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Question and Answer

Question
What are the benefits of marriage versus living together?

Answer
One of the most certain ways to improve the health and well-being of the world’s population is to encourage and support the idea of marriage. … Research continually reveals that married people are generally physically healthier, happier, live longer, enjoy better mental health, are more fulfilled and less likely to suffer physical abuse. Premarital cohabitation (living together as a family outside of legal marriage) does not bring the same benefits marriage does. Instead, it brings increased conflict and aggression as well as increased chance of divorce in later marriages.

Dr. Robert H. Coombs, professor of Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), conducted a review of more than 130 published empirical studies measuring how marital status affects personal well-being. He concluded that scientific investigations, conducted from the 1930s to the present, “attest that married people live longer and generally are more emotionally and physically healthy than the unmarried.” Coombs specifically looked at the areas of alcoholism, suicide, morbidity and mortality, mental illness and self-reports of happiness.

  • Alcoholism. According to Coombs, “studies consistently found more alcoholism and problem drinking among the unmarried than the married.” Specifically, the separated and divorced account for 70 percent of all chronic problem drinkers, while married people account for only 15 percent. Single men are over three times more likely to die of cirrhosis of the liver than married men. This is because the married “are more satisfied than the unmarrieds” Coombs explains.
  • Suicide. Coombs’ literature review revealed, “empirical support extending back to the 19th century shows that the highest suicide rates occur among the divorced, the widowed, and the never married and lowest among the married.” The intact family creates a cohesive, integrating effect on its members, which serves as a strong deterrent to suicidal tendencies.
  • Morbidity and mortality. It was also consistently found that “married people enjoy greater longevity than the unmarried and generally make less use of health care services.” Coombs found that cures from cancer were 8-17 percent more likely for the married, and they also spend fewer days in bed due to acute illness. Surprisingly, it is not just companionship that makes the difference; it’s the presence of a marriage license. Research done at the University of California at San Francisco found that those “who lived alone or with someone other than a spouse had significantly shorter survival times compared with those living with a spouse … the critical factor for survival was the presence of a spouse.”
  • Psychiatric problems. Coombs found that the married suffered from schizophrenia less often than the unmarried and when they did, their recovery was more successful. The lowest rates for mental hospital admissions were consistently found among the married and the “separated and the divorced of both sexes experience particularly high mental health risks.” Additional studies done jointly at Yale University and UCLA found the “association between marital status and mental illness is robust and generalizable” among both African-American and white populations.
  • Self-reported happiness. Looking at self-reported happiness is an important indicator. It allows the scientist to evaluate the individual’s measure of their own situation, regardless of how others may measure it. Coombs found that “no part of the unmarried population — separated, divorced, widowed, or never married — describes itself as being so happy and contented with life as the married.”

Loneliness

Research published in Psychological Reports reveals that marrieds are less likely to report feeling lonely than those of other marital statuses. This is meaningful given loneliness was defined as “the absence or perceived absence of satisfying social relationships” which the authors explain is “not synonymous with aloneness, solitude, or isolation.” In a random sample of over 8,500 adults, the percentages of those feeling lonely were as follows:

  • Marital status and loneliness. Of the marrieds, 4.6 percent said they were lonely; of the Never Married, 14.5 percent were lonely; 20.4 percent of the Divorced were lonely; 20.6 percent of the Widowed and 29.6 of the Separated. The finding that married people are less lonely is “consistent with other population-based studies of loneliness.” This data contradicts the popular notion that when people marry, they are removing themselves from the satisfying social circle of the larger world to a life of drudgery, boredom and isolation. Just the opposite is true.
  • Who benefits most: men or women? Another analysis of 93 separate studies, by Dr. Wendy Wood of Texas A & M University, found the benefits of marriage “proved stronger for women than men.” Dr. Wood and her colleagues explain this contradicts the “picture of the ‘grim mental health’ of wives popularized by [feminists].”
  • Cohabitation. Dr. Jan Stets, a leading scholar on cohabiting relationships found in general, “Cohabiting couples compared to married couples have less healthy relationships. They have lower relationship quality, lower stability, and a higher level of disagreements.” Work done at the Family Violence Research Program at the University of New Hampshire in the U.S. found that “cohabiters are much more violent than marrieds…” It was also found that the overall rates of violence among cohabiters were double that of marrieds and “severe” violence was five times as high for cohabiters.

Stets also found that nearly three times as many cohabiters admitted “hitting, shoving and throwing things at their partners in the past year” compared to marrieds. She also found that cohabiters are more likely to “exhibit depression and drunkenness than married couples.” Additional research conducted at UCLA found that marriages preceded by cohabitation were more prone to problems like “use of drugs and alcohol, more permissive sexual relationships, and an abhorrence of dependence” than relationships not preceded by cohabitation.

