Let's Talk About Sex...

Talking about sex can be uncomfortable but it’s necessary. The world around us, through TV, movies, and social media, inundates us and our kids with images, ideas, and perspectives on sex. We almost can’t get away from it. That’s why it’s so important we talk about sex from a godly perspective so we can examine, filter, and correct the viewpoints we are surrounded by. God created sex as a gift. If we don’t talk about His plan and intention for sex, the only voices out there will be worldly ones that do not reflect God’s plan or design.
So, how do we navigate dating and sex with a healthy, faith-based approach especially in a world that has changed so much?
This can be especially challenging as we go from having active sex lives, while married or in relationship, to being single and finding our way through what seem to be changing values and expectations. Robert, Kimberley, Marissa, and Elizabeth gathered to discuss this, sometimes awkward topic, candidly and authentically.

How has the dating world changed since you first started dating?
The consensus seems to be that dating has changed “a lot” whether through online dating services or meeting people through networking and community. Dating apps and dating services can be effective. Robert met his wife through an online dating service, but whether in person or online, communication in dating has changed significantly. We are texting, messaging through whatever apps or social media platforms we use and sending emails. This is so common, but it eliminates the face to face connection we used to rely on in dating. We can’t see facial expressions, hear vocal inflections, or pick up on body language clues. Most of communication is through nonverbal cues. We are losing the ability to build the intimacy required for a strong, healthy relationship.
Dating now has changed because of perspective and mindset shifts in our current culture. The expectation now seems to be that dating will progress to sex after three or four dates as a normal part of the relationship. It is almost as if sex is now considered a requirement to build intimacy in a relationship. The mentality seems to be that if you don’t have sex, you don’t truly know each other, and you haven’t “really” shared anything if you haven’t been physically intimate. Sex seems to be viewed as a natural progression in dating, even for Christians.
Another change has been in the comfort level among single people in meeting one another in person. It used to be that people would approach you at church or in a grocery store to introduce themselves or seek you out to get to know you. Now, the assumption seems to be that if you want to date, you will join an online service or dating app. And, while this is a good way to meet people, it’s a lot different than meeting someone you may already have mutual friends with or someone in your extended network of friends and family.
Online dating is different than dating in person, maybe because dating prospects are more removed from our community and direct circles. Marissa shared that she has been approached by men much younger than she is for casual hook-ups that she’s not interested in. As single parents, we have limited resources so when we date, we are often doing it intentionally, not casually or because we have extra time on our hands.
Another difference is that most of us are older now than when we dated earlier on, whether pre-marriage or before becoming a single parent. Many of us grew up in an era with books like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and voices that were speaking to youth and encouraging them to wait until marriage to have sex. The voices are different now and so are the expectations. Many Christian singles are regularly engaging in sex while dating, and the expectation seems to be much more quickly, even after just a handful of dates.
After divorce, another shift seems to be the perspective that because a person has already had sex, there is no longer a reason to wait, as if sex is no longer special or reserved for marriage. Disillusionment can set in, especially for a partner who wholeheartedly sought God’s way in dating and marriage only to be devastated by a broken relationship. Sometimes our marital experiences of intimacy are dysfunctional, and we carry those with us post-divorce into dating again. Maybe sex became transactional or influenced by worldly viewpoints even within marriage. Tony Evans in his book, “Sacred Sex” talks about God’s definition of sex versus the worlds, “Sex is God’s idea and, therefore, it is good but like anything else God makes when people get their hands on it and redefine it for their own agenda, what is good becomes destructive what was created in Heaven becomes a mixture from hell.” Sin and Satan have twisted what God intended as beautiful and life-giving and turned it into a rotten mess.
We see this brokenness reflected in dating and relationships today. But there is hope. God can redeem our broken experiences and tainted beliefs about sex, about intimacy, and connection. If our experiences were destructive, God can restore and heal damage from our past so we can bring a healthy perspective into a new relationship.
Sexual desire is natural and God-given
And, it’s important to remember that we all have natural desires given to us by God. It’s normal to feel desire and be tempted but instead of acting on those temptations, we can ask God to take this part of us and reshape it. Apart from God, we are unable to overcome our tendency to sin. Willpower and “toughing it out” isn’t enough.  But God can enable us to walk in the paths He intends for us, in any arena, including sex and dating, as we submit to Him.
Our desires can surprise us. If we don’t decide ahead of time how we will respond, we will find ourselves responding in the moment, perhaps thoughtlessly and recklessly, instead of in a God-honoring way. It’s challenging while dating to resist going down paths that lead us outside of God’s plan for sexuality.
Dating and intimacy are about more than just sex
There are emotional needs around dating too. We may long to date and connect to someone. We want a relationship that quenches our loneliness. It’s not just a physical desire we long to have met. It’s also a need to be seen, known, and loved. God created us for community. We want someone to walk with us on our journey as single parents. But this presents complications too. We have kids to consider and our time is limited. It may be difficult to meet someone like-minded but that longing to have someone in our life is very real.
We also must be careful that we don’t idolize the idea of dating and finding someone. God wants us to depend on and seek Him first. Surrendering our desires to His plan isn’t easy but it brings contentment and peace as we trust Him and His timing. That surrender doesn’t mean we won’t have lonely days or that our desire will disappear, but it allows us to respond from a place of wholeness instead of neediness.
God created us for connection and intimacy, His way
And we must be careful not to act out from a place of neediness and end up having one-night stands that are transactional and apart from relationship. Sex isn’t designed to just be a physical act. God’s design for intimacy includes emotional connection, faithfulness, and commitment. Casual sexual encounters take something from us. When we give part of ourselves to someone apart from an intimate, relational connection, we may scratch an itch temporarily, but we won’t find genuine fulfillment or long-term satisfaction.
We were created for connection and intimacy. The Hebrew word for sex, “yada” is translated “to know,  be known, and deeply respected.” That is what God intends for physical intimacy. When we have sex out of God’s intended context, we experience negative repercussions. Sex releases chemicals in our brain that bond us to the other person. If we are having sex casually, we may attach to someone who isn’t good for us, that doesn’t have our best interests at heart, or isn’t committed to us. Yet, that chemical glue release ties us to them and can leave us feeling wounded and rejected when things end.
The chemical connection and desires we have are not wrong. It’s normal to want to have sex and feel close to someone. But we need to be cautious in how we respond to those desires. Guarding our hearts and our bodies is important. While these desires and needs are normal, Robert cautions single dads to be careful not to objectify women and calls men to do better, adding that woman have a responsibility to not treat sex t casually too. Robert shares that almost all the single women he talks to say they feel pressure and an expectation to have sex while dating.
What are some practical things we can do to prepare for dating?
We can start by checking our attitude toward God about dating and sex. Are we angry with Him for not brining someone into our lives or meeting our desire for a significant other? If we are, that’s something we can talk to Him about. If we don’t make God top priority and find a place of surrender before we start dating, we will not be in the right place to listen to His voice and follow Him as we step into dating.
Marissa shared that another consideration is to know the difference between desiring to fill a role versus having a healthy intimate relationship. Sometimes as single parents we long to have another person to help us, to support us, and to fulfill certain tasks in the role of significant other. But we are created for relationship – to be fully known and fully loved. That isn’t a list of tasks or expectations to be filled. It involves heart connection and much more – “to love someone for who they are instead of for what they can do for us”.
Marissa also emphasized how important it is that we “find ourselves before we find someone else”. We need to be sure we know who we are, or we will never be able to truly connect with another person.
We also need to remember that God isn’t going to leave us hanging. He is at work doing things to bring each of us what we need according to His will and plan. And, as we wait, we can let God shape us into people who are better than who we were before. We can bring a better, healthier, more whole version of ourselves into a future relationship.

