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Christianity and Sex Outside Marriage - specifically during separation / after divorce

(32 Posts)
NightOfTheCactus Sun 20-Apr-14 17:33:21

I've already posted about this, but didn't get many replies, so am posting again but making it more general.

Is there anywhere in the Bible where it says it is wrong to have sex outside of Marriage?

I'm separated from STBXH - have been for a year. The divorce hasn't come through yet. I am in love with someone else (we haven't been seeing one another for long, but it is someone I've known for a long time, so there's a complicated back-story). We've started a relationship, but I feel so conflicted about it because of what it says about you're committing adultery even if you are divorced (and I'm still just separated).

I've talked to people from the Church who are very against my new relationship.

The person I'm in the relationship with is very hurt and I don't feel I can talk about it properly with him, because he just doesn't get it.

Please can someone talk to me? I feel like I'm losing the plot here.

Thank you

CoolCat2014 Sun 20-Apr-14 22:45:18

The reality is that you need to make your own decision in this matter - do what your conscience/heart tells you is right. I don't think anyone can really tell you what to do. But I would say whatever advice you do get, you need to be able to talk openly about it to your new partner. If he gets uncomfortable don't just stop talking about it - this is important for you both to be on the same level and be thinking the same things about sex, otherwise I'd fear you're opening yourself up to a lot of hurt later on down the road.

Personally I think if you're feeling really conflicted about it you need to ask yourself why, and give yourself time to work that out.

deepinthewoods Mon 21-Apr-14 07:30:51

I am amazed that you think others should have a say in these matters. I have been with my partner for 18 years- no intention of getting married and we have two children. Anyone who tells me what I am doing is "wrong" is downright rude.

wannaBe Mon 21-Apr-14 07:56:37

You have to ask yourself, would god disapprove? Iirc you were previously in an emotionally abusive marriage? So reasons for leaving we're justified. Also, the time frame for a divorce has to do with man's law here in the uk not the bible iyswim.

I have been on the other side of this in that my dp has been told by friends that by choosing to be with me he is foresaking the everlasting life (shock) ask yourself, do you think god thinks like that?

Only you know how you feel, but frankly the opinions of other people are based on their own often outdated judgements and what you do is none of their business.

IUsedToUseMyHands Mon 21-Apr-14 08:01:19

As I understand it Night, "adultery" includes all sexual activity outside that sanctioned by God, which depending on the particular variation of Christianity you subscribe to might mean only vaginal sex within marriage and without contraception. Masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, sex with a condom or other contraception, any 'heavy petting' that is not part of marital sex for procreation are all off the table for many believers.

The Bible instructs against adultery generally - if that matters to you, you need to work out what "adultery" means for you; how it is interpreted within the framework of what you believe. I would think this could only reasonably be achieved in discussion with your religious teachers, in prayer or private reflection, and through reading religious guidance literature eg The Catechism of the Catholic Church, or whatever literature exists to set out the beliefs of the variation of Christianity you subscribe to.

deepinthewoods Mon 21-Apr-14 08:03:08

Why does god take such a twisted interest in people's sex lives?

msrisotto Mon 21-Apr-14 08:05:39

Would god want you to be unhappy?

IUsedToUseMyHands Mon 21-Apr-14 08:11:29

Sorry posted too soon - I was going to add that although I consider that to be the "appropriate" answer from the perspective you are approaching the issue, as an atheist I consider such beliefs to be inherently harmful and designed to control and suppress.

AuntieStella Mon 21-Apr-14 08:16:01

I think the mores of sexual conduct is a very small part of what the church teaches (though a huge part of what the press overs).

Yes you are allowed to separate (and that is not the same as a secular divorce). Yes, new relationships are permitted; the start of a new 'marriage' is between the two of you, and when (or even whether) it leads to a service (secular or religious) formalising it.

supergreenuk Mon 21-Apr-14 08:16:20

Sadly I don't think this is the right place to get the answer you want. Your more likely to find quite unhelpful comments.

Your church also sounds like the wrong church for you. They should talk you through your situation with what it says in scripture and not judge you. They should point out the correct path and love you no matter what choice you make.

