Q&A with J: What To Do with Sexual Desire Before Marriage

Today’s question is from a single woman and involves lust.

“I have a strong desire to have sex, and most girl friends I talk to can’t seem to relate. I want to have sex with my future husband and no one else, but what do I do with my physical desire in the mean time? I’m sure you can understand that these type of feelings aren’t like your desire to eat a piece of cake where you can just ‘be strong’ and say no. It’s not that easy.

“I don’t want to just be physically pure when I get married one day, I want my mind and heart to be pure for my husband. But every single day I struggle with my desires, and I can’t just ‘turn off’ how I feel until I get married and then turn it back on again. And because of my struggle, it’s really hard for me to view sex in marriage as pure and holy when right now, I feel like I have to push those thoughts away.”

I took a very personal look at this one, because I’ve thought a lot about what might have changed my premarital promiscuous behaviors. I also had a strong sex drive that did not go away just because I wanted to do things the way God said. But don’t worry, reader: We’re in good company (see Romans 7:21-25), and we can overcome (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).

What To Do with Sexual Desire Before Marriage

Here’s what I believe would have helped me.

A belief that the best truly was yet to come. I tended to think the sexual pleasure I had outside of marriage was so good, how could it be any better inside marriage? I know differently now. But I wish I, and others in the church, had been taught regularly that the marital intimacy was worth waiting for — because it truly was more holy and more hot.

A strategy for remaining pure. I had nothing, nada, zero but my own willpower, which was not strong enough. I swore to myself I wouldn’t cross the line, but then I put myself in scenarios that set me up for failure.

Instead, I would not be alone with dates unless there was a strong possibility of being seen or walked in on. I would have a mutual commitment with my boyfriend/fiancé to stop and do something else if things got heavy. I would recognize that I was weak and needed to set myself up for success in this area by keeping my dates about something other than my strong sexual feelings (which, of course, will happen anyway…but less so if you’re, let’s say, bowling than making out).

Simply saying you won’t isn’t enough. It’s like saying you want to own a software company, but you have no plan for educating yourself in computers or learning how to run a business. If you set a goal, you need a strategy — a statement of how — for meeting your goal.

Someplace to channel those intense emotions. It isn’t enough to say what you won’t do; it’s better to say what you will do. For instance, what if when I got all hot and bothered, I took a run? Or went to a dance class? Or even punched a punching bag? I’d be looking for positive outlets for the stress that builds inside when you don’t have a sexual outlet.

Too often we focus on the don’ts of Christianity without paying attention to all of the do’s. Think about it in terms of the recovering alcoholic who ends up a table of people drinking cocktails. Instead of sitting there empty-handed, most will order a ginger ale or a club soda — they have a plan of what to put in their hands instead of the thing they don’t want. Likewise, figure out where you can channel that excess tension and energy.

Affection that doesn’t rely on the romantic. Speaking of positive outlets, sometimes we get all, or almost all, our affection through our romantic attachment. Since our bodies thrive on touch and connection, it’s tempting to shortcut all that, have sex, and get super-rushes of Oxytocin.

But we can find other ways to meet social/emotional needs, like holding babies at your church nursery or hugging the elderly at a local convalescent home (they could really use affection) or sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with friends or family. Long touches with others can keep us from having too long and too heavy touches with our romance partner.

Prayer and scripture. I’d pray more often, more fervently, and more openly to God. I’d also find a few scriptures to memorize, that I could bring to mind at the snap of a finger. I believe these are God’s weapons against spiritual temptation. Not in the moment of sexual temptation (that prescription is to flee — see 1 Corinthians 6:18), but in preparing ourselves for day-to-day life.

As you can see, I really don’t have easy fixes. I think the big issue here is that as long as we’re trying to not do something, it’s especially hard. We’re likely to have greater success when we try to replace that something with a better something.

So get off the couch where you’re reading romance novels and thinking how much you want to have the sex that protagonist is having and start reading scripture and working out on your treadmill. Stop heading into private places with guys you’re just dating and start hanging out in public places with friends. Quit looking at “man candy” and spend time as a “candy striper” at a local hospital.

Don’t kick yourself for having God-given sexuality, but channel your energies in appropriate ways. And if need be, repeat to yourself Song of Songs 2:7, 3:5, 8:4: “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” It will desire someday — when you are in a covenant marriage before God.

What are your tips for this single woman and others?

“How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.” — Psalm 119:9

23 thoughts on “Q&A with J: What To Do with Sexual Desire Before Marriage

  1. Mitchell

    Interesting post. What’s your view of masturbation as a valid way to handle sexual desire before marriage?

    1. J Post author

      Interesting question. I don’t believe there’s a direct commandment against solo masturbation in the Bible; however, the overriding message of Scripture is to save your sexual energy for our spouse and focus it on him/her alone.

      Consequently, I can argue solo masturbation both ways. Too much masturbation trains your brain to respond to that quick fix, and certainly fantasizing about others while engaging in masturbation is a bad plan. Plus, frequent climaxes make your body yearn for frequent climaxes, which hardly keeps your mind off sex. That said, I think periodic masturbation could also keep your sexual energy from being so overwhelming that you make poor decisions apart from marriage. So to my mind, I think it depends on the person’s intent, frequency, practice, focus, etc. in determining whether masturbation is one valid way to handle sexual desire before marriage.

