Sitting across the counseling table from a married couple. Well on their way to taking the rings off. For good. After years of being together. And two beautiful kids in the mix. But something happened in recent months. Something neither one ever expected. Something he had done. With a co-worker. Female even. In secret.
That experience. His experience. That became his wife’s experience. Once she found out. Taught me something. Actually it reinforced something. That I had already learned to take to heart throughout two decades of pastoral ministry.
It’s really a simple principle. That we probably all know. But seeing it first hand. Again. Really left no doubt. At least in my mind. That it’s a principle we can’t ignore. Though we often do.
So here goes: “Broken trust is hard to rebuild.” Not impossible. But terribly hard. Maybe more difficult than anything else in life. Especially when it comes to the physical side of things. Meaning sexual intimacy. With someone other than your wife.
Nothing hurts more. Nothing strikes to the core more. Nothing sticks with you more. Than broken trust. Broken physical trust. With someone other than your wife.
May very well be true. But what does this have to do with sex and the single guy?
It’s really very simple. We just choose to ignore the simplicity of it. Because the sexual pull can be so strong. That we don’t end up thinking clearly. Or rationally. But rather mistakenly. That sexual intimacy outside of marriage (married or not) is harmless. Inconsequential. Non-commital. That it doesn’t affect things. Down the road.
But we’re wrong. It’s not harmless. It’s not inconsequential. It’s never non-commital. Because it always involves more than we think. At a deeper level. That we never anticipate. Until much later. When we realize the damage. Has already been done.
Men. Men in general. But single men in particular. When you are sexually intimate with a woman outside of marriage. Something happens that you probably didn’t consider. At least not at first. Because though we’re designed for sexual intimacy. We’re not designed for it to be expressed this way. Not with anyone. Except our wives (or future wife).
We are so vulnerable. We all are. Adam and Eve weren’t vulnerable. Before they veered from God’s design. But once they did. They defined it. Defined vulnerability. In so many ways. It’s almost funny. From the outside. Looking in. Not so funny. From the inside. Looking out. “Funny.” Two people running around with fig leaves. Strategically placed. Always hard to depict in kids’ books! Man and woman running around in the forest. Covering themselves. “Funny.” Unless your name happened to be “Adam.” Or “Eve.” To them, their fun suddenly became total fear. Real fear. Not “kind of” afraid. Like someone said “boo.” But real fear. Knowing deep down that something has gone terribly wrong. Not fun. Or funny. At all.
And like anyone who’s suddenly afraid. They acted afraid. It’s impulse. It’s what we do. Even if we don’t mean to. We do strange things. Like scream. Or shiver. Or freeze in place. Or run. When we’re afraid. Really afraid. Not sure if Adam or Eve screamed or shivered. They definitely didn’t freeze in one place. Because we know. From Scripture. That they ran and hid. From God. Tried even to cover their tracks (among other things). And doubted. And debated. For the first time ever. In all their lives. If God would ever accept them again.
Because that’s what our nakedness does. Our nakedness becomes. When it’s expressed in a way that God never intended.
It expresses itself as vulnerability. Exposes big gaps in our sense of self. Makes us see ourselves not as God sees us. Not anymore. Not like we used to see us. Suddenly we don’t know if God still loves. We know He loves. But we can’t be sure anymore. In our vulnerability. If He still loves us. Or if anyone else ever will either.
The Bible calls it “defrauding.” Look it up. 1 Thessalonians 4:6. Some translations say “taking advantage” of another person. That’s probably more clear. It’s in the context of what happens when we don’t control our bodies sexually with another. We “take advantage” of the other. Even if they’re willing. That’s not the point. The point is that something happens. When we “take advantage.” Of another. Something that we didn’t expect. Because we’re not designed to deal with it. Our minds. Our emotions. Our souls. Are not designed to deal with it. To accept it. As if nothing happened. When we use what God has given us. In a way He never intended.
One night stand. Still applies. Friend with benefits. Still applies. Long term dating relationship. Still applies. Engaged to be married. Still applies. Any sexual intimacy outside of marriage. Still applies.
It’s still defrauding. It’s still taking something from another that God never intended for you to take. And it’s not just physical. It’s psychological. It’s emotional. And it’s spiritual. And it’s all more than we can handle. If we could ever admit it. But we can’t. Because we’re terribly vulnerable. Until it all comes out someday. Across the counseling table. From a pastor who’s heard it all a thousand times before. If only we’d learn. Not to hurt ourselves. And others. So often. With a part of our lives. That God designed to bring such pleasure. Not pain. But why? Why do we settle? For the pain. So often.
