Let’s face it: sex is important. The sex industry is one of the largest in the world. Sexual images are everywhere, billboards, grocery stores, even hamburger commercials. (And our brains trick us into thinking that if we eat that many hamburgers, we will have that sexy body!)
The messaging shapes our beliefs. With the false messages continually bombarding us, we begin to believe that If we are not having sex, we must not be pretty enough or cool enough. We become convinced that we need to change ourselves, wear more revealing/enticing clothes or cave into physical attention that we know is risky. In short, the messaging shapes our beliefs so that we do whatever it takes to get noticed so we can “join in,” be “normal,” and be “happy” like everyone else who is having random, casual sex.
What are they not telling you? They don’t tell us that the “do this and get this” concept is far from true. They don’t tell us that we might end up lonely, desperate for true love, and maybe hurt and broken.
Let me tell you a story…
Heather woke up to a good morning text from Dylan, a guy she met last night. “Hmmm??? He must really like me,” she thought. She immediately texted back “Good morning!” Throughout the day they texted, getting to know one another. She was elated, she could hardly keep her mind on what she was doing. She couldn’t believe her luck – 17 and already she had the man of her dreams. He understood her, spoke her language, and it was like they were meant for each other.
Then it came… that text you have to read twice to make sure you are reading it correctly. “Send me a picture…without clothes. I know you have a beautiful body.” She was slightly stunned at first. It felt like all the blood drained from her body. She didn’t know what to think. Another text came in…”I’m waiting – you don’t want to disappoint me, do you?”
What was she going to do? He was right – she didn’t want to disappoint… She had to do it. In her mind, she supposed that he would quit talking to her if she didn’t. She reckoned with herself – “He is so awesome… there must be a dozen other girls that would gladly do this for him.”
She slipped off her clothes, closed her eyes and took the picture.
He was impressed by her submission to his request, and he kept pushing her to do more. She continued, ignoring the warning feelings of fear, regret and guilt. He asked her to come over, and she was delighted. He must have been pleased with what he saw! That thought made her feel a little special… The image of their fairy-tale returned to her mind and off she went to meet him.
She had sex that night with him. It was not great, nor did it lead to a fairy-tale life like she thought. It only led to emptiness, and emptiness led to other partners, and that led to deeper loneliness. She was left disappointed, desperate for love, and broken.
Sex really is important. Sex makes you feel close to someone in ways you can’t feel with other people. People desire to be noticed and feel loved for who they are. They crave physical affection, and a deep connection with one person that no one else can sever. This is possible, but it just can’t be found like Heather tried to find it.
There is an old saying – “Good things come to those who wait.” It is still true today. All girls want a fairy-tale ending, someone to love them unconditionally for who they are – not for what they look like or what someone wants from them – just to be genuinely loved and treasured – to be special and number one to that special one…
Don’t let what “they” say get in the way of that. Wait. Take your time. The right one will come along. You can avoid pain that comes from hollow relationships. Think about what you want for your future. Don’t just “fall into the next thing that happens to you.”
If you have already started on this path, you can change it. Start today by making good choices about your body and your life.
Some things to think about…
Compatibility. Common goals. Chemistry. If you’re dating, or single and looking to date, these are probably high on the list of things you’re hoping to discover about the person you’re getting to know. While all of those are valid, there’s something deeper, yet just as important, that you need to be paying attention to as you date, and that is this:
Is this person healthy and capable of building a healthy relationship?
And since it takes one to know one, how do I answer the same question about myself?
Similar personalities, common goals and dreams, and sexual attraction do not add up to the ability to build and sustain a healthy relational connection, and without that ability, no couple is going to be able to go the distance.
In “Keep Your Love On,” Danny Silk describes 7 qualities that need to be strong for a relationship to be healthy. These 7 qualities of healthy relationships are universal truths that you should be applying to every relationship in your life. Let’s look at how they should be showing up as you date.
THE FOUNDATION: UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE
Unconditional acceptance simply says, “You get to be you, and I get to be me in this relationship.” At the foundation of every healthy relationship must be an agreement that you will not try to control or change each other. As you get to know someone, pay attention to your thoughts and the messages you’re picking up from them. If you find yourself imagining how you might groom this person into the perfect spouse or feeling like you need to become someone else to make this person happy, then you are building on the wrong foundation.
