The word addiction is derived from the Latin term addīctus, meaning “enslaved” or “bound.” The
American Society of Addiction Medicine defines it as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an person pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”
In sum: addiction is the interplay between reward and relief that ends
up controlling all areas of life.
Today I want to offer you a view of hook up culture as an addiction. In counseling sessions, I see the devastating and often insidious impact of "hooking up" on the emotional, social, and spiritual well-being of women. It's something I am so passionate about because our relationships have a profound impact on our view of ourselves and our self worth. And the hook up culture is bringing us down in tangible ways. I found that women who have "bought" the popular culture's lies about sexuality have a hard time disengaging from this way of life. Like an addiction...many women seem to be drawn to unhealthy relationships and give away their bodies even when it's painful. Just like an addiction to a drug, we can't seem to help ourselves from the lures and trappings of what seems to be just a fun time.
To my sisters in Christ: we are not exempt! There are many devout, Jesus-following women out there who have experienced these wounds and feel so much shame. Today's post isn't about shaming women. I want to offer a way of viewing these relationship trends in the light that they are: addictive. When we are able to see a pattern for what it is, then we can begin to improve up on.
For the sake of this article, I define the "hook up culture" as espousing the following ideas: Dating relationships are expendable and there is freedom for sexual expression within them. Therefore, sex is sex; just an exchange. Have fun, be free. Dating is a time to figure out what you like and "try on" until you find the right fit. Don't worry about commitment.
While the dating hook up culture of our time seems to be empowering and freeing to women, it is having a massive impact on Christian communities, women and men alike, and can cause permanent damage and emotional scars. Our marriages are impacted negatively and even our physical health. How is this approach to dating hurting women, exactly?
Relational Manifestations of the Hook-Up Culture:
1. By enjoying sex with total freedom, we become objects to give away, and see men as objects to consume and enjoy without consequence.
Instead of seeing a man as a brother in Christ, a worthy person of respect and love, he is now just a person to touch and handle until he's no longer interesting to us.
2. Focusing on "chemistry" and sexuality in relationships yield relationships that don't seem to take deep roots.
I made plenty of mistakes when I was in the world of dating yall. But there was one principle I couldn't escape. The more I befriended my now husband, the more I grew to care for him, respect him, love him. The physicality was the last thing on my mind for many months. It grew out of true depth of friendship.
The more we accept the lies of a hook-up culture, the less we are able to deeply befriend men. Friendship that is chaste and pure seems foreign and odd.
3. Relationships and marriages lack longevity.
If I told you that you needed to be able to perform a 3-minute long dance routine by tomorrow, would you be ready? Of course not! Some of us may have never danced a routine in our lives. So how can we expect ourselves to be able to commit to marriage when we have never tried on this concept of fidelity and respect? When relationships and expendable and cheap, marriage often follows suit.
Intrapersonal Manifestations of the Hook-Up Culture:
This section is huge yall. These are symptoms I see time and time again among authentic Christian women who are following the Lord and dating in a pure and holy manner. While the "addictive" hook-up culture is no longer at play in their lives, women often struggle with disordered self-giving: the long-term wounds of a past of hooking up.
1. Low self-esteem and low confidence: When we have been harmed by relationships in which we have been used and discarded, we sometimes find ourselves lost and lacking a strong inner voice that shouts out our incredible worth in Christ.
This is where so many women get stuck: in harmful relationships with men who won't commit, play games, or try to push the boundaries, sexually. It takes far too long to leave because the past has taught us maybe we just aren't worth any better. This is a common wound for women who have been objectified and discarded for the next "best" hook-up.
2. An unhealthy view of relationships and self: When we lose sight of our own worth, we have a hard time discerning who a healthy dating partner is. I hear it so often: "my date-picker is broken. I just keep picking the wrong guys!"
A part of intentionally healing from the hook-up culture is learning healthy boundaries: red flags, yellow flags, and the signs of a healthy and thriving potential life partner. It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack without glasses on. We have to get our vision corrected first.
3. Profound Selfishness: Whether in a "let's have fun for now" relationship, dating casually, or in marriage, women can develop a selfishness that is poisonous. The selfishness derived from emotional pain is unlike other forms of childish selfishness. It's deeply rooted weed that we rarely even want to pluck out.
Let me tell you, as a hurt-in-the-past woman myself, my wounds left me with a selfishness that has deeply hurt myself, my relationship with God, and my relationship with my husband. When we get hurt and misused, women typically either become 1) tough as nails "nobody will hurt me again" or 2) sick with no self-confidence "I guess this is what I deserve." Either way, we are left licking our wounds, feeling justified to focus on our own pain, and develop a thick veneer of self-involvement.
I had a hard time learning how to die to myself in marriage. It's not about me. It's about my spouse, it's about God! It's still a daily battle, and daily the Lord gives me grace.
It's non popular to say that certain choices we make have long-lasting effects, give us scars, or cause harm years later. Instead, I'd like to gloss over that part, and pronounce Christ as our Redeemer and Healer. And HE IS! Christ can heal any and all wounds. Don't misunderstand though: we have to put in the work and effort (and gain the insight) to co-work with the Lord in making relational healing a reality on our lives.
On a larger scale, society is also harmed by our addiction to the hook-up culture. By making "normal" what is inherently degrading and evil, we trade love for a phony counterfeit, and commitment for "right now" fun. Just like alcoholism, we do harm to ourselves, exchanging a culture that embraces life for one that exempts abortion. Sexually transmitted diseases wreck our health, our ability to conceive, and our self-esteem. Fidelity becomes a muscle we haven't ever used and find difficult to maintain during marriage.
Find your healing, and heal the culture:
With the help of Christ, no matter what our circumstances or past stories are, we can find wholeness and healing from this "addiction." If some of these symptoms hit close to home, maybe it's time to start seeing a counselor or psychologist who can help you discern how to heal and move forward. There is boundless hope when we come to the Lord, hold out our broken parts, and surrender to the process of healing.
When we reject this view of dating and sex, we proclaim our lives as a testament to something so much greater. We even begin to heal our culture. When we live out respect and kindness towards our fellow man, respect and love for ourselves, and a right view of fidelity, we are changing the culture.
Wishing you a grace-filled, whole and healthy mind,
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