What the Bible Says About Premarital Sex

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT PREMARITAL SEX

Noah Filipiak

I’ve heard it said that the Bible doesn’t mention premarital sex as a sin. There are major implications to this on two levels. One, there is the simple and important question of knowing what is a sin and what isn’t. Two, and more importantly, if it is a sin (and why) has huge ramifications on God’s overall design for sex and how men are to view women and vice versa.

If you type “premarital sex” or “sex before marriage” into your English Bible concordance, nothing is going to come up. If you search for “adultery,” a married person having sex with someone who is not their spouse, you’ll get all kinds of occurrences. So I suppose this is where some get the idea that maybe sex is okay up until you get married, then you’re locked into that one person from thereafter.

If you’re used to reading the King James Version, you’ll note that it often uses the word fornication, which means sex-before-marriage. The NIV and other translations swap this out for the term sexual immorality, which is quite vague and does not give the surface indication that sex-before-marriage is a sin.

The Greek word used in the original New Testament text for fornication or sexual immorality is porneia (Matthew 5:32, 15:19, 19:9; Mark 7:21; John 8:41; Acts 15:20, 15:29, 21:25; 1 Corinthians 5:1, 6:13, 6:18, 7:2; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Revelation 2:21; 9:21; 14:8; 17:2; 17:4; 18:3; 19:2). Porneia is a separate Greek word from adultery, so we know it doesn’t mean the exact same thing. Hence, it makes some sense why the KJV translators would use the word fornication.

We also know that porneia brings about children outside of wedlock (John 8:41), so it is sex. Porneia is also the word used to describe the acts of the great prostitute in Revelation 17, and is the root for the word prostitute itself (1 Corinthians 6:15). These uses are a pretty open-and-shut case that porneia means sex-before-marriage.

But porneia can also be done by a married person (Matthew 5:32; 19:19). A man sleeping with his mother or step-mother is considered a type of porneia (1 Corinthians 5:1). So from these two examples, we see that porneia doesn’t exclusively mean sex-before-marriage. It’s safe to say that adultery is the sin of when a married person has sex with someone who is not their spouse. And that porneia (KJV: fornication, NIV: sexual immorality) is the sin of any type of sex outside of marriage, which would obviously include sex-before-marriage, as well as prostitution and adultery.

More Than A Rulebook

Porneia is anything that goes against God’s design for sex. And it’s crucial that we get back to the point about God’s design. While there is value in analyzing the text to determine what is a sin and what isn’t, it has the feeling of etching out a rule book for the sake of a rule book. Like telling a teenager not to have sex before marriage, “because it’s bad,” without giving any further explanation. To approach any of God’s commands in this way doesn’t do justice to why a loving God would give them to us in the first place, nor do they provide much intrinsic motivation to follow them. We must always go back to the design, which thankfully Scripture does with crystal clarity on the matter of premarital sex.

God’s design for sex is laid out in the creation blueprint of Genesis 2:24: That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Some will say that this verse is only referring to marriage—that when a man and woman become married, they become one flesh. The apostle Paul disagrees. In 1 Corinthians 6:16, Paul says that anyone who has sex with a prostitute has become one flesh with her. You become one flesh with someone when you have sex with them.

This is why premarital sex is a sin. It’s also why so many find their hearts so broken and battered.

Play-Doh Lessons

What “one flesh” means is that a whole person accepts all that makes someone else a human. It’s like taking a yellow piece of Play-Doh and mixing it together with a piece of blue Play-Doh. What happens? You get green Play-Doh, never able to distinguish or remove the yellow from the blue again. One flesh is not just about body parts, it’s about one’s entire being. It’s why we say the vows we say at a wedding…for better or worse…for richer or poorer…in sickness and in health. No matter what comes our way, I have accepted you and will protect you and be here for you. All of you. Not just the good parts. But also the annoying parts. The things I’d like to change. The weaknesses. The quirks. All of that becoming one with all of that in me, for a lifetime. That’s the environment God designed sex to create between two people. It coincidentally is also the perfect environment for raising children.

Sex was designed by God to be a part of the greatest self-sacrificing relationship possible. The byproduct of one-flesh-marital-sex was to be a strong society where children are loved and married adults are accepted and protected by their spouses. Sin has turned sex into an act of selfishness. The consequences on our society couldn’t be any clearer. This of course doesn’t end with premarital sex. Once sex becomes selfish, people are simply objects to be consumed. This objectification provides the booming demand for pornography, a sex-addicted Hollywood, and uncontrollable lust.

If you do the math, you can’t have multiple one fleshes with people. That’s why premarital sex does such damage to our souls, and to our society. You are sharing intimacy that can’t hold its own weight. You are doing a trust fall with no one to catch you. Sin and our culture have taught us sex is about us and getting our desires met. God’s word tells us sex is about a lifelong commitment of accepting and supporting all of someone else. No matter how unpopular it gets, God’s word will remain our guide for finding true life and true freedom in understanding how we are to view sex, ourselves, and the men and women we share this world with.

Why There Is No Sex in Heaven

WHY THERE IS NO SEX IN HEAVEN

Noah Filipiak

Here are two contrasting cultural beliefs for you to consider:

  1. Sex is the best thing on the planet
  2. Heaven is full of the best things we can imagine

So if both of these things are true, why does the Bible tell us there won’t be any sex in heaven?

No Sex in Heaven?

In Matthew 22:30, Jesus says, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

I’ve expounded elsewhere how God designed sex to happen within marriage only, so we can naturally deduce here, as the original listeners would have automatically, that if there is no marriage in heaven, there is also no sex.

No sex in heaven? Many might ask what the other options are at this point!

One of the reasons this news shocks us is because we view sex and heaven selfishly. Culturally, sex has become a selfish act of consumption. And our view of heaven is typically a place of self-centered utopia. We picture beaches and paradise and all the pleasure for ourselves that we can dream of, often not with much thought about God being around at all. This me-centered paradise is a great match for lots of sex for all of eternity. In fact, several of the main world religions promise this (maybe a clue that those religions were made up by a man? But I digress…)

But thank goodness that’s not what heaven, or sex, is meant to be according to the Bible.

