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You heard my wife sing Today. We navigate all our relationships as best we can by staying in the Present Moment, by centering ourselves in stillness. He has written numerous articles on psychology and religion and published a book through Ancient Faith Publications entitled, Becoming a Healing Presence. He is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of New York. Today we present the second of three installments by Dr. Why should I? To begin at the beginning, God invented sex for His good reasons.
So sex is sacred, good. God knows what He is doing. He made human beings as male and female with a gravitational sexual desire for each other. But it is also true that sex only fits into human life within the context of real human life. Sex includes warmth, respect and mutual satisfaction.
Basically, sex only fits into a context of commitment. My wife and I, married for 19 years with two children, did what married people do. We made love, that is, we had sex. I made the tea. The overhead Tiffany lamp, which I had made, was dimmed low. The time was PM, the outside street was quiet and the two children upstairs were asleep.
Those 15 minutes of tea-drinking were among the most precious times in my marriage. Image from Wikimedia. I knew two things for certain. I knew, existentially, that I was loved. How did I know? I knew because of what that woman did upstairs with me. She gave herself totally to me.
I also knew that I could love. All I had to do was look at her face. She was a happy camper. She would have done the same for me. Sexual activity needs a context, the context of a committed Christian marriage, an eternal agreement that I will be with you forever. Then, sexual activity has purpose and meaning.
Expectations are dashed. Why do we abstain? The strongest answer is the truth expressed in music. I ask you to relax and listen to my wife singing The First Time. The first time is the reason we abstain. We abstain so that the first time is with our lifetime partner, someone we can deeply cherish and who deeply cherishes us. But, the repentance path is much more difficult. The pure in heart can see God in the mirror because they know they are doing they are doing their best to preserve their inner fragrance, their inner innocence, their inner sweetness, for Christ and for the life He wants us to have, and for the life of the future children may have.
Today we present the first of three installments by Dr. I need to start where I always start, by saying the fundamental Orthodox truth, Christ is everything. We put everything in the context of Christ. One time a married woman said that, when she was dating, she was looking for someone who loved Christ more than her. She said she found someone and now is very happily married.
I would submit her approach to dating as an approach that works. I would also say that your job is to become a person whom someone else can find, someone who loves Christ more than the potential mate. So, why do we date? We date because Christ made us that way, to grow-up into Him, to have the peace and the joy and the happiness that we all want. We date because we want to find someone to love, cherish and give our soul and body to.
We date because we want to find someone who wants the same thing. We date because we are looking for love, exclusiveness, and commitment. We date because it is a God-given adventure, an exhilarating and sometimes terrifying risk into the unknown. The purpose of dating is to look ahead to marriage, to find a person who will love our children and us in a Christ-like manner. I would now ask you to pause and listen to my wife singing The Wedding Song.
That is what dating is all about. All the good that I have in my life came through my wife. She is dead for 23 years but more alive to me than ever. We are eternally married. I am a convert to Orthodoxy through her. Our children are a gift from her. My doctorate in psychology came as a result of her suggestion. She is the healing presence in my life. Marriage extends beyond our lifetime. Marriage is eternal.
We date to look for a mate, a lifetime person to walk through life with. When we are dating we are scoping around for someone who fits our notion of soul-mate. When we reduce the field to three or four potential soul-mates in our mind, we date to find out which one truly fits our idea and definition of someone for us. A search for a soul-mate approach allows us to define our partner. We decide if you fit into our life, our way. We are all fallen sinners, children of Adam and Eve.
So, there is no near perfect soul-mate for us to choose. Christ will provide the perfect person for us to marry. For the most part though, our modern cultural milestones tend to shape this maturing process, leading those in their late twenties to be more responsible and self-aware. In other words, what similarities do you share with your partner? Do you have a similar perspective regarding money, friends, in-laws, career goals, recreation, leisure activities, sex and parenting? What about your cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds?
