It would be wrong to limit St Augustine's wisdom on how to control an unbridled sexual appetite that is being indulged to single people and/or those who are also sexually addicted. Everyone can learn from how Augustine went from being owned by his lust to being so chaste and impeccably pure that he has been held up ever since he died in the year 430 as an example to others of someone who was sexually addicted and yet gained total mastery over his sex drive. He did it by asking Our Lord to give him the grace to be continent. Only Augustine could ask, only the Lord could give. 

I believe there is something in Augustine's hard-won truth that needs to be shown especially to married people for the good of their marriages, maybe even the survival of their marriages. I will get to this, but first I'd like to explain the development of how I came to understand these matters. When I was much younger and watching the fall-out from my friend who had sex addiction I saw firsthand how there were long-term consequences that afflict such a person - and how it impacts their peers and the marriages of those around them. There is the sexual obsession it inspires in others, the malevolent jealousy they attract and how it undermines marriages. I'll address each issue ad seriatim. 

I remember well the time my friend stopped sleeping around so wantonly, after they had "learned the hard way", and then became a model of virtue.  Those who had wanted their affections weren't quite so keen on purity though. 

One evening when the sun was bright bronze, I felt a London church, and found someone with a large, toothy grin waiting for me. Their smile was too splayed to be sincere. They sidled up to me and reminded me that we had a mutual friend in common. While they knew I had been emotionally close to our mutual friend, they had wanted to be physically close to them. I made the mistake of telling them that I was taking the long walk home and they followed me through the thundering throng of Knightsbridge and around the maze of London streets, and bamboozled me with all sorts of questions. 

The person who dogged my heels and waylaid me for over 3 hours was bitter they had never been asked on a date by my friend, never been asked to participate, and desperate for details about my friend that would shed light on why they had rejected them. It was as though a cocktail that an alcoholic had refused to drink could talk and was insecure at having been left at the bar. When I didn't give them what they wanted; and most especially when I made it clear that I was different to my friend and determined to save sex for marriage, they put me down viciously. 

I didn't want to be rude, and I was too young to know that I needed to confront the person and tell them to leave me in peace.  That said, on subsequent occasions when they tried to collar me, I speed-walked the other direction and never got into a conversation with them ever again. But they never got over the sexual obsession that they nursed with my friend; they had fantasies, emotional and physical that were never satisfied, but were nonetheless informed by my friends' numerous promiscuous affairs. They knew private, pornographic details about my friend that they should never have even imagined. I thought this person was a modest, sensible and hugely successful professional, and they were, but they were never loosed themselves from the shackles of their sexual fetish and they rebuffed good people who would have been a decent and loving spouse to them. They stayed single, while they were desperate to be married, mostly because they were so utterly consumed with carnal thoughts concerning someone who had been very...ahem...active but just not active with them. 

As for my own experience, I have crossed paths with some celebrity only-children - I write this not to brag - only to show that I've seen the type of obsession that such fame inspires in their fans. And I mention they are only-children because their lack of brothers and sisters who would otherwise be buffers means that their friends see the fixation that others have on them all the more.  But never, never, even among the highest stars did I see the type of obsession among their followers that my friend-with-sexual-addiction inspired in people. 

My friend suffered hideously, after they had lost their inhibitions and pursued lovers who were ever more "dodgy" as we called them. But they attracted a type of jealousy that has proven continuously malignant over time. They may have turned from their former ways, but people who wanted the sexual attention they received have not checked themselves for their envy, and years after the person gave up promiscuity, they are still tackled by a type of guerrilla warfare. People who are jealous of their past and wish they had a similar past, are quick to dish dirt on them to people who are getting to know my friend and relationships get spoiled early on. 

Perhaps the worse fall-out was visited upon their lovers of old who after my friend was finished with them, went on to get married, and they carried a certain longing and even a craving with them for my friend into their marriage. This always made a spouse feel as though there were three in their marriage. The spouses of my friends' old lovers grew to despise my friend because they felt they could not compete. It is a Purgatory on earth for a husband or a wife to be married to someone who longs for the body of another person. This is furthered by the lie of promiscuity, it gives the person an experience of something that they think ought be theirs for all their life, but can't be permanent in a marriage, because bodies age and responsibility increases, yet they have the ability to compare. Had they never been promiscuous, they could not stack their spouse up against lovers of old. 

Many of my friends' lovers of old were disappointed in their married sex lives and judged their spouses for not measuring up. 

