This blog post is based on a recent presentation to young adults.
1. Whatever sexual struggles I have, particularly lust struggles, will be solved by getting married. I have attended a 12 step group for nearly 30 years, which is patterned after AA. Our assumption is that having to drink in pictures and images is similar to having to drink alcohol. If alcoholism cannot be solved by taking another drink, neither can the lust struggle be solved by simply making sex more available. Bringing the lust struggle into marriage is inevitable for those who struggle as singles. Marriage not only is no cure. It will necessarily ‘up the ante’ and will involve change and some level of pain if true intimacy is to be experienced. Far better to face it now and bring it out into the open, rather than foist the problem onto an unsuspecting spouse. If I had a problem with porn, I would bring it out into the open before marriage. In the Anglican marriage service, there is that sobering moment when the bride and groom are charged with these or similar words. ‘If any of you know any reason why you may not be united in marriage lawfully, speak now or forever hold your peace.’ The congregation is also given an opportunity to object. Normally, objections are confined to such things as being already married, fraud and undisclosed debts. But holding a secret, such as I did when I got married, amounts to relational fraud at some level. Better to deal with it out in the open before marriage. This is not just the honorable thing to do. It is the healthiest thing to do.
2. Married life will mean the end to my struggles, trials and temptations. This is also not true. Marriage is very much like discipleship, and we know how hard that is, but marriage is lived out with one specific person over time. Not only will marriage not be the end of difficulties, trials and temptations, but new ones will be introduced because now we will be taking into account the thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes, dreams and ambitions of another person. Also, our attraction to other people is not automatically eliminated just because we got married. Someone once described marriage as like sandpaper. Our rough spots get rubbed off until we become smooth and fit for the Master’s use. Paul says in Acts ‘it is with many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of God.’ Acts 14:22. Marriage is simply trading in our single lives for a new set of challenges, ones that we ought to believe are more than worth it, but challenges nonetheless. Marriage is not a solution to my struggles but rather a calling to intimacy and discipleship in a new arena, to find the real connection that lies beneath my struggles. We do this with fear and trembling, in a good sense, because we know we need the help of God to fulfill it.
3. I can keep secrets from my spouse as long as I am a good person otherwise. Another version goes like this. ‘If I disclose my struggles to my wife, it will only hurt her so I will deal with them myself.’ But the call to marriage is the call of being known. Genesis 4:1 in describing sex says ‘Adam knew his wife.’ But to know and be known has a connotation beyond sex. Our problem is that sometimes we want the sex without the knowing. Casual sex is ‘unknowing sex.’ But intimacy means a complete and total opening of ourselves to that other person, even when it is painful. That is how important being known is to real intimacy. Authentic intimacy means disclosing to our spouse, even when it is painful. People who have affairs often do so telling themselves that their affair partner ‘accepts me unconditionally.’ But if they worked on being fully known in their marriage, the drive to have an affair might be unnecessary. And lets be honest, reliable statistics tell us Christians have as many affairs and broken marriages as others in our culture. The reason is not primarily a crisis of faith but a failure of intimacy.
4. I can be friends with the opposite sex after marriage. This may be an ideal or a hope but there are some real questions for someone to ask themselves entering marriage regarding this question. How have I done with this in the past? Have I had real friendships with the opposite sex without it becoming sexual? What does my track record say about me? The reason to ask these questions is that it is likely that this same pattern, whatever it is, will continue after marriage. Personally, I do not have any female friends outside of family or couple friendships. Also, I may do well with opposite sex friendships, but what if someone else misunderstands? Either the other person or my spouse? The myth that I can control or predict other people’s reactions to my intentions is deeply flawed. Human beings simply often misunderstand. Do I want the fallout and misunderstandings that may result from this relationship? 1 Cor 10;23 gives us perspective. 23 m“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 nLet no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Our closest neighbor is our spouse, so an open discussion of this issue and how it might affect everyone involved can help to chart the path ahead and avoid unnecessary wounds.
This is a sweeping topic and more will be revealed.
In the Lust-Bearer,
Jay Haug, Executive Director
Living Without Lust Inc.