Q&A with J: Will Sex in Marriage Be a Letdown?

Today’s question is from a man getting hitched very soon. He’s wondering how the whole sex-in-marriage thing is going to go:

I’m a 24-year-old man who is soon to be married and has never had sex (I know a 24-year-old virgin is quite a rarity in American society).

Anyway, I’ve been reading up on many of your articles on this website, and while I understand that in several of them that are geared towards newlyweds you typically give advice like lower expectations and that it won’t be perfect, I am afraid that I’m going to let my future wife down on our wedding night (or the first time we have sex, because I hear sometimes the wedding wears people out to the point where they don’t feel up to it that evening).

I have a few friends who waited until they were married to have sex and they all seem to say the same thing: that it wasn’t worth it to wait and that it wasn’t as big of a deal as everybody made it out to be.

I really don’t want to feel that way about it. Do you have any advice/links to articles that I could read to help alleviate these fears?

Q&A with J: Will Sex in Marriage Be a Letdown?

Wow. Sometimes in an effort to set realistic expectations, we can inadvertently sound like the bearers of doom and gloom. Perhaps at times my site has come across as Sex is great! Sex is great! But don’t expect much. What’s someone to do with that message??

So Mr. Fiancé, let me try to clarify a few thoughts about what to anticipate for your first sex on the honeymoon.

Expectations. I actually think you should have very high expectations. Healthy sexual intimacy in marriage is beautiful, bonding, and a whole lot of fun. (If I didn’t believe that, wouldn’t this website be a complete waste of time?) However, some people place all their expectations on that first time, and that’s where issues can arise.

Indeed, I’ve heard spouses conclude based solely on their wedding night that they don’t like sex because it didn’t feel all that fabulous. Well, hello! If you’re making chocolate soufflé, it may not come out perfect the first time — but it’s yummy-for-your-tummy chocolate soufflé, so try again.

Likewise, sexual intimacy is worth developing over time. You and your wife might rock the foundations of the Earth the first time you make love, or it could simply be a tremor, but the entirety of sex in marriage does not rest on a single night. Not the first night, not the next night, not the night 17 years from now when your kids have driven you crazy all day and you barely have enough energy to connect your parts together much less rock each other’s world.

Set expectations high, but understand you may have to make some effort to get there. And sexual satisfaction should be evaluated on the sum of your experiences together.

Performance. “I am afraid that I’m going to let my future wife down…” The worst lovers are often those who think they already know everything and don’t pay attention or listen to their partner. The fact you’re already thinking in terms of how can I make this good for my wife? makes me wanna high-five your bride-to-be. She’s probably going to be just fine.

But what can you do to make this a great experience for her? In addition to this post with specific suggestions, here’s what you should know about making sex good for your wife:

  • She’s a sexual person apart from you. Meaning there are things going on her head and her body that are about who she is —  based on her own physiology, her mind, her past history, and her expectations. Her ability to respond as passionately as you, or she, might like isn’t entirely in your control. This is one reason why I believe sex in marriage should be covered in premarital counseling. Not with graphic details or flip charts, but rather getting on the same page about how you’ll approach each other in the bedroom — when things work well and when they don’t.
  • The person best able to tell you how to arouse and satisfy your wife is your wife. Likewise, you’re the best person to tell and show her how to arouse and satisfy you. You two can figure out sex together by being willing to communicate, engage, explore, and evaluate. Ask if she wants you to touch her with different strokes, pressure, etc., and help her figure out what feels good.
  • Make sure she “finishes.” That might mean climax, but it might take her some time to figure out the orgasm. It’s fairly easy for some, and not so easy for others. But what really stinks is the husband who does a little bit of foreplay, gets to the intercourse part, finishes fast, and fall asleep. I’m telling you like it is, dude — don’t do that. Prioritize her pleasure, and you’ll likely both enjoy the experience more.
  • Relax. A recent comment to another post made me realize that we ladies sometimes make it sound like sex with your wife is rocket science. You have to navigate all those emotions, expectations, and obstacles just to get busy with your woman, and even then some hubbies don’t have a clue whether she’ll enjoy the whole shebang. But you’re a man! I repeat: You. Are. A. Man. So man up, and believe you’ve got this. You are specially designed by God to be just the sexy partner your wife needs and desires.

