Over and over again I learn how important a parent’s voice is when it comes to the conversations surrounding sex and sexuality. Parental involvement is critical in forming healthy sexual attitudes and behaviors. There are three areas I think parents can focus on this school year that will make a big difference in the years ahead.
Communication is KEY
Yes, peer and media influences impact youth and probably more than ever before. However, parents continue to be the largest influence of sexual attitude formation among adolescents. An important piece of parental involvement is communication between parents and children.
Parental expectations regarding sexual activity have significant impacts on young adult sexual activity, particularly regarding first sexual encounters. This can only happen though if the parent is communicating their value to their child. Parental attitudes and expectations have been found to be protective, and as parental disapproval and communication of sexual integrity messages are communicated over and over, the likelihood of your son and/or daughter living out these values increases dramatically.
It is worth noting though, how we communicate matters! While communicating messages of sexual integrity can contribute to delayed sexual experience, too much control or authoritarianism can lead to the opposite effect. Simply challenging your kids to wait and make it more about a rule than a change of heart can have just the opposite effect!
Children Need to Know YOU Care!
In addition to communication, general care is often correlated with timing of sexual initiation. Support, perceptions of closeness and connection all factor into an overall caring environment. A few years ago, I read about a Dutch study that found favorable perceptions of parental care, support and connection are correlated with delayed sexual experience. I think the Dutch were on to something!
Simply communicating is not enough if your children don’t know you really care about their overall well-being. Being connected to a parent functions as a tool that protects against early sexual involvement. Take time to be with your children, enter their world, and get to know the things they are involved with throughout the school year. This will have a tremendous impact on the way in which your words (communication) land on them during the school year.
Don’t Be Afraid To Be The Parent
The popular notion is to be a child’s best friend but this can undermine your authority. Being close to your child is important but don’t forget the role you play as their parent! Studies that have looked at parental control and sexual experience find that higher levels of control (less permissiveness, more supervision, and parents perceived as more strict) correlate with a delay of first sexual intercourse. It is worth noting that control alone may be counterproductive in reducing sexual activity, but is effective if coupled with care and communication.
Making a distinction between authoritative control (clear and fair demands) and authoritarian control (an arbitrary insistence on obedience), is important to isolating the most effective factors of encouraging sexual health. Again, this all works together, but when you engage in your child’s world you become more aware of what they are watching, listening to, and who their friends are. Higher levels of monitoring were associated with lower levels of sexual risk-taking, and delayed sexual initiation.
When a parent communicates effectively, shows they care, but also is not afraid to show their authority when it’s required, have youth that more often than not delay sexual activity and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. So as this school year begins take note of each and keep the dialogue moving forward!
Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds. He is an internationally recognized seminar and conference speaker and published writer on issues surrounding sexuality and youth culture. He can be heard on Project Six19’s podcasts, “DriveTime” and “Mixtape” as well as the CPYU podcast, “Youth Culture Matters.”
This blog post was adapted from Episode 4 of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.
There are several lies our culture communicates about sex. As a parent, you have the unique opportunity to help your children navigate the many lies they hear and set them on a path that points to God’s plan as the sex maker. But what are those lies?
Lie #1: Sex is only physical.
If this is the case, sex is merely casual and only there for our pleasure, nothing more. But this is a contradiction in terms. Sex – even sex that does not feel intense or meaningful, even sex with someone you don’t love – is never truly casual. Sex is a life-uniting act. Simple as that! This is why Jesus says “what God has joined together not let man separate!” in the gospel of Matthew. Often we can focus so much attention on the physical act of sex that we place a 100% of our energy on protecting against the physical consequences. But there are so many other consequences – emotional, social, spiritual, and even future consequences – all of which we’ve discussed in other blog posts.
Lie #2: Sex is the most important thing there is.
In a “do-anything,” hyper-sexualized world, we will do anything and everything as we allow our lives to revolve around the idol of sexuality. Honestly, we are surprised we’re not hearing more stories like this. I believe that over time and in the very near future, we will be hearing more and more stories as a generation of kids nurtured by a boundary-less and border-less ambient sexuality comes of age. Sadly, many of the stories will involve both victims and perpetrators who haven’t yet come of age. That’s called “age-compression.” Something the Center for Parent Youth Understanding (CPYU) always says, “culture is the soup that our kids swim and marinate in 24/7.” If that’s the case, we shouldn’t be surprised at how they are flavored. Is it possible that we might even be moving from a world where that which is “secret sin” becomes an “open celebration?” Then there’s the wildly mixed messages our culture sends to our developmentally vulnerable and easily influenced kids… things like “Go ahead and look at this!” but “Don’t you ever do this!” This is where so much of the difficulty comes in. Right is still right and wrong is still wrong… people are ultimately responsible for themselves and should be held accountable for their decisions and actions, regardless of what culture may or may not be saying at any particular moment. But we are not sure we can stand and point accusing fingers without any blame at all when we’ve been part of the horribly flawed nurturing process through commission or omission. Our culture is talking about sexuality. We need to do the same. And in doing so, we must redeem this horribly misunderstood and mis-used good gift of God!
Lie #3: Sex is no one else’s business.
Dale Kuehne, author of the book Sex and the iWorld,states that only three taboos around sex exist in today’s culture. Those include: “One may not criticize someone’s life choices or behavior, one may not behave in a manner that coerces or causes harm to others, and finally one may not engage in a sexual relationship with someone without his or her consent.” Outside of these taboos all other sexual acts are permissible. Historically though, sex has always been something that held a place in the public discourse. It is also why there were probably several other taboos up until recently.
For most of human history, people of many different cultures have agreed that societies must order certain forms of exchange in order to survive. Communities have ordered language, practices, and division of labor that are agreed upon. And sex, as mentioned by novelist Wendell Berry says, like any other necessary, precious, and volatile power that is commonly held, is everybody’s business. But over the last several decades this reality has faded and “what I do in my bedroom is my business…plain and simple.” However, throughout scripture sex is spoken of as relational and as part of something bigger than ourselves. Christians have to work hard to overcome the pervasive message that my sexual behavior is none of your business. Scripture tells us to intrude into one another’s lives because of the work of Jesus… and as a brother or sister we are called to speak lovingly to one another and transform seemingly private matters into communal matters. Teaching this to your son or daughter will be an important task.
Lie #4: We can’t control sex, but rather it controls us.
“We can’t control sex, it controls us” is one of the most widely accepted lies in our culture. It’s this rumor that’s caused us to believe that we are slaves to our sex drive, and has reduced humans to hormone-driven, sexually motivated creatures that teach our children that if we want it, we hunt it…we stalk it.In this, we treat people as objects that are nothing more than prey, animals or pieces of meat. Or we simply starve this appetite, all the while holding up the same degrading view of humanity. However, God’s design for His grand and glorious gift of sex is this. . . that it be indulged by one man and one woman within the context of an exclusive, monogamous, covenantal, life-long marriage. That’s it, plain and simple. Sex is something God made, gave to us, and enthusiastically declared “VERY Good!” But like everything else, we can go and mess it up. And when the Bible commands us to “flee from sexual immorality,” the word that it uses is porneia, which means “to practice prostitution, sexual immorality, or fornication.” In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul frequently used the word in reference to any kind of sinful and illegitimate sexual activity. Porneia is, in fact, the very thing from which followers of Jesus are commanded to “flee!”
Further, it’s by Gods grace we have everything we need to take charge of our sexual appetites by disciplining our mind, heart, and our body. And it doesn’t matter our relationship status. Because the very desires we are unable to control before marriage will be the very desires that haunt us after. That is unless we’ve taught ourselves how to come under the authority of the sex-maker.
DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.
Check out further discussions around “Lies The Culture Tells Us About Sex” on Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts.
This post originally appeared on Project Six19’s blog. Used by permission.
Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and has been working with young people and families for over 35 years.
My dad gave me The Talk in a Chinese restaurant when I was about 8 years old.
I was playing in a little league game and after our victory my dad took me to a Chinese restaurant and gave me The Talk. I have discovered that most of my students’ parents never gave them The Talk at all, and that breaks my heart.
Worse, many parents give such little preparation to their children that some experience sexual abuse and no one finds out until they’re in their 20’s and it finally explodes, all because their parents never opened up these channels of dialogue or created a space for their children to talk about these things. The girl in the article says she told no one because she didn’t even know what had happened, and no one asked her why she was acting differently.
If your role as a parent is to lead your kids into wisdom, to scaffold their transition into the real world, shouldn’t one of your most important duties be to explain the beauty of intimacy and the danger of unhealthy attachment? Danger doesn’t necessarily mean something is bad: Fire is both beautiful and dangerous.
Sex is beautiful and dangerous.
Like a stallion whinnying to run free, handing your child the reins involves built-up trust, and the willingness to say, “Wow! What a beauty! Be careful now. Control him and he will serve you well.”
I wonder if these parents think they’re doing their kids a favor by sheltering them from the dirty, dirty S-Word, and that their lives will be better if they never discover it.
