Dating Done Right: Sean Perron & Spencer Harmon
You're dating—but man, do things get sticky. Authors Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon help you approach marriage on purpose, and done right.
One of the things you have to think about with purity is, why are you doing it? Why? And if the motive is, “I am doing this so that my honeymoon will be amazing,” you will be disappointed. Because your category of amazing is probably not calibrated according to God's Word. -- Spencer Harmon
About the Guest
- Check out more from Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon at unspokenblog.com
- Learn how to share of your sexual history with a new romantic interest.
- If you're interested in hearing more from Sean and Spencer, listen to their Unspoken Blogs podcast
- Find resources from this podcast at shop.familylife.com.
- See resources from our past podcasts.
- Find more content and resources on the FamilyLife's app!
- Help others find FamilyLife. Leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
- Check out all the FamilyLife podcasts on the FamilyLife Podcast Network
You’re dating—but man, do things get sticky. Authors Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon help you approach marriage on purpose, and done right.
Dating Done Right: Sean Perron & Spencer Harmon
You’re dating—but man, do things get sticky. Authors Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon help you approach marriage on purpose, and done right.
One of the things you have to think about with purity is, why are you doing it? Why? And if the motive is, “I am doing this so that my honeymoon will be amazing,” you will be disappointed. Because your category of amazing is probably not calibrated according to God’s Word. — Spencer Harmon
Show Notes and Resources
Check out more from Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon at unspokenblog.com
Learn how to share of your sexual history with a new romantic interest.
If you’re interested in hearing more from Sean and Spencer, listen to their Unspoken Blogs podcast
Find resources from this podcast at shop.familylife.com.
See resources from our past podcasts.
Find more content and resources on the FamilyLife’s app!
Help others find FamilyLife. Leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
Check out all the FamilyLife podcasts on the FamilyLife Podcast Network
Dating Done Right: Sean Perron & Spencer Harmon
Spencer: One of the things you have to think about with purity is, why are you doing it? Why? And if the motive is, “I am doing this so that my honeymoon will be amazing,” you will be disappointed.
Spencer: Because your category of amazing is probably not calibrated according to God’s Word.
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Dave: This is FamilyLife Today!
Today, we’ve got two experts. [Laughter] I guess we could call you guys experts. We’ve got Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon in the studio, who’ve written a book! Two guys who are really good friends and work at the same church wrote a book on dating and engagement, and we’re going to talk tomorrow about marriage.
So, welcome guys! You’ve never been on FamilyLife Today, have you?
Sean: Glad to be here.
Spencer: Thanks for having us!
Dave: Tell me you’ve listened to it!
Sean: I have. It’s true.
Spencer: We have!
Dave: Alright. Tell us it’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever heard.
Sean: I’ve never heard anything better.
Dave: Yes, okay! That’s what I thought.
Ann: That’s right!
Sean: I wake up in the morning to my alarm clock now—[Laughter]
Ann: And it’s okay to lie when you’re on this show. [Laughter]
Dave: That’s alright. Tell our listeners a little bit—I mentioned you work in the same church.
Dave: Both married; you’ve got kids. Give us your story.
Spencer: Yes, I have been married to my wife Taylor—we just celebrated nine years. We’ve got four kids. We have an eight-year-old, a six-year-old, a three-year-old, and a one-year-old.
Spencer: So, I like to joke that our life is this peaceful Thomas Kincaide painting. [Laughter] No, just kidding!
Dave: I don’t think so.
Spencer: Yes, I’ve been in pastoral ministry now for about eight years, and I just finished my fourth year at First Baptist. That’s where Sean and I serve together: First Baptist Church, Jacksonville. We’ve been friends since 2009.
Sean: Too long. [Laughter]
Spencer: We went to college together—we went to college together, and [we] have been friends for a really long time now. These books are just the fruit of our friendship and walking through these seasons of life at the same time and talking about how to apply God’s Word to these times of our life that were really relevant.
