“Because the Bible says so” isn’t a credible answer to everyone—I get that. Many have grown to distrust the inspiration of the Bible, which makes citing its texts for direction on controversial cultural standards about as smart as reading Genesis 1 as your foundational argument to an atheist for God’s existence.
Even for those who believe it was inspired by God, many argue that much of it is irrelevant now—written for a different culture and a society that was sincerely behind the times. With a progressive culture and absolute game-changers like the Internet and cell phones, we have a brand new context and more realistic values. It’s just different now, right?
Where’s the logic in not sleeping with the girl I like before we get married? Why wouldn’t we live together before we take that step?
Knowing our culture and how living and sleeping together before marriage, in particular, have been labeled as not just accepted, but even beneficial, I’m guessing you’re reading this with the preconceived idea that what I’m about to say is bogus. I would just ask that you try to be as honest with yourself as you can. Don’t throw these ideas out the window simply because self-control, a bit of delayed gratification, and an extra apartment lease are inconvenient. I would hope a healthy, decades-long marriage would be worth those things, and more, to you. If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that a healthy marriage doesn’t just happen as the natural result of two hormonal young adults being set loose to do as they please on each other. That’s a train wreck waiting to happen. A healthy relationship, rather, is an intentional effort that takes a specific mindset and protected circumstances. That’s a long way of saying that it takes an insane amount of effort and work.
Listen, I know the arguments for why a “test drive” supposedly makes more sense–all of them. I used to give them to defend and explain my own sexual relationships. The irony is that while I was defending that lifestyle, I had a growing list of painfully-failed relationships and sexual baggage. I was so in love with sex that the idiocrity of my lifestyle didn’t become clear until well-after I submitted my life to Christ, when I finally committed to just trying it a different way–after still more failed relationships and sexual baggage.
I understand many will not even reach this paragraph—and thank you to those who have. Many are unwilling to read logical arguments for why what they’re doing, though pleasurable, is actually hurting them. Either they already know it and are desperately trying to ignore what they feel God is asking them to do, or they don’t see the need to change and aren’t interested in opening the door to any possible guilty feelings by reading a Biblical, research-based article by a guy who understands how they think. Maybe they haven’t experienced enough dysfunction yet to realize their convenience-focused plan of doing “whatever they want, whenever they want” doesn’t really work that well when another person’s heart and equally-selfish nature are involved. I obviously can’t do anything about either except what I’m doing now by publishing these ideas to be forever-waiting in case their minds begin to wonder if there’s something better. There most definitely is, but it requires a bit more work than they’re used to, along with putting their trust in something much larger than hormones and “true love.”
If you already disagree with me and are reading only to form a better argument against me, I simply hope you will truly consider the value of these benefits. Honestly decide if there is a more logical way to include them in the one relationship that matters most to you. I welcome your counterpoints and questions, and will be happy to respond to them. Just remember that an animal that’s been abused all its life doesn’t know it’s being abused, and the non-abusive, truly loving way seems strange and even horrifying at first. Just because you’ve gone your whole life approaching relationships with sex as one of your first goals doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way. If you just give it a try, you might be surprised at how much pain and fear you’ve accepted as “normal” when you never had to.
And with that, here are four practical reasons why I logically trust that waiting until after marriage to live and sleep together is actually the smarter choice for a couple who wants a healthy relationship:
No relationship can survive without it. And yet most couples hardly give themselves any chance at all.Consider this not-so-hypothetical example: From the moment most couples meet, they’re like rabbits. Eventually they get married. But what security does it give her when the only version of him she knows is the one who does whatever he feels like doing with a girl he finds attractive? Pretty girls don’t just disappear when we get into a relationship, you know. And she sees them too. Wouldn’t it help her relax and enjoy the relationship more if she has seen and has confidence that he knows how to keep it in his pants? Situations are going to come up where she’s going to have to show trust. A truly protective and loving husband would make that decision as easy as possible for her.