Comparison. You also mention friends who’ve said sex wasn’t that big a deal once they started having it. Like maybe the show wasn’t quite as entertaining as the billing promised.

We live in a sex-glutted culture, and this causes too many people to believe sex is the end-all-be-all or that it should be a camera-worthy session of passion that leaves your loins burning and your mind blown. We compare our lovemaking to the last movie sex scene we saw, or the romance novel we read, or the porn video we watched. And then you do it with your spouse, and it’s like, “Huh.”

I remember being surprised by how little time it actually takes to make love. I probably got the wrong impression from AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long that a couple could actually make love for eight hours. Tantric sex not withstanding, you can take anywhere from five minutes to two hours to do the deed. Yet not once have I ever shaken my husband “all night long.”

But once you throw out the misguided comparisons, something more intangible and more beautiful can replace it. You can stop measuring exactly how much pleasure you get and focus on what pleasure you can give. You can become more open and vulnerable, worrying less about how everything’s going and releasing yourself to savor the sensations. You can begin to see how each sexual encounter weaves you two closer together as one flesh. You can appreciate the beauty of God’s design for sexual intimacy in marriage.

Forget the comparisons. All that matters in the marriage bed is you, your wife, and your Heavenly Father who gave you this intimate gift. Appreciate that.

Positivity. For all those couples who struggle at the beginning of their marriage with sexual intimacy, I can name plenty who came right out of the chute and rode successfully to the finish. Meaning you two might just be one of those couples where things click, and you’re satisfied and she’s satisfied and the heavens open and streams of sunlight beam down so you can bask in your delight.

You sure don’t want to hurt your odds by getting all worried and uptight. Look, I know you can’t get rid of the anxiety altogether, but make your sex-talk be positive messages.

Tell yourself that sexual intimacy with your wife is going to be amazing, that it’s a gift from God, and that any problems that arise can be resolved. Honestly, one reason for good sexual intimacy in my own marriage is that I talk it up in my head — everything from “What a hottie I married! ” to “This is going to feel great!” I remind myself of how awesome and unique this relationship is with my husband. And that cultivates more enjoyment and gratitude.

And here are a few more posts for those getting married soon or newlyweds:

What Should a Groom Know about His Wedding Night?
Preparing for the Wedding Night
Wedding Night Sex
What I Wish I’d Known before the Wedding Night

Congratulations and may your wedding night, honeymoon, and many years of marriage be filled with all kinds of intimacy and delight!

32 thoughts on “Q&A with J: Will Sex in Marriage Be a Letdown?

      1. April

        You’re welcome! As a homeschool mom, I do the same. If it weren’t for my kids, I’d probably never know the day of the week!

        Reply
  1. Ham

    I respect you for having waited until marriage. And if she has done likewise, it’s likely she has as many insecurities as you. I think the important thing to remember is that you both have your whole lives before you with plenty of time to develop your lovemaking during your journey together. And, sex, even when it’s not ideal, it’s still pretty good, so be encouraged! Don’t be afraid to talk to each other about your fears, Learn to listen to each other, and each of you try to make the other’s pleasure your first priority. Keep in mind that it’s not over when you both have the Big O. Cuddle and kiss and affirmation of affection time come after that, and they can be just as meaningful, if not more so, than the supposed main event. You will do fine, because you have a powerful friend in The Lord, and He loves to see His children caring for each other.

    Reply
  2. C

    To the guy who write the original question:

    I’m not sure whether you are a Christian or not, but, since you evidently read this Christian blog, I’ll address you as though you are a believer.

    I’m SO GLAD you decided to wait. I’m also grieved to hear that your friends who waited till marriage for sex said that it was not worth it. IT IS ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT. If my husband and I had not waited, I know, without a doubt, it would have greatly negatively affected my marriage. Knowing that my husband is a man who values obeying God more than he values his own pleasure means so much more to me than any premarital sexual encounters we may have had. Not only that, but there is simply an inherent goodness in obeying what God has commanded in Scripture. He didn’t make these “rules” to make us miserable, but to make us flourish. It is a person with a very temporal perspective who says that obeying a command of God’s is not worth it when compared to the temporary pleasure that may have been had. Don’t disregard the fact that there is an entire ETERNITY that we are living for—an eternity that far outweighs anything that happens during this earthly life.

    There is so much beauty in God’s design for marital sex. It won’t be perfect in the beginning. No aspect of your marriage will be. But it only gets better and better with time and practice (like anything else in life). And it’s all about a whole lot more than just the act of sex.

    Enjoy life with your new wife!

    Reply
  3. S

    To the man with the question,

    My husband was in your shoes several years ago. (I, his bride, was a slightly younger virgin.) Here’s my two cents:

    It’s AMAZING. You will love it. Both of you.

    The intimacy of being together is a beautiful thing. FINALLY you get to enjoy, explore, and experience one another. There’s such sweet freedom in just getting to be naked together. Try to use some words (tell her she’s beautiful, you love her body, etc) and try to take as much time as you can to cuddle with her and touch her.

    You won’t be disappointed.

    Reply
  4. Denise

    From a recently married lady who was a virgin prior, I would say this. I have been married 5 months. I didn’t really know what I was doing and I was super nervous. My husband took his time and was patient. That was a big deal. Wedding night sex was fun once I got out of my head, but 5 months later, as we get to know each other more intimately and get used to what each other likes, it gets even more fun and gets better. It isn’t a let-down by any means. It is special that it is a sacred time between the two of you. Nothing can take that away. It isn’t a let-down but it gets better and better…at least that is my experience.

    Reply
  5. Kay

    My wedding night was fabulous. I feel like we had realistic expectations, knew to go VERY slow, and ultimately made the goal exploration and pleasure. Not orgasm (for me anyway), pleasure. Orgasm took time. My husband quickly learned how to manually, but I don’t think I learned how to orgasm during sex until pregnancy forced me on top and a whole new world open up to us! 😉 The biggest thing was communication for us. We were very open and honest about what worked and what didn’t. And like anything else in life, you have to LEARN HOW to have sex. Practice makes perfect. There are good days and bad days (and sometimes good months and bad months, especially after kids). Some days the sex was bad enough I cried… But even more often the sex was SO GREAT I cried. I’ve been married nine years and our sexual journey has been amazing overall.

    I am so glad my husband and I waited. It WAS worth it. Why? Because of the trust it built. Waiting was HARD. But if we were able to exercise the self-control to not have sex even when we put ourselves in some really dumb situations, we now trust one another completely to never cheat. I have ZERO regrets about waiting.

    Reply
  6. April

    To the questioner, from someone who didn’t wait, it IS worth waiting for! My husband and I both were no where near virgins. When we met I was 23 and he was 32 and we’d been around the block a few times. But even in our 4 year courtship, we didn’t wait. We are Christian people, we knew better. It is each of our biggest regrets, not waiting for each other. We actually connected just fine in the beginning (before marriage) then things got rocky. After we marry I think we just thought everything would be perfect in that department but it wasn’t. It was great at times and great when we actually did but we went weeks without sexual intimacy. It was a huge point of contention between us. But we have now been married 10 years (almost) and the marriage bed is now on point! We have actually been surprised by its new found intensity and frequency. And it’s been this way for over a year. And our marriage has grown in ways we never imagined. We’ve been through horrible times in our marriage and amazing times in our marriage (like now) and we wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. Most of our hardships have been of our own making and there were times we wanted to throw in the towel (and some of those times were over our sex life honestly). We are still very thankful we never did. And if things are perfect on the first night or not so perfect, either way it will be worth it! And no matter how great day 1 is, it will get better! Ten years in and we just now feel like we are hitting our stride! 😉 Congrats on the upcoming nuptials!!!

    Reply
  7. libl

    Everyone has such great advice! I was a “technical virgin” when I got married. We did everything but penetration. Let me say that I am very very glad I waited until marriage for intercourse, but I am very very sad I compromised on the other sexual activities. It set us up for failure and a decade long battle of miscommunication, unmet expectations, selfishness, and sex being very much physical and replaceable (porn and masturbation).

    It wasn’t that we sinned physically that ruined it, but rather the selfishness, fear, immaturity, and “knowing better than God” that did us in. So long as you and your bride continue in selflessness, love, wisdom, and honoring God, you will be just fine.

    Also know that sex in marriage is a journey, an adventure and it ebbs and flows. There will be deserts and refreshing waters, mountains and valleys, paradise and swamps to trudge through. But if you keep sex bigger than just “getting off” you will not crumble during any of these times.

    You are on the right path. Stay on it.

    Reply
    1. ADC

      I saw your community and i just have to say that i feel the same. Me and my wife were also technically virgins. We did everything “but” intercourse and I am so sad over that. It wasn’t meant to be like that. My whole Christian life I had decided to wait but we both fell into the lust and I hated my self for it and am suffering for it now. She is a wonderful person but many times she initiated because she has more experience then I do in the area of sex. Meanwhile I was struggling with a porn addiction, that I still am struggling with. So with her initiating, I had high expectations when we would get married. I thought our sex life’s would be great and it was in the beginning but now it’s not. A lot is expectations that are not met and also substitutes. I have been honest with her about my struggles with porn since day one but I am still struggle. The hard part is that it feels sometimes like she was so passionate before our marriage but now that we’re married sometimes it feels like now that were
      Married she doesn’t have to do those thing anymore. And that gets me frustrated sometimes. We had a daughter 4 months ago and there are big changes I know that but still sometimes I’m afraid sex will still be like “meh” for her. And that’s a struggle especially when porn is so easy to get. Anyways I just wanted to say that. I just hate that we didn’t wait all the way through. All those expectations would not be there if we would have been stronger. If I would have been stronger I had been a Christian for a longer time I was the one who should have helped her but I failed God and her. I just needed to get it out of my chest. And also ask how did you resolve it? Have you been able to fix it?

      Reply
  8. P

    I was 35 and my fiancee was 32 when we got married and our wedding night was the first time for both of us. Looking back our honeymoon was nothing special sexually, but now after over 40 years our love making is mind blowing and it is still getting better and better every time we make love. As someone else has already said post intercourse cuddling is very important. If I may offer one piece of advice it is this. Love your wife in accordance with Eph 5:25-33. It is difficult to do and, being human you will fail from time to time but the effort is well worth it. Marital sex is God’s greatest gift to husbands and wives.

    Reply
  9. Sarah

    Coming from a couple who also waited, I will tell you that it is so worth the wait…although it may not feel that way at first. Our first time was a blast but we were both understandably nervous. My husband was very gentle and caring and eventually we got things done, but the whole process was very awkward and mechanical. One thing that isn’t usually said is sex isnt just insert rod A into slot B. It’s about so much more than that. And here’s the great part – you have your WHOLE LIFE to figure it out. 🙂 And trust me, if you love your bride as much as it sounds like you do, you’ll have no problem getting it right, even if you get it wrong sometimes. Don’t be afraid to talk about your sex life. Be open with her about what works and what doesn’t because as J said, you’re the only one who can tell her what works for you and vice versa. If you keep that line of communication open, you can’t go wrong. And the best way to get something right is to PRACTICE 🙂 You’re on the right track and you haven’t even started yet.