Sean: My wife and I met in high school. We didn’t date in high school, but that’s where we met. We’ve been married now for a little over 11 years, and we have three kids: a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and then, one who’s on the way. We’re very excited about that. We don’t know the gender; we’re going to be surprised.
Dave: These three books I’m holding in my hand: Letters to a Romantic on Dating, [Letters to a Romantic] on Engagement, and [Letters to a Romantic] on Marriage. Where did these come from, and why “letters to a romantic”?
Ann: Which isn’t typical of two guys that are friends, writing these books. It’s pretty unique.
Sean: Yes, a few things; we were in these seasons when we were in Bible College, in seminary; and we wanted to have these—
Basically, it started as a blog originally. We wanted to document: “Okay, we’re not just soaking up wisdom that we’ve received from godly men and women, and that we’ve been reading in the Bible. We want to help others. We want to help others in the season that we’re currently in.” Because a lot of the advice that you get comes from great, godly couples who are decades removed.
Dave: Yes, right.
Sean: Decades removed. We thought, “You know what? We’re in it. We’re digesting it. We’re walking through it. We want to share that.” So, that was the genesis of the letters. The letters, we wanted to write in such a way that would be interesting to people; that they felt personal. We didn’t just want them to be theology, ivory tower. We wanted them to be personal and relevant, and we also wanted them to be short and digestible, actually, for people to read them.
Sean: So, that was the letters concept; a different format that would catch people’s attention, and it did. We’re thankful.
Ann: Yes, what are some of those?
Sean: Oh, my goodness!
Ann: What are the things that were burning in your heart, that you thought, “We need to write about this?”
Sean: Okay, I’ll throw out a few.
Sean: And I’d be interested to hear your list [Spencer].
Physical boundaries; kissing, in particular. We took a controversial position on that. Breaking up; how to break up with someone. Should you break up with someone? Do you have a bad relationship? What makes a good relationship? Blame after a breakup. Those were all categories we were dealing with at the time.
Spencer: Sexual history.
Spencer: What do you do if one of you is a virgin and the other of you isn’t? What do you do—
Sean: —if you sin during the relationship?
Spencer: Yes, what do you do when you sin then? Should you break up?
Sean: Should you get married if you cross the line physically? Thinking about, with the engagement book, how do you think about this brand-new set of parents that comes into your life, called your “in-laws?” How do you navigate conversations about that? And even—
Ann: We had all these questions!
Sean: Oh, my goodness!
Ann: And there was nowhere to go.
Spencer: It’s so relevant!
Ann: You’re right! Somebody doesn’t want somebody our age. “Can you guys even remember that long ago?” But you guys were just there.
Ann: And it’s a different culture that you’ve grown up in, too.
Dave: Well, he just raised all these—
Ann: I know!
Dave: I guarantee—here’s what we’ve got. We’ve got singles listening.
Dave: But we also have parents of kids—teenagers and above—who are thinking, “How do I help my kids understand this whole thing?” so you’re talking to both crowds, at least.
Dave: A lot of parents are listening.
Dave: But singles as well. You just mentioned one. Do you want to go there?
Dave: Let’s talk about kissing.
Spencer: Sure! Sean wrote the chapter on kissing. Let me start with this: neither of us kissed our wife until the day we got married, okay? Christians disagree on this stuff, but we really think that this is wisdom. So, we knew we needed to write a chapter on this. Sean took it and gave seven reasons not to kiss.
Dave: I read them all.
Ann: That was brave of you, too, Sean.
Ann: So many women that I’ve talked to—younger women—say, “I don’t want that to happen, because the first one could be super-awkward, and I don’t want to be in front of all these people. It just feels like it’s so wrong!” So, I love that you’re tackling this.
Sean: Yes; everyone thinks about it. Everyone wants to kiss the person that they’re dating or engaged to, certainly. Everyone’s thinking about it, but most people don’t think that the Bible has anything to say about it.
