Waiting for Sexual Intimacy

Photo Credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

Photo Credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

I read a very interesting article last week from The Art of Manliness. Being thoroughly female, I still enjoy many of the posts from this male-directed blog. Last Monday, the article How Delaying Intimacy Can Benefit Your Relationship looked at studies on why it’s not such a good idea to jump into bed willy-nilly and why one should wait until the relationship deepens.

Now this wasn’t a Christian-based article, and I strongly advocate waiting until the real commitment of marriage vows. However, the studies cited support the church’s position that couples should wait. Here are two interesting findings.

Old Habits Die Hard

Repeated behaviors “train our minds to think and act in certain ways” — even to the point of rewriting our brain circuitry. The way you act over and over becomes a pattern that is very difficult to change. So the notion that you’ll settle down later, when you get married, and keep to one lover, and focus on deeper intimacy, etc., that’s not so easy to do. As researcher Dr. Busby says, “Every relationship we have, however brief and insignificant, influences every other relationship we have, and the patterns that we repeat across relationships become very difficult to change.”

If you pursue casual sex before marriage, it’s hard to make that shift to deeper intimacy in marriage. That’s not the message we usually get from sources around us. The romantic version often espoused in our culture is that something just shifts inside you when you meet “the right one.” But old habits die hard. It may not be personal — you may love and adore your mate — but you can have a hard time shutting off the way you’ve trained your mind to think about sex and introducing a different perspective.

The best option is to start right here, right now, establishing the habits you want to carry into the rest of your life and your marriage.

Oxytocin: It’s Not Just for Sex Anymore

I, and many others who write about sex, have mentioned the importance of Oxytocin in lovemaking. Oxytocin is a bonding hormone that reduces stress and fosters trust. It’s best known as a substance mothers release when they nurse their babies.

However, it is also released in men when they climax. For this reason, many believe that Oxytocin is key to the argument that sex is a bonding activity. But that’s not the whole story.

Oxytocin comes around during sex, but it also appears in non-sexual but affectionate activities, like hugging, touching, smiling, listening. Moreover, right after sexual climax, Oxytocin apparently takes a nosedive. So if the sex-made Oxytocin is all you’re working from, those bonding feelings will go pffft as soon as you’re done. Essentially, you need ongoing non-sexual Oxytocin-producing behaviors to really feel connected to your lover and then experience sex as an outgrowth of that bond. That’s what should happen in a marriage — ongoing interaction and bonding that makes the sex all the more meaningful.

From Martin Robertson, researcher: “Frequent, comforting feelings are important in maintaining strong bonds . . . . The more dependable the flow of Oxytocin via daily bonding behaviors, the easier it is to sustain a relationship. In contrast, a passionate one-night stand allows lovers’ innate defensiveness to snap back into place pretty much as soon as Oxytocin drops after climax.”

While else should you wait? I wrote posts for Preengaged some time ago explaining other reasons why couples should wait until marriage: Sex Before Marriage Part 1 and Sex Before Marriage Part 2.

9 thoughts on “Waiting for Sexual Intimacy

  1. desiringdiscipline

    Do you have a like button? I like so much of what you write and would like to click “like.”

    Amen and amen to the above. Currently I count myself blessed that my daughters (and I believe my son) remain virgins as they go into their college years. I have a terribly messy story about my love life… some of it has faded but a lot of it still plays vividly because that’s what anything sexual or involving the flesh does, it grabs ahold of you for a lifetime. You really have to work hard to deny and tune out those memories.

    I’m sure you’ve seen/heard the analogy of two pieces of paper (or wood) that are glued together (the Rainey’s do this illustration in their excellent Passport 2 Purity instruction for teens). Each time you give your heart and body to another, you have that one-flesh union. When it’s ended (because it was temporary or an affair), tearing apart from each other leaves messy bits of each person’s heart on the other’s paper. When it repeats, you end up with parts of your heart torn out, and parts of other’s hearts stuck on yours. Messy, messy, messy. Then, when/if you find God’s intended for you, you don’t have totally clean, whole, or untainted heart (aka sexual experience) to give your spouse. I realize that through Jesus Christ our sins are forgiven and we are washed as white a snow… but there’s something about sexual promiscuity that just doesn’t wash away so cleanly. Knowing I’m forgiven is great… but I still suffer the consequences of poor choices in how it affects my marriage.

