The Uncomfortable Truth about Waiting until You’re Married for Sex

by | Mar 9, 2022 | Uncategorized | 136 comments

Truth about Waiting for the Wedding Night for Sex

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!):

 

From The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex:

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:

Order for Honeymoon

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

The Truth about Waiting for the Wedding Night for sex

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

Plus Pre-Order The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex (they launch March 15!)

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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136 Comments

  1. Anom

    So so wished I had known this!! It is really important both of you know this and that intercourse is Not the pinnacle of sex for a lot of women. Thank you for your work. We are in therapy now I ve read the Great sex rescue and decided something really needed to change…but it could all have been avoided if we had known this xx

    Reply
  2. Codec

    It is interesting and honestly kind of fun to be learning about the female perspective.

    I would imagine that nervousness expectation and even enthusiasm contribute to this problem. Let me explain.

    1. Nervousness. I mean lets be honest people can make you nervous and now you are nervous and naked with another person. Trying to appear confident or putting on a facade will probably just make things more awkward.

    2. Expectation. The scenario in your head is not reality. People have misconceptions and lets be honest people are multifaceted.

    3. Enthusiasm. Enthusiasm in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is actually a good thing. Missaplied enthusiasm however can be disastrous. You talk about sexual response being a cycle and some folks want to jump right into arousal and that can lead to a variety of problems.

    I think that this makes sense of it.

    Reply
    • Jo R

      1. Yes.

      2. Yes.

      3. Yes.

      Thanks for imagining things so clearly.

      Reply
  3. A.C

    This was very interesting and really good. I wonder if you have any part in the books for those of us who didn’t wait and feel shame for it even afterwards. It brings such a shadow over one’s sexual relationship together. Even tough parts of it was really really good.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      We do talk about that, yes, AC! Also that’s a big part of the podcast tomorrow!

      Reply
    • Anon

      Check out Hebrews 8 v 12 “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more”.

      When we confess our sins to the Lord, He doesn’t just forgive them, He FORGETS them too… If you’ve brought your past actions to the Lord and asked for His forgiveness, then they’re gone, blotted out, washed away. Don’t let shame for something that God doesn’t even REMEMBER any more drag you down xxx

      Reply
      • Jen

        Agreed unless you are not over the trauma of the past.

        Reply
  4. Anon

    How did we go so far off base? I think it’s because we stopped encouraging young people to be passionate followers of Jesus who are going to want to honour Him with every part of their lives including their sex lives, and started trying to coerce them into ‘being good Christians’ by a system of rewards & punishments instead. And then we tell a young woman that first-time sex is agonisingly painful (to try to put her off trying it before marriage) AND tell her that married sex is meant to be amazing and there’s something wrong with her if she doesn’t have an amazing wedding night…it’s no wonder so many couples have terrible sex lives!

    How do we better prepare Christian couples? 1)Get the focus on saving sex for marriage OFF personal reward and ON to pleasing and honouring the Lord. It’s crazy that in every other area of life, we encourage people to make right choices even if it’s personally costly, and when it comes to sex, we’re suddenly ‘oh, but you save sex for marriage because it makes it feel SOOOOOO good’!!! (And incidentally, stop making such a big deal of virginity – the whole virginity thing leaves people feeling if they’ve had sex once before marriage they have totally wrecked their life. If the focus is on living a Christ-like life, then pre-marital sex is like any other sin – God has promised to forgive and cleanse us when we confess so we have no need to take any shame or guilt into marriage with us because that is something that has already been dealt with at the cross).

    2)Tell them that sex is like anything else in life – it has to be learned, you’re probably going to be really bad at it at the start, but with practice you will get better…and practicing is a lot of fun! Tell them that the wedding night is meant to be about getting to know each other better and bringing pleasure to each other, and that doesn’t necessarily mean intercourse. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you finish your honeymoon without getting that far, as long as you are growing in intimacy together. Intercourse shouldn’t happen until you are BOTH really eager for it. And it shouldn’t hurt – if it does, you’ve probably rushed it, but if it keeps hurting, get yourself checked out medically. (But don’t panic because there are lots of easily fixable non-serious things that could cause it)

    My husband & I saved sex for marriage, and the things that helped us most on our honeymoon were 1) knowing that sex wasn’t just about intercourse 2)we could take the rest of our lives to ‘get sex right’ (we’re still practicing (-; ) 3) if we both weren’t comfortable with something, we shouldn’t be doing it yet and 4) sex is something God designed for us to enjoy so if it felt awkward or uncomfortable at first, that was just because we hadn’t worked it out properly yet – because we knew God’s gifts are GOOD!

    Reply
    • Julie

      If I can push back a little. The “it could take the rest of our lives to ‘get sex right’” message is part of the problem. It lowers expectations to the point that when I had horrible pain on my honeymoon, it was brushed off by both of us as “we have our whole lives to get it right.” [SPOILER: It’s been 13 years and it has never gotten right].

      Reply
      • Stefanie

        Julie, my thoughts exactly. 10 years for me.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’m so sorry, both of you! We did talk about in the book that if pain lasted more than a short time, you should seek help, and how to identify when something is normal and when it is not.

          We also want to normalize that the couple should figure out how her arousal works pretty early, and that this shouldn’t be difficult and shouldn’t be rocket science if you do it in the right order (but it’s very hard to go backwards later).

          I think saying, “it takes a while to get it right” is true in the sense that for most couples, it takes a while for her to be reliably orgasming, and especially through intercourse, and it takes a while to really figure out what positions work best for you, or how to handle different libidos, or what gets you the most in the mood.

          That’s what people normally mean.

          But when we don’t specify it more exactly, it can sound like normalizing sex hurting or feeling lousy for a really long time. That’s what we’re passionately talking AGAINST in the books, and trying to create the norm that this will be the thing the couple figures out early, rather than just having intercourse.

          Reply
          • Lisa M

            Sexual activity should never hurt. Even the first time you have intercourse. Full stop. It’s a normal, regular function of adult life.

            A woman should never push through pain to engage in any sexual activity.

            Women– if it hurts, you stop. You might be able to do things differently, you might need to do emotional work. Your husband’s pleasure is not an entitlement. Your right to not be in pain takes precedence.

      • Anon

        I do agree that we should not normalise bad sex in marriage (and I’m so sorry it’s still not working out for you) That’s why I split my comments between what I thought we should teach couples generally and what we found helpful.

        I specifically said we should be teaching couples “it shouldn’t hurt” and that it should ‘keep getting better’ the more you do it. The comments about taking the rest of our lives to get it right were listed under what we found helpful on OUR honeymoon – our circumstances were a little different in that I’d already been told by a gynaecologist that sex would be abnormally painful for me the first few times and I’d also been told that other health issues could make sex difficult, painful or impossible when they flared up (I’m juggling skeletal & autoimmune issues on top of having a weirdly formed reproductive system!) So medics had given me such a low expectation of what sex might be like that anything would be an improvement! I was anxious beforehand that I wouldn’t be able to find ways around the pain ‘fast enough’, so having a husband who constantly reminded me that we had the rest of our lives to make it work really took the pressure off me.

        Reply
        • Andrea

          Yeah, it’s one thing if your husband’s reaction to your pain is “We don’t have to have intercourse, we have the rest of our lives to figure that out.” and completely different if what he means is “Let me just keep penetrating you through the pain, it’ll get better over time.”

          Reply
      • Karl Hanson

        What do you think the solution is?

        Reply
      • Jane Eyre

        Exactly. “It takes a long time” is a fantastic excuse for men to ignore the damage that builds up over the years.

        Reply
  5. Anon

    My husband and I just recently had a discussion about this. I grew up where sex before marriage was portrayed as **the worst** sin. I actually almost wish we did have sex before marriage so we could have figured it out a little more naturally, as opposed to what I thought was supposed to happen- bringing him to orgasm. There was a lot more foreplay (for both of us) pre-wedding. We were married 26 years before I read the great sex rescue and realized I was supposed to orgasm too, (let alone on a regular basis). I thought I was just broken because I didn’t. In fact I cried the first time I heard Sheila say “you’re not broken”. We’re still working on things because there is so much to un-do (especially mentally for me), but it’s getting better. Thank you for all you do!

    Reply
  6. Malinda

    I have two thoughts to share based on my life experiences. I was raised with biblical values that I am thankful for to this day. A big part of that was with regards to abstaining from sex before marriage. It was drilled into my young self that God hated sex before marriage and that sex outside of marriage was the sin of all sins. I did really well with that! Until, I fell in love with my high school sweetheart. Once, I failed I felt in my heart the only way to make things right was to marry him. I wasn’t taught as much about grace and forgiveness in relation to how much God hated sex outside of marriage. I should have never married him. It was a toxic marriage. My reason and desire to wait had nothing to do with the thought line that it would be “better” sex if I waited but that as a Christian it was my “duty” to wait. The teaching that was instilled in me from the church became a snare without the teaching of grace. The church can do better in this area! The repercussions of that marriage is a whole other story in and of itself as you can imagine.
    The other thing I want to share…
    I am remarried after being in a toxic marriage for 30 years. God rescued me. I am now married to a wonderful man who shows me what marriage should be like with the love of Christ at the center. My heart is beyond grateful. My now husband and I DID wait to have sex until we got married. We both hadn’t honored God going into our previous marriage so we were determined to do it God’s way. We waited because that is God’s best for us and every other couple, not because we thought sex would be better. However, we have found that as we honored Him He has blessed us beyond measure. God’s way is always best.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad you’re in a good marriage now, Malinda! I love stories like this!

      Reply
    • Stefanie

      Can I push back a little on the “we waited because that’s God’s best for us and now He’s blessed us beyond measure”?

      I’m so sorry you had a toxic marriage, and happy that now you’re in a better place. But some people have an opposite story to yours. You sinned before your first marriage and it was a bad marriage, and then on your second marriage you waited and it’s a good marriage. That leaves you concluding that “God’s ways are best.”

      Some people, like me, “did everything right” and yet we’re having incredible trouble in the sex department. (Outside of the bedroom, our marriage is great. Not a toxic marriage.) But that can leave one vulnerable to questioning God. “Hey God! I thought you were going to bless my marriage if I obeyed. What’s up?” To Sheila’s point, I think we need to prepare couples better and not make false promises. And for the record, I do believe God’s ways are best, but the whole experience has left me disillusioned with people, especially older people who I was trusting to guide me well, and they failed. I guess if I’m honest, a little hurt by God. Like, why did he make this so hard? It’s not fair. My husband has it so easy.