Sexual intimacy outside of marriage. Is always much more than you bargained for. You just thought you were having sex. With marriage no longer the criteria. Sex. Single or not. Single Christian or not. Everybody’s doing it! And everybody’s hurting too. They’re just covering it up. Like Adam. Like Eve. We learn to do what they did well. To cover it all up. Fig leaves. Of a different form.
For men. Our cover up is rather bold. It comes across as bragging. Boasting. Locker room bravado. Whatever we want to call it, as men. But we’re all just covering up. “The great masculine cover up.” That’s what’s really happening on the inside. Concealed from others to see. Isn’t it odd? How we do strange things like that. Bury it deep down. When we’re hurting. When we’ve hurt another? Taken something from them that we had no right to take.
So, gentlemen, the greatest gift you can ever give to your wife. Or your future wife. Is the knowledge that you can be trusted. Even when you’ve not met her. At least not yet (as odd as that might sound). But the greatest gift. Is that you are trustworthy. Now. Intimately trustworthy. Even now. As a single guy. So that then. As a married man. She knows. She has no doubt. That you are fully trustworthy. Fully married. And full of integrity. Because the man you are now. Is the man you’ve always been.
I tend to think in terms of equations when it comes to these sorts of things. It helps to bring clarity. To unclear thoughts. At least for me. Maybe a simple formula will help bring it all home for you too.
Sexual Intimacy (SI) – True Commitment (TC) = Exposed Vulnerability (EV)
SI – TC = EV
Which means when you are sexually intimate outside of marriage. It makes you vulnerable. It makes the person you just defrauded vulnerable. Extremely vulnerable. And it makes your future mate ever more vulnerable. Because the most likely persons to be adulterous in marriage. Are those who are promiscuous outside of the wedding ring. And we carry that mindset into our supposed marital bliss. The learned behavior. That sexual intimacy with someone other than our wife. Is meaningless. Fun. But meaningless.
Except we’re wrong. It’s never meaningless. Nothing intimate is ever meaningless. And you know it.
In the counseling world we call it “baggage.” And it’s the biggest baggage you can carry into your marriage. And it only gets heavier in time.
But it doesn’t have to.
Because the greatest gift you can ever give your future wife (speaking to single men). Is the awareness that you were faithful to her. Before you even knew her. And even when you did know her. Until you were truly committed to her. In marriage.
And then. And only then. Can you experience sexual intimacy with the utmost of vulnerability. Because your past has proven that you can be trusted in the present. And the future.
She can now be totally vulnerable with you. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually. In every way. Because you’re trustworthy. Tried and true. As a single guy. And as a married man. Trustworthy. No reason for her to hide. From you.
And so men. Single men. You thought your present sexual life didn’t matter. To your future marriage.
Well it matters more than you think. And if you want a wife someday who can look into your eyes and know that she can trust you with her life. And all that goes with it. It starts now. Not then.
By showing that you don’t play the defrauding game. That you don’t take from another. For the sake of your momentary gain. And her future pain.
One blog post is way too short. To be a real guide. For the sex lives of single guys.
But it’s interesting. Very interesting. If more single men started thinking of their future wives. And how their behavior now determines a lot how that they will be trusted then. Perhaps. Just perhaps. This simple guide for single guys would be all they need. After all, it is a rather basic equation. A matter of simple subtraction. Of thinking in a new direction.
SI – TC = EV
Love your future wife too much now. To expose her deepest vulnerability then. And the pain that goes with it. Give her the trust she deserves. Starting with when you’re single. And the intimacy you’ll experience with her in marriage. Will one day make what you didn’t experience. What you put on hold. As a single man. Will make it worthwhile for what you will experience. When there’s no holding back. As a married man.
And so the ultimate sex for the single guy. Is really no sex at all! Now at least. For the sake of the best sex of all. Then at last.
Because that’s what love does. Puts things in perspective now. For something greater later. To protect the heart of your future wife. Not exposing her to the greatest vulnerability. So she doesn’t have to live afraid. Of you being the man. You used to be. But instead being convinced. Confident. Without a doubt. That you’re the man. You’ve always been. And always will be. Truly committed. To her. Even when you didn’t know her name. And now that you know her intimately. There’s no other way.
— Dr. Greg Belcher. A never married single who has pastored churches in North Carolina and Georgia, most recently serving as the Pastor of Single Adults (and Young Professionals) at the rapidly growing Hope Community Church located in Raleigh, NC.