To the guys in the room who are not married, whether you are dating or not: your physical intimacy with a woman should never surpass your level of commitment.
If you’re unaware of these levels, here’s a quick guide: holding hands, kissing and cuddling are for when you are exclusively dating. Boobs, butts and genital enjoyment are for marriage.
The reason is simple. Physical intimacy that surpasses your equal level of commitment takes the same mental, emotional and spiritual path as porn. It’s selfish, short-term gratification that requires no sacrifice.
You will wind up marrying your level of health. If you aren’t sober, I don’t suggest looking for a partner right now. You have on the wrong lens. You basically have beer goggles on. Sobriety clears the fog so that you can see more clearly. You can see more clearly who you are and what you need.
When you are acting out regularly or semi-regularly, you are attempting to fill needs in an unhealthy way. Men who are regularly acting out are men who don’t fully know or understand what they need. Therefore, they don’t know how to get those needs met in a healthy way.
Naturally, when you see a pretty girl, you think, “That is what I need.” In fact, most guys will become “sober” after meeting the girl of their dreams, and that seems like proof to them that this girl is exactly what they needed. They don’t need porn and masturbation for the first time because this girl is filling all of these voids and it’s awesome. The only problem is that you are going to suck the life out of her because her “filling” all these holes in your life so completely is so temporary.
The feeling of being in love is a bonding one. It is necessary but the feeling is not forever. When I first started dating my wife, I remember thinking, “I never want to lose these feelings of passion and crazy intensity.” I felt full for the first time in my life, and I wanted it forever. I raged against people who told me that I couldn’t have that. But that crazy intensity can become co-dependence in a hot second because she was never meant to fill all of you, all of the time.
The un-sober man is vacuum looking for something to meet his needs. An attractive woman seems to have the sustenance that will finally fill the void. The only way for a relationship to be healthy is when it has two whole people who aren’t relying on each other to fill the God need, to fill the friendship need, to fill the adventure need, to fill the self-love need, the confidence need, the passion need, the purpose need, the list goes on. A wife is supposed to touch all of those places but she is not supposed to completely fill them.
Mark recently proposed an idea that was revolutionary to me. He said, “No one man should or truly can fill the entire pie of your fathering needs. You need multiple men who can fill a slice of the pie.” This is true of every relational need. No one has the capacity or capability to be everything to you. Your wife is only a piece of the pie. She is not the whole thing, and the sooner you realize that, the sooner you stop bleeding her dry or becoming bitter at her for not being what you thought you needed.
This is what I did with my wife. I wasn’t sober when I got married. I didn’t start going to men’s group until my third year of marriage. Leading up to getting married, I was masturbating a lot and porning out at least once every three months, and “accidentally” “stumbling” upon questionable material at least weekly. I didn’t know what my needs were. Therefore, after I got married, I became bitter with my wife.
I was so confused that all the things I used to love about her were becoming things I despised. I never laughed at her jokes anymore. I didn’t find her adventurous nature endearing, I found her conversation habits annoying, I resented her asking me about what I wanted to do with my future, I rejected her displays of affection. Why? These were all reasons I married her. I used to love these things. Here’s why. Those were all things I needed and truly did love about her, but she was not fulfilling me like she seemed to do when we were dating and I thought she was supposed to. It angered me that I was not happy even though she had all these things. I aimed my dissatisfaction and my inability to feel full at her.
I’ve been in men’s group for five years now, and over that time I’ve begun to understand the dysfunction and lies I was living under. I’ve not only recognized those, but I’ve pointed myself in the direction of health. I’ve sought out relationships, shared my deepest, darkest shame, pursued the Lord, made a thousand phone calls, put up boundaries, and faced fears. In all of this, I started recognizing my needs and how to get them met long before running on empty. I’m beginning to love my wife and children out of an overflow of life that I feel from the fullness I’m experiencing rather than out of discipline and necessity. My wife is no longer my source. She is one of many sources, and because of that, she finally gets to be the recipient of a husband that is fully alive and free to fully love her.