      And it hurts a little also to hear that people who ignored God’s commands are in a better place than me. I don’t mean that in a judgmental way. But it’s hard to do your best, your whole life, to please God, and what do you get? The prodigal son gets a party. The older brother gets to slave away in the fields with no party to celebrate all his years of faithful service.

      Reply
      • A2bbethany

        Makes me think about my own struggles. We have a wonderful marriage, but have had continual financial struggles. And like you, sometimes I look at my brothers marriage, and I’m jealous. He makes really good money and has a good job with benefits. It’s not perfect, but it’s not toxic.
        My husband? His longest job lasted 1.5 years and he made the mistake of leaving it. I struggle with feeling resentment for being made to constantly be struggling financially and constantly job searching for something basic.

        But recently I got a message from God about being content and not worrying/comparing lives so much. We’re blessed in other ways and I know it! It doesn’t make the financial suffering any less stressful and terrifying, but I’m reminded that he has given us gifts.
        I also get jealous of other couples health, as we both have expensive long term issues. but I don’t know if I would trade struggles, because his grace is sufficient for these trials.
        I don’t mean to diminish your struggles, but to sympathize. And share what God has recently been showing me about comparing life struggles.

        Reply
        • Stefanie

          Thanks for sharing that dose of perspective!

          Reply
      • Laura

        Stefanie,

        I get this: “Hey God! I thought you were going to bless my marriage if I obeyed. What’s up?”

        Even though I’ve been divorced for nearly 20 years, I have spent this time trying to do everything right by saving sex for marriage thinking that God’s going to bless me because I obeyed Him. Well, guess what?

        I haven’t remarried yet, though I came close several years ago. Plenty of people I know have been blessed with great marriages or being able to find the right person and some of them aren’t Christians and/or have not practiced all the right “Christian” rules. I’ve come to learn that God does not bless me or curse me based on my performance. If I’m meant to remarry someday, then it will happen when it’s meant to be.

        So I try not to have that mindset that because we do everything His way (or what we believe to be His way) that we’ll get blessed with what we prayed for.

        Reply
        • NG

          Exactly, Laura. However, it is one of the main reasons why people fall away from faith – years of pain, unanswered prayers, suffering often caused by other Christians…and then being blamed for it ‘You are bitter’, ‘You have no faith’ etc..
          God knows our frame, and that we are frail. Plenty of testimonies that I have heard also told of God’s supernatural Presence in the midst of suffering (think of Daniel’s friends, and the ‘fourth man’ in the fire..).. That ultimately is what I want my life to be about..

          Reply
        • Anon

          In Western society, we seem to have absorbed the message that following God = blessing = getting what you want. Which I guess is why so many end up feeling ‘cheated’ because God hasn’t given them the reward they were expecting.

          If you talk to believers in countries where life is much harder, they tend to have the view that following God and drawing closer to Him IS the blessing. They don’t expect to have a wonderful life on earth (kind of understandable if you could end up being executed or imprisoned for your faith at any moment), but their joy comes from following Jesus and looking forward to an eternity with Him after this life.

          It’s something I find really challenging.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Yes, I agree. Although the prosperity gospel is also big in some Third World countries as well.

          • NG

            This is true, Sheila. There also is a lot of radical faith, and genuine miracles. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish between ‘prosperity gospel’ and the real deal.. I have encountered both.

          • Jim

            The concept that you talk about sounds like a myth about God that was called the ‘Vending Machine’ in a book that I read as a teenage, Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door by Josh McDowell (I remember the book for the cover primarily, look it up it is funny).

            The idea was that faith was the coin and that if you have enough faith that you can exchange it for blessings.

          • Angelina

            Yes, I have that book too and the cover is funny! Lol.

      • NG

        ‘It hurts a little also to hear that people who ignored God’s commands are in a better place than me. I don’t mean that in a judgmental way. But it’s hard to do your best, your whole life, to please God, and what do you get? The prodigal son gets a party. The older brother gets to slave away in the fields with no party to celebrate all his years of faithful service.’

        Dear Stefanie, this so resonates with me.

        Oddly enough, I find your situation comforting…
        Never did I think anything from a married woman would be encouraging, but your honesty truly is.

        As a single, never married woman now turned 50, who has been praying for a spouse for all my adult life, and never found anyone, I can relate to the feeling of getting the ‘shorter end of the stick’..
        I also always heard and believed (still do) that when we seek to honor God in all we do, He will also bless us and reward us, even here during our earthly life. Sadly, when it comes to relationships, I see the opposite: people already in their third marriage, divorced women being preferred to us never married, while single women often shunned and ignored in churches.. Too many Christian men don’t even try to hide how they much rather have an ‘experienced’ woman, who knows all the tricks in the bedroom..
        The assumption often being, those of us who did wait, and have been celibate for decades, are somehow damaged.
        Divorce is seen as a blessing, and a sign of God’s grace.. while staying celibate and avoiding toxic marriage and sinful relationships is somehow a sign of deficiency..!
        On top of that, I’m someone who for years had a very high libido. (at the scale of 1-10, I was a 100.) I would gladly have served my husband with my sexuality and womanhood, no need for endless foreplay, warming up etc (although that sure would be appreciated as well..) But I never had the opportunity to give that gift to any man. No one wanted to build a relationship with me. Instead, I see men marrying women who they think are better because they already had a child out of wedlock, or were married before, or or or… and that is celebrated in churches.

        Now, with years of loneliness that have taken their toll, and lots of health issues, it feels I have nothing left naturally to attract any man… or even give. It truly would be by God’s grace and ability alone.

        Yes, we know that no one can earn anything, or use God as a vending machine..However, why does it seem that those who do sin in this area, are rewarded so generously? Does God really love divorced women more?
        I am sure that I have had many attitudes and thoughts that were also offensive to God, and I cannot claim to earn anything… but none of my sins, wrong choices or failures have resulted in having a child or a loving husband…

        I have even asked God, if He wanted me to go and sin sexually, so I would be considered more worthy and desirable in His eyes.. of course, the Bible gives me no such indication. Human men may see me as a failure, not approachable and not as feminine as an ex porn star or an ex prostitute, but God alone defines my value and identity. And .. I would not WANT to sin sexually, I have no desire to sleep around with someone, who does not care about me, or want to commit to me.

        So, I’m left again with the reminder that God is rewarder of those, who seek Him. We obey him, not because it would bring us outward respect and favor… we do it, out of our love for Him..
        So thank you for speaking to my heart.. May the Lord reward you yet, for being obedient and following Him, even when there seems to be disappointment right now. God knows those who are His!

        Reply
      • NGal

        Dear Stefanie,
        for some reason, my comment didn’t go through.. I simply wanted to express how much your feelings resonate with me.

        As a single, never married woman, who has been celibate for decades, I find your honesty comforting.
        ‘It hurts a little also to hear that people who ignored God’s commands are in a better place than me. I don’t mean that in a judgmental way. But it’s hard to do your best, your whole life, to please God, and what do you get? The prodigal son gets a party. The older brother gets to slave away in the fields with no party to celebrate all his years of faithful service.’

        This is how it often seems, when around me, people are getting married maybe for the third time already, and I’ve been waiting for years and decades for that first husband..
        I see how many Christian men seem to prefer ‘experienced’ women, and ignore those of us, who did not sleep around, or did not get into a dysfunctional marriage (and consequently, divorce..) A single never married woman is viewed with suspicion, as if I’m deficient.

        It’s very hard to see, especially as a ‘high libido woman’ I really would gladly have given myself to the right man, emotionally as well as sexually. Instead, I’m still single in my middle age years, and the loneliness has taken its toll on my health – so if any man will find me attractive, that really will be by God’s grace alone..

        It is true we can not deserve, or earn anything from Him, and I am not claiming I have been prefect. I have done many mistakes and wrong choices. Am sure there have been many attitudes and thoughts, which are sinful and an affront to Him.. but none of those obviously have caused me to become pregnant and have a child.

        I remind myself that we serve and follow Him, because we want to love and honor Him, not because of any outward blessings. Still, the Bible says He IS the rewarder of those, who seek Him. (James)

        So thank you for speaking to my heart.. <3

        Reply
        • Anon

          Mine too. It’s been a sore point with me for a long time – wondering why the girls I knew had slept around before marriage found husbands and were having babies, and I’d never had sex in my life, yet am still wondering where the flying frick my husband is. Reading Sheila’s work and other resources that denounce purity culture (like Camden Morgante’s article on the purity culture myths that harmed women the most) have really made me feel a lot better and also made me realize that I’m not alone in this. And that God really did create me to be the equal of a man, not an inferior. Thank you so much, Sheila, for all you do – for marrieds and singles both!

          Reply
          • NG

            .. Indeed Anon… That is a deep wound for many of us never married singles.
            (while I did ‘fool around’ in my youth, that sure never led to any healthy relationship, let alone marriage..)

            There is so much encouragement and support for divorced people, and their right to re-marry – I have come across innumerable articles, theological treatises and books about that subject..
            Where are theological arguments that support us nevr married singles?

            What I am seeing is just the very opposite .. barrage of ‘good advice’ what singles should, or should not do.
            ‘Smile more’, ‘Smile less’, ‘Be friendlier’, ‘Don’t be too friendly towards men’, ‘Try to encourage men’, ‘No, let men do the pursuing’, ‘Be cool’, ‘Be warm’..
            ‘Be yourself!’ ‘No, you have to change XYZ..’
            ‘Men like confident women’, ‘No, men like women who show their vulnerabilities’…

            That is what many of us are dealing with..
            Add to the mix all the disappointments during the years, which were the result of hoping, trusting, and having faith that something would work out. Often those are also seen as the woman’s fault .. after all, she didn’t get the man… ‘What is wrong with you / why do you always fall for the wrong type of men’…

            (Personally, the men I have found attractive have all been very different personalities, with their own set of strengths and weaknesses… not one ‘type’ I would run after.. but they all chose to walk away and not have a relationship with me.)

            It is seldom pointed out that everyone is flawed – even those people who already managed to find someone. If singles are dysfunctional, then so are many of those ‘mature’ married folks, too..

