The book Jane Eyre has as a central theme a scary mystery. Once the leading character, Jane, meets a man (Rochester) who finally seems to truly care for her – she finds that there is some darkly mysterious and dreadful serious problem which he is hiding in his house. She perceives there is someone there besides her who is involved with this man. And this someone seems terrifying.
As the story goes, when Rochester was younger, he met a very sexually aggressive lady while partying with friends, and she seductively drew him into a sexual relationship with her – and they quickly married. She was good in bed – she was also insane. In today’s language she would be termed a psychopath.
This isn’t just a story from a book – it happens daily on the American dating scene.
Sex In Dating Can Hurt You – Greatly
Unlike what many claim, sex is not just a simple physiological need like eating or breathing. In the last thirty years or so researchers have found that sex with another person can fundamentally change who you are as a person – for better or worse. Yet sex in dating is not accepted but expected in our society.
Having sex early in a relationship changes you and your partner for the worse. Even if you end up marrying the person you are sexually involved with statistics clearly show that your chances of having a long-term relationship are greatly reduced. Further, like the leading man in Jane Eyre, early sexual involvement with someone can land you in a very dangerous and painful relationship.
What the research shows is that during any physical intimacy (not just sexual intercourse, but kissing, extended hugging, grinding, sexual stimulation by hand, oral sex, etc.) numerous brain chemicals flow that have a profound impact on us as a person.
For instance, one of the sex chemicals is dopamine, which floods the brain during sex and causes us to want to repeat that behavior – and it makes us pretty much blind to the faults or incompatibility of the other person with whom we are having sex.
Oxytocin also bathes our brain, and this is known as the bonding chemical. It causes a strong attachment for the sexual partner. The implication here should be obvious – if this is the person you are married to then dopamine causes you to want to pursue one another sexually and oxytocin causes your relationship to get stronger and stronger over time. It’s all good in marriage.
But, outside of marriage, and especially early in a relationship – these chemicals can lead us into a logical blindness that causes us to believe there is something in our sexual partner that we must have – but it is nothing more than chemicals. Sex in dating relationships can truly be disastrous to our future relational happiness.
In fact, this whole chemical process is often called sexual imprinting – it means that whenever we have sex with any person, part of us attachers to them permanently. Let’s get this straight – there is no such thing as a casual hookup, unless you are a psychopath. If you are even reasonably emotionally healthy then sex will have a strong impact on you – whether you realize it initially or not.
And thus, just like the tragic story in Jane Eyre, those who get involved with someone sexually before marriage are potentially sabotaging their future happiness. Over time, the strength of the dopamine reward from sex will diminish, and you find yourself waking up in bed with someone you cannot get along with – or possibly with a psychopath. Sex in dating relationships can be costlier than anyone would like for you to know.
Make Sex Work for You – Return to the Ancient Ways
Yep, it’s old fashioned. But the best advice I can give you comes from an ancient book, The Bible. A King told his son, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Sex outside of marriage (and if you think there is a better relationship than marriage, such as living together, click here to get the facts.) blinds us to who the other person really is. Once we have sex with another person we find ourselves in a powerful chemically induced haze which will last for a few years. The attachment to a certain degree will last forever. That’s why divorce is never truly final – the passions and conflicts in divorce often last till the grave.
So here’s the plan.
Dating is a time to investigate the marriage-worthiness of another. You are not looking for perfection, but you are looking for the qualities of maturity, humility, compassion, courage, gentleness, and a willingness to put the needs of others above their own in a partner to spend your life with. Click here and here for more information on what the “right” person for marriage looks like.
You also need to avoid situations where sex could occur. We live in a highly sexualized and porn saturated culture. It is all too common for two folks with great intentions to get naked and connected just because of the natural desires our Creator gave us – these desires which have been inflamed by the constant encouragement of the media in our daily lives.
Sex during dating defeats the good purpose of dating – determining whether or not you could live with a person for the rest of you days in a love relationship. Nearly anyone can enjoy a short-term sexual fling for a few years – it is a physical/chemical event which brings intense momentary pleasure and feelings of closeness.
But true and lasting intimacy requires a quality partner – a quality partner with a basic set of relational attributes and a willingness to grow as time goes on.
Interestingly, looking back at that old fashioned Bible, the God who gave you and me life always prohibited adultery – which is sex outside of marriage. But when we see the evidence we have just discussed – we understand that He was not trying to spoil our fun. Instead, since He did design and create us – He knew what we best needed to do to be truly healthy, happy, and relationally whole. He designed sex to better help a married couple stay together through all the good and bad times we all must face in life. His commandments are not there to kill the fun – they are there to give us the best possible relationship.
In fact, a couple of decades ago the women’s magazine Redbook did the largest survey of sexual satisfaction ever conducted among women. It came to be known as, hilariously, The Revenge of the Church Lady! What the results clearly and definitively showed was that the women having the most sex, who were most orgasmic, and who rated their relationships with men as most satisfying – were Christian women who were married and had only been married to one man. Who would have thought that?
In dating it is in your best long-term interest to say “no” to sex for now, but a resounding “yes” to great sex for a lifetime. It requires discipline and a true love (i.e. seeking the best interest of others no matter how you feel or how they respond) for others.
It requires you to guard your heart and the heart of others.
Question: What are some ways to structure your dating experience to increase the chances of discovering who the other person really is?