The same is true vice versa. Wouldn’t it be great for a man to have witnessed his wife’s self-control, and know that she won’t give into her impulses whenever some arrogant home-wrecker comes along? Those guys are most definitely out there. Every guy wants to punch them in the face when we recognize them.
Think of it like a drug addict. Who is easier to trust: an addict who’s been clean for two years, or one who had just taken the needle out of his arm when you met, but promises to stop giving into his impulses now that you’re together? Trust is important, and it’s not 100 percent on the other person’s shoulders to pull it out of thin air and ignore the evidence he or she has seen. We should help each other out by showing our trustworthy characteristics. This will make our relationships a healthier, more confident, and ultimately much more fun experience.
Here’s a special warning to the guys: it takes some extra self-control to stick to this. Men who have self-control tend to be far more attractive and enticing to women who think it sounds admirable but actually haven’t practiced self-control themselves. But rest assured that a woman who throws herself at you because she admires your strength is also a woman who is likely just as enthralled at seducing a married man. She simply wants what she can’t have, which means you have a whole pile of trouble once you’ve married her. It’s important that both of you agree and commit to this principle, helping each other for the sake of your relationship.
- True compatibility
The classic excuse that living and sleeping together before marriage is necessary in order to find out whether you’re truly compatible or not is a big fat lie. Let me give you the spoiler to your little test: you’re not nearly as compatible as you hoped. You know how I know that? You’re both human and you’re both flawed. You’re going to have a learning curve for each other in the beginning no matter what. Anyone who isn’t expecting that is doomed. And why can’t you just get it out of the way before you get married? Because in 20 years, you are both going to be completely different people than you were the day you met, and changing still, meaning all your important “research” from before you married will mean absolutely nothing. If anything, the fact that you’ve each changed will only be used as a reason for why it’s over. Just like it was an excuse to live together, it’ll be an excuse to leave.
Relationships are a worldview, not a lottery ticket. They take work, not luck. In a healthy relationship, you have to accept and strive to never stop learning about each other as circumstances and life stages pass by. Habits can be made, broken, and remade. That’s just life. And the important characteristics to a great marriage are actually revealed and built outside the bedroom and without a shared lease.The purpose of your dating relationship isn’t to go wild on each other and hope it works out. It’s your chance to observe each other’s basic character, values, maturity, and most importantly, faith. Those things reveal who someone is at their core and allow you to truly consider whether you want to spend your life with that person. The rest of it comes with the understanding and trust that you’re each going to continue changing, but that you’ll intentionally keep learning and growing alongside each other rather than allowing yourselves to drift apart.Sex is exceptionally deceptive when it comes to compatibility, by the way. The entire purpose of sex is to explore and grow together based on each other’s desires and needs. That takes time, meaning whatever porn star expectations you have on your way back to your place after the second date are unrealistic and honestly, a little ridiculous. Does it really matter if you have mind-blowing sex right out of the gate? I don’t know about you, but knowing what I know now, that’s really more of a concern than a perk for me. Is it supposed to be encouraging that she’s gathered so much practice before meeting you?
Vetting her flexibility, creativity, and noise level may not be one of your excuses to have your way with her as soon as possible, before it “gets too serious.” Maybe you’re not that shallow. Maybe you want to share that deeply intimate time with her right away because you’re absolutely crazy about each other and you just want to show her how much you love her. Go back and re-read the first item in this list on trust. If you really love her, then give her something she knows she can count on.
What’s most important to see, you can see with clothes on. And what’s most important to feel is not your own orgasm. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that sex is a terrible influencer to decision-making. If you’re paying attention to the right things and asking each other the right questions, then you will know if the relationship is a good match. You’ll even know if you’re sexually compatible! Be honest—you’re a man, she’s a woman. I’m sure you’ll figure it out together.
Talking to the right people is always important as well. Your family, each other’s family, trustworthy friends, and spiritual mentors are all people who can provide insight. They might even know you better than you know yourself in some areas. They will be able to see the outside and offer an immensely valuable perspective about how compatible you are for each other.
