Today’s question came in a while ago. I pray that things have improved in this woman’s relationship, but she wrote a very long email about the situation with her long-time boyfriend. I’ll summarize some issues first:
- He was molested as a child. He didn’t say anything at first, but when he reported the incident, adults took charge and action was taken. In the meantime, another child had been sexually assaulted, and he felt somewhat responsible.
- Following his molestation, he began looking at pornography. This may have been his way of trying to understand what had happened, to feel more in control of his sexuality. But the fact that he was able to access porn at such a young age is heartbreaking.
- This began a ten-year-long, daily porn habit. Finally wanting to break free, he began fighting the porn addiction through counseling.
- The relationship between this man and the girl who wrote me is serious, and in almost every way, this man is seeking God, the good of his girlfriend, and goodness.
But when it comes to sex . . .
We both agree that we have gone WAY [too] far physically, so much further than I ever wanted too before marriage. We haven’t had sex, but we’ve done just about everything else. It is extremely hard to stop once you’ve started, and that’s [where] we’re having trouble. We don’t seem to be in-sync. I’ll be the one saying we need to stop while he wants to continue one night, than the next night he’ll be the one saying we need to stop. You can imagine how this can pose problems. Whenever he is turned on, it is very very hard, almost impossible, for him to [accept] that we need to stop. He is never mean or abusive towards me (I would have headed straight for the door at the first sign), but he gets extremely grumpy, and is in a very very bad mood for the rest of the evening. It’s almost like he is mad at me. It’s like he’s in this haze, and he’s an entirely different person. I’ve asked him about it many times before and he says that at the time he’s slightly angry with me, but more frustrated at the situation. Once he snaps out of it, he is extremely remorseful for wanting to continue and is in total agreement with me that we need to stop. However, the haze thing scares me a lot. What if I’m not in the mood one night when we’re married and he’s angry with me over it?
I’ve also noticed that he can be rough when we make out and when we cross the line. This also scares me for his sake. (He has never hurt me, let me just point that out). I know that it can be ok to have rough sex. Heck, the prospect of having rough sex sounds like a lot of fun to me! However, there’s a good part of the time [where] he seems like he’s in that haze again. It makes me feel like I am being used as a way to release sexual tension when this happens, no love involved. Sometimes I don’t even have to do anything. I tested this out once. I decided to see how long it took for him to noticed that I wasn’t doing anything back (no touching, kissing, just sitting there) and it lasted till I had to tell him to stop because he was going to go too far.
The only issue that makes me hesitant about getting married is this: I am concerned that his past has greatly affected his ability to separate sex from aggression and he will never be able to connect sex and love. . . . How can I help him overcome his past and help him to be able to show love physical? What can I do to help him get over his porn addiction?
That’s a really long opening, so please forgive me for a longer post today. But I wanted readers to have enough information to understand that this man is not an evil person seeking his own kicks, but someone who’s also faced a fair number of challenges in his own life.
Yet when people tell me that viewing pornography does not alter how you view the sex act, this is the kind of story they should read. It’s delusional to think that you can fill your mind with sexual garbage and it have no effect on how you view your spouse and your sexuality.It's delusional to think you can fill your mind w/garbage and it have no effect on how you view sex. Click To Tweet
Let me take on these issues in turn.
We’ve gone way too far. She says, “It is extremely hard to stop once you’ve started, and that’s where we’re having trouble.” I’d like to add to that statement… #truth. It is extremely hard to stop when you have no strategy for stopping. You talk about “when we make out,” which tells me that you’re setting aside times to make out and hoping (against hope) that it won’t go as far this time as it has previous times.
Having been there before myself, let me assert that: (1) Technical virginity doesn’t get bonus points with God. Manual sex, oral sex, etc. are other forms of sex — just ask us married couples. (2) God is not mad at you, and He wants you to succeed. He believes in repentance and redemption — even if you need to repeat that cycle more than once. So don’t give up, and ask for God’s help. (3) You two will go too far if you don’t have a specific plan for not getting there in the first place. Because emotions and hormones are so strong in that moment, and few people successfully combat those urges again and again.