  2. Keelie Reason

    I’m so happy you had a great few weeks off. Happy to see you back at it again. I missed your posts!!!

    I remember in my single years desiring to have sex so much that I could taste it. It was particularly hard because my husband and I dated for 5 years. What really helped us to keep ourselves from crossing lines was to stop engaging in physical affection aside from hugs. This really helped us to stay in check with our thought lives too. I wasn’t being tempted to do more with him, because I only allowed myself to hug him.

    When I was alone, and he wasn’t with me, I just re-focused my mind. I never read romance novels, watched television with sex scenes, or read articles about sex. When I was close to my wedding, I did read a few reputable books by good authors about sex, but that was when there was an end date in sight.

    Just do what you can to re-focus your mind. Although, I would really encourage anyone to remember that the excitement they feel isn’t bad. Don’t think, “these are bad thoughts”, rather, “I want to save these thoughts for my husband”.

  3. Rebecca

    I would also suggest side hugs only, not reading romance novels or listening to country/sensual music. Plus all that J said. Thats what helped me anyway! Kissing just always took things so far and it made me want sex more and then I was mad, lol!

  4. Justme

    1. I asked the Lord to remove my sexual urges until I had a godly outlet for them (which was my future husband) and at that time bring them back.
    2. I asked the Lord to restore my virginity.

    He honored both requests.

  5. Sally

    Great advice!!

    My husband and I both ‘waited’ for each other and it helped to know that at the start of the relationship. It kept us from doing things we were wanting to wait for.

    When I was single I went out dancing; the music, crowds and energy got a lot of my ‘extra’ energy out in a positive way.

  6. Deshandra

    Thanks for this! I am a single lady “in waiting” and boy do I struggle with this! I only want to be with my God sent husband but I find myself desiring to be with him often…still waiting for him to find me and that makes it even worse!! I find myself to point of crying cuz I feel so bad for having these feelings!

  7. Christian Husband of 38 yrs

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) Our young people have it very difficult these days. From cultural expectations and economic necessity they are having to delay marriage for a very long time, yet they are bombarded in all directions by a hypersexualized culture plus unrelenting peer pressure. Those of us who are older and married certainly need to be praying for them!

    2) Maybe we need to take a critical look at both those cultural expectations and those economic necessities. MUST marriage be delayed so very long? Are there not things that could be done to help these young people (or to help them help themselves) to get on a faster track to marriage? The best answer to this young lady’s problem really is to get married sooner rather than later, if it can be made at all feasible to do so. I’d suggest taking a hard look at her plans and priorities, and consider how she can get herself on to a faster marriage track – and how she can find potential spouses who will be ready for marriage sooner rather than later.

    3) This is not to suggest that people recklessly rush into marriage, and especially not with someone who is unsuitable. However, we have to take another critical look here. Do we (both in the Christian community and the wider culture) encourage young people to set their expectations, hopes, and dreams way too high? Might it be possible that more young people could find the doorway open to marriage a lot sooner if they lowered their expectations to more realistic levels? To be sure, I am not suggesting that any Christian settle for someone who has not made a serious faith commitment to Christ or who is not making a serious effort to live as a Christian. If they check off those boxes, however, I would counsel thinking long and hard before adding too many additional boxes that must be checked off.

    4) One final piece of advice: if you want to find a good spouse sooner rather than later (or ever!), then make it a top priority and make a supreme effort to become the best prospective spouse that you can become. Focus on that present task rather than your future fantasy, and you just might find your fantasy becoming your reality sooner rather than later.

    1. J Post author

      You know: I think there’s a lot of wisdom here. Honestly, my hubby and I have discussed this — that we believe young people start too late on marriage and family these days. But you’re also very right in saying that we have to not only lower the age of matrimony, but really prepare them for marriage. I agree with you.

  8. MS. K

    I’d like to share how I have been successful in living a holy life for the last 10 years as I wait on God’s season for my marriage:
    1st – we are always in a position of victory no matter what the circumstance. so that’s always my mind set. Greater is Jesus that is in me than any evil temptations that are in the world.
    2nd – jesus left the Holy Spirit to empower us and HELP us to live a successful life. Acts 1:8, 2-4
    3rd – the Holy Spirit is our power source— like power steering is to a car –the Holy Spirit is to the believer. Power steeriing does not MAKE you drive the car but power steering HELPS make driving the car easier. The Holy Spirit is your HELPER to live a victorious life in every area of your life
    4th – after praying the scriptures the other people mentioned, I pray in other tongues at least 30 minutes a day. that’s God’s power source so that my body doesn’t steer me into a ditch when the temptation comes and surely it will come… I have God’s word and strength/ edification on the inside to help me…the world doesn’t have that advantage in life. 1Corinthians 14:4, 14.
    4th – I actively cast down imaginations and every high thing that tries to exalt itself over God’s Word
    I must guard what I see and what I think, the music I listen to, the pictures I look at. I’m not afraid of these things but I have to set healthy boundaries. Everyone is different so certain things may be more of a temptation to me than they would be for someone else.
    5th- when I do go out, I try to do more group dating and I definitely don’t give the devil a place by allowing a single man to come by himself in my house late at night.. again safe and healthy boundaries.
    This is how me and my sisters in Christ walk out our single life.
    I realize this post is not going to be very popular in many circles, but I hope this is a blessing to someone

