Hunger Games: Taming Sexual Desire After Divorce


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Did you ever wish you could sometimes freeze frame a moment in your day, look at it and say “this is not my life”?

That’s one of the more memorable quotes from the movie, Mrs. Doubtfire, and it so aptly describes the way you can feel after a divorce. The new version of your life probably looks pretty strange and unfamiliar. Nothing is the way it’s supposed to be and all you want is for someone to understand what your life used to be like. I’m sure many widows and widowers can feel the same way.

When a marriage ends, so does the intimacy between spouses. Not merely sexual intimacy, but that deep connection that spouses have with each other: being one heart, one mind, one soul as well as one body. This loss of intimacy on so many levels can shake you to the core, leaving you with nothing but emptiness.

But the loss of sexual intimacy after divorce adds to the feelings of devastation and despair. Not only do you not have it anymore, but you are faced with the reality that you must be celibate until you marry again. This is not an easy pill to swallow for most.

I recently spoke with a friend of mine, Shannon, who has been divorced for over a year and really struggles with her desire for intimacy. “I know I’m not alone in this, I know there are a lot of other divorced people struggling, too, but I don’t know them. So being the only one at work and among my family and friends who is single is what makes me feel like I’m the only one in the world dealing with this. The divorced women I know from my kids’ schools or from the gym are not on board with celibacy and date to have sex, so they’re not women I can talk to about this.”

Having been previously divorced and single for seven years, I can so relate to this. Celibacy is a tough decision to make and commit to and because it’s not society’s way, you can easily feel like the Lone Ranger. But let not your heart be troubled, for when the struggle becomes overwhelming, you can find your strength in Divine intimacy.

The more we die to ourselves, the more we find God. We live in this superficial world which absorbs us so completely that it makes us forget the profound interior life where a soul may live in intimate union with its God. The Lord waits for us in the depths of our soul. We must escape from the exterior world from the superficial life in order to hide ourselves with the hidden God. — Divine Intimacy by Fr. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD

God is not only close to you during this time, He is present within you—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each time you receive Holy Communion, you are united with God, the Blessed Trinity, in the deepest and most personal way, and God resides in you. But your intimacy with God is also being cultivated and experienced through the sacrifice you are making, through dying to yourself by practicing celibacy and opening up more room in your heart for His presence.

Since we are bombarded all day, every day with sexual messages and innuendos, it can be extremely difficult to divert your attention away from sex. Here is a great little prayer you can say during times of struggle:

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you, I give you my heart and my soul. Please keep me close to you.

Repeat this prayer often. It’s a great way to refocus yourself on Him. This is Divine intimacy and no other type of intimacy can be more precious, more loving, more valuable. What a tremendous gift! I encourage you to receive Holy Communion as often as possible.

Feel free to contact me at asklisa@catholicmatch.com or follow me on Twitter at @lisaduffy.






12 Comments

  1. Douglas-984666 September 26, 2013 Reply

    Okay, one phrase I see in many of these types of articles is “when a marriage ends.” This type of language is a real pet peeve for me because it makes divorce look a natural disaster (like a flood, earth quake, or tornado) that strikes out of nowhere, and it’s really too bad that this had to happen, but things just weren’t working out.

    If you want to be academically honest, do not say “the marriage ended,” but rather, say “someone ended it.” One party (in 2/3 of all cases, the female), of her (or his) own free will, made a conscious decision to end the relationship, and in many cases the decision was NOT mutual. We’re not just talking about a tragedy, we are taking about a grave injustice (which, unfortunately, the institution of the Roman Catholic Church is not lifting a finger to help amend).

    To the author: if you want to be academically honest, please stop using the phrase “when a marriage ends” and instead say something like “when one partner brakes the marriage vow” or “when one partner abandons you,” etc.

    • CatherineRose-996317 September 27, 2013 Reply

      If you can, try to be a little more understanding. When someone is being abused in a relationship, and the abuser will not or can not change, that difficult decision must be made. But it is made by both-the one who won’t change, and the one who won’t let themselves be hurt anymore. Sitting in judgment does not help people heal, or lead them to better decisions. You are blessed to have not know this personally.

