Emotional chastity and the break-up.

30 Jun

One thing that I don’t think is talked about enough in Christian dating circles is emotional chastity.  Yeah, I know Boundless likes to pound the “intentionality” drum (mainly in the direction of men), but it’s not exactly the same thing.  “Intentionality” makes it sound like you’re running a program called IntentionalityCheck 2.0 that has an intentionality app that you can install on your smartphone to make sure your dating behavior is kept within intentionality guidelines.  “Did I guard my heart?” Check.  “Did he pay for dinner?” Check.  “Did he directly say it was a date and that he would like to pursue me for the purpose of marriage while being the spiritual leader that the Bible instructs him to be while loving me sacrificially as Christ loved the Church so as not to defraud me during this season of singleness?”  Oops.  EJECT!  EJECT!

Emotional chastity, on the other hand, is more a character trait.  It’s internalizing a way of living.  Just as a physically chaste person not only refrains from improper sexual behavior but also lives in such a way as to not put himself in a situation where physical chastity could be compromised in the first place, an emotionally chaste person guards his heart as a matter of being, not as an item on a checklist to qualify for emotional chastity.

I think that Christian singles today get themselves into more trouble by violating emotional chastity (EC) than by physical chastity (PC).  (And since the number of Christian singles who aren’t physically chaste is pretty high, you can only imagine how many aren’t emotionally chaste.)  Especially among Christian singles who are trying to practice PC, the EC thing can be a huge downfall, since getting close to someone emotionally is the only outlet for sexual energy that hasn’t been slapped with a big NO-NO sticker.  As a result, we have Christian singles entwining themselves into friendguy/friendgirl relationships with endless angsting and drama on one party’s end, which just leads Boundless types to shriek at the men to install IntentionalityCheck 2.0 and MAN UP AND MARRY THOSE WORTHY CHRISTIAN GIRLS.

EC isn’t just for the romantic arena, though; its benefits extend to all areas of life.  How many times have you known someone who lacks discretion in how much of himself he gives away to friends, to relatives, to parents, children, or coworkers?  EC isn’t about prevention so much as it’s about discretion and self-control – in a word, maturity.  It’s about maintaining boundaries that are healthy.

In the context of dating relationships, EC can help a relationship blossom as it was meant to unfold.  You’re not oversharing too early.  You’re not becoming emotionally dependent on the other person to the point you’re smothering them.  You’re not promising things you haven’t thought through or don’t intend to follow through on.  You’re taking the time to establish a foundation before you start erecting an emotional three-car garage McHouse with dust-repellent blinds and a mint-green nursery for the twins.  Likewise, if you break up, especially if it’s early into the dating process, you won’t feel like someone robbed you.

Speaking of which, I really think that Christian dating advice needs to focus more on break-ups.  I feel like there is so much emphasis on just trying to get people to date ~intentionally~ that there’s next to nothing out there if that dating doesn’t work out.  Most people don’t marry the first person they date, so what do you do if you realize this person isn’t the one?  Well, that’s easy. You just tell the break-upper that he’s not being sufficiently spiritual or seeking the Lord enough.  That’ll teach him to date a girl and not marry her!  So many people would benefit from getting broken up with swiftly and succinctly, rather than trying to couch it in LJBFs and “You’re so great, someone (else) will be lucky to find you!”s.

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24 Responses to “Emotional chastity and the break-up.”

  1. Hermes June 30, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    Well, since everything is men’s fault and all problems in the world stem from men not manning up, Christian dating advice doesn’t need to focus more on break-ups. Break-ups should never happen; everyone should marry the first person they date, and they only reason this doesn’t happen is that men aren’t leading properly. Therefore, changing men’s hearts and lives is the most effective way to shot block break-ups.

  2. TB June 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    This guy could use some of that emotional chastity you’re selling. God is going to “woo” him, don’t you see. Onward Christian soldiers indeed.

  3. TB June 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    This guy could use some of that emotional chastity you’re selling. God is going to “woo” him, don’t you see. Onward Christian soldiers indeed.

    http://www.boundlessline.org/2012/06/fall-head-over-heels.html

  4. Hermes June 30, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Holy crap. That was the gayest post I’ve ever read on Boundless.

  5. LovableChimp June 30, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    That’s why dating/courtship shouldn’t last more than a certain number of months.

