|Living together and sexual relations
Physical relationship is a privileged aspect of love. We are all aware of its importance. First of all, because sexual attraction seems to be engraved in us. It is part of Godís plan to bless the union of man and woman (Genesis 1:2). Secondly, it is a very special part of the relationship in which the spouses give themselves joyfully to one another and through which they may have a child
The world today trivializes sexual relations as if they were merely a physical act. However, we need to understand that a sexual act involves the whole person. Civil law, for instance, considers rape to be not only a physical attack, but an attack against human dignity and against the integrity of the person. Indeed, a man and a woman become deeply involved when they unite in a sexual act.
Moreover, a physical relationship soon leads to living together. It then becomes more difficult to reassess the choice and if need be to break up the relationship. This is how personal freedom can actually become enslaved. Of course, it is not always easy to know whether we truly love someone, or whether we are giving ourselves out of fear of losing him or her, or simply because everyone else does it. Though, can we really say that we are free when we are controlled by our instincts, our fears or our emotions?
We often hear that having sexual relations before marriage is a way of getting to know each other better. This is a misconception! Very often, sex takes away from real affection and deep communication. Body language ends up replacing dialogue. Moreover, the sexual harmony of a couple depends on the quality of their love for one another, and not on how they get along physically.
To give oneís body is to give oneís self. That means something! And a gift is not a loan. If what we live is at odds with our deepest choices, then we are not living in the truth: Is it right to give my body when I have not given myself? The truth is that a physical union can only have true meaning if it reflects a personal gift of oneself, a gift that is lasting and definite. This gift is marriage.
Even if it does not conform to todayís fashion, we can make the decision to remain chaste, to keep ourselves whole for the one whom we will marry one day. Chastity is synonymous with a love that wants to give itself totally and respectfully to the other. It is a decision that we can make at whatever stage we are at in our lives. If we have had sexual relations in the past, this should not prevent us from making that choice. Chastity is a road to freedom.
Pauline : We were living together for four years before we met a colleague who invited us to a marriage preparation course in his parish.
John : We were very surprised to hear these couples talking about the importance of prayer in their life. Since it seemed to help them so much, we thought we should try to pray as well.
Pauline : Well, we didnít know how to go about it! One evening John suggested that we each say the ĎOur Fatherí quietly while holding hands. It was our first prayer together!
John : As time went on, Pauling felt that something wasnít right anymore: We could no longer live together without being married. We felt as if we were two stowaways. We then made the decision to live separately until we were married.
Pauline : John kept the apartment and I stayed with a friend. The separation was quite painful for me. In the evening, I would wait anxiously for his phone call. I would ask myself: Why is he coming home so late?! and What if he met someone else?!
John : As for me, every time we would get together, Iíd be bombarded with tons of questions and it annoyed me a great deal.
Pauline : I gradually realized that I was suffocating from jealousy: I was not able to be myself and I was using John as a crutch to help me carry on in life. Through prayer, I became more confident. One thing I had never doubted was that John was the man for my life. Marriage was going to be for me the starting point of the life that I had desired.
John : Things also started to become clearer for me. I knew that I loved Pauline, but I did not feel ready to get married right away. I also realized that I had become dependent on physical love just as others were on drugs. I heard a sentence during the marriage preparation class that really struck me: The instinct must be converted into desire and the desire into love. What a challenge I had ahead of me!
Pauline : This four-month separation really helped us to grow. We got married with confidence: God was present in our love story.