FINDING A LIFELONG MATE

Incomplete, unedited, draft version

     

      This paper is written from a Christian perspective.  However, most of the concepts contained here will ring true no matter what your belief system is.

      How do people end up marrying the people that they do?  Why is the divorce rate so high?  And why is that rate higher for second marriages when people should have some experience and know what to look out for?  How can we avoid common pitfalls to doomed marriages?  How can we find someone that we are compatible with?  The following is not meant to be an all-inclusive look at compatibility in relationships, but rather a look at often-missed perspectives that will hopefully be enlightening.  The ultimate goal is that we slow down and look at where we are going when we are getting to know someone.  We have two choices.  We can learn to walk on a pathway of a healthy relationship even though we may stumble at times.  Or we can falling down a slippery slope of letting circumstances control us.

INTRODUCTION

            People move too fast!  Well, at least in relationships they often do.  We let our emotions and our physical relationship get beyond how well we know someone.  Then, we realize the incompatibility and the relationship starts to die.  We deal with the pain.  Many times we get emotionally hardened.  Many times we trust the next person less.  Sometimes the relationship becomes serious, or we get married and things don't work out and we ask where we went wrong.  We ask ourselves how someone could do something like that to us.  Much of the time we should have been slowing down and asking questions early on in the relationship.  Rather, we moved too fast.

Our needs and desires are a driving force in wanting to be close to someone.  We all have desires.  When needs that we have for God in our lives are misplaced on people, we go after it with intensity and a speed that blurs rational thought.  Our emotions become bonded with another before we really know the other person or have really considered long term compatibility.  Many times we move ahead out of ignorance.  We have never considered what it might take for two people to be compatible.  We really feel that if two people ďfall in loveĒ that they must be right for each other.  Hopefully, as we consider different aspects needed for compatibility, we will be able to slow down and make better decisions in selecting a lifelong mate.  Maybe we will be able to avoid "falling" in love and rather grow in love as we get to know and appreciate someone.  If we looked at a relationship as a house, the footing would be the spiritual bond.  The foundation wall would be friendship.  If we would develop deep friendships before moving into the romantic or physical parts of a relationship we would find that our relationship is built on a strong foundation.   We may also find out that we are not compatible as lifelong mates before we get too involved.  We very well may be able to retain a valuable friendship by not letting it go to far.  The heartache that can be saved by knowing early on if we have compatibility with someone we are interested in is worth the effort of exercising the self control that it takes to put in to practice the ideas Iíll share. 

    In my opinion, there are two major causes of marital failure.  First and what I believe to be the major cause, is the lack of lifelong commitment by one or both parties.  This keeps people from giving their all.  The second cause is a physical relationship that takes precedent over the emotional one.  That binds people prematurely with someone who is not right for him or her.  Both of these will be discussed in more detail later.   

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships

            The better the emotional health of two individuals is, the better their relationship can be.  People tend to be attracted to others who have the same amount of neediness.  This neediness is many times in different areas of their lives.  For example, one person may have an alcohol problem and another may be a compulsive spender.  It is obvious that an "emotionally healthy" person would not be attracted to a drug addict.  Many relationships are formed when one person has a need to be cared for and another to feel valuable needs to care for others.  They fit together like a hand in glove and feel comfortable together but their relationship is based on need.  Needs could be defined as something that someone is not content without having met in their lives.  Wants are things we desire for, but can find contentment even we don't have them.  A healthy romantic relationship consists of two people who stand strong on their own, feel love for one another, and choose to love the other person no matter how they feel.  The healthy and dependant relationship can look almost the same with a cursory glance but the dependant one can break down under pressure.  It can break down when one person doesnít feel their needs are being met enough.  It also can fall apart if either person becomes healthier, and the other person doesn't.  In the healthy relationship each person grows and the relationship itself will then grow stronger.

            If you feel emotionally needy in some way, then you are already on the road to health.  The first step is admitting our need!  There are many self-help Christian counseling books; group or individual Christian counseling that can help us through.  For most people, meditating on the qualities of God, especially His love can be very healing.  The more that we work through unhealthy behavior before we enter a relationship, the healthier of a person we will attract and the better that relationship will be. 

                A form of being emotionally needy is needing a relationship to be happy.  Rather, what we need is to be content in our single-hood.  The apostle Paul speaks that we need to learn contentment no matter what situation we are in.

Philippians 4:12   I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

     This does not mean that we are going to be happy being single.  It does mean that we are at peace in our single-hood.  If we are striving for a relationship, we will probably settle for someone who is less of a match for us than what we want.  Our neediness for relationship will not make us attractive to a person who is content with where God has them.

            Many singles are lonely.  It is important not to enter into a romantic relationship to avoid loneliness or boredom.  That's what friends are for.  If we get our loneliness needs met by one person, we will be attracted to that person for just being there for us rather than for the qualities they have that we desire in a lifelong mate.  The solution is to try to have plenty of friends of both sexes.  God established his church for us to be dependent on each other to some degree.  We need to be careful when we depend on one person to meet the needs in us that the church (our family/friend group) was designed to meet.

