A post at Athol’s from July got me all fired up on this topic. (So I wrote a post and then sat on it for several weeks. ANYHOW.) A mid-20s Christian reader wrote to Athol asking for advice about his relationship with his girlfriend of three years. Christian Guy hasn’t had intercourse with his girlfriend yet because she wants to wait for marriage, so they’ve decided that guilt over handjobs and occasional oral sex is a more tolerable way to have a relationship. Most recently, the girlfriend has stated that she wants to cut off ALL sexual contact so she can be sure that CG truly loves her.
Athol’s advice to CG was that he should just go ahead and bang his girlfriend because cutting off sexual contact was her sexual rejection of CG and that a future marriage would not suffer from premarital sex due to their being each other’s first sexual partners. Additionally, girlfriend’s rejection is a shit test because she wants CG to alpha up and just go for it.
Obviously, as a Christian, I disagree with this advice even though I can understand the reasoning behind it. (And I do agree that the girlfriend’s rejection is a shit test.) But that doesn’t really address the underlying issue here, which is why are CG and his girlfriend waiting so long to get married in the first place? They’re both in their mid-20s, have been together for three years already, and are succumbing to sexual sin in what sounds like an unhappy cycle of hopelessness. Athol’s blog article doesn’t mention any extenuating circumstances such as abject poverty, or someone is waiting to get out of prison, or someone’s gender reassignment surgery is not yet complete. And yet CG and his girlfriend are not on schedule to get married for another TWO YEARS.
Does ANYONE in their right mind think that this is a plan for success?!?
The thing about sex is that it only goes in one direction, and it is only designed to have one ending point. In other words, once you start going down the physical road with someone, it becomes nearly impossible to back up to an earlier point; the only solution is to stop associating with that person completely (i.e., a breakup). And the ending point of sex is intercourse. A prolonged stay in Hand Job City or endlessly cruising down Blow Me Bypass is sexually dysfunctional for a healthy couple. It’s like an Olympic diver climbing to the top of the high dive, bouncing up and down on the springboard, and then…not diving into the water. Repeatedly. And convincing yourself that this is a cool way to get close to the water without getting wet. At some point you’ll either fall in in a way you never intended to, or you’ll psych yourself out when it’s finally time to dive (after two years of training yourself to stop at the end of the board).
I think the church has done a real disservice to its young men and women by going along with the cultural flow of delayed marriage rather than promoting young marriage. Expecting the vast majority of young Christians to keep their clothes on and hands off for 15-20 years after hitting puberty is ridiculous. By age 25-ish, a lot of young people are just going to give up on waiting if they don’t see imminent light at the end of the tunnel. They’ve already waited a decade or more, and the prospect of waiting another decade has the pallor of death. Besides, all of their friends are doing it and lightning hasn’t struck them yet, plus the church has abortion and homosexuality to worry about. As long as there are genuine feelings of love and no one gets pregnant and no one gets a disease, is it really that big of a deal? (whispers Satan’s Hamster.)
That said, I think a bigger problem is long courtships and engagements. When two people are sexually attracted to each other but committed to not having sex until marriage, a four-year courtship followed by a one-year engagement sounds like insanity to me. Once you’ve gotten the big issues out of the way, like faith, money, character, and goals, and you know that you enjoy each other’s company and are attracted to each other, and others whose opinions you value approve of the match, how much longer do you really need to decide someone is “the one”? What more could the other person possibly do to prove to you that you should spend the rest of your lives together? For people who are beyond college-age, I think it’s entirely possible to go from meeting to married within a year to 18 months. Extending the timeframe longer than that is just setting yourself up for failure, not to mention a lot of gnashing of teeth (as it were) due to having to repress a great deal of your physical desire for each other.
By the way, shorter courtships mean more intentional dating. You can enjoy the company of a whole lot more people than those who are serious marriage material. Limit your dating pool to marriageable prospects, and you will give yourself a leg up in the decision-making process. (Plus, you will help yourself avoid the temptation to get physical with someone you have no intention of marrying.)