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My boyfriend is Catholic and as many Catholics doesn't believe in sex before marriage, which I'm willing to respect. Recently, however, he has been feeling very guilty after every time that we engage in physical activity and are intimate. He feels that he's compromising his catholic values by engaging in anything with me that he enjoys and he feels that he's failing himself and his values. As a result, he doesn't want to engage in anything physical. I believe that the physical aspect of a relationship is necessary and important. He admits that it's a psychological block and while physically he'd like to finish and enjoy himself every time he feels extremely guilty and horrible afterwards and mentally doesn't want to allow himself to participate in anything. How can I help him get over the guilt that he has associated with this?

Thanks a lot!


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Dear Rose--

I am a bit puzzled by your letter. You say that your boyfriend, being a practicing Catholic, does not believe in sex before marriage, and that you are willing to respect that. But then you go on to say that it is not his religious beliefs, but guilt, that is keeping him from enjoying sex with you, and that you want to "help him get over the guilt that he has associated with this." Well, which is it? Is he wanting to abstain from sex with you because premarital sex is forbidden by his religion, and he wishes to be faithful to that rule, or is he avoiding sex with you because being sexual makes him feel guilty, and would even if he were not a Catholic? And, if he is abstaining from sex because his religious commitment asks that of him, why would you want to encourage him to break that commitment which you say you respect? Your letter leaves me wondering if you really do respect his beliefs, or if, at heart, you think them foolish, and would like to convince him that premarital sex with you would do no harm. Posssibly, being familiar with my website, you imagine I would tell you that your boyfriend's beliefs are unworthy of respect, and that you should simply tell your boyfriend to stop living according to what a bunch of celibate priests say, but that misses the point. It is not what I think about Catholicism or your boyfriend's commitment to it that matters, but, since he really has that commitment, what you think.

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The solution to this impasse, to me, seems simple. If you love this man, and if you think you would like to try to make a life with him, stop being a girlfriend who is pressuring him to violate his beliefs, and become a wife with whom he can enjoy sex without feeling guilty about it. If you do not love him enough to devote yourself to him--to be a wife and true companion, that is, to a person who wants to be faithful to the doctrines of his church (whatever you may think about them)--then stop being a girlfriend who is demanding a sexual involvement which would not feel right to him, and just let him alone with his beliefs.

In other words, it seems to me that the era of being a girlfriend is coming to an end, and rapidly, and that one way or another you are going to have to go to a new place with this relationship. If you really do respect the religious beliefs of his man, then support them--don't try to seduce him away from them, for that would do neither of you any good.

Be well

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page last modified January 3, 2007

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