Tag Archives: Christianity and premarital sex

Why You Feel Worse Than He Does about the Premarital Sex

Blog post title + woman curled up with head to knees

Did you have sex before marriage? Either with your husband or someone else? Or maybe several someone elses?

Welcome to the majority. Statistics show that 97% of Americans have sex before marriage. In highly religious groups, that number goes down to 80%, which is quite a difference. However, that’s still 4 out of 5 devoted Christians who didn’t wait until the ring was on the finger, the I Dos were spoken, the deal was sealed.

Waiting for sex until marriage is God’s design and desire, but the reality is that many of us didn’t achieve that goal. And if messing up was the end of our hope, not a single person could make it to Heaven. Rather, there is forgiveness, redemption, and clean slates through the saving work of Jesus on the cross.

But a reader recently emailed me saying that he hadn’t gotten the sense that my premarital promiscuous past came with any real consequences for me or my marriage: “I came to the conclusion that your premarital ‘adventures’ had not affected you at all.”

Wow. If I have left that impression, let me correct it right now. I have not talked about all the specific consequences of my past, poor choices — my sin — because some are quite personal and painful. But having sex before marriage remains my greatest regret.

I do not carry the guilt of my sin, because through the blood of Jesus, I have been washed, sanctified, and justified through Christ and the Spirit (1 Corinthians 9:11). Still, if I could anything in my life over again, that would be it.

Many wives feel similarly about their past promiscuity. They hate the choices they made, they ache over the consequences, they wish they could go back and do it differently.

Some of that emotional baggage follows them into marriage, like dragging an invisible suitcase filled with heavy heartache. But when these wives try to talk to their husbands about the issue, their feelings are sometimes batted away with “That was so long ago” or “I don’t care about those guys; you’re with me now” or “Why are you dwelling on the past?” The husband doesn’t really understand why the issue still impacts her view of her sexuality and her openness in the marriage bed.

But it does.

For many wives.

So why do you feel worse than he does about premarital sex? Why is easier for him to move on from his past? Why doesn’t he understand what you’re going through?

Apparently, there’s a gender gap in sexual regret.

Apparently, there's a gender gap in sexual regret. Click To Tweet

Looking specifically at teen sex, one study cited that 72% of girls who engaged in sexual intercourse wished they’d waited. That’s nearly three-fourths of young ladies who regret the sexual choice they made. But what is the percentage for teen boys? 55%. While still a majority of guys, that’s a substantial drop.

What about adults? The Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the University of Texas at Austin together interviewed 853 Norwegians and 466 Americans. They wanted to know if religiosity influenced sexual regret after casual sex, with Norwegians representing far less attachment to religion than Americans professed. They didn’t find much difference on the religiosity scales (although I could argue with what they defined as “religiosity”), but they discovered an interesting outcome that women experienced far more sexual regret than men.

Then there’s the National Marriage Project, which surveyed a thousand single Americans and then studied them for five years. Among the 418 who got married during that time, 23% who only had sex with their spouse prior to marriage reported higher quality marriages than those who had additional sexual partners in their past. Even more revealing was that the more sexual partners a woman had before marriage, the less happy she reported her marriage to be. But the researchers didn’t find the same thing about men.

So are our husbands all too happy to collect sexual partners before marriage with no regrets at all? No, I don’t think that’s true.

Plenty of husbands also say they wish they’d waited for their wives. But they don’t always carry residual regret the same way.

I suspect that’s more about how men target their focus and compartmentalize events. Many husbands don’t feel their prior mistakes or sins have a bearing on how they feel about their wives. Simply put, they’re often better at putting the past behind them with a that was then, this is now attitude.

That’s a great thing when you consider that husbands are not comparing their wives to other women from their past. They’ve flipped that page and moved on.

Now I’m not at all trying to diminish the weight of sin. Because that is what our poor choices were. But I am saying that there’s a gender gap in sexual regret likely based on gender differences in our brains.

But that doesn’t solve this disconnect — that she continues to carry baggage from her promiscuous past and he doesn’t fully understand. What can a wife (and husband) do?

Admit your sin.

The first step in clearing your state is being honest about your failings. That may sound like I’m encouraging you to dwell in the past, but nothing could be further from the truth. Admitting our sin is simply a first step. As 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That’s a big if there at the beginning, one we’d be well-advised to heed.

Embrace His forgiveness.

I was recently asked if there was an aha moment for me in my marriage — that moment when I let go of my past baggage (as awful as it was) and embraced a different future for my marriage. For me, it was finally, fully understanding this passage:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Ah, the beauty of that past tense. The sexually immoral is what I was, but I also was washed, sanctified, and justified in Christ Jesus. Believe it, cling to it, embrace His forgiveness.

Identify your baggage.

Be honest about what messages and concerns you’ve brought into your marriage based on your past. Much of what we think about ourselves, our husbands, and our sexuality can be tainted by our prior sexual experiences. What errors in thinking and behavior have you adopted based on your previous sexual choices and how you were treated by those other men?

To replace your erroneous thinking with God’s truth about sexual intimacy in marriage, you need to know where you’ve bought into lies. Here’s a common lie: That you don’t deserve full pleasure and intimacy in the marriage bed because you screwed up before. Not true. You are in a married wife now, pursuing God’s plan for sexual intimacy, and He longs to bless you and your husband.

Share your struggle.

Your husband doesn’t have to fully understand, and he may have a different way of looking at past promiscuity. But explain your own thoughts and feelings as best you can. You might also want to use a line I once used with my husband when he told me, for the millionth time, not to worry about something: “I literally have no idea what that looks like.” I went on to explain that while he can shove something in a mental box and tuck it away, I cannot. It’s just not how the female brain typically works. If your husband can begin to understand, you can enlist his help to push through your sexual regret and enjoy the full blessings of a healthy marriage bed on the other side.

