A few weeks ago I wrote a post where I mentioned that having sex before marriage has impacted my sex life in marriage, and I’ve had a few people ask me for clarification about that, so here it is.
Clarification # 1. My husband and I both had sex before marriage, but not with each other.
That’s just our story. Yours might be different. I’ll share with you our experience, and what it’s taught us. I hope it helps you.
Clarification #2. Having sex before marriage has complicated our sex life, but hasn’t ruined it.
It is more work than I expected it to be, and takes even more communication than I anticipated, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, sex can be really good and still get better and better. You get out what you put in.
Clarification #3. I hate the word consequences.
It’s sounds so ominous and depressing. It has implications of pain and punishment. And, while there is work involved, it’s less like punishment and more like investment. It takes contribution, but there’s a huge payoff in the end. It’s worth it.
You can make your investment now or you can make it later.
Now is better, of course, because investments grow in value the longer they exist. But if you haven’t started investing yet, you can always start today. If you’re single, and haven’t invested yet, you can start now. If you’re dating, and haven’t started investing yet, you can start now. If you’ve been married 30 years, and have never invested in a healthy sex life, you can start now too.
Part of why I hate the word consequences, is that I don’t think it adequately describes what the “investment” looks like. Here’s what the investment has looked like for me. I started making these investments when I first began dating my husband.
- Talking honestly about what I want and how I feel.
- Refusing to allow shame or guilt to control my decisions
- Giving only from a place of love and grace, not ever from obligation or guilt
- Thinking about my motives for sexual feelings and behaviors, and being honest with myself about the root of those things
The “consequence” of the bad boundaries I’ve held with sexuality is that these (above) patterns were not “normal” for me. Because of that, I’ve had to retrain myself to act, think and speak in ways that feel, at times, uncomfortable for me. I continue to retrain my bad habits, even ten months into marriage. I have to do this until I form new habits and patterns.
But I like to consider each decision I make as a quarter I add to a piggy bank. I may only be able to contribute one each day, but over time, those quarters add up.
The longer I contribute quarters, the more money I’ll have at the end of it all.
Clarification #4. Putting good boundaries around your sexuality is not a golden ticket to a perfect sex life.
Creating good boundaries around your sex life, whatever that looks like for you, is like locking up your house for the night, or when you leave on vacation. If you choose not to do it, you’re house might be fine, but there are all kinds of risks involved. Someone might break in in the middle of the night. They might want your TV, or they might want to hurt you.
Are you willing to take that risk?
Even if you lock up your house, someone might break in. They might break the locks, or they bust down the door, or break the glass and come in through a window. Some people choose to have security systems on their house for that reason, some people choose to have dogs. Others choose to have their doors unlocked and windows open most of the time.
It depends on what you have in your house, your neighborhood, and probably depends some on your previous experience.
If you choose to exercise poor emotional and sexual boundaries (in marriage or when you’re single) you leave a “window” open to some danger. The truth is, you can experience these dangers even if you take every precaution. Thieves and bad guys are clever in the ways they break into your house.
But here are a few things you risk by leaving your window open.
- An open window for insecurity. Something about sex without commitment feeds insecurity, or at least it did for me.
- An open window for infidelity. If you train yourself to think that sex is casual, or weak of meaning, or that it doesn’t necessarily need to occur in a committed relationship, why would this thought process suddenly dissipate when you get married?
- An open window for selfishness. If we train ourselves to think that sex is about “getting some” it doesn’t prepare us for what makes sex so rewarding and fulfilling — it’s more about giving than it is about getting.
I’m not going to talk you out of having sex before marriage. First, there’s a good chance you’ve already had sex, and my “scare tactics” (if I decided to use them) would just make you feel ashamed and fearful that you won’t ever enjoy safe, satisfying sex with your wife or husband someday. You will. If you want to, you will.
And second because, you probably wouldn’t listen to my advice anyway.
What I will do is tell you my story.
I’ll tell you that having sex before marriage didn’t ruin my sex life forever, but that there were (and are) “consequences” for my actions, and I continue to put quarters in the piggy bank every single day. I’ll tell you that, some days, I wish I would have started putting quarters in the bank when I was sixteen, seventeen, twenty-one.
But I’ll also say I’m really thankful the opportunity to invest in good sexual (and emotional) boundaries never goes away.