There are three distinct relationships men must maintain with women to remain spiritually whole. The more damage there is to any of these relationships, the worse off the man will be.

The first “woman” in a man’s life is the Church, which in Orthodox writings is referred to in the feminine. We are the bride to the Church and Jesus Christ is the bridegroom, united spiritually for eternity and also metaphysically every time we receive the Eucharist. Collectively we form the Body of the Church with our Savior at its head. Disconnected from the Church, we remain distant from God and never develop a salvific faith. The Protestant notion of “I only need my Bible” is a deception from Satan that has cost many souls.

The second woman in a man’s life is his mother. Sadly, I don’t know many men who have a positive relationship with their mother, and this usually translates to resentment, guilt, and holding tight to past grievances, causing deep-seated anger and other psychological disorders. You will not find a man “whole” who has a severed or toxic relationship with his mother, but this can be alleviated somewhat by adopting the Mother of God as your spiritual mother, especially after your earthly mother reposes.

The third woman in a man’s life is his wife. A man departs from his parents and unites in one flesh with a woman to establish a “little church” that becomes the vehicle for the worship of God and ultimately their salvation. If a man marries the wrong woman, or does not have the faith needed to endure a difficult marriage, the result may be infidelity, the breaking of his vows, or murmuring against God. Choosing the Orthodox Church was the most important decision I’ve made in life, and choosing a wife would come right after that. Of course there is no “perfect” woman, as there is no perfect man, and God will grace the marriage union since it is a sacrament, but picking a woman for predominately secular reasons (physical appearance, her potentiality for sexual gratification) will lead to disaster. If a man chooses not to get married, he may marry the church through the vows of tonsure and become a monk.

When a man has damage to these relationships, he will present as a damaged man and participate in sin. At the peak of my hedonistic period, I had damage to all three relationships. I was not a member of the Church, I chose to be thousands of miles away from my mother, literally running away from her, because I did not want to respond in love to her overbearingness, which many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern mothers have, and instead of seeking a wife, I pursued innumerable harlots for bodily pleasure, ego gratification, and worldwide fame. During a period I thought I was a modern, accomplished man, I was all but dead.

I’ve been spending the last two-and-a-half years repairing relationships with the three women. I’ve now an active member of an Orthodox parish. I live with my mother and am striving to accept her idiosyncrasies with love and patience while leaning more on the intercessions of the Theotokos for spiritual help, and I’ve turned away from fornication and masturbation to prepare for a potential marriage with either a woman or—gulp—a monastery. I am content with the progress that God has allowed me to make in the past couple of years but I know that it will be a continual struggle to not fall away from a Church, bicker with my mother, or backslide into carnal sin.

A man’s attempt to repair one of the three relationships without ever addressing the other two may never allow him to feel complete. If a man tries to enter a Church while in enmity with his birth mother and believing in false notions of “moderation” when it comes to pre-marital sex and masturbation, his faith will lack transformation and be an external show. If a man tries to be close to his mother while remaining far from God and treating other women like sexual amusement parks, he will project the flaws of the harlots onto his mother and have disdain for her, and if a man tries to seek a devoted and honorable woman as his wife but is far from the Church or his mother, he will lack discernment and end up choosing a sensual woman to feed his lust, which is what I did in my relationships before I came back to the Church. I must be actively struggling to improve all three relationships with God’s help if I want any of them to succeed.

I sustained so much damage to myself and the three women in my life that my starting point for healing was quite low. By the time I work it all out to a satisfactory level, I may be in my mid-forties, which is why it’s so important for men not to waste their time gallivanting around the world (or on dating apps) to experiment with sin while neglecting the Church and their family. My dance with Satan under the guise of “enjoy this life” took away eighteen years of my prime, and for that reason, the ship for marriage is ready to leave the dock. Take your faith seriously, have the strongest relationship you can with your mother, and look at a potential wife for satisfying your spiritual needs instead of material.

Read Next: Do You Deserve A Good Woman?