Sex is a one-flesh relationship that bonds a man and a woman together in every way possible. It’s why this one-flesh relationship can only function healthily within marriage. The one-flesh bond includes full acceptance and commitment to all a person is, not simply their body parts (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6, 1 Corinthians 6:15-16). You are one flesh, at all times, in all ways, which can’t be undone.

This sounds pretty amazing, and deep, and night-and-day different from what our culture calls “sex” today. But there’s more. This sex and this one flesh don’t exist for their own end. They aren’t the destination, they are simply another sign post. A sign post pointing to where?

What Sex Really Points To

After giving a treatise on marriage and sex, Ephesians 5 concludes with the following:

“’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Heyo! The whole time Paul was talking about husbands and wives and marriage and sex in Ephesians 5, it says here he was actually talking about Jesus and us! Marriage and sex are metaphors for the relationship we have with Jesus.

What is a metaphor? It is a sign post. It points to the real thing. It’s something tangible we can look at in order to understand something else. It’s a symbol we can learn from in order to understand and experience the real thing.

The real thing is the one-flesh relationship Jesus desires to have with each of us. It’s the relationship he has with those who call themselves Christians. It’s a relationship of intimate love and acceptance and support and trust, where Jesus is the groom and we are the bride. Earthly marriage and sex are symbols that can help point us toward the real thing.

This is why there is no sex in heaven. You don’t need sign posts when you’ve arrived at the destination!

It’d be like driving to Disney World and parking the car at the green highway sign with the white text of “DISNEY WORLD” and the white arrow pointing to the off ramp. Imagine parking your car there, taking a selfie with the family, and then driving home, telling everyone you’d been to Disney World!

The destination is always better than the sign post.

Heaven Is Not a Perpetual Fast

Some might disagree!  But the reason for the disagreement is because we’ve been worshiping the sign post for far too long and we simply don’t have the full experience of the real thing yet. In talking of the perspective that heaven would be a “perpetual fast” from sex in the minds of some, C.S. Lewis had this to say:

“…or else of a perpetual fast. As regards the fast, I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure, should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer no, he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it.

We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it.”

-C.S. Lewis, as quoted in a 1947 Time Magazine article

A boy can’t understand if you try to tell him sex is the highest bodily pleasure, because he is convinced chocolate is and isn’t ready to understand sex. We can’t understand that pure intimacy with God in his direct presence is what makes heaven, Heaven, not that it’s some me-centered place where we eat Bons Bons on the beach, while watching Netflix, and of course, having sex. Nor can we fully grasp that intimacy with God is better than sex, both now and for all eternity. But the truth remains, which we are exhorted to believe and live by.

This is fantastic news. We worship sex on earth, but it’s also our place of deepest longing and brokenness. A single person feels unloved because they don’t have a sexual partner. A married person goes to pornography, an affair, or fantasy, because the sexual partner they do have isn’t satisfying them.

The Answer to Our Longing for Sex

The answer to our longing for sex is not sex! It’s intimacy with Jesus. We get to experience this intimacy on earth. This unconditional love where God adopts us as his sons and daughters and is well-pleased with us and we are fully accepted into his arms because of what Jesus did on the cross for us.  But imagine this experience in a fully direct, physical way. Wow! That is heaven.

This gives us reason to not worship sex and it also reminds us we don’t need sex. Whether we experience the sign post or not is somewhat irrelevant. What is relevant is that we take God at his word that the destination will be much better, attuning all of our navigational tools toward that destination, not any metaphor, imitation, or sign post along the way.

The Apostle Paul: His Secret to Fighting Sexual Sin

THE APOSTLE PAUL: HIS SECRET TO FIGHTING SEXUAL SIN

Luke Gilkerson

Hugh Hefner didn’t invent sexual sin. It is a problem that has been around since our ancestors walked east of Eden, and it will be around until the new Jerusalem descends upon us. The good news is that the Bible promises that we can experience foretastes of that coming freedom in the here and now. But how?

The Apostle Paul commands the Christians at Colossae, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). But how do we do this? If we rip this verse away from the letter, we’re likely to apply it the wrong way, so we need to look closely to understand what Paul is talking about.

1. Fighting Sexual Sin Is Not About “Do More, Try Harder”

A dangerous philosophy was circulating in the church at Colossae that was championing asceticism: if you want to remain pure, then separate yourself from the pleasures of the body that are so often a source of temptation. This philosophy said if you really want the fullness of divine life within you, then insulate your life.

But Paul delivers a crushing blow to this philosophy:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)

No value. That is Paul’s verdict on asceticism. It simply doesn’t work. Yes, there is a grain of truth in the philosophy—all popular philosophies contain at least some wisdom in them. If you are tempted to sin sexually then it makes sense to get away from sexual temptations. This will keep sin at bay—but ultimately the flesh remains unsatiated.

This false philosophy is still circulating in the church today. When the best advice we can give people is better Internet filters, cold showers, more hours in prayer, and trying harder, we have given into this philosophy that Paul says is of no value.

This false philosophy either totally underestimates the power of sin, or it sets the benchmark of holiness too low. It either doesn’t get just how ingrained sexual sin is in us, or it thinks that merely getting rid of outward, blatant sexual sin is the goal. Neither is accurate.

2. Fighting Sexual Sin Starts with a New Identity

Paul offers his readers another approach to fighting sin, and it starts with these core identity statements:

  • “With Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world” (2:20)
  • “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (3:3)
  • “You have been raised with Christ” (3:1)
  • “You were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (2:12)
  • “You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self” (3:9-10)
  • “The riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27)

This is where a lot of modern readers check out. “Don’t give me these abstract theological ideas. I need something practical,” they think. But for Paul, there was nothing more practical, nothing more life-changing, than these ideas.

We are united to the risen Christ by faith. His resurrection life flows in our veins now. The Spirit of the living Christ lives inside us, so we no longer belong to this world and the rules it plays by—we belong to Christ and the age to come. In order to have the power to fight lust, we first have to understand this: we no longer belong to sin. We belong to God who has accepted us and forgiven us, not because we purified ourselves first, but because we are united by faith to the Pure One, Jesus Christ.

In order to fight lust, we must understand that we no longer belong to lust.

3. Fighting Sexual Sin Continues by Kindling New Desires

Knowing we are united to the living Christ, Paul writes, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (3:1-2). The terms Paul uses here mean to center one’s interests, focus, and passions on something—to savor something. Now that God has united us to the risen Christ, we savor that reality, and this kindles new desires in us that displace a desire for sin.

