Is it fine to have many relationships and date different people before marrying or to find the right person (husband or wife)? Also, is it alright to have physical relationships and or sex before marriage and with many people? By physical relationships I mean touching each other either normally or sexually or being with each naked or seeing each other naked? I hope my question was not too vulgar or open minded and offensive? Thanks
Dear Open and Honest Friend!
The promise of sex and romance “makes the world go round!” With the human body’s refined senses of touch and sight, the garden of sexual delights invites many people, especially in the youthful glow of health, vitality and attractiveness, to partake of that which seems so intoxicatingly wonderful — and without obvious harmful effects. To ask the question of whether the promise of sex is without negative consequences (spiritual, mental or physical) is to reveal that you may be seeing its promise through rose-colored glasses. Given that, it seems the best I can offer you is to be cautious.
It would be easy to make a shopping list of all that could go wrong (again: spiritually, mentally, or physically) but such warnings usually fall on deaf ears to those who stand in the glow of romantic promise. Instead, let me offer these suggestions:
- “You have to be present to win!” This is a twist on a little saying that comes from an era of awarding prizes to contestants in the marketing of products to Americans. The twist is the removal of the word “do not” as in “You do not have to be present…” In spiritual matters and consciousness, however, being mindful is how we “win” the prize of spiritual awakening: the source of long-term health and happiness. The attractive power of food, sex, anger, revenge is compelling indeed. To one who is calmly self-aware, the prize is long-term health and happiness. It is a question of short-term vs. long-term health and happiness. Mindfulness is not judgment — not according to standard morals and ethics, at least. But when you sit to eat ice cream and you are calm and self-aware, you will more likely find yourself stopping after a small helping rather than “pigging out” (as we say here in America) or bingeing (the habit of which brings obesity and diabetes, for example). When you are with another person to whom you feel attracted but remain calmly self-aware, you are more likely to receive and listen to those whispers of conscience that warn you, perhaps, of becoming overly involved.
- Your own honesty in asking these questions suggests to me that you can use your self-honesty for your own highest good. Ask yourself: Is it sex that I want, or do I really care for this person? If sex attraction were not present, would I find this person a true friend and companion with qualities that I can admire and emulate? In dating, especially when the goal is to have sex, there is all too often a fair amount of dishonesty and game-playing that is required to reach that goal. If you are calm, mindful, and self-honest, then your own conscience will warn you if you are lying.
- Sex, and romantic feelings and activities, are intoxicants to the nervous system. They bring a high, like getting drunk. But the next morning (or in the weeks that follow) an emotional hangover of regret and complications arise when the liaison was primarily sensual. Apart from medical and emotional risks or turbulence, the “high” produces inevitable boredom, fatigue, and even disgust. Once the merry-go-round of seeking romance and sex has started, it will seem that the only solution to the boredom, etc. is to find another adventure. And so it goes on: as an addict, one continues even when the thrills begin to diminish. If you continue, you may not even know why nor find any pleasure from the “game.” Our capacity for true love and friendship is also diminished by our former lifestyle of careless self-indulgence. When we finally meet the love of our life we may find our capacity and endurance to commit to that love has been frayed and jaded and our judgment of who is my true love is clouded by the habit of following momentary desires. What I am saying is that the intensity of intoxication to the senses and nervous system generates a compensating cost, like driving a car at racing speed all the time without paying attention to the level of oil in the engine. A promiscuous lifestyle burns out the motor of the human body.
- “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee, O Lord.” St. Augustine left us his “Confessions” in which he discloses that he lead a lifestyle not unlike what you propose. He was a tough nut for his soul to crack but with the prayers of his mother and his own sincere and intense desire for truth, he eventually set his feet on the path to God-realization. Look around you: how much happiness do you see in those who wallow in the pleasures of sex and romance? How soon does the honeymoon end? Sensory and ego-affirming pleasures of human life neither last nor bring lasting happiness. At this point, given your questions, the alternative of prayer and meditation may pale in comparison with the promises that romance holds for you in your mind. All parties end, though, and someone has to clean up the mess. Even-minded cheerfulness and love for Love Itself, which loves all without condition or expectation, bring lasting joy and happiness to the soul.
- So if you feel compelled to “party,” as I gather from your questions, keep ever watchful within your Self so that you do not lose your Self (your integrity, your soul) and can find your way to a more sustainable life of soul-pleasure in the love of God and the light of wisdom.
May the joy of the soul be ever your goal!