“Ask a Priest: Is Daydreaming About a Married Man Wrong?”

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Q: I am struggling with loneliness. I am divorced and have been for almost seven years. I recently had a dream about my first love, but I didn’t marry him. He wanted to get married, he was 20 years old and I was 18. That was almost 50 years ago. I instead wanted to go off to college on my own and embrace worldly things — not good. So, I ended our relationship. Anyway, after a recent dream I started thinking about him and was feeling regret for not marrying him. So, I started imagining us having gotten back together when we were young, and we got married and had children. We lived a very happy life in my daydream. By the way, he is now married and has children and grandchildren, and I am sure he is very happy. I also would daydream that his wife had died. Now, I want to clarify that I wasn’t wishing for her to die. I just didn’t want to steal him away from his wife in my dream, so I imagined that she passed away and we ended up back together. Now, I have asked God that if she did by chance pass away, would Our Lord send him back to me? Is this coveting? I was not dreaming of splitting them up by his committing adultery with me. I do pray for him and his family, that they live long and holy lives. I am just having regrets which are stemming from my loneliness. But I am concerned that I have offended my heavenly Father and Jesus. By daydreaming these scenarios, have I committed a sin? – R.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: While your loneliness is understandable, it’s not healthy to be giving in to this kind of daydreaming.

It is a form of coveting thy neighbor’s spouse, even if there aren’t overtly lustful or murderous thoughts attached to it.

Put yourself in his wife’s shoes: How would you feel if someone had an eye on your spouse and was hoping he’d go to her if you died?

You made a judgment 50 years ago, and your friend respected your decision … and got on with his life.

If that was a misjudgment on your part, it was a misjudgment. The last thing you want to do now is make another misjudgment.

For that reason, it might be good to dedicate yourself to something else — volunteer work, for instance. That can help bring you out of your loneliness much more effectively than can daydreaming, which itself could lead you down the wrong path.

It is good to remember, too, that Our Lord can find ways to fill up the loneliness in our lives if we truly “seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Count on my prayers.

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  1. A good response, Father. Since the decline of offer to marry was 50 years ago, when this person was just 18 years of age, I am imagining that this person is in the ‘golden years’ of life.

    Correct, she should not dwell on the ‘woulda, coulda, or shoulda’s’ of life on planet earth . . . and what she ‘dreams’ in mind is a ‘form of’ coveting neighbor’s spouse. A trip to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, behind screen and sharing the sorrow to our merciful Lord will bring new lightness to what seems to be and otherwise good life. If it was God’s will way back when she was 18 that she marry that first ‘love,’ more than
    likely it would have been so. So, TRUST GOD’s WILL. She was led to get a college education, no doubt used
    her ability in the working world, and since she only divorced 7 years ago (the why’s and what for’s not known, but IT’S GOOD and it is apparent she values her Catholic Christian faith and did not re-marry) A vow of love,
    is a vow of love, and with the forgiveness of ‘a dream’ . . . she can still LOVE by praying for her ‘ex.,’ and in heart forgiving him whatever role he played in the divorce.

    Now I have a question: is it sin if done in the ‘unconscious’ frame of mind called sleep? For something to be mortal sin, there must be grievous matter, ‘sufficient reflection’ and ‘full consent of the will.’ This is not to excuse ‘the dream,’ of course . . . and certainly confessing it behind screen to the Lord will lighten this person’s load,. BUT, if this person was soundly asleep . . . can ‘dreams’ be sinful? I’d really appreciate a follow up response, Father.

    Sounds like this person does try hard to live her Catholic Christian faith and that is gratifying to hear. Death and Divorce are ‘equal’ in terms of grieving loss I have been told. (I am single all my life)

    The ‘dream’ may be due to ‘overthinking’ aka woulda, coulda, shoulda’s and forgetting the GOOD of GOD
    to her life. The education, using it to serve others, finding someone to marry and apparently it was working, up until 7 years ago. KEEP THE FOCUS on ‘what is above’ now and not ‘the trials and tribulations’ that come to life ‘in flesh.’ Ask forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and attend to daily Mass, focusing on Christ’s REAL PRESENCE of the Holy Eucharist, to strengthen you to ‘continue to serve God’ . . . he’ll direct you if you ‘tune in.’ Marriage is forever, a vow of love is a vow of love. So love your ex by praying to God
    for him, that God show him the mercy of reconciling with Him.

    Busy yourself with housework, join a Ladies bowling team, volunteer in the church to teach Sunday School children (sounds like this person knows her faith) Maybe volunteer in a Bereavement Group that many parishes have, to listen and console others suffering loss by death and consider the Rosary Society, which
    besides meeting once a month for prayer and refreshments, serves the parish in a variety of activities.
    I will say a prayer for the person asking.

  2. A thought on divorce. Jesus didn’t quite oppose the SUBJECTIVE separating of the man and the woman. which was the Judaic law so as to marry another.


    Excerpt: t is important to note that in Jesus’ teaching about marriage and divorce, his concern was with the PRESUMPTION that divorce actually ends a sacramental marriage and enables the spouses to remarry. He said to his disciples, “Whoever divorces his wife and MARRIES ANOTHER commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11–12). But divorce that does not presume to end a sacramental marriage (e.g., divorce intended only to legally separate the spouses) is not necessarily evil.

    Paul’s teaching agrees with this: “To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, LET WIFE REMAIN SINGLE or else be reconciled to her husband)—and that the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Cor. 7:10–11). Paul understood that divorce is a terrible thing, yet IT IS SOMETIMES A REALITY to remain safe or by reason of unfaithful spouse. Even so, DIVORCE DOES NOT END A SACRAMENTAL MARRIAGE. A SACRAMENT IS THE VISIBLE REALITY OF INTERIOR GRACE of CHRIST’S PRESENCE. Christ is God and God keeps the UNITY of LOVE between the two… OBJECTIVELY. Subjectively, human nature, one or both, may lose sight of that BOND OF LOVE… but A VOW to LOVE is a VOW to love…whether together or apart. So, stay single… PRAY for that soul mate, and for self. STAY CLOSE TO LOVE (GOD) by prayer. (married means married: man, woman and Jesus Christ)

    (as I wrote in previous comments, it is important to know difference of subjective and objective)

    The OBJECTIVE OF SACRAMENTAL MARRIAGE is ‘to raise up one’s soul mate to heaven.’ (separate or apart,
    keep praying with that intention.

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