    We may also feel insecure in some way.  If we meet up with someone who seems to take away that uncomfortable feeling, we depend on him or her in a sense for our wholeness.  Again, we build a bond with one person, that should be built with God and with several people.  If our relationship is built out of neediness, it is on a shaky foundation.  When later on in life, we become healthier and no longer have those needs, the basis of the relationship is no longer needed.  In other words, if we depend on a person to make us feel better about ourselves and then we grow emotionally and spiritually to the point where our realization of Godís love in our lives makes us feel better about ourselves, we no longer need that other person.  Now in one sense, that is good because we are healthier.  The problem happens if the initial attraction and strong bond was based on that dependency.  Now what is left?  If your attraction to that person was to meet a need in your life and you no longer have that need, there may not be enough compatibility and commitment to make that relationship continue.

    We need to work through issues of our past relationships, looking at what worked and what didn't.  We need to find out who we really are outside of a romantic relationship before we even know what we want in someone else.  When we are emotionally needy, we will look to another person to fill those needs in our lives.  The relationship will then be based on need and not two strong people growing together.

    Did I say it enough times and in enough different ways?  Why?  Because it is crucial that you grow as a person as much as possible, find contentment in your singlehood, and knowledge of who you are before being distracted with another person.  There I said it again!

  Different kinds of Love        

    The English language is very limited in having words to describe different kinds of love.  We can love chocolate and God loves us so much He sent His Son to die for us.  When we enter into relationships, we can experience different kinds of love.  It is very easy to mix them up in our minds, and misunderstand the real depth of the relationship.  If the relationship progresses in a balanced way, the first kind of love we might experience would be a friendship love.  I believe that a marriage relationship needs to be built on friendship love.  Friendship love includes characteristics described below as intellectual and emotional intimacy.

            Another kind of love is romantic love.  This is best described as the feelings of love that we have toward someone when we can look into their eyes and feel a closeness that goes beyond friendship but isn't sexual attraction.  It can be a warm good feeling we have when we think about or are with another person.  When people "fall" in love, many times their romantic love is much stronger than their friendship love.  Romantic love grows many times because of spending time in romantic settings.  We enjoy the way being in that situation makes us feel, and we transfer those feelings to the person that we are with and see them as the reason for the good feelings.  That is why traditional dating can lead to an unbalanced love that can result in failed relationships.  Anytime that romantic love is stronger than friendship love, the foundation for the relationship is smaller than what is built on it and it is in danger of toppling.

            Physical love may be the easiest love to understand.  When people are physically intimate at all they become bonded and feel some physical love.  People love the way physical touch makes them feel.  When someone says they love someone when their physical relationship is far beyond the friendship love, what they are really saying is "I love how the way we touch each other makes me feel."

            Another kind of love is agape love, which is commitment love.  It means loving the other person no matter how we feel toward them.  Loving the other person can be described as doing what is best for the other person.  To do what is best for them we need to know them very well.  It doesn't mean always doing whatever they ask or always being there for them whenever they want us there.  Many times what is best for the other person is to let them deal with their problems without outside help so they can grow.  However, if we are going to withhold meeting the needs of someone close to us, we need to be absolutely sure that it is for their best.  The other aspect of loving a person is to love them the way that they receive love.  One person may show and receive love by serving others, and another by gift giving or communication or touch.  Most of the time people give and receive love in more than one way.  In order to really love the other person we need to know them well enough to know what way they receive love and to love them in that way, not in the way we want to receive love.  It is clear that this type of love is a love of choice, not a love of feeling.

    The foundation of a relationship is commitment love.  The only way we are able to truly love another person is to have first experienced God's love.

1 John 4:10   This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

The more we receive God's love, the more we are able to pass it on to others.

            Selfish "love" is a type of love that is not comfortable for us to look at.  We are all selfish to some degree.  We love people sometimes for what they do for us; for the way they make us feel.  It takes honesty and discernment to determine whether we love others with a selfish love or if they love us that way.  We might ask, "Why do you love me?"  Answers like, "I love the way you make me feel or I love the way I feel when we are out in public because you are beautiful." can be a selfish type of love.  There is nothing wrong with having those feelings.  However if this is the predominate type of love in a relationship, it probably wonít be enough to hold a relationship together.  The love we really want from someone is one where they love who we are and they love us enough to want the best for us even if it means personal sacrifice for them.  In other words, they would be able and willing to set aside their personal agenda or needs to do what is best for us.  The more needy a person is, the more they will love us for what we can do for them and the less they will be able to make choices that consider the needs of both people in the relationship. 

            The kind of pure love we want from someone is a love that is not dependent on need.  If someone needs us then they don't want us for who we are; they need us for what we do for them.  If someone loves us because we meet their needs, what will then happen if they grow to the point that they aren't as needy?  What will happen if we are unable or unwilling to meet their needs in future years? 

