A recently married Christian couple sits before me in my office and through tears and shame relate their story:
The husband: “We waited. We were virgins on our wedding night. We never even kissed before marriage but that first night something went horribly wrong. We tried and tried to have sex and it just wouldn’t work. Now my wife is not even interested because of the intense pain it caused her. My wife has been to the doctor and there is no obvious medical condition.”
The wife: “It’s been 3 years and we are ready to call it quits. We are wondering if there is even a chance that we could conceive children. It’s all my fault.” Their heads drop as they cry together.
It is familiar cry of couples who unwittingly sabotaged their sexual relationship by putting sexuality “on hold” while dating and can’t “switch” it back on for the wedding night. Am I suggesting they should have had intercourse before marriage to make sure all the parts worked? No; rather I am proposing that sexuality is an essential part of our being from birth and should be faithfully stewarded rather than repressed.
This scenario will be addressed in two ways, first in a preventative manner looking at what this couple could have done during their dating season to steward their sexuality and secondly in a restorative manner—what are some ways to bring healing now? These two articles are Embracing Single Sexuality as a Christian and Overcoming Sexual Barriers in Marriage.
Embracing and Stewarding Single Sexuality as a Christian
Sexuality was God’s idea and reflects his very image. Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” There is something unique about God’s plan for two persons to reflect his fullness.
Christian singles today are waiting longer to marry and are bombarded from two sides of the cultural sexual war:
Side One –generally promoted by TV and Hollywood: “Why wait? Sex is meant to be enjoyed!”
Side Two –generally promoted by the church: “Sexuality will get you into trouble. Do your best to shut it off and suppress it until marriage.”
Clients that have fully embraced either one of these options sit in my office devastated by the outcome. Let’s explore a third and better option:
The Third Option: Stewarding Single Sexuality
What does it mean to steward our sexuality? I believe this includes embracing God’s design for human relationships. God was clear in the beginning about his image being defined by the two sexes—male and female. Our sexuality does not start at puberty but rather at birth.
Authors Rosenau and Wilson (2006), give overlapping concepts of the various aspects of sexuality including lifelong sexuality, erotic sexuality, and true sex. Sexual activities fall into these three categories reserved for specific people and places. Let’s compare the three categories:
Sexuality encompasses all of our whole being from birth. We relate to others out of our sexuality every day. Sexuality drives us to intimacy with friends, God, and potentially our partner. It defines us as male or female.
This includes our sexual identity as male or female and all of our day-to-day interactions. It is the largest and most comprehensive circle in which the next two categories sit.
2. Erotic Sexual Behaviors
Erotic Sexual Behaviors include physical and mental activities that are emotionally or sexually arousing. (i.e. fantasy, sexual conversation, kissing, caressing, holding)
3. True Sex
True Sex is the most erotic sexual behavior reserved for marriage (Hebrews 13:4). At a minimum, this category includes all oral, anal, and vaginal intercourse and activities leading to orgasm.
The above illustration is adapted from Soul Virgins by Doug Rosenau and Micheal Todd Wilson (2006).
For the Christian dating couple who want to abstain from true sex until marriage, that does not mean avoiding any conversations about sex. It also does not mean avoiding physical contact entirely. Instead, it refers to deciding what to do when an intimate moment starts to go farther than the limitations agreed upon .
This involves couples stewarding their sexual lives in a way that honors both partners. Instead of asking the proverbial “How far can we go?” question, one of the following questions might help steward sexual behavior toward the couples’ sexual values:
- In our romantic interactions, how can we find sexual wholeness and intimacy in ways pleasing to God?
- How can I steward my partner’s sexuality and develop his or her true potential to become all God wants him or her to be?
- How can I value, celebrate and protect this other person, who might be someone else’s Adam or Eve? (Rosenau & Wilson, 2006)
No significant change comes without looking at our underlying core beliefs. Individuals must truly believe their body is special, made by God, belongs to God, and is worth saving until marriage. It is a soul virgin attitude that must define a man or woman’s life to pave the road for physical virginity.
Soul virginity starts during singleness but is an attitude continued through the various potential stages of marriage, possible singleness again, childbearing, and widowhood. A soul virgin is defined as one who continuously seeks to value, celebrate and protect God’s design for sexuality—body, soul and spirit—in oneself and others.
How To cultivate soul virginity:
• Stay in close relationship with the Father — getting your intimacy needs met with Him first
• Cultivate many friends — not just your significant other
• Discuss biblical standards and set a practical plan for purity with your “person”
• Set up accountability partners for both to contact when struggling
• Steward and discipline your thought life — It is where the battle is won or lost
• Repent and try again if you fail — figure out why the plan isn’t working well
Much of the content within this article has been gleaned from the excellent book, Soul Virgins. I encourage you that the battle for sexual purity is worth the fight. Keep up the battle. Let me know how you are doing. You can contact me through my professional page, Rachelle Colegrove, MA, PLPC on Facebook.
My next article on Overcoming Sexual Barriers in Marriage will be featured in December 2014. I am looking forward to helping couples explore options for restoring health and fun to their sex lives!