Growing up, we hear, over and over again: “Just wait for the wedding night! The wedding night will the most magical night of your life!”
We get that message from our youth groups; from movies; from bridal magazines.
The honeymoon is the pinnacle of your sexual life together.
Except that it isn’t.
And in the church, we hear that if we wait until we’re married, sex will be even better.
Except that, in many cases, it won’t. At least not if you’re just looking at the physical side of sex.
Leading up the launch of The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and the all new Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I’ve been featuring a new “number of the day.” And today I want to tell you about a number that few youth pastors or pastors want to talk about.
We looked at couples who had only ever had sex with each other (so no other partners), and we controlled for abuse. And then we compared the couples who had had sex before the wedding with those who waited for after the wedding.
And we found that couples who waited for the wedding have an increased chance of getting vaginismus. In fact, the chance is:
higher. That’s right–they’re 25% more likely to have vaginismus, or primary sexual pain, if they wait.
That’s an uncomfortable number for those of us who want to tell young people to wait for marriage for sex. What on earth is going on? And what should we do instead?
We go into this in detail in both books, in a special Honeymoon chapter at the end of the book for couples who read the books before they’re married (and they make AWESOME bridal shower gifts–though they’re also great for couples who are stuck and want to experience all the passion God designed for them).
But today I want to focus on 3 main insights that we can get from this survey finding.
1. What makes sex great is not the presence of a wedding ring.
Lots of people have great sex before the wedding, and lots of people have terrible sex afterwards.
The reason that we wait is not some sort of prosperity promises from God that our orgasms will be best if we wait until marriage, and everything will be ruined if we don’t. There are very good reasons to wait, but by stressing the “sex will be great if you do!” so much, we often lose track of the real reasons, and we end up bribing people inappropriately instead.
God intended sex for marriage to preserve relationships and families. Babies would be born to couples who were sticking together, and then after the baby was grown, the husband would still care for the wife (since for millennia women couldn’t do so on our own). Marriage was a form of stability and safety for all.
But it also helped intimacy to blossom. When sex was meant for committed relationships, then sex wouldn’t be debased. Then couples could experience a sense of true intimacy the way that we were meant to.
And it would also help us treat each other well. By waiting, we focus more on emotional intimacy before marriage, so that it’s easier to see red flags without sexual intimacy making us feel closer than we actually are.
Yes, there are good reasons to wait. But we need to talk about these rationally and logically, rather than using either threats or bribes.
2. Waiting until you’re married can make sex super awkward, and contribute to dynamics that lead to vaginismus.
Okay, so why do we have that increased chance of vaginismus? Here’s what a reader said to me on Instagram yesterday when I was talking about this:
Ironically, I was prepared for sex months/years before my wedding, when it would have happened organically. But we waited until marriage. And then on our honeymoon it felt… Expected. Assumed, maybe even coerced. Like, I wasn’t have sex because I was enjoying myself, but because it was now my duty. I was woefully unprepared for THAT feeling. I would have been much better prepared emotionally had it happened naturally instead of under contrived circumstances.
I know what she’s saying.
When couples have sex before the wedding, it tends to be because they got carried away. They were watching a movie, and cuddling, and then making out for a really long time, and then it became a natural progression.
But when we wait for the wedding, often it’s anything but natural. And we know that when women feel a sense of obligation, vaginismus is far more likely to occur. Combine that with having sex when you’re not aroused, because you’ve ignored the sexual response cycle, and sex can honestly seem bewildering.
Having sex when it isn’t a natural progression, but is instead something that you feel like you have to do RIGHT NOW, even though you’re exhausted, and even though you’re not comfortable, can make women freeze up. And then, if it really hurts the first time, that can contribute to a protective response subsequent times.
Sex shouldn’t really hurt. If it does, that’s a sign that you should stop and relax, not keep going! But we have this narrative that sex hurts, and women should just endure it, and that can actually contribute to the whole problem.
But it does not have to be that way!
3. Rethink the honeymoon, and this does not have to be your story!
Sex often works better before the wedding because it’s a natural progression.
So what if, instead of obligation and expectation, we replaced it with natural progression once again?
Here’s what we said in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex (and we said something similar to guys, too!):
And here it is: the one piece of advice I most want you to remember if you’re beginning your sexual life together. Think of the natural order for great sex like this:
Too many couples start with step #3: Have intercourse. Starting there can feel uncomfortable, disappointing, and even bewildering. And then feeling comfortable and aroused can be difficult because it’s almost like you’re going backward! But if you can first aim for feeling comfortable, and then learn how your body reaches arousal (and even orgasm) before you start intercourse, you’ll be on great footing for the rest of your marriage.
We can make sex a natural progression, even after the wedding, if we stop thinking we need to “have sex on the wedding night.”
Realize that sex and one-sided intercourse are not the same thing. The key is an intimate sexual relationship, not just intercourse, and if it doesn’t happen all in one night, that’s okay. We need to change the expectation from “I’ve been waiting so long, I deserve it now” to “Now our relationship is blessed and intimate and we get to explore together.” And that’s what you’ll do!
Some people can experience comfort-arousal-intercourse all in one night. And some couples will need several days, or even several weeks, and that’s okay too. Just get comfortable. Have fun!
And remember–the more you let this naturally unfold, the less baggage you’ll have to clean up. Because the number of women we talked to who had been married for ten years, and who had never enjoyed sex, was so sad. If it takes a few more weeks, but then it’s awesome, that’s way better than ten years of terrible sex, where you have to then climb out of the hole you’ve dug where she doesn’t see how sex could possibly be for her.
This is a huge part of both of our new books.
We want to help new couples get started well, but we also want to help couples who didn’t start well figure out how to go backwards and reclaim real pleasure and passion. And the books launch next week!
Pre-order now and it helps us tremendously–plus you can get access to our Evangelical Sex Report Card, and even join our launch team for instant access, and a chance to get a free book of your choice!
The All New Guides to Great Sex!
Launch March 15!
Imagine building a great sex life–from the ground up!
What would it look like to build a picture of sex that was MUTUAL, INTIMATE, and PLEASURABLE FOR BOTH–with no harmful messages?
Welcome to the The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and the ALL NEW Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex.
Pre-Order Now! (Helps us out a ton)
And if you email your receipt, we’ll send you a special pre-order BONUS
How can we talk about this better to prepare couples? How have we gone so far off base? Let’s talk in the comments!
The Number of the Day Series
- How Many Men Think They Do Enough Foreplay Even if She Doesn’t Orgasm?
- How Many Elements are in the Sexual Response Cycle?
- What Percentage of Women Orgasm–but Don’t Have Close Marriages? (coming soon)
- How Many Men Believe the Obligation Sex Message? (and what effect does this have on other areas of their marriage?)
- Can the Way We Do the Honeymoon Increase the Rate of Vaginismus?
- How Many Men Are Upset about their Wives’ Lack of Adventure? (and what does that mean?) (coming soon)
- How Many Men Watch Porn? (And what are the effects?) (coming soon)
- Is Lust REALLY Every Man’s Battle? (coming soon)
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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