            So when we tell someone that we love him or her, what are we saying?  When they tell us that they love us, what are they saying?  I love your looks?  I love your mind?  I love the way being with you makes me feel?  I love you as a close friend?  I have feelings beyond friendship for you?  I know you deeply and I am committed to showing love to you no matter how I feel?  Being around you turns me on, and I would love to be physical with you?  I love qualities of God that I see in your life?  I am needy, and I love the way you meet my inner needs?  I love the way you take away my childhood pain?  I love the way you really understand me?  I love the way I can really be myself around you?  I love the way God made you to be a soul mate for me?  I've gotten to know you deeply, seen the good and the bad, and I love the way you are?  I know you and I am committed to doing what is best for you?  You are my close friend and I have feelings for you that go beyond friendship. I love you?              

            What kind of "I love you" do you want to hear from the person you will be married to?  What does "I love you" mean when you say it; when you hear it?  You need to talk with the person you are with and find out what they mean.  The two of you might have totally different definitions for "I love you."

           

SPOKES OF A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP

            Bonds in a relationship are formed in different ways.  These can be visualized as spokes in a wheel.  A friendship or short term romantic relationship can do very well with this particular wheel being unbalanced, but a lifetime relationship requires the strength of all the spokes.  The spokes are spiritual intimacy, intellectual intimacy, emotional intimacy, physical intimacy, intimacy in knowing each other, and intimacy in lifestyles.

            Wisdom and discernment is required before growing in emotional, intellectual and physical intimacy with someone.  Sharing facts about our lives with someone who will betray confidence or use it in the future against us would be unwise.  Likewise sharing deep feelings with an untrustworthy person would be unwise.  If we are discerning about peoples' trustworthiness we can begin to share quickly.  If not, it is best to move forward cautiously.  Growing physically is quite easy.  However, forming a physical bond before the other spokes are strong will keep the other spokes from forming as quickly and as strong as they otherwise would. 

            These spokes are all tied together.  For example, one would have a hard time reaching deep emotional intimacy without some degree of intellectual intimacy.  It would also seem impossible for two people to have like dreams for their future if their relationship with God was vastly different.  Much of the growth in the spokes happens during the marriage.  For example there may not be an intimacy in ways of making decisions.  One person may be predominately a thinker and the other person a feeler.  This will cause conflict many times.  At the same time it is good as it provides balance in the marriage.  Both people must learn to understand the other, listen well to the others viewpoint, and hopefully both grow a little more balanced in their personal decision-making style.  There may also be differences in how they spend money or how they balance work, playtime and serving others.  As long as these differences are not severe and the other spokes are strong, they can, although not without conflict, cause balance and growth in both the individuals and the marriage.

 

Spiritual Intimacy

            Spiritual intimacy is close relationship with God.  The best description of a good relationship with God is how much we love Jesus.

Matthew 22:36-37   "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'

  As with the parable of the sower, it takes time getting to know someone and observing how they live their lives both in good and bad times to get an understanding of their love for God.  One needs to see how a person reacts to the difficulties of life

Matthew 13:18-23   "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.  The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time.  When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.  The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.  But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."

Jesus asked us to deny ourselves.  If we are unable to deny ourselves for him, how can we deny ourselves to serve our spouses?

Matthew 16:24-27   Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.

A test of our love is whether we are willing to give up what God asks us to on this earth to receive that which will last forever.

Luke 14:33   In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

    A person is a fool not to give up what he cannot hold on to to receive that which he cannot lose.  The part of us that is attached to this earth is the wood, hay and straw in our lives, which needs to be burned up for us to be pure children of God.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15   If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.   If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

    This does not just happen on the when we die, it happens throughout our lives.  This is a process that will not be fulfilled until we are in heaven. 

                When we love Jesus we will trust Him.  A full trust in Jesus is being able to say fully meaning it, "Not my will but yours be done in my life.  Lord, have your way with me."  If we can say this knowing that this could include anything we care for on this earth then we truly trust God.  Trust in God is also a process.  As we see His faithfulness in our life and meditate on His love, we learn to trust Him more.  We never fully arrive.

            When two individuals trust God for their lives, then they will see difficulties in their marriage as opportunities to grow and trust God further.  They will understand the mind of God rather than see difficulties as a source of deterioration of the relationship.  They will understand that they have a common foe, the devil, who wants to destroy their marriage.  The commitment made to God should be much stronger than the bond made because of other types of intimacy in the relationship.  Marriage can be so difficult at times that it is only the commitment to God that will cause it to endure.  If someone is unwilling or unable to be committed to God who is all loving and has shown the full extent of his love, how can they be committed to another person who will fail them at times?  Other than God's promises to us, why should we stay in a marriage that at times seems doomed to pain?  When we arenít committed for life, we donít give it our all to make the marriage work.  Many times it takes our all to make the marriage work.  When things are difficult in the marriage we can rest on Godís promises.  God promises us his unfailing love.

Hebrews 13:5b God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

God will do the work in us as we submit to him.  If both people submit to God, he will help them grow past their problems with each other.

