Unmarried & Not a Virgin ... Now What?
October 4, 2011
Sex is awesome.
I don’t know many Christian articles that start off with that phrase, but they should. In my opinion, there is a serious problem when Christians try to tackle the topic of sex as though it’s a “say no to drugs” campaign, because the reality is we were never meant to say no to sex.
If you’ve followed RELEVANT articles in the past few months, you’ve noticed that a huge amount of unmarried, born-again, Christian young men and women are having a really hard time saying “no.” In fact, if you’re reading this article … there’s an 80 percent chance you are one of them.
We were never intended to say no to sex, because it is one of God’s most precious and valuable gifts to us as human beings. But without a doubt, the inappropriate use of this gift is leaving millions of young people feeling more broken and alone than they ever thought imaginable.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you are one of the millions of well-intentioned, God-seeking young adults that have found themselves in a place they never expected to be. Somehow, your committed relationship has taken a serious turn down the road of sexual intimacy. Whether dating, engaged or just fooling around, sex outside of marriage has the certainty of causing some serious devastation in your life and the life of the one you love. Here’s why:
Sex covers relationship flaws. No matter what you call it, that season before marriage is a really important time in your life. It is the coming together of two people in an effort to know and be known. It is a trial period, in which you are pursuing compatibility and connection in hopes of a lifelong commitment. That is some serious stuff. As exciting and exhilarating as this season can be, it’s also loaded with pressure. But you see, pressure can be a very good thing.
The best analogy I’ve heard regarding this topic is from a book by P. Roger Hillerstrom. He parallels a couple’s relationship before marriage to a steam pipe. The role of this pipe is to transport pressure. Many times, these pipes are prone to cracks and imperfections. When pressure builds, it allows these cracks and imperfections to be revealed and ultimately repaired. But when the pressure is released prematurely … the pressure doesn’t build, and the cracks are never found, nor repaired. As Hillerstrom says, “Eventually, they will corrode and destroy the pipe.”
The truth is, every relationship must go through a series of healthy pressures to discover what it’s really made of. Family of origin issues, expectations, roles, personality differences … the list goes on and on. Communication is the key to discovering and working through these pressures. As a professional counselor, I can’t stress enough the importance of building a marriage on healthy communication. The problem with sex outside of marriage is that it allows for “pressure” to be released through the avenue of the physical rather than by the foundational structure of communication.
Problems and flaws are never discovered … until it’s too late and the damage has completely destroyed what could have been an indestructible match.
Sex breeds guilt and mistrust. Here’s the reality: I don’t know many young men and women who profess to be in relationship with Jesus who don’t struggle with the feelings of guilt and shame linked to premarital sexual intimacy. No matter how hard we try to normalize and rationalize, at the end of the day, young Christians who are sexually active find themselves struggling with some really negative emotions (whether aimed at themselves or their partners). Following guilt, feelings of mistrust and even blame can begin to creep into your relationship.
This is not how God intended it. The bitter irony is that by taking sex from marriage, you are actually robbing yourself of some serious joys. Within marital sex, there is unlimited freedom and “unrestricted pleasure.” Doing it any other way leaves guilt as the drop of ink that will ultimately taint and discolor the entire experience of sexuality. God wants you to marvel in the gift of sex without a hint of shame.
Sex leads to false intimacy. Many times I hear couples describe their sex life using the word “intimacy.” The truth is, it’s a word that’s been taken lightly in the average person’s vocabulary. It’s used to describe a passionate sensation between two people. Sex outside of permanent relationship leads to false intimacy because it allows the people involved to feel a moment of closeness that doesn’t do justice to the reality of what intimacy is. Intimacy is so much more than a passionate feeling—it's commitment, knowledge and pursuit. It is a lifelong connection between two people who choose to grow closer in love each and every day of their lives. Sex is merely a physical means of expressing that lifelong commitment. It should be the product of true intimacy, rather than the foundation of intimacy.
No matter how deeply you may be involved in premarital sex, it is never too late to restore virginity in your life and the life of your significant other. Don’t allow the traps of guilt and shame to tear your relationship apart, but together, choose to give your relationship the honor that it so rightly deserves.
Set your mind to it. The first step to any kind of change begins with beliefs. If you find yourself struggling to give up your non-marital sexual relationship, I recommend you take some time to really wrestle with your beliefs. Purity is not something that should be seen as an obligation, but rather, an act of obedience and love to a God who knows what makes us tick. Sexuality has to be seen as a gift, like an expensive bottle of wine waiting for the perfect timing to be enjoyed. As the Song of Solomon charges, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” The reality is that sexuality is a gift that can be awakened far too easily. That awakening can and will have devastating effects on your relationship if not taken seriously. Consider where your heart is toward God and toward your significant other, and commit to withstanding your desires for sex until you have made the commitment to lifelong, marital, unrestrained pleasure.
Discuss tangible boundaries. Purity doesn’t just happen. It’s not one of those decisions you can just will into existence. It takes some dedicated time, energy and commitment, especially if you’ve traveled down the path of sexual contact once (or many times) before. Set some tangible boundaries that will keep you from awakening desires that cannot currently be fulfilled.
Examples: No physical contact below the neck. Avoid kissing after a set time (i.e. 9 p.m.). Spend more time in public places. Always keep your clothes on. Say no to sexually stimulating situations (certain movies, places, etc). And my personal favorite one for the ladies: Don’t shave your legs!
Seek accountability. This isn’t one of those things you can do alone, though it’s tempting. No one wants to share sexual struggles with someone else. That’s precisely what makes accountability such an important component to restoring virginity. Seek a mentor, friend, pastor or family member that will love and support you through this process. Make a list of reasons why you are choosing to wait, and share it with a trusted loved one who will get in your face asking the questions that need to be asked and listening to the details that need to be heard.
The season of your life before marriage is meant to be a time of great awareness; a time of preparation and equipping as you look toward embarking on one of the most incredible yet difficult journeys you will ever face. Don’t allow the physical connection that was intended to bring you together as one body to be the very thing that tears you apart. Choose to preserve your sexuality as the precious gift that God meant for it to be.