When I met my husband, Bob, we had to wait for his Catholic Church annulment to go through before we could even consider or plan a marriage. We went a year or so spending time as ‘brother and sister’.
We could have moved in like so many do and started living as husband and wife but that would have been a lie.
We discussed, argued, and finally agreed that we wanted something different than what the culture (and even some in the Church) told us we could do: we wanted to reserve sex for the true expression of a complete and total self-giving.
In studying St John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility we understood that it would be a lie to act out a full self-giving with our bodies before it had been exchanged in every other area of our lives. We also knew that masturbation wasn’t an easy replacement; that, too, was a practice in self-centeredness (not self-giving) that can never foster authentic love. We agreed to take the high road but wondered, would it be difficult to do?
He and I were in our fifties when we met again. Both of us had enjoyed sex most of our adult lives but also had gone through many long periods, inside and outside our previous marriages, where we did not have sex. In talking about it, we realised that everyone spends most of his or her life mostly not having sex. We go to school and work. We do chores and immerse ourselves in project
s. We have fun. We enjoy each other’s company. We listen, learn, and love. We argue, cry, apologise, and forgive. We find meaning, have purpose, and discover joy. All without sex.
If Bob and I had focused on what we were not doing—instead of all the love that was growing in other areas—we would have been like entitled teenagers demanding our natural rights. Oh, yeah. It was difficult at times, but we kept the higher goal in mind.
We learned we could really trust each other. Our mutual respect grew as well. Neither was using sex as a way to manipulate or keep the other one around. Neither was being selfish or demanding. Both of us were ready to have more out of life than what we’d settled for in the past. Real love that never brings any doubt, shame, fear, worry, or harm to the other was growing. Love was outshining lust. We were expressing our love in many other ways and did not need to demand or expect sex. God’s ways—given to us by his Bride the Church—are for our flourishing and those who follow them with open hearts and minds can attest to this truth.
Our wedding night was so tender and special. The honeymoon was amazing in every way. Sounds sappy, but I have tears in my eyes recalling it. We did it. We went higher. And it was worth every difficult moment.
About the author
Rose Sweet is an author, conference speaker, and regular guest on Catholic radio and EWTN. She’s authored ten books on relationship issues that include being single, dating & courtship, marriage and parenting, divorce and annulments. Her work is deeply rooted in St. John Paul II’s ‘Theology of the Body’ and she has been a speaker at the annual TOB Congress and in 2015 at the World Meeting of Families. This is an excerpt of Rose’s article, reprinted with permission.
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