Dating/God's Plan for Sex/My Relationships/Sex and Chastity/Teen Relationships Love and Baggage: How to Forgive Him or Her for the Past by Rachel Leininger Q: I recently entered an “official” relationship, and after entering dating status, he revealed to me that he is not a virgin. My heart hurts so much right now. I’m struggling because he already feels very ashamed, and I did tell him how I felt, but I don’t want to keep bringing it up while I am still healing. But it is constantly on my mind, and I’m tormented with moments of doubt and mistrust. Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated! A: I’m so sorry about the hurt and pain you’re experiencing right now – and yet, I’m so hopeful for you (and for this relationship), because within your question is part of the answer. You need healing. First, I hope you’ve thanked your boyfriend for trusting you with this information. Does that sound insane? There’s a valuable principle in play in all our relationships (romantic or not): with greater trust, comes greater intimacy. We don’t reveal our deepest secrets to someone whose acquaintance we just made last week, right? Your relationship began recently, and so it says a lot that he would share his past regrets with you. He’s trusting you with his heart, as he asks you to trust him with yours. That’s a bold, beautiful, courageous thing to do. His regrets are about his past – and his hopes are for the present and future. His honesty is essential for your relationship to survive – and so is yours. Clearly let him know that you’re grateful for his trust in you, and you are going to need some time to process this. It’s okay that you’re not okay with his sexual past, and it’s also okay to let him know that. He’s not proud of where he’s been, as you said – but hiding your feelings from him will only increase his pain. And without honest communication within your relationship, that doubt and mistrust will certainly increase. Remind him that you care for him and that you’re committed to this relationship – his past doesn’t change that – and let him know that you’re going to do your best to process and heal. By keeping those lines of communication open, your feelings of doubt and mistrust will begin to subside. Another key element in your healing is forgiveness – which isn’t a feeling, but rather a decision, a decision that can heal the heart and revive love, according to Pope Francis. If you’ve decided that you want to stay in this relationship, then you must also decide to forgive. His past decisions hurt you – that’s real. But if this relationship continues on, he will make future decisions that will hurt you. You will make decisions that will hurt him. That’s an inevitable part of being human. And when we’re hurt, or when we hurt others, we can bring healing by asking for and giving forgiveness. Certainly, forgiveness doesn’t mean staying in an unhealthy relationship – if your boyfriend isn’t committed to chastity now, pressuring you into sexual activity, or cheating on you, end the relationship with him now and forgive him after. But it sounds like he’s unhappy with his past choices and resolved to do better in the future – so if you want to stay with him, forgiveness can only help. Pray for the grace to forgive, and let God help you. I dated more than one guy who came into the relationship with some sexual baggage from his past (many of whom acted out of ignorance, just buying the lie that sex is no big deal), and my response to those guys was always the same: “I care much less about your virginity than I do about your chastity. Are you committed to chastity now? Then we’re okay.” Chastity is a lifelong virtue about respect, which is not about the past, but rather the present and the future. Anyone at any time can make a decision for chastity, and strive to live out the virtue from this day forward, for the rest of their lives. There’s a difference between simply abstaining from sex and really living chastity, because chastity is about purity of not just our bodies, but our bodies, hearts, minds, and souls. If a guy wasn’t committed to chastity, I didn’t date him – and that had nothing to do with his past, only his present and future goals. The reality is, NONE of us have lived chastity perfectly – even those who save sex for marriage struggle with other sexual temptations – so let the one without sin cast the first stone. I’m still growing in my understanding and practice of chastity within marriage, and I couldn’t imagine how difficult that would be to do alongside someone who WASN’T committed as well. As you ask God to help you forgive, ask Him to help keep you both pure, too. I hope, that through honest communication, forgiveness, patience, and prayer, you can come to a place of real healing. I’d also encourage you to confide in someone you trust to walk with you on the way – a best friend, a parent, or a youth minister, who can help you process your feelings as you heal. Be patient with him, and with yourself, along the way. I promise that true healing will enable you to look back on his past with compassion, not hurt. He regrets his past choices and wants to move forward in freedom. With God’s help, you can experience that freedom, too. Do you have a question about dating and relationships you’d like to ask David and Rachel Leininger? Email them at [email protected] and your question could be the next blog post!