“Ask a Priest: What If I Only Have Feelings for a Fictional Character?”

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Q: I’m an average 19-year-old with a good group of friends, a loving family and my hobbies. I go to Mass every Sunday and pray daily. The unique part about me is that I’m probably asexual (sort of). I haven’t really loved anyone romantically. I have had girlfriends, but I feel nothing but friendship from them. The thing is, I have romantic love, but the girl in question is a fictional character. I discovered the source material she is from when I was around 12 years old. Ever since then, I felt something special. I tried everything to discard these feelings (trying to have them for real girls, for instance), but nothing happened. This fictional character has managed to motivate me to be a better person and Christian. Is engaging these feelings for this character sinful? There are no lustful thoughts. Maybe I haven’t yet met the girl that God wants for me. Anyway, I would like to know your opinion. – M.T. 

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s good that you are attending Mass on a regular basis and that you are blessed with a loving family and good friends.

That indicates you are basically keeping your feet planted in the real world – which is healthy.

You want to cultivate that habit of staying in touch with reality, especially in relationships with real people.

Now, not all fantasizing is sinful. It can be a relief valve of sorts. It can also be part of a feedback loop that encourages us and lifts our sights to higher goals. Inspiring works of art can function like that.

But a crucial part of the real progress we make in life is linked to how we deal with real humans in face-to-face encounters – not just on Zoom or on social media (or even in art), but in the same physical space. We are relational beings, and we need others to help us to have fully human lives.

To be focused on a fictional character for a long stretch can impact us negatively. It can become an addiction. Our social skills can weaken. The long-term risk is that we can become self-centered and detached from the needs of real people around us.

Even the very notion of “romantic love” can be distorted, such as the case you describe. This kind of “love” doesn’t involve a human person but rather a fictional character that never pushes back, never disagrees with you. That isn’t real love. Real love involves sacrifice.

As for your being “asexual”: For the moment, let’s leave that issue on the side. What would be helpful is to make a concerted effort to have real relationships; that is, to interact with real women face-to-face. You will find them to be much more interesting than fictional characters. (And, of course, real relationships with men are helpful, too.)

In case you feel tempted to stick with your fictional character, you might want to ask yourself a few questions.

How much time are you dedicating to this character? How frequently do you focus on it? (Note: it is an “it,” not a person.)

Do you feel as though you can’t let go of it? If that is the case, you might consider seeking out a bit of counseling.

The important thing is to remember that you have a mission. God has you in this world for a purpose. Part of your mission is to bring the love of Christ to others, and to share the Gospel as best you can.

It might be good to see if you can get involved in some kind of volunteer work. It could also bring you in more contact with real women.

Being involved with people can help you keep your horizons open. And your feet on the ground.


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