Sep

12

2013

Garrett Kell|12:01 AM CT

How to Destroy Your Marriage Before It Begins

Tim and Jess had only been married for eight months, but the honeymoon was most certainly over. The sweet conversations that once marked their relationship had been replaced with constant bickering. Their laughter had dulled, and their distance had grown. Their sexual intimacy had almost ceased.

What went wrong? How had Satan slipped into this young marriage? As I unpacked some of the couple's history, I discovered he hadn't sabotaged them on their honeymoon, nor in the early months of figuring out married life. The Devil had begun his work before they'd even made it to the altar. Though Tim and Jess are Christians, their dating and engagement were marked with sexual impurity.

Though the early days of their relationship had been fine, over time they made consistent compromises that developed into a deeper pattern of sexual sin. Whenever they'd sin, they'd confess to each other and make oaths to never let it happen again. But it did. Because of the shame, they never let anyone else in on what was happening. In hindsight, Tim and Jess admit their courtship was a big cover-up of deceit.

Sadly, Tim and Jess's story is all too familiar. Many unmarried Christian couples struggle with sexual sin. This should be no surprise, since we have an enemy set against us and our impending marriage (1 Pet. 5:8). He hates God, and he hates marriage because it depicts the gospel (Eph. 5:32).

One of Satan's most effective strategies to corrupt the gospel-portraying union of marriage is to attack couples through sexual sin before they say "I do." Here are four of his most common ploys to attack marriages before they begin.

1. Satan wants us to make a pattern of obeying our desires instead of God's direction.

God's ways are good, but Satan wants us to believe they aren't. This has been his plan from the first call to compromise in the garden (Gen. 3:1-6). His end goal is for us to develop a consistent pattern of resisting the Spirit and following our sinful desires once we get into marriage. He wants us to learn to resist service and to pursue selfishness.

If we learn to do what we want when we want before marriage, we'll carry that pattern into the days and years that follow. This, however, is deadly since service and sacrifice are essential to a healthy, Christ-honoring marriage. Love in marriage is shown by a thousand daily decisions to do what you don't want—whether doing the dishes or changing a diaper or watching a movie instead of a basketball game. If your relationship before marriage is characterized by giving into urges of immediate desire, you'll most certainly struggle when you encounter the nitty-gritty of married life.

2. Satan wants us to underestimate how susceptible we are to temptation.

Satan wants us to think we won't take our sin to the next level. He wants us to think we're stronger than we really are. He wants us to think we'll never go that far. This is a powerful trick since it simultaneously plays on both our pride and also our well-intended desire to honor God. You're weaker than you think. You can go where you think you won't. Sin is like an undercurrent in the ocean—if you play in it, you'll be overpowered and swept away into certain destruction.

One of the ways Satan works this angle is by tempting you to think purity is a not-to-be-crossed line rather than a posture of the heart. He wants you to think purity before God is not kissing or not taking off clothes or not having oral sex or not "going all the way." He wants you to think that if you don't cross a certain line, you're staying pure. The problem with this kind of thinking, however, is that Jesus says if we just lust in our heart we've sinned and stand condemned before God (Matt. 5:27-30).

Purity is much more about the posture of our hearts than the position of our bodies. The age-old "How far is too far?" question may reveal a desire to get as close to sin as possible instead of a desire to flee as our Lord calls us to (1 Cor. 6:18).

3. Satan wants couples to weaken their trust in one another.

When we compromise sexually, we're showing the other person we're willing to use and abuse them to get what makes us happy. Every time we push the boundaries with our fiancée or lead her into sin we are communicating, though we don't mean to, "You can't trust me because I'm willing to use and disregard you to get what I want."

This is certainly one of Satan's deadliest strategies, and the one I suspect hurt Tim and Jess the most. They didn't trust each other. They never really did. So much of their dating relationship was engulfed in the cycle of sin, shame, and start-over that they never developed a mature, battle-tested trust for each other.

It's important to point out, however, that when we resist sexual sin, God blesses a relationship with the exact opposite effect. Every time we say "no" to sexual sin and turn to prayer, telling one another we value them and their walk with the Lord too much to go one step further, he uses that faithfulness to strengthen trust. My wife regularly tells dating couples that one of the reasons she trusts me is because I literally ran from compromising situations before we were married. We weren't perfect in our courtship, but the Lord used that season to build trust in one another.