What are these “things” above that we should savor?

  • First, we are to savor Christ himself. This is one of the reasons why Paul spills a lot of ink in this letter describing who Christ is. He is the beloved Son of God (1:13), the image of the invisible God (1:15), creator and sustainer of all things (1:16-17), the one whose blood reconciles us to the Father (1:20), the firstborn from the dead (1:18), and the one seated at God’s right hand (3:1). In him all the riches of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (2:3). The fullness of deity dwells in Him (1:19; 2:9).
  • Second, we are to savor our new position before God. Christ is seated at God’s right hand and we are seated with Him (Ephesians 2:6). To be seated at a ruler’s right hand meant to be in the position of greatest authority, honor, and delight. Because Christ is in us, we share in the favor He has with the Father.
  • Third, we are to savor the hope that someday we will see and experience these realities. Someday, Christ Himself will appear and we will appear with Him in glory (1:4). It is our destiny to be like the holy, pure Son of God. Someday our eyes will see the one who died for us and rose again, the one who is God in the flesh, and God will honor us as his royal children before every creature, every human soul, every angelic being in the universe.

How does this practically help us to fight sexual sin? The reason why sexual sin can have such a grip on us is because of its power to define us and what is most valuable, how sexual pleasure makes us feel about ourselves. Sexual fantasy, pornography, or pursuing illicit sex makes us feel desired; it makes us feel valued and validated; it gives us a refuge; it gives us connection; it can even make us feel powerful. This is why setting our affections on things above is so important: it gives us a new center to our lives and gives us a completely new sense of value—not based in our worthiness but based on the love God has for Christ that overflows to us.

4. Fighting Sexual Sin Is About Fighting For Our New Desires

Finally we come to Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

Paul here is not endorsing asceticism—something he has already refuted. Asceticism is about fighting to get rid of something we think is unholy, but mortifying sin is about fighting for the new affections that God is giving to us.

We can construct helpful boundaries in our lives that keeps sexual sin out of reach, but we should do so standing on our identity as God’s beloved children, standing satisfied in Christ and God’s love. When sexual temptation comes knocking, we can say to it, “No, sin. That’s not who I am anymore. You do not define what life is to me anymore. You do not define me anymore. Christ is in me. I am a child of the king, and one day the whole world will know it.”

5. Fighting Sexual Sin Is Sustained by Relationships that Remind Us of Our New Identity

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

This is the essence of real accountability in the body of Christ. Yes, accountability involves confessing our temptations, sins, and the state of our heart, but it also involves godly encouragement. Accountability is not just about someone calling you out on your sin, but someone calling you up to the person you already are in Christ. Accountability is about surrounding yourself with the kind of Christian friendships that teach and admonish you, that inspire thankfulness, and that help us unpack all the wisdom contained in the great mystery that Paul called “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (1:27).

Accountability is like stoking the embers of the fire. It does not add energy to the embers. It only exposes those embers to the air so new reactions can happen. When we engage in the disciplines of confession, encouragement, and mutual prayer we expose our souls again to the life-changing gospel, and God’s power is released again and again.

How to Change the Way You Feel (Without Changing Anything Else)

HOW TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU FEEL (WITHOUT CHANGING ANYTHING ELSE)

Marc Chernoff

Happiness does not start with a relationship, a degree, a job, or money.  It starts with your thinking and what you tell yourself today.

“I had a date scheduled for last night with this guy I started talking to on a dating app.  I waited outside the diner where we agreed to meet for 30 minutes past the time we were supposed to meet.  He never showed up.  All sorts of negative thoughts were running through my head.  I thought maybe he saw me from a distance, didn’t like what he saw, and then bailed.

Just as I was about to leave, one of my old college friends, Jared, who I haven’t seen in nearly a decade, walked up to me with a huge smile on his face and said, ‘Carly!  It’s great to see you!  You look fantastic!’  I almost blew him off because of how I felt inside at the moment.  But luckily I pulled myself together to engage in a conversation.

After we talked in that same spot for awhile, he said, ‘What are you doing for dinner?’  We ended up going into the diner I was supposed to eat at with the no-show date and having an amazing conversation filled with laughter.  After dinner he walked me to my car, we exchanged numbers, and he asked me out on a formal date for this Friday night.”

Our Stories Make or Break Us

The story above comes from Carly, one of our recent Think Better, Live Better 2019 attendees (and of course, we’re sharing her story with permission).

Think about how her initial reaction was rooted so heavily in negativity.  Her date didn’t show up and she immediately crumbled inside.  Now think about the amazing opportunity she would have missed if she had let that negativity endure.  And think about how often your negativity gets the best of you.

How often do let your insecurities stop you?

Or, how often do you judge others for their imperfections?

What you need to realize right now is that you have a story about yourself and others (or perhaps a series of stories) that you recite to yourself daily.  This is your mental movie, and it’s a feature film that plays on repeat in your mind.  Your movie is about who you are and how the world is supposed to be: your tummy is too flabby, your skin is too dark or too pale, you aren’t smart, you aren’t lovable… you aren’t good enough.  And of course, you catch yourself picking out all sorts of imperfections in others, and the world at large, too.

Start to pay attention when your movie plays—when you feel anxiety about being who you are or facing the realities of life—because it affects everything you do.  Realize that this movie isn’t real, it isn’t true, and it isn’t you.  It’s just a train of thought that can be stopped—a script that can be rewritten.

Ready to rewrite the script?

Let’s start by being honest… Sometimes negativity absolutely dominates our better judgment!

So, how do we outsmart our own negative tendencies so we can feel better, behave better, and ultimately live better?  There are many ways, but Angel and I often recommend two simple (but not easy) practices:

1.  Practice questioning your stories.

You know what they say, don’t believe everything you hear nor everything you read.  Don’t believe the gossip columns in every magazine, the doom and gloom predictions from your co-workers, or the “shocking news” that you hear on TV… until you have verified it.

Well, the same concept applies to your inside world—your thoughts.

We all have stories about ourselves and others even if we don’t think of them as stories.  Case in point:  How often do you pause to logically contemplate what you really think about your relationships, your habits, or your challenges?  How often, on the other hand, do you just blurt out whatever fleeting emotion comes to mind—i.e., the pre-recorded movie script you’ve been holding on to—without even thinking straight?