But this is happening on a huge scale, right across society. The spouse who is being made to feel inadequate sexually, especially as compared to a sexual partner of old is often in private torture; they are told they are "insecure"; it's all their problem. But this is just lazy labelling. It is not as though their spouse is sleeping around, or has an untrammeled sexual appetite as Augustine had prior to his conversion, rather their spouse wants a sexual experience that they had with someone from their past. But the solution is the same as Augustine employed; the person who is attached to a lover from their past needs to be told as to the real hurt they are causing, and need to be led to ask the Lord for the grace to be freed from their bond to someone they knew when they were often much younger. They need ask the Lord to be freed from their sexual craving and from the desire to make their husband or wife feel less than the sexual partner of their youth. 

As in the case of Augustine, only the person who has the sexual longing can ask, and only the Lord can give. 

You may like Augustine's beautiful and lyrical prayer to God the Father

* * *

This post was very much informed by my own life experience, and also I was asked to write further on this topic by friends and readers who felt my post on Augustine had wider application. This post was predominantly influenced by Augustine's Confessions and the picture used is in the public domain. 


  1. Part One: Mary, there is a lot to unpack here, so let us go through it.

    First, we should acknowledge that Augustine, not having bene married, is probably not the best example for married people. Augustine, like many fathers of the church, was very negative about marriage.

    Second, Augustine and St. Francis of Assisi are goo models for those who lead lives of promiscuity before committing to a life of celibacy.

    Third, for those who are following the course of Augustine and St. Francis, we have little information on what means they used to deal with the issue of temptation in sexual matters. We can gather from Augustine that he used the traditional methods of prayer and fasting. With Francis, there are some entertaining stories of him rolling naked in the snow, throwing himself into thornbushes, and making out of snow a wife and children.

    None of this really helpsmarried people, so we need to get back and look to a contemporary of Augustine, Evagrius of Pontus, who was the first to identify the demon of porneia and how it gains power over us through the demon of gluttony. Evagrius in his Antirhehtticus, pushed by Cistercian as Talking Back, provided a list of scriptural refences to combat demons. In his other works, such as Thoughts, and Eight Thoughts, he goes through the eight deadly passions and how to deal with them. These works are found in the Oxford University Press book Evagrius of Pontus: The Greek Ascetical Corpus.

    Evagrius’s disciple, St. John Cassian published two books that were a practical application of Evagrius’s works, the Conferences and the Institutes. These were the works used by our holy father among the Saints, St. Benedict of Nursia, as the foundation for the monastic life of the Benedictines and their rule. Both books are part of Paulist Press Ancient Christian Writers series. Both books have extensive detailed sections on dealing with the demon of porneia under its Latin name, the demon of fornication.

  2. Part Two:
    What we learn from Evagrius and John Cassian is that there is a specific demon for this sin, and if you engaged in this particular sin in the past, that demon will stick around to come back after you, since it knows you have that predilection.

    For married people who suffer this problem, there are three main groups:
    1.) Those who had a long-term relationship with one person before marriage
    2.) Those who had multiple partners before marriage
    3.) Those who married someone with the ither of the above situations, but now are being plagued with adulterous temptations, due to the demon associated with their spouse.

    The fundamental problem is not just with the demons of fornication, but with what are called “soul ties.” The act of sexual intercourse, as well as intimate behavior creates soul ties between parties. When you engage in sexual intercourse, you are giving part of yourself to the other party.

    So in regards to group one, part of you is still with that other person.

    For group two, the more partners, the weaker you make your soul as you have “spread yourself” around.

    The third group suffers due to the actions of the one they are married to. What I mean, is that since your spouse has a demon of porneia afflicting him /her, they see the spouse as a target to corrupt, too. Since the spouse is now tied to each other spiritually, demons can be shared amongst couples – while this sounds strange and horrible, think of the positive – the spouses respective Guardian Angels can be shared amongst married parties and are there to help!

    Father Chad Rippenberger has discussed this as well as Kathleen Beckman and Robert Abel. Robert Abel’s Catholic Deliverance Manual published by Valentine Publishing House I think is the best on the topic, and his Spiritual Warfare Prayers is also a good aid. Beckman’s book A Family Guide to Spiritual Warfare is also helpful. Abel give you concrete steps on addressing the spiritual aspects of these situations.

    What Abel, Beckman and Father Rippenberger all advise is Confession, prayer, invoking the Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior, and sometimes fasting. On top of that, all three recommend Deliverance prayers be prayed over the affected party, too. And, it helps to just say “Jesus I love you,” and “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you, save souls.”

    I hope this helps!


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