Soul ties–or invisible bonds–wreak havoc on so many marriages. Today I’ll explain what soul ties are, and how we can break them.
If you were raised in the church, you likely grew up being told that sex outside of marriage is sinful. One of the reasons sex before marriage can be damaging is that it sex is such a powerful bonding agent–it has the potential to connect two people in a really profound way. When that happens as a result of sex, those bonds can be called “soul ties.” And it’s one of the things that makes sex in marriage so great, because that bonding draws you closer together and further knits your lives into one.
During sex, the extent of that bonding can vary. Here at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum, for example, we believe that while the use of pornography is a form of cheating, it is far more mild than a multi-year affair. Context and severity matters. The bond that’s formed by living with someone for 10 years is very different than the bond formed by a one night stand.
We take marriage very seriously, and premarital sex can do damage to marriages. It is not, however, by any means a death knell! Given that, we wanted to write up some of our advice as you and your spouse journey together to heal sexual wounds.
The Dynamics of Soul Ties
The concept of soul ties isn’t explicitly biblical, but it can be a helpful concept. Essentially, the idea is that when we have sex, bonds are formed with our partner, regardless of our marital status. We know this scientifically, too, because oxytocin, the bonding neurotransmitter, is released during sex. It’s the same hormone that is released when a baby is born, it is the chemical signature of human bonding.
The term soul ties isn’t the only word used to describe the bonding that takes place during sex, but it’s the most common, so it’s what we’ll use for this post. When sex occurs, bonds are formed. And if you’re seeking freedom from bonds to those with whom you’ve had sex with in the past, I hope I can help you think about how to break any soul ties you may have.
The fact that bonding occurs during sex inside of marriage is a wonderful thing. God created us to have sexual relations with our spouse that in turn create deep-rooted bonds.
See, He knew that after the honeymoon, there’d be morning breath, bills to pay, kids to raise and dirty socks left on the floor. He knew life would happen and so He created us to be deeply bonded with our spouse so that during the crazy seasons of life, we would still be deeply bonded to them.
Soul Ties, Drugs and Super Glue
When we have a pleasurable sexual experience, our brains produce dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel really really good. Additionally, the bonding hormone oxytocin is also released during sex (it’s also released when moms nurse or whenever you hug a friend).
When these chemicals are released in our brains, they lay down neural pathways. Those pathways act as “shortcuts” so our brains know how to fire the next time we have a similar experience, and the more we engage in a behaviour the stronger those pathways become. That’s why habits are so hard to break! A soul tie is, at least in part, a way you’ve trained your brain to respond. That’s why they don’t go away automatically, and that’s why soul ties, or bonds, can form when a person has good, intimate experiences with people who aren’t their spouse.
Soul ties can feel like super glue. And anyone who’s tried to remove super glue from their fingers knows it takes time and work to become free again. But you can become free!
Obsessive or intrusive thoughts about a person, having dreams about them regularly, or finding it difficult to concentrate on your spouse during sex are all issues that need to be addressed, whether we dub them symptoms of “soul ties” or not.
A Marriage in Crisis
Unprocessed sexual wounds and soul ties can deeply affect marriages. I get letters and letters from men and women struggling in their marriages; with sex, with shame, and with intimacy and I want them to know they can have healing. The guilt and shame that come with sexual sin aren’t papered over by a wedding ceremony; they don’t disappear just because a couple say “I do.” You need healing, you need forgiveness, and you need a clean break!
Breaking Soul Ties
First of all, know that God isn’t spitefully judging you from up on high. He doesn’t sit, twiddling his thumbs, sneering “I could break your soul tie, but it’s gonna cost you.”
No. God knows we are frail, he knows we stumble and fall. He loves you still, loves all of us still. He wants you to be free. He wants your wholeness even more than you do!
The enemies of your soul spit accusations at you, but the tender voice of the Spirit simply says, “that burden is heavy, too heavy for you, child. Let me bear it for you. It’s time to let go.”
I wish I could say that you simply need to pray a prayer and all will be well, in an instant. But healing often isn’t like that. Nevertheless, there are some things that are wise steps to include as part of your particular path towards healing. Here are 5 key ingredients toward breaking soul ties and being healed from sexual brokenness:
Step 1: Accept Forgiveness
Accept God’s forgiveness, offered freely to you. Seeking forgiveness from God, and forgiving yourself, is a really important step in your own sanctification journey, whether you are plagued by feelings of guilt, have intrusive thoughts about an ex, or are simply facing the fact that you haven’t dealt with past sins.
It may also be that your spouse has a sexual past and you don’t. You may need to work to forgive them for what they did before you were married. You may need to work to forgive past sexual partners. Different people are different, and your feelings and experiences based upon your sexual history may vary. That’s part of why writing about this topic is so tricky.
But the simple fact is this: if we’ve sinned, we need to acknowledge that what we did was wrong, seek God’s forgiveness, and we need to trust that His sacrifice was enough to wash away any sin.
Step 2: Confess
Feelings of conviction can be healing, but ongoing shame isn’t. Process your feelings with loved ones and, possibly, with a counselor. We need to confess and repent of our sins and it’s often help to do this with a person as well as with the Lord. This may involve finding a godly accountability partner that you can confess to and who can help you walk through the process. Seek help from a licensed Christian counsellor or trusted friend to guide you.
Step 3: Fill your mind with goodness
Spend time studying the scriptures and being with God. Be renewed by good food and good fellowship. Serve in church so that you can feel pride in your accomplishments. Consider staying busy while you’re breaking soul ties so that you can have time where your mind is occupied – find an evening class to take, a sports team to join, or start volunteering.
All the while, remind yourself of all the wonderful things you love about your spouse to keep your mind occupied on what it should be! (Remember: you’re retraining your brain’s pathways, so build a new habit of thinking romantic and sexual thoughts about your spouse and it’ll be easier to keep your thoughts in check.)
Step 4: Purge Fantasies
Mourn the loss of the relationship – the dream of what you wanted it to be. Get rid of mementos or items that are tying you to your ex. Even if you love the hoodie or enjoy knowing that those love letters are hidden in that box, it’s important to purge them. If you spend lots of time fantasizing about your ex, wondering what your life would have been like if you had ended up with them, it’s also really important that you avoid that pattern of thinking and instead replace it with something else (like what you love about your spouse, or great things about your life now). Allowing yourself to wallow in “what if” thinking just makes the soul tie or bond between you and your ex stronger by strengthening those neural pathways we were talking about earlier.
If you find that your mind wanders back to an ex when you see him or her on social media, consider unfollowing or unfriending that person. Lose their number, ask friends and family who continue to talk about that ex to maybe not bring him/her up around you anymore. Get rid of the things that make your thoughts wander back to that person, even if it’s awkward or painful.
When dealing with soul ties, often we give them far more power than they need to have. Soul ties are only as powerful as you allow them to be. So instead of spending a great deal of time and emotional pain stressing about your soul ties to someone else, when you feel them cropping up just purge that thought and replace it with something better.
Think of it like exercise for your brain–you’ve been using “bad form” (thinking about your ex or the soul tie) and you have to re-train your brain how to use “good form” (thinking about your spouse). It can take a while, but the answer isn’t to stress about when you use bad form but to stop in the moment, correct, and move forward how you should. Eventually your brain will automatically use “good form” every time!
Step 5: Pray and move forward in victory!
Pray. Be in the presence of the God who loves you and ask him to help you to become whole again. Allow him to heal you and be willing to do the hard things required to be well. Thank him for all the wonderful things he has given you in your marriage!
The journey towards breaking soul ties may be difficult but know that God is making you into the person he intended you to be. And breaking soul ties isn’t about focusing on the bad–it’s about replacing it with something better. So move forward boldly and revel in the gifts that God has given you in your spouse! There is freedom and healing in God, so don’t give those past relationships any more power over you.
What are some practical tips you have for people who want to break soul ties from past relationships? Share them in the comments!