What’s the first thing many of us do after sinning? Find a way to hide, right? Adam and Eve found a way to hide; they got dressed—for the first time. Apparently, clothes helped to hide their shame. Of course, they placed a barrier in their couple relationship as well. Vulnerability and knowing came with a down-side. Trust was now tempered. Transparency was blocked. And independent-togetherness was born into the world. For Adam and Eve, putting on clothes brought about an emotional, relational, and spiritual hiding—from both God and each other. In today’s dating, hook-up, cohabitation, stay-over relationship culture, there is an opposite behavioral pattern. Taking off clothes is how one hides. Disrobing for sex allows singles to hide under a veil of nakedness.

Stacy’s dating career could be described as “casual.” She would meet a man and throw herself into getting to know him while, in her heart, simultaneously keeping her options open. The dopamine brain-rush of meeting someone new and connecting through physical touch made her feel wanted and important, but the idea of being tied down to someone made her nervous. She often found herself caught between hope and doubt, between the accelerator and the brake, between sex and the hope that he would want to leave her apartment afterward. After a while, her relationships would fizzle; she would lose interest because the relationship “just wasn’t going anywhere” or the guy would tire of waiting for her to “make up her mind” about their future.

After being tossed aside by his wife and mother of their two children, Caleb declared to friends in his divorce recovery group “never again will I be hurt like that. Never again will I fall in love.” Bitterness and fear built twenty-foot walls of self-protection. Fast-forward life a few years and, to his surprise, Caleb found himself attracted to someone. He wondered if he could love and trust again. As quickly as hope would say, “Yes, you can,” fear would shift his heart into neutral. Just imagining being vulnerable made his heart tremble. The combination of Caleb’s passion for his new girlfriend and simultaneous fear of being hurt again found expression in a stayover arrangement. A few nights a week he would stay at her apartment, occasionally she would stay at his, but both kept their separate residences, separate rent responsibility, and ultimately separate lives.

Afraid to be Seen with Our Clothes On

Stacy and Caleb are in a dilemma; they want to be in an intimate committed relationship but don’t want to take on the risks of marriage. Their solution? Strive for independent togetherness. And they aren’t alone.

Commitment is a tough sale these days. American’s prize our national and economic independence, but now that mentality has dramatically invaded our social psyche about marriage and its confusing us. We want to be with someone, but don’t want to be really with someone.

Half of US residents are single (whether never married, divorced, or widowed) and nearly one-third of all households have one occupant. And yet, we don’t necessarily like being alone. On one hand, we value and cherish marriage—it is still a highly sought after goal—and yet, we fear the vulnerability it creates. Nearly three generations of people now have suffered under a 50% divorce rate and many have watched their parents have multiple marital or cohabiting partnerships—and breakups—creating an increasing social fear and distrust of marital relationships. In this collective fear, we’ve drifted toward dating strategies that supply the benefits of marriage while protecting us from potential pain. Essentially we have normalized a variety of dating arrangements that allow us to have sex while at the same time hiding from the risks of permanent commitment. We are hiding naked.