“The only place in which… self-giving in its whole truth is made possible is marriage, the covenant of conjugal love freely and consciously chosen, whereby man and woman accept the intimate community of life and love willed by God Himself which only in this light manifests its true meaning.” JP II Familiaris Consortio

When my husband, James, and I first met, I would’ve considered myself Catholic, although I did not agree with the Church’s stance on pre-marital sex, abortion and contraception. I wasn’t staunchly pro-choice, just quietly so, although I knew within my heart that I would never have been able to make the decision to kill my unborn baby. However, I agreed wholeheartedly with society’s views on contraception and pre-marital sex. After all, I thought, if you love the person, why shouldn’t you be able to show it?

I met James in 1978 when I came up to Canada to meet my pen-pal. My pen-pal took me to a jam session and I was enamored with the 16-year-old curly-haired lead guitarist. It seems cliché to say this, but when I first saw his face, he took my breath away. The following summer, we were formally introduced and spent some time together, then I returned to my home state of New Jersey. We kept in touch via letters and the occasional phone call (no email, texting or cheap long distance back then). I returned to Canada after Christmas that year and we pledged our undying love to one another.

In my mind, there was no reason to wait. All we needed was to get our hands on some contraception. Condoms were easily accessible, even back then, so the pregnancy issue didn’t worry me at all.

When we were able to be alone together, I revealed to James that I would be willing to take our relationship “to the next level.” It must have been difficult for a 17-year-old boy to turn down an opportunity like that, but we didn’t take our relationship to the next level that day. James shared with me that he planned to wait until marriage to have sex. He told me that it was precisely because he loved me that he couldn’t have sex with me.  He also told me that he was worried about pregnancy at our young ages (and was against abortion as an option), that he saw the bigger picture of where our relationship was heading: marriage, and what we were experiencing then was not close to marriage yet.

I returned home to NJ and we spent the next three years having a long distance romance, visiting only once every three or four months and continuing to keep in touch through snail mail letters and occasional phone calls.

In hindsight, I am very thankful for James’s strength and faith. It is precisely because we waited until marriage to consummate our love that makes our relationship so strong today.

Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach