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A man is not affected by love the same way a woman is. The typical guy takes a more physical approach to love, while the ordinary girl has a more emotional approach. It does not make either one of them wrong; it makes them different. When a boy meets a girl, it is more of a physical encounter than an emotional moment. It is natural for his mind to move toward sexual arousal, while she may be more inclined to entertain romantical thoughts and expectations.
These differences are why a boy kissing a girl can excite his hormones, which can tempt him to fast-track to more dynamic and steamier physical interplay. While kissing can just as easily lead to physical interaction with a girl, it is initially about emotional engagement, relational harmony, and a sense of belonging. Though they both will experience these natural longings, neither one of them will be able to fully articulate what’s happening inside their hearts.
It is rare for a young couple to be that in tune with the intricate dynamics of relational desires and hormonal cravings, a compelling reason there must be candid conversations and biblical leadership from the parents of these young adults who are looking for love in a lasting relationship.
Most girls want to be married, and they want their guy to romance them. God has prewired them to desire the pursuit of a man, hoping they will notice and love them (Genesis 2:22-23). There is a reason Prince Charming has become a metaphor for the pursuer, and Cinderella hopes and prays the shoe will fit. A girl should not feel odd because she desires the love of a guy. If her wiring tempted her to respond repulsively at the thought of a man, marriage would be a problem, and procreation would never happen. Perhaps when she was a little girl, she said something like, “Boys? Yuck!”
That day has passed. Dad, she is not your little girl any longer. God made her long for companionship, and it is our job as parents to be intentional by predetermining that we will serve our girls by guarding their hearts. The unguarded heart is one of the biggest dangers in dating. Most young people will not have the discernment to keep themselves from crossing the line with the opposite sex. It’s analogous to giving a ten-year-old the keys to the car. Don’t expect him to get it right, and a young twenty-something could never comprehend the intricate depths and contours of love and the accompanying temptations that come with it.
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).
I have counseled scores of forty-year-olds who still have not figured out what love is about—the giving and receiving of mature love. The apostle Paul appealed to us to refrain from hastily or unwittingly encouraging or expecting our children to enter into relationships where they unleash inner longings too early. Dad, it’s not just about talking to your girls about what they ought not to be doing. It also gives them a vision regarding what they need to do.
I’m not suggesting that dating is wrong. Whether it’s right to date is not the issue. Discernment regarding the best situation for our daughters is at stake as we factor in their maturity and the kind of person best for them. Of course, guys have a huge responsibility when they enter a relationship. If she likes him, she will have a hard time resisting him. If he crosses the line with her, she will likely follow him. God made her in such a way to “fall in love.” Her willingness to be vulnerable is not a weakness but a means that leads to something beautiful. But the beauty of marriage is rendered ugly if either partner is irresponsible, which is why dating is a leadership issue as much as anything else.
Dating is a stewardship issue too. A guy’s leadership in and stewardship of the dating relationship will significantly impact how it goes now and in the future. Of course, if she continues to follow his poor leadership, she is responsible too. If she does not pump the brakes on a relationship heading toward biblical boundary crossing, she will not be held guiltless. You cannot diminish her culpability for a relationship that has gone too far, but for now, the main issue is the role of the guy God has called to be the biblical leader in romantic relationships.
If a man crawls over the Word of God to satisfy his lust-filled cravings, you are getting a peek into his leadership style, abilities, and objectives in the relationship. He is showing you his character as he leads. Though the girl may feel “lost in the moment” of her love desires, and her hidden heart cravings may feel satisfied, if she does not make a course correction, she will be set up for years of marital heartache. Typically, premarital sex and how it distorts relationships do not cross a young adult’s mind. Their preoccupation is in the moment, not future consequences.
I could not fully understand the complexity of premarital sex before I became a forty-something-year-old. After I began helping people untangle their miserable marriages, the impact of sex during the dating years became more evident to me. Most of the complicated marriages I have counseled began the same way I’m warning you about now. They were just harmlessly dating, having fun, enjoying foreplay, and maybe having intercourse. “Hey! Everybody is doing it. What’s the problem; you old stick in the mud?”
The problem is that sex is a leadership and stewardship issue. It may be fun for the immature, but it is holy to God. Though we can take any of God’s good gifts, twist them back, and run them through our self-rationalizations to soothe our consciences, it does not alter the integrity of God’s Word. Not one iota. I can say the 8 o’clock train will-not-come-will-not-come-will-not-come-will-not-come all the live-long day. I can say it like a yoga mantra, and maybe, if I say it enough times, I will convince myself that the 8 o’clock train will not come.
Believe what you want, but I appeal to you not to stand on the railroad tracks at 8 o’clock. We can convince ourselves that sex is not a serious matter all we want to, but we will not change this truth: sex is a solemn and holy concept. I’m not just talking about intercourse. I’m talking about the entire romantic road that leads to sex. Unless the girl is a serial sex addict—a possibility in our culture—she will not just jump into bed with any guy. Sex begins at “hello” for a girl, as I learned from the movie Jerry Maguire. Jerry and Dorothy had a falling out. The night they reconciled, Jerry began his reconciliation speech, and Dorothy tearfully interrupted him by saying, “Shut up. Just shut up. You had me at hello.” Then they kissed and made up.
Dorothy is normal. Dorothy is representative of most girls who allow their God-given wiring to function rightly. They are ready, willing, and able to experience love—right from the first “hello.” The onus is on the guy to lead well from the “hello” to the altar and into marital harmony, with gospel-motivated love being the one constant from the beginning of the relationship until the end. But I can hear someone saying, “We’ve messed up. What do we do?” There are two types of people that mess up by engaging in some form of sex before marriage: those not married and those who are.
The best-case scenario for unmarried couples is for them to talk to each other about what they have done and repent to God and each other. Then they should let somebody else know what they have done because they have proven a lack of trustworthiness with each other, so they want to pursue God’s community for help humbly. They have violated God’s imperatives to stay pure. Just imagine if they change. They are humble and willing to submit to God. In that case, they will not only have a healthy suspicion toward themselves and what they are capable of doing but also desire godly care and accountability.
The act of sexual activity before marriage is “Exhibit A” that trust is in jeopardy. If they deny this, their initial foolishness of sexual activity will multiply by future folly. The first people they should talk to are their respective dads and moms. But with the state of too many families, to sit down and have a biblically mature conversation is not remotely fathomable. In such cases, I recommend their pastor or another primary spiritual leader. The guy must lead, but if not, the girlfriend must take the lead so she does not incarcerate herself in a relationship by marrying a guy who will have sexual activity while continuing to fail in his leadership, as evidenced by not humbly leading her through active repentance.
Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? (Proverbs 6:27-28).
If you are married, I recommend that the husband lead his wife through a discussion about their sexual activity while they were dating. It would not be wise or redemptive to gloss over what happened. It was a failure in leadership then, and it would be another failed leadership opportunity if he did not lead his wife through it now. The husband needs to repent to his wife humbly. He needs to let her feel and experience his contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). He also needs to walk her through the guilt and shame of what she did. She was an active participant.
If your husband does not walk you through these things because he is still choosing to lead poorly, I recommend you find help so your conscience can be clear, your heart cleansed, and you find release from what you did when you were young and foolish. Don’t assume that you can ignore sin; it will always seek revenge on you if it is not confessed and forgiven (Romans 1:18). Additionally, you need help walking through any bitterness or anger that you may be carrying in your heart because he failed in leadership then and now. You must remove these hindrances from your marriage relationship—as much as it depends on you.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).