A little over a year into our marriage, Brian and I purchased a very small, one-bedroom house. Again, we thought a change of scenery might improve our perspectives. It didn’t.
A month after we moved in, I moved out. Our fighting, which had occurred regularly since the wedding, had become more intense. Our words now seethed with hate. In two years of dating, we had argued only once. Brian had been angry with me only that one time, and then very briefly and very controlled. And I had been angry with him only that one time as well.
Now we targeted our disappointments at one another. I was disappointed that I had to work besides taking on the responsibilities at home and limiting my extracurricular college activities. Brian was disappointed that our marriage had created friction within his family. I was disappointed that boys on campus treated me better than my own husband did. Brian was disappointed that girls on campus treated him better than his own wife did. I was disappointed that I was lonely. We were both disappointed that we couldn’t ever get along.
It wasn’t the disappointment, though, that caused me to leave. It is what we did with our disappointment. We tried to crucify each other with our words — daily. After so many months of dishing it out and receiving it, I no longer cared about hope. I no longer cared about God’s judgment if we divorced. I no longer cared about forgiving or seeking forgiveness.
So I filed for a divorce. Although Brian said he didn’t want a divorce, he signed the papers giving me no contest. He said he knew I was serious, and he wanted to cooperate in order to avoid further nastiness. Great, I thought. So the divorce is all of a sudden on my shoulders.
The court date was set for a few months later. The announcement ran in the local paper — more grist for the small-town gossip mill. Our marriage was on the ropes. The challenges to creating and developing marital intimacy had annihilated it.
Anyone who has engaged in premarital sex will face challenges later in regard to marital intimacy. Recognizing and acknowledging the challenges are the first steps to overcoming them. Engaging in premarital sex creates a hindrance to healthy marital sex, may cause health problems, increases the risk of infidelity, and intensifies family difficulties.
A Hindrance to Healthy Marital Sex
Premarital sex often devastates marital sex. Only within an intimate and trusting relationship can sexual partners be vulnerable and experience mutual satisfaction. Yet premarital sex often gives rise to doubts about one another’s integrity. For the first two years of our marriage, I assumed that the punishment for our premarital sex was awful sex for the rest of my life. I didn’t realize that our marriage bed was simply tainted with anger. “The reason why people don’t have good sex is simply because they don’t like each other,” says marriage counselor Dr. Willard Harley.(1) “It’s difficult to be intimate with someone you can’t stand.”
Lisa, a woman who had engaged in premarital sex said, “It took us nearly ten years to rework how we thought about sex so that we could enjoy it.” This is because premarital sex produces an inaccurate model by which to gauge arousal. It fosters a self-pleasing spirit. It also produces guilt feelings that become associated with the very act of sex.
“Nathan and I have been married almost ten years,” wrote Stacie, a woman who had engaged in premarital sex, “and it was only last summer that I finally realized that making love to my husband was something that actually brought God joy. Talk about a revelation. I had even got to the point that I would not make love to my husband on Sundays because I really felt like it was a “dirty” thing. My whole idea of sex, the way God really designed it, had been altered because of what was done prior to this union.”
When we have trained ourselves to focus on our personal pleasure as the primary goal in sex, a necessary element for marital intimacy has been discarded. That necessary element is honor. As Christ loved us, so He has asked us to love each other. He has instructed us to do so with honor by being harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.
Being harmonious means pursuing the same goals. Sympathetic means being responsive to the other person’s needs. Brotherly means living with your mate as a companion. Kindhearted means having affection and being sensitive to things that annoy the other person. Being humble in spirit means being selfless. Healthy marital sex, then, is the culmination of a relationship that is rooted in biblical love.
Premarital sex is the pursuit of personal satisfaction — be it acceptance, pleasure, or security — at the expense of someone else’s honor. Seth, now a respected Christian leader who had engaged in premarital sex as a teenager, tells how he had to change his mind about sex after he got married. “Not only did I have to repent of my sin of premarital sex,” he said, “but I also had to reevaluate what I thought to be the purpose of sexual relations and then align my view with God’s view. It took many years into our marriage for me to reprogram my thinking and become able to give myself to my wife as God had intended.”
Premarital sex may also train us to manipulate circumstances in our marriage to obtain sexual pleasure. Healthy marital sex delights itself in satisfying one another’s desires, even when one partner’s desire is not aroused. Yet premarital sex fosters a mind-set that sex is all about me. When we don’t get what that “me” wants, we become angry. The object of our love turns into the object of our contempt precisely because he or she was only that — an object, not a person made in the image of God.
Consider King David’s son Amnon who desired his beautiful half-sister, Tamar, so fiercely that he became physically sick with love (see 2 Sam. 13:1 – 2). After he eventually cornered her through a ruse and raped her, his feverish love turned into an intense hate. Just before the rape, Tamar begged Amnon to ask their father David to let Amnon marry her so as not to dishonor her. Yet Amnon wanted what he wanted, and he wanted it right then. After he got it, though, Amnon “hated her with a very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, ‘Get up, go away!’” (v. 15).
Getting what we want through manipulation brings disdain, dishonor, and guilt. Future marital relations are hindered, even though they are meant to be pure.
1. Willard Harley, interview by the author, Dallas, Texas, 15 July 1998.
Heather Jamison met and fell headfirst in love with her husband, Brian (M.A., Dallas Theological Seminary), when she was 14 years old (he was 16!). Today they serve as humanitarian workers together in East Africa with their four children. A widely published author, Heather’s work has appeared in many places including Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman, Real FamilyLife, and Youthworker’s Journal.
Taken from Reclaiming Intimacy © 2001 by Heather Jamison. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.