4. Satan wants to deceive you with the forbidden fruit of lust.

There's a world of difference between premarital sex and sex within marriage. One reason is that the forbidden fruit of lust portrays sex before marriage as something it isn't always in marriage. Normally, premarital sexual activity is like gas on fire. Passion is high, feelings are intense, and the drive to go further is fueled by the knowledge you shouldn't (Rom. 7:8).

Sex in marriage is different. There's still passion, and there's still intense feelings and emotions—but sex in marriage is based primarily on the hot coals of trust, devotion, and sacrifice (1 Cor. 7:1-5). Couples who built their sexual expectations on passion provided by the forbidden fruit are often disappointed and confused when sex is different in marriage.

My wife and I laughed at this idea when our premarital counselor shared it with us. We were sure we'd be exception to the rule. But almost six years and three kids later, he was right. Couples like us can have a strong sex life, but it's fueled by deeper characteristics than fleeting passion. Satan wants couples to get used to running on the caffeine and sugar of lust rather than mature love of service and sacrifice.

Few Concluding Thoughts

1. Wait in faith. The Christian posture is always one of waiting. We wait for Christ's return. We wait for an eternity with him. And unmarried believers wait for the blessings of marriage. Say "no" to sin's promises by faith in God's. Renew your mind with God's Word and keep waiting in faith.

2. Guys, you gotta lead. While both persons in the relationship are responsible before God, the man must set the pace for purity. Too often ladies are forced to draw the lines and to say "no." That's cowardly and wrong. It's the man's responsibility to care for his future wife by leading her toward Jesus and away from sin, darkness, and the pain of evil. If he sets the wrong pattern here, he'll be digging out for years afterward—and may never regain the ground he loses apart from God's grace.

3. Involve others every step of the way. Don't let your relationship remain unexamined by other godly Christians. Both of you should have a godly couple or group of faithful friends who hold you accountable. Invite tough questions and give honest answers. God uses transparency to give strength.

4. If you sin, go to the gospelThe apostle John wrote, "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One" (1 John 2:1-2). If you sin, flee to the cross. Run to the empty tomb. Look to your Advocate, confess your sin deeply, and repent. God loves to bless this kind of posture (Prov. 28:13).

Sexual sin doesn't need to be dagger in the heart of your courting relationship, engagement, or marriage. God is a merciful God who delights in restoring what sin seeks to destroy (Joel 2:25-27). He will not, however, bless ongoing disobedience and presumption on his grace. If you have fallen into sexual sin, today is the day to plead for mercy and turn to Christ in faith. May God give us mercy to pursue purity for his glory and our good.

Garrett Kell is married to Carrie, and together they have three children. He serves as pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter.

Categories: Christian Living
  • http://www.dogmadoxa.blogspot.com Dane

    Thanks for the good post. But the last paragraph should have been half the article.

  • http://www.delraybaptist.org Garrett Kell

    Dane-

    Thank you for that well-warranted critique. None of us do relationships perfectly and because of that we are always in need of God's grace.

    Also, sexual sin doesn’t need to be dagger in the heart of a courting relationship, engagement, or marriage. God is a merciful God who delights in restoring what sin seeks to destroy (Joel 2:25-27). He will not however bless on-going disobedience and presumption upon His mercy. If we have fallen into sexual sin, today is the day to plead for mercy and turn from it to Christ in faith. May God give us mercy to pursue purity for His glory and our good.

    Grace and Peace-

    Garrett

  • Tim Mullet

    I agree with the above comment. Great diagnosis of the problem, but little hope for Tim and Jess who have apparently ruined their marriage and are now cursed. Let them be an example to everyone, we don't want to end up like that. At least that's how it comes across :)

    • Berkeley

      Tim, I don't think the article was written to help married couples who engaged in pre-marital sex, but to open the eyes of dating/engaged couples to the consequences of their choices. I thought it did that in a very helpful way.

