Saturday, February 20, 2010

LOVESTRUCK: Commitment and Stages of Intimacy

I have been conducting surveys and seminars on love, courtship and dating for the past 6 years. My encounters with students and teenagers further exposed me to the "flawed" nature of the current "US-style" dating system. Many of them have the penchant to conclude that they are “in-love”, when in fact, they are just victims of the intense, short-lived, irrational infatuation. When a relationship ends, they would approach me, saying that real love “hurts”.

It is indeed unfair to love a person who cannot reciprocate and appreciate the love you offer. This occurs because of the absence of REAL COMMITMENT. Simply put, commitment is about loyalty and dedication. It is an act of will to love the person forever despite his/her weaknesses. Without it, everything will be superficial, shallow, unstable and untenable. This is the reason we should study the character of the person before entering into a relationship with him/her.

Young lovers would like to enjoy only the romantic perks of a relationship without thinking of its long-term requirements. Christian apologist C.S. Lewis likened this to “chewing” a delicious food without the intention of “swallowing” it. Dating, for many, has become an end in itself. We must bear in mind that the end-goal of dating is to find a lifetime partner. Long-lasting relationships, however, are built by following God’s will in developing intimacy.

First Stage: SPIRITUAL INTIMACY (spirit). The couple must first achieve spiritual oneness. The 2 Corinthians 6:14 principle is non-negotiable. We must first establish an intimate relationship with God before becoming intimate with a person. God is a jealous God. This is the period that the persons involved will try to work through doubts to determine if the relationship is of God. Seek God’s will together through prayer, Bible studies, ministries and service opportunities.Spiritual oneness is developed by doing spiritual activities together. It must be nurtured from the courtship stage up to marriage.

Second Stage: EMOTIONAL INTIMACY (soul). If the partners already show signs of serious and stable relationship with God, sharing of emotional feelings between each other is necessary. The need for a heart-to-heart communication is essential in strengthening the foundations of marriage. Intimacy needs like acceptance, affection, empathy, encourage, respect and support should be provided and nurtured by the persons involved. This, however, should only commence during the engagement stage (if the couple already signified a commitment to prepare for marriage).

Third Stage: PHYSICAL INTIMACY (body). Emotional oneness should never rationalize sexual activity. You know that you have crossed the threshold of sin, if your physical involvement already produces arousal. It must not be started (Song of Songs 2:7) before marriage. God's will is for us to remain chaste and physically undefiled while enjoying our singlehood.

Studies show that, in marriage, women give primacy to affection as their greatest need while men often desire for sexual fulfilment. Similarly, single men tend to start with and focus on physical intimacy while single women often find themselves prioritizing emotional attachment. This trend validates the statement, "women give sex to get love while men give love to get sex." Sadly, the couple seldom entertain the idea of spiritual compatibility.

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