    • Maggie-965351 September 27, 2013 Reply

      I agree with Douglas above. And I believe I understand where CatherineRose is coming from. I dislike the phrase, “when a marriage ends.” My marriage unofficially ended with the birth of our first child. I just held out hope that we could fix it for 4 more years. But when the other party doesn’t want to work on the relationship, what do you do? It is an unfortunate tragedy when any marriage end; let’s not be trite by using phrases like “when a marriage ends.”

  2. Eloise-899090 September 26, 2013 Reply

    One person may formally end it because of the contunious broken vows of the other partner or for other very valid Church reasons. There are reasons that a valid Catholic marriage was never there from the beginning that one spouse was not aware of in the beginning. That’s some of the the how and why of annulments.

  3. Pat-5351 September 26, 2013 Reply

    As long as we are onto pet peeves, one of mine is how much of this blog is devoted to the concerns of and ministry to the previously married. And to that point, as to this particular topic, sexual chastity, I invite those who are struggling with post-marriage sexual desire to contemplate the lives of those who have never been married, have never had the opportunity for licit sexual release, expression, or intimacy, yet who have lived chastely, for years, even decades, and perhaps they might think for a minute about those folks. That should makes one’s sufferings and self denial seem less by contrast.

    Also, I would suggest for all, that when hit with desire and sexual struggles, to immediately offer up your suffering for the many sins committed against the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, by yourself in the past, by your former spouse, by anyone else you have loved/been in a relationship with, by those in your own family, and in the whole world. Not only is it a “cold shower” so to speak, but it makes your suffering salvific, joining it to the suffering of Christ, who is sorely wounded by our sexual sins.

    • CatherineRose-996317 September 27, 2013 Reply

      All divorced/married people weren’t born married; they were single, too. So we understand your pain. No one’s pain or frustration is trivial, or unnoticed and uncared for by God. It’s our job to look out for each other; it’s why God put us here together. Each person’s struggles are unique; God knows that, too, and I believe planned it that way. We each have to step outside ourselves to really know the other. It’s a beautiful plan!

  4. Jaclyn-1005863 September 27, 2013 Reply

    I am glad to have read this article.
    First, I am glad to know that I am not unique in my struggle.
    Second, I am glad to learn that there is a name for what I have been experiencing – “divine intimacy” – as my marriage had begun to die many years in the making, I began to turn to God for my deeper needs my emotional intimacy needs — through my 2 years of separation and eventual divorce, I spent many nights alone and have found comfort in prayer, scripture, and simply talking with the lord, feeling his presence and guidance.
    I just didn’t have a word for what was happening in my faith life, but it feels very intimate — my x-husband used to be the first person I spoke to in the morning and the last one I spoke to at night… but not anymore.
    Now, I speak to the Lord – each morning, during my commute, during odd moments in the day, and especially every night.
    I struggle daily with the longing for a man in the flesh to be my intimate life partner… but I leave that in God’s hands and find much joy and contentment in simply focusing on building a deeper relationship with the Lord… which is the greatest blessing of the Lord… all these lonely nights that I used to dread… are really blessing in that I now know I am truly never alone… My God is always with me and truly loves and cares for me deeply. He will direct my path and I am so grateful for His love and grace in my life.
    Thank you!

    • Yenne-970772 September 27, 2013 Reply

      This is a beautiful testimony Jaclyn! :) God bless you and thank you for sharing.

    • CatherineRose-996317 September 27, 2013 Reply

      I’m refreshed by reading this. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Esther-532964 September 27, 2013 Reply

    Very good article.I’m glad I read it!

  6. David-629572 September 27, 2013 Reply

    “I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That’s the two categories. The horrible are like, I don’t know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don’t know how they get through life. It’s amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you’re miserable, because that’s very lucky, to be miserable.” — Woody Allen, from Annie Hall

  7. CatherineRose-996317 September 27, 2013 Reply

    I’m glad that you described both perspectives of intimacy in a marriage, Lisa. Being married the two are intertwined, as it was meant to be. Knowing that they’re intertwined is what keeps us from having casual sex; it’s in no way as rewarding as love experienced by two mates. I believe God doesn’t impose these rules to make us suffer (by not having the physical intimacy); He shows us guidelines on how to keep our hearts from suffering (from having casual intimacy). Thanks for the post!

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