So, if we can reframe our mindset around dating, what are some ways we can look at sex differently?
Robert shared that he realized sex isn’t about finding satisfaction in another person. It’s not about them. It’s not a conquest, it’s not only about pleasure. If we frame sex incorrectly, it will be a destructive force in our lives. But, when we view sex through God’s perspective, as a way of knowing someone and being fully known and deeply respected, then “it becomes a gift unlike anything else on earth”.
And that perspective shift isn’t about behavior change. It’s about looking at things through God’s eyes. Amber, one of our Solo Parent Society team members, said “God doesn’t say no to something to be restrictive. It’s not punitive. He does it for our blessing, for our benefit, for our bounty. What He wants for us is so much more than we can understand. His way is always so much better than ours.”
Elizabeth shared that we each have different experiences with dating and sex and so walking this out looks different for each of us too. “It’s not a one size fits all. It’s so important to understand your history, where you’ve been, what you’re walking through now, what God has on your heart, and where you are in your relationship with Him. Be thoughtful and prayerful about what God is calling you to, individually, for you.” And it’s important to not walk this out alone. Have people in your life who know you and understand you, who know your story, and who you can be honest with.
Sex is not neutral. Sex will have an effect, good or bad. James 5:16 says “Confess your sins one to another and you will be healed.” Don’t be afraid to talk about it. We all make mistakes. Don’t hide things. Shame and sin can crush us when they stay in the dark. Light brings freedom and healing. And in that light, we can embrace sex as part of God’s design for us to have intimacy with our spouse.
When it comes to sex and dating, if you know who you are and are firm in your values, it’s easier to have healthy boundaries in dating and relationships. It also helps to realize that what we are seeking is genuine intimacy. We aren’t seeking sex as a transaction. We want to be someone’s priority and not just an option. Physical intimacy is not the way to genuine intimacy. It can seem like a shortcut, but it takes much more than sex to be fully known and fully loved and to fully know and love someone else. And that is what our hearts desire more than just a physical act. If we can just wait, God can show us what He means by true intimacy and why He gave us this gift of connection in marriage. And it’s super hard,  but if we can hold on and ask God to help us guard our hearts and minds as we date, we will find this gift in the right season.
Single parents, every week we talk further about the topics we discuss in our podcast. Join one of our online groups, meeting 6 days a week. As you walk the journey of dating as single parents, we want to offer encouragement and hope any way we can. Join our Solo Parent Society community by participating in one of our groups, Follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@soloparentsociety). Subscribe to our weekly podcast via AccessMore or wherever you get your podcasts. Download our Solo Parent app FREE in the app store for easy links to our podcast, groups, and our “Sound Mind Set” daily reflection tool for ten minutes every day to breathe, focus on God and His word. We love to connect single parents to resources that offer hope and help. If you want to donate so we can reach more single-parent families, go to www.soloparentsociety.com. Questions? Email us at info@spsociety.com.

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