      • Tim Mullet

        Hey Berkeley,
        I understand the intent. As a counselor I've learned that when you overstate your case, it can lead to despair for others not in your target audience. In other words you don.t want to motivate the unmarried by throwing another group of sinners under the bus. I understand the title is probably hyperbolic, but for those in the situation described, it takes away all hope.
        Tim

  • http://www.dogmadoxa.blogspot.com Dane

    Thanks for this, Garrett. We are in full and glad agreement, onward!
    DCO

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com Derek Rishmawy

    Shared this with my students. Great thoughts here. I've told my kids more than a few times that dating is the training ground for marriage in more ways than one.

  • Ryan

    The struggle I'm having here is that I think it's disingenuous to present pre-marital sex as the reason why their marriage is faltering - which, whether that was your intent or not, is how the post came across to me. While it's something that could possibly have a impact on a married couple's relationship, I don't think sexual impurity during the dating phase is alone able to account for what's going on here. Perhaps most damning of this article is the couples out there who gleefully and joyfully engaged in premarital sex whenever they liked and who went on to have happy, lifelong marriages based on mutual trust, respect and sacrifice. I myself know of several couples like that (mostly non-Christian), and while anecdotal evidence is hardly authoritative, I think nonetheless that it does leave us with sufficient reason to call the premise of the article into question.

    Now, it is true that for the Christian, pre-marital sex signifies a sort of breach of trust that isn't present for non-Christians, as to the non-Christian there is no aspect of the "forbidden fruit" about it. Nonetheless, the individual is responsible for their own actions, and (forgive me for playing to crass stereotypes) for a man to say "Well, I trusted her to say no" or for a woman to say "Well, I trusted him to not push the issue" is categorically irresponsible and more than a little childish. Again, this is heavily stereotyped, and indeed is a supremely unhealthy stereotype because it portrays women as bizarre, sexless robots who would never initiate sexual activity and only do it because the man wants it (a picture which, of course, has no place in reality). The point is that a couple who blames and loses trust in the other person because of sexual sin is perhaps an indication of immaturity of a different sort.

    All of this is to say that while I agree that pre-marital sex could potentially lead to difficulty once the couple is married, I do not think that there is sufficient reason to point to it as a cause of a couple failing to love and sacrifice for one another faithfully.

    • Sarah

      My husband would tend to agree more with you (he says, "Why can't you just get over it? We didn't go all the way. But, yes, was we did was wrong, but we've repented, so move on."), but every single one of these points the author made hit home with me and have greatly affect my marriage, even twelve years later. It certainly doesn't seem to affect all people and marriages the same way (even if we limit it to just Christians, as I think we should), as I know people like you whose marriages seem virtually unaffected by their per-marital impurity. Why is this? I don't know. It could use some more thought.

      I think the article was spot on with his challenge for guys to lead in the area of sexual purity. As he says, "While both persons in the relationship are responsible before God, the man must set the pace for purity." Neither partner can claim they are not responsible (it takes two to tango), but if the man is going to fulfill his godly role in marriage (that of leading, spiritually guiding, discipling his wife, sacrificially loving her), then he needs to start when they are dating. If he doesn't (as my husband failed to do, which of course does not mean that I did not fail as well), then I fully agree with the author that "If he sets the wrong pattern here, he'll be digging out for years afterward—and may never regain the ground he loses apart from God's grace." How does a wife learn to respect and trust her husband to lead her away from sin and to Christ when their whole marriage was built the opposite way? It is not a matter of stereotyping like you said, it is a matter of fulfilling the biblical roles of husband and wife, based upon the relationship of Christ and His church.

    • cindy

      So well said. My reaction as a woman to Guys, you gotta lead." makes my relationship and purity before a holy God null and void. Everything we do or say should be an act of worship from hearts that are drawn to a Father that loves us. We are co-airs together with Christ. We are told to submit to Christ and to one another. This statement leads you to believe that if a man can't "lead" then the weak willed woman will most likely submit to his sin. It also puts the responsibility on the "guys" and I don't see that in scripture. Husbands are to love...we both need to honor and have respect for one another. My husband and I desired to please God in our relationship and that hasn't changed after 25 years. Do we sin, yes, but by God's grace we love and respect each other and continue to rely on his help each and every day. God gave me the desire of my heart, a man that loves Jesus first...the holy spirit confirmed it in my heart as I was led by Him. Either we allow the holy spirit to lead us or our flesh will.

