Q&A: Why should a divorced person abstain from sex?

The Q: In a comment on the Chastity Project column in which I busted myths that proponents of premarital sex use to promote it, a reader recently asked this question: “What about post-divorce sex? I have already done the deed. Why do I need to wait again?”

So, why should a divorced person abstain from sex?

The A: The short version: Because chastity requires it. The long version:

Chastity requires abstinence outside marriage, which means both before it and after it. There are multiple reasons for that, and the top two that come to mind for me are these:

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[Q&A – Relationships] What do you say to someone who feels unlovable?

The Q: “What do you say to someone who feels unlovable, whose 20s are gone, who believes there is nobody out there for him or her?” -Trish

The A: What I’d say is not as important as what I’d do. First I’d respectfully oppose his or her viewpoint by expressing my belief that humans are of intrinsic, infinite value, on the never-ending receiving end of authentic love and unabashed affection from the creator of the universe.

Then I’d go Albert Ellis on ’em.

Albert Ellis, a now-deceased psychologist, created rational emotive behavior therapy, a counseling theory designed to nip distress-inducing, irrational thought in the bud. Its purpose, according to Dr. Greg Mulhauser, is “to help clients to replace absolutist philosophies, full of ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’, with more flexible ones.” How we’d use it with somebody who feels unlovable, whose 20s are gone, who believes he or she never will date again or marry, is threefold:

1. We’d pinpoint the person’s ultimate current beliefs (that being unattached equals being unlovable, that people who don’t meet somebody in their 20s never meet somebody, that he or she must have a significant other, etc.).

2. Then we’d dispute them (What evidence do you have that supports the belief? What evidence contradicts it? Is the belief rational, or irrational; reasonable, or unreasonable; constructive, or destructive? In what ways does having the belief help you meet your goals? In what ways does it hurt you?).

3. Then we’d replace them with better beliefs – rational, constructive ones (How single I am doesn’t determine how lovable I am. People meet each other and establish meaningful relationships at all ages. Nothing requires me to have a significant other; I’m not breaking a law by being single, etc.).

Other helpful tools to use when we’re stuck on a distress-inducing belief include making an appointment with a mental health counselor, or scouring the five principles for determining whether a belief is rational, Ellis’s list of irrational beliefs (and their replacements), and the ABC’s.

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Q&A is an occasional feature. If you have a Q, I can come up with an A (and if I don’t have an A, I’ll find somebody who does). To submit a question, click here. No topic is taboo (although I can’t promise I will answer every question).

Click here to read all the posts in this series.

[Q&A – Catholicism and Sex]: Have you been discriminated against because of your beliefs?

The Q: “Have you been profiled, discriminated against or otherwise treated with intolerance over your beliefs at work or school? How do you handle it?” -Trish

The A: The short answer is sort of yes, sort of no. I’m not sure my experiences have been discrimination or intolerance as much as they have been challenging. But how have I handled them? Discussion, and sometimes defense. Standing up for the truth about what I believe without the expectation that the people I meet will believe it. Here’s the long answer:

A set of beliefs prone to pokes and prods from the people who don’t share them is what I believe about love, chastity, and sex. Virginity in a culture that values sexual experience is treated as an anomaly. For the most part, readers of what I’ve written about it respond with respect (including the rock jocks who discussed me on a local FM station’s morning show!). But there are readers – especially when I worked for the newspaper – who write me notes or leave me voicemails solely to say how much they don’t like what I write. Others – out of anger or out of compassion – list reasons “chastity won’t work” or express pity for my having chosen it.

And then there’s my belief system in general: Catholicism. I didn’t know what Protestants were the day my fifth grade teacher told my class it’s easier for them to get to heaven than it is for Catholics. That year – my first at the private, Protestant school where I stayed through my high school graduation – started my eight-year, accidental education in apologetics and tolerance.

I’ve written before about my experiences there (primarily here and here), but here’s how I’d sum it up: The faculty and staff at the school generally treated my family and me with respect. But what several members of the faculty and staff did not treat with respect was my Catholicism. By excluding the word “creed” in its equal opportunity statements in its handbook, the school reserved the right to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs. In distributing Jack Chick tracts and using a history curriculum that said Catholics worship Mary and saints, the school ultimately exercised that right. But in banning both when my family spoke up, the school exhibited respect.

Defense of faith on the fly is a lot to expect of a kid. Discussion of beliefs is hard at any age. But it also how change happens, both in and outside you. I had to stop caring what other people think. Accepting that not everybody believes what I do has been important for handling it when somebody actually doesn’t. Admitting that it is unreasonable to expect all the people I encounter to be nice to me has helped, too. Another great help has been the Dialogue Decalogue, a set of rules to follow when talking with people who don’t believe what you do.