          • Anon

            Thank you for saying all of this! One fear I have is that I won’t find a man who won’t try to change me. I have a career and a life of my own, and I believe in a marriage being an equal partnership. I dodged a bullet a few years back where, had I gone through with the potential relationship presented to me, I would have been forced to be a submissive “helpmate.” If that’s what most so-called “Christian” men are looking for, then I’m perfectly happy to remain single.

          • NG

            Yup. Dodging a bullet is way, way better than to get into a dysfunctional marriage..
            although, I am not so sure it is always easier..

            I hear a lot of comments like ‘Oh you have it easy, because you have no husband to limit you’, OR ‘Be grateful that you have been spared an abusive marriage and the pain of divorce’..
            While I am thankful, my experience of extended singleness has not been easy either.. When I see people, who a short while ago cried over my shoulder about their horrible ex and the trauma of divorce to find new love and happiness within a short time, I wonder who really has it easier..

            Divorced people often have their kids, which give them joy and happiness – as a single girl who did not get pregant out of wedlock, I don’t have that. Now, with a war looming in the horizon, and me being my parents’ caretaker, it all seems even more lonely, and overwhelming. Having a supportive spouse to help with practical things – not to mention the emotional – would be such a blessing.

            It seems that divorced folks may really be a different breed, who live in another dimension. I cannot get a guy to show me any interest, and then I see a twice-divorced Christian lady easily find her third husband…
            It’s not even a rare occurrence.
            I see it a lot on Christian singles’ sites, where so many lovely people are members for years without finding anyone.. then alongside comes someone freshly divorced, and, hippity hippity hop, immediately finds love and happiness.
            (That is why I have concluded that dating sites only work for the divorced folks, and I tend to call them ‘Christian swingers’ clubs’.. )

            Just last year, I spoke with a dear lady coming from an abusive marriage – her second… We both shared how much we’d love to find a godly, kind and loving man. I even suggested her that she only has to join an online dating site, and she would be popular, as a divorced mother of kids… the epitome of womanhood.
            She did just that and got married in November.
            That just proved my point.
            A divorced woman seemingly only has to sneeze / pass gas, and all men coming running… 😀
            Especially if she has kids – she has proven her sexual prowess…

            Whereas for single, never married, it’s hitting our head against the wall trying to connect with anyone on-line (except for mutual support and platonic friendship with both men and women, and that is of course very valuable.)… Either it’s predators and emotional vampires looking for supply (happened to me last time I tried a Christian online site, and that was even a donated membership which made me hope it might be God!), or, men just ignoring, ghosting, and saying ‘oh let’s just be platonic friends’…

            So that’s a dead end for me.. not going to try to resurrect it again. Even a brain scientist has said in a recent article that on-line dating, with all the options, overwhelm and make our brains unable to function… we were made to handle more than five to nine possible options at the same time.. the seemingly endless possibilities and potential partners on-line just cause anxiety, indifference, and make it even harder to connect with anyone.

          • NG

            * should read ‘we were NOT made to handle more than five to nine options’.. lol

          • Anon

            Yeah, online dating scares me, because you never know who the heck you’re talking to. Besides, I’ve checked on one Christian dating site where you can see the profiles without signing up. There are very few never-married guys on there (proving your point), and the only one who’s near my age sounds like he wants a submissive wife – the whole Proverbs 31 thing, devotee of the Ludys, etc., proving MY point. It’s ridiculous.

          • NG

            Yup… and while I do get it that people coming from a traumatic marriage, or those who’ve been widowed, have a lots of wisdom to share, it doesn’t mean that those of us who *did* not end up divorced or widowed, don’t know anything. We do have our own experiences and a nuggets of wisdom 🙂

            Although I have been told by divorced men that ‘You have nothing to offer’ .. 😀

            .. which reminds me of that brother friend I mentioned, ‘Bill’… he shared how hard it’s to find a lady to date, because he is a single never married guy. Actually, he’s a rare gem in the way that while he has a well-paying job, he is *not* focusing on that, but would desire to serve the Lord with his future wife, either at home, or in foreign country. A very decent fellow. but.. women tell him that since he isn’t divorced, he is too risky as a potential partner… in this case, having dodged a bullet and a disastrous marriage is played against him…

            We had to laugh at this craziness – who would have thought that being divorced is such a medal of honour, a sign of maturity and wisdom? The more marriages one has experienced, the more attractive they are considered. Indeed, gone are the days when one was rewarded for NOT ending in a disaster.

          • NG

            That is something that sometimes makes me want to scream.. To think that had I married someone completely unsuitable (there were some totally creepy guys who did try to persuade me), and ended up in a dysfunctional marriage, and then divorced, I might be seen as ‘wife material’ by many Christian men.

            I’d be surrounded with support and understanding, and there would be many groups to offer their help.. also provide me with ways to meet potential new partners.

            Needless to say, things have changed from the days when my parents fell in love and married… back then, a woman was not expected to ‘experiment’ before tying the knot. Even with all the wounds and dysfunctions my Dad had, he was able to approach and woo my Mom..and they have been happily together for over 50 years. Sure, there have been challenges… and they might have benefited from some of the knowledge available today, about blended families etc…

            Perhaps all the information and knowledge available today can have just the opposite effect and actually make people even more paralyzed by fear and indecision ..? it often seems so.

          • Anon

            I have to wonder if all these evangelical marriage resources that Sheila has talked about have contributed to Christian men wanting “experienced” women and divorced women – because of the pornified view of women that they present. They’d rather have a woman who “knows what she’s doing” than take the time to learn together with a woman who is just as inexperienced as he is. And if that’s the case, that’s awful. It just furthers Sheila’s point that these marriage/sex books push the idea of a Christian bride having to be a sex doll.

          • NG

            Pornification of women is definitely a factor. All over – in the secular world, and inside the church…

            While most Christian marriage books push the ideal of female virginity and chastity (and objectifying the women in that way), there has also many other trends.
            With all the talk about marital sex, and how important it is for happy married life, I have started to think that it also pushes more and more demands on people – men and women… Everywhere I see it repeated. ‘Have better sex with your spouse!’ (Isn’t that also the intended message on this site?)

            I have come across several instructive Christian sites, including Sheila’s – and while I know their intention is good and the information is needed, I sometimes wonder if so much emphasis on sex has taken away of the wonder, mystery, and sacredness of intimacy. Yes, it’s important to know about real physiological facts, correct anatomy, and the general idea what to expect.. But all the overload of information about different positions, techniques, and tricks… if I was a young woman now, trying to navigate through the landscape of human sexuality, I’d feel totally overwhelmed. (I have hard that many newlywed Christian couples already assume that sex toys are a normal and expected part of the repertuare… my goodness, isn’t the situation already demanding and exciting enough without turning it into instrument sports?)
            The danger is that all the casual talk about sex actually cheapens it, and makes it about acrobatics and performance.

            Most likely I will be labeled as an anti-sexual prude because of this, but I’m thinking of some testimonies I have heard and read of Christians from very traditional and conservative cultures years ago ..(Armenian, Arab, Italian..) Couples could not even see each other without a chaperone (not that I am recommending that or finding that necessary!), but, the attraction was there. People knew how to talk and express their desire with their eyes, and the erotic tension was heightened by the fact that no touching was allowed …
            It was all fresh, new, exciting, and when the day came, the couples could not wait to experience full intimacy.
            (talking about happy couples here, NOT someone being forced to marry against their will!)
            There was certain innocence and wonder, learning and discovering together.
            Today, with all the information out there, most intimate details and positions described to a t… I’m not surprised if people feel overwhelmed, and finally bored and indifferent, always chasing after better climaxes and more mind-blowing experiences…

            Not saying that information is all bad – but perhaps there is something valuable in the mystery and respect that past generations approached sexuality.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Well, what I can tell you from our recent mother-daughter survey is that comprehensive sexual education is highly related to sexual pleasure once married; to not marrying an abuser; to lower rates of vaginismus; and to higher rates of self-esteem.

            So knowing how your body works is highly correlated to better outcomes overall, while not knowing leads to worse outcomes. I think education is vitally important, but then what I try to do is not give step-by-step instructions, but rather teaching women how to listen to their own bodies and figure out what they want!

          • NG

            As I did comment above, information *is* important – to understand one’s body & physiology, just for health reasons alone (whether married or single). I’m glad there has been a lot of that available all my adult life.

            The challenge with all the wealth of information (often contradicting) to find what is relevant and helpful, what to keep and what to disregard..
            There are several Christian sites actually giving direct sex advice what to do and what positions to use.. and even instructions how to best survive the wedding night.. That may be helpful to some people, but I know when one day God gives me a hubby, I will try to do my best to ignore all the advice I have heard (secular and Christian) and just focus on creating connection.

          • NG

            Here is an article talking of one growing trend…
            ‘Christian’ men expecting women to please them, before marriage.
            I don’t really blame the ladies – they are doing what they can, to get attention. Because the pornified attitudes of many men, the only way to get kindness and acceptance is to be a stripper, or similar.

            https://askdrbrown.org/library/pied-piper-preachers-and-gospel-no-responsibility

            There is a Scripture in the Hebrew Bible that speaks abut God not scolding the daughters of Zion for being immoral, because the men are just the same, and commit similar actions.

            ‘I will not punish your daughters when they play the prostitute, Or your brides when they commit adultery, Because the men themselves slip away with the prostitutes And offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes; So the people without understanding are ruined..’ (Hosea 4:14)

            Nothing has changed. Christian men still seem to prefer the company of women, who are open to premarital sex, have been married before, or have kids out of wedlock… a.k.a ‘not too uptight’ and can prove they have ‘something to offer’. (The most blatant example: a Christian man at a Christian dating site openly telling he would prefer an ex traffick victim or sex slave, because she would be good at it.. 😠 🙄
            🙄 How callous can one get?)
            I have seen it again and again. We women who have avoided disastrous marriages, and have not slept around with multiple men, are ignored and forgotten, even attacked. Girls who can present their ‘proof’ of desirability, as their feminine and sexual power, have no trouble finding love again and again..

            Still praying that one day God will lead me to someone, who does not hold it against me that I haven’t slept around, nor been a prostitute or a porn star, nor been married before.. and would see that a woman has more to offer than her sexual skills. In current cultural climate, that truly will be a miracle only possible by God’s grace.

          • Anon

            A guy on a dating site SERIOUSLY said he’d prefer a former sex trafficking victim? Because she “knows what she’s doing?” 🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡

            That is DISGUSTING. And it says a lot about what a man like that really thinks about women.