The Bible is super-relevant! One of the reasons, just to jump right in, is the Bible has a category of brother and sister. You are a brother and sister in Christ, and that is the category of relationship you’re in unless you’re married. When you’re married, you’re still brother and sister, but you just have this other covenantal relationship that the Bible talks about, where there is a sexual element to it. That sexual element is not intended ever to be the case for brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s how the Bible presents it.
In fact, 1 Timothy 5:2 says, “Treat your sisters with absolute purity.” So, if you would treat your sister that way—your physical sister—then those are the boundaries the Bible presents, the categories for how you should treat the person that you’re not married to. You’re still brother and sister in Christ. That’s one example.
Then, you get to other passages that talk about marriage to represent Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. In Ephesians 5, Jesus presents the bride “spotless and without wrinkle or any such blemish.” Well, if your goal, as the man in the relationship, is to reflect Jesus, and to present your bride without spot or wrinkle or any such blemish, then you want to pursue absolute purity. “How can I do everything I can to have absolute purity in my relationship?” I think that is a good indicator that you should not kiss.
Spencer: Let me tell you a story. The night before Taylor and I were married, we had our rehearsal dinner, and we took a walk together before we went home for the night. We both know we haven’t kissed, and we both know that, tomorrow, we’re going to kiss in front of 400 people. “This is the first kiss!” So, we talked about it. We said, “Okay, so we’re not going to kiss right now, but let’s just make sure that—my head’s going to go this way [Laughter], and your head’s going to go that way, and then we’ll move in. Does that sound good?” We agreed to it before.
That’s a funny story, right? We talked about it, because we were sensitive to, “Hey, we’re about to have our first kiss in front of a bunch of people, and we don’t want it to be awkward.” But let me say this: I have never met a couple who saved physical affection for marriage who said, “You know what? I really wish we would have kissed more when we were dating.” I’ve never met them; but I’ve met a whole bunch of people who have said, after they get married, “Man, we really went too far, and we had to untangle some stuff in our marriage after we’d crossed all these boundaries we didn’t want to break.”
It's actually—one of the things that Taylor and I talked about so much, because we wanted to kiss each other, okay? We were very much attracted to each other; but we talked about this concept of—storing up pleasure for later. “We want to honor God in this season of our life, honor this biblical category of brother and sister. Then, we’re going to trust God that He’s going to bless this, because it’s our desire to honor Him right now. We’re going to store this up for later.” And the Lord did bless that. We’re so thankful. We kiss all the time now. [Laughter] And we’re so thankful for it!
I think it is something that, the way we talk about it in the book is, we really want couples to consider, because God really does value our holiness and our purity, especially in this season of dating. Very, very quickly, it goes in directions we don’t want it to go, because it’s meant to go somewhere! That’s the way God designed it.
Sean: And God cares more about our heart than He does our lips. What’s most important is not that you just didn’t, technically, kiss. Jenny and I both had previous relationships—dating relationships, and we both kissed other people previously. The point is not that you’d be a legalist or a Pharisee to say, “Oh, our lips didn’t touch before we said our vows.”
The point is, God wants us to draw near to Him, not just with our lips, but with our hearts first. When you do that, it becomes this great thing: “You know what? We don’t need to kiss right now. We don’t need to have any physical, romantic relationship before marriage. There’s no need because our hearts are filled with love for each other, selflessly. Our hearts are filled with love for the Lord.” The Lord does that when He changes the heart; but if you reverse it, and you start with your lips and then get to your heart, then you get all weird, and you don’t honor God, ironically, because God cares about the heart.
Dave: You know, it’s interesting. I’ve never had this thought before, but in Luke 6:44-45—you’re probably familiar—Jesus says your mouth (or your tongue or your words) is an overflow of your heart.
Sean: Yes, that’s exactly it.
Dave: I’ve always preached, as a preacher, “If you want to change your words, you’ve got to start with your heart.”
Dave: It isn’t [as if] I’ve got to stop cursing or slandering God. He says, “You start with your heart.” I’ve never considered what you just said.
Sean: Oh, yes.