Philippians 1:6   being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

                We need to be committed to the Lord, to growing in him and to obedience to him.  He hates divorce.  We need to hate it also.  An example many times given in describing marriages is a triangle with God at the top and each person on the sides.  As each looks to and draws closer to God, they draw closer to each other.  

            A reason that strength in this spoke is crucial is that even if we were able to fully know another person, we will all change and grow.  No matter how "emotionally healthy" we are, none of us has arrived.  No matter how spiritually mature we are, we are a needy people.  Everything could be absolutely perfect at the onset of the marriage but for the purpose of our growth in character and trust in God, He allows us and our mates to change.  If we are not committed to the relationship and our own growth because of our commitment to God, the relationship can fail.  Look at yourself and your partner.  Is there real growth?  Is God working in your lives?   If not, what makes you think that will change after marriage?  God created marriage in the beginning.  He has to be at the center of it.

James 4:7-8a   Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.

Intellectual intimacy

            This is attained through good communication.  It is attained through talking with each other about what is important to each person.  We communicate on different levels of intelligence and with different styles.  Since we would normally be attracted to someone who would fill in the parts of us that are missing or weak, they will be different than we are in some ways.  Deep intimacy in communication provides the bridge between different viewpoints and personality types.  This type of intimacy requires trust.  As we reach deeper into each otherís minds and hearts through words, we have to trust the other person with intimate information.  When we share facts, fears and frailties, we need to trust that the other person will accept us for who we are.  This is most difficult in a budding relationship.

Growth in intellectual intimacy can be blocked if a physical bond has been formed too quickly.  It also can if the relationship is based on insecurities or there is discontentment without having a romantic relationship.  In those cases it is extra painful to let the relationship end if we sense strong incompatibility.  If we say something that may scare the other person or cause the other person to find out that perhaps intimacy in dreams or lifestyles in the relationship is not compatible, the romantic relationship could end.  Therefore we hold back sharing fully and the relationship is stunted because the two people don't really get to know each other.  In fact we may not know some of the most important information about each other.  This is an excellent reason to start off with a good friendship.  We find out if we are compatible before other bonds form that stop our growth intellectually.  Also, friendships don't normally end just because people are not compatible for marriage.  The healthier the person is, the more they trust God for their future, the better the commitment to not become physical until other spokes are in place, and the better the ability is to communicate, the greater the intellectual intimacy will be.  

 

Emotional intimacy

            At the core of emotional intimacy is trust.  We need good self esteem and trust in God before we are able to trust others.  People we trust will betray us and let us down at times.  We have to be able to trust that God will take care of us even when disappointment happens or we will not be able to trust others.  The more emotionally healthy the persons involved are the more they will be able to share deeply.  Deep emotional intimacy is the sharing of personal feelings and feelings about the other person.  Again this is difficult.  What if early on, we share something we like about the other person or that we really like the other person?  They may see us as pursuing too much and back off.  With good communication and strong intellectual intimacy, the couples' feelings for each other will normally be close to the same intensity.  Even when one persons feelings are stronger than the others, when it is communicated how each feel, it would seem that the others lack of reciprocal like feelings at that time would at least be a help to keep the ones feelings from intensifying too early.  People have to be able to accept that their feelings for each other will change at times and it is normal for one person to have stronger feelings than the other does.  This may switch back and forth many times during the relationship.  It would be great to accept this from the onset and not be insecure if our feelings are stronger or threatened if the other personís feelings are.

            Sharing our deepest fears, our likes, our dislikes, the things in our lives that excite us, and those things that we are repulsed by, all help us to get to know the other person deeply.  The older we are, the more set we will be in our ways and we need to know where each other stand.  We need time to process the differences in each other and to consider what we are willing to compromise on and what we are not if we were married.

 

Intimacy in lifestyles

            There are many sub topics including intimacy in money management, discipline of children, leisure activities, work ethic, energy level, how we serve others, religious beliefs, dreams for the future and many others.  Differences in some of these areas are issues that we need to consider how we may compromise and perhaps grow into greater balance ourselves.  However other areas, or extreme differences may be a sign of incompatibility.  We need to talk to each other and ask questions about these areas and observe the other person to find out how compatible we are in these areas.  

 

Intimacy in knowing each other

            I've heard that 80% of what we do, we do subconsciously, in other words, without conscious thought.  This means that through intellectual intimacy, no matter how deep it is, we may only know 20% of a person.  We pick up more by noticing what they spend their time talking about, and with what intensity they speak on certain subjects.  We notice these things subconsciously even if we don't take note of them.  That may be evidenced by what kinds of feelings we have after deep communication with another person.  As someone shares deeply in emotional intimacy, we also learn much about that person.  We surely learn how much they can trust others.