          • NG

            Anon, it is truly revolting. When someone cannot differentiate between sexual abuse and genuine passion, it’s a sign that their heart is really cold ..

            The logic he used was, ‘well, it’s a skill like any other. If someone was kidnapped and forced to work as a cook, and they got really skillful, so sex is just the same’..

            That example and several others have convinced me that I would be very reluctant to ever get involved with any ‘Southern gentleman’ from the U.S…

  7. A2bbethany

    I well remember the let down of reality, when I realized this. Before we got married, reading the various books about marital sex made it sound always magical and always WOW with capital letters.
    And the only problems were leading up to actual sex.(like women not wanting to ever and men with uncontrollable desires venting it, through affairs or porn) Sex itself? Forever and Always MAGICAL.

    Reality was a harsh wake up. And I felt let in on a dirty depressing secret. Sex sucks and is rarely worth it. Have babies and then never again.
    That’s my “honeymoon” realization. (We eloped and still never had a real honeymoon. But we still had the newlywed period.)
    Thankfully in time I learned things that made sex alot more appealing and less like a death sentence.

    Reply
    • NG

      This is exactly what often makes me despair… I hear women telling that sex was not even tolerable when they first got married… and then so many of us (talking of myself and some of my single friends) who would gladly jump into action… I could gladly have ripped off the shirt of a man, had God given me the opportunity to do so… (or maybe rather, it was the men who never gave me that opportunity..)

      Reply
      • Andrea

        You think so now, that you’d gladly rip off his shirt compared to all those women who find sex intolerable, but you don’t know what it’s like to marry a man who was raised on Every Young Man’s Battle, doesn’t know the difference between sex and porn, and feels entitled to it, all the more so cause he’s waited till marriage unlike all of his secular friends. You don’t know what it’s like to lie underneath a man as he penetrates you pleasurelessly, perhaps painfully, grunting away in his enjoyment while avoiding eye contact with you, and you feel more like a masturbatory device than a wife.

        One of my sisters used to get so mad at all the Christians claiming women were less sexual than men until she got married and had an orgasmless honeymoon with a man who grew up in the typical pervy church youth group scene. Now she claims that women are less sexual, that all men lust, and that they have a really really hard time stopping once they get excited. So those are the stories of all those evangelical women you hear about not liking sex. And the reason the men prefer them divorced rather than single is because they can count on them submitting to that kind of treatment, they’ve already done it once or twice.

        Whereas if you’ve made it to your late twenties without a husband that means, on average/statistically, that you’re more educated and have a higher paying job, simply because you’ve had to take care of yourself. This all (education level and income) contribute to a woman’s sense of confidence and self-worth, which translates into not putting up with as much crap from men. And the men can sense this, which is why those who are not worthy of you stay away and that’s a good thing. I’d recommend Kyle Howard’s Twitter thread for the single ladies where he explains why secular dating apps might be better than Christian ones. (I know for sure that secular ones would remove the profile of anyone who said they were looking for a trafficking victim to date, just like secular work places are quicker to deal with sexual harassment than churches are.)
        https://twitter.com/KyleJamesHoward/status/1511387074091524096

        Reply
  8. CMT

    I wouldn’t say I believed it was going to be magical, but we definitely jumped in with no shared concept of how female arousal or orgasm worked or how challenging the learning curve would be. Because if people learn this before they’re married, they might go out and have premarital sex!!

    Another piece of the mythology of evangelical marriage is that you don’t need to think about boundaries or consent. You’re married, right? You love one another! You belong to each other! What’s the big deal? NOT.

    Reply
  9. Tory

    Very good advice; I would add just one thing: if an engaged woman wants to wait for sex after the wedding and not feel pressured to have sex on the wedding night, I would just tell her to be very, very upfront with her fiancé because if he is a typical red-blooded 20-something virgin male, he is likely to be very disappointed, and that should be ok. He has probably been waiting for the wedding night for a long time and he will have to manage his expectations and disappointment. Again, I think the advice to wait and let things progress naturally is great, but it’s also unrealistic to expect the bridegroom not to feel disappointed, even if he is on board with this plan.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I do think it’s important to talk about this first. I would also say that if guys read The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, and realize how much their wife’s pleasure depends on their actions, that he should want to wait for everyone’s sake until she’s really ready!

      Reply
    • Andrea

      “If he is a typical red-blooded 20-something virgin male…” Does Tory need to be reminded that women have a clitoris? (And don’t even dare come back at me with “but testosterone” — yes, men have a LOT more of it than women do, but with all that testosterone your penis still goes flaccid after just one (ONE!) orgasm, while women can keep firing off indefinitely, like we could literally keep orgasming until we died of exhaustion.). Women look forward to sex just as much as men do, but the majority of evangelical ones get what a previous commenter described as “let in on a dirty depressing secret.”

      Reply
      • Tory

        Hey Andrea and Jo R — I don’t disagree with you!!! At all! For what it’s worth, I am the higher drive spouse in our marriage, and I concur with everything you are saying! Yes re: women having the multiple orgasms and having the long term view for the married sex life. No argument from me. Women are very sexual and capable of having high desire and deep pleasure. My comment was more referencing the fact that despite of this, men have a much easily time with sex. Their pleasure is practically guaranteed. In my experience, a young man who saved himself for marriage and is looking forward to the wedding night will be very disappointed if it’s just cuddling. I just wanted to normalize that. It’s possible for a young husband to be very tender and caring toward his bride, AND also feel disappointed if he doesn’t have sex on his wedding night, and I think that his feelings should matter too. For what it’s worth and if anyone cares: my husband and I started dating at 16 and married at 21 as virgins, and actually the wedding night, he was feeling shy and reluctant, and I was the one who was like “it’s happening! I’ve waited!! We have to!!” And I had so much pain and so little pleasure in the beginning. So I think sheilas advice is great. I also think that it should be communicated to the husband, because he might also have his expectations and will likely be disappointed, and that is ok- but I think his feelings matter too? Does that make sense?

        Reply
        • Jo R

          The problem is that we seem to be equating things that aren’t actually equal.

          His situation is that PIV is delayed for him, by hours or possibly even days.

          Her situation is that she is at serious risk of vaginismus, which, if it happens, means she’ll have to spend a lot of time unlearning “sex = pain.” She is also at serious risk of spending months, years, or even decades thinking “I’m broken, sex isn’t for me, I’ll never have an orgasm,” because they rush to do the deed instead of easing into it at her pace.

          Is his situation disappointing? Of course! No one is saying it isn’t. But the consequences to him are short-term and easily resolved. If she experiences either of her situations, let alone both of them (and possibly even others), she is facing a boatload of work to overcome them. Would that outcome merely be “disappointing” for her, or would it be an absolute disaster?

          Again, whose situation would be worse in the long run?

          Reply
          • Anon

            I don’t think Tory is saying that the two things are equal – just that discussing expectations in advance can make the wedding go more smoothly.

            Suppose the bride thinks the groom will expect intercourse on their wedding night – she may feel obliged to go at his pace to keep him happy or feel anxious about how he will respond if she asks to slow things down.

            Suppose the groom has been taught that if his bride is ready to marry and loves him she will be desperate to have sex as soon as possible. He may feel that if she asks to take things slowly, it means she doesn’t really love him or wasn’t ready to marry.

            Those things are not the same – but the problems for both would be resolved if they only discussed what they want their wedding night to look like beforehand.

    • Jo R

      And the bride hasn’t been waiting all her life? Particularly when she’s been filled with the whole “wait for your wedding night and it will be magical” fairy tale?

      As Sheila’s survey shows (say that out loud three times fast!), moving too quickly to PIV on the wedding night can ruin a woman’s sex life for DECADES. So your statement that “He has probably been waiting for the wedding night for a long time and he will have to manage his expectations and disappointment” seems incredibly selfish and short-sighted. If the alternatives are

      (1) he has to wait another couple of hours, or even days, to experience PIV

      and

      (2) she has a good chance of developing vaginismus and not orgasming for months, years, or decades,

      then who, exactly, is making the bigger potential sacrifice?

      Reply
    • Anon

      It would really help with this if Christians in general dialled back on the expectation that the wedding night was going to be non-stop amazing sex. It would be great to normalise taking a few days or even weeks to build up to full intercourse. And yes, any engaged couple should be discussing their expectations for their wedding night and honeymoon anyway. And if a guy isn’t prepared to wait an extra day or two so that his new bride has a pain-free start to sex…that’s a red flag for me. If he’s been waiting this many years, he should be able to cope with waiting a couple more days or weeks.

      Reply
    • NGal

      There also are many women who have been waited for the opportunity to be ‘one flesh’ with a loving husband and finally experience this blessing.
      (At least, that is how I was for years – it felt like I could not wait to get my clothes off and ‘jump his bones’ so to speak.. lol. That was before menopause.. now, I may very well be on my way becoming one of those women, who just prefer cuddling and a long warming up session. All is well as long as the potential future husband has the intention towards physical and emotional intimacy..)

      Reply
    • Lisa M

      It’s also okay for the bride to be disappointed if her finance is thinks his own pleasure can come at the expense of her pain. And to rethink the marriage entirely if he’s that immature. Maybe she needs to postpone the wedding until he’s more mature and not eager to orgasm into a woman who’s in pain.

      Reply
  10. Meredith

    My husband and I waited. I wish we hadn’t. I wish we let ourselves get carried away while we were engaged so my first experience of sex could have been fun and exciting and natural, instead of awkward, painful, and stilted. My kids are still very young but I am not going to tell them they have to wait until marriage. From what I’ve seen and the evidence shows, a loving relationship, whether or not it has been legally formalized, is what is needful for “good” sex.

    Reply
    • CMT

      Thanks for saying this. My sense is it takes some guts to put that out there in this community. I wouldn’t say I personally feel that way but I see why others would. I don’t wish we hadn’t waited, so much as I wish we had waited smarter. If church culture wants to tell people to wait, then it needs to give them legit reasons to do so, honest acknowledgement of the challenges, and tools to help them get off to a good start sexually when they do get married. I never got any of that, really, just vague platitudes- “Work on your relationship now, you’ll have the rest of your lives to figure out the sex part!” There’s such a taboo about giving direct, specific advice to unmarried people for some reason. Maybe fear people will *le gasp* have premarital sex!?!

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I totally understand this thought. We heard this so much from women in our focus groups, especially those with vaginismus–that they wonder what would have happened if they had had sex before marriage when they were actually aroused, and if it would have changed the trajectory of their marriage and sex life.