The problem is, all kids will find out about sex. Parents are the ones who can decide how and when. If I ever have kids, I intend to get the first word in before the world has a chance to. When parents decide not to teach their kids about sex, the world is more than happy to.
I remember being in middle school at a friend’s house, watching MTV in his bedroom (which I was not allowed to do at home; nor could I, since we grew up cable-less). I vividly remember a commercial in which a famous rapper spoke directly to the camera: “Remember dudes, no matter how banging her body is, you gotta strap up. Don’t risk it.”
I recall seeing that commercial through the filter of the wisdom my parents had already implanted in me. My dad gave me that first talk over Egg Drop Soup, but many more followed it. There were check-ins and updates and open communication about sexuality. Because of my parents, I could see a commercial like that and interpret the message as worldly more than biblical (or true), even if I wouldn’t have used those words.
I can’t imagine how many others in my generation saw the same commercial but without the preparation. Perhaps that commercial was the closest thing they ever had to The Talk, so to them, the only sexual ethic was to not get or give an STD and you’re good.
Strap up and you’ve done the right thing. Simple.
I was recently talking to someone about this and he said his parents never gave him the talk either. He’s my age.
“Why is it,” I asked, “that some parents don’t give that talk to their kids? If I ever have children, we’re going to be talking about it constantly!”
“Simple,” he said. “Shame. Their parents probably didn’t give them the talk, so the idea of bringing it up to their kids seems terrifying. Or they have some sort of trauma or sexual wound, so talking about it with their kids would be incredibly painful. So they just don’t.”
But you know what happens when those children grow up and pass through puberty with the internet as their primary sexual education? They go out and create their own sexual wounds, passing them down to their own children. The cycle continues from generation to generation as long as parents live by fear more than wisdom and love for their children.
If it seems like I’m being especially hard on such parents, it’s because I am. After being a youth pastor for three years, and now a teacher for one, I have seen that the majority of parents are failing. Whether they are drug addicts, abusive, apathetic, or simply not trying very hard, I have developed a thin patience for parents who don’t care for their own children. Sure, they all say they do, but where is the evidence?
It’s easy to tell when a student has loving parents. Not only are they far more well-behaved, but they seem to operate from a sort of comfortable confidence which can only come from a place of having received love. But when they don’t receive rich, quality love at home, and their sex education is Xzibit telling them to strap up (or worse: pornography), where do you think they’ll turn to find that love?
For this reason, I adamantly place “The Talk” with your children under the umbrella of loving them. You can’t say you love them and then shrug and say ‘they’ll figure it out for themselves.’
In the film Lady Bird, when the eponymous protagonist asks her mother about sex, her mom reluctantly shivers and falls silent. She wiggles her way out of the conversation as quickly as possible and as you can guess, the high schooler ends up losing her virginity to a jerk. “You’ll have plenty of un-special sex in your life,” he tells her immediately after revealing that she wasn’t, actually, his first.
Is this really what we want for our kids? To be throwing their bodies around to a plethora of suitors who may not even see them as special? Perhaps a scarier question to ask is, do most parents even care enough about the bodies and souls of their children to prepare them for these situations?
Teach your kids or the world will teach them.
Love your kids or the world will love them—and this love is hollow, foolish and destructive.
The original version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on April 27, 2019. Used by permission.
I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Come check out my blog at www.ethanrenoe.com.
“I know she wanted to fall in love. I just hope she fell in love with the right guy.”
I was looking at an acquaintance’s engagement photos on social media recently, and found myself thinking that very thought.
If you follow my blog posts or my relationship podcast, you’ll know that I’m not an fan of the philosophy that says there is “just one person” out there for each of us to marry. I don’t believe in finding “the one“, but I do believe that once you choose someone to marry – they become “the one“.
So, when I say “I hope she fell in love with the right guy”, I’m not referring to the theoretical needle-in-the-haystack. I’m not hoping that she stumbled across, “the one and only one” for her life. No, that’s not what I mean at all.
When I say that I hope she fell in love with the right guy, what I mean is that I hope she fell in love with someone who’s a right match for her life. Someone who is a goodmatch for her life.
Finding someone who is a good match for our lives is something people don’t often think about, especially in the wake of the hangover of “feeling in love”.
But when we follow our feelings into love, we can also follow our feelings right back out of love.
There’s got to be more keeping us than feelings.
Do you believe it’s possible to fall in love with the wrong person?
I get that question thrown at me often. So, I will go ahead and wholeheartedly say, YES – I do believe it’s possible to fall in love with the wrong person. In fact, I think it happens all the time, every single day.
As a professional counselor, I work with many couples who come to me with major problems and issues that have surfaced through marriage.
They might have differences in their communication abilities, problems with how they manage conflict, deep seated issues or traumatic experiences they’ve never dealt with, personality differences, etc. But other times, there are much bigger problems. Honesty issues. Trust issues. Addictive behaviors. Character problems. Power struggles.
There are so many red flags that get ignored or shoved under the table in the name of “falling in love”. Yet if we’re actively looking for them, the red flags of marriage often trace back to the red flags in dating.
So many times, we look to chemistry to tell us what works in a marriage rather than looking at compatibility.
But when chemistry wanes, all that’s left is a lack of compatibility that brings people to the harsh reality that maybe, just maybe, they fell in love with the wrong person. That maybe, just maybe, they didn’t make the wisest marital choice when it came to finding the things that really matter in a relationship: character, connection, and compatibility.(READ MORE: 5 People You Should Never Marry).
The majority of my audience at TrueLoveDates.com are Christian singles, looking ahead at marriage. I write this article primarily for you. I want you to realize that it is possible to “fall in love” with the wrong person, and when you let feelings lead the way you will end up getting hurt every single time.
Feelings have got to be part of the equation, but there’s got to be more than feelings. Because there’s so much more to a healthy, life-long marriagethan how we feel about someone in the moment. Take a few steps back by understanding who you are, so that you know the type of person who fits into your story from the type of person who doesn’t.
But even as I write these words, I am fully aware that there are those of you reading this who feel like you’ve made a bad marital choice. You ignored all the red flags and warning signs, and married the “wrong person”. You committed your life to someone who wasn’t the best match for your life – worse yet, someone who wasn’t a match at all.
You rushed into love on the wave of feelings, and now the wave has crashed and you find yourself drowning in its midst.
My encouragement to you is this: even if you didn’t choose a good match, you can still become a good match. There are choices that you can make TODAY, to build a better marriage for TOMORROW. Choices to get you healthy, and move your relationship toward healthy as well. It’s possible. It’s achievable. And it’s absolutely worth the process.
I have seen God take two people, so far from my expectation of a good match, and weave their broken lives together in a remarkable way. He is the Healer of all things, and as He begins to heal you from the inside out, He can also heal your relationship. The process won’t be easy, and it won’t be without it’s fair share of work. But the outcome will be worth it.
If you’re struggling to know what makes a good match in dating or how to become a good match in marriage, pick up a copy of Choosing Marriage: Why IT Has To Start With We > Me, and start making the choices that will change your life and in turn, your love life. Because a huge part to marrying the right person, is becoming the right person.
A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on December 5th, 2018. Used by permission.
In her book Love Thy Body, Nancy Pearcey shares how one poll found that almost half of all millennials have given up the hope and perhaps even the desire for a monogamous relationship. Pearcey writes, “The hookup culture is unraveling the social fabric. It produces isolated, alienated adults who come together temporarily for physiological release. By repeatedly breaking up or never connecting in the first place, many people fail to learn how to form the strong, resilient bonds needed to create happy, fulfilling, long term marriages and families.” Nancy Pearcey’s words remind us that the church and family must work together to communicate God’s good and gracious plan for marriage, sex, and sexuality. The future of marriage and marriages hangs in the balance.
Have you ever taken the time to ask your kids what they think about marriage? Chances are, they think about it quite a bit differently than you did when you were their age. Today’s young people are getting married later, and getting divorced more frequently. With cohabitation increasing at breakneck speed, a growing number of young people are opting out of marriage. Because of cultural negativity about marriage, bad examples, and experiencing the brokenness of their parents’ marriage, marriage is something many kids never consider. The boundaries regarding who can marry are changing as well, with conversations, debates, and legislation all addressing the growing reality of same-sex marriages. All in all, biblical marriage – as an institution – is in decline.
Perhaps the negative old marriage clichés have stuck enough to serve as a deterrent. You remember these clichés don’t you? “Marriage is a great institution! But who wants to spend the rest of their life in an institution!?!” Or how about this one: “Marriage is a three ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering.”
It’s time that we send our kids a different message about the meaning of marriage. No, there aren’t any perfect marriages. The coming together of one broken person with another broken person can be pretty difficult at times. All of us married folks know that far too well. That’s certainly a realistic marriage message that we need to communicate to our kids. And while we’re together, it will at times be hard. It will be so hard, in fact, that there will be times when we feel like giving up. And, we will wonder about the decision we made to even get married in the first place. To make marriage work it takes work. Love is a commitment.