Dave: Maybe your lips are an overflow of your heart, even when it comes to kissing or sexual purity outside of marriage. It’s an overflow.
Dave: But here’s my question: what’s the push back? Have you heard a lot?
Sean: Yes, a lot!
Ann: Wait, let me get to a little pushback.
Dave: Well, look at this! She wants to take over.
Ann: Because I’ve talked to some women who’ve grown up in the Purity Culture.
Ann: Some of what maybe wasn’t said, but maybe what they heard was, “Hey, if you remain pure, God is just going to bless your physical relationship!”
Ann: Then, their physical relationship—they’re thinking their honeymoon’s going to be amazing!
Spencer: Oh, yes.
Ann: And it can be difficult or painful, and it doesn’t just get better overnight. It can take a while. What would you guys say to those people who are saying, “Wait a minute! I thought this was going to be this amazing blessing physically, and it’s really hard right now”?
Spencer: Yes, I think you can tackle this two different ways. One of the things I want to say, and I’m really sensitive to that, too, because we grew up at the height of Purity Culture, where some people felt like it was bait and switch.
Spencer: “You do this; you go to this banquet; you wear these rings, and everything about your marriage is going to be great!”
Sean: “True love waits, and it’s always amazing!” [Laughter]
Spencer: Here’s the problem. Here’s where I think—and this is one of the corrections we were trying to make in our book—one of the things you have to think about with purity is why are you doing it? Why? And if the motive is, “I am doing this so that my honeymoon will be amazing,” you will be disappointed.
Spencer: Because your category of amazing is probably not calibrated according to God’s Word. The reason we pursue purity is to honor God and to glorify Him—to honor Him—and because we believe that God’s way truly is best. There actually are “pleasures at God’s right hand forevermore.” So, the motive of a Christian’s heart in all of life—and we just seek to apply this in every area of relationships—is, “My heart, first, is to honor Christ. He has loved me with incredible love. I’m secure in Him. He has given me incredible promises.”
I am going to now walk faithfully with Him, and He is my reward at the end of the day. He’s my treasure. All these other blessings are additions that He does give to us, but the motive is there. And I think that was one of the missteps of the Purity Culture. It was often holding in front of you this marital reward that isn’t always promised.
I mean, you can get married and be on your way to your awesome honeymoon, and get into a car accident, and never be able to have sex. What then? Is Jesus still your treasure? I think that has to be the motive at the core of why we’re doing these things.
Sean: Yes, yes.
Dave: It seems also that moral purity or sexual purity was the goal of purity, when the truth is, in Christ, I am already pure.
Dave: I could be sexually pure and impure in other ways when I’m only thinking about one area.
Spencer: That’s right.
Dave: That’s part of it as well.
Sean: Yes, amen. It’s a redefinition of pleasure. “If you want to save your life, you’re going to lose it; but if you lose your life for My sake and the sake of the gospel, you’ll find it.” When your pleasure in sex is selfless—it’s ‘I’m going to delight the other person. I’m going to put their desires first, all for the glory of God”—that’s when you have joy. When you do that, then you’re not worried about looking awkward on your wedding day, because that’s not the goal. The goal is not for you to look awesome on your wedding day. [Laughter] The goal is for Jesus to look awesome, and for you to selflessly love the other person like Christ has loved you.
If you have a strange and awkward wedding night—we talk about preparing for your wedding night in the engagement book, but if you have a strange and awkward wedding night—well, guess what? It’s not about you!
Dave: You get a few more nights, too!
Sean: That’s right! You’ve got a long time to go. [Laughter] And it’s the Lord who you’re trying to honor, and your joy is in serving your spouse; your joy is in serving them, not in being served.
Dave: What do you say to—and I know you wrote about this, and I read it; you wrote several chapters on it—“Okay, that’s been our goal,” but they mess up, they blow it?
Ann: They kiss.
Dave: They kiss, or they go beyond that, and they violate their own barrier. What do you say to that? And I loved what you wrote!
Dave: But I’m just asking you to tell our listeners what you wrote.