        I think there are big questions that we do need to ask: what culturally did “marriage” mean in the New Testament versus today? (I mean, Joseph was contemplating “divorcing” Mary when they were only engaged); what has marriage meant historically (many of my ancestors married after the birth of several kids because the preacher only came through town every few years). What does the Bible say “fornication” actually is? And what are the results of only having sex with one person, if you have it before marriage versus after marriage? Lots of questions to ask, and I don’t have all the answers. I think wisdom says to wait, and i think that telling people “love is all you need” can lead to 15-year-olds telling themselves, “well, I know we’re going to get married, so it’s okay.” It’s really difficult. But I think these conversations are okay to have. I mean, we serve a God who is big enough for our questions!

        Reply
        • Meredith

          Thanks for engaging honestly with this topic, Sheila, and not pearl-clutching at what I said. I’m certainly not advocating for a sexual free-for-all, and I think sex between young teenagers is unwise. But my husband and I have resolved when we talk about sex with our kids, we are going to present it in terms of wisdom, not right or wrong.

          These issues are way murkier than Evangelicalism wants to make them out to be. And if our kids should decide to have sex before marriage, my concern will be that they are in a safe relationship where they feel respected and honored, (and using birth control), not about whether they are being “immoral”. Because honestly, that word is just like “porneia”- it means whatever the speaker wants it to mean. Here we have it being revealed that John MacArthur declared it immoral for a woman leaving the husband who had physically and sexually abused their kids. 🙄 now stuff like THAT is what Christians should be getting angry about, not about whether unmarried adults are sleeping with each other.

          Reply
          • CMT

            “These issues are way murkier than Evangelicalism wants to make them out to be”- like a lot of things!!

            And yes I 1000% agree about the institutional church’s priorities being totally backwards. It’s almost like some folks have this huge wooden object in their eye but keep focusing on other people’s little bits of sawdust…

    • NG

      Meredith,
      I do hear you, and that is often said by secular people… claiming that Christians are so uptight and backward that they do not understand about realities of life.
      However, when it comes to sex, it’s not just a theoretical moral or ethical issue. It is very much to do with real human beings, raw physical as well as open spiritual contact. Two people ‘becoming one’ has a strong sacramental and spiritual element – it is meant for covenant.
      If we take marriage out of equasion, where does one draw the line?
      The whole ‘free sex as long as everyone agrees’ always bothered me deeply, even before I became a Christian, because it the concept had no roof over its head, no accountability, no protection for the emotions, no safety, and no commitment.
      Yes, until there is an official marriage union, there is no binding commitment.. (yes, I know about the arguments that Adam and Eve had no official wedding either, but let’s not go there.)

      Reply
      • CMT

        “Let’s not go there?” Why not?

        I agree with you that safety and commitment are crucial. But I question whether we can assume the existence of a legal marriage means safety, protection for emotions, accountability and commitment exist.

        In fact, legal marriages may hide a range of issues from immaturity and entitlement, all the way up to exploitation and abuse (as is often discussed on this blog). And relationships that don’t have legal status can be secure, safe and committed. It’s the attitudes and efforts of the people in it that determine whether the relationship is healthy or not.

        I’m not saying marriage isn’t important. It is. I’m married, I’m glad I’m married. But my marriage is safe and a binding commitment because my husband and I make it so, not because of the “official union.”

        Reply
        • NG

          Obviously, I’m coming from a Christian world view in this…
          and with the motive to do things in a God honoring way.

          We all know that ‘legal marriage’ doesn’t guarantee the content of those unions are godly… that was not my point.

          Reply
          • Anon

            We don’t see ‘weddings’ in the Bible in the sense that we have them today, but we do see a difference between people who were married and people who were not. I’ve heard some folk argue that it was having sex which made someone ‘married’, but that just doesn’t add up, because you have plenty of examples of men having wives and concubines – and having sex with both! The ‘wedding’ may look different depending on the culture but Biblically, marriage is far more than just sex. And while Adam & Eve may not have had a ‘wedding’ as such, they were given as husband and wife to each other by God.

          • NG

            Exactly, Anon.

            God was the best and most powerful ‘wedding officiant’ ever 🙂 He hand picked Adam and Even for each other, as the very prototype of marriage. ‘In the beginning..’
            He knew what He was doing – even with all the foreknowledge of what would go wrong!

            Hey, eventually the son of a promise was born, the forefather of the patriarchs, King David, and our Lord.
            Sin entered the world, but so did God’s redemptive plan.

          • CMT

            “ Obviously, I’m coming from a Christian world view in this…
            and with the motive to do things in a God honoring way.”
            I’m not suggesting otherwise, I hope it didn’t sound like I was. And I didn’t think you were saying being married automatically makes a relationship healthy. I could’ve been clearer.

            What I’m thinking is that just as experience proves that the presence of an official marriage doesn’t make a relationship committed by itself, neither does the absence of one mean that the relationship can’t be committed. I know couples who aren’t legally married, but they work harder on their relationship than many married folks I know. So, is it helpful to say there can’t be commitment without an official marriage? Ofc everyone has their own sense of what makes them feel secure in a relationship so Im not going to assume everyone will answer that question the way I would.

          • NG

            Hmmm.. I find it odd we are discussing this on a Christian marriage site 🙂
            .. but let’s say that we all know couples who 1)don’t claim to be Christian, and live in a common law marriage
            or
            b) call themselves Christian, and still lived together or had sexual relations before marriage.
            AND have a good, functioning relationship.
            That’s not my issue at all.
            How they define their relationship is up to them.

            As a Christian, (and even before I was a believer and living for the Lord) I was bothered with this world’s ida of pushing sex without marriage. It is a given in my country, and many Christians even live together – test the waters – before they are married. It just goes against everything I know about God, His creation, heart, and character.
            If a man finds me desirable enough (and vice versa), why would he not want to get married? Plenty of men would love to ‘test drive’ me, and use the argument of ‘how can you know if you are suitable, if you don’t test beforehand?’… It already is a complete turn off for me, and makes the man ‘unsexy’ for me. 🙂
            It really is no rocket science.. if someone loves me, he goes all the way. and me as well. Very simple.
            It’s more than making a commitment that seems like one, in the eyes of the world – it is about the covenantal nature of marriage, and what it stands for. Becoming one. All the parts – legal, emotional, physical… showing your commitment publicly (even if the wedding is small, it still is a ‘public’ aka official matter.. as long as the society has that option)
            No, I am not claiming that the official part automatically makes it a right choice.

            It’s a matter of following God’s order of things..
            As the Scripture says in Ecclesiastics…

            ‘There is time for everything… time to embrace, and time to refrain from embracing’ 🙂

          • CMT

            NG, I don’t find this an odd discussion for this site, where else but Christian spaces should we talk about the real world implications of Christian teachings? I appreciate you being willing to engage though. I suspect based on what you’ve said that our personal feelings aren’t that different.

            I’d suggest there is a third category: those for whom the legal/official institution of marriage does not work. Where I live, in the US, legal marriage can carry significant financial penalties for marginalized people. I know a couple who both have disabilities. They literally cannot afford to get married because if they do their benefits will be slashed (the system assumes that a spouse will carry the bulk of the burden of supporting you, and does not take into account whether your spouse is also disabled). My friends are devout Catholics and had to do a lot of soul searching about this. Ultimately, they concluded they believed God values them and their relationship more than a license or a sacrament.

            All that’s to say, if a system discriminates against some people, can we really say that following that system is part of God’s order of things? I honestly don’t have an answer. I just think whatever the answer is it ain’t black and white!

            I’m well aware I took your comment in a direction you weren’t expecting. Thank you again for engaging.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Yes! This is a heartbreaking problem I know many people have. When my grandfather remarried to his third wife (they all kept dying on him) originally they didn’t want to marry, because by marrying his wife would lose the pension that she was getting from her late husband. And they didn’t have much income other than that. They ended up marrying, but it did cause a lot of financial hardship.

          • NG

            That is heartbreaking that society actually discourages people from marrying because of unjust financial treatment.
            That brings it all back to the basics – is God our Provider, or not? Where are our priorities? There are many aspects and implications in our life, and a lot of unfairness, discrimination and hurdles – for singles too.

            I’m aware that not being a wealthy woman already is a turn off for many men, so nothing new here .. on the other hand, I’m glad that casanovas stay away from me ..! I would NOT want someone to marry me because of what I can offer them financially – neither would I want someone because of their wealth. I don’t want a sugar daddy..!

            The decision to marry or not to marry should be based on person’s character, and personhood, not on the financial benefits. Material wealth can also evaporate overnight, especially in these days we are living in – and God is our only true guarantee of anything. So the answer would be to hang on to Him, and His faithfulness and ability to provide for the practical needs.
            Isn’t that what Jesus taught, when He said ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God (His way of doing things, His will, His glory), and all other things will be added’..?
            That applies to any person, married or single.

          • NG

            By the way.. as I am dealing with war news all day long, this is good diversion..:)

            It is actually a common excuse that ‘We cannot afford to get married’..
            and often used by men, who prefer to live in an ‘open’ situation.
            Or ‘it is only a piece of paper!’ Which also is used as a method to manipulate and trick girls into a sexual relationship.
            I know there is s growing trend of Christian men using it and propagating for cohabitation, without the legal and financial burdens..

  11. Meredith

    Also- the idea that the Bible forbids sex before marriage is based on some very sketchy interpretations of the original languages, as well as completely ignoring the Old Testament view of women as property. Women weren’t supposed to have sex before marriage because they were seen as the property of their future husbands, the means to carry on his name and bloodline. There are no verses prohibiting men from having sex with women (slaves and concubines.) it was only adultery if the woman was another man’s wife- in that case the man was stealing another man’s property and jeopardizing his bloodline.

    Reply
    • Jim

      Meredith,

      I respectfully disagree that the command that sex before marriage is ‘based on sketchy interpretations’ is incorrect.

      There are several times in the Old and New Testaments that indicate that sex is only in the context of marriage.