All of this contributes to the fact that cohabiting relationships and marriages preceded by cohabitation break up at increased rates. It explains why “those who cohabit before marriage have substantially higher divorce rates than those who do not; the recorded differentials range from 50 percent to 100 percent.” In addition, research done jointly at Yale and Columbia Universities in the United States found that “the dissolution rate for women who cohabit premaritally with their future spouse are, on average, nearly 80 percent higher than the rates of those who do not.” The authors explain this finding is internationally consistent.

These facts have led scholars to conclude the, “expectation of a positive relationship between cohabitation and marital stability … has been shattered in recent years by studies conducted in several Western countries including Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, and the United States.” The idea that cohabitation serves as an effective testing ground for marriage has no basis in fact.

Conclusion

While marriage offers important benefits that no other relational status can match, it is cohabitation which has increased 533 percent since 1970, and the number of married adults has decreased 10 percent over the same period in the United States. It is troubling that the most beneficial form of family life is decreasing in frequency while one of the most harmful forms is rapidly increasing.

Answered by Glenn T. Stanton

Copyright © 1997 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.


Background Information

The Problem With Living Together
Far from a trial marriage, living together is more like a test drive.

Living Together: Not Such a Good Idea After All
The evidence is in: living together without the benefit of a marriage license can be hazardous to your health.


Questions and Answers

Is living together before marriage a good test of future compatibility?
Answer

My boyfriend and I are both from broken homes and want to divorce-proof our future marriage. Is living together a good test of future compatibility?
Answer

Review Frequently Asked Questions


Stories

Six-Month Security: Living Together Before Marriage
Find out why the “try before you buy” mentality doesn’t work when it comes to committed relationships.

Love Lessons
We long for intimacy but too often settle for physical or emotional promiscuity.

If you’ve been through a experience related to this topic, we invite you to share your story with others.

Share Your Story

Other Things to Consider

Never Surrender
A committed marriage can weather the storms of life.


Related Topics

Abuse & Addiction: Pornography and Cybersex, Sexual Abuse

Parenting Children: Talking About Sex

Parenting Teens: Sexual Activity, Crisis Pregnancy, Homosexuality

Transitions: Getting Married, Adoption, Having a Baby

Sexual Abuse

sexabuseimgSex was designed to be an expression of love between a man and wife. Victims of sexual abuse know that love is the furthest thing from the mind of the abuser. The height of perversion, sexual abuse causes extreme damage. The anger, emotional injury, physical scars and haunting memories can last a lifetime. It is possible, however, to heal from the pain of sexual abuse. A new life, free from the trauma that imprisons, awaits those who long for restoration from a horrific sexual experience.

Alcoholism

alcoholism

Drinking is considered by many to be a harmless social activity. For some, however, it’s an entrapping addiction. Life’s day-to-day activities lose their appeal as the alcoholic opts for the numbing or euphoric effects of drink. Alcoholics — and their loved ones — suffer mentally, relationally and physically. This chain-reaction dependency disintegrates relationships, promotes violence and sends the alcoholic and his family into a seemingly endless cycle of drunkenness, anger and despair. Many addicts minimize the impact of their drinking and insist that their life — and their habit — is under control. Though the disease may appear insurmountable, change is possible with support from loved ones and God.

Eating Disorders

The mirror screams, “You’re fat, you’re ugly, you can’t change.” Fixing your problem seemed easy at first — if you binged, you purged; if your body repulsed you, you exercised. But those “solutions” drove you deeper into despair, self-loathing and addiction. Culture and its airbrushed perfection sets an unattainable standard for most, whispering, “If you’re unhappy, do something about it.” And though the desire for change isn’t inherently wrong, focusing entirely on body image can lead to obsession. Eating disorders offer a false sense of control, propelling you into a cycle of disease that robs your self-esteem, disrupts your daily life and affects your health, sometimes to the point of death. Only by escaping the trap and discovering the beauty inside can you find true contentment.

Background Info
Contributing FactorsThe possible causes of an eating disorder.
Where Do Eating Disorders Come From?It’s not easy to pinpoint the cause, but therein lies the key to freedom.
An Impossible FitHas the media’s image of perfection driven women to eating disorders?
Dying to Be ThinThe physical consequences of eating disorders.
The Many Faces of an Eating DisorderIt’s comforting to know you’re not alone.
When Coping Becomes AddictionUnderstanding how addictions or poor coping skills meet needs can help break the cycle.
Addiction TriggersRecognizing what causes the cycle to start.
Questions & Answers
Why doesn’t someone with an eating disorder just stop?Answer
Review answers to frequently asked questions or ask your own.
Stories
Leaving Food BehindSometimes the best place to find hope is in the story of someone who’s been there.
If you’ve been through a difficult experience pertaining to this topic and found help and healing that might encourage others, we invite you to share your story.Share your story
Other Things to Consider
The Hungry HeartBy their design, our souls seek satisfaction like a starving man seeks food. Regardless of race, culture or creed, we have one commonality: hungry hearts. What is it our souls hunger for? Relationship.
The Eye of the BeholderThey say beauty is more than skin deep. In our culture, it’s easier said than done. But here’s one woman who lives it.
Where Is God in the Midst of All My Troubles?So many cry out to Him in times of need, but is God really listening? And, more important, does He care?