      As for those who sinned in the area of sex or impurity before marriage, God redeems it all, he gives grace as we humbly turn from our sin and we recognize that apart from him we can do nothing. As we worship God in everything we make room for his spirit to lead in every area and our obedience will be a response of love, our repentance will be quick, and our healing will be complete...all to the glory of God.

      • Melody

        The problem is with men acting like Judah. It isn't a matter of a weak willed woman sinning. It's about not letting the man turn around and call the woman a dirty name for giving into him. It's about holding him accountable and not getting to blame the woman like Adam did Eve. The woman sinned first but Adam was still responsible for not leading.
        So yes it is in scripture.

  • Dan

    I read a lot of TGC articles, but i've only ever commented three times, this being the third. That said, thank you so much. I'm engaged and close to getting married and this speaks straight, almost parallel to where me and my fiance' are. Thank you for the warning and encouragement.

  • Susan

    Thank you for this.

    But what if you are just like Tim + Jess? Where do you go from here if you already made this mistake and are year(s) into marriage? How do they (we) heal from this and see redemption in our marriage?

    • Sarah

      Agreed. Twelves years into marriage and I still haven't figured out how to leave the past behind and to fully trust my husband. TGC, if Tim and Jess's story is all too familiar, please provide more help in saving our marriages! Although this article hit the nail on the head with all four points and helped me to understand better what's going on in my head and in my marriage, I am left almost at a worse place than before, because as the article title states, I have "destroyed my marriage before it began." I feel hopeless. Those two little paragraphs at the end do not do enough to tamper the approximately 20 paragraphs previous that just pound into my mind that we ruined our marriage from the get-go. Help! There are probably tons of us out here!

      • Tim Mullet

        Hey Sarah,
        Many people who find themselves in your situation tend to think of their relational problems almost entirely as consequences of their sinful choices. The problem with this sort of thinking is that God commands all married people to delight sexually in their spouses. So one cannot get caught up in the sort of thinking that says, "I can't because of my past sin and that's just a consequence that I deserve." It is very understandable that Christians should feel this way because so many Pastors try to warn people of the dangers of sexually promiscuity by painting a hopeless picture, the problem is that later, after the sin, they try to encourage with the gospel, but that encouragement falls flat, because the hopeless picture has already been painted. The truth is that Satan wants to ruin your marriage by getting you to commit sexual sin and then convincing you that you are cursed to disobey God by not delighting in your spouse for the rest of your marriage, which he wants to end by creating a hopeless environment of just deserves.

        • Tim Mullet

          In other words, the solution is not to simply get over it, but to begin to realize that regardless of what happened in the past, God expects present obedience. Christians cannot believe the lie that says present obedience is impossible because of past unfaithfulness. Today if you hear my voice do not harden your hearts as they did in the rebellion, says the Scriptures. Christ's mercies are new every morning! There is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. What does faithfulness look like today? How can you delight in the good gift of your spouse today? Yes trust has been damaged, but trust can be rebuit. It is God's grace that you began to understand better what is happening in your marriage, now you can actively disbelieve all those lies that you were passively believing.
          Hope that helps!

          • Sarah

            Good words, Tim. Thank you for challenging me.

            • Tim Mullet

              Praise the Lord!

  • http://robinwootton.wordpress.com Robin Wootton

    What Tim Mullet said. I wanted so much more from this article... it's a start. Someone has to keep talking......

  • Kraig

    Garrett, I would recommend following the suggestion of Dr. Russ Moore and using the term fornication instead of premarital sex--the latter can make the problem appear merely one of timing.

    In a culture of long periods of engagement (to enjoy "being engaged" and plan over-the-top wedding ceremonies at the preferred place and time etc.), it is easy for engaged couples to think that intimacy is ok because they're "getting married anyway" and committed for life to each other "in their hearts."

  • Jeremy

    Great article, but I feel that it could use a few more practical examples for young couples. The concluding 'thoughts', will likely not be enough to change the behaviour of most young couples (speaking from experience).

    One practical solution I would add, would be the Billy Graham/Paul Washer approach: You should never be alone with a woman who isn't your wife. Now, the first response is, well, that's way too strict, this is impractical, etc.
    Now look at the young couples you know, and how many of them have fallen to temptation. Would not their approach have been better?

