Understanding Your Boyfriend’s Sexual Temptation

Understanding Your Boyfriend’s Sexual Temptation

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Strangers marry each other, and whoever you marry, you marry all of them, including their mind. Though you trust God with your future marriage partner and hope for the best, you know there is an element of mystery about how things will go because you will never be 100% aware of who your marriage partner is. Though it sounds pessimistic, it is a recognition of your finitude and your responsibility to ensure that your dating relationship is a sober opportunity for clear-headed decision-making and courageous choices. For the girl, she must understand sexual temptation, specifically how it has affected her boyfriend. As my friend, Mable, was thinking about these things, she wrote me the following letter.

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Boyfriend Questions

Recently, I finished your book, “So, You Want To Get Married?” It has opened my eyes to a few things I had not considered. You answered a lot of my questions and gave me clear direction on how to think about guys and porn, but more specifically about the struggles (or potential struggles) of my fiancé. I feel better equipped to serve him as a helper after we get married. With that said, you also stirred up a few questions, and I wanted to know if you could answer them for me. After going through some of the things you suggested, I wondered if some of my questions would be too personal to ask now. Here are the ones we have discussed already.

  1. Have you ever looked at porn?
  2. How much porn did you view?
  3. How often did you look at porn?
  4. What were some of the ways you used porn?
  5. Why did you do it?
  6. Who knew about it?
  7. Who did you seek for help?

These discussions were great, and my boyfriend seemed open about his past struggles. However, there were a few other questions that I wanted to ask but was afraid to.

  1. When was the last time you masturbated?
  2. Why did you masturbate?
  3. How often have you masturbated this past year? …the past five years?
  4. What accountability measures do you have in your life to help you work through sexual temptation?

I would also like to know if there are any physical signs or attitudes a guy who is secretly in porn may exhibit that a girl can perceive? Is there a difference between struggling with lust—with seeing girls dressed immodestly or in the media—versus struggling with porn? Lastly, would you agree that there is a difference between a short struggle with porn versus a multi-year addiction for a Christian? Repentance characterizes a true believer. Sin no longer describes believers because 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says that “such were some of you, but you were washed.” It seems to me that some sins should no longer be a regular, habitual part of a Christian’s life because he can repent. Wouldn’t it be true that a man who claims to know the Lord but has a multi-year addiction to porn and hasn’t overcome it probably does not know the Lord?

Let’s Get Personal

Your questions are fantastic, though they are over-the-top for most Christians because of the explicit nature of them. In the counseling world, we deal with these things regularly, so they are not off-putting to me, but essential things for couples who are about to get married to discuss. I have dealt with these things for decades, nearly on a weekly basis. Sexual temptation is on a short list of the most common problems in which we all struggle. Putting my vocation aside for the moment, I do not see them as too personal as much as I see them as loving, self-protective questions. The more you care for someone, the deeper and more personal your questions should be for the person you love.

The more bound you are to a person, the more you need scrutiny regarding your long-term well-being. Jesus may have been reluctant to get up in the Pharisees’ business (John 2:24-25), but He was not timid or hesitant with those who were closest to Him (Matthew 16:23). If a girl is thinking about committing the rest of her life to a guy, your questions are necessary—appropriately asked at the appropriate time. Discretion is a virtue. Perhaps you could think about your questions this way: which would be worse: to ask personal questions before your wedding day or to be devastated ten years into your marriage after you find out he has a sexual addiction?

I appreciate your caution and concern. The adult world—especially the darker side of it—should cause a cautious and wise posture that you must consider. I’m thankful you have not experienced exposure to some of the seedier things in our culture. Thus, I recommend that you ask the Spirit to give you the thought-filled illuminations and empowering grace you will need as you launch into the longest and most challenging time of your life. Though I don’t want to put your future marriage on par with buying a car, please allow me to use an illustration.

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Wise Due Diligence

When purchasing a car, a wise person would not hold back from asking all the right questions. She researches, investigates, makes comparisons, and asks the hard things. Why? She is about to make a significant commitment. How much more wisdom and courage do you need when thinking about your marriage? It is common for many marriages that go off the rails to miss out on these essential discussions while they are dating. Of course, I don’t recommend these types of questions until there is marriage talk and strategic planning. When first dating, they are too soon and inappropriate. After marriage, you might regret the lack of due diligence.

More than likely, your first seven questions will tell you what you need to know, providing insight into your more personal ones about masturbation, addiction, and repentance. A man who looks at porn more than once has probably masturbated. It would be exceptional if that were not the case. If he has looked at porn and is honest with you about what he has done, go ahead and assume he has masturbated. Don’t bury your idealistic head in the sand. If he has sought help, you can ask him if you can talk to the person who helped him so you can gain a third party’s perspective. I would recommend you take an older lady with you if you do pursue his accountability partner.

If your boyfriend is humble, open, and honest, he has nothing to hide and nothing to protect. A gospel-centered worldview motivates him to live in the freedom and power of God’s opinion of him, empowering him to fight the temptation to hide his sins or protect his reputation. Free men are free. They are not habitually bound, insecure, or easily offended. If he doesn’t let you speak into his life at this level at this time while dating, consider it a red flag. It’s during the dating relationship that a guy will be most open and conciliatory because he wants to “get the girl.” If he’s not, he will be even less so after you marry him.