      Here are a few (I did not include the full text since that would take up a lot of space. Feel free to look them up if you wish. Don’t take my word for it):

      Genesis 2:24 which Jesus quotes in
      Mark 10:6 – 9
      and
      Matthew 19:5 – 6

      Exodus 20:14
      Lev 18:20
      Deut 22:13 – 30
      1 Corinthians 6
      Proverbs 6:20 – 35
      Hebrews 13:4
      Matthew 5:27
      Romans 13:8 – 14

      Reply
      • Meredith

        The Greek word “porneia” which is present in the New Testament has been mistranslated to mean whatever kind of sexual activity the translator disapproves of. In the original context it meant “to sell one’s self in a dishonorable way.” In the way it is used in other parts of the Bible it has the concept of spiritual prostitution, “cheating on God,” so to speak. Esau “porneia” his birthright.

        https://medium.com/belover/were-christian-sexual-rules-created-by-a-mistranslation-of-a-single-word-8b32c68371b5

        Reply
        • Jim

          I have looked into the meaning of ‘porneia’ and this highlights some of the issues with trying to draw a direct translation from one language to another. It is important to look at the context of each passage. I found one article that talks about how ‘porneia’ is used and that it seems to mean mainly immortality but it becomes more specific depending on sexual immortality or idolatry.

          https://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Feb/3/has-christianity-made-its-own-meaning-fornication/

          Reply
      • Meredith

        All the other verses you give are referring to adultery, divorce, and marriage. They say nothing about sex between two unmarried people.

        Reply
        • Anonymous305

          Hebrews 13:4 would forbid an unmarried couple…but I can’t blame people who wonder what would have happened if they didn’t wait. Not just to have better sex, but in some cases, to see red flags of reasons not to marry, such as if a guy is easily angered about the frequency of sex.

          Reply
    • Anon

      I’d have to disagree as well. If there were any verses justifying having sex before marriage, I’m pretty sure my husband & I would have found them – our wedding was postponed due to Covid, and I can tell you we were both going through our Bibles with a fine tooth comb trying to find a way to justify not having to spend what should have been our wedding night apart from each other!

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, this is true–in the Old Testament the sin of adultery was always against the man whose property was tainted.

      Reply
  12. Martha

    A few years before the wedding my husband introduced heavy petting for me. He didn’t want to have an intercourse then. We had a full PIV sex about two weeks into the marriage for health reasons. I had been so used to nakedness, physical closeness, arousal and clitoral orgasms that I honestly don’t remember exactly that first penetration. It was such a natural progression of our premarital sessions that this line is blurred. That was many years ago and we still practise prolonged sessions if possible and still develop our sex life.

    Reply
  13. NG

    Because of all the advice, I think that if/when God one day gives me a husband, I’d like us to get married secretly without telling anyone – including my dear parents. (also to avoid any risk of a potentially fatal heart attack for my 90+ year Dad..) I would not want to deal with anyone’s opinions, well-meaning or not… ‘Oh do not expect anything special, it is going to be a disappointment anyway..’
    (Based on testimonies from people who did marry later in life, and had waited for many more years than they had hoped to, I know it really *can* be amazing and fabulous. We don’t have to lower our expectations, just because it may not be perfect. It sure cannot be worse than being single..!)

    Reply
  14. Bre

    I liked this! Some thoughts (as I am a single young woman who has never had sex, feel free take these with a midwestern plow truck full of salt).I feel like the prosperity gospel has hardcore seeped into this area. Think about it in many other areas, we are told that loving God, doing our best, and striving for health and righteousness IS NOT a magic charm to ward off evil and/or suffering. Just because you tithe faithfully, are generous, and don’t misuse your money doesn’t mean that an emergency or crisis (a accident, a fire, job loss, crazy economic issues outside of your control) can’t or won’t wipe you out and/or take your possessions. Just because you love God and serve him with all you have, that doesn’t mean that you won’t get cancer or a severe illness. Loving your family with all your heart and treating them with the love of God doesn’t mean that there won’t be family troubles, deaths, fights, people, or kids born with disabilities. In most other areas, we are told that the world is fallen and broken. Bodies get sick, people die, and desperate times come; it’s the state of the world and loving God and being saved isn’t going to stop you from suffering. Suffering is part of the world. But on the sex issue, we’ve forgot that the view of suffering applies there, too. Your sex organs are part of your body; they can break, hurt, or get diseased. Even if you did everything “right” and didn’t sin sexually, that doesn’t mean that you won’t have sexual problems and/or pain. I don’t think it helps those people when, like some of the people commenting here and on Facebook, they did everything right and still have ongoing sexual issues. We should be making sure that everyone, especially soon-to-be-married couples, know that this could happen and is abnormal and needs help, but it isn’t rare or a sign that anything is “wrong” with the woman; her sexual organs are just not working the way they are supposed to and causing pain and there are things you can do to try and treat it, just like other health issues. Obviously, there will be lots of heartache and pain and loss over your sex life not being easy or looking like you thought it would, but we could save so much extra pain and guilt by setting up couples, and particularly the women, if we’d stop acting like sexual disfunction, vaginismus, pain, ect. isn’t something that happens to “good people”.

    Also, I feel like the whole idea of basically bribing people to wait for marriage shows how little we trust in intrinsic motivations for people who love Jesus. Even though the Bible never explicitly says “sex before marriage is a sin”, it is pretty clear that sex is intended for within marriage, which does lead the conclusion that premarital sex isn’t right. Just like how the Bible doesn’t explicitly say “hey, don’t do hardcore drugs.” or “hey, don’t watch porn”. So you have that, and also the disease, babies, bonding, and safety aspects that Shelia mentioned above, as well as secular studies admitting that long-term, monogamous, married couples are, on average, the ones with the most satisfying and happy sex lives. So the evidence is there, but we still act as though people, especially teens and college kids, who love Jesus aren’t going to value that enough and we need to come up with pie-in-the-sky, untrue promises to placate them. I feel like that’s so patronizing; people can and will sin but, on the whole, most Christians do want to follow God and his guidance because of their faith and desire to live a healthy, safe life. If we expect people to do that in other areas of their life and faith, why do we feel the need to shame, guilt, and give false promises to people in the sexual realm?

    Even aside from the spiritual bribery thing, I find it hilarious that people claim that the wedding night will be the. Best. sex. ever. The basic logic falls flat. my pastor says that people say that, but the real best sex is a married couple who’s been together for years and had time to bond and figure out what’s feels good and what works. And also, it gets better as you go through life together and bond and deepen your overall intimacy. The first time may not be bad, but it is likely not going to be the best ever and it’s okay. You also shouldn’t feel like everything is destined to be horrible if it isn’t amazing (not counting actual pain or issues) because it’s a process that you both learn together over time.

    That’s just some of the gears turning around in my brain. Feel free to let me know if I’m off base. This is an interesting area to learn about.

    Reply
    • Anon

      Definitely. I think some Christians are so terrified they will put people off marriage that they have to present it as this wonderful, magical situation where nothing ever goes wrong in contrast to the terrible, traumatic single life!

      I went to a church for a while in my 20s which did just that. The constant message was ‘get married and you will live happily ever after’. Couples were pressured to start dating in their late teens and marry by their early 20s. Someone who got married at 25 was ‘really late to settle down’. And we were constantly bombarded with ‘statistics’ about how marriage made you happy and being single made you really miserable. Sad thing is, so many of those young couples who married at 19/20 were divorced a few years later, when they realised they’d been lied to and marriage didn’t guarantee a perfectly happy future.

      And I don’t think any number of rules are going to keep you from doing something you shouldn’t the way that knowing that action will grieve someone you love will. For me, I wanted (and still want) to feel that God delights in how me and my OH behave toward each other.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, one of these days when I’m not in the middle of launching another book I’d like to aim bigger–change the focus from marriage to emotional health. The church needs to stop focusing on marriage and start focusing on emotional health, and then people will be ready to get married if they want to, but if they don’t it will also be okay. And if they remain single, but not by choice, at least there will be better healthy community.

        Reply
      • NG

        My experiences have been very different.. most of my life in the Church world, the overwhelming message I have heard was, ‘Don’t desire to be married, It is hard! Focus on the Lord and what you can do for Him..’
        Expressing any desire and longing towards marriage was frowned upon, and disapproved.. as if it is something ‘less than’.
        For some reason, married couples however are often placed on a pedestial and seen as more mature …

        It’s a weird dichotomy. Married people have supposedly ‘arrived’, but singles are immature, who should just work in themselves, seek the Lord, and ‘be content’… Marriage problems have often been used as a weapon to deter singles from ever contemplating that blessing – we are reminded how hard it is, how impossible it is to be happy, how much easier life is for singles… (which is not my experience at all.. single life can be excruciatingly hard.)
        So no wonder so many singles, especially men, have a hard time pursuing it… they rather flee from the very idea.
        I do not get it. If marriage is so wrong, and so hard, why did these hypocritical married Christians tie the knot? They should have followed their own advice and just stayed ‘content’…
        (sorry, I had to rant…)

        Reply
        • Bre

          That’s another interesting perspective, NG. Mine is a bit different; I’m happier single and annoyed by people acting like I’m automatically going to change my mind when I get older when I state that. Maybe? But I know what makes me happy and that this is good for now, and I know that even if my choices may be a smidge selfish, God thinks that singleness is just as valid and doesn’t care if that’s what I personally choose. There’s also the fact that, you know…wanting to marry doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get married. Sheila has written articles on that and other people have talked about the pain of being single against their will. Like Sheila and Rebecca said on the podcast today “Once again, there is nuance; it’s more complicated than we act like it is.” (paraphrasing to my memory) This is a good reminder, particularly to myself, that my experience is one of many and that I need to be careful with what I say and how I frame it. To your excellent point, both ends are…not helpful or entirely Biblically/realistically accurate. Acting like the married state is the pinnacle of spiritualism and maturity leads to singles overall getting kicked to the side like they are a weird abnormality. Those who choose singleness are questioned non-stop and people conveniently forget that both Paul and Jesus said singleness is good…and THEN those ‘singleness is good! You can focus on God!’ verses are even more conveniently remembered when there are singles who are sad, hurting, and wish that they were married. Yet again, the truth isn’t pat and we need to reevaluate our easy awnsers in light of both scripture and reality. Feel free to rant away, NG! Have you not seen my marathon rant comments? My comments are regularly rejected for being too long😂

          Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’ve seen this a lot too. I just finished reading Passion & Purity a while back and And the Bride Wore White for our mother daughter book, and there seemed such a struggle about wanting to get married. Like, if you actually want to get married, you have to prove that you don’t want to get married and that Jesus is all you need, because He won’t bring you a husband or let you get married until He is all you need.

          So the more you want to get married, the more you have to tell yourself you don’t, or else you’re not a good Christian. There was so much self-flaggelation in both of those books, and I found it very sad.

