Do any of the following situations describe you? I ended a relationship two years ago, but letting go of my ex has been difficult. I am in a physically, emotionally and spiritually abusive relationship, but I cannot disconnect or set boundaries. Are you unable to commit to another man or woman because of your ex, who you still feel attached to? Do you have to hide your phone, delete messages or save contacts with coded words because you are hiding conversations with another man or woman from your partner? The above scenarios would be used to describe what many term as soul ties in our society. The word, soul ties, mainly refers to the spiritual connection between people who have been physically intimate or have had an intense emotional or spiritual attachment.
Biblical Perspective of Soul Ties
To be clear, the Bible does not mention soul ties anywhere. However, Matthew 19:5 tells us that when two people have sexual intercourse, they become one in the flesh (Genesis 2:24-25), not soul or spirit, as the definition of the term soul tie asserts. The verses many preachers use to describe soul ties are usually taken out of context when, on the contrary, they only refer to a fleshly union; take Ephesians 5:31, for example. The conversation goes further on to breaking the soul ties. The ties formed are interpreted as curses that need to be broken through prayers, deliverance and sacrificing something costly. One with such ties can be advised to see a powerful man of God for the curse to be removed. One church leader once told me that due to soul ties, one could start experiencing the other person’s good, bad and ugly, including all the people they have engaged sexually with, even you.
How do we Biblically Explain the above Ties between People?
If we don’t have soul ties, biblically speaking, how can we explain the above experiences? The above-mentioned “soul ties” are really emotional bonds. Emotional bonding, also called limbic bonding, happens in the limbic system at the front of the brain. The limbic system controls emotions, long-term memory, and behaviour. Some people have a more extensive limbic system; hence they emotionally attach quicker and deeper than others. It explains why two emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually abusive people will continue to stay together regardless of the abuse in the relationship. Emotional bonds can also exist between close friends, as it was with Jonathan and Saul (1 Samuel 18:1), parents, children and even siblings. This explains why it is hard for close people to leave each other, and death becomes a harrowing experience.
The above experiences can be very traumatising. Due to previous emotional bonds, many people sometimes cannot settle in committed relationships or even marriages. Often, when these struggles persist, many choose to sacrifice present relationships and family on the altar of temporary pleasure. This is sad because there is always hope for such circumstances. God is able to mend broken hearts (Psalm 34:18) permanently.
Emotional Healing from Heartbreak
Despite our many emotional struggles, God is present and longs for His sons and daughters to find hope and healing. Therefore, He invites us to stop trying to help ourselves and rest in His strong arms (Matthew 11:28-19). God desires to replace the emotional hurt from broken bonds with hope, peace, and security. God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). God doesn’t just sit back and watch as his children hurt and cry to him. Instead, he tells Moses, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people, I have heard them crying out, and I am concerned about their suffering” (Exodus 3:7). In addition to reaching out to God to handle our issues, including all sin; we can consider the following steps:
1. Honesty: Be honest with yourself and other people you trust in case of any struggle. Unfortunately, many will close people out of their lives during such hurtful times, leaving themselves to suffer alone. Out of the emotional hurt, some will suffer from stress, which develops into depression or even commit suicide. Failure to heal from such hurt can lead to unhealthy rebound relationships in the future. The old adage indeed remains true that a shared problem is half solved. The healing journey starts once you can identify the areas you are struggling with and seek help. Therefore, prioritise having an honest accountability partner who will speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
2. Establish healthy boundaries: The more we keep contact with those who hurt us, the more we will be hurt. It is, therefore, helpful to keep a distance from people you have emotionally connected and bonded with. Seek professional or pastoral help on how to set boundaries and be able to move on.
3. Commit to Christ: We have learnt that only Christ can heal a broken heart. Therefore, consider practising the disciplines of faith, which include: Bible study (2 Timothy 2:15), prayer (Philippians 4:6), fellowship (2 Corinthians 6:14-17), serving (Matthew 5:16) etc. Exercising such disciplines will ensure complete healing as Christ is being formed in your life (Romans 8:29).
You can move on from relationships that have gone wrong. What you have isn’t a “soul tie”. Yours is an emotional bond made strong because of sexual sin. What you are going through are consequences of the sexual sin you committed. If you repent, God will forgive you (1 John 1:9). You are not cursed. If you’re a Christian, remember that no one can curse what God has already blessed (Numbers 23:7-11). If you’re in Christ, you already have every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). Therefore, don’t live in fear. Remind yourself of the new creation that Jesus Christ has made you through the power of the Gospel (1 Peter 2:9-10, Colossians 3:1-4), and that nothing, not even a “soul tie”, can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39).
1. Tim Clinton and Diane Langberg, The Quick-Reference Guide to Counseling Women (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 128.