Why I don’t date men who are ‘willing’ to save sex for marriage.

“There’s something I need to tell you,” I said to a man on his couch in a Tampa apartment. He — then in his late 20’s and interested in me — nodded, and waited for me to say it. I, then in my early 20’s, breathed in before I did: “I’m saving sex for marriage.”

I breathed out while he silently processed what I had said. Then he turned his face toward mine and spoke: “If you want to wait, I’m willing.” But waiting had never been part of his world. He agreed to abstain from sex with me because he knew that if he didn’t, I wouldn’t date him. He agreed to behave as if he practiced chastity, but was only bound to nonmarital abstinence by my prohibition of nonmarital sex.

He respected my boundary, until he didn’t — until he mocked my decision to save sex and chalked it up to “immaturity,” in effort to manipulate me into changing my mind. He said “no guy will wait that long,” and begged me to break my promise to practice chastity. Instead, I broke up with him. I learned a lot in that relationship, including this:

I’d never date a guy again who was only “willing” to save sex. Here’s why:

Because I don’t want a man who acts chastely; I want a man who is chaste. We who practice chastity have apprenticeships in self-mastery. We promise to govern our appetites instead of being governed by them. A man who is “willing” to save sex in order to date me isn’t a man who governs his appetites. He’s a man who makes chaste girlfriends do that for him. If I date him, I govern two sets of appetites, which makes me an enabler: he doesn’t have to practice self-mastery if I master him.

Because a man who doesn’t practice chastity doesn’t define sex the same way I do. We who practice chastity believe sex is a sacred, physical sign of the the commitment spouses made to each other on the altar where they were married, ultimately designed to bond them and to make babies. A man who is “willing” to save sex — but would have nonmarital sex if he had my permission — does not by default define sex the way I do. How can we be united by sex in marriage if we can’t agree on the purpose sex serves?

Because a man who would forsake virtue (his or mine) if only I gave him permission is a man whose standards are too low. A man who is “willing” to save sex is a man whose choice to abstain from nonmarital sex likely isn’t underlain by much other than the absence of my consent. He’d be as content — or more — dating a woman who doesn’t practice chastity. But I don’t want to marry a man who settled for a chaste woman. I want a man who wants a chaste woman, who holds a high bar for me because he wants me to become the woman God designed me to be.

Because men are capable of more than the world around them says they are. “No guy will wait that long” is a lie, and boys who are taught that turn into men who believe it. But I hold up a higher bar than that for men because I think my future kids deserve a dad who can reach one, because I believe men can reach one, because I believe God created them able to do it.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Er5105

    This is amazing Arleen! I’ve always gone back and forth about whether I’d be willing to date a guy who doesn’t abstain from sex, but is “willing to do it” for me. You expressed this so articulately that now I have my answer.

    • Arleen Spenceley

      Awesome, awesome, awesome! Thx for sharing this with me.

  • Matthew

    I love how he said “If you want to wait,” and left off the “until marriage” part. That’s so telling.

    Men who are not chaste WILL expect you to have sex with them at some point during the relationship. They’ll wait as long as they can stand it, approaching it like a game or strategy. Then, if in the end they realize “Oh, you really did mean until marriage,” they split. These men believe all women have a “button” that, if pressed, will get you to sleep with them no matter how virginal you are. If they fail, you’re a prude, immature, naive, or flat crazy.

    Stay strong ladies! Great post Arleen.

    • suziequzie61

      Or they ask you if you’re gay! I had a guy who CLAIMED to be a Christian ask me that when he finally realized I wasn’t going to have sex with him!

    • Lucy

      Arlene. Thank you for this article. It is a lifeline for me right now….I just broke up with my long-time boyfriend who said he loved me , but changed his mind after 18 months and didn’t want to wait anymore so he tried to pressure/beg me. When I didn’t give in, he quit. It was like getting hit in the stomach. And it really messes with your head, your heart. That somehow your not worth waiting for. What a painful lesson I’ve learned that I Dont wish on anyone. Love is patient, love is kind, it does not demand of week it’s own way. God bless all of you waiting until marriage, don’t give up. I’m broken hearted but I’m still going to wait until marriage only because of Jesus Christ.

  • Amen! Way to go Arleen. An important message 🙂

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  • Amen. Lots of good points here! If he only grudgingly agrees, who knows what that would lead to in the future? You’d need someone to challenge you to greater virtue, not challenge your current virtue.

    • Arleen Spenceley


    • Arleen Spenceley

      PS: I’m quoting you (as “comment on the blog”) in a tweet and on FB at 9:05 EDT tonight. Brilliant! 🙂

      • Well thanks! I appreciate it. I enjoy your writing!

  • Julia Bakowski

    Great post. Also, note this, ladies: if you have to insist on chastity before marriage, you’ll have to insist on it after marriage. So, before marriage, you’ll be fighting single-handedly to keep your relationship non-physical, and during marriage, you will have to fight single-handedly to use NFP (and he will NOT be happy about NFP or understand that artificial contraception is not an option.) He might also not see a problem with porn. Or skipping Sunday Mass. Or not baptising the kids. Or getting married at a vineyard/the beach/a garden/his golf club/his parents’ backyard rather than at church.

    • Johanna Van Liew

      So true!!