          Reply
          • NG

            It’s really sad that experiences of some famous individuals are held as a standard.

            Many single men have tried to be good Christians and adapt to this ideal of ‘being content’, and buried their longings and hopes deep under a rock.

            This ‘anti marriage’ propaganda is usually aimed at never married singles. When it comes to the divorced people, there is much more grace extended… After all, those divorced people have supposedly ‘proven’ their ability to get married.. and they are encouraged to ‘move on’.. because hey, God forgives, so it’s perfectly acceptable to get married for a third or fourth time (I kid you not, I have seen it a lot in recent years…)..

          • Laura

            That’s the message I received from a lot of well-meaning Christians over the years when I expressed my desire to get married. I know they were trying to encourage me, but those words you mentioned from those two books did not encourage me. Instead, it made me feel like I was not spiritual enough or maybe I did not love Jesus enough.

            Thankfully, I’m in a place where I am content being single (actually, I’ve been divorced almost 20 years). When I express my contentment, then I hear, “Oh, I’m sure God will bring you someone someday.” Funny how the script flips.

          • Bre

            I’m sorry you had to go through that Lauren. That’s just…heartbreaking. I wish we could just normalize sadness and longing in the church instead of making it hyper spiritual and contradictory. God is enough and above all, but it’s ALSO okay to feel sad or let down or want to be married. With all these weird “I want to get married! No I don’t! But… yes and no!” messages, it’s almost like we’re trying to cultivate a mental/emotional magic spell to finally hit the conditions and “unlock” our spouse. God is not a vending machine and he knows everything, including our thoughts, so these sorts of sayings and attitudes make no sense. We can’t trick God into giving us what we want You are also 100% right about who shouldn’t act like they are an authority on your singleness. I have well-meaning married Christian friends who are basically like “oh how cute, the immature 23 year old is too naive to she how awesome and universal marriage is! Oh silly, you’ll look back and laugh at yourself once you’re married.” That’s annoying enough, but it’s even more annoying when I get the same sentiments from Christian friends who have either never dated or dated a few times and have now been single for a while. It’s like “umm, dude, you are younger than me and not one to talk! How do you know what you are talking about when you can’t even get yourself a date?” I also find it weird the language policing that happens, like both you and Sheila mentioned. Like every time someone wishes they weren’t single it’s all “be content and don’t want it or God wouldn’t give it to you!” and often the same advice-givers feel the need to scream how much they love being single from the rooftops, like the more they say it, the more accumulated “marriage worthiness points” they get towards finally getting a spouse. I don’t feel the need to scream about my singleness like that; I only talk about it so much to push back because I genuinely don’t want to get married and I’m sick of playing the singleness-word games, having my ” relationship desire language” policed, and being talked down to. Like, no, I’m not going to “stop being so intense about it because then I won’t ever get married” because I’m not trying to make God give me a man and my “no, I don’t want to get married” means “no, I don’t want to get married”, not some evangelical church-speak for yes. Lordy, how did we make this so complicated? Can’t we just have feeling and desires, give them to God, and simultaneously do our part to meet new people and cultivate our own relationships? It doesn’t need to be a weird mind game.

          • Bre

            And yes, I am a bit open to maybe ending up married someday. But you know what would change my thoughts and desire in that area? Actually meeting someone I want to love and do life with for as long as I’m alive, not random Christians telling me I need to get married to really be happy.

          • NG

            Yeah, Bre.. I don’t understand why it has become like this in the West, at least. (I do understand that some women have grown up in the type of churches where early marriage was encouraged, but my church experiences have been vastly different.)
            It’s funny really that marriage is seen as a mark of maturity, but at the same time, expressing any desire towards it, or even sharing your loneliness, is met with outright cruelty and shaming. ‘How dare you mere mortal want to get marriage, to experience love and passion, and have children! Jesus is your husband! Focus on Him! Give up your idols!’
            .. which begs the question.. why did those people get married, if it is so sinful? WHy did they have children, if it is an idol? Why didn’t they remain content+

            That reminds me what a never married dear brother once mentioned about a conversation he had with a friend… let’s call him Bill (not his real name)

            Bill, to his married friend: – I so would love to be married too, and have children, like you and your wife..

            Bill’s friend: -You need to stay content. Don’t you know you can serve God as a single person? Be grateful etc..

            Bill: – You were not content either.
            When you were single, you met your wife, and fell in love.
            Then you got married.
            That was not enough: You got a baby.
            Still, you were not content. You got another child.
            After that, a third child – are you ever satisfied? Nothing is enough?
            So you see.. you are trying to preach what you did not practice.

            His friend: – Now I see…

          • NG

            Actually, all that hypocricy about having to convince others (and even God..) about something which is not true.
            That is such a direct violation of the Scripture, and the character of God.

            We are told several times that God desires truth in the innermost being..

            ‘Let your Yes be Yes, and No be No’. ..

            ‘For that man (or woman) ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded, unstable in all his ways’..

            So, there is no spiritual value or virtue in all that pretense. It’s just religion – meant to please other people… ‘appearance of godliness, but denying its power’..

          • Anon

            Sheila, speaking as someone who is still single and fell hook, line, and sinker for that very message, I agree with you 100% that it’s sad. It’s one of those “purity culture myths,” as Camden Morgante so wonderfully puts it, that really left a lot of young women disappointed (and probably questioning their faith). I wondered for the longest time (and still fall into that trap sometimes) why I’d done everything right and still no husband. I’ve even yelled at God a few times, asking Him where my man is. I’m still trying to deconstruct that mess I bought into, and trying to be happy with being single. Heck, I’m starting to realize there are a lot of pros to it! And I LOVE what Mark Lowry (who has never married) has always told his friends who pestered him about marriage: “When you pray, you’re praying to a single adult, and don’t you forget it!” 😂

        • Laura

          NG,

          I hear you on that! I have written blog posts on some of the dumb things people say to singles. I think for those who do not know what it’s like being a long-time single like myself should not offer advice. It’s like people who don’t have children giving advice about parenting.

          Reply
          • Jo R

            Well, except that all of us were children, and I expect many of us can catalog things we wish our parents had or had not done, so I think most of us can actually offer at least some insights on parenting. 🤔🤔🤔

          • NG

            Yeah, I absolutely agree that sometimes a person without children can offer valuable advice.. if they are compassionate and loving.
            Having children does not automatically make anyone a healthy, sane, or kind human being.
            Many of us can tell what we would have needed and wanted in our childhood, based on what we lacked and never experienced.

          • NG

            Writing a blog has been on my heart for a long time, as well.. one of the things God placed on my heart. just need emotional resilience to handle with all the pushback that is expected – and it is draining to get all the outright attacks that I have received, every time I have mentioned it (in real life or on my social media..)
            Especially from married women, who think they have the God given right to fix me, to lord over me, and to dictate what dreams and hopes I am allowed to have.

            It really can be like an outright demonic attack. (I believe there are actual satanic strongholds, trying to discourage and hinder Christians from being married… )

            I just had to deal with that a few months ago, after writing a post about singleness (more specifically, porn issues in the Body, and women being seduced and pushed to please ‘Christian’ men..). A married woman attacked me.. and tried to tell me that I should just be content, focus on what I have in life, ‘die to my self’ etc.. all the while claiming she was sent by God to set me straight and to heal me.. (Needless to say, that ‘counseling attempt’ from her side failed miserably.. I told her in clear terms that she had no Scriptural right to tell me what I needed in life or to try to bully me.)

            This is another area where I feel like being in a disadvantage compared to (happily) married women.. they can speak, talk, and write about things on their heart, counting on the support of their husbands… while I don’t have that. So it’s like a double whammy .. having to deal with the loneliness and the various challenges, and then being cruelly critiqued, when speaking about them publicly.

            Still praying about the stamina and emotional strength to do that.. it’s the only way towards healing, to speak about these issues openly, with other long term singles, but also, with those married people who may have a sincere desire to understand, but just never had to experience what it can be like to be a single woman / man in the church.

          • Jo R

            “counting on the support of their husbands”

            Yeah, don’t believe the hype! They may well only wish they had it!

            I hear you, as Mara pointed out about choosing one’s support system.

            You may not have a husband, but you are not alone. If you want to blog, lots of us here, and plenty of people elsewhere, will be with you. Hugs to you!

          • NG

            Thank you! <3

  15. CM

    We did wait until marriage.
    In our church, it’s not widely practiced, but it meant a lot for both of us (he was 30 and I 25 when we met and married a year after).

    But waiting doesn’t mean that sex is a taboo before the wedding night. I was advised at church as a young woman (22 yo or so, not as a teen!!) to save even kissing, and not spend time alone together, lest we would fall (“boys are boys” and so on). That’s silly!
    Or then, you have to take a few months within marriage before starting anything sexual, just to ensure physical intimacy…

    During our year long engagement (including most of 2020, so we got physically separated for 3 months and gosh it was sooo hard!!), we talked a lot about sex. A HUGE lot. More and more as the wedding night was growing near. We reviewed every fantasm and decided what we mutualy agreed to do or don’t. (Oral sex took us a lot of discernement and we finally figured out we were okay with it.) We made up a scenario for the first night, with reasonnable expectations. Of course we cuddled and massaged and kissed A LOT, we discovered each other’s body (also in health-related way).

    So the wedding night and the honeymoon nights that followed are a great memory. To be honest, undressing and cuddling in bed was the best part! It hurt for me at first and it took us a few days to think of using lubricant, but it was like an adventure with my best friend and being alone, naked, with him really eager to learn how to make me feel confortable and aroused was all really good.

    So … waiting helped us built a strong emotional bond and mutual trust before jumping to physical intimacy.
    But what helped much on honeymoon was to speak openly about expectations and to plan ahead what we would do, in a what order, what where boundaries. To know we could immediately put off anything that would feel wrong, and that what matters is to love truly, not reach orgasm by all means.

    Waiting just to follow rules and trying very hard not to “fall”, then reverse everything overnight is the worse idea ever!

    Reply
      • CM

        Actually there’s more than this, but this post was about honeymoon and was long enough.