But even more important is our task to define just what marriage is. While God does indeed call and gift some to the single life, He also said that it is not good for us to be alone. God made marriage and gave it to us as a gift. It’s a good thing! God also defined the parameters for His gift of marriage. It’s to be a life-long, covenantal, monogamous, exclusive heterosexual union between one man and one woman. Our kids need us to continually engage in show and tell when it comes to marriage. We need to tell them that marriage is not some kind of human invention. Instead, God made it for us and gave it to us.
Whether you are a youth worker or parent who’s married, or single by choice or circumstance, you can and must talk to your kids about the goodness of God’s design for marriage. Our culture never stops talking to our kids about marriage. Neither should you.
I’m not sure he’d get away with it in today’s cultural climate, but Flip Wilson had a generation of us middle school kids laughing awfully doggone hard back when he was transforming himself into his in-your-face female character, Geraldine, on his Flip Wilson Show.
Regardless of what you think of Wilson’s Geraldine, there was something “she” was known to say back then that’s been normalized into our thinking about love, sex, and marriage today: “Love is a feeling you feel when you’re about to feel a feeling you never felt before! Whooooo!” Back then, it made my childish self laugh. Today, those words make me shudder.
In an age that celebrates the self and encourages us to idolize and pursue the satisfaction of any and every personal desire, feelings have become something that we act on, rather than something that we should manage and even distrust. And when feelings become the foundation on which we make decisions about love, sex, and marriage. . . well. . . nothing is permanent.
Geraldine was reflecting what’s become a cultural narrative that is diametrically opposed to the biblical narrative. Yes, God has given us the gift of emotions. And, as such, we need to manage that gift to His glory in ways that corral our emotions within the boundaries of His authority, rather than vice-versa.
This week I read these powerful words from Tim Keller in his daily devotional on Proverbs, God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: “Traditional vows don’t mention feelings at all. In marriage vows we do not merely express present love – we promise future love. We promise not to always feel loving but rather to be loving, faithful, tender, and compassionate no matter how we feel at the time. Marriage is a covenant; it requires lifelong endurance, strengthened by our vows.”
Youth workers and parents. . . we can’t speak and example this truth enough. Remember, Geraldine’s words are being preached to our kids 24/7 through the cultural script. They’ve got to be seeing and hearing something different. Geraldine used to tell us, “Don’t fight the feeling!” Well, perhaps there are times when we should.
Marry someone who is all grown up. Maybe this sounds like a no-brainer to you. I mean, when you think of marriage you automatically associate it with adulthood.
But the reality is that so many people are getting into marriage even though they haven’t yet grown up.
I’m not necessarily talking about age here, because there’s no magic number that can determine your emotional intelligence, social skills, and level of responsibility. I’ve met 60-year-olds who are still living life like they’re 16.
In fact, our current generation seems to be one of the most reluctant to actually “grow up”. It’s almost as though there is a fear of becoming an adult. Look around and you’ll find a generation of men and women who have little to no direction in life, afraid to take any “permanent” steps or make any final decisions over their life. It’s some sort of commitment phobia, that impacts their career, their goals, and even their relationships.
Generations ago, the average twenty-something was half-way through living their lives. They were typically married, with jobs in tact, providing for or taking care of their family. They knew what it meant to take responsibility and grow up.
Today, life looks a little different. Twenty-somethings are taking much longer to finish school, pay off debts, get on their feet financially, leave their parent’s home and start a family.
I’m not saying that getting married and having kids is the recipe for responsibility, because it’s absolutely not. But what I am saying is that today, life looks a little different. It’s often hard to know what it means to “grow up”.
To me, the idea of being all grown up has less to do with getting your career in line, or having a padded bank account, but instead, having direction and moving toward something in life. I’ve met so many young adults totally paralyzed, afraid to move forward.
Maybe it’s a fear of failure, fear of making the wrong choice, or maybe even a fear of commitment….But one thing I know is that so many people are driven more by fear than they are by faith.
Because marriage is the most important decision you will ever make in life, it’s important to go into it with someone who is all grown up. Otherwise, you’ll spend the rest of your life taking care of someone, rather than sharing life with someone.
The only way you will know that someone is ready to take responsibility for your heart, is to see that they have taken responsibility for themselves, making the most of their life and situation.
A person who is all grown up has goals and dreams, and is taking the necessary steps to move in that direction.
A person who is all grown up has learned the importance of managing their money and being good stewards of what God has given them.
A person who is all grown up practices and understands the importance of healthy communication.
A person who is all grown up has learned how to both take responsibility, as well as control their emotions, their behaviors, and their interactions.
A person who is all grown up is responsible and self-sufficient.
“We’re getting a divorce”, she explained, with a look of disappointment on her face.
Her tone of voice changed, as she tried to look on the bright side. “But it’s for the best. Things haven’t been working out for the past few years. We’re just too different.”
“For the best…Too different….” Her words echoed in my mind for hours after our conversation ended. I thought about the list of differences my husband and I possess. We are SO different in so many ways. Could it really be possible that a couple can be “too different” to have a thriving marriage? The thought didn’t sit well with me.
As a Professional Counselor, I see couples who come into therapy with their marriage on life-support. But their struggles often have nothing to do with the trauma of affairs, addictions, or abuse. Instead, they are dying a rather slow and painful death.
Phrases like, “We’re too different” or “We’ve grown apart” or “Life has just gotten the best of us….” phrases that sound so innocent- yet are extremely lethal.
There are so many factors that can get in the way of a good marriage, but often, they are the small, unnoticed things that make their way in. In order to make sure our marriages survive and thrive, here are some relationship killers every couple should be on the lookout for:
The number one relationship stress for most couples has little to do with their relationship and much to do with the relationships they are surrounded by. The role of your parents, in-laws, siblings, and friends all shift the moment you say “I do”, because when you join together as one, you’ve chosen to put your spouse above all others. Too many marriages are struggling simply due to a lack of priorities- finding themselves pulled by everyone else in every which way, except toward each other. Healthy marriages learn to choose one another above all others.
It’s so easy to take our stress out on our spouse. We can get into the habit of holding things in until we’re in the safety and comfort of our marriage- and then we explode. From financial problems, to illness, job-loss, and grief, healthy couples allow their stress to pull them together, by relying on each other, sharing it with one another, and carrying the load together.
I read a blog post about a guy getting a divorce…except this guy chose to divorce his phone. But it makes sense, because so many of us carry this dangerous relationship killer right in our back pocket. In the world of technology crazed, iPhone carrying, Facebook posting mania- it’s no joke that we find our time slipping away into the inanimate- instead of investing it into the intimate. Unplug, disconnect, shut down- and invest in your spouse. (11 signs you need a break from social media!)
Marriage is one huge, ongoing, life lesson in “unselfishness”. And we’ll either allow the experience to make us better- or we’ll grow bitter. Putting someone first is an incredibly hard task because our flesh is wired to choose self.
Forgiving and forgetting are not one in the same. When we fail to realize that, we will hold on to our hurts for a very long time. And eventually those hurts begin wreaking havoc on our lives from the inside out. But forgiveness is not about excusing the other person, it’s about freeing ourselves to receive healing from the God who forgives us time and time and time again.
The most paralyzing thing we can do for our relationship, is to define our spouse by their past, rather than by who they are in the present. The past may impact our lives, but it will only control our present if we allow it to. It’s important to be real with one another about our pasts, but more important, to respect one other’s pasts by seeing what God is doing in the life of our spouse HERE and NOW. Deal with what is behind…so that you can move toward what is ahead.
Why is a small lie just as dangerous as a big lie? Because they both have the same impact on intimacy. Honesty in marriage is like the chain that holds you together. Removing one link, or ten links does the same thing- it causes separation. If you’ve made mistakes in your relationship or have been hiding things from your spouse, now is the time to seek truth and confession; because a relationship riddled with dishonesty, is no relationship at all.
“I am my biggest marriage problem” is the theme of Paul Tripp’s work in the field of relationships. To be able to look in, then, is the greatest step toward nourishing a relationship. To be aware enough to recognize and restore your flaws and shortcomings, before fixating on those of your spouse. But the sting of pride can make that really hard to do. It’s so much easier to point the finger and to shift the blame. But the moment you let go of your responsibility, you’ve let go of your relationship- because no matter what the issue at hand: it always takes two.
It’s time to consider where you’ve let your guard down before these sly intruders make their way in. May God continue to give you the wisdom to recognize these patterns and to lookout for the “small stuff” by protecting, nourishing, and prioritizing your marriage.
Did you ever think someone could show you love through a bologna sandwich?
I didn’t think so either.
Until I found out that my then-boyfriend-now-husband (a poor, broke, medical school student at the time) spent close to two months eating bologna sandwiches everyday, in order to cut down his grocery budget to $10/week – just so he could save up enough money to buy me an engagement ring.
The truth is this: marriage will cost you.
When you think of the cost of marriage, what comes to mind?