    • Val

      That’s so true; in this days I was thinking if settling for a non chaste guy willing to wait for me could be a good option, now i know it’s not.

  • Jack

    This is tough. Really tough. I didn’t grow up Catholic. I was introduced to chastity in the beginning of a relationship in High School when I was certainly not chaste. It was hard to wrap my head around at first but we talked and talked and talked until it was our thing and not just hers. I loved her, and that came before any of my own desires. I was introduced to the Christ, to the Church, to my way home to Heaven in that relationship. I entered the Church 4 years after I met her, two years after we weren’t together anymore. Yes, it’s hard. But let’s not underestimate men by assuming every guy who has chosen a sexually active relationship is stuck there. Let’s not underestimate the power of a woman and what authentic beauty can do to an apathetic heard. AND, most importantly, let’s not underestimate the power of genuine love. It might be rare but it is possible….

    • Episteme

      Coming from a man who decided on total chastity early on, I applaud your conversion and I applaud the power of love here, Jack — I’m reminded of three of my gaming friends from college who were at various places on the pagan/shamanist scale until they met some women from the Newman Club and soon ended up converting and becoming some of the best Catholic men that I know (I’m the godfather of one guy’s firstborn son). We all need to walk the fine line between protecting ourselves (easier said for men than women) and realizing our powerful example of faith to evangelize.

      (Not that I don’t realize the very real issue of the “bad boy” that many women famously try to change — believe me that I’ve lost out to him in many an occasion — but the similar issue of how often the Shy Guy and other stereotypes of good men are left out of the dating calculus makes me loathe to say which sorts should be ruled out immediately; not to mention which sorts of women men are known to often not consider versus others…)

    • Arleen Spenceley

      I don’t underestimate men, nor the power of a woman, nor the power of love. I do believe, however, that I am not exercising love if I’m an enabler who, by “mastering” a guy, robs him of a reason to master himself. I think we would be underestimating men if we treated them like they can’t become chaste unless or until a chaste woman dates them. Men can (and do) become chaste in other ways.

    • Rivka

      That’s wonderful to hear how God’s grace worked through that relationship. But your story is the exception, not the rule. Of course, you admitted that fact in your words “rare but possible”.

  • Gracies Mom

    Great article, Arleen. As a 40-something single mom with a Declaration of Nullity, I’m an odd duck in the dating world. Can’t find active practicing Catholic men my age who have my values on chastity and who can get over my past (I did attempt marriage and have a child to show for it). So that leaves the men who are marginally Catholic and don’t even know what chastity is and think waiting for marriage is ridiculous at this age. It is so hard to meet men of character! Yes, I’ve tried Catholic dating sites and haven’t had success. My daughter started praying to St. Anthony because obviously my husband is lost out there. Please pray for him too. I’d like to meet him soon. Thanks!

    • Rivka

      It’s really sad if men can’t get over your “past”. I love your daughter’s idea to pray to St Anthony.

  • Dani LaSalle

    Arleen – thank you so much for giving a voice to young, single Catholic women. I love your writing. It always feels like you take the words right out of my mouth ( only in a much more articulate fashion 🙂 Please keep writing, and let me know if you ever decide to make a trip to the PNW to speak.

    • Arleen Spenceley

      Let me know if you know anybody out there who can make that happen! Have ’em email me, or send me their email address(es).

  • John Morgan

    Very excellent Arleen. I think both parties waiting until marriage to have sex is a huge part of being equally yoked. Because while God can forgive past sins, he can’t always erase the consequences. There will always be the memories, regrets, trust issues, what ifs, etc.

  • Chiara’s †ᴍ Armata

    The kind of woman that inspires us to be men…reminds me of Marcus Guevara’s conversion story.. “she told me if I even wanted to think about having a relationship with her, I needed to do three things..” — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9sS-gmwhXM

    • Arleen Spenceley

      That was so good! Thx so much for sharing it.

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  • Of course humans can often come to believe in a good (or bad) thing by doing it.

  • Jim Albert Ruby Albert

    I tell my daughters, if you can’t find a worthy spouse then don’t marry; stay as you are–single lay or perhaps religious.

    We need more brave women who think like this.

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  • M Barbara Howes

    Just wonderful!

  • Ryan Ehlis

    Im a christian and i will never get a marriage license, no where is a marriage license found in scripture. When a man and women first have sex the create the marriage. SEX=COVENANT

  • becca

    I think it’s a hard balance. However, I must say this I think a 21 year old guy who wants sex is probably not going to be truly willing to wait for marriages. However a 40 year old guy may very well mean it when he says he’s willing to wait for marriage for the right woman. The forty year old guy may be at a place in life where he wants to get married. So if he meets a woman he thinks is great, he may very well decide she’s worth the wait.

    It’s much harder to refrain from sex once you have had it, and women have made sex very easy for men. There are far more devout Catholic women than men, so I wonder about the wisdom of Catholic women throwing aside Catholic men because they struggle in that particular area. How many even fully understand the teaching? It doesn’t hurt to look and see if the person in question has other virtues. For example, are they kind to others, are they self sacrificing? And yes are they willing to accept being chaste. I do know many cases of happy Catholic marriages where the guy wasn’t the most devout man and was more nominal till he met his spouse. My friend told me, I was heading wrong direction and my wife pretty much dragged me by the hand…

    Marriage is about the sanctification of two spouses.