Quality # 1 – LOVE
The pillar of love is based on the commitment to value and care for the well being of another person in a way that makes them feel safe, connected, and understood. This commitment doesn’t depend on romantic feelings—you can keep it whether you decide that you want to pursue a romantic connection with someone or not. The important thing to pay attention to as the relationship develops is that you are both contributing to a mutual experience where you feel safe to share your thoughts, feelings, and needs, and are gradually stepping into the dance of giving and receiving that builds interdependence. The moment one or both of you are operating primarily as a consumer in the relationship is the moment when you start chasing love away.
Quality #2 – HONOR
Honor is the practice of two powerful people putting one another before themselves, empowering one another, and calling out and believing the best in one another. Honor is put to the test in romantic relationships when we discover how the person we’re dating is different from us. Unhealthy people need others to be like them to feel safe and will put dishonoring pressure on people to agree with them or do things their way. Healthy people work to lower anxiety around one another’s differences by seeking to understand and adjust to them.
Quality #3 – SELF-CONTROL
Healthy relationships are built by powerful people who can manage themselves toward their goals and core values. In dating, powerful people demonstrate self-control in many ways—not only by honoring sexual boundaries, but also by doing what they say they’re going to do, communicating assertively to give feedback or let the other person know what they need, and taking responsibility to respond to feedback from the other person. In contrast, tolerating powerless behavior in your relationship—blaming others for feelings or behavior, trying to control or manipulate others, communicating in passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive ways, etc.—is always unhealthy.
Quality #4 – RESPONSIBILITY
Responsibility means taking ownership for your half of a relationship. You aren’t responsible for the other person’s choices or responses, but you are responsible for how your actions affect them and how you are responding to them. One of the areas where responsibility is most critical in relationships is in resolving conflicts and cleaning up our messes. Scary and painful things are going to happen in every relationship. It’s what you do about it that builds responsibility or irresponsibility into a relationship. Many people today simply run away when a dating relationship gets uncomfortable, either offering vague reasons for why they want to breakup, or worse, “ghosting” someone by dropping all communication. Even if it is right for you to end a relationship, do it in a responsible way.
Quality #5 – TRUTH
Telling the truth inside—your thoughts, feelings, needs, and how you are experiencing the other person—is what builds trust in any relationship, while withholding the truth builds mistrust. Building a strong pillar of truth in a dating relationship means not giving into the temptation to downplay the things you don’t really like about a person or to hide the truth of what you are experiencing and needing in the relationship. Many times, when an unhealthy relationship falls apart, it feels like a betrayal because the breakup is when all the hidden truths start to spill out. People say, “This would have been so much easier if he had just been honest with me when we broke up.” Or, “I had no idea she felt that way, but I could have changed my behavior if I knew. Maybe we would still be together if she had just told me.” If you want to experience genuine trust and intimacy, you must be courageous in telling the truth.
Quality #6 – VISION
Vision encompasses the core values you live by, your dreams, and your calling/mission in life. The healthiest relationships are built by people who are already running after a clear vision for their lives, and whose goal in dating is to discover whether their visions can be aligned with each other to create a shared vision. In unhealthy relationships, however, you always find people either living in survival mode with no clear purpose or trying to live off someone else’s vision. Long-term relationships only work with a long-term vision.
Quality #7 – FAITH
For many people, their faith plays a major role in their life. If faith is important to you, ask yourself if this person values faith the way you do – or do they believe the same as you? Those answers could affect the future of your relationship. As you’re getting to know someone in a dating relationship, pay attention to see if the person is truly relying on God to meet his or her core needs. People with a strong pillar of faith will trust Him to meet their relational needs and won’t fall into pursuing relationships that do not have long-term potential in order to meet short-term needs. They will also demonstrate the ability to keep their love on when they feel afraid, repent for their sin, and forgive when they are hurt.
BE REAL, BE HONEST – BE REAL HONEST
If you recognize that any of these qualities are weak in your own life and relationships, don’t be discouraged. Growing in these areas is a process—one that is vulnerable, messy, but ultimately glorious and absolutely worth it! Invite trusted friends and leaders into your dating journey and ask for their support and strength in these areas. You are not alone.
Take care of you!