Satan’s Strategy to Destroy Your Marriage Before it Begins

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chess board      Tim and Jess had only been married for 8 months, but the honeymoon was most certainly over. The sweet conversations that once marked their relationship had been replaced with constant bickering. Their laughter had dulled and their distance had grown. Their sexual intimacy had almost ceased.

      What had gone wrong? How had Satan slipped into this young couple’s marriage? As we unpacked some of their history, I discovered that he hadn’t sabotaged them on their honeymoon or in the early months of figuring out married life. Instead, he’d begun his work before they even made it to the altar. You see, though Tim and Jess are Christians, their dating and engagement was marked with sexual impurity.

      The early days of their relationship had been fine, but over time, they made consistent compromises that developed into a deeper pattern of sexual sin. When they’d sin, they confessed to each other and, made oaths to not let it happen again. But it did. Because of the shame, they never truly let anyone else in on what was happening, and in hindsight they admitted that their courtship had been a big cover-up of deceit.

      Unfortunately, Tim and Jess’s story is all too familiar. Many unmarried Christian couples struggle with sexual sin. And this should be no surprise, we have an enemy who is set against us and set against our impending marriage (1 Pt. 5:8). This enemy hates God and he hates marriage because marriage itself is a portrayal of the Gospel (Eph. 5:32). And Satan wants to do whatever he can to undermine marriage.

      One of Satan’s most effective strategies to corrupt the Gospel portraying union of marriage is to attack couples before they say “I do” through sexual sin. What follows are several of Satan’s most common ploys to attacking marriages before they begin. (Eph. 6:11; 1 Pt. 5:8)

 

1.  Satan wants us to make a pattern of obeying our desires instead of God’s direction.

      God’s ways are good, but Satan wants us to believe they are not. This has been his plan from the first call to compromise in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-6). His end goal is for us to develop a consistent pattern of resisting the Spirit and following our sinful desires once we get into marriage. He wants us to learn to resist service and to pursue selfishness.

      If we learn to do what we want to do when we want to do it before we get married, we’ll carry that pattern into the days that follow our wedding. This is deadly because service and sacrifice is essential to a healthy, Christ-honoring marriage. Love in marriage is shown by a thousand daily decisions to do the dishes when you don’t want to or change a diaper when you don’t want to or watch a movie instead of a basketball game. If your relationship before marriage is characterized by giving into urges of the immediate desire, you’ll most certainly struggle when you get into the nitty-gritty of married life.

 

2.  Satan wants us to underestimate how susceptible we are to temptation.

      Satan wants us to think that we won’t take our sin to the next level. He wants us to think that we’re stronger than we really are. He wants to make us think that we’ll never go “that far.” This is a powerful trick because it plays upon our well-intended desire to honor God and our pride at the same time. Trust me, you’re weaker than you think you are. You can go where you think you won’t go. Sin is like an undercurrent in the ocean, if you play in it, you will be overpowered and carried away into certain destruction.

      One of the ways Satan works this angle is to tempt you to think that purity is a line rather than a posture of the heart. He wants you to think that purity before God is not kissing or not taking off clothes or not having oral sex or not “going all the way.” He wants you to think that if you don’t cross a certain line, you’re “staying pure.” The problem with this kind of thinking is that Jesus says if we lust in our heart, we’ve sinned and are condemned before God (Mt. 5:27-30).

      Purity is much more about the posture of our heart than about the position of our body. The age old question of “how far is too far” may be revealing a desire to get as close to sin as possible rather than a desire to “flee” as God calls us to (1 Cor. 6:18). So I ask you, what’s the posture of your heart? Are you seeking to find ways to flee from lust or getting as close as you can? Be careful to not underestimate your vulnerability, or as Paul said, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

 

3.      Satan wants couples to weaken their trust for each other.

When we compromise sexually we’re showing the other person that we’re willing to use and abuse them to get what makes you happy. Every time we push the boundaries with our fiancée or lead each other into sin we are communicating, even though we don’t mean to, “you can’t trust me because I’m willing to use you and disregard you to get what I want.”

And even worse than that, we show that we care more about our desires than about what God wants from us. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says “this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality” and that v8 “whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” So when you sin sexually against each other before marriage you are saying, “You can’t trust me because I’m willing to sacrifice both of our relationships with God to do what I want.”

This is certainly one of the most deadly of all his strategies and the one I suspect hurt Tim and Jess the most. They didn’t trust each other. They never really did. So much of their dating relationship was wrapped up in the cycle of sin, shame, start-over that they never developed a deep mature battle-tested trust for each other.

