Dating/God's Plan for Sex/My Relationships/Sex and Chastity/Teen Relationships

We’re in Love… Is it Okay to Have Sex Before Marriage?

I’ve got to hand it to you guys: you are so, so creative. I have a lot of friends who are teens, since I work with teens full-time and volunteer at my parish’s youth ministry. And I love watching my newsfeeds blow up with these crazy, over-the-top “promposals.” You know, where you cover a person’s car in Post-It notes and fill it with Skittles and then stand behind it, waiting with a pizza that says, “Prom?” in M&Ms?

It wasn’t like that, back in the day. My first boyfriend, when I was a sophomore in high school, came up to me one night, and simply said (with a lot of long pauses and stuttering, actually), “Hey Rachel? I really like you. And I think you might like me, too. So do you, maybe, want to do something sometime?”

And I said yes, and we started dating. That was it.

We started dating in March of my sophomore year of high school (Our first date? On a Friday in Lent, so guess who had an awesome fish fry dinner that night?) – and we broke up in September of my sophomore year of college. Three and a half awesome years together, and then it was time for that relationship to end.


Often, teenagers ask me if there’s ever a time when it’s okay to have sex before marriage – like, when you truly love someone, or if you’re deeply committed to them. More than once, I’ve been asked, “Can sex ever be as meaningful outside of marriage as it is in marriage?”

I completely understand what it means to be in a truly loving, committed relationship as a teenager. I did it. We stayed together into college, and since our college choices landed us in different cities, two of those years were long distance. If you aren’t truly committed to a person, there’s no way you survive that.

But as committed as he and I were to each other… we broke up. Some things changed in his life, some things changed in mine – we just weren’t meant to be. And that’s perfectly okay with me. It’s also perfectly okay with the man who asked me to marry him this past Christmas.

Even though I’m not marrying my high school boyfriend, I truly loved and was deeply committed to him – something that was only possible because we were both also committed to the virtue of chastity. Our culture thinks that sex = love, but love is about so much more than sex. And sex outside of marriage is the opposite of love… it’s use. Sleeping with someone who isn’t your spouse could never be a loving act.

I’m so grateful that my first boyfriend and I didn’t have sex in our relationship. In fact, there’s a lot of things we didn’t do (not that we were perfect, because he was really cute, and I’m really cute, and when two people are cute, you struggle. It’s science). But we did a really great job with chastity and our relationship ended without any regrets.

I didn’t give my whole self away – body, heart, mind, and soul – to a guy I don’t even know anymore. He’s a hero to me, now, because he treated me with so much respect and set the bar so high for everyone I have dated, or thought about dating, since then.

And he’s a hero to my now-fiancé, too.


If I had had sex in that relationship, it certainly would have meant a lot to me. It would have meant staying too long in a relationship that wasn’t meant to be. It would have meant relying on a physical connection to hold us together when our emotional and spiritual connections had fallen apart.

It would have meant enormous heartbreak when things finally did end, and being left with more than just a broken heart (which was difficult enough), but the brokenness of a bond that was meant to last forever. That’s why divorce is so, so painful – we weren’t created for that kind of pain.

It also would have meant lying to him, and myself, about what our relationship was. There just isn’t any time when sex before marriage is as meaningful as sex within marriage. Our bodies speak a language, and sex says, “I give my whole self to you, and you alone, forever.” Without the commitment and sacrament of marriage, sex is a lie. It cannot be what God created it to be.


That’s not to say that if you’ve made mistakes in the past, there’s no hope. There is always, always, always hope – because chastity isn’t about the past. It’s about the present and the future. Anyone, at any time, can choose to start living the virtue of chastity, and live it for the rest of their lives.

If you’ve experienced the brokenness of ending a sexual relationship in the past, I’m so sorry for the pain it has caused. I hope you’ll turn to family and friends for the support you need to move forward, and Christ for the healing and comfort you need that only He can give. Run to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where He makes all things new (Revelations 21:5) – that’s me. That’s you.

And if you’re currently in an unmarried sexual relationship, I want nothing more for you than for you to learn more about chastity. This virtue brings us freedom. Because it isn’t about the past, we can bring it into our relationships, even if they have been sexual in the past. We can clearly discern whether or not this person would make a great lifelong partner without the connection that sex creates clouding our vision.

No, there’s no time that sex can be as meaningful outside of marriage – but that doesn’t mean that’s all there can be for us. Chastity helps make our relationships the best that they can be. The best is creative dating, a solid foundation of trust, strong self-respect, healing of past experiences – and deep, passionate sex within marriage. And that is what sex was meant to be.

About the Author

Rachel Leininger

I work for a retreat ministry called the REAP Team, where it's my full-time job to talk about sex, love, dating, and chastity (which can sometimes lead to some awesomely awkward moments). I love being Catholic, my bearded husband, watching movies, and browsing antique malls. The only thing I have against winter is the fact that there's no baseball. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @raleininger

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