Trial relationships and sex before marriage among believers

PhDr. Mgr. Jeroným Klimeš, Ph.D. 2017-12-06

“Partners need to check up if they fit each other in a bed before their wedding.” This sentence is generally considered to be true. But is it really true? How did people solve this question in the past when premarital sexual life was strictly forbidden on the ground of absolutely pragmatic reasons? There was no contraception, and an illegitimate child was a life tragedy for a woman because she was literally dying of frost and starvation in the winter. This is certainly the case of the time a hundred and fifty years ago. How did people then find out if their bodies react sensitively to each other if they smell well if they would be excited when touching the other?

The technique was simple, but it is practically unused nowadays — dancing. Young people were always addicted to dancing and balls. Music was much quieter than at discos today. When musicians were resting, there was silence — a space for communication. The dances in a pair were most common, that is a body on a body. So when you stirred up your emotions on a floor — which was allowed — you find out that dancing is a half-intercourse. This is enough information to make yourself sure that you do not smell each other badly and to see how your bodies react to each other. So the answer to whether people should check up, whether they fit together well, is yes, but it does not have to be done via premarital sex.

You with your partner should clarify together the basic parameters of your future marriage before the wedding. Where will we live? How many children do we plan to have? What is our attitude to religion up-brining? How will we divide property? and other vital things that often lead to divorces later on. The problem of today's young people is that they thoroughly test whether they are fitting in bed, but completely neglect these questions, which are also vital in a relationship. Then, after n-years of marriage, they get so surprised by simple facts — say, how wild battle can be caused only by a premarital contract, or a rock-solid decision of a partner that one child is totally enough.

Changing affiliate behavior over the last 25 years

The problem of Christian morality is that it is set up for the world where the vast majority of women are married up to the age of 20. Today, this border has shifted by 10 years, which, while prohibiting premarital sex, means 15 years of sexual abstinence (i.e. from puberty to marriage at the age of 30). Yet young people, who are able or willing to endure 15 years of celibacy, are present at a maximum of one-digit percentages even among religious people. The task of a wise Christian shepherd is not to break down a broken cane but to save young wine. Then the ultimatum “stay 15 years of celibacy, or go out of the church” is equal to the social suicide of the Church. There is a need for appropriate pastoral care for this age group (20-30 years old unmarried people), which has recently appeared here.

Age of mothers at a first child in the Czech Republic has shifted by 10 years in the recent history.

Voluntarily infertile Christian marriages also pose gambling with church divorces

The most common mistake is in this context that religious parents push the young pair in a wedding at a college. Here it is forgotten that we cannot abide one-half of God's commandments, and ignore the other half. When people enter a marriage, they should not reject children — it is an eternal Christian principle. But most students are unable to bring up children while studying. On the other hand, if they reject the children, they take a risk of a break-up of the relationship due to so-called time-worn relationships (; the article on time-worn relationships is unfortunately only in Czech). Those are children what hold a relationship together, not love feelings. We know relationships are aging and love in childless relationships is gradually disappearing in years. So the half-time of breakups in childless relationships is about four years when living together. Childless relationships without shared housing have the median time of disintegration around two years. In other words, if a young religious pair enters marriage at a college, we will deal with church divorces with half of them within four years. Attention! Yes, religious people have ten years of longer relationship than non-religious, but only if they have children. In childless couples, there is no difference between religious and non-religious people.

The half-time of religious and non-religious couples

Legend: N= non-religious partnerships with children; V=religious partnership with children; n=childless non-religious partnerships; v=childless religious partnerships; duration of a partnership in years; pr=half-time (50%). The chart is taken from my Czech book Křesťanství, vztahy a sex (Christianity, partnership, and sex). The criterion of faith was the question of going to worships. The difference is measurable only among reproductive relationships. There is no difference between the religious people and the unbelievers in relationships without children. Childless relationships have a half-time of 2.5 years.

We can only conclude from this: We should recommend a church marriage to the young only if we can reasonably ask the newlyweds not to refuse their children. Every child adds to the stability of the relationship for about ten years. Thus, if there are optimal 3 to 4 children per couple, and they are religious, i.e. more or less they adhere to the whole set of Christian commandments, then they can have a half-time of their partnership about 40-50 years, so the number of marriage break-ups is minimal.

Compare, for example, the situation of families with three children and couples without children but with common living on the following chart — line 3 and line s. While 97 % of families with three children are still together in their twelve years, 90% of childless relationships are already broken up.

Comparison duration of relationships' stability versus reproduction

At first glance, there is a clear gap between reproductive relationships and non-reproductive (green versus blue lines). Each child adds a relationship stability of approximately ten years to the half-time (50% line).