Sooner or later, the whimsical feelings of just being near each other are going to fade, and then what? What foundation of genuine friendship will you have allowed yourselves to build before that time comes? Imagine two couples who each got married a year after they met each other. The first couple lived and slept together at their whim, because that’s what they naturally felt like doing. The second couple showed some patience and waited until they were married. During their dating relationship, when the first couple became bored, it was usually coupled with clothing being stripped off on their way to the bedroom (if they could wait that long). Meanwhile, when the second couple grew bored or noticed an opportunity for a “quickie” before going their separate ways for the evening, they instead played a game together, took their conversation to a deeper level, or maybe started a project together (other than making a baby).The Results: Ten years later, when the sparks aren’t naturally flying quite as hot for each other, what will each couple be left with? The man and woman who were living and sleeping together right away will each likely be trying to escape each other—relying on outside relationships and separate lives to bring them satisfaction. When it comes down it, they’re strangers—roommates with kids. They never chose anything except what they felt like doing in the moment. Well, now they don’t feel like being together anymore. The concept of choosing friendship is foreign to them and they have a tough hill to climb if they want to make their marriage work.
The second couple, however, could have reverted back to how they operated together at first. From their time before they were married, they amassed a long list of inside jokes and a broad knowledge of each other that offers the last half of their relationship a purpose beyond what their libido allows. Their expectations and love for each other wasn’t an immediate physical foundation, and they learned enough about each other to know how to genuinely enjoy being around each other, even without soiling the sheets. This couple also gives their kids a beautiful, fun view of what marriage should look like in their own lives. It’s an encouraging and optimistic view, which those kids might respect so much that they model the process in their own lives one day.
Notice that neither couple was necessarily Christian. These are purely logical arguments. If the second couple was also Christian (meaning they each enjoyed and pursued a personal relationship with Christ and had a God-centered understanding of who marriage is meant to show love for in the first place), then their marriage would be even stronger and more satisfying. Why? Because they wouldn’t rely solely on the other person to bring them satisfaction. They would know their marriage with each other is only temporary because in heaven, we are married only to God, which underlines for them how critical it is to first receive their personal fulfillment and security from Him rather than each other. After all, their intimacy with each other would be only a reflection of their intimacy with their God, who is their model of love, forgiveness, and sacrifice.
Couples fight with each other. There’s not a whole lot of avoiding that. And just as a child’s natural temperament is formed at an early age, the first stage of a relationship is when a couple learns how to communicate with each other. This crucial stage is when you’re setting the standard for how to resolve conflict, and observing the other person’s response to confrontation and frustration—both extremely important things to know about.When a disagreement starts, a sexually active couple might start to talk it out, but then halfway through reconciliation, they’ll likely end up expressing their remaining frustrations through make-up sex. Then they might wonder why the same issue comes up later on. They will keep trying to work it out, refusing to admit that things just aren’t right. Their minds are too clouded by sex or the inconvenience of finding a new place to live to make a rational decision about what the relationship is really doing to them.
A sexually active couple will stick it out and keep dating for the wrong reasons, tricking themselves into thinking their constant conflict is normal. And then they get married, because that’s the logical next step. There are just enough happy moments to make them think that maybe marriage will make things better. But they haven’t realized that if you take out their moments in the bedroom, they’re already somewhat miserable and incompatible with each other. And all of this is ironically a common result of living and sleeping together as a way to find out how compatible they are with each other.
