"I've been dating someone for four months. We have values in common such as religion and family. We are both Catholic. After the first time and subsequent times that we made love, he went to confession. He feels like it is wrong to have sex out of wed love. He enjoys our lovemaking. We both do. But can't get past the doctrine in his head. How can a relationship thrive if someone has such a dirty opinion about sex?"
I want to start off by first saying how interesting it is that you are both Catholic but you have very different opinions about sex. He's seems to be among literal interpretation of biblical text in Catholic ideology and yours seems to be more broad and philosophical. That's the range of people in a specific religion, is that there are people that are going to interpret law as more philosophical and others that will interpret it as literal and they want to follow every rule by the book. So, where does that leave you?
In going to confession after you make love means that he is obviously enjoying the experience with you but then he needs to go and punish himself and he is very, very split inside. And I would say this is not only harmful to him but it's also harmful to you. A relationship can't thrive in this kind of setting.
First thing I would suggest to both of you is to find a wise open-minded Catholic counsellor. Maybe at a different church than the one that you two go to that can really counsel you and advise you that can see both sides of the equation and help you both make the right decision together.
Your boyfriend really needs to do some deep healing. As mature adults, you have needs. You have emotional needs. You have physical needs and he is really struggling with bringing that sense of the sacred and the sexual together.
I have counseled couples that are religious for years that have got married and still have a very difficult time making love with each other and that's because they have had so many lessons around sex that it is a sin outside of marriage that they really can't even do it once they're inside the marriage. So, this isn't just about right now at this point in your relationship, this is about all times in your relationship.
Who wants to be in a relationship where it is of two very different mindsets? That one person really feels very shameful and sinful about what they're doing and the other one does sees it as a healthy and meaningful part of the relationship.
Sexual union with someone that you love is a divine act. It is not meant to cause division or mental stress or shame. It is to promote health and well-being and sense of connectivity.
So, once you deal with addressing this within the context of religious faith. I would then begin a process of making lovemaking as a very sacred act and what I mean by that is by consciously and clear mindedly enter into this moment to be fully present in the act of sex. Fully alive in my heart. Fully awake in my mind. Fully there in my body and truly available spiritually to greet you, to meet you, to make love with you, to have sex with you.
This is the second phase of what I would introduce into a relationship if all goes well. If you have a meeting of hearts and minds in your counsel. But you have to be prepared that this person may not feel good about having sex until you two get married. And then you will have to choose if that's going to work for you. You have to be at one mind as you enter into a sanctuary of intimacy. Otherwise, it will be fearful to him and fearful to you. And I don't want that. I want it to be a beautiful journey, an adventurous one, fine one and a meaningful one. And that is what sacred love is all about.
I encourage you to pick up the Sacred Lovemaking DVD even if you're not having sex with him and really get versed in what is sacred lovemaking. What makes it meaningful in the moment?