            There is another aspect of getting to know each other.  Our upbringing as children by our caregivers greatly affects us as adults.  We are many times unaware of our habits, idiosyncrasies, patterns and reactions.  We many times see many of our ďdysfunctionalĒ behaviors as healthy and might not even consider sharing them in deep intellectual and emotional intimacy.  It takes time to get to know these kids of things about each other.  How do our prospective mates handle anger, conflict, criticism, not getting their way, rejection and disappointments?  How self disciplined or self-controlled are they?  How selfish are they?  How committed are they?  How do they resolve conflict?  Resolved conflict strengthens a relationship.  Until we have had conflict with someone and resolve it we do not know if the relationship would endure that level of conflict.  How do they get along with their families?  How do they make decisions?  Do they have integrity?  Integrity is being honest; making decisions based on committed love to others and God and not on personal will or feelings.  How needy is the other person for a relationship?  How do they treat those they like?  How do they treat others that they do not like?  Sometime during marriage they may not like you!

            It is easier but important to find out if someone likes enough of the same type of activities to visualize long-term compatibility.    There are probably a few qualities that you will not compromise on in a mate.  These may be things like being a Christian, financial stability or wanting children.  Each person has their own list, either specific or just something that they know inside.

            Testing done by counselors can be an excellent tool in helping to determine compatibility.  There are different personalities and personality traits that tend to be more compatible than others are.  Research in that area can prove fruitful.

 

Physical intimacy

            This is many times the easiest bond to make between two people.  People can have sex immediately after meeting if they choose and some do.  For most people kissing on the lips is a sign of a monogamous relationship.  Anything beyond that further solidifies the relationship.  If the people have a physical bond through physical intimacy, they don't want to break that bond.  It feels good.  The more intimate and more often the physical touch, the more the bonding.  It is best if the physical relationship is kept at a less intense level than the other spokes.  An intimate physical relationship holds people together even when the other spokes aren't strong enough to sustain a long-term healthy relationship.  In other words, a very unhealthy relationship that will not endure the long term will continue in the short term just because of the physical bond.  The closest of physical bonding is clearly intended for marriage.  

            So when is it good to kiss?  I will speak to those who see kissing as a commitment to a monogamous relationship that is potentially heading toward marriage.  I think that people need to know enough about each other to think and feel strongly that this is someone they could be married to.  Entering into a physical relationship is like entering into the other personís room.  We need to make sure that the door is open wide; that there is plenty of light (vulnerability), that we can see most everything and feel comfortable entering in before doing so.  Once we enter, it is like coming in out of the cold.  Who wants to leave?

            What do we need to know before entering that room?  Look again at intimacy in lifestyles and intimacy in knowing one another.  How many of the things that are important to you do you want to know the answers to before you become bonded in the physical realm?

            The other thing to realize about kissing for those who have had sex in prior relationships is that in previous relationships kissing many times led to sex.  It is a pathway that has been established in our minds.  We are so much creatures of habit that one can lead to the other.  We need to have boundaries that we mutually agree not to cross.  Many of us are passionate people.  Most of our poor choices about being physical with someone were probably in a moment of passion.  We will be much more likely to "like ourselves in the morning" when we choose ahead of time what our physical boundaries are and stick with them.

 

Staying Non-Sexual

            So how to we exercise self-control.  If having boundaries for physical touch doesnít work, then we need to stay away from any situation where we could have sex.  We need to stay out of houses when we are alone with the other person.  We need to limit our activities to places where enjoying some physical intimacy would be acceptable but having sex would be difficult.  An advantage in doing so is that we are retraining our minds and bodies to enjoy a level of physical intimacy without that level of intimacy leading to sex. 

            It will take self-control and staying out of situations that it is easy to be physical in to be able to put off sex until you choose to.  Don't plan on it being easy at the beginning.  Once you wait to kiss and choose to talk instead, you may very well see some red flags that you might not otherwise have seen.  Your friendship will have a good chance of enduring.  Waiting to be physical in the next relationship will then be much easier as you realize how much of the pain of breaking up you saved both yourself and your friend.

            It is clear that the bible forbids sex outside of the marriage relationship.  God doesn't make rules to keep us from having fun.  He gives us guidelines to a full life.  There are reasons not to have sex outside of marriage.  First our love for Jesus should be greater than our desire for immediate physical gratification.  Can we really be that self-indulgent while we are picturing our Savior hanging on the cross?  He's created for us the gift of sex.  He just asks us to wait.  When we willfully sin, feeling that God will forgive us, we have lost sight of the truth of scripture.

Romans 6:15-16   What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 

What a man sows, he will reap.  King David gave in to pleasure, committed adultery, and killed an honorable man.  Surely God forgave David who was a man after God's own heart.  He suffered however over the death of his son.  His failure has been entered into the Word of God.  Forgiveness is from God but we may reap serious consequences for the rest of our lives should we choose pleasure outside of God's plan.  Sexual sin is sin against one's own body.

I Corinthians 6:18-20   Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Secondly, we should want to save sexual intercourse for our spouse when we get married.  It is like offering a special gift to each other.  If we are so sure that we are going to marry the person we want to have sex with, why not immediately get married?  What happens so many times especially to women, is that they give in to the man who, after he has sex with them, has conquered them and loses respect for them and leaves them some time thereafter.  Or else he stays and even though they see things later on that would seriously concern them for marriage, they are too bonded to walk away.  The person who is considering having sex with their Christian friend has to consider that they would be defiling a child of God.  Their body is not their own.  It belongs to Jesus.  They are considering entering into a sexual act with a body that belongs to Jesus.

