How to Have Sexual Integrity in Marriage

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This post originally appeared on Sexual Integrity Initiative.

Dale (not his real name) was in my office, and through sobs of despair and shame, he said, “I don’t know what happened or why, but I cheated on my wife, and now she’s found out and is leaving me.”

I wish I could tell you confessions like that are rare. They’re not.

The question I want you to consider with me is this: Is illicit sex worth it?

In particular, are adultery and pornography worth the cost?

On a regular basis, I teach that sex is a gift from God, and it is. Regardless of the current level of satisfaction in your marriage, sex is a blessing from the Creator. He wants you to experience loving, creative, and exciting sex with your spouse. That’s God’s plan, and after over forty years of marriage, I can tell you from firsthand experience—it’s awesome when His plan comes together.

Few want to hear this, and even fewer believe it nowadays, but illicit sex outside of your marriage, including adultery and pornography, are costly. Tragically, we humans tend to focus on the “fringe benefits” of immorality rather than the high cost of our infidelities.

According to researchers:

  • 41% of marriages include either physical or emotional infidelity by one or both spouses.
  • 22% of married men and 14% of married women have strayed at least once during their married lives.
  • 74% of men and 68% of women say they would have an affair if they knew they would never be caught.
  • Over 30,000 people are viewing porn every second of every day.

Apparently, unfaithfulness is a relatively common issue, and immorality is far too widespread.

I’ve written about this topic before (find the article here at Charisma News), but let’s take a deeper look.

Why do so many fail?

There are many reasons, but here are some:

  • Sexual boredom (we think the grass is greener elsewhere, and that sex outside of our marriage will be better).
  • Unmet sexual and emotional needs in our current relationship.
  • The love of the chase.
  • The thrill of conquest.
  • Insecurities about our physical and sexual desirability.
  • The pleasure of sin (though momentary and fleeting).
  • Addiction to a feeling rather than commitment to a covenant.
  • Fantasies that we believe are better than our reality.

There may be additional reasons why some spouses wander, but perhaps the biggest reason is that we haven’t considered the high cost of our forbidden sexual exploits.

The costs of an affair that we forget or choose to ignore:

  • Damaged or lost relationships with your friends, children, and extended family.
  • Severe financial impact due to divorce.
  • Loss of your God-given mission and purpose in life.
  • Emotional damage and lost joy.
  • Loss of respect for yourself and by others.
  • Potential physical illnesses (STDs are still rampant).

A strong motivator toward moral purity is weighing the costs of moral failure. Ask anyone who’s been down that disastrous road and they will tell you, “It’s not worth it.”

In fact, many years ago, I had one guy tell me quite bluntly, “When it’s all said and done, an orgasm is just an orgasm, and my moral failure cost me just about everything I truly value.”

Wow.

We all know that drinking poison will kill us; we are aware of the cost of that irrational act. However, we foolishly toy with adultery or pornography thinking no harm will come, but it does.

Someone recently asked me, “Do you ever struggle with temptation?”

Without hesitation, I said, “I’m a male and I’m breathing. Of course, I’m tempted. But temptation isn’t the problem. Jesus was tempted in every way I am. The sin occurs if and when I stop resisting and give in.”

So what can we do?

As a husband or a wife, what steps can you take to help you delight in the spouse of your youth and to help you stay true?

  • Flee sexual immorality. Don’t linger or dawdle. Run from temptation! Stop reading the trashy romance novels. Turn off the TV programs that stir unholy desires.
  • Have the long view. What will your failure or unfaithfulness mean to you and your family in the years and decades to come?
  • Install accountability software and filters on your computer and smartphone.
  • Count the cost and imagine the worst not the best if you fail. (This should be sobering.)
  • Ask godly friends to support you in the battle and to hold you accountable.
  • Establish and maintain wise and holy boundaries. (For example, never be completely alone with an unrelated member of the opposite sex. It’s impossible to commit adultery if you practice this one relationship rule.)
  • Walk in the light and the power of the Spirit.

In hundreds (and maybe thousands) of conversations over my many years of life, it’s become clear to me that we all wrestle with the flesh. Frankly, every one of us is just one bad decision away from disaster. You’re kidding yourself if you think you’re beyond the potential for a moral fiasco.1

Not now. Not in this corrupt world. Not on this side of eternity.

But the good news is God is faithful, and He will always make a way of escape for you.

You just have to take the God-given off ramp.

Stand For Something Or You’ll Fall For Anyone: The Reality of Open Relationships

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You only have to open your Facebook feed to know we are the generation of acceptance and tolerance (as long as someone’s view matches our own), and we pride ourselves in being open-minded.

Many topics our parents and grandparents saw as black and white tend to land somewhere on a grey scale in our current culture. And if we aren’t careful the lines between what is right, and what is accepted as “normal” can get pretty blurry.

Our romantic relationships are just one of the things that have started to lose definition.

There is a hesitancy to put a label on our relationships because it forces us to be vulnerable, requiring a commitment that takes work to honor. This is demonstrated in our culture by the prevalence of open relationships, ambiguous sexual orientation, polyamory, and casual hookups. Eventually I hope to go into more detail on these various topics, but something I’ve been discovering most recently is the basic importance of knowing where you stand and knowing how God feels about it all.