Stories can be short, such as “I’m not a good writer,” “I’m not good at yoga,” or “I have intrinsic relationship problems.”  And if we were to dig deeper into your own personal version of these stories, I bet you’d be happy to go on and try to explain why the stories you’ve been holding onto are real.  Even though the aren’t.  They’re just stories.

So the key practice here is to question your stories.  For instance, let’s take the writer example.  Ask yourself: Why do I think I am not a good writer?  What would it look like to be a good writer?  Can I describe my current writing in a way that serves me better?

You will be surprised by how often the questioning process helps you emerge with a clearer and more accurate version of your story.  Give it a try!

2.  Practice running your thoughts through three key filters.

Sometimes you are in a hurry, and not having a great day to boot.  On days like this, there’s a mental conditioning exercise I recommend that’s super quick and can help keep your attitude in check…

I’ve been in arguments with my my wife, Angel, in the past and one of the things I certainly regretted was not filtering my words before saying them.  At the time of these arguments, I did not have the right tools, except for thinking “Be nice!”, which does nothing for you when you’re feeling the opposite of nice.  Some years later I found this simple tool that helped me shift my behavior.  Here’s how it works:

Before you utter anything, run your thoughts through three key filters and don’t speak unless you get three resounding “YES” responses:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it kind?
  • Is it helpful?

For example, let’s say a running thought in your head says that your partner doesn’t care about you, and you are about to shout those words out because he or she didn’t do the last chore you requested.  Question that thought first: Is it true that my partner doesn’t care about me?  Is it kind for me to say or think this?  Is it helpful for me to say or think this?

Remember you can’t take your words back.  What’s more, you will never regret behaving in a true, kind and helpful way down the road.  So make it a ritual in your life in the days and weeks ahead.

Now, it’s your turn…

Leverage the two practices above to gradually rewrite the script of your mental movie.  Learn to recognize the worn-out flicker of your old movie starting up, and then stop it.  Seriously!  Whenever you catch yourself reciting lines from your old script (“My arms are flabby…” or “My spouse deserves the silent treatment…”), flip the script and replace those lines with truer, kinder and more helpful ones.  This takes some practice, but it’s worth it.  Just keep practicing, and forgiving yourself for making mistakes along the way.

And keep in mind that various kinds of external negativity will attempt to distract you from your new script and your better judgment—comments from family, news anchors, social media posts… lots of things other people say and do.  When you sense negativity coming at you, learn to deflect it.  Give it a small push back with a thought like, “That remark is not really about me, it’s about you.”  Remember that all people have emotional issues they’re dealing with (just like you), and it makes them difficult and thoughtless sometimes.  They are doing the best they can, or they’re not even aware of their issues.  In any case, you can learn not to interpret their behaviors as personal attacks, and instead see them as non-personal encounters (like an obnoxious little dog barking in the distance) that you can either respond to gracefully, or not respond to at all.

So, what was your biggest takeaway from this short article?

Anything else to share?

Divorce is the Most Important Story You’ll Ever Tell Your Child

DIVORCE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STORY YOU’LL EVER TELL YOUR CHILD

Kerry Lusignan

Nothing quite prepares you for what it’s like to go through a divorce when you have children. 

While the statistics say somewhere between 40-50% of adults will have to navigate this terrain at some point in their lives, when you embark on it, when it finally happens, your divorce can feel excruciatingly unique. Painfully individual. 

And it is. 

Rituals, rhythm, and rules. Your family is a microculture. The unique fingerprint of you and your spouse. The weaving of bones. Divorce, in turn, is the dissolution of such. The severing of a limb to save the tree. A metamorphosis that is characterized more by coming undone than by becoming. For the first time, you and your partner will have to venture into something together that is, by definition, designed to be done alone. You will go through divorce alone, together. 

In my work as a couples therapist, if a couple with children decides to divorce, I caution them that this is a time when they must be careful. I remind them that most likely, their bodies have come to recognize the other as the enemy and that given this, their heart rates will increase to over 100 beats per minute whenever they are in close proximity to the other. For many, this physiological response to threat will occur even at the mere thought of the other. Like a bulimic, whose body learns to regurgitate food without even the slightest touch of a finger, so too do our nervous systems learn to expel the other. 

And while these biological alarms may very well prepare you for war, they also come at a cost. Diffuse physiological arousal (DPA) is the amalgam of bodily stress responses. In addition to an accelerated heart rate, DPA is characterized by an increase in stress hormones. The result is an inability to think, communicate, or hear clearly. 

Not surprisingly, divorce is a time when you will struggle with periods of psychological, physiological, and emotional impairment. All of this occurring, while you are simultaneously called on to make critical decisions, single-parent, generate income, sell or relocate your home, and navigate the grief and loss of dreams. Your life is coming undone faster than you can rebuild it, and the seeds of regeneration have yet to sprout their tendrils.

According to John Gottman, author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, if you want to know whether a kid is navigating parental crisis at home, there’s a litmus test. It turns out that children exposed to “great marital hostility” have markedly higher levels of stress hormones than children of parents with stable marriages. 

Remember this when you’re seething in anger at your ex-to-be, and it threatens to overtake you. Your kid will excrete toxins of distress that their body cannot possibly metabolize. By a familial nervous system, you are all still interconnected on a subterranean level, and their body is screaming “stop,” even if they never utter a word to you.

Though if you listen carefully, they will and do tell you. And how you respond (or not) to what your child shares is critical. Their tummy may hurt at bedtime, or they’ll have an amorphous list of upsets that seemingly have no immediate cause (and therefore no remedy readily at hand). 

You’ll want to make it better, cheer them up, play a game. If they’re older, they might ask questions and even insist that you confide in them as a way to ease their angst. It can be tricky to discern who is comforting whom. Divorce is lonely, and even the best of single parents can experience the understandable tug to derive comfort at times like these. 

Tempting as it may be, try to refrain from responding to your child’s feelings by offering a distraction or cheering up. Such gestures, though well-intended, often come from our discomfort when we see our kid is hurting. We want to make it better—to offer relief. It’s natural to want to put a band-aid on an “ouch.” Unfortunately, divorce is bigger than that.