Jesus' pedagogy versus the ideal

When Jesus was reproached that his disciples do not fast, he reminds them of a pedagogical parable of young wine and old wineskins (Mt 9: 14-17). Our goal is to preserve wine, in particular, it means people, at the cost of concessions on the ideal (fasting). The educational goal of Christianity is to minimize promiscuous relationships and experience sex for countless reasons. A fact should be emphasized that there is a dramatic disparity between the number of sexual partners and the number of long-term relationships longer than a year. On average, an adult has three relationships longer than a year, but sex partners can go up to hundreds or even thousands.

Relationship stability decreases with relationship experience

Legend: v=all relationships; 1-5 = first to fifth relationships with children longer than a year. Naive lay expects the opposite: “We fell apart because we did not have enough partnership experience.” Measured data paradoxically show the opposite. The more a person has long-lasting relationships, the more likely that the next will be shorter than the previous one. The reason is, of course, painful breakups that overrule potential positive impact of the experience.

Christian practice should lead young people according to this rule: “If you cannot abstain from premarital sex, then limit sex only to long-term partners.” In other words, do not go to bed with anyone with whom you cannot imagine a long-term relationship (> 1 year). This principle is a new flexible, soft wineskins that can keep young wine within reasonable limits.

On young wine engagement!

Personally, I do not want this to be realized chaotically, so every couple will decide on their own how they like it. Jesus encourages us to “bring forth new and old” out of the treasure of knowledge we have received from the Holy Ghost (Mat 13, 52). The old thing that I want to raise here is the institute of engagement. Former engagement served to ensure the man that his fiancé is not pregnant, ie. to eliminate hidden pregnancies.

A hundred years ago, engagements were announced in the church in the so-called “banns”: “Banns. We announce to the parish community that John Smith and Ann Loyd got engaged. The wedding is planned to be after a year. If anybody knows any obstacles, please report the local priest.” Here the public engagement was a protection against bigamists and marital fraudsters. Of course, engagement could have been canceled, but it was public, so it did not happen frivolously. The engagements also obliged to be faithful to each other.

I have such a suggestion now: If a young couple think seriously about their relationship, they may after say a half a year since the beginning of their relationship visit their pastor or parish priest and say that they want to get married, but for reasonable reasons, they cannot have children at that time, and so even a wedding. The spiritual leader would discuss with them how they see their situation in the future — after finishing the school. Then they would publicly announce their engagement, and it can be blessed by a suitable ceremony.

By this procedure, the young people would get dispensed from premarital sex ban, i.e. that they can officially sleep together from now on. It all possible only under conditions of a promise that they will get married and have children up to one year after their impediment will end up. It will also minimize the consequences of a possible time-worn relationship.

Thus, engagements would be created and officially ceased via a public announcement to the Church at a mass. There would be three conditions of such an engagement: common living, faithfulness (no flirting with friends), and theoretical preparation for marriage with a local pastor or priest.

Engagement can be canceled in front of parish priest without sanctions and unnecessary questions. The official declaring the church would be announced in banns six months after one of the fiancées delivers a request to the priest. The official date of the end of the engagement would be the date of receipt of the request by the priest. Six months are approximately the time of so-called adjustment disorder (F432), a useful time to temper hot emotions, and it is also a sign that the breakup is meant seriously. During that time, the pastor has the possibility of pastoral work with the couple as well.

Restoring the engagement with the same person (even after more than half a year's pause) must be without probations terms, as it is a sign that the couple has overcome the crisis of their relationship. Of course, on the condition that there has not been an engagement with another person in the meantime.

Other engagements are possible at the earliest one year after the end of the previous engagements, after so-called the “widow's” time. It means, it is in the best interests of the religious partners to end up the engagement in an official way since the year of sexual abstinence is required before a next engagement.

These procedures only guarantee that engagement should not be frivolous. First, they have to wait six months without sex from the beginning of the engagement. This is the foreseeable time, they can endure it. After any termination of the engagement, the person concerned has to wait a year before he can announce further engagements with someone else.

Therefore, the engagement would be a soft elastic wineskin that would keep young people in reasonable partnership behavior until they were able to enter into unbreakable marriages and start a family. It would minimize promiscuous experience sex, increase the stability of the relationship with the common household, and the requirement of faithfulness. It would compensate for the consequences of a time-worn relationship by letting the young people plan their wedding at the end of studies. There is a saying among students that after the school the couples either get married or break up, which is the consequence of the time-worn relationships and their aging due to childlessness (see the charts above).

Engage with a dispensation only for objective reasons

Subjective reasons with people of mature age (> 23 years), such as “I still do not feel mature enough to get married, or have a family,” would not be allowed.