An Ounce of Prevention

Can homosexuality be prevented?

The simple answer is yes, it can be. And that is good news for millions of families. Genetic, psychological and social research confirms that a variety of causes set the stage for homosexual choices. But gender confusion can be reversed. Biological predisposition can be treated. Patterns of attraction and addiction can be understood and reformed. These things, in fact, should be addressed before homosexual behavior ever takes place.

Everyone asks, “So what is the cause of homosexuality?” Yet no one wants to point a finger at anyone or provide a simplistic reason for a condition that is incredibly complex. Like many other adult problems, homosexuality begins at home. Mom and Dad are key players. Research from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality states, “One hundred percent of the research participants stated their father/father figure was distant, uninvolved in their upbringing, frightening and unapproachable. Eighty-seven percent spoke of a mother who was close, controlling and overbearing.”

As important as parent-child dynamics are, they aren’t the only concerns. The following factors can also contribute to the homosexual orientation.

  • the individual person’s self-will
  • pornography
  • media and culture
  • spousal abuse in the home
  • molestation and pedophilia
  • parental adultery
  • moral relativism
  • seduction by peers
  • chemical imbalances
  • failure of leadership

There are no perfect families, but hopefully parents will identify potential problems and deal with them before they begin.
Excerpted from An Ounce of Prevention: Preventing the Homosexual Condition in Today’s Youth by Don Schmierer, published by Word Publishing. Copyright © 1998 Don Schmierer. Used by permission.


Background Information

Born Gay?
How can you debunk the claim of biological determinism?

Struggling With Homosexuality
These questions and answers are designed to help men and women dealing with same-sex attraction work through the confusion.

The Causes of Homosexuality
Here are three possible reasons why your child is gay.

The Guilt of Homosexuality
Are parents to blame when their son or daughter comes out of the “closet”?

The Sexual Developmental Stages
How do males develop homosexual attractions?


Questions and Answers

My friend is a lesbian, and she thinks it is okay. How do I tell her this isn’t okay with God?
Answer

Review Frequently Asked Questions


Stories

Finding His Way Out
One man proves it is possible to escape the grip of homosexuality.

My Father’s Closet
When Dad leaves Mom for another woman, the wounds are deep. But what do you do when he leaves for another man?

Not What I’d Expected
Having a gay father-in-law was the beginning of lessons on love and compassion amidst different beliefs and values.

If you’ve been through a experience related to this topic, we invite you to share your story with others.

Share Your Story


Other Things to Consider

I Think I Might Be Gay!
This article, written for teen girls, points out that admiring the qualities, characteristics, or fashion sense of another female does not make you gay.

Where is God in the Midst of All My Troubles?
So many cry out to Him in times of need, but is God really listening? And, more important, does He care?


Related Topics

Relationships: Blended Families, Parents and Adult Children

Transitions: Preparing for Adolescence, Empty Nest

Born Gay?

Countless studies have been performed aiming to prove that homosexuality is caused by genetics. Gay proponents love this argument because it says, “Hey, we can’t help our sexual orientation. We are born this way!” Essentially, they can claim that they are helpless, get your sympathy and try to further the justification of homosexual practices because they believe the drive is hereditary.

Who’s to blame them? On the surface, the “science” appears convincing. In recent years, several studies have grabbed headlines around the world, “proving” homosexuality is inborn. The evidence looks solid. The researchers seem credible.

Claims of genetic causation

According to Joe Dallas, author and former homosexual, “People tend to view homosexuality more favorably when they think it is inborn. No wonder gay leaders (not all, but most) push the born gay theory; it furthers the cause.” 1

Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a medical doctor and former fellow in child psychiatry at Yale University, has taken a thorough look at three particular studies that backfired on themselves. Upon closer evaluation, this is what he discovered:

Flawed Study #1: Brain Structure

In the August 1991 issue of Science, Simon LeVay of the Salk Institute in San Diego published a study on differences in brain structure between homosexual and heterosexual men. 2

The study, however, had at least three glaring weaknesses:

  1. It was based on a small group of 41 male cadavers, including 19 homosexual males. All of the homosexual men had died of AIDS, something that many researchers believe could very well account for or contribute to the differences (in the brain stem).
  2. There is no way to determine if the smaller hypothalamuses were the cause or the result of homosexual behavior. 3
  3. The area of the brain LeVay was measuring (the INAH3) was quite small — smaller than snowflakes, according to scientists interviewed. His peers in the neuroscientific community couldn’t agree on whether the INAH3 should be measured by its size and volume, or by its number of neurons. 4

Flawed Study #2: Twins

In another study, psychologist Michael Bailey of Northwestern University and psychiatrist Richard Pillard of the Boston University School of Medicine showed that homosexuality occurred more frequently among identical twins than fraternal twins.5But their 1991 study had a major flaw: All of their twins grew up together.