A couple who is not yet sexually active will either communicate through the issue and come out with a better and more complete understanding of each other, or end the relationship because they recognize that the issue of the argument is a deal breaker. Maybe it was a small, seemingly insignificant issue. They could have easily distracted themselves from it by having sex, taking a shower, and going to sleep. But instead, they talked through it enough to realize that there was a much bigger underlying issue at hand that they knew could eventually destroy the relationship. Most times, whatever the issue is would be something they could intentionally build from and learn from. But if a break-up happens, it’s because their communication skills have recognized at this early stage that their foundational values, maturity, and characteristics aren’t as compatible as they wanted to believe. They’re honest enough to get out now and give each other a chance to find a relationship that sets them up for a better chance of success. And what’s even better, they aren’t walking away from each other with a piece of their hearts ripped out. They chose not to date as if they were already married because they knew their potential break-up would be far more painful if they did.
You can argue that by having sex and living together, you get to know the real person you’re dating, but do you really? Who someone is when they’re “in the mood” is definitely not who they are the other 95 percent of the time. It seems smarter to learn who the 95 percent is before getting distracted by how much you enjoy the remaining five percent. That smaller, private version of someone will only give you excuses for why you should overlook the big red flags or missing character traits (that you’ve always said were must-haves) in their larger, much more public version.
Sex and sloppy living arrangements aren’t what cause divorce–issues of character do. Realistically, you have to admit that sex is one of the main reasons unhealthy relationships keep going when they should have ended after the second date. That alone shows how we’ve perverted its original purpose. Sex is meant to keep a husband and a wife intimate with each other—but only after they’ve stood before God and agreed to always choose each other and work it out as an illustration of His love and commitment to us. Allowing lust and impatience to distort what sex is makes this amazing gift harmfully effective, even inside the beginnings of a dysfunctional relationship. And then strangely enough, sex becomes ineffective later on inside the marriage. By then, that lust and impatience has desensitized and disillusioned us into thinking that sex is for our own pleasure and benefit rather than the relationship as a whole.
I don’t write about this topic out of judgement but rather because I want my friends and the people who are bored enough to read my writing to enjoy healthy relationships—the way they were designed to be. I’ve said before that if you don’t put an IKEA chair together without using the manual, then why would you attempt to construct a healthy marriage without consulting the original design manual?
The examples and commentary in my list just so happen to line up with what the Bible says our lives and relationships should look like. Although texting, Snapchatting, and dating in general is nowhere in the Bible, we can gain a very good perspective of what it would have looked like by injecting universal biblical truth into this thing our instant gratification culture has created. There are plenty of things in our culture that aren’t mentioned in the Bible, but we can still find direction about them by honestly asking what that issue or practice would look like if the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5 was an influential player. We may not love the answer we get, but we will feel a lot better about it in the long run. Besides, anything from God must be infinitely better than what is from ourselves.
By arguing that it’s harmless (or even helpful) to have sex with a boyfriend or girlfriend, you’re essentially saying that it’s okay to continuously collect more sexual partners, and doing so won’t harm your future marriage in any way. Carelessly making your list of sexual partners longer will only give more insecurity to your future spouse (the one that actually matters) to overcome. That sounds pretty selfish and reckless, doesn’t it?
It’s great that you want to marry him or her. As long as you have the right understanding of what marriage is, then go for it! But be honest, how many times have you thought you found your future husband or wife? I’ve legitimately thought that about every girlfriend I’ve ever had. That’s why being engaged isn’t your ticket to sharing a bedroom, either. Engagements break off all the time. You’re honestly not going to know it’s going to work until the two of you meet at that altar.
Sex is meant to represent the beginning of something new and God-honoring. In a Christian sense, it’s supposed to be a celebration of two believers choosing to love and serve Christ together as a team rather than individually. In the Hebrew culture (those “outdated” and “irrelevant” days), sex was the final element of the marriage vows themselves. It sealed the union. In fact, Exodus 22 explains that a man who seduces a virgin into having sex must then take her as his wife. The deed is done. Ironically, that scripture is in a section of Exodus titled “Social Responsibility”—something we like to redefine and avoid any accountability to these days.
