The most common misconception of Catholic teaching on sexuality is that once you’re married, you’re allowed to do anything sexual you want. The idea is that before you’re married sex is bad and, as soon as you slip the ring on her finger, anything goes.
The problem with this worldview is that it discounts the fact that chastity in marriage is just as hard as chastity in the single life.
Our sexuality is an integral part of who we are as human persons. We can’t segment it off any more than we can put our intellect in a box. Yet, it is constantly assaulted. As the general morality continues to degrade, we have to be more and more intentional about protecting our chastity.
Infidelity (of thought or action) doesn’t happen in one day. In fact, if you think of it as a chain of events, you get a better understanding of how someone can toss their marriage aside for a fleeting pleasure. It starts innocent, maybe not even with a particular person. Then, the slippery slope leads to the permanent damage of your marriage.
The fight for chastity is different in marriage from the battle when you are single. In the single life, your fight is to preserve your chastity for your future spouse. It’s a single front battle.
In marriage, you have two fronts. The first is protecting your love for your wife and the second is the responsible use of your creative powers. Let’s chat about those for a moment.
- Protecting your love for your wife. While fighting this battle, you’re fighting the temptation of other women. You may be a good looking guy who gets a lot of attention from the fairer sex, or you might find yourself in a situation that is particularly dangerous. In either case, you have to insulate your love appropriately for sharing with you wife.
- The responsible use of your creative powers. We are lucky enough to have been allowed to share in God’s creative powers, which is amazing! We are also called to use them responsibly. As Catholics, it’s our duty to bring into the world the number of children that we are given. This does not mean that we must necessarily have a large family. What this does mean is that, by praying and participating in God’s plan, we can bring into the world the number of children that we can responsibly support without being a burden on society.
The struggle is real. In fact, if your marriage is doing any good in the world or for the Church, you’re a target. We’ve seen a great many highly respected men fall prey to a failure of chastity. So what can we do?
- Guard your eyes. Television shows and movies are getting more and more racy. Consider what you regularly consume in terms of visual media. If it contains a lot of graphic material, knock it off. It’s like your 6th grade math teacher told you about your calculator, “Junk in, junk out.”
- Guard your ears. After about the year 2000, pop music degraded into I’m not sure what. There’s some good stuff out there, but too much of it is trashy. The lyrics are catchy, but those catchy lyrics are about drugs and sex. It doesn’t mean you have to listen to Praise music (although you should give it a shot) or Jazz, but it does mean that if you want to respect your wife and women in general, you should consider which artists you support. By the way, I used to not enjoy praise music, but I love it now. There’s something amazing that happens to your brain and attitude when you listen to music that is all positive.
- Guard your home. Unfortunately, the Internet has brought in a lot of garbage with the tremendous benefit that it’s created in our lives. Install an internet filter and accountability software (my family uses Covenant Eyes). This is for three reasons. First, we know that kids on the Internet are exposed to pornography as young as 8 years old (usually on accident). Ouch. Second, even if it isn’t a problem or temptation for you, you’d be amazed at how much relief this kind of tool can bring. Knowing that you’re not going to accidentally stumble across something inappropriate and that, even if you tried to, you couldn’t takes tremendous power away from Satan. Last, the depth and breadth of the porn industry is incredible. The release of the movie Don Jon in 2013 got a lot of people talking about porn’s role in society. The Internet has made porn more accessible than ever. Pretending that your household is safe is foolish. Don’t be an idiot.
These tips aren’t about being a prude or a loser. If you think that, then you’re the loser. These are the small steps that MEN take in our world today. We take these steps because we reject Satan, and all of his works, and all of his empty promises. We take these steps because we love our wives and we want to be the men that they chose to lead their household.
The path to infidelity is a chain. The smallest mistake, unchecked, can lead quickly to ruin. So be a man and guard your eyes, guard your ears, and guard your home.