Your conflict may be because you know the answer but it's not what you want to hear. Choosing to follow his way isn't always easy but do you want to?

Beastofburden Mon 21-Apr-14 08:18:43

From what I understand, you are in the same position as gay ppl. An orthodox reading of scripture would say you have to be celibate. Most gay and divorced ppl do ignore this, though the gay ppl seem a bit more aware of doing so (and get a lot more flak for it). It's sad if you are devout, but there doesn't seem to be a way round it scripturally for divorce- the teaching on adultery is stronger and more consistent than the teaching on gay sex.

I think talking to some gay Christians could help you make sense of how you can honour your faith while still having a full life with the person you love. I say gay because many divorced and not yet married ppl do seem to ignore this, but you are taking it seriously, as gay ppl tend to.

supergreenuk Mon 21-Apr-14 08:19:26


Striving for happyness is more about the worlds view. We are asked by the world are you happy 'no' well change it no matter how it effects others.

supergreenuk Mon 21-Apr-14 08:24:53

I think you can be gay and you can be a Christian but I don't think you can be (forgive the way I'm putting it as I'm not sure how best to say it) a practicing gay and a Christian without eventually having to turn away from that life if you truly believe so I really don't think talking to this community is the right path.

Find a spirit filled bible believing church.

Beastofburden Mon 21-Apr-14 08:29:36

super as I say, the teaching on adultery is very difficult for the OP to make sense of. Many divorced and unmarried ppl manage fine by ignoring it, and it sounds as if you feel that your kind of church would help her do that. But the OP doesn't feel that way, she takes the teaching on adultery very seriously, so she needs to talk to ppl who are in the same position as she is.

Beastofburden Mon 21-Apr-14 09:37:55

Let me tell you a parable, OP, because I can see that if you share supers views you might thing I am trying to be a smart arse here.

For many years I ran an equality unit for a university. I provided services to disabled staff and students, childcare, faith facilities, LGBT groups, etc. I went to lots of conferences, as you do. It was 95% female.

Then legislation preventing age discrimination came in. Suddenly we were swamped by white 50- something men. For the first time, there was something in this equality lark for them too.

Nw, did we have a bit of a snigger at them suddenly finding their social conscience? Of course we did, a bit. But it was hugely positive in fact, to have so many men see things from the point of view of other groups who needed protection from discrimination.

The debate around adultery is a bit like this. It is cruel that the church is in some places fixated on a literal reading of very ancient social rules around sex. They are completely unsuitable for modern life, where divorce happens and gay ppl exist. You don't have to love your new life feeling like shit, though. You can be proud of your faith and proud of your relationship, while recognising that the church has got some of this wrong. Gay ppl are there ahead of you, they can help you; and you can, if you want to, help them.

NightOfTheCactus Mon 21-Apr-14 12:00:26

Thank you so much everyone for commenting on this.

I am very confused, and really not sure what to think.

When I started going to Church just over 3 years ago I was pretty much broken. I was very ill with OCD, I didn't want to live anymore, everything in my life felt absolutely terrifying - getting out of bed in the morning felt terrifying. My illness was exacerbated by my marriage. My STBXH isn't a bad person, but he is a very damaged, angry person - and my illness, my anxiety made him very angry. He never made me feel in physical danger, but he would do things like ranting in my face when I was having panic attacks, he showed me hardly any affection. Throughout our entire marriage he hardly ever touched me sexually, and when he did, he often had a look in his eyes as if he found me physically repulsive. To be honest, I did let myself go. I was very difficult to live with. He was having a lot of stress at work and coming back to a messy home and a wife who was constantly in a state every night was very tough on him. I kind of lost myself over my marriage. I stopped doing the things I enjoyed. I almost stopped thinking. I became a shadow of my former self.

Then a friend very gently suggested going to Church to ask for God's healing - and I did. I was very skeptical, but I was desperate. The healing process lasted a long time, but God has truly been faithful. I first of all prayed for healing for my Illness, but He worked on me in a different way, he led me towards love and forgiveness, of letting go of anger towards others, of seeing the world differently. I experienced the feeling of being filled with the Holy Spirit - more than once - and again, that is something I would have been skeptical about, but it happened, and slowly I became healed. Also, during this horrendous time, when most other people walked away from me, I had this loving, supportive Church family who prayed with me, who were there whenever I needed to talk, who gave me strength - and who modeled lives where they were kind and generous - and all seemed to have these amazing marriages - these strong friendships, that I just didn't have in my marriage.