    Reply
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  11. Dunce Scholar

    As they say “practice makes perfect” and oh what a lot of fun the practice is.
    What happened when you learnt to ride a bike? You fell off.
    But in this issue, it is hardly daunting getting back on.
    The trick is you need to get to know her body and she needs to get to know yours.
    Time makes great sex, but you always remember the first time.

    Reply
  12. AnonymousForThis

    I think it’s great that you both waited. It will be sweet to share that together.
    Unfortunately, we don’t all get to wait. Sometimes special things are taken from us. And that can leave a woman feeling like damaged goods and unworthy. I’m blessed that my husband was understanding and able to overlook it.
    Best wishes on your marriage AND your wedding night! And don’t be afraid to keep trying. 🙂

    Reply
  13. James

    Whoever said it wasn’t worth the wait is crazy. I wish for anything that I had waited. I’d do anything to have waited. NOT because of the sex. Not because of memories or anything else you can imagine. But because of trust. There is that doubt always. You couldn’t wait so why wait now? I’d also LOVE for my wife… to be the ONLY one ever. Period.

    Next… Wedding night sex is just the beginning. If you think about it so much… Yes it will stress you out. In reality we short ourselves with the drama and excess of the wedding. The highlight really should be that night. Beginning your lives together. Not acting like a princess or prince. But beginning a wonderful God centered life together.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I feel that way too, James. I am entirely forgiven, redeemed, and saved from my past. But oh for my husband to have been the only one ever…that, I can’t get back. Yet God is good and has blessed our marriage and marriage bed many times over. Blessings to you and your wife!

      Reply
  14. finallyhis

    We are newlyweds, and all I can say: we set our expectations to low! I never thought ”it”could be that great for me, too. But it really can be, if you take time and study your wife. Wish you all the best as you grow together. We also waited and are so thankful that we could experience everything together. Here’s one very good article, both articles for husband and wife are really good and biblical. http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/sex-romance-and-the-glory-of-god-what-every-christian-husband-needs-to-know
    Have a great start! 😉

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Thanks! We also had a fabulous first time, but I always want to be clear that if it isn’t, you’ve got time to figure things out and nurture beautiful intimacy. Thrilled it worked out for you.

      (And I usually read what people put up in links, but I’m recovering from a little thing right now and I think that’s John Piper and he’s got good stuff typically… So thanks.)

      Reply
  15. Lynn

    I met my husband,m a widower, fairly late in life and was a virgin, and I was glad that I was prepared for the first time not being so great. It wasn’t painful, just awkward and didn’t work at first. After a couple of weeks we got the hang of it. Now it’s a year and a half later and we have a very fulfilling life together. I tell him so often, I am happy that my whole learning curve has been with one guy, the guy I love, the guy I married. Yes, it is very much worth waiting!

    Reply
  16. Anne

    Would you consider doing an article like this for us women? A sort of “How to make your wedding night enjoyable for your husband” type article?

    Reply
  17. Reiko

    On the wedding night we were clueless, having done only a bit of manual exploration before that, and the first time hurt me a lot (not enough arousal or lube). I wish we’d covered sex in marriage counseling. It’s been over eight years now (ten since the first manual try) and while I get some pleasure from intercourse, it’s never enough and I’ve never found any way to climax. I wish I could understand how it’s supposed to work and really connect with my husband in this way. It’s usually great for him, but it’s so one-sided. (Yes I know what the clit is for, but it doesn’t work for me.) It’s always best to wait because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s no guarantee that your sex life will turn out amazing.

    Reply
  18. Anonymous

    My fiancée and I are recently engaged, and will have a longer engagement (think 18 months long) so I can stabilize my college education/career a bit more before combining our bank accounts. We are both committed Christians and are SO looking forward to becoming one!

