So, let’s talk about sex for a bit. For many (if not most), just starting the conversation like that is bound to draw the attention and perk up the senses. It’s basic human biology, and I get it. Sex is interesting; it’s curious and wonderful, and to be perfectly honest, quite mysterious. The human body is programmed for pleasure, and it doesn’t take much time with children to realize that the interest in sexual pleasure is innately a part of us even from a young age. This means that sex is something to think about, necessary to think about, to go over and examine. Now, when I say that, I don’t necessarily mean think sexy thoughts. This isn’t that kind of blog or blog post. Rather, I mean that thinking about sex, finding out what you believe about sex, is crucial for your life. A bit dramatic? Maybe so, but that’s just kind of how I roll, and it doesn’t neglect the fact that one way or another, sex is going to show up in your life. People around you and media (the usual culprits, although they aren’t entirely to blame—and I’m also not entirely unaware of the irony in saying that on a public forum) are going to feed you information about pretty much any and every topic, whether factual or not, and it is our job to read wisely, to listen wisely, to hold that information up to our beliefs, to our understanding, to other evidence, and make a logical decision about what that means to you and whether it is valid for your life. In other words, information given to you should never just be gobbled up whole without thought. And while we cannot understand anything perfectly, and while our “understanding” is never whole and our experiences never the entire story, this is what we have to work with here on earth.
My lens and yours
We filter the world and the world’s information through a lens. Our brains are designed for this; we’re basically computers with a soul. We run on a program of what we know and what we’ve previously experienced, and we gauge the situations we are in based off of past experiences. This sometimes hurts us and sometimes it helps us out. We learned from past experiences that fire burns. We then stay away from fire. Or at least, most of us do. For those who don’t—you’ve got some interesting hardwiring going on there. We readjust as new materials and information come into our view; we live and (hopefully) learn. That, at least, is the goal and the hope for humans. Not all are interested in readjusting to new information and experience. Some flat-out refuse the experience in order to keep their current understanding afloat. It’s understandable why we do that, and I don’t blame any one for not wanting to change and being scared by the idea, but I also believe that we are able to grow and adapt and that that should be our main goal. It, at least, is mine (most days).
Personally, the lens that I have chosen in my life is God’s word. My experiences have led me to time and time again see the validity and authority of the word of the Bible, and seen the Word as worth building my life upon and around. I’m not going to go into much detail about this right now, but feel free to ask questions. I love questions. They are like sustenance to my soul and make my neuron pathways go all kinds of happy. This lens is going to come out in this post to some degree, because how I see the world and gauge the world and the things of the world is going to show in how I discuss topics. My experiences make me biased towards a path of thought, and honestly, I’m okay with that. I’m always up for good constructive debate on the topic if you disagree, but I tend to believe that having a set of beliefs to rest your life on makes my life and the world around me make more sense. And when that set of beliefs, or person who created those beliefs, is found trustworthy, I see value in having that to rest in. We all view things with some sort of lens. Whether it is trustworthy or not is a question to think about. Personally, I don’t find just my being and my mind to be trustworthy of gauging everything I see and experience off of; I need someone greater than me to help me out with that. That’s my song and dance, and I’m sticking to it.
Topic of discussion: sexual intimacy as self-medication
Anyways, that’s a ridiculously long intro, but I want to go into my main topic in regard to sex and intimacy. I am obviously not a master or an academic authority on the subject, and I will speak through my own lens and understanding. If you find some form of value in that, I would totally dig that.
Sex is a huge topic. So I want to narrow it down a bit. I want to talk about using sex and sexual intimacy as a form of self-medication or rescue from deeper issues. Did I go too deep too fast? I will break it down for you, but I just wanted to lay out my thesis for you flat. That’s what they taught us in school, and you know, they didn’t always teach us useless things (but seriously, do I have to learn math?? I don’t think you realize how good I am at conducting my life without math, though… serious pro here). So, I’m going to use it. Those “issues” can be anything. If it popped into your mind when I said that first line, then yes, that’s what I’m talking about. Right there. That one. The one that you are trying to hide from and sweep under the carpet and pile gigantic rocks over. I see your rocks. Let’s try to remove them for a sec and talk about this, because I think it’s important, and I hope that you grow to see it as important, too. If not, that’s okay, but let’s at least begin the conversation.
For us who have boundary issues (and I think that needs to be discussed at some point, too), I think we have tendencies to use sex and sexual intimacy as a way of not addressing deeper heart problems. I am talking about fears; I am talking about those nasty insecurities. I am talking about your negative body image. I am talking about your low self esteem and self value, self worth. I am talking about every heart-penetrating verse and rhetoric that you repeat in your mind about yourself when you look at yourself in the mirror. All of it. I do believe that most of us want a healthy life, and that means that most of us what a healthy sexual life.