It is important to point out however that when we resist sexual sin, God blesses a relationship with the exact opposite effect. Every time we say “no” to sexual sin and turn to prayer and tell each other that we value them and their walk with God too much to go one step further, God uses that to strengthen trust between couples. My wife regularly tells dating couples that one of the reasons she trusts me is because I literally ran from compromising situations before we were married. We weren’t perfect in our courtship, but the Lord used that season to build trust in each other.

 

 

4.      Satan wants to deceive you with the forbidden fruit of lust.

There is a world of difference between pre-marital sex and sex within marriage. One of the reasons for this is that in pre-marital sex the forbidden fruit of lust portrays sex as something that it isn’t always in marriage. Most normally, pre-marital sexual activity is like gas on fire. The passion is high, the feelings are intense, and the drive to go further is fueled by the fact that you know you shouldn’t (Rom. 7:8).

Sex in marriage is different. There’s still passion and there’s still intense feelings and emotions—but sex in marriage is based primarily on the hot coals of trust, devotion, and sacrifice (1 Cor. 7:1-5). Couples who built their sexual expectations on the passion that the forbidden fruit provided are often disappointed and confused about why sex is so different in marriage.

Now, to be candid, my wife and I laughed at this idea when our pre-marital counselor told us. We were sure that we were gonna be the exception to the rule. But the reality is, that almost 6 years and 3 children later, he was right. Couples like us can have a strong sex life, but it is fueled by deeper characteristics than fleeting passion. Satan wants couples to get used to running on the caffeine and sugar of lust rather than mature love of service and sacrifice.

 

A few concluding thoughts…

1.      Wait in Faith. The Christian posture is always one of waiting. We wait for Christ’s return. We wait for an eternity with Him. And people who aren’t married wait for the blessings of marriage. Say no to sin’s promises by faith in God’s promises. Renew your mind with God’s Word and keep waiting in faith.

2.      Dude, you’ve gotta lead. While both people in the relationship are responsible before God, the man in the relationship must set the pace for purity. Too often our ladies are forced to draw lines and say no. That’s just wrong and cowardly.  It’s the dude’s responsibility to care for his future wife by leading her toward Jesus and away from sin—and not into the darkness and pain of evil.  If he sets the wrong pattern here, he’ll be digging out for years afterward—and may never regain the ground he loses apart from God’s grace.

3.      Involve others every step of the way. Don’t allow your relationship to remain unexamined by other godly Christians. Both of you should have a godly couple or faithful friends who keep you accountable. Encourage them to ask you tough questions and always give honest answers. God uses transparency to give spiritual strength.

4.      If you sin, go to the Gospel. The Apostle John said “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1-2). If you sin, flee to the cross. Flee to the empty tomb. Look to Christ, confess your sin deeply, and repent. God blesses this kind of posture (Prov. 28:13).

Sexual sin doesn’t need to be dagger in the heart of your courting relationship, engagement, or marriage. God is a merciful God who delights in restoring what sin seeks to destroy (Joel 2:25-27). He will not however bless on-going disobedience and presumption upon His mercy. If you have fallen into sexual sin, today is the day to plead for mercy and turn from it to Christ in faith. May God give us mercy to pursue purity for His glory and our good.

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14 thoughts on “Satan’s Strategy to Destroy Your Marriage Before it Begins

  1. Jonathan

    Simply beautiful. Exactly what I needed to hear today, brother. Every last bit you supported with the Word! I pray that I can remain faithful to God and my future wife, whoever she may be. Whether it be the young lady I am with now, or someone else, I pray that I will stay faithful to God above all. Thank you again, dear brother in Christ!

    Reply
  2. Marcus King

    I really appreciate this, thanks. I’ve thought it better to be the right person than to find the right person and this has helped me to examine myself more deeply and honestly. Grace and peace.

    Reply
  3. Rich

    Never explained why Jess and Tim were fighting 8 months after marriage in a way related to premarital sex. Not saying the point of the article isn’t true, but I’m curious how you tie it in. The point was they had inadvertently built their relationship on sex?

    Reply
    1. Simon

      Hey, thanks for your post, in essence I agree with what you’ve said but I have a few concerns.

      Like the previous poster, you never truly resolve the issue of jess and Tim, i don’t think you are saying that any couple to engage in pre-marital sexual contact will have a failed marriage, but your post could be read that way!

      Second I worry that you give too much credit to satan! sexual desire is a God given gift, to desire sexual intimacy with a woman (speaking as a guy here) that you love is not sin. I feel you are saying to desire sexual intimacy with your fiancé is the work of satan.

      leading on from that “you can’t trust me because I’m willing to use you and disregard you to get what I want.” I think this is often not the case. Yes sometimes sexual contact occurs purely out of selfish lust. But for many christian couples, even those that are engaged, the issue is that they love and desire this person in a way that is right and normal. Sexual expression comes out of this love and desire for the other, yes inappropriately handled as it is not the right context, but not out of selfish lust. I worry you tar all couples with the same brush.