    You spend say 5 months getting to know a person and then make a decision.

    I believe the reason that people have years of engagement with the opposite sex before marriage is because people today are fearful and risk averse. They absolutely must never make a mistake about marriage so it’s SOOOOO important.

    Here’s the rub. The samurai had a saying ‘Those that aim to keep their lifes will lose it. Those that are willing to die will live.” Basically just a zen way of saying those that are hesitant and they aren’t going with the flow of battle will be at a disadvantage and lose their mental edge which usually leads to defeat.

    It’s the same way with marriage. Unless the person is a truely great actor, people can guage personality of a other individual within five months. Also their social status can’t be hidden in that time period as well. Secular people can get away with not getting married in a short time frame. They bone each other. They are in a ‘marriage’, it’s just one that doesn’t have any teeth so at the first sign of distress, any party can bolt without true consequence not withstand children.

    I know the criticism is that young people are implusive and blah blah blah. However, I think that’s an oversimplication. Youths are implusive when they truely believe that doing that action will never ever come back to bite them. You can’t do that with marriage. It’s big and looming and EVERYBODY wants to go into with 99.99 percent certainty.

    Long term relationships that just linger are worthless. Most of the time it’s because one side has serious doubts. If you stil don’t know after a year tops, then your probably just hanging on until something better comes along.

    What I believe is that the initial dating period should be short and the if they find they are good match, they should be engaged with marriage in short time period. The engagement should be more or less drama free because when the real strife starts and it does for every single couple, both parties will skin in the game to make it work and not just bolt.

  6. TB June 30, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    Hermes – I honestly thought it was parody until I got about halfway through. Astonishing.

  7. Lucie July 1, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    “This guy could use some of that emotional chastity you’re selling. God is going to “woo” him, don’t you see. Onward Christian soldiers indeed. http://www.boundlessline.org/2012/06/fall-head-over-heels.html

    It does form a rather interesting contrast to Denise Morris’ “God as Boyfriend” post.

  8. y81 July 1, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    “That was the gayest post I’ve ever read on Boundless.”–It’s not even gay, really. At least none of the gay men I know ever talks about being “wooed” or being “head over heels” or any of that stuff. Only girls talk that way. But there is a dialect of “Christian-ese” which involves guys talking like girls at their sillest. Really dismaying.

    “The samurai had a saying . . . .”–You know, you don’t have to go all the way to Japan to find someone saying that whoever wants to save his life will lose it etc.

  9. Priscilla July 2, 2012 at 7:10 am #

    Great post, Haley. It really goes along with what’s been happening in my life recently. I allowed myself to get too emotionally attached to a guy who never had any real intentions of dating me. I chose to believe the words he was saying instead of listening to what his actions were really saying. We also started texting early on in the relationship, which wasn’t a problem until it was all we ever did. Looking back, I can see the mistakes I made and I hope I’ve learned from them.

  10. Aunt Haley July 2, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    Hermes–
    James has been walking the lonely road of singleness for much of his time here on earth. Cut a brother some slack!

    Priscilla–
    I’m glad you found the post helpful. I think every woman has been in that situation at one time(s) or another. If you don’t see a parity of effort in your interactions, someone’s just not that into the other person.

  11. The Man Who Was . . . July 3, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    OT, but . . .

    Whenever Christians fear they are too small in number to change the mind of society, they need look no further than gay rights movement.

    When the winds are blowing your way you don’t need numbers. People have been becoming less transcendental and more utilitarian/consequentialist in their morality. Once gay men more or less stopped banging random dudes up the bum in bathhouses all the time, the utilitarian/consequentialist arguments against homosexuality became pretty weak.

    Ironically, the improved behaviour of gay men was entirely due to their promiscuity unleashing an incredibly nasty plague upon themselves, but that is so, like, early 1980s.

  12. TB July 3, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    Haley — you’re funny. You have his number.

    These young Boundless writers are embarrassing. They all make me think that Focus learned nothing from Bethany Patchin.

  13. Hermes July 3, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    James has been walking the lonely road of singleness for much of his time here on earth. Cut a brother some slack!

    Haley, I love this! It’s totes my fav!

  14. Aunt Haley July 3, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    TB–
    These young Boundless writers are embarrassing. They all make me think that Focus learned nothing from Bethany Patchin.

