Engagement 5: Dealing carefully with sexual desire

Posted by on Apr 27, 2015 in Blog: Doing sex God’s way

adam-eveEngagement 5: Dealing carefully with sexual desire

Testosterone runs high when you are in love. Recognise this. Accept it as God’s gift to you and resist the temptation to allow it to overwhelm you and develop into lust. How do you do this?

Discipline your sexual urges and fantasies

Being in love will fill your mind with your loved one when you are not together. This is normal and healthy. However, be careful how you think about your future husband or wife.

What actions and activities do you think about when you imagine the two of you together?

In Romans 6:11–13, Paul urges us to ‘not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires’. Rather he tells us ‘offer every part of yourself to him [God] as an instrument of righteousness’. In fact, he exhorts the Colossians (3:5) to actively put these desires that belong to our earthly nature (sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires) to death.

Keeping your sexual thoughts pure is not easy when your brain is flooded with testosterone. It will be made harder if you have been sexually active before. It will be even more difficult if you have been or are currently using pornography, reading erotic novels or feeding yourself on sex-filled videos and television.

As an engaged couple you must be aware of the temptation to think lustfully of your fiancé or fiancée, and be ever vigilant. As the Apostle Peter advises, we need to be constantly alert, informed and fully sober if we want to be countercultural in how we think (1 Peter 1:13–15). So, when a sexual thought comes into your mind, don’t dwell on it and build it up to a lustful fantasy. Instead, banish it and replace it with wholesome and pure thoughts of him or her. Follow Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians (4:8) to think only on those things that are true, noble, right, pure, whatever is lovely and admirable.

Don’t feel ashamed and guilty when sexual thoughts enter your mind. Even Paul said he had to beat or pummel his body and make it his slave (1 Corinthians 9:25–27). Persevere. Train your thinking. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen. When you are married, you can pick up on the thoughts and let your sensuality loose—together.

Sometimes, especially in a long period of engagement, the craving can be severe. Get help. Find an older married person you trust—a man if you’re a guy and a woman if you’re a girl. Share your thoughts and feelings with them. Meet, pray and be accountable to them. Meditate on the Bible passages above and others like it.  They will help you to fence in your fantasies.

Avoid temptation

Resisting the urge to put lustful thoughts into action becomes difficult when you are together. Faced with the one you love, dopamine floods your brain and your cerebral control systems are at an all-time low. You long to have your beloved in your life—and in your bed.

The fact that you know you shouldn’t do it sends a frisson of norepinephrine-induced exhilaration spiralling through you. The high stress emotion of ‘the forbidden’ lures you to follow the seductive desire for sexual intimacy and premarital sex.

Recognise what is happening to you. You are being tempted to lose self-control. To allow the ‘heat of the moment’ need for immediate self-gratification to overrule God’s instruction for self-control. You are feeling enticed to take that first step onto the sexual intimacy slippery slope. Keep alert. And be aware of the external factors that encourage you to lower your guard. Sometimes it might be the non-Christian friends you spend time with. Peer pressure is powerful. Avoid alcohol and drugs, which act at brain level to lower inhibitions and allow desire free reign. Stay sober-minded and in control of your emotions. Resist the devil’s lies (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8–9).

Step back. Take the emotional equivalent of a cold shower. Recognise the power of your feelings. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed for feeling the way you do. It’s perfectly normal. It is God’s blessing to get you ready for the sexual intimacy that will complete your marriage. It is powerful for a purpose—at the right time and in the context of marriage.

Paul tells us how to resist these powerful temptations (Ephesians 6:10–12). So get your spiritual armour on. How you behave towards each other as fiancé and fiancée will set the foundation for your marriage life as husband and wife. Nurture your love and delight in each other by practising self-control, patience and other-focused caring. Feast together on the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).

Turn the moments of high sexual feeling into shared learning experiences. Tell your fiancé or fiancée how you are feeling and, importantly, what happened to turn you on. He or she may not recognise that touching you in some way or stroking that part of your body, saying something, or even giving you a particular look sent your hormones spiralling. Share it. Draw on the weapons and safety net of the armour of God to resist the temptation. Then, save that arousal experience for a special honeymoon moment when you can enjoy unfettered sexual intimacy.

But, what is the boundary between the ‘getting to know you’ activities during the engagement period and the unfettered sexual intimacy of marriage? Is there a specific act? Or is there flexibility?

Sexual intimacy: setting boundaries for sensuality

Does avoiding premarital sexual activity mean that you shouldn’t kiss? Or touch? Or maybe that’s OK and you just shouldn’t go as far as genital touching and oral sex? On the other hand, maybe all that’s all right, just as long as you don’t have sexual intercourse?

I don’t want to be legalistic. Rather I want to challenge you to wisdom in making decisions and setting boundaries in lovemaking. So, I’m giving you a few principles to follow.

Firstly, from the Apostle Paul’s words, learn to see sex for what it is:

‘I have the right to do anything’, you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both’. The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. (1 Corinthians 6:12–13)

Recognise sex as a gift from God. Use it not as a right but as a blessing, to be saved for and enjoyed in marriage. Acknowledge it for what it is. Important, but a part of the whole range of blessings God gives us in marriage. Don’t idolise sex. In the Bible, eating food sacrificed to idols and committing sexual immorality are bracketed together (Acts 15:20, 29).

Secondly, let your actions be a joint decision. Discuss sexual boundaries with your partner. Be honest. Follow up on the earlier point we discussed about identifying what personally turns you on. Recognise that you are two individuals who differ in more ways than just your sex! What turns you on sexually differs. You may find that some action you deem ordinary is a total turn-on to your partner. Use this conversation to set boundaries for sexual activities. It may mean that you need to discuss when and where you will be alone together. Even what items of clothing you would wear (or not) and how and what part of the body you touch.

A rule of thumb in setting couple behaviour boundaries is to ask yourself: Is what you are doing as a couple something you would be comfortable sharing with your Bible study group? Would it be mutually edifying? If so, go for it.

Be accountable for what happens. Have an older married couple who you can talk to. They will continue to be invaluable when you need a helping hand as newlyweds.

Use self-control in sexual intimacy as a training ground for trustworthiness. Marriage is a naked and no-shame relationship for the rest of your life. To be naked before another person is to be ultimately vulnerable. And to feel no shame in this act of shared intimacy is an act of trust. How does this work out practically? Learn to be other-focused in all your actions. Learn to control your own desires and help your fiancé or fiancée deal with theirs. In the spirit of putting his or her needs before yours, build each other up in purity. Practise 1 Corinthians 13 love. Your love will not be one of self-seeking for personal sexual gratification. Rather, it will seek to honour, protect and persevere in building up the other for the time when you can share the wonderful intimacies of marriage.

Don’t be ashamed to tell your friends why you have decided to save sexual intimacy for marriage. Jesus instructed his disciples to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16). When your non-Christian friends speak of sexual desire as an uncontrollable force that must be sated, tell them that what you feel for your loved one is too precious to be abused. Talk to them of the passionate joys of a lifetime of good sex that you plan to have in a committed relationship of total trust. Do it as the Apostle Peter says, with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you (1 Peter 3:15–16).

Dare to be different and set a counterculture of sexual purity.