    I won't go into details, and everyone will have a different definition of 'being alone' (eg. does going for lunch count as being alone?), but it's something to consider instead of just setting 'boundaries' in your relationship that still involves being in a tempting environment. I mean, is there any reason that a young couple 'needs' to be alone in the persons room?

  • Guest

    I just recently proposed to my fiancée, and I found this article to be extremely helpful. In the beginning of our relationship, we treated sexual purity "seriously", but even then we found ourselves messing up a couple of times before God and each other (never sex, but too far) It always happened randomly, but it finally came to an end when we realized that we could not grow with each other or God when those things happened. For us, it was eliminating things like kissing and bringing our focus back to Christ in our relationship. However, it was definitely the latter that changed everything. Thankful that as we grow in grace, sin becomes less appealing and Christ becomes even more beautiful.

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  • Ben

    I often wonder how David discipled Bathsheba after the obvious fact. My wife and I sinned in this fashion and I'm just finding it difficult to really get along solidly when it comes to discipling her. Any words?

    • Sarah

      Good point. From the wife's perspective, I have no idea how Bathsheba was able to submit to her husband David's spiritual leading after what he did!

      • Philippa

        'Discipling'? Surely this is projecting a 21st century complementarian's view of marriage onto the text, and I highly doubt it fits. Especially as David had several wives. When would he have had the time to 'disciple' them? He was often at war, out with his men, making alliances and treaties etc. I don't doubt that he loved Bathsheba after a fashion, they seem quite close after their baby son died, but Bathsheba knew the rules of her world and no woman, not even a royal wife, was in a position to say 'no' to the King. I don't necessarily see her as a passive victim in their adultery, but she would have had no choice about being summoned to David's bed. (Very similar situations existed in medieval England - if the King spotted a comely teenage lass at court and fancied her for his mistress, she would have to comply with his wishes or likely her family would face harsh consequences.) To be sure, David is a much worthier figure than those kings: unlike them, he was a man 'after God's own heart' (who sinned on this occasion very badly) but to try to put him into a sanitised version of the complementarian paradigm really doesn't work, IMO. We all know what the outcome of his adultery was - God forgave him, but his sin bore dark fruit down the generations. A more drastic story than the one told about the unfortunate couple in the original post. I hope they're fictitious, because I feel very sorry for them.

        Ben - does your wife also disciple you? Serious question.

        • Ben

          No, she does not.

          I just hear so much emphasis on husbands discipling their wives and I have a hard time keeping it constant.

          • Philippa

            ‘No, she does not.’

            Even within a traditional paradigm of headship/submission, surely complementarian husbands realize that their wives can also teach them something spiritually? My parents had a traditional marriage and I regard my mother as having the greater spiritual wisdom in many ways. Which doesn’t lessen my love and respect for my father, he’s been a wonderful father and they are both fine Christians.

            ‘I just hear so much emphasis on husbands discipling their wives and I have a hard time keeping it constant.’

            This makes me wonder whether complementarians believe that husbands and wives can learn from each other, that it's not just about one spouse 'discipling' the other ...

            Do complementarians expect too much of their men, I wonder?

            However, I’m not married, so it’s not appropriate for me to comment on other people’s marriages (what would I know?!) But I do believe that if a husband and wife sinned before marriage, then both are equally forgiven by Jesus and are liberated graciously by His Spirit to move on. I wish you both well. :)

            • cindy

              Philippa, you may not be married but you have wisdom. I have been happily married for over 25 years and we both submit to one another. We respect each others gifts and strengths and we use them guided by the holy spirit. We are not followers of a complementarianism, egalitarianism or any other, "isim". The beauty of marriage under the headship of Christ is the freedom we have as individuals and the power we have to glorify God in marriage as we are led by the holy spirit. Many people fail to look at or understand the culture in which something was written. We need to understand that scripture does not change but culture does. So asking God for wisdom as we do deeper studies is so important. I do not depend on my husband to "disciple" me, I walk close to my "Teacher", as does my husband. We have sweet times of fellowship and we learn from each other. I think more couples need to throw away their, "expectations" list and pray for one another, encourage one another, and read and study the Bible. Because God loved us first we love...everything stems from there. That depth of love is what keeps us humble and so grateful for all that is given to those who are His.