I have tips on staying sexually pure before marriage. But essentially, you need to stop being alone, on a couch or a bed, entangled in each other’s arms and lips, and use your dating time instead to get to know each other more. You can get to know each other’s bodies later. If you get married, there will be plenty of time to explore and enjoy.
He’s angry when we stop. He should not be angry at you, of course. But I do understand the frustration. It’s like presenting the most delicious dessert on a silver plate — letting you see it, sniff, touch it. But then it gets whisked away, and you don’t get to eat what your body now craves. Even if you knew you shouldn’t be eating that uber-rich dessert, you might feel annoyed. Perhaps grumpy.
Added to that, he likely has a strain of guilt for having pushed too far. For wanting more than he should have. For putting you in a terrible position. When we feel that guilt, I think it’s the Holy Spirit helping us in our weakness — trying to get our attention and encourage us to seek God’s way instead. (See Romans 8.)
This is one of the reasons why sex should be in marriage. There are very few times when my husband and I have to stop mid-stream, so to speak. Once one or both of you have reached that point of craving for a sexual release, you can get it. Neither one of us gets flagged down at the edge of climax and told to turn back. Which means I’m less concerned about this happening within marriage, even though it’s a problem for you now.
However, I think you should set some boundaries. It’s okay to be frustrated. It’s not okay to mistreat you. You can speak up and say exactly that: “I understand you being frustrated, but the way you pull away and then appear gruff afterward scares me. I need to know that you’ve got control of your anger.” Maybe you could open your Bibles and look up the verses about anger in Proverbs (anger / angry). Memorizing a couple of those verses has helped me.
He can be rough. This line really concerned me: “I decided to see how long it took for him to noticed that I wasn’t doing anything back (no touching, kissing, just sitting there) and it lasted till I had to tell him to stop because he was going to go too far.” He didn’t notice? That’s a major red flag that he has not resolved the issues of his past!
It might seem that overcoming porn simply involves not looking at porn anymore. I applaud your boyfriend’s efforts to smother the porn addiction into oblivion, and he has clearly made great strides. But that viewpoint of sex based on porn must be replaced by an understanding of what God designed sex to be. It’s not merely about the act, but the person with whom you engage.
This isn’t about gentle sex or rough sex. (Although I could take on that issue another day, because I don’t know what you mean by “rough sex,” and that could be no big deal or a problem depending on your meaning.) This is about respectful sex. Nothing — absolutely nothing — in the Bible says that your partner’s body is your sexual tool to use as you wish.Nothing in the Bible says that your partner's body is your sexual tool to use as you wish. Click To Tweet
Before anyone says “I do” here, I highly encourage you both to seek out better truth about sexual intimacy in marriage. Starting with relational intimacy in marriage. For instance, reading Gary Thomas’s Sacred Marriage might help with understanding the purpose of this relationship to begin with.
His long porn habit has clearly affected how he views you and sex when he gets highly aroused. It’s probably not a conscious thing, simply an instinct at this point. But it needs to be addressed and changed. And you need to be willing to set boundaries here as well: “I need to feel safe and valued, and if you start treating me like a sex toy rather than the woman you love, I’m going to have to get up and walk away.” You can say this while dating or married, because God does not intend for you to be disregarded.
Be there for your boyfriend, but remember that this is his journey. Until you two are bound as one flesh in marriage, it’s a he problem, not a we problem. You can support him, but he needs to show that he’s willing to do the hard work of overcoming his porn past. If you’re always the one pushing for improvement, his gains probably won’t stick.
Yes, I feel enormous sympathy for him, but it’s not in his best interest either to enter marriage without meeting this challenge, getting God’s guidance, and becoming a victor in the area of sexual intimacy.
Throughout your issues, pray. Pray fervently that you will have the wisdom, courage, and peace to do what’s right. May God bless you both.
For dating and engaged couples, I’m also a big fan of the website, Preengaged.com. Check out their blog posts and resources.