Ask Lisa: It’s Tough Trying To Be Celibate After Divorce


Struggling With Celibacy

Are you divorced and feeling alone in your struggle to get back on track and rebuild a happy life for yourself? If so, you may find some consolation as you continue reading. I’m sharing a recent conversation I had with a gentleman who emailed me at asklisa@catholicmatch.com to hopefully give you some encouragement and help you not feel like you’re the only one out there struggling. I thank this anonymous gentleman who was generous in allowing me to share it with you.

Hello Lisa, 

I read your article posted online on May 13, 2013, and wanted to get your view on being chaste after being divorced four times. I struggle with this problem. I talked to my Pastor at my church and he said that I need to be chaste since I am single now, but I find that hard to do at the age of 56. I understand that having sex with a woman and not being married to her is a sin, but one priest at the same church told me NOT to confess this same sin over and over again because some priests can be very hard on me doing that.

What is your take? I thank you in advance for taking the time out to read my email and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely in Christ,

Mr. Pray All Day

Dear Mr. Pray All Day:

Thank you so much for sending your email and your candid explanation of your situation.

I understand very well where you are coming from. For the first two years after my divorce, I made many mistakes, myself. I tried hard to be chaste, but the pressure to give in was overwhelming and I will always regret those mistakes.

I think once a person experiences the joy of physical intimacy, it’s difficult at any age to move back into the celibate frame of mind.

If knowing that sex outside of marriage is a grave sin doesn’t motivate you to change, you might think of it in this way: when you are having sex outside of marriage, it’s like driving a car with a muddy windshield. Visibility is almost nothing and you run the risk of crashing the car.

Chastity is like turning on the windshield wipers and clearing away the mud and dirt. It’s only then you have clear vision and can drive safely. Make sense?

Living a celibate lifestyle is not the norm in our society and other people can make you feel like a loser for being this way, but they are the fools in this case. They are the ones trying to drive their car with mud on their windshields. So the question is how do you overcome your normal, natural desire for sex when you’re not married?

The answer is simply to ask God for the grace to overcome temptation. When you feel tempted, say this little prayer, “Dear Jesus, let Your blood wash over me and protect me from this temptation.” Or my favorite, “Create in me a clean heart, O Lord.”

You and I cannot overcome our temptations by our strength and will alone, we need His grace. Just ask for it.

Another important thing to remember as you struggle to overcome this weakness, is that Our Blessed Mother also wants to help you. You may want to get in the habit of saying the Memorare on a daily basis, asking for her help.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my mother. To thee I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.






20 Comments

  1. Bob-59786 May 30, 2013 Reply

    I’m not sure celibacy is the issue here? The man has been divorced four times. For his sake, he needs to learn why that occurred?

    • Chelsea-743484 June 2, 2013 Reply

      Right…if he’s divorced from a sacramental marriage, that is only a civil separation in the Church’s reckoning of marriage…and therefore can’t live a celibate (i.e., unmarried) life. He can strive for perfect continence until he’s reconciled to his true wife, or is granted a decree of nullity…

  2. Meg-920823 May 30, 2013 Reply

    I think avoiding the occasions of sin would help. A could can alway meet around others for instance…

  3. Bernard-568827 May 31, 2013 Reply

    Feeling like a loser for being chaste? Yes, very much so…If you know anything about attending a modern university, I feel like I get this pounded into me very often…They all seem to be having a great time…Being loved…really being loved–not just half-way, not just as “second best” at best…Being a loser because all of these people possess some type of arcane, and superior knowledge–knowledge that, supposedly I don’t have, and could never possess…

    • Bob-59786 May 31, 2013 Reply

      A Blog a few months ago had a quote from a Priest talking about “all the sex” unmarried people were having, but NOT experiencing Love at all.

  4. Patriciao-596863 May 31, 2013 Reply

    I am a divorced woman considered a senior citizen. How do you meet a man and when he wants it to become physical that you can’t because of your relgion. You never hear from the man again or for that matter any other man. It gets pretty lonely.

    • Bob-59786 May 31, 2013 Reply

      Do you want a man who, in reality, is only interested in using you sexually?

    • Scott-158780 June 1, 2013 Reply

      Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. With enough prayer, I am confident your spirit will be lifted before that time comes.

  5. Louise-944715 May 31, 2013 Reply

    I appreciate this article. It is refreshing to have some acknowledgement that it is hard to maintain chastity, and that some of us have failed a time or two.

    Some people here (sometimes it is those who haven’t had a date in years so have not had their fortitude tested lately) act holier than thou and deny the reality of how hard remaining chaste is when faced with a very enticing opportunity with someone we love. The reality is that we have strong biological urges and it is very very difficult to stay chaste when we fall in love with someone with whom we feel extraordinarily strong chemistry.