            • Sarah

              Of course, even within the within the complementarian view the husband can learn spiritually from the wife! Cannot a pastor learn and be taught by those he shepherds? Yes! Are not teachers sometimes taught things by their students? Yes! Of course, couples should have fellowship together and share insights together, etc, and, yes, sometimes a wife will end up teaching her husband something. But, ultimately, the husband is the spiritual shepherd of his home and has the greater responsibility over his wife and children to love and lead them in the ways of the Lord.

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  • Guest

    I agree with Ryan's comments above.
    My wife and I have been married 23 years so far. And we succumbed to the temptation of pre-marital sex.

    I am not encouraging this at all, and am repentant that we did so, but I don't think it has been an issue for us. I may be wrong, may still be lurking under the surface.

    I would say that, in one word, the biggest problem in any marriage is selfishness. And this is a personal sin, not fixed by any amount of couples counseling.

    A man who is willing to sacrifice himself completely will be a Christlike father and husband. Likewise the woman.
    And if the family has two selfless, Christlike parents, it will be blessed with longevity. If you are not willing to bite the bullet, you are doomed from the start.

    Pre-marital sex may be a symptom, but I guarantee the root cause is selfishness.

    • Justin Phillips

      I agree with this statement "Pre-marital sex may be a symptom, but I guarantee the root cause is selfishness"

      I think we need to be careful pinning blame for failed/unhappy marriages on a symptom as opposed to a cause. It distracts from the real issue and gives false hope or despair based on success or failure with one out of many challenges that a couple faces.

  • http://jasondykstrawrites.com Jason @ www.jasondykstrawrites.com

    For those who are engaged or nearly so, sex is truly a lot more fun when you already know you're completely committed to the other person to keep figuring out the best way to please each other. If you think about it, honeymoon sex (as great as it will be) should be the worst you'll ever have, because you get to work at improving upon it every time thereafter! That's exciting and still is for us 13 years down the road!

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  • Evelyn

    Although I agree with this article and especially the concluding thoughts on how to address this issue, there are two things in this article that bothers me:

    1. Paul says in Romans 7 that he does what he hates and what he wants to do he cannot, stressing that his Christian struggle with sin is mortal and is a struggle against his flesh and spirit. I feel that with the bulk of this article blaming Satan for our sins/temptations, we are almost making Satan a scapegoat for our sinful nature. I'm not suggesting that we undermine Satan's affect on this broken world, but that we should be aware that we are innately at fault as well.

    2. I feel that point 3 is somewhat unfounded and kind of a stretch towards a guilt trip into preserving sexual purity. What you may have experienced personally in your relationship may not be how others may see it in theirs. While I'm not denying that we need to do our best to preserve our purity, I do have a problem with using guilt and/or fear to motivate fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. How can you teach this pastorally by shepherding them with fear? Why even guilt trip them when the issue is not necessarily sex itself, but our disobedience to God?

    Additionally, I've seen this view of sex as a self-fulfilling pleasure taught to couples in their dating and engagement and consequently carried into marriage, resulting in the couples still feeling a sense of guilt just from wanting sex from each other.

    • Garrett Kell

      Thank you for your thoughts on this.

      I would say to your first point that I'm not trying to scare people into obeying God, though I do think we should have a healthy fear of the Lord. It is terrifying thing to fall into His hands (Heb. 10) and He will judge fornicators and adulterers (Heb. 13). That's intense and should drive us to hate sin.

      About #2....Here's a link to a series I did on marriage and there's a whole sermon on sex that might clarify my thinking on it (go to marriage series). I hope it blesses you. Thanks for writing.

      Grace and Peace

      http://delraybaptist.org/resources/sermons

  • cindy

    I want to clarify that in my above comment when I said so well said, I was referring to Ryans comment. Sarah, what seems clear to me by some of your comments is that you have not forgiven your husband. I don't say this to make you feel worse but to help you understand that healing, though painful will come as we obey Christ. If it is true that your husband told you to "get over it" that response is not coming from a heart that loves his wife like Christ loved the church... His response (though not right) most likely comes as a result of your bitterness and blame. Pride is standing in the way and until you both humble yourselves nothing will change. At this point it seems that things have gone far beyond what happened when you were dating. What is clear is that there was either no true repentance on both your parts because a root of bitterness continues to divide you or there is an un willingness to forgive. There are plenty of couples who did not have sex before marriage but in marriage they look and lust in there hearts. They watch things in secret or entertain thoughts that little by little chip away at the foundation of their marriage until their hearts are hardened against each other and God. It's the same thing, sin. A man or woman who is humbly seeking to please God will respond in love and respect toward one another.

