No matter what you decide to do, prioritize communication.
Did you abstain from sex (whatever that means for you) until you got married? From a distance, we assume that if you’re saving sex for marriage, you must see it as a romantic gesture, or you have religious convictions around premarital sex (which may or may not be an antique commentary on on female purity). But outside of our ideas, how did waiting play out for actual women?
Of course, religion is a big part of why people wait until marriage. Blogger Austyn Christensen not only abstained from sex, but she saved her first kiss for the altar, until the moment when the officiant declared she and her husband married. “I decided from a very young age that I did not want to waste my time dating and engaging physically with other people that were not going to ultimately be my spouse,” she said. “The foundation for these ideals came from my decision to follow the faith of Christianity and the Bible and from my parent’s teachings. They used to say “save your kisses for your mate” which –as I grew older– translated to “save yourself for marriage.”
As part of her commitment to her future husband, Austyn didn’t think about sex very much at all before it happened. “I figured that when the time came I would think about it. I also felt like the easiest way to avoid having sex before marriage was to not do anything that could lead to sex which is why I vowed to not kiss anyone except my husband. When my wedding day finally came and I kissed my new husband for the first time, it was wonderful. Everything from there came very naturally and easily. It was tricky for us the first couple of times but because we waited we both felt safe and empowered to trust one another and grow together in the area of sexual intimacy.”
S was also guided by her religious faith (she’s Bahai) to have sex only once she was married. Like Austyn, she didn’t have very many expectations about sex, but she was surprised that it didn’t take a very long time for sex with her husband to become fun and pleasurable. “I’d always heard it was hard for women to orgasm, but I orgasm pretty easily and I did from the beginning,” she said.
Although S didn’t have intercourse involving a penis and a vagina before marriage, she was, by her own admission, sexually active. “I wish I’d have a wider definition of sex before I got married,” she told me “I wasn’t really sure if what I did really counted as having waited, although I don’t feel shame or like God is mad. It’s more like I wish I waited for other sexual activity as well.”
K and her first husband didn’t have sex until their wedding night. Although they’re both Jewish, religion wasn’t their chief motivation for doing so, but, K said, it wasn’t totally out of the picture, either. “We were waiting for this religious idea that got combined with being considered a romantic idea — that sex was something so special that we had to be husband and wife to do it. I had had sex with only one partner before, and hadn’t been in love, so in some ways waiting felt like a chance to reclaim my identity as a romantic idealist. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that if my then-boyfriend (and eventually husband) had said “Never mind, let’s just have sex now” I would have been more than happy to! Waiting was more important to my husband than it was to me.”
Austyn and S both feel that saving sex for marriage made their relationships stronger, and can potentially do the same for other couples. “I think it can definitely be super powerful to have one’s sexual responses focused on one person if someone is focused on a monogamous relationship,” said S. “But is it sufficient? No way. Will it always make a relationship stronger? Nope. But I think it can help.”
K had never associated waiting for sex with making her relationship with her then-husband stronger, but she did think it would create a level of intimacy, and even holiness to it. Ultimately, the sex she and her husband had was not great (her exact words were “bad” and “boring,”), and this was a sign of other problematic elements in their relationship.
“I don’t think we got divorced because we had waited to have sex, or anything like that, but I DO think having a handle on what our sex life was like beforehand would have raised some red flags about other issues. I thought we’d get married and basically keep figuring everything out, including intimacy. Which happened, except figuring everything out included figuring out we needed to get divorced.”
Ultimately, of course, the decision you make to wait, or not wait, and why, is one that’s between you and your partner. There’s no one size fits all model for a solid relationship, but if there were, open and constant communication about your desires, your fears, and what’s important to you in building a life (or whatever you want) with another person would definitely be part of it.
Cover image courtesy of Getty Images