            We have not even looked at the other consequences like disease and pregnancy.  It may be fear of these that keep us from sin.  It may be fear of these that is our way out of temptation described in the Bible.

1 Corinthians 10:13   No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

            It is disturbing to hear from Christian women how their "Christian dates" attempt to be immediately physical with them.  Some "Christian" men try to kiss them or touch them inappropriately even on the first date.  Christian women who experience men who treat them this way can be happy to find out early that their date doesn't know how to exercise self control!  It may be a difficult experience but at least they found out early.  Self-control or the lack thereof usually pervades a personís lifestyle.  It is a fruit of the Spirit!  If someone canít control himself or herself sexually, do you really think that they will have self-control in other areas of their lives?  Is this the type of person you want to marry?  Is this the type of person you want to be? 

1 Thessalonians 5:5-6   You are all sons of the light and sons of the day.  We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.  So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.

Men who are this way need to find a different outlet for their physical desires than to use the body of their sister in Christ.  There are men out there who have respect for women and respect that their bodies belong to Jesus.  Something valuable is worth looking for and worth waiting for.

            It is also disturbing to find how many Christianís have sex outside of marriage. This happens many times during the first couple of weeks or months of a relationship.  Of those who I have talked to over 30 years old who have been in a relationship that has lasted at least 2 months, less that 10% have not had intercourse several times with their boyfriend/girlfriend.  Sex bonds people who donít know each other well.  People can justify that they feel in love.  That feeling doesnít make a marriage work.  If it did, there would be few marriage failures because few people get married who donít feel in love.  Sex is such a strong part of our lives that it can and normally does become the primary focus of the relationship.  Most newlyweds will say that sex is the thing that they think about the most.  I canít imagine choosing to talk and get to know someone better if I have a choice of spending the same time being sexual.

            Some people feel that they need to try on the shoe so to speak before buying it.  Having sex is only one way to try on a shoe.  Building a healthy relationship and walking it out is how the shoe is really tried on.  Premature sex can actually keep that relationship from being tried on.  Also, how many people will one have to try to have sex with before knowing that they have found the best?  Couldnít one always wonder if there was someone better out there?  What if the person that is best for us in every other way was not the best lover we came across but only adequate?  Would we be comparing for our entire marriage?  The sex act is a love act.  In its fullness, it is meant for those who love each other with their souls, minds and hearts.  Making love can never be compared to having sex with someone that we are not committed to.  If we are committed then we should marry them.  We can find out much about mutual desires for sex by talking with one another.  People who have been married know what they like and what they donít.  Much mutual compatibility can be assessed through communication with words rather than experimentation.

            Being sexual severely reduces our ability to discern whether a person is best for us.   It stunts the growth of the friendship part of the relationship, which is at the essence of marriage.  It weakens the spiritual bond (which is also at the essence of marriage) because we wouldnít be walking with the Lord while we are continuously having premaritial sex.  It takes our focus off of relational growth in other areas.  It bonds us prematurely to someone we donít know enough yet.  It takes away time that could be used to get to know one another better.  Why do it then?  Is it not for our immediate gratification?  Why wait?  It could mean the difference of marrying the right person or not.  It also is not Godís plan for our life.  What more reason do we need?

 

Moving backward after being sexual

Because of the high percentages of those who are having sex outside of marriage, a question that has been raised is, ďWhat should I do now that I have had intercourse with my boyfriend/ girlfriend?  First, biblically we need to confess.

1 John 1:9   If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

There may be consequences to our actions. 

Galatians 6:7-8   Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.   The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

We must repent which means turn from our sinful ways. 

1 John 3:6   No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

We are not under condemnation for our past sin.  1 John 1:9 makes that clear as does the following:

 

Romans 8:1   Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Now letís get practical.  We are creatures of habit that were created for intimacy with one another.  We have hormones.  We have needs.  What then will we do when we have crossed the line?  We need to find out at what point the line got crossed.  Letís look at the road to sin.

James 1:13-15   When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.   Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

There is no sin in the temptation.  At what point did our desires get so strong that we were dragged away and enticed?  First one or both people need to make a decision not to have sex in the future.  If nothing else seems to help, remember that our bodies belong to Jesus.

Letís consider that we are married and our spouse cheats on us.  If they repent, really feel sorry and promise never to again, we may forgive them and continue on in the marriage.  But what if one week later we caught them again?  Did they repent?  Do we have restored trust?  Why should Jesus expect less out of us?  There are many suggestions above about how to avoid being sexual.  Once the line is crossed, we need to see at what point we crossed it.  For everyone, this will be different.  Most people would agree that it is next to impossible to keep from having sex when naked in bed together.  By the time the clothes are off, it is too late.   For some people, a boundary of keeping their clothes on can be set and is sufficient.  Others will find that they are weak when then are in a house alone, or when they kiss passionately, or when they lay down together.  The key is that one looks at what preceded the sexual act and back up at least one step.  Talk about it with your partner.  Is backing up one step enough?  Do we need to back up two, three or more steps?  Whatever it takes, a boundary needs to be set and stuck with.  Can we move back physically?  If we are sinning, is there a choice? 