        Our sex life does need improvement and healing, that’s how I found your blog!
        Thank you by the way, I find your work very helpful.
        The Great Sex Rescue is great even when there are no big issue, because you see the pits where you could fall someday …

        Also, it made me realize that we Christians generally assume following big rules (waiting for instance) and avoiding blattant sin (not cheating, no porn etc) should ensure a good sex life, that is, pleasure and emotional connection. I find out it rather comes from working on being healthy (each partner AND the realtionship). Of course being saved and constantly fprgiven by Christ does help in the process, but many non-Christian people have great relationships and some Christians struggle with various issues and even abuse.

        I mean, we don’t expect praying over finding a job will be enough to get one, keep it and be good a it. Why should marriage and sex be any different?

        It’s just so sad that my Christian upbringing entangled me in guilt and shame about my body and sexuality, whereas my husband whogrew up in an atheist family has far more common sense and self control about all this.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          So good, CM! Yes, agree entirely. It seems like we in the church have far too many pat answers and we’re not willing to look at reality.

          Reply
  16. Andrew

    Love love love listening to the female perspective as a very alternate view of sex before and after marriage. Talking about expectations going into marriage cannot be valued enough. My wife and I were active sexually before marriage. We never planned to have children so my naivevexpectations were frequent sex for life. It went that way for the first few years but then a light was switched off and sex became more of a chore to her and something of a carrot to get what she wanted. I dont feel desired and its a lot of going through the motions. I’ve many times expressed how I want her to experience orgasm and make it less of a chore but she’s not interested in communicating about it, being touched or trying anything new. I’m doing my best to connect and have good non physical intimacy but it does feel lonely when I dont feel attractive after 15 years.

    Reply
  17. Anonymous

    I struggle with wondering “what I should have done differently” especially now that I’m a parent.

    My husband and I were good Baptist kids. Fast-forwarding any love scenes in PG-13 movies, not kissing until engaged. This led us both to being so ignorant of how female arousal actually works that we struggled for a long time (still do in some ways.)

    I’m not exactly sorry I didn’t “experiment” in my teens, but what could have made that difference? Actually receiving sex ed? We were both Xtian school kids so I was pretty much taught to be afraid of sex and painful OB/GYN appointments just confirmed that. Had never heard of vaginismus until I read Sheilas book last year – things make SO MUCH more sense now

    I guess what I’m saying is how do I NOT set my kids up for this without encouraging promiscuity…..they’re young now but I’m sure they will be teens before I know it!

    Reply
    • NGal

      I am sorry it was so hard for you and hubby! Ignorance is not good- but neither is too much wrong kind of overload of information.
      Growing up well before the internet in a household without TV, I was s voracious reader.. even then, there was information available, about the physical part of sexual relations, fertility, pregnancy etc.
      Mom being a nurse, I was blessed to have a healthy approach to my female body and its functions.
      None of that information has helped me to find a husband, though – I would actually much prefer to be a bit more ‘ignorant’ or, innocent, about some stuff I have come across in my life..
      I would encourage you to let your kids have all the necessary information, but most importantly, be there for them – no sex ed can replace a loving parent as a foundation for healthy self esteem.
      When they have that – and a clear understanding of Gods love- they are less likely to fall into boundary violations snd unhealthy relationships.

      Reply
  18. Mary Juber

    Great subject. We were ones that didn’t wait (wish we had), but we ended up not having sex on our wedding night because my husband was just emotionally drained. I admit I was disappointed, yet who knows whether it would have “met expectations” if we had.

    By the way, I believe your photo of the bride is reversed: She has her ring on her right ring finger. 😉

    Reply
  19. Sheri

    No. Just no. Rewriting scripture and encouraging fornication is not appropriate. Ever.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Did you read the post, Sheri? No one is doing that. We’re just noting that people who wait have higher rates of vaginismus, and this needs to be talked about so that couples can do the honeymoon better. Ignoring it just causes pain–literally.

      Reply
      • Anon

        Exactly. I don’t believe for a minute that Sheila is encouraging or advocating sex before marriage. All she’s doing is highlighting a subject that most Christians would clutch their pearls at: how sex before marriage, when couples get carried away, can be great, while couples who waited (and often bought into the purity culture crap) had pain and a lot of problems. Her point is that, while couples should wait, they should allow sex to be a natural thing, not following an instruction manual on the wedding night. Sheila, please correct me if I’m wrong!

        Reply
        • NG

          Anon: As an ESL (English Second Language) person, I find the expression ‘pearl clutching’ hilarious.
          Maybe some pearls really are worth clutching..? instead of just having them randomly thrown around..
          After all – in one of His parables, Jesus calls the Kingdom of Heaven as something that is like precious pearls. (Matt 13)

          And, we have the warning not to throw our pearls before swine.. (Matt 7)

          Reply
    • Teresa

      Sheri, I agree completely. This is not right. Scripture is clear that sex should only be between a man and his wife. We can not compromise and make excuses for sin and call ourselves children of God. This is not right. We have to hold fast to the word of God and obey what it says. We can not rewrite Scripture to make allowances for what we want to do because it feels more natural. Sinning comes natural anyway that is why the bible tells us to crucify our flesh.

      Reply
      • Anon

        Please read the post again, carefully. Sheila is not advocating premarital sex. She is trying to make the point that when sex happens naturally – citing the EXAMPLE of couples getting carried away before they say “I do” – it can often feel better, instead of trying to do everything step-by-step mechanically, like a lot of evangelical couples have done on their wedding night. She has said that it’s better to wait, with the caveat that you don’t plan your wedding night right down to every touch, gasp, and “not there, THERE!”

        Reply
  20. Sarah

    All I can say is that as a long term vaginismus sufferer, I am so grateful that someone is finally addressing this. Thank you ❤️

    Reply
  21. Belinda

    Sheila, I love how you handle this topic so gently! I do feel the conviction for abstinence until marriage, but I’m not the doe-eyed teen I was before my first marriage. Communication, good boundaries, and being on the same page seem like necessary components of personal success in this. Being a single mom, virginity is no longer the motivation. Lol! As you said, waiting until the marriage to have sex has multiple protections to it, some that I feel pretty sharply.

    Reply
  22. EOF

    I would caution anyone who follows the one-way submission model that most churches lift up.

    Agreeing on taking it slowly prior to the wedding night sounds great in theory, but for a woman in the one-way submission model — it guarantees nothing. No woman is safe who lives under that.

    Why? Because as soon as they marry, all bets are off. He’s in charge and he gets to do as he sees fit. That’s what happened to me two decades ago. Everything we agreed to during the premarital counseling went out the window after our vows. I was sneered at for expecting him to keep his word, verbally beaten into submission because he was the boss. I was told by everyone at church to obey.

    If the husband is not safe (and is there a way to know ahead of time?) then the woman will never be safe unless the man changes or she gets away.

    Reply
  23. scott

    How does this work for Catholics, when anything other then uninvite sex is a sin?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think you meant “unitive” (darn autocorrect!), but I’d have to have a Catholic chime in on this one, because I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to!

      Reply
  24. anon

    This post … I wish it’d been able to read it before my wedding night. It could’ve completely changed my experiences and expectations of married sex.

    We got married quickly – 4 months after we met – and a big factor was lust. We were in our early 30s and neither of us were virgins. His church (which we wanted to call “home”) refused to do any pre-marital counselling with us, or even provide any pastoral support, for reasons I still do not comprehend.

    We agreed to wait the short amount of time before the wedding – but then in the weeks before the wedding he pushed the boundaries and relied on me to be the handbrake. Perhaps deep down I knew this was a big red flag, but I was too confused, lacking in confidence to say or do anything, and desperate to be no longer single.

    The wedding night was awful. It was jarring to mentally switch from handbrake to enthusiastic participant. He wanted to go straight to sex, and have our first real encounter in a hot tub. That meant no arousal, no chance for lubrication , and no inkling we were encountering vaginismus.
    We then moved to the bed and, well, it was one of the more painful experiences of my life. It was three days before the pain had subsided enough to even contemplate trying again.
    It never got better.

    Reply
  25. Jen

    23 years. I was just told by my PT about vaginismus. I do think you should explain vaginismus and what it is because a person who doesn’t know what it is or never heard of it before, like myself until a week ago. They could get the wrong idea of what it us or the causes. I was afraid. Never told anyone. I have history with trauma. I had wrong advice. My husband is one of the few safe husbands. I just never told him. I tolerated the pain. I tend to have a high tolerance to pain. I’m being more honest now. I have several factors which affect me. PFM (pelvic floor muscle) therapy helps. Also seeking a therapist/counselor for other issues. I really liked what you said about just letting it happen naturally because some of us feel it’s our marital duty. No fault to my husband neither. He has never made me feel like he expects or demands it. Also he was married before and he was abused by her. Can we address women withholding sex to control or manipulate their husbands? I’ve heard it and seen it.
    Men also deal with ED. For us once the pressure was off from him to perform he had no trouble. There are so many factors but I understand why you focus on this subject bringing it to light and addressing the truth.

    Reply
  26. Jen

    Glad you brought up vaginismus but explaining what it is and isn’t would have been good idea. For example I never heard of it before last week. My PT suggested I research it.
    Lots of factors play into my issues. My husband is one of the few safe ones.

    Reply
  27. Michelle

    I wish someone had told my husband and this early on. We have found our way together but those first years were so confusing and we both said a lot of things in our hurt and pain. I want better for our kids and all newlyweds in our lives.

    Reply
  28. Brianna

    I so wish I had read this or something like it before I was married 5 years ago. My husband and I are both Catholic and we were both virgins when we were married. I thought amazing sex would be a given since we were virgins and we read a ton of theological texts regarding the intimate connection between husband and wife. Needless to say, we were both expecting to have mind blowing sex. But let me tell you, that was NOT the case! I was in so so so much pain! Since it was our first time, neither of us had any idea about the build up that I would need as a woman to become aroused. And you touched on something that no literature I read even addressed and that is that since sex was expected on our wedding night, it definitely took the excitement out for me even though it was my first time. I continued to have painful sex throughout my entire marriage and a great level of sadness for both me and my husband because neither of us knew what to do. I just gave birth to our third child and I’m finally in pelvic floor therapy to help but I also know I have a lot of mental roadblocks to work through but I know I’ll one day enjoy sex with my husband who is amazing and supports me in any way he can.An honest expectation about sex for women needs to be talked and is seriously lacking in catholic and other Christian media. This article touches on everything I have thought as I fight my own battle with vagunismis. I can’t help but wonder if I had read something like this before I was married, maybe sex wouldn’t be so hard for me. I’m coming to this website for the first time and I’m finding so much helpful information! Thank you for the work you do!

    Reply

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