So I started praying that I would stop expecting so much, that I could be happy. But then my STBXH got a job on the opposite side of the country, moved away and just came back every other weekend - and having thought that I couldn't practically survive without him, I found that I thrived. It was actually a Christian friend who said to me that she thought that the marriage was bad for me and that she didn't believe that God would want me to be unhappy. I was so shocked. I still worked on my marriage, but then my STBXH told me that he had "given up on it years ago", and I felt like a door had been opened and I had been set free (it turns out he didn't mean it, but I had mentally left the marriage once he told me that).

Sorry, I'm rambling here really - but that is where I've come from. I have felt that God has been so good to me. He has been healing me - my illness is so much better, I am volunteering at something I love (at a place that I stopped working at soon after I met STBXH due to loss of confidence), I am helping doing the Kids' work at Church, which I couldn't do before because of my OCD making it too scary (I have been told that if I were to live with my new man - not something I'm planning at the moment - without being married I wouldn't be allowed to do this anymore). I feel good about myself again. I am getting myself back - and I truly believe that this is because of God's healing.

BUT - my relationship with God has always been very spirit led. There are lots of things about my Church and the way they interpret scripture that don't make sense to me, and that has always been the way - but I've not found another Church that I feel so comfortable with - and that has the type of abandoned Worship time that I really benefit from. It feels like the right Church for me - but the belief at my Church is that every word in the Bible is literal. That the story of Adam and Eve is literal truth down to there being an actual apple, rather than looking at the possibility that the story is in fact allegory - which makes much more sense to me. My Church is against Gay marriage - and I just can't understand why homosexuality would be wrong - promiscuous homosexuality fair enough - but loving, committed relationships between people who just happen to be the same gender. I have dear friends that I have known since we were about 16, and I saw the process they went through coming out, coming to terms with themselves, and how positive and freeing it was for them - and I just can't see it as wrong.

And then I look at my relationship with the man I am seeing. The whole thing about not being able to have the conversation about it - we've spoken about it now, and I think he was just very scared that I was going to reject him and he felt defensive, but he wants to make it work and talk it through with me, so I think we can work together.

But otherwise, I've gone from being in a marriage with someone who pretty much saw getting married as something on a tick list, wasn't interested in my opinion on anything, refused to spend quality time with me because I was "no fun" due to my OCD, sexually rejected me when I put on weight and made comments about me "looking like a trucker with your gut hanging over your pants", closed down when I asked for emotional support and told me he wasn't my "empathy pillow". (Though he did work hard to provide for his family, and he did put up with my illness after a fashion, and he adores our DD).

And now I'm seeing someone who really, truly loves me, who thinks I'm gorgeous, who wants to talk with me for hours, who is interested in what I have to say, who is kind to me and listens and comforts me when I need support, who wants me to be happy, who makes me feel good about myself, who encourages me and builds up my self esteem - and who I find kind, intelligent, witty, inspiring - and just connected with...

So I don't understand, why would God bless the first relationship and condemn the second? It just doesn't make sense to me. Why, once I'm divorced would I even then be committing adultery. Why would a sexual relationship be immoral out of marriage if it is loving, committed, if you have decided that this is it forever, if it is driven by love. Spending the night with this new man - it didn't feel wrong, it just didn't. It felt loving and connected and good. It felt like a gift. It just doesn't make sense to me.

I know the divorce hasn't come through, and I've gone too far because of this - but I split up with my husband a year ago. When is a marriage truly over? When a Judge in a Court decides and people get their arse into gear sorting out the paperwork, or when a married couple decide it's not working any more, stop living together and make the declaration to everyone that they are no longer together?

Although I respond well to the Holy Spirit, I respond emotionally well during worship in Church - I struggle reading the Bible, I really do, because there is so much there that doesn't make sense to me, that seems cruel, that doesn't square up with how I experience God.