These researchers failed to compare their findings with a control group of twins raised apart. If they had, they would have discovered other influencing factors, such as how family dynamics and their relationship with parents affected who they were. Not to mention only about half the identical twins studied were both homosexuals. So, if the study showed that homosexuality in twins was purely genetic, then both of the twins would have been homosexual 100 percent of the time.

Flawed Study #3: The X-Chromosome

Lastly, five researchers led by Dean Hamer at the National Cancer Institute released a study in July of 1993 that attempted to link homosexuality in men with a specific genetic region of the X-chromosome. 6 “This is by far the strongest evidence to date that there is an important genetic component to sexual orientation,” Hamer reported. 7

Not so, said other highly qualified professionals. “There are several problems with the Hamer study. First, a Canadian research team has been unable to duplicate the finding using a comparable experimental design. 8 Second, Hamer confined his search to the X-chromosome on the basis of family interviews, which seems to reveal a disproportionately high number of male homosexuals on the mothers’ sides of the family. 9

Additionally, one of Hamer’s co-authors has expressed serious concerns about the methodology of the study. 10 Finally, there is some question about whether Hamer’s results, correctly interpreted, are statistically significant. His conclusions rest on the assumption that the rate of homosexuality in the population at large is 2 percent. If the base rate is actually higher, then Hamer’s results are not statistically significant. 11An interesting side note is that the 2 percent incidence figure is more accurate than the oft-noted 1-in-10 percentage. The lower figure is brought in when needed to bolster this slight effect, but generally overlooked by the media elsewhere.

These are only three examples of popular studies that were later found to be unreliable due to failure to meet basic criteria for establishing scientific facts, lack of clarity on behalf of the researcher, faulty method of study, or ignorance of basic scientific premises. Other studies hold no weight because the conclusions have been insinuated rather than proven. It’s these flawed studies, however, that receive the most publicity.

Most recently, Dr. Robert Spitzer, one of the men who helped eliminate the American Psychiatric Association’s listing of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973, acknowledged that some homosexuals can become heterosexual. In an interview with the CitizenLink online newsletter, Spitzer said, “The critics of this kind of therapy (to change homosexuality) don’t just argue that it is rarely effective; they argue that it’s never effective.” 12(Emphasis added.)

Only one kind of person

No solid scientific evidence exists today that people are born homosexual. 13

Interestingly enough, genetic predeterminants have also been theorized for alcoholism or depression. Neither alcoholism nor depression is embraced as healthy. Rather, we try to help people who suffer from these tendencies to find relief and recovery. 14

The same holds true for homosexuality. From conception, males differ from females. Every cell in the male body is different from every cell in the female’s. There are vast disparities between males and females that are currently overlooked by the popular media. But, by design, male was meant for female, and vice versa.

Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, president of the National Association for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality, states, “We are all heterosexual. Some heterosexuals have a homosexual problem, but it does not mean there are two different kinds of people.” 15As such, the hope for finding freedom from its trap is all the more real.

In the words of Stanton Jones, Chair of Psychology at Wheaton College, “Anyone who says there is no hope (for change) is either ignorant or a liar. Every secular study of change has shown some success rate, and persons who testify to substantial healings by God are legion.” 16