    So, as it’s said–If I had to do it all over again, I would have saved the gift of my purity for my spouse so that we could have enjoyed pure, unspoiled intimacy together. This is why I worked so hard to relay this message to our kids and kept talks on the topic open (as a Catholic kid, I just got a lot of “don’t do this” but no moral or practical reason why). I wasted 20 years of marriage dwelling on the past and we have just now found the mercy and forgiveness to create our own special intimacy that is untainted by the past. I am blessed that it wasn’t too late. But I pray others can stay strong in their purity so that they don’t miss out on the joy of the one-flesh connection with God’s intended.

  2. Larry B

    This rings true from my own personal experience during dating 30 years ago. If you start having sex very early in the relationship, it can really distort and cloud one’s judgment. One can find oneself thinking he/she has much in common with their partner only to find out later that the only thing in common was a liking for good sex. So, yes it is better to wait and save the sexual intimacy for marriage.

    As well, in the US, we artificially prolong the adolescence which is not good in my opinion. Let’s have the children go to school year round. Then at age 16, they can go to a trade school or go on to college. That way,young adults could marry at 20 or 21. Hey, it worked in our parents’ and grandparents’ day – why could it not work again?!

    1. J

      You know, Larry, I actually agree with you on the adolescence thing. I don’t think we challenge teenagers enough. And our current school calendar is a relic from agricultural times when kids worked farms with their parents. Anyway…interesting stuff.

      Thanks for your comment!

    2. Teresa

      Larry – You said what I was thinking! I can’t speak from a male perspective, but from my own misguided experience, what was supposed to be casual sex created an illusion of intimacy and feelings towards the other person that had a lot more to do with the sex than with a true attraction to their personality and character which led to dysfunctional relationships ending exactly where you would expect them to. Had I abstained and got to really know the person, non sexual interactions would have cut those relationships off at the knees and perhaps there wouldn’t have been so much baggage that came with me. My mother used to say that you couldn’t help who you fell in love with so to be choosey as to who you spent your time with. As usual, she was correct. Having said that, I’m not sure what my parents could have said back in those teen years that could have protected me from something bad happening and then the years of promiscuity that followed. But “don’t do it” or “it’s a sin outside of marriage” really didn’t make a dent in my hormone-fueled stupidity. God bless all – and in particular, those who have found a way to successfully steer their children towards a healthy view of sexual activity within a healthy marriage.

    3. Larry B

      Theresa, you raise a good point. I do not know if J has addressed this in an earlier essay, but what is some practical advice for parents with teenage children in these times (in addition to the info above)? And, yes, make no mistake, the hormones are some of the most powerful mind altering bio-chemicals for both males and females. I can remember my teens and 20s. (In the US, we might consider trying to get the hormones out of the meats and dairy products our children consume.)

      We cannot go back to the 1930s mindset and make sex so taboo and even “dirty” as that destructive thinking harms adults within their marriages. We need to be sex positive, and still teach our children to strive to save it for marriage. God intended the lovemaking within marriage to be bonding and mutually pleasurable.

  3. Greg

    Great points and encouragement to wait for intimacy! God’s commands are neither arbitrary nor draconian; they are designed to protect our own good. What good reason do we really have not to honor God and reap the benefits of being safeguarded from sin’s consequences?

  4. rockhisworld

    Great post! I find it fun when people discover what the Bible has taught for centuries. I appreciate what you say about people developing patterns of behavior and how those patterns do not just change over night. It takes time and effort to do that.

    So now I know why it is that I feel better when my wife gives me real cuddles. It is as if everything in the world is right when I get those from her. I can see why people get addicted to Oxycontin. I will just stick to the natural forms though. (I wonder, is Oxycontin responsible for when runners get that, “runner’s high”?)

  5. Anonymous

    @ rockhisworld, actually it’s OXYTOCIN, not “Oxycontin”. I think the Runner’s High is associated with Endorphins, I’m not sure Oxytocin is related to that.

  6. Anonymous

    Thanks, J for this. I’ve often heard that we men get a dose of oxytocin at orgasm, but as you describe, immediately afterward, for me at least, it crashes. Unless I’m misreading my own hormones, I find my oxytocin levels seem to peak during foreplay, during a simple make-out session with heart-felt kissing. In fact, in my marriage, I’m often the one trying to extend and prolong foreplay, as I know the post-orgasmic crash is coming.

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