Striving for Purity as an Adult Child of Divorce
I recently gave a talk at a young adult event about St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body: “The Gospel of Purity: Moving from Shame to Love.” The YouTube video is embedded below if you want to skip to it and give it a look.
Why Should You Consider Watching This Video?
Purity is a topic that adult children of divorce or separation need to hear more about. The need to discuss it often comes up in our Recovering Origins Retreats. Compared to our peers from intact homes, we are more likely to be promiscuous, and act out at an earlier age. Without being comprehensive, here are some of the reasons I hear about why adult children of divorce or separation frequently seek sex after their parents’ divorce or separation.
Why Adult Children of Divorce or Separation May Seek Sex
I hear from retreat participants, and this rings true with my own experience, that in the aftermath of our parents’ divorce or separation we seek affirmation, love, and affection anywhere we can get it, and we are told by society and peers that sex is the main way to get these things.
Others tell me that they have sought sex early and quickly in a relationship because they believed at the time that it was necessary to attract and keep love with a girlfriend or boyfriend, only to be disillusioned when this doesn’t help the permanence of their relationships.
Or, related to this last reason, others desperately don’t want to let down their boyfriends or girlfriends out of a desire to people-please, just like they learned to do with pleasing their parents in the aftermath of the divorce. Their own true thoughts and feelings are neglected, and they give in to sex despite not really wanting to do it.
Still others seek sex simply for pleasure because they cynically don’t believe love will last, given their parents’ failures at relationships, so why not get the most “enjoyment” out of relationships?
Finally, others tell me that they seek out sex, porn, etc., to numb the feelings of their parents’ divorce and separation and sometimes find themselves addicted or compulsively acting on these sexual urges. But this strategy of numbing doesn’t work and people end up feeling a big sense of loss and even bigger and bigger shame.
The Beginning of Healing
Faced with the temptation to be unchaste following one’s parents’ divorce or separation, healing begins by starting to process with God the deep-seated loss and grief experienced after parental divorce or separation - because every suffering is ultimately a question directed toward God. Consider praying and being honest with God about your feelings (He can handle it!), and listening to His response. Come to one of our Recovering Origins Retreats or support groups (see schedule). Seek out good holy, friends who can receive your wounds with grace. Join the private Catholic Adult Children of Divorce and Separation online community. Read some of our resources. And/or seek out spiritual direction from a priest or a spiritual mentor, see a Catholic therapist, etc.
Next, learn about authentic purity according to God’s plan and why it is an integral part of the healing process by building up love that lasts, self-esteem, and personal dignity. My talk below lasts only 20 minutes and is a good introduction to the topic. Please give it a listen and share with others. As of now, I have 1.9K views and I would love to get over 3.0K to get the message out to more people to combat the pervasive sense of shame and guilt associated with this topic. Share it with someone you know who needs to hear this affirming message of love and then talk about it with them!
One Last Word of Encouragement
Remember, you can always commit to healing and to purity, no matter what mistakes you have made! God loves you! You are never “just damaged goods,” “incapable of love,” or “unworthy of love due to the mistakes you made,” but are always a precious child of God capable of great love! If you have fallen, then just get up and recommit yourself. God makes all things new: “See I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the wilderness I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers” (Isa 43:19).