Signs and Attitudes

One of the most common complaints I hear in marriage counseling is a husband’s unwillingness to let his wife probe into his life. These husbands resist openness, honesty, and transparency. If you are planning to marry this guy, and if he resists your questions while dating, consider his response a precursor to your future marriage experience. It would be fair to multiply his replies to you—whether good or bad—by ten after you are married. Our good or bad behaviors will only increase after marriage. Only repentance can change a sinful trajectory. Dating is the wonderful, charmed, fun, romantic, put-your-best-foot-forward, but somewhat artificial season, where you do not see the truest colors of each other.

While you may have had arguments and disappointments during the dating season, whatever has happened will pale in comparison to a 24/7, uninterrupted bond that will only break at death. The first sign you should look for is his openness to your questions. He should not tell every sordid detail of his thought life, and you should not share yours either. I’m speaking more about a willingness toward humility, transparency, and honesty, not a fool who reveals his entire mind to someone. His desire and attitude to be open with you will tell you nearly all you need to know, though there are other things you will need to discern.

For example, how close to the edge does he walk regarding sexual things? Paul told us to flee youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22). Which direction does he lean regarding lust? Does he run toward or away from it? “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Proverbs 5:8). The language of Scripture is severe, strong, and clear when it comes to lust. You don’t go there. If a person likes living on the edge, you should perceive it and not go with him.

Study Your Man

Here are a few things you can look for as far as signs and attitudes:

  • What kind of language does he use? Does he use sexual language? Flirty language? Sexually tempting language? Sexually crude language? Does he use sexual illustrations when describing things?
  • How does he treat you? How does he treat his mother? How does he treat his sisters, if he has any? You’re trying to discern how he treats women, especially those who have been the closest to him. You will be the closest woman to him in marriage.
  • Where does he touch you? Does he protect you and your body?
  • Does he look at the opposite sex in ways that seem inappropriate? Do his eyes follow a lady as she walks into a room? Can he be easily distracted by the opposite sex?
  • Does he have a problem watching R-rated movies, the ones that have sexual content in them? Does he think proactively when it comes to movies? Does he quickly look away when sexual images are in front of him?
  • Does he talk to you about his temptations? Is he open about his weaknesses in an appropriate way for communicating such things? Does he ask you to help him guard his heart—to pray for him? As you go deeper into the relationship, he should be more honest with you. If not, you will be easily tempted to fornicate.
  • Is he modest with what he wears? Does he want you to dress modestly?

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Smoke and Fire

You asked, “Is there a difference between struggling with lust—with seeing girls dressed immodestly or in the media—versus struggling with pornography?” The answer is “Yes” and “No.” There is an obvious difference, but the better question is, “What’s the relationship between these two actions?” As you reflect on the previous two sections about “signs and attitudes” and “study your man,” you should be able to discern if looking at girls and media are the appetizers to the main event. If he does not struggle with or if he responds in a mature way to the cultural temptations of immodesty, there is a good chance he does not struggle with pornography.

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)?

My mother used to say, “Where there is smoke, there is fire.” It applies here. If he struggles with the signs and attitudes, you have a problem. While there is a difference between cultural temptations and porn, cultural temptations are often the precursor to the more destructive sin pattern of porn. We understand David lived in unrepentant sin for at least a year before Nathan confronted him. (Bathsheba had already given birth to their son.) We also know he was under deep conviction from the Lord. (See Psalm 32:1-4.) There is not a strong case in Scripture for the backsliding Christian. The mantra often used by people who “got saved at five but walked away from the Lord, and now they are thirty-five and repenting” is problematic. One of the few testimonies we have of a person who walked away from the Lord in Scripture is David, and this is what he said about that season of his life:

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer (Psalm 32:3-4).

I’m not sure how you can walk away from the Lord for thirty years and experience what David experienced. With that said, I can make an argument for a person caught in an addiction and still be a Christian. I’ve seen it too many times not to believe this. I have counseled a few addicted people, and I do not believe all of them were unbelievers. I’m talking about individuals with a multi-decade addiction. Paul’s language in Galatians 6:1 seems to support this. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” The word caught is the Bible word for addiction. You referenced 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, which is a good text but not a solid one for this discussion. The general idea in Corinthians is the person who is a blatant rebel against God—a person who doesn’t care about God—a reviler.

What’s His Attitude

Based on all the texts that speak to sinning Christians, you can’t make a case that a habitual sinner is automatically an unbeliever. There are many Christians who bring addictive lifestyles into their relationship with God (Ephesians 4:22), and sometimes it takes years for them to overcome. Think about the woman who worries all the time. Is she a Christian? What about the person who overeats and uses food as an escape when life becomes challenging? I realize from a consequential perspective that worrying is not as devastating to a person’s relationships, but it can be a habitual, life-dominating sin pattern.

I don’t want to happy-talk a person with a sexual sin addiction into heaven, but I also don’t want to automatically say that a person with a deeply-trenched former manner of life is not a Christian. I realize I’m walking a thin line where subjectivity is present. The key you are looking for is a person’s attitude about their sin. Are they humble, honest, open, transparent, and seeking help? Or are they hiding, defiant, and reviling the Word of God? The first group could be Christians, while the latter group probably is not.

Call to Action

  1. What have been your parent’s observations about him? I’m assuming your parents are believers and have mature, biblical wisdom. If they do not have these qualities, please discuss these things with a mature older woman in your church.
  2. If you have a sister, what are her thoughts about him? Again, the assumption is she has common sense and can intuit a person, even if she does not have all the proper biblical categories.
  3. Consider asking your pastor (or another spiritual leader) their thoughts about him.
  4. What has been his dating/sensual history? Serial dater? One and done? Somewhere in-between? Does he need to get married; does he need a wife? Or is he trusting the Lord to bring the right person to him?
  5. What do you believe the Lord is guiding you to do now?

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