“Ask a Priest: What If My Boyfriend Is Pressuring Me for Sex?”

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Q: I am in a very complicated situation. My boyfriend has previously been sexually active. He is not Catholic, but seriously wants to convert. I have been taught since I was very little to wait until marriage for sex, so just accepting the fact he is not a virgin was very hard for me, but I feel I have. Due to the fact that he has been sexually active before, he has a tendency to want to push me into wanting it. We have discussed the topic many times, and he completely understands I am not ready at this point to have sex. But yet, he brings up quite often how much he wants that with me and is looking forward to it. I have researched online about the pros and cons of premarital and marital sex, and have read multiple times of women who were drilled during their upbringing not to have premarital sex, that when they actually got married, they felt they couldn’t give themselves up completely because they felt guilty and that sort of thing to the point that their marriage suffered. How do I prevent that? Is sex while you’re engaged to be married against the Church? How do I discuss everything with my boyfriend without him thinking I personally don’t want to have sex with him? Thank you in advance! -M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is praiseworthy that you want to save your virginity for marriage. That is part of God’s plan for sex, and it is one of the best ways to prepare for a happy marriage. Sex is meant to be an expression of love between spouses who give themselves to each other completely. Marital intimacy reflects the inner love of the divine Persons of the Trinity.

Premarital and extra-marital sex are among the best ways to destroy or derail a marriage, for lots of reasons.

For one, it weakens trust, especially when one spouse knows another has been intimate with someone else.

Second, chastity before marriage is one of the best preparations for chastity after marriage. Put simply, there are many times when married couples cannot be intimate (for reasons of health, travel, etc.). If they are already accustomed to showing their love in non-sexual ways (as before marriage), then it will be easier for them to show this same kind of love after marriage.

Now, this doesn’t rule out marrying someone who isn’t a virgin. People have falls, but people can change. They can repent. The Church is in the business of extending God’s mercy to people. To the extent that you are willing to overlook your friend’s past mistakes, out of mercy, is laudable.

It is important, however, that your friend show signs of repentance and a willingness to change. He has to understand why sex outside of marriage is wrong – and frankly, he doesn’t seem to grasp the reason. In fact, he seems to be biding his time, waiting to entice you into losing your virginity. He might say that he “understands” why you want to be a virgin, but deep down he doesn’t seem to agree with your viewpoint. The virtue he seems to embrace is patience, not chastity.

His attitude toward sex also seems out of place for someone who “seriously wants to convert” to Catholicism. He likely has a lot to learn.

All of this raises the question of whether he really loves you and respects your beliefs. From what you describe, he seems to be after sex, period. As you mention, he is “looking forward to it.”

One of the purposes of marriage is to help the spouses grow in holiness. Is this friend of yours really going to help you grow in holiness? What does it say about him that he is so anxious to lead you into serious sin?

You mention that you have discussed the topic with him many times. Since I don’t know the details of those talks, it is hard to say whether your friend just has a blind spot or simply isn’t open to what the Church teaches. This in turn raises the question whether there is anything new you could tell him to change his opinion.

You also mention women who guarded their virginity and who later had problems in marriage. The problem isn’t that a woman guards her virginity. The problem might be that she has been poorly educated about sexuality. Some people are taught that sex is dirty. This is understandable, given the enormous misuse of sexuality in this culture. But it is misguided. God created sex, and it is good and beautiful within marriage.

For your own benefit you might want to read up on the theology of the body. Christopher West has some accessible material. The Chastity Project site might be helpful too.

In the meantime you want to pray about your relationship. If your friend can’t understand the reasons for chastity, then that might be a sign of a deep rift between him and you – a rift that signals bigger problems down the line. You as a beloved daughter of God should want something better.

It might help to find someone who can guide you spiritually – maybe a mature Catholic wife or spiritual director or confessor. I pray that you choose well.

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