I did not understand before why premarital sex was such a big deal. I knew it was a sin, and I knew God forbid it. But I didn’t understand the very real and harmful effects it has on a relationship.
Probably the biggest harmful effect is destroying trust. I’m going to try to break down why this happens.
As Christians, we know God’s command to abstain from sex before marriage. We hopefully plan to abide by it. But often we find ourselves in relationships where the other person is pressuring us into sex, or maybe we are that person.
What happens here is complex. But first of all, it incurs a lot of guilt and shame. Forbidden sex can seem really exciting before it happens. Your desire carries you away, and you’re lulled into thinking it will be ok. It feels so natural and right.
But afterward, you’re left with a feeling of emptiness and guilt. You know you sinned, and you have nothing to show for it. What seemed so exciting and desirable beforehand, now shows itself to be what it is: an empty physical experience apart from the protective covenant commitment of marriage that God has sanctioned to be the arena for guilt-free sex.
The guilt severely damages your relationship with God. You’re left feeling destroyed, unable to connect with him. You have to abjectly repent, feeling extremely low. It may take days to recover. You’ll likely continue to be haunted by guilt, and not feel totally free in your worship of God for a long time.
If you’re a genuine believer, made new and indwelt by God’s Spirit, I promise you will not be able to engage in this sin without consequences. If you continue in it without guilt or repentance, it’s time for a serious examination of yourself to see if you really are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).
Now imagine you try to talk to your partner about this. You both have this experience, and you both know it is wrong. You apologize. You confess. You make promises to set boundaries. You agree to not do it again.
And yet it happens again. When you’re alone together, inappropriate touching starts. Things escalate, and before you know it, you’ve crossed the line. And the whole miserable, vicious cycle repeats itself.
Now imagine the effect this has on the relationship. Instead of your interactions with your partner causing you joy and increased trust, they cause you guilt, shame, and spiritual harm. You start to feel suspicious of them. They become someone who is damaging you, someone you need to protect yourself from, someone you need to fight against in order to maintain your relationship with God. You may begin to experience anger and even hate for them. Trust erodes till eventually it’s gone completely. This is what the Bible means by saying “that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter” (1 Thessalonians 4:6).
The two of you should be a team, fighting and working together for the good of the relationship. If you know the other person has got your back, and will be strong when you are weak, and will stand up for your standards even when they yearn to do otherwise, that builds trust. If, however, you are constantly fighting them to maintain the standards that both of you supposedly want, this pits you against each other in order to try to have a harmonious relationship. Doesn’t work.
Dating is a time to get to know each other and make a good decision about whether to marry, free from the mind- and emotion-bending effects of sex. Sex powerfully bonds two people together, and helps them overlook each others’ faults. This is a great thing in marriage. But it’s not a great thing in dating.
Sex makes you feel like you are married, even if you are not. It turbo-accelerates your closeness. But it obscures the reality of the person and the relationship. You feel so powerfully united that you overlook problems and are much more likely to stay even if you shouldn’t. It makes breaking up far more painful.
Be careful and wise. Protect yourself. Create a safe space to get to know the other person. Use the time of dating to become sure about whether you want to commit. Don’t give all of yourself to them, till it is completely safe to do so. Once you know they are a good person and you have made the covenant commitment of marriage, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy each other. But if you do break up, you will be sparing yourself a lot of heartbreak and regret.
If you’re with someone who can be trusted to consistently say no to his or her own desires in order to protect you and do the right thing, and you are that person, you’re building trust. On the other hand, if you’re with someone who consistently gives into their own desires, even when it hurts you and the relationship, they are demonstrating they are not a safe person to give your whole life, heart, and body to. Who knows what out-of-control desires they will give into in the marriage?
Don’t just take this as an arbitrary rule. Listen to people who have done it, and are now the wiser. You will not gain anything from having sex outside of marriage. In fact, you will lose a lot. It may destroy the relationship altogether, and if not, you will carry a lot of issues into your marriage that will destroy closeness. On the other hand, if you’ve built trust through waiting, consistently saying no, and giving yourselves to each other only when you’re truly one in marriage, you will be building a solid foundation for a guilt-free, happy partnership.