1 Joe Dallas, Is Homosexuality Inborn? What Current Science Really Says (Seattle, WA: Exodus International-North America, 1998), 2.
2 Simon LeVay, “A Difference in Hypothalamic Structure Between Heterosexual and Homosexual Men,” Science, vol. 253 (1991): 1034-1037.
3 Simon LeVay on the “Phil Donahue Show” titled “Genetically Gay: Born Gay or Become Gay?” January 3, 1992.
4 David Gelman, “Is This Child Gay? Born or Bred: The Origins of Homosexuality,” Newsweek, September 9, 1991, 52.
5 Michael J. Bailey and Richard C. Pillard, “A Genetic Study of Male Sexual Orientation,” Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 48 (December 1991): 1089-1096.
6 Dean H. Hamer, et al., “A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation,” Science, vol. 261 (1993): 321-327.
7 Paul Recer, “Researchers Find Genetic Link to Homosexuality,” The Associated Press, July 15, 1993.
8 G. Rice, C. Anderson, N. Risch and G. Ebers, “Male Homosexuality: Absence of Linkage to Microsatellite Markers on the X Chromosome in a Canadian Study,” presented at the 21st annual meeting of the International Academy of Sex Research, 1995, Provincetown, MA. This presentation is discussed in E. Marshall’s “NIH ‘Gay Gene’ Study Questioned,” Science, vol. 268 (1995): 1841.
9 Evan Balaban, quoted in V. D’Alessio, “Born to Be Gay?” New Scientist, September 28, 1996, 32-35
10 E. Marshall, “NIH ‘Gay Gene’ Study Questioned,” Science, vol. 268 (1995): 1841.
11 Neil Risch, Elizabeth Squires-Wheeler and Bronya Keats, “Male Sexuality Orientation and Genetic Evidence,” Science, vol. 262 (1993): 2063-2065.
12 Pete Winn, “A Crack in the Wall? A Respected Psychiatrist Rethinks Homosexuality,” CitizenLink, February 4, 2000, www.family.org/cforum/hotissues/a0009548.html.
13 Frank Worthen, “What is Homosexuality?” (San Rafael, CA: Love in Action, 1993), 1.
14 Bob Davies and Lori Rentzel, Coming Out of Homosexuality (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 44.
15 Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., “The Condition of Male Homosexuality,” speech presented at the Love Won Out conference, Dallas, TX, May 6, 2000.
16 Dallas, 11.Excerpted from the booklet The Truth Comes Out: The Roots and Causes of Homosexuality, published by Focus on the Family.

Copyright © 2001 Focus on the Family.


Background Information

An Ounce of Prevention
Myths about homosexuality abound. Not least is the notion that, for some people, homosexuality is inevitable.

Struggling With Homosexuality
These questions and answers are designed to help men and women dealing with same-sex attraction work through the confusion.

The Causes of Homosexuality
Here are three possible reasons why your child is gay.

The Guilt of Homosexuality
Are parents to blame when their son or daughter comes out of the “closet”?

The Sexual Developmental Stages
How do males develop homosexual attractions?


Questions and Answers

My friend is a lesbian, and she thinks it is okay. How do I tell her this isn’t okay with God?
Answer

Review Frequently Asked Questions


Stories

Finding His Way Out
One man proves it is possible to escape the grip of homosexuality.

My Father’s Closet
When Dad leaves Mom for another woman, the wounds are deep. But what do you do when he leaves for another man?

Not What I’d Expected
Having a gay father-in-law was the beginning of lessons on love and compassion amidst different beliefs and values.

If you’ve been through a experience related to this topic, we invite you to share your story with others.

Share Your Story


Other Things to Consider

I Think I Might Be Gay!
This article, written for teen girls, points out that admiring the qualities, characteristics, or fashion sense of another female does not make you gay.

Where is God in the Midst of All My Troubles?
So many cry out to Him in times of need, but is God really listening? And, more important, does He care?


Related Topics

Relationships: Blended Families, Parents and Adult Children

Transitions: Preparing for Adolescence, Empty Nest

Kiss Me Now

“When my husband kisses me, I know it will be praise that goes straight to heaven.” With those words I snagged a husband. In August of 1999, Boundless published my first article, entitled “(Don’t) Kiss Me.” The gist of it was that Christians need to take kissing more seriously, and I shared my own personal vow to save my first kiss for my wedding day. But as Sam Torode rightly accused me of in his rejoinder, “There’s More Than One Kind of Kiss,” I was not entirely innocent in my musings — I see in retrospect that, unconsciously, I was taking slight advantage of the opportunity to broadcast my availability. I was indeed employing reverse psychology — to pique Sam Torode’s interest, though I had never met him, did not yet know his name, and did not expect my future husband to write a critical response in return.

I am happy to say that it worked like a charm. On January 14th, 2000, Sam and I met face-to-face for the first time, went out to dinner, and talked for three hours. When I returned from the evening, my 12-year-old brother Micah said to me, “He’s older than you, he’s taller than you, he opened the door for you, and he’s a Christian — he’s the one!” He was right: on May 28th, Sam asked me to marry him.

Over the course of our engagement we received frequent e-mail messages from Boundless readers mistakenly assuming that our opinions on kissing were in direct opposition to each other — asking, “So, have you kissed yet?” or “Who won?” Sam usually replied by writing, “My friends often ask similar questions, and I refuse to satisfy their curiosity. I will say only: a vow is a vow, Bethany’s principles are my principles, and a kiss is a mystery that cannot be defined.”

They were usually frustrated with his response, because a vast majority of the inquirers were young women, and young women want details — preferably in romance-novel or how-to form (I can say that because I am the same way). They wanted to know if we hugged, if we kissed on the cheek, how much we touched.

Writing about kissing in theory is quite a different thing than writing about kissing a particular person. Not only are such details very private and sacred between Sam and me, they are also not things that any one couple should publish as suggested guidelines for thousands of readers, because while certain principles are universal, the specifics will vary with each couple’s situation.