      As relationships develop, the healthy and natural desire for sexual intimacy also increases, this is not satan, this is how God made man and woman to be. While I don’t disagree with your conclusions as such I do worry a little about the things I mention above.

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      1. garrettk Post author

        Simon & Rich-

        Good points, I appreciate you taking the time to write.

        1. Regarding “Tim and Jess” (not their real names for privacy sake), the point I was trying to make is that many of the issues they were struggling with in marriage seemed to spring from the fact that they sinned against each other through premarital sexual activity. I am not intending to say that every couple who sins in this way before marriage will end up doomed…and praise God for that. But if those couples who do struggle don’t hate their sin, turn from it and seek to honor Christ and their to be spouse, there will be lasting effect. Sin left unattended will always grow, it isn’t neutral.

        2. I 100% agree that people who love each other and aren’t married can have true loving and God-given desire for each other (in fact, if they don’t they should strongly question whether or not they should be married). BUT even though they love each other and have genuine, God-given desire…it is still sin to take what is not theirs yet…regardless of how much they love someone. I was engaged to another girl before my wife and I got married, and I was very certain I was going to marry her – we got close to 50 days away from our wedding before we called it off. We don’t know what tomorrow holds (James 4:13-17) and to not live this way by following good desires in a sinful way is not pleasing to God.

        3. I don’t intend to give Satan more credit than he deserves. He is the tempter who takes good things that God gives and twists them to become ultimate things. I was attempting merely to show how he does this through the good gift of premarital sexual intimacy.

        If you have any desire to hear more about what God teaches about sex, sex before marriage and sex within marriage – here’s the link to this Sunday’s sermon called “All My Love’n” from 1 Cor. 7:1-5 and other passages. http://delraybaptist.org/resources/sermons?sermon_id=78

        If this didn’t help, please feel free to ask for more clarification. May God bless you and help us all to honor Him with sexual purity!

        In Grace,

        Garrett

        Reply
      2. Simon

        Thanks for taking the time to reply. Fundamentally I don’t disagree with you, I have blogged myself about sexual purity, and I’m sure we have the same standards on what is and isn’t appropriate. My concern is that so often the teaching is that premarital sex is so sinful and bad and thats why we shouldn’t do it. I have spoken to, and read accounts of how people brought up with such teaching have become sexually dysfunctional and full of guilt to a degree that they cannot even engage in appropriate sexual activity i.e. in marriage. I think teaching needs to start from the premise that sex is great and good gift from God. Used appropriately it can bring great enjoyment, and bring two people closer. Used outside of this context there is potential for damage to either partner as well as STI’s, unwanted pregnancies etc etc. I think we need to argue reasons for waiting till marriage more than saying how bad it is not to wait. Too many christians who are not virgins feel beyond help due to this.

        but in response to your points.

        1. I’m pleased you have clarified, there is a difference between struggling with this but constantly seeking help, repenting and desiring to do better and wilfully choosing to engage in premarital intimacy. God can redeem all things, and though we full short he can bring healing and restoration.

        2. I don’t disagree that it is foolish to assume that marriage will happen and therefore sexual intimacy is ok, but going back to my first point, I fear that sometimes couples in this position are condemned for having those feelings in the first-place, those feelings can become demonised and be attributed to satan. This i think can be very pastorally damaging!

        3. I don’t doubt that one of satan’s greatest tools is sex. but I think even if he did not exist man would be tempted to engage in premarital intimacy. We are programmed to be attracted to the opposite sex, and to desire sex and intimacy with them, that is not wrong, but true fulfilment is to be had by using sex according to the makers instructions.

        Reply
  4. Cheri Green

    This is outstanding stuff Garrett Kell! We have a teenage son and he and all his friends are at such a critical point in their young and impressionable lives! This is giving me some great material to open up a talking point with him. It is hard as parents to contradict peers, society as a whole, media, and other influences. Thank you for putting this out there and thank you for the work you are doing! God bless your endevores. In Our Saviours Hope—-Cheri

    Reply
  5. Joe Portnoy

    Right on! The line, “Purity is much more about the posture of our heart than about the position of our body.” is so good as well as your final point about sex in marriage and premarital sex is so thought provoking and encouraging. Thanks Garrett!

