Expressing Love in a Relationship

Author: Mary Beth Bonacci

"Expressing Love in a Relationship"

By Mary Beth Bonacci

If I love my girlfriend, why can't I make love to her? Finally, the big question. If sex is "making love," and I love someone, why can't I express that love by making love? Seems simple, doesn't it?

First of all, I want to make it clear that I do believe teenagers can be in love -- truly, deeply in love. But is sex outside of marriage a good expression of love? That's a different question. What is love? Remember what we discussed? Love, real love, is above all wanting what's best for the other person. It's really caring about that person's well-being. Love means never, ever unnecessarily putting that person at any kind of risk.

Well, what have we been talking about for the last three chapters? We've been talking about risks -- all kinds of significant, serious risks involved in sex outside of marriage.

Premarital sex is dangerous physically. It leads to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, many of which are life-changing or even fatal. Sex is also the number one cause of pregnancy in this country. Pregnancy isn't a disease, but we've talked about how it isn't a good situation for an unmarried woman who isn't equipped to raise and care for a child.

Tell me something. Is it loving a single woman to put her at risk of pregnancy? In sexual activity, that is what is happening, regardless of how you may try to "protect" her. Is it loving to give someone a sexually transmitted disease?

But there's a deeper level here, too. You're speaking the language of the body. Remember that "body language" we talked about? Sex says, "forever, committed, permanent, exclusive," and that's what the heart hears. But in an unmarried relationship, you don't have that level of committment. You're speaking the language of the body in a lie. You're allowing that bond to form when your relationship can't back it up. That is not looking out for the best for the other person.

If you really do "love" your girlfriend, you want what's best for her. You don't want any of these things to happen to her. You want to protect her, physically and emotionally. "Making love" to her is not the way to do that.

A lot of single people tell me "I want to have sex with my boyfriend (or girlfriend) because it's the only way I can show my love." They really do love another person, they really do want what's best for this person, and they want to express their love sexually.

I'm not questioning their love for each other. Maybe their love is real and sincere. But in trying to express that love sexually outside of marriage, they're not thinking about what's going on. What does sex really prove? That they're willing to lie to each other, to put each other at risk, just to make each other "feel good" for a while?

If you really want to prove your love, do something good for him, something totally unselfish. Bake him cookies. Sneak over to her house at night and wash her car.

I met a man once who told me that when he was engaged to his wife, he sneaked over to her house one night while she slept. Her parents let him in. He went to her room and quietly slipped 80 helium balloons through the door, one by one. Each had a note attached describing the different reasons that he had for loving her. She woke up to all of those balloons and all of those notes. That's "making love."

Bonacci is a frequent lecturer on chastity.

This article appeared in the October 19, 1995 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."

Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.