Though I said in my first article that there is no perfect blueprint for every couple, by the undertone of the piece I implied otherwise. I have since learned that couples who save their first kiss for the altar are not necessarily any purer than those who save it for engagement. “The more you save before marriage, the more enjoyment you have afterwards” is not in and of itself a true statement. If that were entirely the case, then we should return to the days of arranged marriages, so that everything about our spouse would remain hidden until the day of the wedding.

When evaluating physical guidelines between yourself and your fiancé, the two most important factors to look at are family history and previous physical experience. For example, a woman who feels abandoned by her father as a result of divorce or absence could have a lot of insecurity that will cloud her understanding of selfless, loving physical expression. She will need to be on guard against using touch to assure herself of her worth, or that her boyfriend/fiancé will not leave her. In the same way, someone who has awakened his desires prematurely by taking touch out of the context of commitment will need to take greater measures to restore his purity when he does pledge himself to someone.

I’m not a relationship expert and, although this is my second article about kissing, I don’t want to become one. I don’t want to set Sam and myself up as the ideal. No couple has the perfect love story. The perfect love story is the marriage of Christ and the Church, which is yet to come — all of our human experiences are but dim reflections of that glorious event.

Christ is the only example of ideal purity and we should all be on guard against lifting others to that place, especially writers and speakers who choose to share their stories with us. No one is a virgin in heart, whether they’ve kissed or not. The Bible is very clear about that. We are all failures (be prepared to realize that in a painful way when you someday join your life with another’s).

In an otherwise excellent Christian relationship book I read recently, the author writes of “lusting” after his fiancée’s legs. After a war with his conscience, he tells her that he needs to be alone for awhile. I winced when I read this. Using “lust” in reference to desiring your intended is a depressing misuse of the word. Lust is the objectification of another human being, which happens when you remove the soul, spirit and mind of the other — the essence of them in all their profound individualness — and crave their body solely for your own satisfaction. I doubt the author was enjoying that leg as an object — he admired it because it was his fiancée’s. There is a beautiful flame of attraction that can be referred to as pure, holy desire, and it exists between all couples who are in healthy communion with each other, weaving their lives together within a covenant.

Many people, including myself, have said that there are only two states of romantic involvement outlined in the Bible — singleness and marriage — and that there is no room in-between for physical interaction. “Not married? Don’t touch. Married? Go hog wild!” But the engagement period is not a time to act like singles — never touching, never being alone together. It is a time when you learn how to channel your pure affections and passions to God through your intended, always with the thought of the other in mind. I would venture to say that touch is an important part of this. To self-disciplined, engaged couples, I would highly recommend admiring the beautiful gift of each other’s legs. In our culture, engaged couples desperately need to retreat from the world and redeem their Hollywood-polluted views of sex.

Of course not all desires, however good, can be acted upon before marriage. But when you’re struggling with them, don’t withdraw into yourself — share your burden. It takes away the secrecy and inner struggle, which Satan can use to blow things out of proportion. It was always very helpful for me to tell Sam, “Boy, I really feel like kissing you right now” — because then I was reminded of my commitment not to. God gives our fiancés to us for accountability and partnership.

The Bible does speak of an in-between period, a time when you are not single but not yet fully married. This is referred to in Matthew 1:18, where Joseph is called the husband of Mary, though he has not yet “taken her as his wife” or consummated the marriage. In traditional Hebrew practices, after a couple became betrothed they were considered legally bound to each other, so much that if the engagement were broken, one party would see the other in court.

We would do well to take our cues from the laws of God’s chosen people. Engagement should be binding, because you have given your word — and that should never be retracted, except under dire circumstances. Many parents and pastors do not stress this enough, and many young women do not take this into consideration when presented with that distracting diamond ring. We live in a society that treats commitment flippantly, but it is crucial that we understand how important it is to not promise things we cannot follow through on. (After engagement, I remember Sam pondering how connected we were, and commenting, “If we were to break up now it would be like a divorce.”) At that point of “yes,” you enter into something beyond a trial period.

Over the summer Newsweek ran a cover story on female sexuality. In the following issue a long-married couple wrote a letter to the editor pointing out something that Newsweek had missed: the greatest aphrodisiacs for a woman are her husband taking out the garbage and bathing the kids. This seems simple, but it strikes a very complex and important concept — that sex without deeds is dead; that when our romantic acts are separated from the rest of life — even menial tasks — passion evaporates and we are left with an empty shell of what love should be. We cannot divide our lives into compartments. We need to stop referring to our “spiritual life” and “sex life” as separate from “everyday life.” All aspects of our nature are connected in such a way that everything that goes on in the kitchen, dining room and church impacts the bedroom — and vice-versa.

And just as we should not draw hard lines between sexuality, spirituality and real life, we cannot separate the mind, soul and body. Our soul doesn’t reside in some cavity in our chests, it is woven throughout our flesh. Because of this unity, when our spirit joins in prayer with another’s, an emotional bond is formed. In the same way, our lips cannot do something without it affecting our soul.