Sex life vs. sexual life
I am going to do some word dissecting now, because I believe there is a difference between a sex life and a sexual life. Wut you mean, you ask? Well, let me explain. As a Christian and a believer in God’s word, I believe that any form of sex life (including sexual intimacy) should exist only within the confines of marriage. I also fully understand that this is not the majority thought, and that there are those who even believe the same things that I do but live with a sexual past (and before I get called out for being one of those who views herself as a sinless “good girl,” I’ve struggled with sexual sin in the past, and I’ve known and breathed the life of consequence those decisions bred… that is the perspective I am speaking of here). I am not judging you if you believe in God and have committed sexual sin; and I am not judging you if you don’t believe in God and you have had sex and don’t see it as a sin. And any of you in-between-ers and above, no judgment, dudes and dudettes (Do we even say that anymore?). I’ve got nothing but love for you and extend only peace—imperfectly but nonetheless.
So, that was long and “include-y” but yurp. Let me reiterate due to my length, though. I believe that any form of sex life should exist only within the confines of marriage; however, human beings are sexual creatures. Sex has a presence in our life whether we like it or acknowledge it, or if we do not. Sexual drives exist inside of us whether we try to fully tune it out or if we are all in to giving into it. So, this may make you uncomfortable, but that’s okay. Let’s sit with it for a sec. If you are a believer and if it’s true that a healthy sexual life and a healthy sex life (which, by the Word, should not exist in a non-married Christian life—but no shame if it does) are not the same thing, then that means you have to do something with that. You can’t just ignore sex. You have a sexual aspect to your life. So, is yours healthy, or is it not? For a healthy sexual life, it is important to have a healthy view of your sexual life. In other words, the way you think about your sexual life is the basis of it being healthy. So, when I ask if it’s healthy, I am asking you to pull up your thoughts (and your thus lead actions, because what exists in our heart comes out in our actions) next to your lens and see to what degree it matches with your view of health. As a Christian, I pull up my thoughts and understanding of who I am as a sexual being to the Word. Perhaps this looks different to you, but I encourage you to think about how you view yourself, the world, and this topic.
Self-medicating as destructive
With that being said and with most people desiring a healthy sexual life (whether Christian or not), let’s talk about something unhealthy: using sex as self-medication. And for the purposes of this post, let’s go ahead and name that as destructive. I understand the pain behind it; I understand that there is so much dirt and grime and frustration behind each of those issues and concerns. I get that, and I have nothing but love and compassion for you. It bites. It runs deep. It’s hard to acknowledge because it is connected to a lot of pain that you may or may not be wanting or willing or even able of getting into right now. However, although the practice is understandable, that does not make it beneficial. I will say it again: I understand and I love you, but it is destructive. It is not only destructive for you but the person you are involved with as well.
Let’s start with you first, lovely one. Just like with any other form of self-medication, sex and intimacy does not solve those heart issues and fears. Remember, the ones we talked about earlier? Having someone say that they are attracted to you (but let’s also remember that attraction is not love) and respond to you and your body in a positive way is a really powerful thing. Having someone want you is extremely sexy and gratifying for the moment. However, using intimacy in that moment as a means in order to feel worth while, to feel loved, to feel beautiful, to feel like they are not going to leave you, is only a bandaid. It isn’t solving the problem going on inside you. So, I will ask you the question: what’s going on in your heart? Are you desiring sex (and I think this can be extended to those who are elevating being in a relationship or married as the ultimate goal), seeking intimacy as a means to numb some fear or insecurity? If so, I would highly suggest sitting with those fears and insecurities, talking with someone about it, praying it out with God, journaling it out, etc. Those fears aren’t going to go anywhere unless they are challenged. Glossing it over or self-medicating does not help. “And why do I have to,” you might be asking? “It’s too hard. It’s easier this way. I don’t see the harm.” I get those thoughts. But here’s the thing, and I’m talking to myself here as much as anyone who is reading this. When we are in it, it’s hard to see the epic destruction. We have to distance ourselves from it first before we can start seeing it rationally. Up close, it’s too emotional, too real, too present and in our faces. And the more that we allow ourselves the freedom to be destructive, the more we continue to justify the behavior and the less we see it for the poison that it is. I promise you, that is not what I want for you, and that is not what those who love you want for you. It may take time to learn how to want that health for yourself and to choose (but I think, deep down, you do really want it… even if you aren’t sure how to get there), but you are not alone. Reach out to God; reach out to those you trust. Start the process.