Instead, aim for what Gottman calls Emotion Coaching. To emotion coach, you must first cultivate an awareness of your child’s feelings. Notice their body language, their tone of voice, and their eyes. What do you imagine they might be saying (or not saying) in their actions and gestures? 

Be curious and avoid projecting your feelings and thoughts. Expand on such moments, listening more than speaking, validating more than fixing. Let them know you see they are struggling and offer to help them to name their struggles—encouraging them to use their words. 

Emotion Coaching can turn the mysterious case of a tummy ache or just feeling blue into a teaching moment from which your child derives comfort from feeling seen and understood. It will also offer them increased insight into their inner workings, allowing them to connect the dots between their tummy ache and their heartache.

The heartache of divorce is essential as air. Cultivating the ability to breathe through it and mourn is both the last and first stage of ending one story (your life as the family you were) and starting the next (your life as the family you are becoming). 

You are closing a critical chapter of your life and simultaneously embarking on a new one. There is also compelling evidence to suggest that the narrative you write, speak, and live from will have a profound impact on the adult your child has yet to become. How you make sense of memories, your past and the ways it has shaped you in the present, the answers you give to the fundamental questions of such, have the potential to pass down (or not) the same painful legacy that marred your early days.

Daniel Siegel, author of The Whole Brained Child and Parenting from the Inside Out, states that the best predictor of a child’s security of attachment is not what happened to their parents as children, but instead how their parents made sense of those childhood experiences. I want to go out on a limb and assert that how we as parents make sense of any significant experience, whether we’re talking childhood or adulthood, has the potential to shape the adults our children have yet to become and, in turn, our grandchildren and so it goes.

The telling of how your marriage came to fracture will evolve, and as it does, and as you begin to understand the role you played in it, it’s important to see yourself as neither victim nor villain. Similarly (although it can be hard) aspire to view your ex from an equally generous and compassionate lens. After all, not many embark on marriage hoping love will end, and very few of us have a baby wishing our family will shatter.  

Breaking up a family when children are involved is akin to pulling bones out of your body while you are simultaneously growing them. Aspiring to narrate the story of your divorce from a place of empowerment will inform every interaction with your child, from the day-to-day to the essential rituals of transition, including bedtime, pickups, and drop-offs.

Here is where divorce presents its most significant opportunity—a window of time where the stars align in such a way that you have a chance to shift the future. 

Create a constellation that serves as a map of where you have been, how you have gotten here, and where you wish to go in the days and years to come. It’s an atlas that will serve not only as a touchstone for you, but as a beacon for your children. 

Your story will become their story, so write it well.

The Lies of Lust: Promises That Never Deliver

THE LIES OF LUST: PROMISES THAT NEVER DELIVER

Noah Filipiak

The “Lust Trap” can reel you in anytime, anywhere. Its strong pull brings you in like a sci-fi tractor beam. The graphic imagery of Proverbs 7 describes it like an ox going to slaughter, a deer walking into a noose, or a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.

Most of us can relate to these metaphors. One moment you are minding your own business, the next you are caught up in an insidious trap, too late to be able to do anything about it.

The Lust Trap is a web of lies. Lies that we believe. Lies that make promises that never deliver.

Lie: This man or woman will make me feel whole and valuable.

The biggest lie that men and women fall into with the Lust Trap is thinking they will find wholeness and a lasting feeling of value from their lust. We typically think of full-blown affairs as the end result of chasing this lie. You think this person will make you feel whole and valuable, so you leave everything else and make your dream a reality.

But upon closer inspection, the dream, the pornography, lustful gazes, and mental fantasies all spring from the same breeding ground.

Try to zoom out from yourself for a moment. Picture the last situation you were in when you got sucked in by lust and observe yourself from an out-of-body sort of perspective. What is going on in your soul? What is going on in your deepest desires?

Some will argue that there are no deeper desires. They just desire the body parts and the physical feeling that lust brings. But I can almost guarantee that your lust, whether it was pornography or just a mental thought, was related to seduction. He or she had a seductive look, a suggestive pose or manner about them. Or, that’s what you were wishing for or picturing when you gazed upon this person.

If body parts are the engine of lust, then seduction and suggestion are the gas and oil.

The driving desire behind almost all fantasies is the desire to be desired—the want to be wanted.

We have a gaping hole in our soul that spews out feelings of inadequacy, failure, rejection, and so on. This hole was put there by our dads, our moms, the guys and girls we liked who rejected us, abusers, ex-husbands or wives, and any litany of harsh words and messages throughout life.

Some of this hole is there as the automatic byproduct of living in a culture that constantly exposes us to the top .01% of “beautiful” people in advertisements, movies, music, and television, and then tells us that we are failures if we don’t look exactly like them (and of course, if you buy the product they’re advertising, you will become just like them).

The hole in every person’s soul is unique from the next, but we all have it. And we all seek to fill it up. There are many ways to try to fill up this hole that are not sexual, but they all share a common characteristic: we need to prove our value.

Money, your job, your reputation, your popularity, your accomplishments, your family, your possessions, your physiological feeling of comfort, and your latest three posts on Facebook all make excellent attempts to fill the value-void we carry around.

I am valuable!

I am important!

I matter!

None of it is ever enough.

Life becomes a constant sprint on the hamster wheel of trying to prove these things.

While drugs give a high feeling that numbs the pain, sex gives a high feeling that includes human embrace and acceptance, something no drug can offer. It’s no wonder we chase sex with such abandon. But we all know the harsh reality: the brief feeling of value and acceptance that sex gives us quickly fades away, just like the high from a drug.

There are two options at this point. You can either do more and stronger drugs, or you can reject the lie and embrace the truth. I beg you to choose the latter.

Truth: I am whole and valuable as God’s beloved son or daughter.

When you feel the Lust Trap pulling you in, identify what it is you are really after. It’s not the temporary hit of endorphins, it’s the deeper state of wholeness, acceptance, approval, value, comfort, etc. (add your own words that fit you best).

Saying “no” to lust isn’t enough; we have to say “yes” to something else. We can’t just stop the tractor beam. We have to turn and run into the arms of someone else.

That someone else is Jesus. And I don’t mean the Sunday school, pixie dust Jesus, or even the Jesus that merely gets you into heaven. Not that’s a small thing, but it really only scratches the surface of all we have in Jesus and the healing he longs to bring to our day-to-day aching, lonely, distracted souls.