There are three main ways you weave your selves together in love in preparation for marriage: physical, mental and spiritual. It’s like three thermometers — the mercury in each should be rising as you approach your wedding day. And you’ll see that the closer you get spiritually and mentally, the closer you will desire to be physically. This is good and right, but it also means you need to be wise. It doesn’t take that long to prepare for marriage (Sam and I moved our wedding up a month and a half and completely switched plans in one weekend). A short engagement is a great aid to purity — and patience!

One large problem with much contemporary Christian teaching on sexuality is that the church has soaked up the culture’s over-sexualization of everything. (Perhaps if we would limit our movie and media intake we’d be better equipped to avoid this.) As a result, we often talk of ourselves as if we were hormone machines. This is a very animalistic view of what the Bible calls the image of God.

Until I met Sam, I didn’t realize that I had assumed this point of view, which implies that our passions are stronger than our wills. What I gleaned from the broad range of evangelical relationship books I read in my teens was that all passion leads to sex, and that a kiss was a surefire means of eventually going too far. What I’ve learned since then is that passion begins the minute you glance into each other’s eyes, and not kissing doesn’t prevent it from building. Our wills, when in submission to the Holy Spirit, are strong enough to make sure that we will not compromise our principles. We can’t blame blind passion when we fall short of our standards. We are never irrational to “the point of no return.” We are not completely lost until we choose to lose ourselves. Hollywood pretends this isn’t so. We’ve all seen it — two characters are attracted to each other, and the minute they’re alone their lips are drawn together by a magnetic force they cannot resist — and then they just can’t help falling into bed. That is utter rubbish.

This over-sexualizing has also taken the form of over-romanticizing our expectations. I know I used to subconsciously believe that if I let God write my love story (by not participating in casual dating or kissing) then my romance would unfold like a novel. But just because you do all the “right things” according to the relationship experts doesn’t mean God is going to give you a purity trophy — that knockout Christian superstar who will make all your friends turn green with jealousy.

Our God delights in writing quirky stories using everyday materials — his own son was not a king but a carpenter, the son’s mother a poor Jewish girl. Don’t dismiss the young men and women that others seem to always overlook — they are often the ones who make the best husbands and wives. You might not be smitten with overwhelming tingles the first time your hand brushes the one you end up marrying, but don’t gauge your future by what happens in the movies. Quite a bit of love is quiet companionship and deep friendship.

On November 24th, I married my quiet companion and deep friend. When he kissed me, I did not feel pure because I was a virgin, or because I was wearing a white dress, or because I had saved my lips for him. I felt pure because I knew that it was a fresh beginning (as is every morning) — that Jesus gave me to him to continue making us both holy through the perpetual confession and forgiveness that comes in married life. I pray that when I am 60 and he kisses me, my lips will be more pure than they were on my wedding day.

Copyright © 2000 Bethany Torode. This article first appeared on Boundless webzine. Used by permission.


Background Information

Breaking Up is Hard to Do
The pain of a broken relationship is real, but not forever.

To Date or Not to Date
How you view dating and marriage will determine your teen’s expectation when he goes to middle and high school.


Questions and Answers

Our 16-year-old daughter has started dating. How do we help her keep perspective and avoid trouble?
Answer

Proms sure have changed since I was in school. I’m a little nervous about allowing my teenage daughter to go. What should I do?
Answer

Should we discourage our son from getting involved in a “summer romance”?
Answer

Review Frequently Asked Questions


Stories

If you’ve been through a experience related to this topic, we invite you to share your story with others.
Share Your Story


Other Things to Consider

What is Sex Worth?
Sex before marriage cost more than I dreamed.

Who’s On First
Are you dating or just friends? Maybe the other person changed the rules. Then again, maybe you just haven’t been paying attention.


Related Topics

Relationships: Blended Families, Parents and Adult Children

Transitions: Preparing for Adolescence, Empty Nest

Talking About Sex

talkseximgWhen it comes to the birds and the bees, children need to learn that sexuality is about more than anatomy — it’s also about morality. The emotional aspect of sex is much more complex than the physical. Going from thinking the opposite gender has “cooties” to understanding why adults would want to have sex is a huge leap for kids. Since sexual information is abundant — from media, friends, school and parents — moral views are diverse. Ideally, parents should be the first to explain sex. Starting early, sharing age-appropriate information and explaining physical changes are crucial to healthy sexual development. Parents should also carefully review the school’s sex education curriculum. Talking about sex with your kids may be uncomfortable, but it’s crucial. Your discussions are the foundation for good sexual choices in your child’s future.


Background Information

Having “The Talk”
It might be awkward, but it’s a parent’s place to talk about sex.