According to recent statistics, the average couple today spends $26,444 on a wedding. That’s a lot of money, but it’s nothing compared to the REAL cost of marriage. Because like it or not, marriage will cost you MORE. It will cost you something great. It will cost you a price much larger than the money you spend on a ring or a wedding or a honeymoon: it will cost you yourself.
I heard a married man on TV say (regarding whether or not he was going to stay in his own marriage), “I shouldn’t be with someone if I’m not happy…” and it made my stomach turn.
What an accurate reflection of the self-centered society we live in, everyone believing that their main goal in life is THEIR OWN personal happiness. What a small and shallow way to live.
If you’re getting married with that as your main goal, to make yourself happy, you will be disappointed in a severe way.
Marriage is not about your happiness, it’s not even about you. It’s about LOVE – which is something we choose to give time and time again. It’s about sacrifice, serving, giving, forgiving, and then doing it all over again.
No wonder we choose divorce over commitment…because most of the time, we’re choosing “personal happiness” over real commitment….over real love.
They say marriage teaches you more about selflessness than you ever wanted to know. I have definitely found that phrase to be true in my relationship with my husband. Because at the heart of it, real love is all about sacrifice. About the giving of yourself, in ways big and small. That’s what marriage will cost you.
It’s about giving your time though it’s not always convenient.
It’s about sharing your heart when you’d rather hold back.
It’s about cleaning the kitchen after a long weekend, even if it’s your least favorite job.
It’s about choosing to respond with love when you’d rather respond in anger.
It’s about offering a listening ear, when you’d rather tune out or go to bed.
It’s about putting someone else’s needs and desires before your own.
It’s about giving up that last bite of cake, just so your spouse can enjoy it.
It’s about laying down your rights, to make way for the rights of another.
The list could go on and on, but it always ends with the same formula:
WE > ME
That’s what marriage will cost you.
We live in a world that DESPISES the sacrificial side of marriage…and tries to wish it away. They teach to strive for power, control, and the upper hand in a relationship. They tell us to do what feels right, and not to tolerate anything less. They fool us to thinking that love is about doing what makes us happy.
And the second we feel less than happy, they encourage us to bail….to abandon ship…and to stop investing.
But they’ve got it all wrong.
Because the more we give, the better we become.
Real love is not self-seeking…and it will ALWAYS cost you. More, and more, and more. It will cost your heart, your time, and your money. It will cost your comfort, your rights, and your pride. It will cost you to “lay down your life” for thelife of another. And only those who learn to die to themselves are the ones who get to experience the resurrection power that comes with it.
I feel like I should start this post with a slight apology.
You see, when I was single I absolutely hated getting advice on being single from married people. It was just the worst –as a happy married person they had no right giving me, an embittered single person, advice. Most of this hate was channeled into unpublished blog posts, because after reading them I realized they could never see the light of day. Thank god.
So yes, this post is a little advice for single people, but it’s also for people engaged or married (and me being married for five months means I can mostly provide advice on how not to write wedding gift thank-you notes, and that is to actually write all of them and not stop when there are ten left because your brain cannot handle anymore wedding-related activities).In fact, I wouldn’t even say this is advice. Rather, it’s some observations that I offer to you, whatever life stage you are in.
And to the married people I resented before for trying to tell me how to live my life, my bad. You were only trying to help because you were once there too, and it turns out that just because you’re married you don’t know everything either (which you also probably know).
So here are some thoughts, observations, and advice for those single, engaged, or married:
Marriage will not fix your problems. Instead, marriage will do two things: you will simply find yourself now with different, married-people problems, and hopefully your problems, both old and new, will feel a little more bearable because someone has your back forever.
Just because you are a Christian and this really nice person you are dating is a Christian doesn’t mean you have to get married to them. Seriously. This is a confusing one, I know.
Breaking up is not a sign of spiritual immaturity. In fact, it might be just the opposite.
Please stop feeling this pressure to get married immediately after becoming engaged. Being engaged is different than dating, and it’s different than being married. It’s unique, special, and refining. And it can (and should) reveal the realities of what you’re getting into with marriage – good and bad. Sit with those realities before marriage, together.
I fully reject the lie that sex is inevitable if you wait a long time to get married. You’d be surprised how resilient people are.
You are allowed to feel numerous ways about one thing, or person, or relationship.
Confidence is attractive and will probably get you a date or relationship, but if you’re in it for the long haul this person is eventually going to see all of your really ugly, unconfident bits.
It’s okay to be selective about who you take dating or marriage advice from. Everyone single person has had a different experience than you, somehow.
He didn’t make me feel like I needed to earn his love or attention, which I’m still baffled by to this day that someone can love me like this, especially when I have a dramatic mid-life crisis about once a month.
I don’t really know if God tells us to marry a certain person, but I do know that there is no such thing as one destined, perfect person for us all.
Even for us married people, it will never not be obnoxious when people excessively post sappy things about their spouse.
The first few months of marriage have only been hard when one of us has been selfish. Period. Other than that, marriage is pretty spectacular and I think we need to stop telling people that the first year of marriage is always so scary and tough.
If you’re single and need to unfollow people on social media whose lives appear to throw your singleness into sharp, painful perspective, unfollow them. Do it. Do it now. Take care of your heart.
It’s funny, because in the end advice or thoughts or observations from others only resonate so much in our own lives. I have found that one of the most incredible and frustrating things about love is that no matter how much you “know” it will probably not be enough, and you will have to learn for yourself and through your own actions and choices how to do all this well (or at least try your best).
But I think that’s what’s going on with this blog when it all comes down to it – it’s all just offerings. Offerings for both myself and for you. I really like that.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a formula to predicting marriage longevity?
You meet someone great, you date for a while, and then you start to think about getting married. So you whip out your checklist and see if everything adds up. Yes, you conclude, we can take the plunge because there’s no risk in us getting divorced. Weddings bells, ring out!
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to predict whether or not a marriage will last.
In her book The Good News About Marriage (2014), author and researcher Shaunti Feldhahn not only displaces cultural myths about the divorce rate (which is closer to 31% than 50% for all marriages) but describes the factors, both emotional and social, that impact the risk of a couple’s divorce.
And in her years of research, Shaunti found that among those factors there are four main lifestyle and demographic choices that can impact your marriage’s longevity (even lowering a couple’s risk of divorce to 5 to 10 percent!):
1. Age of first marriage
Couples who choose to marry in their mid-twenties or later have a higher chance of making it to their 20th anniversary than couples who marry in their late teens or early twenties.
Marrying young has often been cited as a contributing factor for marriage dissolution, as those who marry before their late twenties or early thirties can sometimes lack the personal insight, financial stability, and understanding of the commitment of marriage simply based on limited life experience.
While there appears to be no concrete reason as to why this occurs, most researchers agree college-educated couples are more likely to marry later in life and be more financially secure than their less educated counterparts, thereby setting themselves up for a more stable marriage.
3. Choosing not to live together before getting married
Well-known sociologist Dr. Scott Stanley has spent years through the University of Denver researching the impact of cohabitation prior to marriage. He calls this the Sliding vs. Deciding phenomenon. Cohabitating couples are more likely to slide into long-term commitments, including marriage, unlike non-cohabitating couples who are better suited to make a decision to marry free of lifestyle restraints. Cohabitating couples often find themselves sliding from one relationship stage to the next because they are linked through a living situation and possibly finances, even if they would not have necessarily made the decision to marry their partner if they were not living together.
You can read more about Sliding vs. Deciding on Dr. Stanley’s website by clicking here.
4. Regularly attending religious services together
Possibly one of the most intriguing areas of study Feldhahn cites is the impact church attendance has on the chances of a couple remaining married.
In a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, three sociologists studied three thousand first marriages over a period of five years and found that marriages in which both spouses share the same faith and regularly attend services together have 35 to 50 percent lower odds of divorcing than even same-faith couples who do not regularly attend services together.
In fact, those who attend church lower their chance of divorce by 25 to 50 percent compared to those who do not identify as religious or attend services. All that to say, regular church attendance alone has a huge impact on the health of a couple’s relationship. Feldhahn also found that activities like praying together or being part of a faith-based community results in increased levels of marital happiness. Isn’t that amazing?
Now, don’t panic if you are married (or not) and don’t fall into one or more of these categories (for example, my parents married at 20 and 21, didn’t go to college, and have been happily married for 38 years!). There is no one factor that contributes to whether or not a couple will divorce. However, when it comes to certain lifestyle choices you have control over, these four factors have been proven to contribute to a long-lasting, happy union.
What do you think? Do you agree with this research?
God loves sex. The first two commands recorded in the Bible are “have dominion over creation,” and then “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:26-28). In other words, rule the world and have lots of sex. Not a bad day at the office.
Whoever said God was some cosmic killjoy? God created sex and declared it to be “good.”
Within Christian circles, it’s assumed God only wants us to have sex if we’re married. Sex outside of marriage is one of the clearest, unquestionable prohibitions in Christianity. But where does the Bible teach this? Can you name a verse?