Marriage isn’t a self-serving gift card. It’s a selfless commitment to continue learning how to love someone with humility and passion, offering the forgiveness that we ourselves have received. It’s meant to be a reflection of the love that we know God has for the other. The vast majority of couples don’t see it this way—even self-professed Christian marriages. But if we are to love God above all things (the Greatest Commandment), then neither sex nor the person it’s with is exempt from the list of idols.
If you’ve read through this list and you feel that your sexually-active and cohabitating dating relationship has a solid level of trust, compatibility, friendship, and communication, then that is fantastic. I have just two questions:
- Did you two really reach that understanding and confidence in each other as a result of sleeping and living together? Or did those things actually tend to complicate the process?
- Why are you not married? If all of this makes sense to you and you both possess a healthy, selfless understanding of what it takes, what is keeping you from getting married? You may find that the reason you haven’t is indicative of an issue that needs to be worked out. Fear of commitment or feeling the need to give yourself an emergency exit “just in case” are not healthy ways to go about developing a healthy relationship. “Just in case” is a terrible mindset here. Just in case… a prettier girl comes along? Just in case… that other girl gets out of her relationship and gives you a shot? Waiting until they change is just as big of an issue. Be honest. If there’s something holding you back, you should pay attention to that and question whether the relationship is as healthy as you think it is.
One thing that’s important to remember is that our culture’s take on dating and what’s acceptable or not acceptable is a completely new view. It was only a few generations ago when kids were expected to remain at their parents’ houses until they got married. There was no extra rent payment to avoid by moving in together. The invention of the common man’s automobile in 1909 introduced freedoms to young adults that allowed going on private dates to actually become an option. Back then, if you liked someone, you went to their house and spent time with them and their entire families. Even the rise of advanced education had a part in this recent story. Before young people were expected to finish twelve years of school, plus another four of college, there was no pressure to wait to get married until ten or more years after puberty and raging hormones hit. But is that really God’s fault?
All of the “irrelevance” we attribute to God’s Word is the result of our own cultural shifts. Let’s not be mistaken. It isn’t God who has changed. It’s our own values. Sex has been redefined and converted to a marketing ploy and is now available at the touch of a button, in private. As a result, we become disillusioned, entitled, and desensitized to what it actually is. How is that a logical reason why it’s okay to enjoy it out of its originally-intended context and do whatever we feel like doing? Since when has that concept (called hedonism) ever led to a quality product? So why do we expect hedonism in marriage to be any different?
It’s absolute madness that we pursue only our own pleasure and convenience, especially when we say we’re doing it all in the name of wanting to make sure we’re going to have a strong relationship. How does that worldview fit with that life goal? I know plenty of men who are unhappily married to someone they lived and slept with at their whim before the marriage started. What’s strange is to hear some of them use their dissatisfaction as some twisted proof that you have to live together and test things out first. They say “so you don’t end up with a marriage like mine.” But if they don’t want me to have what they have, doesn’t that mean I shouldn’t do what they did it?
Make a list of characteristics that lead to a strong marriage. My guess is that the four things in this list will make it onto yours, and likely near the top. Now honestly think about how chasing after your own pleasure and convenience helps make any of those a reality.
And if this lifestyle of sex and cohabitation is an issue of contentment, meaning you don’t like to be by yourself or don’t feel loved unless someone is sharing their bodily fluids and living space with you, then there’s a much bigger issue at hand. You are the only person you’re guaranteed to spend the rest of your life with. It’s crucial that you are okay with who that person is on your own. Until that happens, you’ll never be content with someone else, and it’s quite unfair to put such pressure on anyone by expecting them to contain the magic formula for happiness that you’ve so far failed to find. It might feel better for a little while, but that person you’re relying on isn’t God. They’re sinful and have issues just like you do. They can’t fix anything. God loves us through other people, yes. But we first need to be able to enjoy a personal relationship with Him, no strings attached.
Congratulations for making it to the end of one of the longest articles I’ve ever written. I sincerely hope that if all of this is new for you, you’ll give what we Christians call a “pure” relationship a try. It’s so incredibly worth it.