I was shocked to discover the numbers of how many open, or non-monogamous relationships exist in the U.S. Studies are showing that anywhere from 5-9% of people surveyed would admit to having “openness” with their spouses or partners.

Articles on polyamory (being in committed relationships with multiple partners with the consent of each partner) even boast about how much better poly relationships handle communication and jealousy struggles.

Knowing this, I can’t help but fear that we are heading down a road towards no accountability, where we devalue ourselves and God’s word by not honoring each other with the gift of commitment.

Most of the stories I’ve heard from people who are now in some form of open relationship claim they never would have imagined they could be okay with this kind of situation; it took a lot of growing and getting used to.

In life, we don’t always take the time to form an opinion or take a stand on something until it is right there in front of us, and sometimes not until we have met that wonderful person we’re convinced we should be with and they present an unfamiliar situation. And if we look at the culture around us and see what they’re presenting is an accepted practice, and no one is judging and it seems to be working for others, then we can be even more inclined to blur our lines and jump onboard.

If you don’t stand for something, you could fall for anyone.

That’s why it’s so important to know what God had in mind when he made man and woman for each other, not for each other and then some other people at the same time.

Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever.” Though we live in an ever-changing culture, God remains constant, as do his desires for relationships and love life. He has also not wavered in His call that we should love one another.

There are so many benefits that come with being in a committed relationship with one person, like learning how to compromise, building trust, and finding contentment. To take a stand and be resolved in our beliefs does not have to make us judgmental or close-minded; rather, it protects us from being swept up by every new wave of thinking that hits our culture.

It diffuses the cloud of confusion that making us question everything.

Knowing God’s truth and taking a stand does not equal an absence of love for others. More important than being tolerant or accepting of every new trend is our call to remain in God’s truth, because He is not swayed, and neither is His desire for our ultimate good.

Four Things That Will Actually Help You Wait for Sex

By Julia Feeser

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Okay, so you’ve decided to wait to have sex.

Good for you! Ten gold stars for you!

Unfortunately (and fortunately!), there’s more to waiting for sex than just waiting for sex. 

And soon or later what you’re going to realize if you haven’t already is that waiting for sex is no picnic. It’s difficult, challenging, and will probably make you really, really frustrated and/or questioning your judgement at some point.

One of the most common questions I hear from students is, “How do you actually wait to have sex? What are the practical steps you have to take in order to make this happen?”

Luckily, although you will more than likely encounter a few convoluted and not so black and white situations when it comes to waiting to have sex, there are a few practical things you can do to help yourself and others along the way:

Date the right kinds of people. 

Waiting for sex doesn’t mean you can’t date! Seriously. It doesn’t mean you can’t hang out alone ever or kiss or even fall in love. You can do all these things, and sex doesn’t need to be part of the equation. However, part of making this happen is choosing people to date who feel the same way about waiting as you do.

If you’re working toward this mutual goal that you both have decided on, not contingent on simply just going along with what the other person wants, waiting for sex is going to get a lot easier. If you’re dating someone who is awesome but doesn’t necessarily want to wait, eventually what you’ll find is that you can only go so far physically before tension sets in.

Free yourself of this early on by being intentional about who you date and what values they hold.

Be honest about your frustrations. 

Yes, at some point, you will be mad that you are not having sex (especially if you’re waiting a long time). You will feel frustrated you can’t express your physical desires in that way, and you will probably struggle with the fact that you may be in a relationship with someone you love and you cannot have sex with them. Yep, frustrating.

So it’s really important to not gloss over these feelings. Be honest. Tell someone. Find a person you trust who is not your significant other and tell them what you’re struggling with. The longer we pretend everything’s all right, the longer we put off actually dealing with the problem and finding a solution or advice.

Plus, as with any type of long-term goal, you’ll need people along the way to keep you accountable and encouraged. You can’t go it alone, and you shouldn’t have to.

Know your boundaries before you’re alone watching Netflix. 

It’s pretty difficult in the heat of the moment to use your brain and say, “Oh, wait, we probably should’ve stopped somewhere around 10 minutes ago.”

If you’re someone who is waiting to have sex, you’re going to need to know yourself well enough to know how far you can go physically before you won’t be able to resist just going all the way anymore. Because the farther you go, the harder it will be to stop.

So help yourself out by thinking through where you’re going to draw the line. Will it be at kissing? Will it be at some touching? Know beforehand and don’t try to decide once it’s already happening – believe me, your boundaries will get blurry fast if you don’t have a clear picture going in of what they should be.

Oh, and this is the part of the relationship where you have to have a super-romantic conversation explaining in very clear language where your physical boundaries are. Not exactly a sexy conversation, but it will benefit you both.

Understand the purpose of waiting. 

If you’re waiting just because someone told you it was a good idea, or because you think you’ll get in trouble if you don’t, or your sole mission is, “I’m just going to not have sex,” you’re going to have a difficult time sticking to that commitment.

Waiting without purpose isn’t waiting, it’s just biding your time. (Tweet this!)