Many will race to the Ten Commandments: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). But adultery means having sex with someone else’s spouse; it doesn’t refer to an unmarried couple sleeping together. Likewise, when Jesus condemns lust in Matthew 5, He does so in the context of adultery. In other words, we should not sexually desire another person’s spouse as our own.
God loves sex. But He’s designed us to have sex within the boundaries of a marriage covenant.
Others might turn to Leviticus 18. This “sex chapter” lists all sorts of sexual prohibitions including incest, bestiality, adultery and other sexual sins. It’s fascinating, though, that nowhere in Leviticus 18 is sex before marriage condemned.
Some might argue that when the Bible condemns “fornication” or “sexual immorality” this includes sex before marriage. And maybe it does. But this needs to be shown and not just assumed. Again, the Old Testament’s most detailed list of sexually immoral acts (Leviticus 18) does not include sex before marriage.
So Does the Bible Really Say It’s Wrong?
Before you book a hotel room and call up your girlfriend with the good news, please keep reading! Yes, the Bible does say that all forms of sex outside of marriage are wrong. Here’s how.
The early chapters of Genesis give a basic blueprint for marriage, and even though it never says “Thou shall not have sex before marriage,” it certainly suggests that sex outside of marriage flows against God’s design. God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1) is joyfully heeded by Adam and Eve after they are joined in marriage (Genesis 2:24-25; 4:1, 25). The same goes for their descendants. Noah, Shem, Abram and others all have sex and therefore have children within the confines of a marriage covenant.
When they turn to other women, such as Abraham’s sexual relations with Hagar (Genesis 16), the act was not considered an affair. Hagar was more like a modern day surrogate mother who bears a child in the place of an infertile wife. Nevertheless, these acts don’t appear to be sanctioned by God, even though they were widely accepted in Israel’s culture.
Throughout the Old Testament, it’s assumed that God designed sex for marriage. Deuteronomy condemns a soon to be wife who has had sex before marriage (Deuteronomy 22:13-19), and the love poetry contained in the Song of Songs delights in the joys of sex but reserves it for a husband and wife. Extra-marital sex is never looked upon with divine approval in the Old Testament, no matter how bright the love-flame burns.
The Role of Tradition
The Jewish tradition that flows from the Old Testament and cradles the New Testament was even more explicit in condemning pre-marital sex. For instance, it was believed that Joseph (Jacob’s favorite son) was adamant that he and his future wife, Asenath, remain pure until their wedding day. There’s nothing in the Old Testament that validates such concern; Joseph’s marriage to Asenath is only mentioned in passing (Genesis 41:45, 50-52). But the later retelling of Joseph and Asenath reflects a widespread Jewish view: Sex before marriage is sin.
And this is the ethical world that Jesus and His followers were raised in. Jews and Christians had many disagreements about what constitutes right and wrong (food laws, circumcision, strict Sabbath keeping, etc.). But when it came to sexual immorality, they found much in common. Sex before marriage was clearly condemned in Judaism, and the same goes for Christianity.
For instance, Paul—a Jew—argued that the only proper outlet for sexual desire is within marriage: “because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). Again, if unmarried people can’t control their sexual desires, Paul doesn’t tell them to head to the brothel, or to their boyfriend, or their betrothed loved one. Rather, “they should marry” since “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9). In other words, we should not satisfy our sexual passion with someone other than a spouse.
Not Just Adultery
Paul says in another passage: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
Paul’s words here can’t be limited to adultery. They clearly include all forms of sex outside of marriage. We know this because the Gentiles of the Roman world Paul refers to actually abhorred adultery and considered it a crime. However, sexual activity outside of marriage was perfectly fine—as long as it wasn’t with another man’s wife. So when Paul tells Christians to not engage in “the passion of lust like the Gentiles,” this can’t be limited to adultery. What separates Christians from other Romans was that Christians, like their Jewish brothers, believed that sex outside of marriage was sin.
Many other passages in the New Testament confirm what we see in the letters of Paul. Revelation 14:4 assumes that unmarried Christian men who desire to be faithful are not having sex. Matthew 1:18-19 celebrates the chastity of Joseph and Mary. And Hebrews 13:4 considers sex outside of marriage to be immoral: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” This verse can’t just be limited to adultery, since both “sexually immoral” and “adulterous” are listed.
God loves sex. But He’s designed us to have sex within the boundaries of a marriage covenant. To violate God’s design in an effort to lay hold of creation’s pleasure is not just foolish, but actually rejects the delights God wants us to enjoy. Sex outside of marriage mocks the Creator’s will and elevates human desire over God’s wisdom.
Christians can mess up and receive God’s free pardon. God’s scandalous grace covers all of our wrongdoings, and He dishes out such grace liberally. But it’s one thing to struggle and fail, and quite another to call sin good and wrongdoing righteousness. Christians—genuine Christians—must strive to live in line with the Creator’s intentions and celebrate the good gifts He gives to His people.
A version of this post originally appeared on Preston’s Blog on September 15, 2016. Used by permission.
Dr. Preston Sprinkle has authored several books, including the New York Times bestselling Erasing Hell (with Francis Chan; 2011), Fight; A Christian Case for Nonviolence (David C. Cook, 2013), Paul and Judaism Revisited (IVP, 2013), Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us (David C. Cook, 2014), and the recently released People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue (Zondervan, 2015), and the newest Grace//Truth 1.0: Five Conversations Every Thoughtful Christian Should Have About Faith, Sexuality & Gender (2017). Dr. Sprinkle also hosts a daily radio program titled: “Theology in the Raw?” and frequently speaks at various venues including college chapels, churches, music festivals, youth camps, family camps, and anywhere else where people desire to hear relevant Bible teaching. Preston has been married to Chrissy for 15 years and together they have 4 children.
I once heard about a wedding that was performed for a man and woman in their 90’s. With a combined age of 193, they had been dating — uh sorry, “courting”– for 18 years before deciding to tie the knot. That’s a seriously long time to plan a wedding!
When it comes to getting married and taking that life-long step of commitment before God, what’s the right age?
Everyone seems to have an opinion about the best age to get married. We can all admit that there are obvious extremes like the situations above. But on a less extreme note there are a lot of articles going around with thoughts and ideas on what age you should or shouldn’t be before you decide to say “I do”. While some are adamant that getting married young is the way to go, others make the case for getting married when you’re older and wiser.
From taming sexual desires, to establishing financial stability, to simply just needing to “grow up”, the reasons presented for when a person should get married are causing a lot of discussion and even some controversy in this hot button topic.
I’ve been asked by numerous publications to address my personal opinion on topic of the “best age to get married”. But so far-I have kinda kept my thoughts to myself. I think part of the problem with this entire discussion is that most of us speak based on our own experiences, assuming that what worked for us will work for others. But life’s just not that cut and dry all the time–is it?
So, I’ve put some thought into this, and I want to add to this conversation by saying that the perfect age to get married:
Has nothing to do with the years you’ve lived, and everything to do with how you’ve lived them. Call me crazy, but I don’t think you can quantify a person’s preparedness for marriage simply based on how many years they’ve been alive.
As a professional counselor, I have worked with thousands of individuals and couples, and one pattern that has emerged is simply this: life can look a whole lot different from one person to the next. I’ve seen 18 year olds with the maturity and wisdom of 50 year olds, and I’ve met 40 year olds who are still stuck in the emotional IQ of a the teen years. Granted, our health and maturity in life may be given more time to develop the older we get–but I think it’s less about age and more about what we do with the time we’ve been given.
Being ready for love means that we’ve taken the time to look inward– focusing on where we come from, who we are, and where we’re going, even while standing alone. Here’s a detailed post I wrote about what it means to get yourself ready for love (and then take the free “Are You Ready for Love” quiz that goes along with it!)
Secondly, the perfect age to get married has little to do with your plans, and so much more to do with God’s plans. Try presenting the “case to get married young” to a 48 year old who has never had the opportunity to say ‘I do’. Life isn’t always that simple. Sometimes, the plans we have for our life are shattered into a billion pieces as days, months, and years move us away from our personal time frames, goals and agendas.
Life happens, and while we may WANT to get married young, or even not get married at all, sometimes, our personal plans don’t line up with God’s plans.
If you’re truly seeking God and living out His story for your life, I would venture to say that the perfect age to get married is exactly the age that you are when you get married. I look back at all the times in my life when God’s plans trumped mine and I am so thankful that they did. He knew better than me about so many things. And had I known what He knew…I would have totally agreed with Him.
As Christians, I think we need to be really careful with the formulas and anecdotes that we offer people in the pursuit of the marriage because the truth is, God has never been One to conform to our cookie-cutter answers. He tends to crush the norms, and shatter all our expectations, and I’m so glad He does–because our worlds can be so small when left to ourselves. At the end of the day, God’s word calls us to one thing and one thing alone: to love others, and to love ourselves, and to love Him above all else.