Romans 6:14-17   For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!  Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obeyówhether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.

 

HOW CAN WE SLOW THINGS DOWN?

            In the physical realm we can establish boundaries that we discuss ahead of time and agree not to cross.  It may mean saying that we won't kiss someone until we have known him or her a certain amount of time or know enough about him or her.  Biblically it would mean abstaining from sex before marriage.

            In the emotional realm, we can avoid too much of romantic settings, or perhaps avoid things like staring quietly into the others eyes early on in the relationship.  We can check our feelings in a number of ways.  The following will be much easier for the thinker personalities than the feelers but can work for both.  First, we can realize that many of the qualities that we love in the other person are really qualities of God.  We can praise God for His gentleness, His care, His kindness, His always being there for us, His unconditional love, His gentle touch in our lives, and many other attributes that are His.  We can praise Him that He is the essence of those attributes in measures beyond our comprehension.    He is the author of everything good that we see in others.

James 1:17   Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

 

When we give the praise due to God for his attributes that we see in another person, we may find that the feelings that we have for the other person is in balance.  This will not keep us from liking or loving someone but it will put into proper perspective our true feelings.  We can have a deep respect and love for someone who reflects Christ.  God should get the glory for His attributes that shine through man.   In this case, if the relationship should fail, there has been built a deep bond with the living God who fails no person!  The depth of pain can be excruciating when one feels abandoned not only by a human but also by that which they loved of God in that person.  This can happen when we in a sense worship the person we are attracted to when it is really Jesus in them that we love.  If they leave us, we can feel that God has left us because in a sense we allowed that person to be God for us.

            We can also slow things down by waking ourselves up to the truth.  Saying out loud to ourselves things like, "I don't really know this person yet!  If I were married to them, this quality or that habit might really drive me nuts.  I don't know what they are like when they... (Look at the list under Intimacy in Knowing Each Other)Ē This reality check can be very helpful in pouring a little water on a hayfire that is getting out of control. 

 

Why do people get into unfulfilling relationships?

They are insecure that they will ever find someone who will love them.   They are drawn to the first person that gives them attention and physical touch.  It can almost be intoxicating.  Their fears of finding someone else or of rejection keep them from growing much on any of the spokes except the physical.  They need to hold on because it is too painful for the relationship to end.  The loneliness before the relationship was painful.  The rejection now and the withdrawal from the enjoyment of the relationship would be even more painful than before knowing the person.

They enter into the physical bond too quickly.  The physical bond is strong and physical touch feels so good, who would want to stop?  Growth in the other areas in dwarfed when someone enters into a physical relationship too quickly.  Practically, most people would rather kiss and caress than talk!  If you only have a limited amount of time together, how are you going to use it if you have a physical relationship?  The fear of losing the physical relationship keeps one from sharing deeply in the other areas and blinds us to warnings when we learn something disturbing.  We rationalize that we could make it work if we were married to them.  After all we love them deeply or so we feel after being physically intimate.

They believe the other person would change if they were married.  Here are some thoughts people have.  "Once they fully experience my love, they would change for me.  With what I can offer them, they wouldn't watch so much sports or wouldn't shop so much.  I can help them be disciplined and lose weight, spend less money...Ē I recently heard that you don't marry someone for their potential; you marry them for their achieved potential.  Consider how hard it is to change things in yourself.  How can you expect to change other people?  A possible exception to this would be if you saw a continuous long-term pattern of the person admitting shortfalls and growing.  You could project that that person will grow in their life to be more whole and mature.  It just may not be exactly how you expected it!

They hold the belief that the other person will make him or her happy.  That type of selfish love most of the time leads to failure.  One should rather have the goal of being an agent of fulfillment in the other persons life.

They have a need to take care of another person.  This is many times true of the people pleaser type.  They need to make others happy for them to feel good about themselves.  A healthy relationship would have each person wanting to make the other happy but understanding that they are not responsible for the other personís feelings.  The point is that you can't make anyone happy nor can anyone make you happy.  Happiness comes from within.  No one is happy all the time.  Our joy and inner peace are the fruit of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and are not dependent on circumstances or people.

