Celibacy, simply defined, is a personal promise not to have sex before marriage. Usually, there is a religious reason behind the decision to remain (or become) celibate, but for many it is a difficult, if not impossible promise to keep, especially for those who aren’t virgins. Why, you may ask, would anyone who’s already had sex voluntarily want to give it up?
I’m glad you asked.
There are several reason why both men and women decide to stay celibate until they’re married. Let’s examine a few:
- It’s a religious decision – For Christians, the idea of remaining a virgin until married is clearly the goal. However, in recent years we’ve seen many people return to being sexually inactive as a testament to their faith. For those, celibacy is an act of faith used to demonstrate their commitment to God. The scripture used to support this commitment is Romans 12:1 which says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (NASB).
Instead of focusing on celibacy, Islam promotes marriage and sexual relations that are lawful (in the context of marriage). Therefore, in Islam, it seems the goal is to marry and enjoy sex, but to not make a commitment of celibacy or engage in unlawful sexual relations (outside of marriage).
- It’s a lifestyle choice – Many people make a conscious decision to abstain from sex before marriage and make a vow of celibacy for various reasons such as, birth control, avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, moral beliefs, to focus on other important goals, as a means of self-control, to avoid intimate relationships and to avoid marriage. When a celibacy is a lifestyle choice, the vow is a personal one.
- It’s not a choice – For many people, being celibate isn’t a choice, but due to medical, emotional, and psychological reasons, engaging in sexual relations is just not possible or enjoyable. When celibacy is not a choice, the inability to enjoy sex can lead to overwhelming frustration, anger, depression, and humiliation. For some, the fear of being unable to perform, sexually, is enough to cause them to decide to avoid it altogether. For others, the physical pain of sexual intercourse can be so excruciating that even thinking of it can cause them to become anxious. When celibacy isn’t a choice, it may be necessary to seek a doctor’s help.
Now that we’ve explored reasons for celibacy, let’s take a look at what we must do in order to maintain our vow and remain true to it until marriage. For those who have enjoyed sexual relationships prior to making the vow, remaining celibate for weeks, months or even years can be quite a challenge! Here’s some ways to help you maintain your celibacy until marriage.
- Know why you’re doing it – Celibacy is a serious undertaking, and requires a serious amount of self-control, commitment, and dedication. In order to sustain it as a way of life, you must have sound reasons for doing it, and be able to identify the reasons you made this choice. It’s impossible to stand behind a cause you don’t fully support, so before you make the vow, search your heart and write down the reasons why you want to be celibate until marriage. Then read them daily to remind you of why being celibate is important enough to make such a huge commitment.
- Pray – If you’re celibate for religious reasons, prayer can help you remain strong when feeling weak. Whenever you feel tempted recite Romans 12:1 and pray, asking God to help you avoid temptation.
- Avoid temptation – We live in a sexually charged society where it’s difficult, if not impossible, to avoid sexual images. Therefore, in order to avoid temptation monitor the television programs you watch, avoid radio stations that play songs with sexual overtones, watch what you read and view on the internet. When appropriate, advise your family and friends that you’re practicing celibacy and seriously ask for their support. When people aren’t practicing celibacy, it can seem like a joke. If they know you’re serious, they may still tease you for awhile, but eventually, they’ll grow to respect you and your decision.
- Become involved in other activities – In order to support your lifestyle of celibacy, you must find other activities that are emotionally fulfilling and that provide positive interaction with opposite sex (if you want to marry). Take cooking classes,
- Be responsible and share the good news – If you’re staying celibate until marriage, you’ll be dating, right? It’s only fair to let your potential mate know about your commitment and give them a chance to decide whether they can honor your vow. Should you tell them on the first date? NO! You don’t have to wear your celibacy on your sleeve or treat it as if it’s the most important thing about you. You don’t have to broadcast it, but you should mention it early in the budding relationship (maybe 3rd or 4th date). It’s important to manage expectations and to be clear about how you’re living your life. Being celibate doesn’t prohibit relationships from forming, and it can help to screen out those who just want sex, or those don’t want to get married, even after enjoying a successful dating relationship.
Remaining celibate until you marry can give you an opportunity to prepare yourself for the commitment of marriage. The discipline, patience, self-awareness, avoidance of temptation, and focus required to live celibately provides great practice for marriage where all those things are required. Use your time of celibacy to focus on yourself, learn your true value, explore your dreams, develop your gifts, and find inner peace. If you use your time of celibacy wisely, you can work to become the type of person you wish to marry.
Sophia Avery, MA and Donavan Sterling West are a dynamic Relationship Counseling team! If you’d like further information, discussion or a Relationship Counseling session, please call us at visit our website at www.ChristianTalkTherapy.com AND become a fan of the Avery-West Counseling team! Visit our page on FaceBook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Philadelphia-PA/Avery-West-Counseling-Team/273651777811