In just a few days, my husband John and I will be celebrating our 10 year marriage anniversary!
It seems so short and yet sooooo long at the same time. We’ve been with each other through some of our most formative years- and have together experienced the most significant moments of each other’s lives. We’ve walked with one another through some incredible highs, and through some difficult lows. We’ve changed, grown, matured, fallen, failed, conquered, succeeded and have learned so many things together. Yet the greatest lesson we’ve learned, is that there is so much still left for us to learn.
As we’ve been reflecting over the past decade of our marriage including changing careers, moving 4 times, and having 3 children, we had to chuckle at some of the lessons we’ve learned the hard (and sometimes awkward) way. There are so many things about marriage that we had no clue about while we were single. Here are some things we wish we would have known about marriage…but by God’s grace, we’re learning along the way:
Attraction grows. In the next decade you’ll both put on weight, acquire grey hairs, and welcome the world of post-marriage (likely even post-baby) body. But don’t fret. Because even as your body fades, your desire for one another can continue to grow brighter and brighter. Be sure to keep fanning that flame…because genuine attraction is made up of so much more than just the physical.
Conflict is a healthy part of marriage. It’s important to learn how to fight fair, to express your feelings in a constructive way, and to learn how to forgive often. Conflict breeds communication, and communication can breed heightened intimacy. So take advantage and fight well.
Your spouse’s family will likely have a huge influence on your life and marriage– so know what you’re getting into because who you choose to do life with can bring barriers or blessings.
Contrary to what the movies say, you will NOT sleep romantically intertwined and interlocked with your spouse all night long, so do yourself a favor by investing in a large, comfy bed and getting a good night’s rest! People tend to argue less when they’re well rested ????
Believe it or not, research shows that the longer you’ve been married the less time you actually talk. Make communication important by scheduling time to just sit and talk.
Unlike in soap operas and movies, marital sex takes work, practice, selflessness, and a whole lot of patience to perfect. Don’t expect to get it right away, but know that you will in time. Let go of the pressure to be perfect and just enjoy the practice!
No matter who you marry, someday you will probably wonder if you’ve married the “right person”. Be assured- you have (from the moment you said “I do”). So do whatever it takes to fight for what you have and to turn it into something beautiful.
True love between two people has very little to do with how you feel, and so much to do with what you do thereafter. Learn the actions of love, and practice them often (aka every moment, of every day). Always choose to protect your marriage.
No matter what conflict you are facing, 100% of the time you have a responsibility in it. Learn to take ownership of your own flaws right here, and right now, long before you point the finger. It will always work out better in the end.
Most of marriage is made up of the monotony of day-to-day routine. So marry more than just a lover. Marry a best friend, a partner, a co-worker, and a true companion.
Marriage can’t bring you purpose, healing, or security– but it can bless you, challenge you, and enrich your life in so many ways. Keep your expectations grounded in reality. You’ve been given a spouse, not a super-hero, a help-mate, not a healer.
Your relationship with God has the power to bring you closer to one another in powerful ways. Learn to love out of the overflow of God’s love for you. It will likely change your life, and in turn, your marriage.
Here’s to the next decade with my beloved. May God continue teaching us, shaping us, and drawing us closer to each other with each passing day and through each coming lesson.
And here’s to all of you, whether married or single: May God continue shifting your expectations of marriage and relationships to become more and more in tune with His.
Comment below: What have been the most surprising lessons you’ve learned about marriage along the way?
A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on June 8, 2017. Used by permission.
True Love Dates, is the book that world-renown #1 New York Times best-selling authors and relationship experts Drs. Les & Leslie Parrot have claimed to be exactly what “your love life needs”.
There are so many Christian singles out there who believe that they just need to wait around until God reveals to them the lucky “one” they are going to marry.
As though the right relationship is just going to fall from the sky.
As though God is going to knock on the door one day, and all of a sudden there will be the one they are supposed to marry.
As though somehow, they will “just know” when they come face-to-face with the right person.
And sadly, Christian culture perpetuates this lie. I had the opportunity to speak at two different Christian colleges at each end of the country in the past two weeks, and the students affirmed to me that this belief still runs rampant within the student body.
But no matter how many Hollywood films you’ve watched, or how many romantic stories you’ve heard, I’m here to tell you this: you can’t just “know” from the outside looking in whether or not someone will be a good match for you. It’s not about a feeling, and it’s definitely not just about getting lucky.
I was at the grocery store this summer, and found myself standing in front of a bin of beautiful, green watermelons. My family loves watermelon, and especially my four year old son who could eat watermelon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
So I decided to pick one out to take home.
Now if you knew anything about my family, you would know that purchasing a watermelon is a process. First you have to find the right one, typically because of it’s bright green color. After you’ve found the right one, you test it out to make SURE it’s the right one by drumming on the outside of it, and listening for the sound it makes. I don’t know if it’s just my family, or of this is a universal thing (I’d like to think everyone does this….otherwise my family is just strange) but based on the thumping sound the watermelon makes, you know whether or not it’s a good one.
The only problem with this theory, is that I actually don’t have any idea what sound it’s supposed to make. So I end up grabbing a watermelon, drumming on it one or two times, and putting it in my cart. When I take it home and cut into it, it’s always a mystery. Even with the special drumming I did at the grocery store, I still have no idea whether or not it’s going to be a good one until I bite into it. And frankly, it’s a hit or miss process. As illogical as this all may sound, I do it every time I go to the store.
But you know what? When it comes to relationships, SO many people are JUST as illogical.
They look for “signs and wonders”, “feelings and emotions”, “chemistry and connection” in a relationship that will ultimately tell them whether or not this person is going to “be the one”.
But at the end of the day, they ultimately have no idea what they’re getting in a relationship until the relationships progresses further – or even until marriage.
You can choose a bad watermelon with little to no consequences, but choosing the wrong marriage is absolutely devastating.
Despite the lies we’re being fed from our culture on a regular basis, the most important thing you need to grasp about all of this is that good relationships aren’t just “found”. They are CHOSEN. They are made.
They are built through a series of choices, a consistency of exchanges, over a proper length of time, with important conversations, healthy communication, and one positive decision at a time.
They are not something you find, they are something you CREATE, with someone who is just as willing to create a healthy relationship as you are.
There are so many people who rush into relationships without ever assessing the risk. Without knowing enough about the person they are dating. Without giving it enough time. Without having some really important conversations.
They meet. They like. And then they rush…..without ever knowing how healthy their partner is.
And so many times, going blindly into relationships, they end up with a broken heart and shattered dreams.
God gives us the responsibility to use wisdom, discernment, and discretion in choosing who we are going to marry. We’re responsible for this most important life-decision, and we’re the ones who have to deal with the ultimate consequences.
In choosing someone to marry, it’s up to each and every one of us to take our time, to assess the risk, to uncover the baggage, to invest in counseling, to prepare, and train, and learn everything we can possibly know. It’s up to us to choose well. Because once you choose “the one”, they become “the one” – til death do us part.
A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on April 12, 2017. Used by permission.
True Love Dates, is the book that world-renown #1 New York Times best-selling authors and relationship experts Drs. Les & Leslie Parrot have claimed to be exactly what “your love life needs”. Learn more, or pick up a copy for yourself by clicking the image below.
I recently overheard two women discussing their fantasy boyfriends over coffee. They were chatting about their favorite “celebs”: analyzing their “hotness”, what they love about them, why they would make amazing boyfriends, and how amazing it would be to meet them face to face…or better yet…
A while back on the news, I listened to reporters praise a pubescent teenager for asking his Sports Illustrated supermodel crush (probably his mom’s age…) to come with him to prom. How brave and courageous of him, they said. What an honorable thing to do in stepping out of his comfort zone and taking risks to engage his fantasies, they said.
To top it off, just last week I noticed the room of one of my friends’ teenage children – plastered with posters of dreamy celebrities and attractive musicians staring at her each night as she dozed off to sleep.
It’s amazing how fixated we are on fantasy. So much so, that it’s almost become the norm.
We live in a society in which I’ve actually heard people claim they have literally fallen “in love” with celebrities, movie stars, porn-stars and supermodels. But the problem is that they are falling in love…from a distance.
There is something safe about keeping people at a distance. There is something appealing about the unknown that makes it attractive; something about the invisible that is seductive. Whether it’s the supermodel on the cover of a magazine, or that guy at work that you’ve never actually talked to.
Somehow, keeping people at a distance makes us want them even more.
Because keeping people at a distance is never messy. Loving them from far away, is never hard. It isn’t mixed with the reality of pain, vulnerability and selflessness; nor does it know the sacrifices of forgiveness, and grace. But to really love, as C.S. Lewis says, is to be vulnerable.
So many men and women today are falling in love with a dream; falling in love with someone or something that doesn’t really exist, by taking the character of someone they don’t really know and adding the story that they find themselves living in the world of fantasy.
Falling in love with a dream, falling in love with an idea, but ultimately – falling in love with a lie.