    I appreciate this reality-based blog posting.

  6. Jeannie-964696 May 31, 2013 Reply

    no doubt this is a challenge any way you look at it. Ideally, if you can find like-minded others to date, do it. Otherwise, your best bet is to be VERY up front with your beliefs early on in the relationship….I have had my share of amazed looks and interesting discussions about my forgoing intimacy outside of marriage. IF you both agree to the rules, you have a great chance of following them. And finally, KEEP yourselves out of situations that are tempting. Near occasions of sin are REAL.

  7. Maggie-960484 May 31, 2013 Reply

    It’s this very issue that I believe has kept me on the sidelines for so long. I’m not sure that if I fell truly in love with a man that I would be able to remain chaste. So instead I don’t get involved and I know this is not the answer. I think finding someone with like views is the best approach and then don’t get close to the fire because you WILL get burnt.
    On the other extreme I’ve found young adults getting married too soon just because they can’t be so in love and stay chaste so they hurry into marriage. Not a good choice either, :-0

    • Joel-973494 June 1, 2013 Reply

      i Hear you Maggie loud and clear. I was dumped once because I told a girlfriend that I wanted to wait and be absolutely sure. Then I dated someone else didn’t wait and hmmm the marriage failed. It is tough, the struggles are hard, but I think with the right person it can prove that its more than just a sexual attraction and something that is built on so much more.

  8. Garry-296567 June 1, 2013 Reply

    Chastity or Sin? It’s like driving that car! It’s the same car, the same road. You go from the same “A” to the same “B” and have the same amount of fun. The only difference is that sin doesn’t have a licence. So what?

    • Chelsea-743484 June 2, 2013 Reply

      The car analogy isn’t really analogous. Every human person is called to be chaste, even the married. The choice to sin against chastity and the institution of marriage does not allow one to end in the same place as the choice to live the virtue of chastity. The sin, if grave and done with full knowledge and consent of the will, ends in hell for certain after death, and destruction of meaning in life.

      Consider this: if the marital embrace is merely committed with no license outside of marriage (as you state), and no social or eternal consequence, then what meaning does it effect within married life? If the act is meaningless, then your question “so what?” is the correct one to be asking. If the act is meaningful, that is, one which effects a change in a person’s life, then one can begin to get the concept as to why pre-marital continence is so very important.

  9. Laura-56149 June 1, 2013 Reply

    Everything he was saying is normal and we all go through it and need to figure out what works to keep from sinning. What bothered me most about his email was what the priest told him…NOT to confess it because of fear of priests being hard on him!?! Receiving the Eucharist often is the best way to stay strong and if you are in mortal sin you need to confess first. I have heard the pope goes to confession weekly and I am sure he is not sleeping around. If a person feels uncomfortable with a priest he is confessing to, he needs to try another. Go to a different parish if need be, but please go to confession. I am hoping this person is not continually sleeping around that he needs to go weekly. Not only is it not good for the soul to sleep around, but the body is at grave risk for disease.

  10. Tom-951019 June 3, 2013 Reply

    What catches me in this article is the man does not wish to be chaste. His concern is the priest being upset hearing it over and over again in the confessional. My question is, is he truly repentant of his sin or is he just confessing because he thinks he is supposed to? I understand how hard it is to avoid the temptation, however if you are constantly seeking out the activity how repentant can you truly be?

  11. Mark R. June 11, 2013 Reply

    “but one priest at the same church told me NOT to confess this same sin over and over again because some priests can be very hard on me doing that.”

    To receive valid absolution you MUST confess ALL mortal sins you’ve committed in kind and number. If you leave a mortal sin out you’ve made a bad confession. Why was this not brought out in the article?

  12. Faith-1009853 September 14, 2013 Reply

    I got divorce back on 8/6. for security yes I said I should have kept my marriage regardless but for peace of mind, no I am okay now. After all there is good thing happened when I divorced my only one daughter have a home to live. At this do I trade me over my daughter? Yes and I will do it again. At least everyone is happy. My ex want this divorce and I so nothing to be blamed and one soul is saved over a loss of a marriage. Do I wish to marry again? I leave everything from today to God as it’s time I make the decision for me I missed it up.

  13. Ruth-1055927 June 18, 2014 Reply

    I have been on both ends of this discussion. I have been celibate for 8 years. Celibacy is a choice as is everthing we do in our daily lives, do you drink or smoke? We don’t have to confess to those choices, however those choices don’t corrupt your values. We just have to learn to make the choices that we will not regret.

  14. Tom-995241 August 7, 2014 Reply

    After reading many of these blogs and articles, I’m thinking there are other sins besides sexual ones. However sex seems to be the main topic of conversation in almost every writing. Am I alone in this thinking?

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