Sean: Yes, what’s most important is: do you have godly sorrow or worldly sorrow? Because that sorrow is centered on God Himself. Are you bummed that you messed up your boundary because, “Oh, man!” (you now don’t have a perfect score)? Are you bummed because you got caught? Are you bummed for some sort of worldly reason? Or are you bummed because, according to Psalm 51, “Against You and You alone, O Lord, have I sinned”? Are you bummed because you fear God?
“You know what? I was sexually immoral. I did sin, and I’ve broken God’s heart, and I need His forgiveness.” If that’s at the center of it; if you want God’s forgiveness, and you want to be made pure, you want clean hands and a pure heart, then God wants you to turn to Him. He will forgive you for anything you have done. He will forgive you right away, immediately. That’s why Jesus died on the cross. He loves you!
When you sin, that’s when you need to run to Him. Most people hide when they sin. They mess up, then they go underground. God says, “No, I bled so that you can come to me and be forgiven.” How someone’s heart responds is a huge determiner in the relationship of whether or not it should make it, whether or not it will make it. It really shows, “Is God the focus or not?
Spencer: Yes, one of the things that’s true on most—in every—relationship, especially dating relationships, is everybody comes with a sexual history. Even people who are squeaky-clean virgins on their wedding night, they have a sexual history. Everyone has sinned sexually. Everybody is a sexual sinner.
So, the question is, when you fall into sin or one of you is bringing more sexual baggage into the relationship with the other, “Well, what do we do with our sin?” What you do with your sin is what the Bible tells you to do with all of your sin! 1 John 1:9 [says], “If you confess your sin, He is faithful and just to forgive you of sin and to cleanse you of all unrighteousness.”
A lot of couples go into their marriage, their wedding night, with guilt. The question is, “Does the Bible have anything to say about that?” “Oh, you were pure all of your life, and I wasn’t! Are you better than me? Am I less than because of you?” The answer to that question is, in Jesus Christ you’re pure. God takes all of your dark sin, and He makes you white as snow. That’s one of the—not everybody has a white wedding dress on their wedding day, but one of the—symbols of a white wedding dress is this picture of the Church being presented to Jesus as a bride without spot or blemish.
The reality is that when two Christians get married to each other, they are getting married to each other in Jesus Christ, and they are forgiven; they are accepted; they are made clean. And that applies to their sexual history. One of the things that we have to do as believers is to say, “How will I think about my past? Will I think about my past according to my understanding and the way I’m going to interpret reality, or the way some other person interprets reality? Or will I remember my past the way God remembers my past?”
The way God remembers my past, if I’ve put my faith in Christ, and if I’ve repented of my sins, is, He remembers my past in Christ. which means without spot or wrinkle or blemish. When a couple believes that—and they may have the most complex, complicated, tangled up, crazy sexual story; I’ve watched it as a pastor, first-hand—they can enter into the marriage bed together for the first time pure in Christ! That’s the beauty of the gospel, and that’s the foundation of marriage.
What we’re seeking to do in these books is to say, “Let’s put the gospel of Jesus Christ, and His grace, and His love, right in the middle of dating, engagement, and marriage. Let’s see what happens as we apply it to every single issue practically.” And where it really lands home is in some of those serious areas of our sexual sin.
Ann: I was just thinking of myself as a 19-year-old about to get married. I grew up with pornography in my background because the family had it around. I grew up with sexual abuse. I lost my virginity at 15, and then I become a Chistian. Now, I’m going to marry Dave, and we’ve remained sexually pure with one another, but I did not feel pure at all. So, the words that you just spoke—if I’d had someone 32 years old say [that] to me. . .
And I knew the gospel. I knew Jesus loved [me], and I thought, “He’s forgiven me, but He doesn’t see me as pure.” You know, I think so many of us have such trashed backgrounds.
Ann: Things have been done to us, so we walk into a marriage thinking, “Oh, I’m garbage. Jesus forgave me, but—”
Dave: —“I’m dirty.”