    Sarah, God loves both you and your husband...remember the gospel, go back to the gospel! God loves you both so much that he sent Jesus so you could be reconciled to Him. Jesus, the beautiful, spotless Lamb took what none of us possibly could, took what we deserve, why, because of his great love for us. There is nothing he can't heal! But healing, as Jesus showed us on the cross comes through obedience. Though it is painful the blessings that follow, the freedom you will receive, the grace that will be poured on you both will be enough. Go back to the gospel...God loves us so...thank you Jesus!

    • Sarah

      Ouch, to the heart, but good. Thank you for speaking the truth in love, Cindy.

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  • Michelle

    I read this article and thought it was good how you are encouraging couples to stay pure and honor God in their courtship and that the Lord will bless them for their obedience in that way. Yes, I do believe that is true, but that doesn't mean the marriage will never experience seasons of struggle sexually. Bummer, huh? I think we could use more of point number 4. We need the Lord to be Lord of our hearts and marriages. Which means during seasons of struggle, may it be sexually in marriage, we don't blame the other. We instead turn our hearts to our Lord, repent and forgive and repent and forgive again... and learn how to love them like we love our Lord Jesus. He is truly the one who meets our every need and empowers us to love the other selflessly.

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  • Catherine

    This article unfortunately rang too true for me. My boyfriend and I are both Christians who serve in the church but we have a difficult time drawing the line and have unfortunately compromised too many times. It is difficult to date as a couple in today's world because many churches, including ours, seems to categorize people in either the "single" or "married" category, leaving many young ones floundering.
    Another thing to be noted is the shame that comes with this sin. it's been ingrained into our heads at a young age to say no to sexual sin and it's become a sort of expectation that one must follow. It is extremely difficult to admit to friends/family/people in the church that you have sinned this way let alone telling them how specifically.
    My circumstances are unique in that we don't know many Christian couples. Many break up after a few months. Some get married right away. Most are single. So it is hard when our church remains mum and most of our friends don't really understand.
    My advice to any couples out there (that I learned the hard way is):
    -don't be alone in a room
    -set boundaries before you begin to date
    -try to pray together and do qt together

    • Cindy

      Catherine,
      What is ringing true to me is that this article, while it has some good points, it lacks in understanding of the power of Christ and the gospel. You can set boundaries, you can pray, you can set up all the rules you want but those things do not get to the root of the sin within us. Doing those things is called behavior modification...it is the heart going back to the law. Christ did not die so we could be moral...we are called to be holy and he gave us his spirit to help us. When there is true repentance, you don't care who knows because at the heart of that kind of repentance comes an understanding that it was against the One who died for you and loves you. When we allow idols in our life we push God out, sin takes over and we respond in the flesh. Who or what are you putting first in your life...who or what do you go to for comfort?

      As you choose to repent of those idols and learn to worship God in every area of your life, those idols no longer have a hold on you. Circumstances can't be used as an excuse to sin. "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." There is no shame at the cross when we are truly repentant!

      • Cindy

        Also, If we are led by God's spirit and obey then he will give us the power we need in any given situation. That is why setting up rules/boundaries do not work. We all are tempted by different things. While someone may not be tempted in the area of sexual sin while dating they may have another area they are tempted in and need to obey in that area. Maybe they want to control or are manipulative or gossip, or are tempted by alcohol...get the point? We need our personal "boundaries" given to us by the holy spirit. At times I was alone with my boyfriend (now husband) and it was ok but then there were times when we knew God gave us a warning and we obeyed. He is so personal with us and knows us best. We obey because we are so loved.

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  • Joseph Randall

    Thanks for this article Garrett.

    I'm curious if Dane would make the same critique of the book of James if he did not know it was God's Word?

    Joseph

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  • http://www.journalhome.com/lyndasanchez/819207/boo Caitlin @ Marriage Sex LIfe

    All the good points had been stated here, I can relate much on this because I believe that Christ should be the center of our relationship and don't forget that communication is one of the basic element of having a healthy relationship, don't cut the lines-keep it open always.

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