    I thought Bethany Patchin ceased to exist after Boundless scrubbed her existence from its records!

    But more seriously, the problem with young Boundless writers is the reason they’re young Boundless writers to begin with. Only the kind of person who will spout the worst kind of churchly advice would want to intern with Boundless. Only a young person whose main social circle has been evangelical church from a very young age, who was possibly home-schooled, and is attending a Christian college with an eye on professional ministry, would find Boundless attractive for an internship. Then add to that their general youth and inexperience, and voila!

  15. TB July 3, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    I don’t really blame the dumb 20-year-olds. After all, being dumb is part of being 20.

    But what about the adults over there? They ought to know better than to let unformed intellects spew their half-baked ideas all over the place. When some percentage of the precious young things inevitably go sideways, the adults look awfully irresponsible and naive.

  16. samsonsjawbone July 5, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    @Haley:

    Whenever Christians fear they are too small in number to change the mind of society, they need look no further than gay rights movement.

    Thursday’s point about prevailing winds notwithstanding, this is important to remember for Christians who fret that “we will never be able to take this society back now that only a handful of the populace attends church.” Have a look at Social consensus through the influence of committed minorites – this is how the homosexual lobby has won so many victories. Christians should theoretically be able to achieve the same things. My only caveat is that it’s not clear to me that the effect is the same for a “new” minority that used to be the majority.

    @Thursday:

    Once gay men more or less stopped banging random dudes up the bum in bathhouses all the time, the utilitarian/consequentialist arguments against homosexuality became pretty weak.

    Grudgingly, I acknowledge that there is some basis for this, but I wouldn’t go (nearly) so far as to imply that gay behaviour is now relatively sexually “safe”. Bathhouse-style promiscuity still goes on, although there are some things you never get to see unless you work in a medical field.

  17. an observer July 5, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    Christian women should come with warnings:

    CAUTION
    Longterm dating an EAP may damage your emotional health.

    James and his new-found harem of admirers suggests he understands what is required.

  18. y81 July 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    “a “new” minority that used to be the majority.”

    It is not, in fact, true that Christians used to be more numerous than they are now. For current sociological data, see Mark Chaves, American Religion (2011), and for historical data, see Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, The Churching of America (1992). Basically, a large number of Americans have always been professed Christians; churchgoing increased dramatically between 1800 and 1950, and has declined slightly since; and, if you exclude 17th century New England, the number with true evangelical faith has always been a minority, but a large one.

    Obviously, sexual mores have changed, among believers and unbelievers alike. (This blog doesn’t read quite like the columns in “Godey’s Lady Book.”) But sexual morality is hardly the core of Christianity. Note that the Christian teaching on some topics (e.g., slavery) is much more socially influential than it was 200 years ago.

  19. The Man Who Was . . . July 6, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    The rural America of the 18th and 19th Century may have had fewer formal churches than today, but people were both vastly more religious and more culturally conservative back then.

  20. Cane Caldo July 7, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    “EC isn’t just for the romantic arena, though; its benefits extend to all areas of life. How many times have you known someone who lacks discretion in how much of himself he gives away to friends, to relatives, to parents, children, or coworkers? EC isn’t about prevention so much as it’s about discretion and self-control – in a word, maturity. It’s about maintaining boundaries that are healthy.

    Good stuff. It needs to be said more. Though its acceptance would halve the Internet.

  21. Fred Mok July 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    This is a great post. Emotional chastity is quite subjective and its difficult to provide guidelines for it. It does go along with the game principle that Roissy recently wrote about – you share gradually as a way keeping the tension in the relationship. In Christian terms, you open yourself up according to the commitment of the relationship. Where marriage is the state where openness blossoms to its fullest.

  22. Anthony July 16, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    Related: http://cmd-n.org/2012/07/06/what-an-ljbf-we-have-in-jesus/

  23. ornamentalwomanhood August 22, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    Lovable Chimp… nice!

    Marriage is about commitment more than it is about compatibility. We deliberate endlessly about this decision but take no time to contemplate divorce and its outcomes.

    Long Term Relationships that are treated like mini marriages are misleading for people looking for certainty and security and can lead to a lot of emotional damage when the mini marriage ends. There is no security apart from sacrament.

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