            They have unrealistic expectations:  This is one of the most common reasons for marital failure.           Many people view their upcoming marriage as one of unending bliss.  They do not anticipate times of sickness, their mates changing over time, conflict and other hardships.  Long terms studies of marriages have found that while healthy conflict resolution is important, it is more important yet for people to accept that their mates will not be just as they would like and accept them and make the best of things.  It is difficult to have realistic expectations of marriage.  Romance novels don't help.  Fantasizing about the future with someone without including how his or her negative or different traits could affect that future can affect our view.  Few of our married friends will share with us their deepest pain with their spouses, as it may be even inappropriate to do so.  We many times see only the seemingly happy facade of their relationships.  We also naturally when we see others problems, feel that we could do better in our own relationships.  While it is good to hope and be optimistic about the future we need to know that we can't make a relationship better by ourselves.  We can only improve ourselves and hope that our mate will improve as well.  How many people really enter into marriage for better or for worse?  Do they visualize what the worst may mean and have a commitment love that will endure through that worst?  Do we have habits in our own lives to accept the things we cannot change and make the best of what is given us?  Do our prospective mates have the same focus?  If both people can strive for the best while accepting and making the best of whatever happens, then there is an excellent chance of a satisfying relationship.  They key here is a spiritual one.  Accept all that comes our way as being directly from or filtered by our loving God.  When there are difficulties, we need to believe that God has allowed them for our ultimate good.  We need to look to God as to how He wants us to grow through the difficulty rather than fight with the messenger of the difficulty.

 

Not being real.

The more complete the communication is between a couple the better foundation is laid for a healthy marriage.  Be yourself from the beginning.  Reveal yourself to people slowly as they earn your trust.  Have peace that if this person is right for you that when you are yourself and they are themselves that you will be mutually attracted to one another.  If you have to put on an act to attract and keep the other person during courtship, how will it work during marriage?  Will you continue to put on the false front?  For how long will you put it on?  You may think you want or need to be with someone so bad that you have to in fact fool them into marrying you and it will all work out later.  With the right person it will work out now if you are yourself!

            We are all going to some degree put on some kind of false front when we are around others.  We dress better out in public and have our hair done better than when we are alone at our homes.  This is normal.  However acting like we are something that we are not is putting on a false front that will hurt our relationships.

Shallow communication.            Many people have not been honest with their prospective mates about everything that is important.  The marriage is entered into with a false view of each other.

Poor conflict resolution skills.  Good conflict resolution requires good emotional health and also good training.  The more emotionally whole we are, the less defensive we will be.  Training can help us know how to fight fair and resolve the conflict as well as possible.

Other problems.           Large differences in age, while not an issue when we are younger can cause incompatibility when older.  A healthy 40-year-old man may very well be able to keep up with a woman of 25, but when he is 55 and she is 40 it may look very different.  Men on the average die 7 years before women.  A 15-year difference in age would on the average be 22 years difference in their health.  A woman at 55 will be married to a man whoís relative health would put him at 77!

            Different economic status is also an issue.  If the marriage is entered into and there is a substantial difference in the earning power or financial net worth of the people, there can be underlying control issues that will need to be addressed.

            A long-term study has found eye rolling, criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling to be huge warning signs of future collapse of a relationship.  We need to look at how these behaviors play in our relationship prior to marriage.

 

Not Trusting God causes us unnecessary pain

            We need to trust God for each day in our relationship with others, considering our possible future but leaving it in his hands.  He is God.  The future is in his hands.  We can hope but we can't control how a relationship is going to go.  It is so easy to get to know someone and think and feel that this is the one.  That is natural.  However it can be unhealthy if you fantasize about how things are going to work out.  The fantasy will normally be much better than the reality.  If much time is spent fantasizing or daydreaming about the potential future and the relationship doesn't work out, the pain can go far beyond what was necessary for the depth the relationship had.

            This is difficult for most of us.  We want a marriage partner and it is normal to consider how someone we like or love could fit into that role.  That in itself can be healthy as we learn about what is important to us.  It can be very unhealthy however when we project our view of a person that we don't fully know into a future that we want to have with someone someday.  We cease to be able to enjoy the relationship for what it is and instead live for what we want it to become.  The more intense we do this the more we will overlook anything that would be revealed to us that might work out negatively.  We don't want our dream to die.  Our dream is better than reality.  It is beautiful, pleasing and fulfilling.  The problem is that it is just a dream.  We need to wake up, hear the Lord's voice, trust in Him from day to day because we don't know the future.  God's Word is clear that we don't know what will happen tomorrow.  We want to hold on to a relationship that has the potential for marriage.  The fact is that we can't hold on to anything.  We can't hold on to our spouse if we do get married!  We can't hold on to them not changing or us not changing!  We can't hold on to our health.  All we can hold on to is Jesus.  He tells us to seek first His Kingdom

Matthew 6:33   But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

and that He has promised to meet all of our needs.

Philippians 4:19   And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Can we trust Him?  Scripture is clear that when people are married some of their energy is going to be spent on each other and not just on God.

1 Corinthians 7:32-34   I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs--how he can please the Lord.  But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world--how he can please his wife--and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world--how she can please her husband.

Where should our devotion be then while we are single yet interested in someone?  If God has gifted us with someone who loves us and who we love, then how are we to respond to Him?  How infatuated should we get with someone?  The answers to these questions will be different for everyone as God gives grace.  However it is clear that we need to love God first.  God is a jealous God.  If we want our relationship to last, then we best not put God second or He may very well out of love for us allow that relationship to fail.  If we want to have a fulfilling marriage with someone, we need to put God first.