    Here’s the catch. I value modest clothing, speech, behavior, modest EVERYTHING like nothing else in life. My boyfriend, on the other hand, has had two previous girlfriends and lost his virginity to one a couple of years before he met me. Though only two may seem like a measly amount in today’s society, it seems like a mountain compared to myself, who has never dated or considered dating until I met him! He regrets these choices massively, and I in no way hold this against him. As much as I wish I could consider myself the only person he will ever be with, I am so glad that he recognizes this fault and wants to make my relationship with him pure and Godly. But in the meantime, I struggle with comparing myself to these two other girls whom I have never even had a full conversation with, and worry that he may prefer they way they do things to the way I may do things. I sometimes want to ask about his previous relationships, but know this would likely bring a world of hurt and regret for him. Additionally, I am worried and bothered that he may think of these other girls while in bed with me. (Girlfriend #1, which whom he did not have sex with but still pushed physical boundaries with is still a friend of his and acquaintance of mine, further complicating the issue.) Honestly, I can’t quite pinpoint how I feel about this! How can I approach these past actions of his, both for me and in our relationship? We have prayerfully considered our choice to marry and feel wholeheartedly that this is what we have been called to do, but I still feel as if I have gotten the “short end of the stick”.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I suggest you also pray about your feelings regarding comparison and “the short end of the stick.” Which I don’t think you’re getting, if you have a fiancé who is protectively waiting until marriage to make love with you, has been honest and regretful about his past, and has chosen you to be his beloved wife.

      Let me tell you that, from the perspective of someone who had more like your boyfriend’s past, I don’t ever think about those guys while with my husband. It would be like comparing dime store art to a Rembrandt. Not to say those previous guys weren’t worth anything, but without the love, commitment, and marriage context those experiences essentially turn to dust in my mind. I’m not saying he won’t ever remember those experiences, but they likely don’t matter to him as much as you might think and once you two are intimate that will become his standard. In fact, you can do a lot to heal his heart by embracing him fully and becoming the Eve he should have had all along.

      I’m not an idiot, so I don’t believe it all completely goes away. But I have scars, not wounds. And I revel in the redemption God granted me and the acceptance my husband gave me. When you feel like it’s hard to accept your fiancé, turn to the love of Christ and ask to see your beloved man through His eyes.

      Reply
  19. Stefan Stackhouse

    “I hear sometimes the wedding wears people out to the point where they don’t feel up to it that evening”

    This is a very good reason for making weddings far more simple and downsized than what is typical these days. Most people way overdo it, to the point where it is super late and the couple are totally exhausted by the time they get into the bridal suite. It isn’t just the expectations for the wedding night that need to be downsized.

    Reply
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  21. mary

    So J,I have an ideea for you. I am a newlywed and we got over the wedding night but i am writing here because it is still in theme. I would suggest a post where ypu describe how your sex life developed throigh the years and readers could also omment and share how they have grown in intimacy from day 1 (wedding night) till present day. I am in a phase where i might settle in a rut and i feel there is still so much to discover but i feel like i am blocked and have no ideeas how to go further. I think a post like this will help. Thanks!

    Reply
  22. JAZ

    I too just got married and thought I would contribute. My husband and I waited until our wedding night. Because of that we decided to not put any pressure on our wedding night. We dressed up for each other, kissed and touched each other. By the time I was ready, he was no longer aroused. Which is fair because he had gotten aroused probably 6 or 7 times, but my body wasn’t ready. Anyhow, we fell asleep cuddling and it was a very fulfilling and loving night.

    Because I we are practicing NFP and I was fertile the next day we waited another week and a half before attempting again. He was so worried about hurting me that the next two times we tried he stopped even though he was close to climaxing in order to not hurt me. I on the other hand, wanted to push past a little bit of pain to show my love and affection. I felt like I was letting him down. It is those feelings and getting past the initial pain that is a “let down.” People don’t usually share that it might not work in the beginning. However, I would say if you don’t rush it is truly a beautiful thing. We have been married three weeks but sex just keeps getting better and better. And trust me, I asked him how last night was, he said it definitely wasn’t a let down.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I agree that you have a lifetime of sexual intimacy, and those first few times aren’t likely to be your best — they’re the starter kit for your marriage. Many blessings!

      Reply

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