And this isn’t just about crushing on Hollywood celebs, because fantasy can permeate so many other parts of our life. The bottom line is this…
Fantasy is living in what could be, rather than living in the reality of what actually is.
From pornography, to affairs, to toxic relationships. The list could go on and on, but in each of these you will find men and women, imprisoned within the confines of a dream. Stuck in a life they make up with people who don’t actually exist. We’ve succumbed to a life fueled by fantasy rather than by reality.
The married man who glances at the beautiful office secretary, mentally engaging in a relationship with her- forgetting her flaws, neglecting her deficits.
The single woman, analyzing and obsessing over a man she’s hardly talked to. Imagining what life could be if, and when…only to have her heart broken by his lack of interest.
The housewife, trapped in the fantasy and excitement of her romance novels, leaving her own reality behind instead of dealing with it.
The young woman stuck in an abusive marriage, making excuses and living for the dream of who he could be rather than acknowledging who he actually is and taking steps toward safety.
The lonely young man, spending hours every evening trapped by the pornographic images on his computer screen, growing numb to the beauty of the real woman…and of real life.
There is something provocative about living in a dream, but there is something even more paralyzing about it.
When we live in a dream, we lose sight of what’s real. We exchange our realities for something that can never actually exist. We live for what could be, and end up missing what really is. And in the end we are led into disappointment, disillusionment, and destruction.
We set ourselves up for failure by seeking to find this thing that doesn’t actually exist, setting expectations that cannot be met by ourselves, much less anyone else.
When we live in a dream, we stop really living.
Though they might not be as easy as Hollywood romance, real life and real relationships are well worth the investment. With the help of God’s grace, forgiveness, and selflessness they can flourish into far greater than a simple dream, because they can become your glorious reality.
A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on August 16, 2016. Used by permission.
True Love Dates, is the book that world-renown #1 New York Times best-selling authors and relationship experts Drs. Les & Leslie Parrot have claimed to be exactly what “your love life needs”. Learn more, or pick up a copy for yourself by clicking the image below.
Dale (not his real name) was in my office, and through sobs of despair and shame, he said, “I don’t know what happened or why, but I cheated on my wife, and now she’s found out and is leaving me.”
I wish I could tell you confessions like that are rare. They’re not.
The question I want you to consider with me is this: Is illicit sex worth it?
In particular, are adultery and pornography worth the cost?
On a regular basis, I teach that sex is a gift from God, and it is. Regardless of the current level of satisfaction in your marriage, sex is a blessing from the Creator. He wants you to experience loving, creative, and exciting sex with your spouse. That’s God’s plan, and after over forty years of marriage, I can tell you from firsthand experience—it’s awesome when His plan comes together.
Few want to hear this, and even fewer believe it nowadays, but illicit sex outside of your marriage, including adultery and pornography, are costly. Tragically, we humans tend to focus on the “fringe benefits” of immorality rather than the high cost of our infidelities.
41% of marriages include either physical or emotional infidelity by one or both spouses.
22% of married men and 14% of married women have strayed at least once during their married lives.
74% of men and 68% of women say they would have an affair if they knew they would never be caught.
Over 30,000 people are viewing porn every second of every day.
Apparently, unfaithfulness is a relatively common issue, and immorality is far too widespread.
I’ve written about this topic before (find the article here at Charisma News), but let’s take a deeper look.
Why do so many fail?
There are many reasons, but here are some:
Sexual boredom (we think the grass is greener elsewhere, and that sex outside of our marriage will be better).
Unmet sexual and emotional needs in our current relationship.
The love of the chase.
The thrill of conquest.
Insecurities about our physical and sexual desirability.
The pleasure of sin (though momentary and fleeting).
Addiction to a feeling rather than commitment to a covenant.
Fantasies that we believe are better than our reality.
There may be additional reasons why some spouses wander, but perhaps the biggest reason is that we haven’t considered the high cost of our forbidden sexual exploits.
The costs of an affair that we forget or choose to ignore:
Damaged or lost relationships with your friends, children, and extended family.
Severe financial impact due to divorce.
Loss of your God-given mission and purpose in life.
Emotional damage and lost joy.
Loss of respect for yourself and by others.
Potential physical illnesses (STDs are still rampant).
A strong motivator toward moral purity is weighing the costs of moral failure. Ask anyone who’s been down that disastrous road and they will tell you, “It’s not worth it.”
In fact, many years ago, I had one guy tell me quite bluntly, “When it’s all said and done, an orgasm is just an orgasm, and my moral failure cost me just about everything I truly value.”
We all know that drinking poison will kill us; we are aware of the cost of that irrational act. However, we foolishly toy with adultery or pornography thinking no harm will come, but it does.
Someone recently asked me, “Do you ever struggle with temptation?”
Without hesitation, I said, “I’m a male and I’m breathing. Of course, I’m tempted. But temptation isn’t the problem. Jesus was tempted in every way I am. The sin occurs if and when I stop resisting and give in.”
Count the cost and imagine the worst not the best if you fail. (This should be sobering.)
Ask godly friends to support you in the battle and to hold you accountable.
Establish and maintain wise and holy boundaries. (For example, never be completely alone with an unrelated member of the opposite sex. It’s impossible to commit adultery if you practice this one relationship rule.)
In hundreds (and maybe thousands) of conversations over my many years of life, it’s become clear to me that we all wrestle with the flesh. Frankly, every one of us is just one bad decision away from disaster. You’re kidding yourself if you think you’re beyond the potential for a moral fiasco.1
Not now. Not in this corrupt world. Not on this side of eternity.
But the good news is God is faithful, and He will always make a way of escape for you.
This is not because this generation doesn’t want to get married; data continues to reveal high numbers of individuals who still want to marry later in life as acapstone to other achievements like education or career. However, when you couple this information with the fact that the marriage rate is at an all time low, hovering around 50% (compared to 72% in 1960), you can begin to understand the difficulty of speaking on sexual integrity.
Delayed adulthood, cohabitation, changing attitudes about sex, and a Christian culture mostly unwilling to talk about sex and sexuality are some of the many reasons sexual integrity has become a virtually defunct practice. Even among self-identifying Christians, our views of God’s intent for sex have shifted, leaving us in a place of little clear understanding about what to do with our bodies and how to speak honestly about sex.
Sexual integrity needs to be more than just a message about keeping your pants on.
For years the church has simply responded to the culture’s definition of sex. American culture says, “Do whatever you want, with whomever you want, whenever you want.” So what has the church done? It’s responded by saying, “Just wait.” But this is only responding to the definition set forth by the culture and not giving the definition from Scripture.
The definition of sex found in Scripture is based on “oneness” with our spouse. This is seen in verses all the way from Genesis through Revelation. Sex is meant to unify. In fact, when it says in Genesis 2:24 the “two will become one flesh” it is literally saying the two will be fused together, creating this “oneness.”
Procreation, pleasure, and protection all need to be part of the conversations surrounding sex in the church.
Often we are willing to talk about the power of sex as it relates to new life. But why are we afraid to talk about the pleasure associated with it?
Pleasure is not something Scripture hides from and neither should we. Our God is a God of pleasure. We see this in the first verses in the first chapter of the first book in Scripture, Genesis 1, when God declares creation (and thus sex) was “very good.”
Scripture also reveals sex has boundaries but these boundaries exist for our own protection. Because sex has the power to create life and fuse two people together, it requires protection. That is one reason we have marriage. It acts as a crucible.
Clear and consistent dialogue, not a list of restrictions, are needed for sexual integrity to be practiced more often.
Maybe you’ve seen some of the data suggesting young adults are leaving the church in droves. Although I don’t see it quite this way I do recognize a frustration with established religion, particularly when it comes to the attitudes the church communicates regarding sex.
Recently I was listening to a podcast from the show This American Life. The episode was a discussion about collected date showing people’s mindsets changing over the course of a 20-minute conversation. The reason for the change was simple: the parties involved had vulnerable and honest dialogue.
Most of the young adults I speak with are filled with frustration because few people are willing to have difficult conversations about our culture’s view of sex and sexuality. However, I’ve found taking time to listen leads to better and more in-depth conversations, which give opportunity to reveal God’s grand design as the sex-maker.
Let’s have more vulnerable and honest dialogue and make sexual integrity a part of the culture in our churches once again.
Later today, I’ll be doing something in a more organized and formal manner for the first time. Up to this points, my discussions on this particular issue have come in personal conversations or in response to on-the-spot questions during seminars. Today, I’ll be prepared thoughts to a group of youth workers on the topic of youth ministry and same-sex attraction. I’ve been asked specifically to do this because they know that for the last three years I’ve been concentrating the bulk of my reading and study on the topic. . . trying to learn as much as I can about cultural beliefs, clinical realities, and Scriptural guidelines. I’ve read across the spectrum of viewpoints in an effort to be open and fair. And naturally, all these endeavors have extended far beyond the parameters of the issue of same-sex attraction to the larger issues of love, sex, and marriage. The journey of listening and learning is not over for me by any stretch of the imagination. It continues. (Got some funny looks on the airplane yesterday as I was reading Jonathan Grant’s book, Divine Sex!)
