If you read Part One of this series, then you already know I am quite conflicted regarding the sex education I received as a youth-group attending Christian girl in the late 1980s/ early 1990s. Sadly, my sexuality was debilitated due to my fear of sex itself, coupled with the fear of eternal punishment which accompanied my desires.
As a parent and teacher I completely understand the necessity of protecting my children and students from harmful decisions and lifelong hurt, so I get why the preservation of my virginity was considered such a big deal back in the day, but I ended up hurt in another way… My life was shaped by the decision to rush into marriage when I was barely out of my teens. In fact, I’d go so far as to say; my experience of being human is incomplete because of the way an intricate structure of guilt, shame, unrealistic expectations, misplaced ideals and stigma was constructed around my sexuality in order to guard against its full expression.
Dating in my early 40s taught me a few things. The first was the strength of the “urge to merge”, as my counsellor delicately put it. I dubbed it “Skin Hunger”. When you’ve been sexually active in a marriage then end up on your own, a single intimate touch is like a single drop of water that lets the desert know how parched it really is. The fight to keep my virginity was nothing like the tumult caused by the long absence of touch followed by a romantic embrace. Try telling the desert it doesn't want a rain shower or a starving man (or woman) they can live without food forever. I think you get the picture!
I’ve finally learned for myself that rigid self-control for its own ends is overrated! And reports of the punishment which I feared accompanied a loss of self-control were most definitely exaggerated. The deep shame I carried as a teenager for overstepping the boundaries has been replaced with a low-grade embarrassment at some of the choices I’ve made over the past few years . It’s the cringe-factor I feel when I reflect on a couple of the men I chose to date and NOT the fact I have a little more experience than I once had .
Diagnosing Soul Ties
It was amidst this maelstrom of adult desire, human need, hormonal surges and biological urges, I learned about a new teaching regarding sexuality which has emerged in today’s church. I came across it first in a women’s group meeting where I was warned against creating “Soul Ties” with men I had no intention of marrying. I came across it again when a young man prayed for me in a Pentecostal service asking God to “break the power of the Soul Ties” I’d supposedly created because they were affecting my ability to negotiate some custody issues with my ex-husband. The idea of Soul Ties is a new fear-based tactic intended to prevent a new generation of teens (and possibly single mothers) from straying off the path of prescribed sexual purity.
A quick google search brings up more than two million references to Soul Ties and the basic idea goes something like this: Sex involves our mind, body and spirit so when we join with another person we take part of their soul and they take part of ours. Danielle Tate, author of Restoring the Lost Petal describes it this way; Soul ties are like super glue. If you’ve had sexual encounters outside of marriage, consensual or forced, there is most likely a lingering soul tie that needs to be dealt with otherwise you’ll forever be plagued with thoughts, feelings and even actions that are unwanted. While greatbiblestudy.com says; it “ties two souls together in the spiritual realm” and opens the person up to “demonic torment… and control by another person.”
The illustrations of soul ties are even scarier than the descriptions:
By having sex with one man we open ourselves, not only to him, but his soul which carries every sin he has ever committed PLUS all of the sins his past lovers have committed as well. At its worst, we may need deliverance from demonic possession, at the very least we’ll need to name everyone we have created a soul tie with so we can break it through prayer. Danielle has organised this into four neat little steps:
2. Confess and Repent
4. Break and Remove.
Wow kids. Don’t put a foot wrong or you’ll be creating a load of work for yourself in future! You’ll still be connected years later if you overlook one of the names on the list.
If you’re still remembering someone after years apart then you probably have a soul tie… If you bump into an ex and feel any emotion at all then you probably have a soul tie… If you find it hard to end a relationship with someone who is bad news (but the sex is really good) then, you guessed it, you probably have a soul tie.
The people we love have the power to hurt
It’s terrifying stuff. Soul ties are not mentioned in the bible but there are plenty of teachers out there building an entire theology around the idea they’ve adopted from Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:31 that “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” and 1 Corinthians 6:16, “Don’t you realise that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one with her in body? For it is said ‘The two shall become one flesh’.”
It all makes me glad I was raised back in the days when the only thing I had to be scared of, was eternal damnation! And it makes me glad I’m clever enough now to interrogate certain teachings and form my own opinion that this idea of Soul Ties is codswallop. It’s par for the course that the people we love the most have the power to hurt us the most if they reject, betray or abandon us but we are not tied to everyone we have ever connected with - those are called memories. Our experiences can teach us lessons if we allow them to but that’s it.
The desire to experience
I can’t help but wonder whether some branches of the church decided that desperate times call for desperate measures. We live in a highly sexualised society where pre-marital sex has been completely normalised and our youth had probably worked out sex is not to be feared. You can have sex and still be ok afterwards… Or can you? Soul Ties sells us the idea that the consequences might not be immediate but they can be far-reaching and long-lasting so you’d better not do “It” with anyone but your husband or wife. Which brings us right back to where I started… with kids marrying kids because it was the only way to make their desire to experience sex okay in the eyes of God.
And my question, "how on earth do I help my kids negotiate this complex territory?" remains unanswered until Part 3. which is coming soon, I promise.
Catherine is a teacher, life coach (linedwithsilver.com.au) and single mother of four. She loves trying to keep all of those balls in the air but fails spectacularly at times. Perfectionism and people-pleasing seemed to be written into her DNA but she's slowly releasing expectations imposed by others and settling into a more generous view of a loving God at the same time. Catherine's goal is to experience life in lots of different places and to use every wrong turn as an opportunity for learning. She resides on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.
See all previous articles by Catherine Joy