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I hear from college students and young adults quite a bit on this. They’ve found Mr. or Ms. “right” and plan to spend the rest of their lives with the best thing since sliced bread. Then comes the awkward revelation either by confession or accidental discovery that the love of their life struggles (or has struggled) with sexual sin (porn, masturbation, sleeping around, fantasy etc.).

For some it’s a deal breaker and they walk away from the relationship in search of someone a bit less defiled. But others can’t, or won’t walk away from the relationship, and believe the one they’ve come to cherish can and will change before the big day. If you fall into the latter category here’s some guidance on just how to proceed…with caution…because I’m not convinced that you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater in all cases.

  • Watch their actions don’t just take their words to heart. In the heat of a relationship that has progressed to the point of a proposal and an anticipated wedding date it’s easy to just take your struggling significant other for his or her word. Don’t do it. Look for significant, intentional actions he or she is taking to get better and achieve sobriety. Further don’t you be the one doing all the work for them. An identifying mark of someone who is pursuing purity is that they are in fact doing the pursuing! Remember that CONSISTENT action speaks louder than mere words.
  • Don’t be afraid to put things in a holding pattern. The thing about being engaged is that it doesn’t have to be permanent! Marriage is a solemn vow to a lifelong commitment. So before things get to that point it’s wise to be certain you want to spend the rest of your life with a guy or girl who is dealing with their problem in the best way. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back and putting the wedding plans in a holding pattern. I know this is so hard for people because you have “plans”. Parents, relatives, venue, dresses, tuxedos, the limo, honeymoon, not to mention the minister who we just have to have perform the ceremony. All these things add pressure and potentially cost you money if things aren’t kept on schedule. I totally get that, but still, the damage is really minimal compared to the overwhelming cost of an unhealthy marriage. If he or she is unwilling to alter the schedule then that might be a good indication that it wasn’t meant to be anyway.
  • Pray. I’m not just trying to fill space here. I can’t emphasize enough how important seeking God is when you’re contemplating marriage. It is especially important when you know your potential spouse is struggling sexually. So many young couples simply move forward assuming that things will just work out. Optimism is important for sure but the stakes are too high to rely on human intuition and wishful thinking. There’s a divine component to marriage that can’t be overlooked. If you’re a christian young man or woman truly seeking to have a God-honoring marriage then you’ll spend more time praying and less time making excuses for your potential mate. Anyone married anytime at all will tell you that there is nothing more painful than marital distress and chaos. Don’t get me wrong every marriage will have it’s share for sure. But out of the gate if you can have an edge it can make all the difference in the world down the road. Seek God out in prayer and make it your discipline through your courtship, engagement and marriage.

So, if your boyfriend or girlfriend is struggling it doesn’t mean you have to kick him or her to the curb (at least not right away). But don’t ignore it either. Watch what they do not just what they say. Don’t be afraid to press the pause button. Pray.

Courage.