“I won’t get married to a woman unless I’ve had sex with her first,” a friend boldly said, as we caught up over coffee and found ourselves in an interesting conversation about sex, relationships, and love.
“Are you serious?!” I asked, rather surprised by his statement.
“Oh definitely,” he replied.
I tried to wrap my head around his mentality, which was absolutely foreign to me, since I’ve pretty much always embraced the truth that sex outside of marriage is not a true expression of love and does not lead to authentic, lasting happiness. After asking dozens of follow-up questions I began to understand his logic, which went something like this:
- Marriage is meant to last forever.
- Sex, a true, good, and beautiful expression of love, is an essential part of marriage.
- If you don’t test your sexual compatibility with someone, you could get stuck in a marriage that isn’t satisfying to you sexually, at which point, you’d either end the marriage, or spend the rest of your life sexually frustrated.
- Therefore, in order to avoid divorce or a life of sexual frustration, you need to test your sexual compatibility with someone before you commit to loving them “til death do you part.
At first glance, that seems fairly logical. It seems to make practical sense — I mean, God doesn’t want us to get divorced and he doesn’t want us to be unhappy, even sexually, so shouldn’t we double check whether or not we have good sex with someone before we decide to marry them?
Although that thinking might seem logical, when you look beneath the surface, you can see that it’s not; it disorders sex, marriage, and love and undoes the very logic that makes those things true, good, and beautiful. Marriage, a covenantal bond between a man and a woman who commit to loving each other until death do them part, is about love, and sex is an essential (but not the only) expression of that love.
Sex is an important part of marriage, but it is not what keeps a marriage intact. Love of the other, true love, self-sacrificing love that is not motivated by selfish desires, is what keeps a marriage intact. True love isn’t self-seeking, but exists most completely in self-giving.
If you need to test your sexual compatibility with a person you “love,” it’s not the person that you love, it’s the way they make you feel that you love.
But what if you do love someone and decide to marry them, but you just don’t happen to satisfy each other sexually? Isn’t sex an important component to a marriage?
Sex is extremely important in marriage — it’s a beautiful expression of love. However, it is not the most important thing in a marriage. The love that sex expresses is the most important thing.
That’s not to say that a married couple that has trouble connecting intimately should simply “grin and bear it” because they said they would. Rather, a married couple that struggles with intimacy will vulnerably and courageously work together to overcome those struggles, not out of obligation, but out of a true desire for the good of the other — out of true love.
All that said, there are some important things to keep in mind when those concerns about whether waiting til marriage to have sex is really beneficial:
Love and attraction grow with time
You don’t love your girlfriend or boyfriend in high school as much as you’ll love them as your fiance when you’re engaged, as much as you’ll love them as your spouse on your wedding day, or as much as you’ll love your spouse 5, 10, 20 years into marriage. Your love for this person will naturally grow and develop over time, as will your attraction, and yes, I mean physical.
You’ll learn how to best love your spouse along the way, you won’t know it all right at the get-go. And as you and your spouse learn to love each other by laying down your lives for one another, you’ll learn how to love each other intimately, over time. It’s this commitment to love over time that makes it so meaningful and Christ-like; in this commitment, you prove that your love is not something that is fleeting, shallow, or selfish, but is an authentic love.
We are more than our bodies and love is more than a feeling
We are body and soul. Therefore, when we give ourselves away sexually and authentically give ourselves away in love, we are giving more than just our body parts — we bear our soul to another. This is important because sexuality, then, is much more than a purely physical experience. Therefore, whether it’s “good” or not depends on much more than the physical experience and so we can’t reduce it to such.
Our bodies and our feelings are two things that change and love is something that doesn’t change. True and authentic love, existing most perfectly in God Himself, is a commitment to desire and seek the good of the beloved totally, holding nothing back, and naming no conditions, so that when things (like feelings and bodies) do change, love remains the same.
Yes, our bodies and our feelings are extremely important when it comes to love. But authentic love is expressed most highly when we continue to seek the good of our beloved, despite any challenges we might face in the process, including the way our bodies and our feelings change.
Don’t be afraid
I get it — those “what if” questions still linger. What if sex once I’m married doesn’t live up to my expectations? What if sex isn’t pleasant for me or my spouse when I get married? How can I reasonably hope that by not first testing out sexual compatibility, that I’m not setting myself up for a bad sex life?
All valid questions… honestly, questions that I myself have asked. But ultimately what it comes down to is not answering these questions, but changing our perspective. We shouldn’t live in fear that we’re going to be sexually unsatisfied. Rather, we should be preparing ourselves to live self-sacrificial love — to actively desire and seek the good of the beloved, forgetting ourselves in the process.
From what little I know, sex between two people that genuinely love each other and truly want to freely, totally, fruitfully, and faithfully give themselves away to one another is rarely a bad experience, even if it doesn’t live up to the Hollywood hype of the “first times” that exist in the movies.
As terrible as an unsatisfactory sex life might be, it’s really only the symptom of a far greater problem: an unsatisfactory love life, which is the result of self-seeking pursuits, rather than self-giving.
Sex, is important for marriage and it is good; yet the love we’re preparing for in marriage is so much bigger than that. The greatest good we’ll ever do for our spouse can’t be contained in sexual experiences.
The greatest good we can ever do in loving our spouse is to lay down our lives for him or her and participate in the total gift of self for which God has created us, and this goes far beyond just sex.