If you have put your faith in Jesus, Romans 8:15-17 tells you that you are a child, a son or daughter, of God.  It also tells you that you are an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ. What Jesus gets from the Father, you get. Romans 8:4 and Colossians 1:22 tell you that when God sees you, he sees perfection, because of what Jesus accomplished on your behalf.

He doesn’t say, “You don’t measure up.” He says, “I love you so much, and I am so pleased with you.” The Father spoke to Jesus in Matthew 3:16-17 and said, “This is my son, whom I love, whom I am so pleased with.”

Because Jesus paid for your sins on the cross, making you a new creation, you are now a co-heir with Jesus. You get these same words from our same Father. You are my son. You are my daughter. Who I love. Who I am so pleased with.

This is what the Father thinks of you. Any other voices you hear are lies.

This is our healing truth. This is the embrace we run to when the Lust Trap comes knocking. This is real, compared to what the Lust Trap can only cheaply imitate.

Your healing wholeness is found in knowing these truths and reminding yourself of them over and over again. Write them down over and over again. Pray them over and over again. Read them in Scripture over and over again. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak them into your heart over and over again.

This wholeness is also found in being in community with others who affirm this truth about who you are.  People who accept you and love you as a beloved son or daughter, the way the Father sees you. Not as someone mired by shame who doesn’t measure up. God designed the Church to be his hands and feet, his very body on earth (1 Corinthians 12).

I’m not going to tell you that church small groups are perfect, but they are a starting point. Look at the brothers and sisters in Christ that God has put into your life and pray and ask God which ones you can go deeper with. Then take the risk and go deeper.

The Lust Trap is a never-ending spigot of lies, and thankfully our God is a never-ending fountain of truth. Reorient your whole life around running toward him and his truth.

His love never fails.

10 Phrases You Should Never Say to Someone Experiencing Betrayal Trauma

10 PHRASES YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY TO SOMEONE EXPERIENCING BETRAYAL TRAUMA

Beth Denison

Discovering the sexual betrayal of a spouse is one of the most traumatic experiences anyone can suffer. There are so few people with whom the wounded spouse can confide. Imagine this devastated individual mustering the courage to share the story with a close friend or family member only to receive comments or advice that inflict further damage. How tragic!

Knowing what to say to someone who has experienced a loss is difficult for most people. I believe there are many well-meaning, loving individuals who truly want to be helpful to a wounded spouse but are simply ill-equipped in that situation. What should be said at such a time?

The Bible tells the story of a man of God named Job. His life was filled with prestige and possessions, but God allowed him to be tested and he lost his ten children, all of his livestock, and even his health. In the midst of his misery and devastation, he had three friends who came to comfort him. The Bible says,

“When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. They sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:12-13).

Wow! What great friends. Unfortunately, whatever comfort Job felt by their presence quickly ended when they opened their mouths and began to speak.

If you have an acquaintance, friend, or loved one who has experienced sexual betrayal, one of the greatest things you can do for him or her is just show up. Most people going through such trauma feel alone and isolated. Your presence, at that time, can be a gift. Silence is okay.

If you do speak, here are ten things best left unsaid.

1. “Things will get better.”

This person’s life has been shattered. How can you possibly know things will get better? Unfortunately, things may get a lot worse. Certainly, the wounded spouse can pursue and achieve healing, but that does not mean the circumstances will get better.

2. “You just need to forgive.”

Such a comment is callous to the pain this person is feeling. There are many things someone who has been betrayed may need, such as testing for STDs, counseling, self-care, safety, a support group, and healthy boundaries.

While forgiveness will eventually be in this individual’s best interest, to suggest this initially may imply that there should be no consequences for the offending party, regardless of current behavior. This, in turn, may pressure the wounded spouse into granting a false forgiveness before adequately processing the devastating emotions that naturally accompany betrayal. This can lead to confusion and delayed healing.

3. “It could be worse. At least he didn’t                  .”

Any comment that minimizes the behavior or the pain is hurtful. Betrayal is betrayal, regardless of the method. Period. To say such a thing is as insensitive as saying to someone who lost a child, “At least you didn’t lose both of your children,” or saying to an amputee, “At least you still have your hands.” The fact that someone else may have it worse does not lessen this person’s pain.

4. “If I were you, I would leave and get a divorce.”

You’re not. Job’s friend made the same mistake. Eliphaz said, “But if it were I, I would… (Job 5:8). The reality is that you cannot know what you would do if you were that person. You only have a perspective based on your own experiences.

5. “Have you been meeting his physical needs?”

Any comment or question that implies fault on the part of the wounded spouse is not helpful. Most are already feeling some sense of guilt and shame. Job’s friends also made that mistake. They assumed that he must somehow be responsible for the suffering he was experiencing. There are no perfect spouses because there are no perfect people. Nothing justifies a partner sexually acting outside of the marriage covenant. There is always a choice.

6. “You deserve better than this.”

This kind of statement usually comes as a result of strong feelings for the individual, which may cloud the judgment of what is actually best. In the Book of Acts, the apostle Paul was told by a prophet that he would suffer and be imprisoned if he went to Jerusalem. “When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:12). Paul went anyway because he knew God had a greater plan that would result in furthering the gospel.

It is unsettling to see someone you love suffering. But, it is important to remember that you may not be able to see the big picture and all that God can accomplish through the difficulties.

7. “Everything happens for a reason.”

Is this really true? Does God have a grand design that only allows for what he wills? If my husband repeatedly cheats on me, is that God’s will? No. It is not God’s will for us to sin. He knows how destructive that is for us. But he has created us with free will. We are not created as robots with no power to choose. When a person is overwhelmed with grief due to the sexual betrayal of a spouse, God grieves, too. We live in an imperfect, fallen world.

The good news is that what God allows, he redeems.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

8. “I know how you feel.”

Though you might have lived through a similar experience, you can never know exactly how someone else feels. No two situations are exactly alike. We all have our own unique experiences and perspectives.

9. “Just let it go.”