How Much is Too Much?
Here are age-appropriate guidelines for teaching kids about sex.


Questions and Answers

When do children begin to develop a sexual nature?
Answer

I really want my daughter to enjoy the Valentine season, but how can I help her see past the worldly exploitation of romance?
Answer

I would like to teach my own child about human sexuality, but I’m not sure I know how to go about it. When do I say what?
Answer

In a culture where dating and sex often blend together, where do I tell my son to “draw the line” physically?
Answer

Is sexual experimentation normal? What should I do if I catch my child acting out with another child?
Answer

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Stories

If you’ve been through an experience related to this topic, we invite you to share your story with others.
Share Your Story


Other Things to Consider

When It Comes to Sex, Character Counts
Teaching character can make a difference in your child’s future sex life.


Transitions: Having a Baby, Preparing for Adolescence

Life Pressures: Working Moms, Stay-At-Home Moms, Time for Family

Relationships: Parents and Adult Children, Blended Families

Special Needs Children

specialimgWhen the doctor hesitated during the ultrasound, you knew something was wrong. Part of pregnancy is worrying that your child will be healthy and “normal,” but, with the diagnosis, you no longer have the luxury of wondering. Now, you face much larger decisions — decisions about the quality of life, for your child and yourself. In the remaining months of your pregnancy, or in the months following your baby’s birth, you must begin to love and accept this child for who he or she is. Learning to care for your special needs child and beginning to appreciate his or her worth may be a struggle, but it is also a wonderful privilege.

 


Background Information

Why So Quiet?
These are some causes and signs of autism, and what parents can do about it.

Working Through Grief
As a parent of a child with Down syndrome, you have to grieve for the child you expected before accepting the child you have.


Questions and Answers

Where can parents of special needs children find support groups?
Answer

Review more Frequently Asked Questions


Stories

Eliana Joy
When Eliana Joy died from severe brain abnormalities, her parents faced the toughest test they’d ever faced.

Adam’s Story
Special Needs children require faith, lots of love and courage

Our Son Joe
The following letter was written from the father of a child born with Spina Bifida.

Too Young To Die
Living with a seriously ill child can seem too much to bear.

If you’ve been through an experience related to this topic, we invite you to share your story with others.
Share Your Story


Other Things to Consider

In His Image
Her genetic makeup said she was flawed, but her Father thought otherwise.

A Spiritual RX for Healthy Mind and Body
A new study of bereaved spouses shows a significant link between religious faith and the ability to heal after a loss. It’s just one more confirmation of the faith/health connection.

Bearing the Burden of a Child’s Illness
In the midst of a devastating diagnosis, sometimes all you can do is to trust God.

Divine Wisdom
If you’re struggling with any of the questions below, these thoughts and scriptures may help.


Transitions: Having a Baby, Preparing for Adolescence

Life Pressures: Working Moms, Stay-At-Home Moms, Time for Family

Relationships: Parents and Adult Children, Blended Families

Single Parenting

pcsingleparentimgDays overflow with responsibility: making ends meet, chauffeuring kids from one activity to the next, maintaining the house. But even in the midst of endless activity, the monotony of life sets in and many single parents question their effectiveness. Feelings of inadequacy and loneliness often surface: Will my child be balanced? Why do I have to be alone? How can I handle everything I have to do? Will my child resent growing up without both parents? These concerns and fears can be paralyzing, preventing moms and dads from being the parent their kids need. Insecurity, loneliness, grief and rejection loom over many single parents. But there is hope and encouragement for those who face parenting alone.


Background Information

Adopting on Your Own
This advice can help single parents who want to adopt children.

On Your Own
A lot changes after a divorce occur, most notably, the demands of parenting.


Questions and Answers

I am a single mother with a 5-year-old son. How can I raise him to be a healthy man who has a good masculine image?
Answer

What encouragement can you offer to those of us who are single parents?
Answer

Review more Frequently Asked Questions


Stories

The Way It Wasn’t Supposed to Be
Divorce is a hateful thing. But with help, you can mend the torn fabric of your family’s life.

Accepting a New Identity
Unexpectedly widowed, a woman has trouble accepting her role as single parent.

My Mother, My Hero
My mother sacrificed her life to give her kids the best she could — and to help us be our best.

If you’ve been through an experience related to this topic, we invite you to share your story with others.
Share Your Story


Other Things to Consider

Forgiveness: What it is and What it Isn’t
Understanding and granting forgiveness can help you move past the pain of divorce.

Learning to Roll With Change
It’s not the most fun you’ll ever have, but the results are worth it.

Where is God in the Midst of All My Troubles?
So many cry out to Him in times of need, but is God really listening? And, more important, does He care?


Transitions: Having a Baby, Preparing for Adolescence

Life Pressures: Working Moms, Stay-At-Home Moms, Time for Family

Relationships: Parents and Adult Children, Blended Families