  9. Bek

    I was in the same boat as this lady before I married at 30. I desired to be married young, but it didn’t happen for me then. I had (and still have) a strong desire for sex, and what a blessing that is in marriage! I found my desire before marriage to feel more like a curse though. It was such a battle for me, but I did find some things that helped.

    I found that masturbation, occasional or otherwise only made things worse, and whether or not other people view it as a sin or not, it was a sin to me, and interfered in my relationship with God. The desire often hit late at night when I couldn’t sleep, so to avoid masturbation or drifting off into fantasies (another unhelpful way of coping) I would often turn to prayer. I would cry, scream, complain to God about my desire, being very honest with Him like the psalmists were. But I also trusted (or rather learned to trust) Him in this area too. I chose to believe that He understood my problem, and that one way or the other He would provide.

    And He did. When a doctor recommended that I try the contraceptive pill for my acne, I was not pleased with the idea of that, thinking it might be easier to sin if I became involved with a guy; but God in His wisdom and quiet way told me that the pill would be good for me.

    The particular pill I went on was an anti-androgen pill which means it lowered my testosterone levels. You know what that means – reduced libido. It took the edge off my drive (it didn’t destroy it completely – I was on it for our first year of marriage, and we still had sex as often as 5-6 times a week). That was the biggest thing that helped me, though I wish I had as J suggested just gotten out of bed, and used that energy somehow to remove myself from a tempting situation.

    I had to be very careful what I fed my mind – images (even those that were not pornographic) of stars and celebrities esp. my faves were a no go, as were romance novels, movies with sex scenes (I try to avoid these as a Christian anyway), blogs about sex and relationships, and even certain sections of medical books and animal documentaries (the sight of anything doing it was too much for me!). Know what your triggers are, either visual or emotional (e.g. feeling lonely) and avoid them.

    When I finally met the man I would marry we followed some of the good advice others had laid out – we went out in public, or only entered a house together where other people were present and kept all doors open. We also established early on that we would not kiss or even say “I love you” until we were engaged. Later I asked if we could wait for the kiss until our wedding day because I knew it would be too tempting (kissing is foreplay after all). He agreed, and we stuck to that. We also had a short (4 month) engagement. By God’s grace I felt as though I was behaving and thinking more purely when I was dating him, than in the rest of my single life put together!

    One thing I wish people had said to me in my single days is that sex is so incredible it is worth waiting for, but it is not THAT incredible that it’s worth destroying your relationship with God for – not even if He chooses not to give you a husband. Sex is not as good as you think when you are single, at least not in the ways you think it will be, but in other ways that you don’t even think of, it will be better than what you can imagine.

    May God give strength to all young women who find themselves in this position – it is possible to be pure, even with a raging sex drive.

  10. Abby Jensen

    One thing that helped me to feel better about it was to realize that these sexual thoughts are not evil. Your sex drive isn’t evil. Your sex drive is a gift from God- it’s just a gift that you don’t have a use for right now.

    You know how when you try to stop thinking about something, you just tend to keep thinking about it? The harder you try to push away sexual thoughts, the more powerful they become.

    I truly found victory in this area when I accepted that desiring sex was normal and healthy. I could acknowledge my sexual feelings without defining them as temptations. As soon as I understood that, the temptation lost its power. I didn’t have to consciously decide not to dwell on them. I didn’t struggle with guilt and shame. It was easier for me to get distracted with something else.

  11. A

    Good points-I wish I had that experience. I was a teen/young adult in the height of “purity culture” and I had an overwhelming desire for sex when many of my friends thought it was gross or were afraid to talk about it. I was led to believe I had an inner slut who was ready to burst out of me any second and I needed to suppress her. I didn’t get married until I was 29. I did wait until I was married to have sex-or do anything for that matter. But I got so good at suppressing sexual desire and honestly, thinking of it as evil until marriage magically changed it, that it has affected my marriage. Suppressing it is like second nature to me now and I’m having to re-learn how to respond to desire. Why would I want to suppress it you ask? I mean those moments where I’m just lazy and think, “I’d really like to have sex, but meh, I’m too tired or it’s not a convenient time.” Also, there are some health issues that have factored into driving down my sex drive, but it hasn’t been extreme. I’ve had lots of conversations with Jesus about this because sometimes I get angry that this has been my experience.

  12. kk

    I definitely was not perfect, and once I met my husband, we married pretty quickly!
    One thing that helped me during the wait until I married, was that I decided I wanted to have as little debt as possible to share with my future husband. I worked two jobs for many years. Once we were married, I was able to pay off my school loans within a few months.

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