    Reply
  6. Lori Howard

    Read this story: http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/02/13/love.stories.irpt/index.html

    We have been married over 32 years, after dating for two years and I moved into the house my fiance bought six months before we walked down the aisle in January, 1981. There remains total love, trust and compassion, especially given the fact that we together raised two boys – one severely mentally and physically handicapped, and the other academically gifted. We are grateful that we both came from two sets of parents who valued family and children. I disagree that anyone who engages in premarital sex is doomed to have a failed marriage!

    Reply
    1. garrettk Post author

      Lori-

      I am grateful to hear that you and your husband have a wonderful marriage. I certainly don’t think that everyone who engages in premarital sex is doomed to have a failed marriage. My point is that in the many counseling sessions I have been a part of, there is a very clear patter than some couples who have difficult marriages can point back to impurity before their marriage as a contributing factor. There are of course many other possible contributing factors, but that is one of the most common.

      That being said, I would encourage you and your husband to know that any blessing you are experiencing in marriage is a direct result of God’s grace toward you. Thankfully God doesn’t give us all what we deserve when we deserve it. If he did, I would be in hell, because I am certainly a sinner. So as you rejoice in the good marriage you have, please be mindful that God is being merciful to you. Romans 2:4 tells us that God’s kindness should lead us to repentance. I pray God will continue to extend mercy to you and that His mercy would have its intended effect.

      Thank you for reaching out,

      Garrett

      Reply
  7. Lori Howard

    I certainly don’t feel I need to repent for loving my husband prior to officially getting married in a church. Although I am a member of a United Methodist Church, I was raised in a Northern Baptist Church. The minister who baptized me whom I idolized was crushed when his wife was exposed with an extra-marital affair with the church’s choir director which resulted in two divorces and broken families. My own current home church had a similar incident last year, resulting in the minister being banished. The good Lord has provided us with strength, love and perseverance to overcome the many challenges we faced with raising our handicapped son, dealing with job loss, and numerous other life changing incidents. Throughout it all we manage to focus on the blessings which are abundant in our life…and I do pray a prayer of Thanksgiving each and every day!

    Reply
  8. Pingback: 12 Topics to Talk Over Before You Get Engaged | Garrett Kell

  9. Josy

    Dear Garret,
    Thank you for your words of Wisdom. I really needed to read this today. God used your article to confirm to me why my relationship ended terribly.

    My Ex Fiancé and I dated for nearly 2 years and never quite crossed the line by going ‘‘all the way’’ but we always went back to the temptation even after repenting. I was filled with guilt and I knew that we were not treating our bodies as the temples of the Holy Spirit that they should be! He always reminded me that we were not going all the way so its was ok- I gave in even though I knew I was hurting God with my behavior.
    After 2 years of a beautiful relationship immediately we got engaged, things changed. We started bickering, there was a lot of darkness, tough days at work which are normal really drained us, we participated in silent treatment (days of not talking), our devotion and prayer time faded away due to always being mad at each other. We demanded more from each other; voids that only Jesus our true source could fill. The fruits of the spirit were no longer evident yet our first year of dating before we started sinning was amazing!!!

    We dropped out of the pre-marital classes and broke off the entire wedding 4 months prior to the set date .Literally everything single thing we tried failed including planning for our families to celebrate our engagement.

    God had started preparing me each time I prayed, He told me that He wanted to take center stage in my life like He always had and I felt a tug to let go as I was holding onto an ungodly relationship knowingly. The day I let go is the day I found out that indeed we dint trust each other and it turned out that my fiancé at the time had been cheating on me but I was completely blind to this. The sin and shame had clouded both he and I. I am 100% sure that if we had stayed pure, we would not have allowed that lack of trust and sin to crepe in. To this day he also believed that I was unfaithful yet I was 100% true to him.
    Had we stood firm to stay pure on all our dates and to hang out with like-minded couples who would help us stay accountable, coupled with our sincere devotion, the devil would have been defeated for sure.

    I honestly can see the hand of the enemy in tearing us apart and I agree with your article 100%. I am now 100% sure that our relationship harvested the rotten fruits we planted due to the actions we undertook against God’s will. I take full responsibility for not keeping my boundaries up as I always have. I have repented and I believe that Jesus Christ our Savior has forgiven me and broken every soul tie I may have gotten yoked to and He certainly loves me as he has given me a second chance. Now I can stand firm in my next relationship. Now I can confidently say the next guy I kiss will be my Husband on our wedding day. Before this experience, I did not think this was possible. I urge all couples who are waiting to keep waiting and the Lord shall reward you.

    At the moment, I am praying for God to show me His will for my life. I want to be 100% clear of my next move according to His will. If we are to reconcile, repent and restore that which the enemy stole and use our story to Glorify God or if we are both to just move on in life date and court other people who God has ordained for us to be joined to all for His Glory.

    Please would you pray with me.

    Thank you.

    Reply

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