“Ask a Priest: Am I Wrong If I Find It Tough to Date Someone Who Isn’t a Virgin?”

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Q: I am a young Catholic woman. I’ve always tried my best to stay as chaste as possible and have not had any kind of sexual relations. When looking for a future husband, I’ve always wanted someone who hasn’t done anything sexual — but isn’t that “not forgiving”? Could I be turning away the one God wants for me simply because of the sins he has done in the past? I feel as though I can’t get past what potential dates have done. A lot have said they are still virgins, but yet they have done oral and other stuff. Does that make them not a virgin? Sorry for my scattered questions. -N.V.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Thanks for your note. It is good to hear that you are trying to live a chaste life. That isn’t easy in today’s culture. Your example of chaste living can be a powerful way to give glory to God through your body, which is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and to give witness to others around you. And your questions are not “scattered” — they show that you are trying to live your faith in an integral way.

It certainly isn’t bad that you are looking for high standards in a future husband. And it is praiseworthy that you are already thinking in terms of possible marriage as you approach dating. That will help give a serious dimension to your relationships.

It would be wonderful if you met someone who preserved his virginity and who intends to give it as a gift only upon entering marriage. But what if you meet someone who has fallen?

There is no easy answer to this one. Perhaps a few points are worth considering.

First, we as Christians should be forgiving and understanding of others’ falls. We all sin, after all — yet God is quick to forgive us. In this case you would need to ask yourself why exactly you would reject a non-virgin. Is it because his past fall would pose risks for a future marriage? There is some justification for such concern. Such a person might find it tougher to be faithful after marriage, for instance. (By the way, oral acts would constitute a loss of virginity.)

Or would you reject him out of a sense of moral superiority? Such “superiority” can spring from a sense of not being comfortable with someone who hasn’t lived up to a basic moral code. Or it can reflect a stubbornness which blinds us to a person’s many good qualities — and to the ability of God’s grace to help that person become a saint.

This leads to a second point. You might want to consider the person’s overall character. If he had one fall in the past, but then repented sincerely and lived chastely ever since, would that disqualify him? If he was laudable in many other ways – honest, courteous, hardworking, and highly respectful of you – would he have a chance?

Third, you might ask yourself, if you reject every non-virgin out of hand, how would you react later if your husband had a fall? Similarly, what if you had a fall — how would you feel if you repented, only to find that every decent man you meet rejects you because of your past sin?

Fourth, there is a range of other cases you might want to consider. What would you do if someone turned out to have looked at pornography? What if he repented and never looked at it again? Is there room for mercy in this case?

Some of these points might seem a bit abstract. In practice, you might end up meeting someone who is interesting, only to find out later that he has skeletons in his closet. At that point you would want to go to prayer and see where the Holy Spirit is leading you.

Before you get to that point, though, you might just try to live your faith as best as possible. Make time for prayer and the sacraments. Cultivate your devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary (and ask her to help you find the right man). Be charitable in your dealings with everyone. Share your faith with others; let people know where you stand on moral issues. And speak and dress modestly.

All this will send out strong signals about the kind of woman you are. That might scare off some men — so be it. But it might attract a higher-caliber kind of person – even if he himself has made mistakes in the past.

At any rate, be aware that the only perfect man is Jesus. Every other man has his share of faults and weaknesses. Yet, living with and loving fallible people can be a path to holiness. I hope some of this helps.

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