Sex in a Committed Relationship?5:27 PM
I think the biggest difference, the one that made dating for me 95% rainbows and butterflies, is regarding awful thing #4 [feeling emotionally married but unable to physically express that in sex, time, or living situations]. I know what I say will not have any impact on your decisions, nor should it, but I really think you are setting up an obstacle for yourself that does not need to be there. You say God created friendship and marriage, not "going steady" and you say you live emotionally as a married couple. If you are truly committed to your boy, if you know in your heart that you will marry him in the eyes of the church and the government eventually, if all these things are true, then, in essence, you are married. You even say your relationship functions the same as marriage as a sanctification tool. Given all that, I don't understand how sex can still be such a big sin. Why would a ceremony created by man make any difference to God? I don't believe in casual sex outside a committed relationship. And if you are not ready to have sex then definitely don't do it, but it sounds to me like you are letting the technicality of a fancy dress and a signed piece of paper cause you unhappiness and put added strain on your relationship. I know it is not that simple. I think reading this just made me very, very grateful I didn't have to worry about considering premarital sex a sin on top of all the other complexities of navigating a serious relationship!To be honest, this argument resonates with me: if sex is supposed to unite a couple and deepen their relationship, then how could premarital sex harm a relationship leading to eventual marriage? Wouldn’t abstaining from sex create an unnecessary barrier between a committed boyfriend and girlfriend, a barrier as frustrating and profound as if a husband and wife refrained from sex? This makes sense. It makes sense logically. It makes sense emotionally. It definitely makes sense physically.
This argument grasps the natural flow of a relationship: you fall in love, you decide to be with each other forever, you consummate that soon after making that decision. Actually, I think this flow is right. I think that’s how God created it to be—don’t leave a big ginormous gap between realizing, “Hey, this is the person to whom I want to commit myself” and consummating that relationship. I really do think leaving that gap does much harm to relationships, because long-term, committed relationships outside of marriage fall outside of the typical plan. It just doesn’t jive with one’s humanity, one’s sexuality. This is why so many Christian couples give in to the temptation of premarital sex—it doesn’t naturally feel wrong at all.
The problem is, premarital sex is wrong. It’s not as bad as adultery, the breaking of a commitment, but the consequences of premarital sex need to involve lifelong marriage ASAP. God never approves of sex outside of commitment—not because He frowns upon love but because He values it so much.
If it’s a big problem to delay sex in a committed relationship—if it does in some ways harm and halt the proper, human development of an intimate relationship—then how can it be wrong to just have sex and get married later? I mean, it seems logical to say, “I’m committed to you already in spirit, if not in the letter of the law, so let’s have sex.” In actuality, it’s more logical to say, “I’m committed to you already in spirit, if not in the letter of the law, so let’s just get married.”
If we recognize that a marriage-level commitment is required for sex, then we need to be married to have sex. Any other sort of commitment outside of a marriage commitment is not a marriage commitment even though it’s a commitment. I don’t think that a marriage relationship is fluid like other stages of the relationship—you know, when you’re “friends” but really you like each other, or you both know you’re getting married but there’s not yet a ring on it. A marriage relationship is defined by a covenant to God and to your spouse that leads to oneness in all aspects of life. A marriage relationship is not defined merely by emotions or interactions. No matter how many times an unmarried couple engages in sexual activity, they’re not married—even if they’re exclusively having sex with each other. You’re either married or you’re not.
The reason we even debate whether or not sex within a committed but premarital relationship is wrong is not a fault with God’s design but with our culture’s understanding of marriage. God did not invent the expensive dresses, June ceremonies, and the marriage documents that delay marriage and thus sex. There’s nothing inherently unbearable about falling in love, deciding you want to be with this person forever, and then getting married soon after. In other cultures and previous forms of Western culture, nobody “went steady” for long periods of time. Nobody spent two years and thousands of dollars on weddings. Nobody held expectations that prevented couples from marrying young. It’s really not hard to get married: make sure it’s a wise decision to get married, exchange vows, and be married. Dresses and slips of paper should not delay marriage. But they do. The culture’s expectations forbid creative thinking regarding marriage (which is why nobody just decides to get married, calls a pastor, and marries that weekend). The culture’s expectations blind young people from even suspecting long-term committed relationships as a problem—we’re expected to get through college, establish ourselves financially, and then start a family. It’s within those expectations that people want to start questioning whether premarital sex is wrong because delaying sex feels so unnatural. Instead they should question why young marriage is wrong. They should feel that delaying marriage feels unnatural. Basically, if you’re at the point in your relationship where consummating the relationship becomes natural, you should be getting married soon.
If you’re not married or planning to be married, it’s good to ask why. The biggest reason you may not be married is because one or both parties may not be willing to commit to a marriage commitment even though they’re committed to a dating or engagement commitment. Because my boyfriend is not my husband, I cannot expect him to behave like one—to do all the duties of a husband. He’s still single. He’s still in school. He has still chosen to prioritize his education and aspects of his single life over married life. Despite this, I have no fear he will dump me. I’m pretty confident someday he’ll be down on one knee with a ring. At this moment in time, though, he has only committed to be my boyfriend—not my husband. We are a committed dating couple. We aren’t a committed married couple, and we will not be until we exchange vows and define our commitment as a marriage. Until then, we must refrain from sexual activity because sex belongs to the marriage commitment. I mean to say that length of commitment (i.e. not breaking up) does not justify premarital sex. The type of commitment justifies it. And the type of commitment that justifies sex is a marriage commitment—the promise to love each other forever, yes, but also to become one in all aspects of life, not just sexual and emotional.
I admit that the line of reasoning I laid out makes it ridiculously frustrating for long-term committed couples who cannot get married soon. Their circumstances prevent them from following God’s design of quick succession from “I know I want to marry you” to marriage and sex. Still, there are no exceptions to the no-sex-outside-of-marriage rule. Some “serious reasons” aren’t that serious. You can get married in college. You can live on less than you think. (I pay my own bills. I know.) Some reasons are legitimate (e.g. parents won’t support early marriage, not enough to live on, overseas job), and there’s really nothing you can do but wait. In hindsight, I don’t think it’s a great idea to enter a relationship that will go long-term with no marriage in sight for several years. There’s nothing I can do about that now. My lack of wisdom and knowledge does not change God’s law, regardless of how hard the consequences are. (I’m not saying I was wrong to date as early as I did. I’m just saying I had no idea what I was doing when I did it and never got a chance to rationally consider the struggles of a long-term committed relationship—I just learned as I went.) Plenty of times unjust circumstances or poor life decisions put people into situations that go against God’s best design, and they are still required to act justly and morally. I can attest to God’s faithfulness in providing strength to suffer bad circumstances and consequences while still obeying His law.
To be real, it’s a burden to not be married. (And trust me, guys—I’ve tried to practice what I’ve preached here. It’s not my idea to be unmarried right now. ;)) It’s a burden to face temptation. It’s a burden to want to be prioritized as a wife should be. I hate this season of life right now more than I disliked singleness, if only because I know singleness is a good and delaying marriage isn’t inherently a good. But it’s not burdensome. I can still enjoy life. I can still love my boy. I can still resist temptation. This whole discussion boils down to the question of Would God command something and not give me the strength to obey it? I choose to believe the answer is no.