“Ask a Priest: Should I Ask My Boyfriend to Marry Me?”

Q: I am 19 and have been in a relationship for over a year with a boy I love and who has supported me through a lot of difficult times. We sinned and had sex before marriage. His parents are very religious (he and I not so much, though we both believe in God). Now, his parents won’t let us talk to each other. All I know is I love him and would want to spend the rest of my life with him. We discussed marriage and family before this all happened. I spoke to one priest and he said that I should marry this guy. I don’t know how my boyfriend feels and know his parents see what we did as a sin against God. I can’t ask him how he feels as he’s scared of getting into trouble. We love each other and know we have done wrong. Would it be a bit extreme to ask him to marry me? Would his parents as Christians agree? It’s a difficult situation, and I want to get another priest/reverend’s opinion. Thank you. – S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Your e-mail points to some interesting factors in this situation. Permit me to make a few observations and suggestions.

First, it is good that you at least recognize that you sinned by having sex. Premarital sex is not a good preparation for marriage. It would be good to get to confession as soon as possible if you haven’t done so yet.

This is the moment when a young couple should be learning to relate to each other in a chaste way. For chastity is an extremely helpful ingredient in a solid marriage.

For there will be lots of times when a married couple cannot be intimate. What will they do then? They will have to live as celibates and show their love in other ways. This is a skill that is best learned before marriage, since it won’t get any easier to learn after the wedding day.

Also, chastity can give you and your friend the space you need to get to learn about each other as persons. This includes finding out the things that you disagree on. The problem with premarital sex — aside from the risk of unexpected pregnancy and the emotional wounds that can arise in the event of a breakup — is that it can become the focal point of the relationship. Other things take on secondary importance. This can rob you of the chance to develop a solid friendship and to confront and work out differences.

Second, you mention your friend’s parents and his being “scared of getting into trouble.” This sounds like something that might be expected of a work-in-progress adolescent, not of someone who is truly ready for marriage. If your friend is basing his decisions on fear of his parents, this might reason enough to pause and step back. Perhaps this relationship needs time to mature.

Third, the idea of asking the young man to marry you, rather than the other way around, seems a bit forced. This isn’t said out of any sense of chauvinism. It’s just that your friend needs to show more leadership. If he hasn’t “popped the question,” that could be a sign that he realizes he isn’t ready for marriage. It wouldn’t be surprising if his parents agree.

Fourth, the fact that his parents won’t let you talk to each other isn’t a healthy sign. The parents are certainly right to oppose the premarital sex. Yet it’s not ideal that they see a need to try to micromanage the relationship between you and your friend.

This romance might need time to develop (chastely). It is good to keep in mind, too, that there is only one perfect man you will ever find, and that is Jesus.

Your e-mail implies that you don’t share all the Christian beliefs about marriage and sex. You might want to delve deeper into this topic. The Catholic Church has lots of wisdom in this area.

For more reading see Mary Beth Bonacci’s Real Love and my colleague Father John Bartunek’s “Straight Talk About Dating” and his Retreat Guide on marriage.

You might want to take all this to prayer. Stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the rosary. I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.

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