conversion experiences strengthened us immensely and gave us a greater understanding about one another and about the freedom of chastity. It allowed us to cling to God separately so that we could fasten ourselves as husband and wife.

Natural Family Planning has helped us shed our selfish expectations and strive to grow in love within our marriage daily. Though it may not always be easy we remain open to God’s will and so far we have been graciously provided for.

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blogproCatherine Spada is a Public Middle School educator and is currently loving her new role as a full-time mom. She enjoys giving presentations on chastity and sharing the beauty of the faith through her blog entitled Sacred Sharings for The Soul. Catherine resides outside of Toronto with her husband and beautiful baby girl.

 

10 Comments

  1. After reading this, I can’t say I understand what you mean by staying chaste in marriage. Perhaps it’s because I’m not in that season yet, but this is a new concept to me.

    By AA | 6 months ago Reply
    • Natural Family Planning includes abstinence from sex during the woman’s fertile period of her cycle if the couple is trying to avoid pregnancy, rather than using contraceptives during that time. That’s a big part of where the chastity comes in from what I hear.

      By EA | 6 months ago Reply
      • Thank you for the response! However, I don’t understand the difference between abstinence and contraceptive if both are trying to avoid pregnancy. Why are contraceptives wrong if you are married and trying to avoid pregnancy? I would think it’s the avoidance of pregnancy itself that is wrong not the method if we are talking NFP. As a married couple, doesn’t NFP demand an openness to pregnancy at all times? I’ve never understood this about Catholicism and have been on the fence about this teaching. I would love to learn more though, and I welcome all thoughts on this.

        By AA | 6 months ago Reply
        • That is a great question. In Hunane Vitae, Pope Paul VI instructed couples that they should discern with God the number of children they are called to have and that the couple should be generous with their gift of life and at the same time they should consider the well being of all family members. He said that if the couple discerned with God that it was not a good time to have a baby, they could use natural methods to monitor fertility (NFP) because they respect the way God created our bodies (do not attempt to alter the way it works like by inhibiting ovulation or sterilization) and allow the couple to have a total union without keeping anything to themselves (unlike barrier methods that prevent sperm and egg from coming together, see Theology of the body for more information). A couple may choose to have sex on a day of infertility but if it is God’s will, they will achieve pregnancy because He is the author of life. In the same way, a couple may choose to have sex on a day of fertility but if it is God’s will, the couple will not achieve pregnancy. NFP is different from artificial contraception because it respects the way God created our bodies and the call to total union of body and spirit. Hope this helps!

          By Cinthya | 6 months ago Reply
  2. Glad to see an article like this in the chastity project. Ever since I got married, I’ve been feeling that a lot of the youth slowly do understand what it means to be chaste (at least understand if not practise) before marriage. However most of the couples who did remain chaste before marriage then face the reality that chastity needs to be practiced after marriage as well, and seem unprepared. It would serve well to speak more about what it means after marriage too (and not only about NFP) not to dishearten anyone but to have people more aware, ready and prepared :-).

    By MKM | 6 months ago Reply
  3. Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the human person. This looks different for single people than it does for married people. For single people, the virtue of chastity means abstinence. For married people, part of living out this virtue includes sex, sometimes with periods of abstinence depending on if the couple is trying to postpone or achieve pregnancy. No matter what your state of life, chastity means fighting the vice of lust in all its forms so as to have the freedom to love genuinely.

    By Amanda | 6 months ago Reply
    • Reading the comments I believe readers are looking for more clarification on chastity in marriage sexual acts, other the NFP.

      By Liz | 6 months ago Reply
  4. Sadly, like the comment above from another reader – I don’t understand where this article was going. Intimacy is an interesting topic to write about so I understand the author’s wish for privacy, but this was confusing to read!

    By BB | 6 months ago Reply
  5. I’m going to be super honest, your post is a little ambiguous, I feel like you didn’t say anything. I didn’t gain anything from reading this. Feel the same way before and after reading it 🙁 Try being a little more straightforward next time? What was your point? Got any advice for remaining chaste during marriage? Thanks for sharing though 🙂

    By M | 6 months ago Reply
  6. I have to say that I totally understood everything the author said. Maybe the comments before were from single people and it is hard to explain married reality.

    By J | 6 months ago Reply

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