When I was growing up in the ‘80s, there was a pop song called “Let’s Pretend We’re Married.” The song was basically a not-so-subtle appeal from the singer, while his girlfriend is away, for the girl he’s addressing to have sex with him.
As an immature teenager, listening to music with risque lyrics was something that made me feel “cool” and grown up. In retrospect, I realize it was just one of a thousand signals from the morally corrosive culture telling us we should be indulging our passions.
In the decades that followed, we’ve become quite adept at pretending we’re married. After all, cohabitation (which has become so acceptable that anyone who even questions its morality is generally regarded as a freak) is quite the norm. In reality, it’s a way of “playing house” in which couples can take advantage of one another for gratification while retaining a relatively easy out. No-fault divorce has made it much easier to carry that escape route into a marriage, such that more than half of marriages in our society are still a form of pretend. And, of course, the Supreme Court’s abominable decision forcing states to recognize “same-sex marriage” as legitimate takes the idea of pretend to the level of delusion.
Despite the casualness (feigned or actual) with which many approach sexual relations, the reality is that it is a big deal. As C.S. Lewis so profoundly put it in his timeless classic, The Screwtape Letters, “The truth is that wherever a man lies with a woman, there, whether they like it or not, a transcendental relation is set up between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured.” Because human beings are composite creatures of body and spirit, the sexual act entails not just the merging of two bodies, but of two eternal souls. The “transcendental relation” is forever enjoyed in the covenant of genuine marriage, but eternally endured when abused outside of that covenant. (It turns out there is even a biological component to this dynamic, as the sexual act releases chemicals that encourage bonding between partners.)
Just as one case in point, I happen to know a young man who was sexually active with his girlfriend of nearly three years. In his mind at least, he was “in love” with this girl, and hoped to spend the rest of his life with her. But she had other plans. Rejection is always a difficult thing, but when sexually intimacy is part of the equation, it can become absolutely devastating.
It may be asking a lot for people to remain chaste during those years when fertility is at its peak, and there is a sound argument for encouraging people to marry earlier than modern society typically considers acceptable. But here is one piece of advice to avoid the damage that sex, such a powerful force, can inflict: Let’s not pretend we’re married.