Now let’s talk about “them” for a sec. If you are currently in a relatively steady relationship, I am going to assume that you would like to stay with your significant other. I know that’s not always the case, but we’re just going to run with that. And I am going to assume that you want your relationship to be healthy. By allowing your insecurities and fears to move you quickly through the relationship or as a means to be attached to them, or to self-medicate and gloss over your insecurities, you are 1) not allowing them to really know you and 2) allowing that intimacy to become the base of your relationship. Relationships that are based in intimate encounters very rarely have much substance to them, and it is that very substance and knowledge of each other that make a relationship work. If this is a relationship that you want to keep and you want to work toward, have a conversation. When I was dating, I wanted a man who knew me, who didn’t demand me to be something that I’m not (while also challenging me to be better than I am), and who still loved me deeply and stuck with me. When I was dating, I allowed that hope and faith to be invaded by present day insecurities and fears of the future. The fact of the matter is, I have that man in my now husband, but I had to deal with the baggage that giving into those fears caused. Don’t let go of the hope, and don’t let your standards be pushed around by fear. This isn’t the most pleasing thing to hear, but I promise you, being alone will always be better than being with someone who does not know you. For, if they do not know you, how can you know without fear or insecurity that they truly love you?
Addressing heart issues for a healthy sexual life
So, if we are supposed to have a healthy sexual life, what does a healthy sexual life look like for you? As a dating Christian, my sexual life was not healthy. My perspective of sex was not healthy. I used intimacy as a way of being manipulative, of glossing over my issues and what should have been hard heart conversations. I used intimacy as a way of attaching myself to another quickly so as to medicate my feelings of insecurity that he was going to leave me and that I was going to be alone forever. Self-medicating of any form (with entertainment, media, drugs, food, etc.) is always going to be a bandaid, but with intimacy, it takes an even more ravaging form. Because there is nothing so powerful and mysterious as sex and intimacy; there is nothing more personal and vulnerable and visible. There is nothing more penetrating. And the frustrating thing about self-medicating those heart issues with intimacy outside of marriage is that introducing a gift designed to work best (and, therefore, intended only for) within the steadfast promise, commitment, and trust of marriage to a dating relationship creates the very breeding ground for those insecurities that we seek to run from. Working out of insecurity breeds insecurity. Making decisions out of fear stirs up more fear. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.
And for the Christians (but I would like the non-Christians to think about this as well in terms of their emotional health), ultimately, our sexual health is directly linked to our spiritual health. If our sexual life is unhealthy in the way that we are conducting ourselves (if we are not practicing healthy boundaries as set by God), our spirit will be negatively affected by this. It will affect our relationship with God, and spiritual depression can set in (thus putting in jeopardy further decisions on this topic). On the other hand, choosing a healthy sexual life (following God’s tenants, understanding yourself as a sexual being and preparing yourself in a healthy way for a future promise) encourages your spirit and walk with God. In fact, if you are attempting to maintain a healthy sexual life as set by God’s precepts, I will tell you, there is nothing more important than walking side by side with God in it. Thankfully, that is just want He is wanting and willing to do. Don’t beat yourself up when you “mess up” (while not being dismissive about it either), but instead, consider these events to be opportunities to check in on your heart’s condition and realign with God. If you are seeing that you are falling into particular unhealthy patterns, ask yourself questions about why that may be, what is potentially underneath it all, and what it is that you are currently believing (whether lie or truth).
So, here is my perspective. You can take it as you will. A healthy sexual life can be acknowledging that you are a sexual being and viewing sex through the lens you have found trustworthy. As a Christian, I believe that sex is a gift from God and that any form of sexual intimacy should be saved for marriage. In direct line with this topic, I believe that we need to be on guard for our heart bents that tell us to use intimacy as a way of self-medicating our fears and insecurities rather than finding our validation and identity in Jesus, who is our Rock and our hope. We should seek and strive for health: a healthy perspective about sex, about ourselves, about marriage, etc. But ultimately, we cannot do it alone. Our issues should be handed over to God, talked over with trusted others, and worked on; they should be addressed. Bandaids don’t work. Sometimes we need surgery. However, we have a great surgeon in Jesus. We cannot do it without him and without the people in our lives that He has given us to walk beside us.
Christian and non-Christian friends alike, ask yourself questions; seek answers; seek health in your sexual life (try it in all facets). Where do you see destructive tendencies in your life? Where are you compromising ultimate and true health for a bandaid? Who do you need to have a conversation with about what you are seeing inside of yourself? Who or what do you need to distance yourself from in order to gain a little perspective? Ask yourself the hard questions. Invite people into your life about this. Talk about it. It will be worth it in the end. And as always, I’m a click away.