Waiting is so much more than just following a set of do’s and don’ts when it comes to sex. Waiting should be the outcome of a deep, personal desire to pursue life goals and love freely without the added burdens that sex can bring emotionally and physically.

When we choose to wait to have sex, we reflect who we know God to be – a God of love, trust, and intense passion for our utmost good. (Tweet this!) One who created sex to be experienced inside marriage because he knows that’s where true life and true sexual and emotional intimacy can be found.

If you’re trying to wait without this kind of purpose, you won’t wait.

Know that waiting is possible, even when it’s difficult. And having real, practical steps in place will make all the difference.

How To Deflate Your Porn Addiction

This comes from our partner, XXXChurch, and highlights a serious issue and steps to free yourself:

deflateWhat we’ve learned from this DeflateGate controversy.

1. If you cheat or lie the truth will always come out.

2. It’s better to confess than get caught.

3. Your legacy matters.

4. Consequences are real.

Below are 10 Things you can do to deflate your addiction.

1) Prepare for discomfort.
Let’s be honest, if you’re going to learn to live without porn and masturbation, you’re going to experience discomfort on many levels. Some people are so addicted that experiencing sobriety leads to withdrawal symptoms (like depression, irritability, etc). If this happens, it will be especially important to press through the pain. God will provide much-needed strength as you learn to persevere through the trial and temptations ahead. (Forest Benedict)

2) Practice self-forgiveness.
Many people can receive God’s forgiveness but are unable to forgive themselves. Feelings of shame and self-criticism can surface constantly for those addicted to porn, and many people think that beating themselves up will lead to change. Ironically, the truth is that self-criticism and shame play key roles in perpetuating addiction. Thus, learning to relate to yourself with the kind of grace that God extends to you will contribute to a victorious year. Forgive yourself for past choices and when you go astray next time, and then forgive yourself again.  Then get back up ASAP and keep moving forward. (Forest Benedict)

3) Don’t trust willpower.
Will power always fails eventually. Trust the tools and people in your life to keep you accountable. (Dave Willis)

4) Find at least one person who you can trust with everything.
It feels so natural to hide our struggles in order to appear like we have it all together. As long as your junk stays hidden though, it will fester. It will continue to control and torment you until you deal with it. Luckily, God has given us a plan for bringing that junk into the light: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:16).” It’s a simple plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Be courageous though. Find at least one person who you can share your junk with so that nothing in your life remains hidden. Dig it up, talk about it, pray about it, and bless on another as you share your victories together. (Stephen Kuhn)

5) Keep stats.
Take note of the times when you’re tempted to watch porn the most. Is it when you’re stressed? Is it when you feel insecure? Is it when you’re bored? Knowing your “triggers” can reveal a lot about the root of your interest/addiction. It can also help you to figure out what you should do in place of porn. Stressed? Exercise. Insecure? Pamper yourself. Bored? Watch an appropriate movie. (Shellie R. Warren)

6) Understand what “Fleeing” really looks like today.
If porn and masturbation are a temptation for you, avoid porn gateways. Let’s be real: who can watch a two-minute soft-porn sex scene in Game of Thrones without lusting? If sexual temptation is your struggle, then don’t play dumb and go see 50 Shades of Grey. In fact, take a realistic peek at the times you’ve failed in the past and retrace your step to locate lusting gateways and “triggers.” The apostle Paul didn’t say, “be a little bit careful” of these things… he said “RUN AWAY!!!” (Jonathan McKee)

7) Recognize your God-given nature.
Embrace, accept, and celebrate the fact that God has created us as sexual beings and that the desires that come with this aspect of ourselves are to be honored. Honoring our desires does not mean denying them (that is a form of dishonor). Rather, honoring our sexual desires means lining them up with God’s intent for them – to draw us into committed, loving relationships with God, with others, and even within ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). (Randall Ajimine)

8) Start asking the right questions.
When you feel tempted, locate that temptation within your body and ask yourself, “What am I medicating?” The truth is that “acting out” isn’t the problem – it’s the medication for the real problem. Let 2015 be the year where you plunge below the surface, shed the guilt and shame, and start asking the deeper questions about yourself. (Seth Taylor)

9) Change your outlook.
Stop dwelling on the negatives and start focusing on the positives. What’s good in your life? What could be even better? Then ask yourself how porn use or masturbation is limiting you in these areas. Stop making it so much about why you need to stop these negative things and more about why you want to increase these positive things. Envision a better life and then go for it. Knock down those things that are stopping you from the full realization of what life has to offer by taking advantage of the tools and resources you have available to you. (Carl Thomas)

10) Do it one day at a time.
Any lifestyle change begins with a daily commitment to live differently. Don’t focus on having to abstain forever. Focus on living today free from porn. You can do it. Then, you can wake up tomorrow and do it again. One day at a time you will overcome. (Dave Willis)

x3watch.pngWhatever you do, you can’t do it alone. You need people in your life to help you, to love  you, and to hold you accountable. If you want to go fast – go alone. If you want to go far – get accountable and open. Download X3watch Premium today for the BEST online accountability software and filtering solution.