One of the biggest lies people believe is that just because they’re engaged, that means it’s okay for them to have sex. Engagement sometimes can be more dangerous than dating period because it gives a false sense of commitment to the couple of their relationship that they commit the so called “engagement sex.” But nothing could be further than the truth. Engagement is still not marriage and the commitment can still be easily broken off. Given the situation where marriage is easily broken off nowadays, how much more so for engagement and dating.
One letter written by a Christian leader to a girl included in Josh McDowell’s book, Why True Love Waits, illustrates this best on how premarital sex destroys the wedding plan of one couple.
Congratulations on your engagement! You’ve just entered into a very special stage of life, no longer single but not quite married. Mike seems to be a perfect match for you. The more I get to know him, the more I believe that your match was made in heaven.
However, one area of your relationship has been troubling me for a while, but I haven’t known how to talk to you about it. It’s your increasing sexual involvement with Mike. You’ve told me he sometimes puts pressure on you to go further in your physical relationship than you feel comfortable with and that you often give in because of your desire to please him. As a Christian, you know that God has reserved sexual intercourse for the marriage bed, so I have no worries about your becoming pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted disease. What does worry me is this: I know from counseling many young women that the commitment of engagement often makes it easier to rationalize heavy sexual involvement that stops just short of what is expressly forbidden.
Let me warn you that by engaging in that kind of sexual activity you are risking spiritual, emotional, and psychological consequences. Our vision always seems to be clearer in hindsight. For that reason, I want to tell you the story of a young woman I know who was once almost exactly where you are now.
Pat first had sex when she was 16. She became a Christian the next year, and although she eventually learned that sex outside marriage was wrong, she was often frustrated by her inability to break an established pattern of exchanging sex for “love.” Finally, Pat decided to stop dating for a couple of years so she could get her thoughts together. It was a time of incredible spiritual growth, and it seemed God was giving her victory in an area that had been a “thorn in the flesh” for so long. At last she felt ready to start dating again. After a few brief relationships, she met Bill.
A mature Christian and leader in her church, Bill was quite different from any guy she’d ever dated. He rarely touched her, but instead spent time discovering her secret plans and aspirations. For the first time, Pat sensed a genuine interest in herself as a person and not as a sex object. Bill even asked Pat’s permission before he first kissed her. When they became engaged, Pat felt that her dreams had come true.
But even the sweetest dreams can turn sour. As their love intensified, so did their physical affection. Each kiss seemed a little longer than the last, each embrace a little more passionate. At first, Pat wasn’t at all concerned. She thought, Hey, I don’t have a problem with lust anymore. I’m perfectly capable of controlling myself, and besides, Bill would never pressure me for sex.
But just as the kisses were losing their excitement, Bill’s hands started reaching down Pat’s chest. The first time it happened, he apologized for losing control, but soon his fondling her breasts became a regular part of their romance. One night things went further than either of them planned. As they were making out, Bill reached for Pat’s pelvis. She angrily broke away from him.
When he tried to comfort her by saying his goal was to give her pleasure by trying to manually bring her to orgasm, she tearfully replied she didn’t want that kind of pleasure—not yet. They asked each other’s forgiveness, prayed to the Lord for His forgiveness, and Bill promised, “This will never happen again.” But it did happen, again and again and again.
Pat would try to resist Bill’s advances gently. When his hands moved toward her most erogenous areas, she would firmly put them elsewhere. She explained why she didn’t want to have her body sexually aroused, why she believed it was wrong, but Bill never seemed to hear her words. Pat often felt as if she was fighting a battle; their sexual involvement was most intense when she became too weary to fight.
At that point Pat came and talked to me. She expressed a desire to have a pure relationship, although she often fell short of that desire. She said, “Normally, I would advise someone in my situation to get out of the ungodly relationship, but how do you get out of the relationship when it’s with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with?”
I met again with Pat two months later. This time her desire to strive for godliness was gone. In its place was strong rationalization. I sensed she had grown tired of fighting Bill, had given in, and was desperately seeking to find some way to justify to herself the sexual activity she knew was wrong. She said, “I realize now that this is different from my past sexual activity. I used to buy love with sex. I know I don’t have to buy Bill’s love; it’s already mine. Now I share my body out of my love for him. Plus, being engaged really makes things different. Bill and I love each other, and we are committed to each other, and that’s the context God wants sex in, right? Besides, we will be married in three months, and if we get familiar with each other’s bodies right now, we will feel much more at ease on our wedding night. We will also have some knowledge of what is sexually pleasing to each other so our sexual adjustment in marriage will be easy.”
Pat’s rationale sounded good on first hearing, but her life betrayed the lie she was living. The first thing to go was her spiritual life. She lost all desire to spend time in God’s Word or in prayer. She no longer confessed her sin to God because she felt that nothing needed forgiving. Pat gradually stopped going to church and fellowship groups. She wasn’t getting anything out of them, she said. I suspect it was because she felt like a hypocrite. When friends would ask if anything was wrong, she would answer, “No, nothing. I’m just going through a dry spell with God right now.”
Mentally, Pat began to experience depression. Sometimes she would start crying for no apparent reason. The radiant joy that had once characterized her life was replaced by lethargic “blue” feeling and a constant lack of energy.
Slowly, even the dream relationship with Bill began to change. She would get irritable and snap at him without provocation. She was increasingly critical of him. It became difficult for her to trust him or to believe his promises. Though Pat and Bill still verbally professed their love for one another, the feelings they once had were slowly growing cold and were at times replaced by revulsion and even hatred.
Throughout that time, the whirl of wedding plans and parties offered a convenient busyness into which Pat could throw herself. Occasionally, when her schedule slowed down enough to allow a quiet moment alone, she would wonder if she was doing the right thing by marrying Bill. But she attributed her fears to prenuptial jitters.
When Pat’s sister Karen came home from college a month before the wedding, she noticed a marked difference in Pat. Lovingly, Karen began to question her sister until she got a full account of the relationship. Karen convinced Pat that starting a lifetime commitment under the present circumstances could be disastrous and the best thing to do would be to postpone the wedding. It was good that Pat had the courage to follow Karen’s advice. She realized it would be better to put the relationship on hold than to terminate it years later in divorce court.
Pat and Bill never did marry. It has been several years now, and Pat only recently has acknowledged that sexual involvement was the root of the problems. She told me, “As I think back, I know that the effects of our unwise sexual activities were deadly. The mutual loss of respect, the guilt, and the anger at myself and him were all things we tried to ignore but eventually could not. Using our engagement as a rationale was never enough to excuse our actions, though we often tried to do so. I thought I could isolate my sex life from the rest of my life, but I quickly learned that, like a rope woven together, all the areas of my life are intertwined and affected by each other. I still wonder how something that started off so great could become such a nightmare. Where did we go wrong? It’s hard to admit, but I’m now convinced that our premature sexual intimacy ultimately caused our engagement to be broken.”
Kelly, I hope you can see why I’ve taken the time to write all this to you. I want to help keep you from making similar mistakes and suffering the same pain as Pat. I do get worried about you because I see many similarities between you and Pat in situation, background, and mindset. However, I know that at this point your basic desire is to live a life pleasing to God. That’s why I believe you can avoid taking the path Pat took.
Someone took the time to write the letter, other someone to publish it, and put it on the web so other Kellies out there can get the warning and avoid making the same mistake. Hopefully, this one letter can serve its purpose.
McDowell, Josh, Why True Love Waits: The Definitive Book on How to Help Your Kids Resist Sexual Pressure (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2002), 103-107.