How compatible are they? Then again, how similar are your personalities? Do you like to argue passionately, but your partner tends to avoid conflict? Is he an introvert, and are you an extravert? The extent to which two people are compatible is very important to the well-being of your relationship today and into the future. Several excellent premarital preparation inventories exist that can help you understand the extent to which you and your partner are compatible.
Together with this option, a nice compliment is the Journey of Marriage in the Orthodox Church, a premarital preparation process co-authored by Dr. Philip Mamalakis and myself. It is widely used across the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. Employing these two options should prove very helpful to you in your efforts to assess your compatibility quotient as a couple.
Some variations can enhance the relationship when those differences complement one another and serve to help the other grow. However, significantly differing world views tend to cause deep problems for couples. Many couples spend time trying to determine how compatible they are, but few spend an equal amount of time trying to determine how different they are. This last statement might confuse you, but I have found that couples who spend time trying to determine the extent to which they are similar, should also spend more time trying to understand their differences—especially with regard to some big issues such as, money, friends, in-laws, career goals, arguing styles, recreation, leisure time, sex, parenting, ethnic and religious backgrounds and personality differences.
Unfortunately, many couples marry without carefully examining some of their big differences, thinking it would be easier to figure things out after marriage. The following is an example of a couple that benefited from examining their big differences more carefully. While the outcome was hard for them to face, both agreed their decision was for the best.
Some time ago, the following couple sought my counsel. He was an Orthodox Christian and she was Muslim. This they believed, in spite of the fact that both had a high connection to their ethnic and religious backgrounds. As I respectfully probed them with important questions, it eventually became apparent to both partners that the differences they shared were so great that it was impossible for them to bridge them.
As a result, they decided to end their relationship as friends, rather than postpone an inevitable breakup that would be more difficult later. Both left this meeting visibly distressed. However, a few months later, the young man called and informed me that even though they were both still hurting, they continued to believe they had made the correct decision. In this above example, the couple was able to respectfully and bravely face their big differences and make some prayerful, healthy decisions.
But what if they had failed to do this? I am inclined to believe that this would have been a huge omission both would have lived to regret. Spend some time examining how different you and your partner are on important matters like ethnicity, religion, sex, communication, arguing style, career goals, money, leisure time, in-laws, friends and personality. If you discover that some big differences exist between you, slow the dating process down enough to permit both of you to consider these differences prayerfully and respectfully.
In these instances, it could be helpful to consult professionals who have a Christian foundation or are respectful and comfortable working with religious populations. These strategies will have a decidedly positive impact on your future well-being. Avoid Compromising Your Beliefs. I have met far too many couples that compromised what they believe in order to please their partner or extended family member, only to regret this decision after marriage.
In the long run, those who stifle their beliefs to keep peace with their dating partner, almost always regret doing so. These feelings usually end up poisoning marital satisfaction and family stability. For example, if marriage in the Orthodox Church is important to you, spend some time talking about this. If raising your children in the Orthodox Church is important, take the time to respectfully discuss this preference.
We had a clear understanding before marriage. What are Your Definitions of Marriage and Divorce? If his or her perspective is sufficiently different from your own, you should prayerfully think long and hard about the consequences of marrying a person who is not of like mind on such important issues.
To do otherwise will likely position you to experience chronic disappointment and future marital strife. Cohabitation Before Marriage. But is this trial-run logic sound logic, and an effective strategy? Our Christian tradition cautions us to avoid this alluring pitfall. Outside of the safe boundaries of marital commitment, and a joint devotion to communion with God, the couple more easily falls prey to temptations that threaten the viability of the relationship.
Sex, Love and Marriage. These days, many singles view sex as a recreational activity. While in theory this philosophy may seem alluring and even sound, it runs counter to what Christian tradition teaches and in time leads to much heartache. Try as many singles do to convince themselves that sexual acts mean nothing, the reality is they always do mean something. Our Holy Tradition teaches the primary reason for this: humans are psychosomatic beings, and our bodies and spirits cannot be compartmentalized.
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