This is akin to “get over it,” or “just move on.” This is easily said by someone who is neither married to the individual nor emotionally attached to the situation. The reality is that the choice to stay or leave is incredibly difficult and not one that can be made quickly or lightly. There will be pain and complications either way. Seldom does anyone “get over” such trauma, though he or she will eventually get through it. Such flippant statements fail to acknowledge the depth of grief the wounded party is feeling.

10. “God wants you to                  .”

Be very, very careful about speaking for God. Job’s friends spent considerable time representing to him what they were convinced were God’s ways. In the end, the Lord spoke to Eliphaz and said, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right” (Job 42:7). Even if what you plan to say is biblically accurate, are you sure this is the right time to say it? Saying the right thing at the wrong time is still wrong.

What should we say?

With so many things we shouldn’t say, how can we know what we should say? “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). When someone you care about is suffering due to betrayal trauma, show up and focus more on listening than speaking. Will Rogers went straight to the point: “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

Before you do speak, ask God for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Offer practical assistance. When Jesus was dying, he asked his closest friend, John, to take care of his mother. The Bible says, “From that time on, the disciple took her into his home” (John 19:27). You can help by bringing a meal, taking the kids for the afternoon, giving a gift card for a massage, or anything else that might relieve some of the pressure your friend may be experiencing. Jesus’ example of love was in deed, not word. We can’t go wrong when we follow his example.

Why Marriage Won’t Cure Your Porn Problem

WHY MARRIAGE WON’T CURE YOUR PORN PROBLEM

Bobby Angel

For many of us who have grown up with the presence of pornography from a young age—magazines, movies, or the Internet—marriage is sometimes viewed as the healthy “cure” to end a pornography habit.

I’ll stop when I’m married” or “I won’t bring this into my marriage” is usually the rationale. The problem is that there is no superpower in that wedding ring that will magically imbue you with the discipline (and the freedom) to renounce pornography; your ring is not forged in the fires of self-mastery. There’s no switch thrown on your wedding day that will make you impervious to temptations. Nor will your spouse magically satisfy all the illicit sexual fantasies that porn trains your brain to expect.

Marriage will not cure your porn problem; your porn problem will undermine your marriage.

You bring into your marriage who you are, and that includes your daily habits and behaviors. Good habits and bad habits alike take time to cultivate. I have to make a conscious effort to floss my teeth everyday for a few weeks before the habit can take root into an internalized behavior. I have to deliberately stop gossiping or disparaging my coworkers before the actions become habitual and improve my character. And I must take seriously my battle with pornography long before I am ever married; otherwise that habit will shoot down my marriage before it starts.

Thank God, that’s exactly what happened for me.

Several years before I was married, I decided that my chastity (and my future wife, and my soul) was indeed worth $10.99 a month for accountability software. So I installed Covenant Eyes and asked a close friend to be my Accountability Partner. I didn’t want pornography to come anywhere near my vocation (whether it was marriage or the priesthood), and so I took the necessary steps to purge it from my life. It wasn’t an overnight story of victory, but it was a huge first step and the necessary action to be free of porn years before I met the woman who would become my wife. But I had to first admit that I needed help and needed the motivation of protecting my prospective family before I could act.

We’re a culture with a widespread porn problem. That much has been well established by churches, psychologists, and a few honest media outlets. Deceitful magazines and talking heads will still tell you that bringing pornography into your marriage will help you, not hurt you, but this is an evil lie that is losing more and more of its steam.

Pornography, by its very nature, undercuts the commitments needed to love one’s spouse faithfully. It negatively influences behavior and leads to a perpetuation of brokenness, mistrust, and heartache. If the habit of viewing pornography has been well established for many years, the daily stresses of marriage and family life will only stir those temptations and can call for release. Many wives have been abused or even raped by their husbands because of the poisonous influence of pornography. And if the person conditioned by pornography finds no willing release from his or her spouse, then the person will look elsewhere to feed the disordered appetites. This is not authentic love.

In my church we teach, “Grace builds on nature.” Human and spiritual growth happens in tandem. The graces poured out upon a person on their wedding or ordination day are only effective insofar as the individual has been conforming to God’s will. If you haven’t cultivated a habit of prayer, nothing magical happens on the day you become a pastor. If you haven’t addressed why you’re running to pornography and subsequently rooting it out, you’ll return to it after a disagreement with your spouse or an evening where you’ll feeling lonely.

God desires to bless us with the strength we need, but we also have to put in the work.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). God does not hijack our natures, but His grace will pour down once we welcome it and make room for it. And it is often through our weaknesses—say, a habit of viewing pornography—that we are humbled and willing to accept God’s strength. He continually invites us to surrender control and not rely on ourselves for our own redemption.

Beyond merely building on, grace also perfects nature. We must first make the steps necessary to own our porn habit and increase in discipline, call for help when needed, and rely on God always. God’s grace will perfect us in our weakness; where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20).

We need to have cultivated discipline and mastery of self before we take our marital vows, not after. For love of your family and love of God, root out pornography now to save your marriage before it even starts.

The 4 Types of Premarital Couples & The Relationship Roller Coaster

THE 4 TYPES OF PREMARITAL COUPLES & THE RELATIONSHIP ROLLER COASTER

Kyle Benson

Have you ever fallen head over heels in love for someone?

When you first meet them you couldn’t stop thinking about them. Their smile, how they talked, their passions, the way they looked at you.

In the early stages of a relationship, reality goes out the window and the honeymoon effect influences you to feel that nothing could ever go wrong.

It’s almost like you’re the star of your own love movie. Kissing in the rain and all that jazz.

But then you have fights and breakup, shortly followed by passionately making up.

Believe it or not, these “Hollywood” romances are like a rollercoaster where you experience an emotional high of passionate love followed by a drop of emotional isolation.

Many of these toxic relationships can be prevented if we are more honest with the reality of who are partner is and who we are. Numerous research studies indicate that idealizing our partner in the bliss of love can lead us to ignore red flags. I know I’ve ignored red flags in past relationships.

During my interview with Mike, I talk more about how to prevent yourself from falling prey to this: How to Avoid Unavailable Partners and Have an Emotionally Connected Relationship

I’m not making this up. In fact, a researcher followed 168 couples from dating through 13-years of marriage.

He discovered that the happily married couples who were “very” in love and affectionate were 100% committed to each other, expressed less negative feelings and lots of positive feelings, and viewed their lovers as better than all alternatives. Their relationship was like calm waters.