Sorry - that's an awful lot there - I'd better stop typing - but my head is just spinning with all of this and I don't know how to unravel it. Thanks if you are still reading.

amicissimma Mon 21-Apr-14 15:57:25

As you say, there's an awful lot!

I think that if you ask 100 Christians what the Bible says you will get 100 different answers. It reads differently in different versions. I'm not going to tell you what I think the Bible says about sex outside marriage, because that's relevant to my relationship with God, but not yours.

What I do know, for sure, is that the Christian message is all about God's love for us. When I'm in doubt, that's where I start. We nailed the Son of God to a cross and what was His response? To love us! Although I prefer to concentrate on the New Testament, remember that David, determined to commit adultary with a married woman, had her husband murdered. God's response? To love him and set him up as a valued king! Peter denied Jesus 3 times. God's response? To love him and use him to found the Christian church! Saul persecuted Christians. God's response? To love him and use him to spread the Gospel.

There's a slight hint in John chapter 4 where Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and points out that she's had 5 husbands and the man she's living with his not her husband. Does He tell her to get lost, does He have no more to do with her? No. He talks to her in such a way that she goes home raving about the man she's just met.

So, even if you decide that sex outside marriage is a sin, what do you expect God's response will be? What about having mean thoughts, saying something unkind, missing an opportunity to help someone in need, any kind of putting yourself above others - not 'loving your neighbour as yourself'? Do you do these? Do you expect you will do them again? And what about people who set themselves up to tell you whether or not what you are doing is wrong? Do they do such things? Is there a sin ranking? I've not found it in my any Bible I've read. All I find is that we fail to live up to Jesus' standards again and again and again and God's response is to keep on loving us and keep on reaching out to us.

I like the words of Stewart Townend's hymn, How Deep the Father's love for us:

"I will not boast in anything, No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection"

We may not be perfect, but He died for us anyway.

NightOfTheCactus Mon 21-Apr-14 16:18:38

amicissimma - thank you. Thank you so much. I'm so scared that God will see me as leaving His ways and abandon me. I'm so frightened of being left alone and becoming ill again - and I know that's selfish and all about me - but that is part of what I'm scared of. I'm also feeling ashamed of throwing God's love back in his face after all He's done for me - but I just don't understand why what I am doing is so wrong. I just don't get it. If I understood, maybe I could repent and cast this relationship aside - but that would feel like throwing a gift in God's face too - because this doesn't feel as though it's from the enemy.

I suppose the other sins you mention are slip-ups that we do - but I guess me choosing this relationship is a conscious choice - and that's what's so hard.

supergreenuk Mon 21-Apr-14 17:20:41

You sound just like me. I also feel I find it hard to read the bible for the same reasons. I'm divorced, started living with someone else. Church talked me through what the bible says about that. Got married again.
God has never left me. He blessed me with 2 wonderful kids and he has washed my past clean.

NightOfTheCactus Mon 21-Apr-14 17:24:55

supergreenuk - would you mind me asking whether you were a Christian when you made the decision to get divorced and start living with someone else? What kind of Church do you go to?

Thanks so much for telling me your story, it really helps

supergreenuk Mon 21-Apr-14 17:32:52

I was back slider at the time. I started coming back to God after the divorce and after I started living with new partner. Church didn't stop me going to church they just said I couldn't become a member. We changed our sleeping arrangements and remained living in the same house. Got married about 9 months later. God really blessed that time of obedience. I was desperate for kids but gave it to him.

I go to a new frontiers church.

amicissimma Mon 21-Apr-14 17:56:23

"I suppose the other sins you mention are slip-ups that we do"

You must be a nicer person than I am! I choose to look after me when I could do something for someone else. Like a sin ranking, I don't think there's a speed ranking. My decision might be quicker, but it reflects my nature.

" I'm so scared that God will see me as leaving His ways and abandon me."

I think this is quite surprisingly hard to grasp. He won't. He loves you. You. The one with all the imperfections. The one who is worrying about sex outside marriage. The one who is trying to follow Jesus and feels she is getting in a muddle. He's going to love you anyway, whatever you do. He loves you because it's His nature, not because you have scored Brownie points. To 'leave his ways' you have to positively decide that it's all rubbish, God doesn't exist, etc, etc. Even then, as soon as you turn back he'll enfold you in His arms and rejoice. Remember the Prodigal Son? He knows we waver. He knows we stray. He knows we struggle. He reaches out His hand and we smack it away. So He reaches out again, and again ...