For me, my conscious first memories of engaging in the simplest of ways with the topic of love began in Kindergarten. Every year when I was in elementary school, I would spend the evening of February 13 punching out two-dozen Valentine’s Day cards from perforated sheets, signing them with my name, and stuffing them in envelopes. . . each one addressed to a different member of my class. Back then, we used those little dime-store cards to send the same message to everyone. . . male and female as I remember it. . . “Will you be my Valentine?”
Now that I’m grown-up, I often think back to those days and wonder if our willingness to throw our meager and meaningless little expressions of “love” around might have contributed in some way to the widespread confusion about the nature of romance that seems to have gone viral throughout our culture. When I look around at our cultural expressions (movies, TV, music, etc.) and personal practices (premarital sex, cohabitation, sexual identity issues, etc.) I wonder if anyone even knows where to go to gain a clear understanding on matters of love, sex, and marriage.
Sadly, we’ve forgotten that love, sex, and marriage all have their origins in God’s good creation. The Creator of humanity has given us love, sex, and marriage as a gift. In Genesis 2:24 we read, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” When understood in this light, we see that our current cultural beliefs and behaviors might not be what they’re supposed to be.
During the coming month where we celebrate Valentine’s Day, why not take the time to teach the kids you and know and love God’s good truth about His order and design for marriage? Theologian John Stott reminds us that we need to see that Genesis 2:24 tells us that marriage is a relationship with 5 facets. Share each of these with your kids:
-Marriage is meant to be heterosexual. It is between a man and a woman. . . nothing more or nothing less.
-Marriage is meant to be monogamous. It is a relationship reserved for one man and one woman.
-Marriage is meant to be a commitment. A man is to leave his father and hold fast to his wife. What’s missing in a relationship where a couple simply chooses to live together is a commitment.
-Marriage is meant to be public. The leaving from parents is a social occasion where a couple commits themselves to each other in front of family and friend.
-Marriage is meant to be physical. A couple becomes one flesh by consummating their commitment to each other through the act of sexual intercourse, something God’s given them to indulge with each other exclusively!
The culture is educating our kids 24/7 on the nature of love, sex, and marriage. Are you telling them the truth?
Over the course of the last few months, I’ve had a handful of phone calls and emails from people soliciting advice on how to respond to an invitation they’ve received to a same-sex wedding. Some have received the invitations from friends and co-workers. Others, from a sibling or relative. And, I’ve had two conversations with parents trying to sort out how to best respond to invitations from a deeply loved son or daughter.
These are not easy issues for the follower of Christ who believes beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Scriptures communicate a divine design for marriage. . . one that clearly defines marriage as a life-long, covenantal, monogamous commitment between one man and one woman. The more I study, pray, read, and think about these tender and difficult matters, I see the aforementioned as God’s clear order and design for His gift of marriage.
Holding to this increasingly counter-cultural view of marriage is setting the table for difficult decisions that have to be handled prayerfully, carefully, and with tenderness. As I’ve chatted with people seeking advice, I realize how difficult it is to navigate these things. . . especially when I put myself in their place. What if it was my child?
Last week, my good friends at Harvest USA published an article by John Freeman and Nicholas Black, “What to Do? Responding to an Invitation to a Same-Sex Wedding.” I love the way the folks at Harvest USA address these new cultural realities with two-feet planted firmly in the Scriptures, while thinking with compassion about how to best engage with a rapidly changing culture. As I read the article, I realized that it offers a good starting point that can help us think through these things. I contacted them and asked if I could pass the article (from the 2015 print edition of the Harvest USA newsletter) in its entirety on to you. I hope you’ll find it helpful. . .
With the legalization of gay marriage, Christians more often find themselves invited to same-sex marriage ceremonies. This poses a dilemma for believers of whether to attend an event that celebrates a life-union that God nowhere approves of in Scripture.
Declining to attend seems like an easy solution. But because it involves friendships or family connections, the matter can be quite complex. The issue is more difficult if the wedding involves a child or other close family member (for additional insights, read our mini book: Your Gay Child Says “I Do”).
Reaching a decision will involve careful theological reflection, an understanding of your relationship with the one(s) getting married, and earnest prayer. Here are some things to think about that we hope can help you make a wise decision.
The space for this article is not sufficient to adequately examine the scope of Scripture on this matter, but here are three Scriptural principles that should guide you.
Be in the world but not of it. Knowing how to engage with the world is important for Christians. Being set apart from the world (who we are and how our lives reflect who we live for) is demonstrated by our living in the world. Loving and investing (time) in our neighbor is the means by which the world comes to know God.
Freedom in Christ. 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, and Romans 14, are key passages where Paul argues for the freedom of the believer to engage with others in society, centered around the contentious issue of that day: eating meat from an idol’s temple. For Paul, (Christian) freedom involves examining issues of motivation, concern for the impact on other believers, and the context of the situation (see 1 Cor. 10: 23-33 and Romans 14:20-23). Freedom in Christ enables us to think through how our actions affect others.
Faith/conscience. Paul’s conclusion in Romans 14 is that we decide on issues such as these based on conscience, and that if one remains unsettled, then it is wiser to not participate, because it “is not from faith.” Christians can stand on both sides of difficult issues, so the freedom we have in Christ to discern how to live strategically in the world should move us to extend grace to those who decide differently.
After examining Scripture (which must be the basis for all decisions), here are some relationship issues that can guide you in making a decision.
What is your current relationship to the person getting married?Are they a casual co-worker, friend or distant relative, or someone you have a closer relationship with (like a family member)? Has the invitation been given to everyone in your office, department or family? Or, has it been given to you because you have a closer relationship? These factors can help you determine how best to respond. For example, if the person is someone you have a good friendship with, then you are in a position to speak directly to him or her about the issue of attending. If your friend knows you are a Christian, then this becomes another opportunity (or maybe the first!) to discuss your faith and how that influences your decision.
What would you be trying to convey by your attendance? Some people make the distinction between supporting the person, whom they love and care about, and supporting the event, of which they don’t approve. In making this distinction, it can communicate that attendance is not an implicit approval of their marriage. This is a meaningful distinction. We do this constantly in our other relationships, communicating our differences but remaining involved in each other’s lives. This distinction may depend on how vocal you have been about your faith. What kinds of conversations have you had? Do they know you are a Christian? Do they know your views about homosexuality? If so, your presence could actually “stun” them or really mess up the categories they may have about “Christians” like you. Christians, living intentionally by the gospel, can sometimes be confusing to people, causing them to rethink their positions and perhaps see new and bigger realities. That’s a good thing. If you feel that attending would lend weight to your Christian witness, then you might go. Your attendance would be in line with your desire to pursue a relationship because you care for them, and you want to keep the relationship open to have further opportunities to share the gospel with them.
What are you concerned about if you decide to attend? Are you afraid that your attendance would communicate your approval? Or, are you afraid of explaining why you feel you cannot attend? Are you afraid you would not know how to act or how to talk with other guests, most who would support the marriage? There can be lots of fear involved in making this decision. Ask the Lord to guide you regarding all these issues. Fear or anxiety about disappointing someone is never a good motivator to make a decision. A better question is this: What response might cause further openness to the gospel?
If you decide you cannot attend, could you substitute something else? If you reach the conclusion that you cannot attend, you might consider an alternative response. For instance, giving a card or gift would still show your care for them and acknowledge that this was an important day for them (it was, but you don’t necessarily have to join in on the celebration). If you are close to the person or couple, but still conclude that you cannot attend, then consider taking them out to lunch or dinner. Of course, this may be an uncomfortable get-together, especially if the person will feel hurt by your absence. But a quick follow-up may go a long way toward bringing understanding and another opportunity for you to share your faith. Another decision some people make is to not attend the wedding (because of the nature of wedding vows) but to attend the reception (if this is, of course, agreed upon by the wedding couple).
Do one or both parties claim to be Christians? Someone once said, “We shouldn’t expect Christian behavior from non-Christian people.” If the person or persons getting married are unbelievers, this doesn’t mean you have an unhindered green light to attend—but if someone claims to be a Christian and yet is in rebellion to God’s design and intention for how his people should live, and is celebrating it and inviting others to join in, then that is another matter. Many would argue that even if one of the parties is a confessing Christian, attending would be entering into their delusion that the marriage union is fine with God and is sanctioned by him. But some will make the distinction that attending is not the same as approving.
As you can see, these are hard issues! Your decision must come from wrestling with Scripture, drenched in prayer, and talked through with close friends or family members. But know this: that your wrestling with this is itself evidence of your heart wanting to do the right thing to honor Christ and to open doors for the gospel. Realize that there is no ONE answer to this, but there isone thing you can count on: like Jesus, you’ll probably be misunderstood regarding the implications of any choice you make. So, when you make your decision, know that you have made it on the basis of what will honor God, and be at peace on that basis.