Here are the four types of relationships Dr. Ted Houston discovered during his 13-year study:

  1. Rollercoaster Romances – these couples had emotionally draining breakups followed by passionate making up. Do you think these couples divorced? They did.
  2. Firework Romances – these couples fell madly in love with each other and like a firework, their passion lit up the sky but quickly disappeared when the reality of their ignored differences and unrealistic expectations darkened the sky of their relationship. Divorce was inevitable.
  3. Status Quo Partners – these couples stayed married but unhappily so. They didn’t have a blissful start (like the couples above) and there were some red flags that were clear in the dating portion of the relationship that got swept under the rug. These problems got worse the longer the marriage lasted.
  4. Stably Affectionate Investors – these couples did not have a dramatic dating period. Rather their relationship was like rowing a boat in a calm lake. They took their time investing in each other and intentionally built a warm and cooperative partnership. Almost all of these couples were very happily married at the end of 13-years. They had lasting and satisfying relationships because they fell in love and became experts on each other over time, not instantly. Both partners were 100% invested in each other. In the first two years of their relationship, they focused on creating healthy patterns of being with each other such as communicating, managing conflict, and intentionally building a culture of love, respect, and admiration. Essentially the quality of their relationship was built on a secure friendship.

Dramatic love may create passionate and blissful moments, but they also tend to come with hurtful and painful conflicts. Take your time falling in love and use the first few years of dating to build a strong culture of love, affection, and secure connection that will make your marriage last a lifetime.

Gottman Love and Sexuality Glossary

GOTTMAN LOVE AND SEXUALITY GLOSSARY

The Gottman Institute

“PC culture” is just the words we use now to talk about other people. It’s literally just updated terminology.

– Cameron Esposito

The world of love and its accompanying vocabulary is expanding. The days of “one-size fits all” or even “one-size fits most” orientation labels are a thing of the past. To help us look to the future, however, it is often helpful to draw from what we know. 

In this case, we’re looking to etymology and a linguistic element called the “combining form.” Here is our guide on combining forms used to express different types of love and relationships, and how you may see them used.

Gottman Love and Sexuality Glossary Prefixes
Gottman Love and Sexuality Glossary Suffixes


Click here to download the PDF

Terms you may be familiar with

Monogamous = one + marriage
Colloquially we understand “monogamy” to mean being in one committed relationship at a time, not necessarily marriage. But, as we’ll dig into later, our terminology could use some expanding, as not everyone is choosing to engage with the institution of marriage.

Homosexual = same + sexuality/sex partner
This is typically used to describe those who prefer same-sex partners. As we expand our definitions, we may come to find that this refers mainly to who a person is sexually attracted to, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate who that person is romantically attracted to.

Heterosexual = other + sexuality/sex partner
This is used to refer to people who are mostly (or strictly) attracted to people of the opposite sex.

Bisexual = two + sexuality/sex partner
If we hold our definition strictly to its Latin roots, bisexuality refers to one who is attracted to two, and only two, genders. With our ever-evolving understanding of gender expression, this term is potentially limiting and its definition adheres to a now-outmoded, binary construct of gender. Colloquially, bisexual refers to someone who is sexually attracted to both men and women, and the term pansexual or omnisexual offers a more broad perspective (men, women, and gender non-conforming/non-binary individuals).

A note about pansexuality and/or omnisexuality
It’s important to note here that when someone identifies as pansexual, it means they can be attracted to someone anywhere along the gender identity spectrum. It does not mean, however, that they are attracted to everyone and everything. Every person is unique and has their own proclivities, turn-ons, and traits that attract them to another person. Just as a heterosexual woman is not sexually attracted to ALL men, an omnisexual person is not sexually attracted to ALL people. 

Let’s explore other combinations!

Polyamory vs polygamy
Polyamory and polygamy are not the same thing. Polyamory means many or more than one love/emotional connection, usually simultaneously. Polygamy refers to plural marriage and is colloquially tied to certain factions of the Mormon faith. Just as many Mormons are not polygamous, to equate polyamory with polygamy would be a miscategorization. 

Often, polygamists we see represented on television (Big LoveSister WivesMy Five Wives) are practicing polygyny (-gyny from the Greek gynos or Ancient Greek gunḗ, meaning woman), the state or practice of having multiple wedded wives at the same time. A woman with multiple husbands at the same time would be practicing polyandry (-andry from the Greek andros, meaning man). To continue playing with combining forms, a person with just two wedded partners simultaneously is practicing bigamy. 

Equating the two is, however, understandable, as polyamory is usually referred to as “ethical non-monogamy” (unethical non-monogamy is cheating). We know from our combining forms that -gamy means marriage, so it would be logical to see the opposite of monogamy (one marriage) as polygamy (more than one marriage). But as the ways we look at marriage (and the reasons we get married) change, it makes sense to expand our definitions and terminology for love relationships, and move outside binary thinking. Polyamory is not actually in opposition to monogamy, just different.

This misconception may be due to the fact that culturally, our understanding of the terms monogamy and even polygamy precede our awareness/understanding/acknowledgment at large of polyamory.

Not-Necessarily-Straight A’s
A- is a fun combining form because it’s basically just saying “no thank you” to whatever follows it. For example, someone who identifies as Agamous is choosing not to have marriage, as a concept, in their lives. An individual can identify as heteroromantic (romantically attracted to or gets “crushes” on people of the opposite sex), but asexual (not interested in sexual activity with anyone, thank you). 

Everything on a spectrum
A note of caution: labels are most helpful in self-exploration, or to further your understanding of someone who already uses them. Labels are less helpful when they’re being used to define or confine someone without their permission. If the introductory combining forms featured here feel too limiting, specific, or two-dimensional for you, you may want to check out the “More Complicated Attraction Layer Cake.”

The best part about exploring an expanded world of love and relationship definitions (aside from being able to hold your own at a cocktail party) is the empowering feeling that can come from finding something that more accurately describes how you feel. 

In Anne of Green Gables, Anne hates when people point out her “red” hair, calling it her “lifelong sorrow.” But later, when a neighbor tells Anne her hair has become “a real handsome auburn,” her outlook changes. A more specific word makes all the difference.

Editor’s Note: We have decided to limit this introductory exploration to the areas that best speak to the work we do: love and relationships.

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