As Justin Welby says, the church is not a rest home for saints, it's a lifeboat for sinners.

Romans 8, v. 38: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is Christ Jesus our Lord.

Beastofburden Mon 21-Apr-14 18:18:30

Listening to the way you describe your church, I think you should go to speak to a pastor from another, more responsible church. There can be no doubt that you have been ill and you remain vulnerable. I don't like the way you seem to be scared that god would abandon you and reject you because of your new relationship.

Please bear in mind that your church is not god and it can't be sure that it is right about everything. It is most certainly not entitled to tell you that your cure comes from obeying their specific take on christianity, and unless you toe their line, you will be abandoned. Do you know someone you trust in real life, whose faith you respect, but who attends a church who are more careful how they look after people?

Your church is against gay marriage and divorce. That tells me plenty about their theology. I think you would be safer, happier, better looked after, in another church.

I wonder how many of the church folk who are frightening you now were actually virgins when they got married?

NightOfTheCactus Mon 21-Apr-14 18:34:04

Beastofburden - just to clarify - I haven't been told that God would abandon me at all - it's just a horror I have within my own mind I guess, which probably stems from the fact that being someone with OCD I automatically jump to the worst case scenario.

I have been told that I will always be welcome in Church, whatever my decision, and that I will still be loved. However they can't sugar coat that what I am doing would be unbiblical and not what God would want.

If I were to pursue a sexual relationship outside marriage - even once my divorce has come through - especially if I were to live with this man, I probably wouldn't be able to help with the kids' work anymore because they have to make sure that people doing kids' work set a good example.

I was pretty much told that I ought to stop being in this relationship. I don't want to stop being in this relationship. I know it's selfish, but I really love him, and he really loves me, and it doesn't feel wrong.

I am trying to slow down the physical side of our relationship (we haven't actually had sex yet - but to be honest it's been close enough for it to probably be "too far") and we are talking, and he's being very kind and understanding, but from the scriptures, it looks like even if we were to become married, we'd still be sinning. I suppose if I'd got divorced and together with my new man when I wasn't a Christian, then became a Christian after, then I'd be able to repent and carry on - but that's not the case. I've done all this as a Christian, and I don't feel like I can repent (well, not with an honest and pure heart anyway!)

I've emailed the pastor from a local Baptist church to see if I can have a chat with him. I met him and talked with him before about the fact I was divorcing and he was very helpful then. I'm not sure he'll have a much different view about what I'm doing, but I'm hoping it would be a different perspective at least, and he's older than the Elder I spoke to at my church, who is about the same age as me - so I think he might have a more balanced view of the life experiences of others. The thing about the Elder I spoke to, though I have a lot of respect for him, he has always been happily married and I'm not sure how much experience he has of the sort of issues I've had to contend with. Not that my experiences give me a get out of jail free card I hasten to add...

Beastofburden Mon 21-Apr-14 20:21:24

You see, I think that they are being very certain in saying that what you are doing is unbiblical and not what god would want, and you can't be allowed to do work around children. They are one of many many churches and they do not have a monopoly on scholarship.

I am guessing you are based in the USA. Here in the UK, the future head of the Church of England (Prince Charles) is divorced and remarried. There is undoubtedly a lot of the bible that conflicts with how many good and decent people live their lives. You will find many devout churches that do not take a literal view of the modern English translation and collation of ancient texts which modern Americans know as the bible.

Do, please, take some soundings from other churches. You have been through a marriage which was emotionally abusive. I don't want to suggest that your church is also emotionally abusive. But I think there are some worrying elements. I suspect that your choice of church was right for you as you were then. But look around you a bit, and take advice from other faith leaders.

I can't take you any further myself. I have three Dc, and two are disabled, one very profoundly. I have been unable to reconcile the problem of innocent suffering with a loving god, so I am not a Christian. But you are, and it matters to you, and you deserve better than this from those who are trusted with the job of guiding your faith.

Good luck.

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