How do you handle mistreatment as a result of what you believe?

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Q&A is an occasional feature. If you have a Q, I can come up with an A (and if I don’t have an A, I’ll find somebody who does). To submit a question, click here. No topic is taboo (although I can’t promise I will answer every question).

Click here to read all the posts in this series.

[Q&A – Dating] How soon do you tell somebody you’re saving sex for marriage?

The Q: “With our society as it is today and everyone expecting sex outside of marriage, how (or how soon) do you let a guy you’ve started seeing know of your chastity and let him know he won’t be getting pre-marital sex from you? Is it something up front? Do you therefore seek out guys that feel the same?” -Jason

The A(‘s): The short answer to the first of Jason’s questions is IMMEDIATELY. Here’s the long one:

How I tell a guy I’m chaste has varied. Google usually beats me to it. But when a guy hasn’t Googled me, I can work it in when he asks about what I write. How I disclose chastity, however, has more flexibility than when I do it.

I am, in fact, a proponent of disclosing chastity up front. I’m for it on the first date or earlier. I’m for this because if a guy can’t handle that I bring up sex so soon, he probably can’t handle dating me. I’m also for this because if one (or both) of us is surprised or disappointed by what the other says about sex, I’d rather it be before we’re so involved we try to make work what inevitably won’t. It’s also a good idea to talk chastity at the start because what a potential mate does with what you divulge during that conversation is important. If he or she resists talking about chastity, he or she probably won’t practice it. If somebody lists incentives of sex before marriage, he or she will list ’em again and again and again, until you break down or break up. If he or she agrees to grin and bear it, you get a version of what you want: to practice chastity. But he or she doesn’t bring to a relationship what a person does who practices chastity, too.

In answer to Jason’s second question, I absolutely seek out guys who share my sentiments. To meet guys who don’t and try to change them isn’t fair, for me or for them. It isn’t my job to turn a guy into one who’d make a good husband, and it’s unreasonable to expect him to forsake his beliefs for mine.

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Q&A is an occasional feature. If you have a Q, I can come up with an A (and if I don’t have an A, I’ll find somebody who does). To submit a question, click here. No topic is taboo (although I can’t promise I will answer every question).

Click here to read all the posts in this series.

[Q&A – Relationships] How do I deal with her PMS?

The Q: “How do I deal with my fiancée’s PMS?” -Donald*

The A: PMS, more mouth-fully known as premenstrual syndrome, is the set of symptoms most women experience during the days before we get our periods.

They can be physical (headache, fatigue, bloating). They can be emotional (anxiety, depression, anger). They can be behavioral (eating a lot, not eating a lot, insomnia). They also can be alarming for our boyfriends, our fiancés, or our husbands. That Donald asked how to respond to PMS is indicative of the existence of his capacity to serve (and interest in serving) his fiancée in a way that meets her needs. (To which I say “Bravo!”)

How guys respond to women’s PMS probably should vary, but here are my first few suggestions:

Be available. Men exist who, upon discovering a woman is PMS-ing, check out emotionally or physically until her period passes. This is cool if she requests that space, but it is not cool to assume she wants or needs it. Women exist who, while PMS-ing, really would just enjoy watching a movie with you, for instance, which is easy and harmless and impossible for you to know if you are “busy” every time she is PMS-ing.

Actively listen. To brush off a woman’s anxiety, depression, or anger because you know she’s PMS-ing is probably a bad idea. She is not angry because she’s PMS-ing. She is more angry because she’s PMS-ing. She – in most circumstances, in my opinion and experience – would be angry about what she’s angry about anyway. So when she expresses what she feels, listen and listen actively**, so she knows you actually hear her. And when a woman is angry (or anxious or depressed), it doesn’t necessarily mean she has PMS. PMS is not a prerequisite for the existence or expression of emotion.

Ask her what she expects. (And ask her nicely.) Neither men nor women can read minds, and we are both being silly and/or unreasonable when we a) wait to receive what we really need or want without ever expressing what we really need or want or b) assume we know what somebody else needs or wants when he or she has never said and we have never asked.

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*Real guy, fake name.

**Click here for active listening tips.

Q&A is an occasional feature. If you have a Q, I can come up with an A (and if I don’t have an A, I’ll find somebody who does). To submit a question, click here. No topic is taboo (although I can’t promise I will answer every question).

Click here to read all the posts in this series.