If mature people have the only reason “We do not know each other well enough”, then I would tolerate dispense for a maximum of one and a half years, so in just two years would have to be a wedding. The reason is empirical — relationships do not ask us why we postpone reproduction. They are aging and falling apart, whether the reasons are objective or subjective. They fall apart on infertile couples too, who did no harm.

The main group for this dispensation would be college students. It should be related only to the main title (Mgr./Ing.), But not doctorates, attestations, practices etc.

Dispense could be extended for reasonable reasons by half a year, but not by years.

Sufficient reason should not be a mortgage, housing, employment, distance relationships, and other pseudo-arguments, which, on the contrary, show a lack of motivation to organize their life so that they can enter a proper marriage and start a family.

I would definitely not use this dispensation for people who have not yet been divorced because the church would legalize adultery and bigamy such a way. In the vast majority of cases, they have not yet resolved their emotional ties to the ex-partners, or their relationship still takes some degenerate form (war for children, property). Simply, the problems of church breakdown need to be solved in some other way, and engagement with dispensations should be reserved only for cases where the previous marriage has no influence.

If a trial relationship, so for how long?

When young people are in a trial relation (concubinage, cohabitation), and there are no objective reasons for postponing the family, then they should be warned on a ground of the following chart (blue line).

Probability of marriage in relation to the duration of the relationship [years]

Legend: Red line=probability of marriage in the given year of partnership. Blue line=probability of marriage in future in the given year of partnership.

The classic case is: They have been together for ten years, they perfectly suited to each other. Then the relationship is time-worn, there is no force to get married, and the relationship breaks down. They find a new partner and the wedding with a baby are in a year or two, or in other cases, they endlessly look for a copy of the current ex-partner afterward.

It is pity of these time-worn relationships because they are often bewailed all their lives. Please note that this is that indissolubility of marriage — “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate”. They simply cannot get rid of the linkage to the former love. Let us not forget that the sacrament of marriage is not granted by a priest or pastor. The fiancés give this sacrament to each other (even without a Church permission). With age of relationship, there disappears the energy to start a family (time-worn, aging). It is like advancing alcoholism: “You probably have the right, Doctor, but I do not know if I want to stop drinking...”

According to the chart, the probability of the wedding is half every two years, so the young people should get married as soon as possible. Such recommendation is opposed by the fact that people fell in love at the beginning of the relationship and therefore they are unable to get know each other. That's why we have to make a compromise which says: Within two years of the relationship, people get enough information to make a responsible decision — a wedding or a break-up. Additional lengthening the relationship is only gambling with life.

Children do not repair a relationship of their parents, they can only conserve it.

If something serious happens in a relationship (drugs, gambler, chronic infidelity), the children really cannot save it. Children act as a conservation of relationships. What kind of relationship you have, that children will preserve you and you will have that for a much longer time then without children. When you have tasty fruits in an autumn, you can preserve it until the spring if you packed them into a jar. But if you tin a manure, then no wonder, you will have dung in the jar next spring. There is a Czech saying: “It is better to hang yourself well than to get married badly.” It's like dwelling on a ship of fools (see Hieronymus Bosch) when the next stop is Sydney...

The memory of an unimaginable past

P. Kitzler writes: “According to estimates, the number of Christians has risen almost twelve times in almost a hundred years. Out of the estimated 40,000 around the year 150 to 760,000 in the year 225, but they were still less than 1.5% of the total population of the Roman Empire”

(*) H. Rhee, Early Christian Literature: Christ and the Culture in the Second and Third Centuries, New York 2005, p. 10). P. Kitzler (Ed.): Stories of Christian Martyrs, Prague, pp. 15-50.

The rise of Christians in the second century

There were 4% more believers in the church every year in the time of ancient Rome. Today, on contrary, at least 1% of the population of the Czech Republic, i.e. 100,000 people, disappear from the Czech Catholic Church every year. Such a 4% increase is not explicable by the birth. The new members were mainly Christians — converts. And we know that religious conversions are most common in adolescence. So if today's Christianity is to recover from the current crisis, it must dramatically improve pastoral care in adolescence and young adulthood. At least in the Catholic Church, the adolescent is the age when we lose the highest percentage of believers (of course, not speaking of death in 82 years). It's just the opposite of what it should be. If Jesus had advocated a more modest approach for his disciples to preserve them and prepare for more difficult tasks, then he would probably proceed the same way today. So we should devote our attention to the effective pastoral care of adolescents in the Church.

Visitors of Catholic worship on 2004-04-18 according to age

The black line should be inclined in the opposite side at this age. The church knew how to make it so in ancient times. Not today.

Charts and other literature, see the book:

Klimeš Jeroným: Křesťanství, vztahy a sex (Christianity, Relationships, and Sex.) Novela Bohemica, Prague, 2016