Ann: —“I’m dirty,” yes. So, thank you for those words. It’s a good reminder to all of us that, “Oh, the death and the resurrection of Christ makes us as white as snow.”
Shelby: We’ll hear more from Spencer in just a second about one thing the Purity Culture got wrong, but first, we need to see ourselves appropriately in light of the gospel to allow the truth to break through that consuming sense of darkness we have around ourselves, and agree with Jesus when Paul writes, “The old is gone. The new has come.”
I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon on FamilyLife Today.You know, Sean and Spencer have written three books, and right now, when you give any amount to FamilyLife Today, you’re going to receive a three-book bundle from the Letters to a Romantic collection by Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon.
It’s Letters to a Romantic on Dating, [Letters to a Romantic] on Engagement, and then [Letters to a Romantic] on the First Years of Marriage. You might say, “Oh, I don’t fit into those categories,” but more than likely, you know someone who does. It could be a great gift that you could pass along to someone else. This whole book bundle is going to be our gift to you when you partner financially with us.
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Alright, here’s Spencer with an appropriate view of the Purity Culture and one thing that culture got wrong:
Spencer: One of the things that I think we missed in the Purity Culture movement a couple decades ago is, we missed the fact that Jesus, who instructs us, is also Jesus who forgives us when we fail His instructions.
In the Purity Culture, you get this kind of movement [saying], “Hey, let’s try to really honor God with our sexual purity.” [Then] it’s, “Well, what if you don’t? What happens then?” People would go into hiding. So, we have to hold out both. “These are the real instructions and commands of Christ really relevant to this season of life.” Let’s honor those! Let’s hold them up. And let’s also hold up this gospel of grace when we do fail, saying, “Bring your sin into the light. You don’t have to hide it. Let’s talk about sex; let’s talk about sin; let’s talk about all these dimensions of romantic relationships with openness and honesty, because Jesus provides grace for us to both obey Him and to be forgiven by Him.”
Ann: That’s awesome.
Sean: And for couples who have sinned, and maybe they want to give up, saying, “Well, it doesn’t matter anymore!”
Ann: “It’s too late now!”
Sean: That’s unbiblical, too.
Sean: Because there’s faith and repentance. Jesus, who saves you and changes you, will give you the power to then obey Him.
Sean: Don’t give up! Instead, turn; repent. Put off the old, and put on the new; put off lust, and put on purity; put off sexual sin, and put on righteousness. God will empower you if you ask Him.
Sean: He guarantees it!
Ann: That’s awesome.
Dave: I mean, you guys said it all. I will just say to the listener who, maybe like Ann, has felt dirty—maybe even right now you may be sitting with your boyfriend or girlfriend, or maybe you’re in your first few years of marriage, and you’re feeling like, “I didn’t adhere to God’s standard,” and you’ve felt “less than.” I hope you hear what these guys just said.
Dave: The truth of the gospel—I think you did what Tim Keller has always said when he preaches. You say, “Here’s the standard from God’s Word,” then he says, “Most people end there, and the preacher’s done. People run out and say, ‘I’ve got to try as hard as I can to do it!’” He says, “Before they leave the room, you’d better say, ‘And you’ll never be able to meet that standard’.”
Dave: “Unless you surrender to Christ.”
Dave: “And He will give you the power to do it.” And I just want to say to you who are listening: you can’t do this! I can’t do this. Christ has done this!
Dave: If you’re struggling right now, I would say, together, get on your knees as a couple.
Dave: We did this!
Ann: All the time.
Dave: And just say, “I surrender. God, we can’t do this, but we want to, and You can do it in us. We surrender our relationship to You. Do it in us, and we will follow You.”
Sean: Praise God.
Dave: “And when we don’t, we’ll come back to the grace in the blood of Jesus, and we’ll get up and do it right again.”
Shelby: Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are back again with Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon to talk about how dating should be purposeful. We need to evaluate the other person’s faith, their love for Jesus, and [their] involvement in the church with intention of marriage. That’s coming up tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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