Husbands: Support her journey.

All of my other tips are for the wives, but this one is for you men reading. Research has shown that women struggle more with this, so please recognize it’s not some flaw in your wife that she can’t quickly and easily let go of the past. If you want to really help your wife, don’t belittle her feelings, dismiss her struggle, or shut down conversation. Rather, reassure and comfort her, help her embrace a new perspective, and make sexual intimacy a beautiful experience for her too. Just be her Barnabas; that is, her encourager as she journeys toward a healthy and holy view of sex in your marriage.

Do sex God’s way.

For a while after I embraced God’s design of sex, I still struggled. I ruminated about my sinful past, carried personal labels like slut in my mind, and felt a fair dose of heartache from time to time. But over time, my husband and I logged so many positive, one-flesh sexual experiences that those outweighed everything that came before. The scales tipped, and “sex” in my mind became equated with this holier and deeper version of sexual intimacy. In some ways, “just do it” is good advice. And by it, I don’t mean sex itself, but sex God’s way.

Have you struggled with your premarital promiscuous past? How have you embraced God’s way instead?

Same image as before...sized for Pinterest

WaitingTillMarriage.com – 4 Cool Statistics About Abstinence in the USAStatistic Brain – Abstinence StatisticsPubMed.gov – Trends in premarital sex in the United States, 1954-2003; Verily – Sex Regret Isn’t about Religious Guilt as Much as Biological Instincts, New Research Shows; Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation – Teen Attitudes Toward Sex; The National Marriage Project – Before I Do; Verily – Regret Is Not the Same as Slut-Shaming

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.

The Premarital Sex Felt Great

How’s that for a title you didn’t expect from me?

Sheila Gregoire at To Love, Honor and Vacuum recently had two opportunities to be interviewed about sexuality by the Huffington Post. Not surprisingly, Sheila was outnumbered in her moral perspective…FOUR to one. I suspect those are better odds than we firm-stance Christians have in the secular world as a whole, though.

Sheila's interview - TV still

Sheila’s the one with the beautiful smile on the big screen.

In this last segment, the subject was about having premarital sex in one’s 20s and whether that’s a positive thing for your sex life as a whole. Of course, Sheila took the biblical stance of keeping sexuality in marriage, but she didn’t have to cite scriptures on a secular program; God’s truth is consistent, and the case for sex within marriage is supported by statistics. She did a terrific job and showed that she cares deeply about people experiencing God’s best for their marriages and sex lives.

At one point, the interviewer (not on her side) tried to support his point that sex doesn’t have to be a deep, emotional connection by attempting to quote Woody Allen: “The worst sex that I’ve ever had was still pretty good.” I couldn’t find that exact quote, but I believe this one from the famous actor/director is what the interviewer meant: “Sex without love is a meaningless experience, but as far as meaningless experiences go it’s pretty d–n good.”

Which brings me to my point. We Christians who encourage people to remain sexually pure until marriage need to admit what I knew when I was living the wrong lifestyle: Premarital sex feels great.

It is physically satisfying and entertaining and exciting. We don’t do our cause and our children any favors when we say that sex outside marriage isn’t good . . . and people hear that it doesn’t feel good. So when your teenager gets in the car with a date and goes too far, and it feels awesome and powerful and deep, might they discount the Christian message that waiting is better?

They might . . . because, as I’ve now said three times now, the premarital sex feels great.

BUT the married sex is SO MUCH BETTER!!!

Sex outside marriage is like having a Chips Ahoy cookie. I happen to like those. If someone brings a bag of them to a church potluck, I will scoop up a cookie or two and add them to my waistline. BUT what if you’re looking at a bag of Chips Ahoy versus Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies? (For those of you outside the Girl Scout realm, they are To. Die. For.) No one in their right mind would pick a hard store-bought cookie over a thin mint that delights the senses and supports the Girl Scouts.

If that comparison doesn’t speak to you, pick any of the below:

Sex Outside Marriage

Godly Sex in Marriage

Smart car
Lamborghini
Hot dog stand
Emeril’s restaurant
Hershey bar
Godiva Chocolatier truffles
Faded Glory
Christian Dior
Metal washtub
Jacuzzi bath
Leaky rowboat
Cruise liner

You get the point. If you had no idea about the second column, you might be happy having a hot dog from the street vendor. (This is just an example. Hey, the best tamales where I live come from a truck.) But if you slip into a Lamborghini wearing your Christian Dior outfit and eat a meal at Emeril’s, you know it’s worth a lot more.

I didn’t know I was in a rowboat when I was having sex before marriage. My boat was leaking, but I figured I was doing it wrong somehow, or that I merely needed a better paddle partner. I finally figured out that the only way to get it right was to get out of the rowboat and board the cruise liner!

When I teach my kids about sexuality, I plan to be honest. I tell them that the physical sensations of sex in any consensual context can be very pleasurable. God made sex to feel great. However, He blessed us with marriage to give us the very best. That’s just how our Father is. He loves us enough to want us to have the cream of the crop, the icing on the cake, the thin mint cookies . . . because we are the apple of His eye.

So yeah, those preaching multiple sex partners and 10 New Ways to Orgasm are right in saying that their prescriptions may give your body a real high. But I not satisfied with climbing a hill and whooping it up anymore. I want Mount Everest, baby.

In marriage, there is a blessing from God and a connection of life commitment that provides the foundation for the best physical intimacy one can have. Studies show those most satisfied with their sex lives are married . . . and married for a while.

Sheila beautifully described it in her interview: “It is a beautiful thing. And to say that you can have intimacy with all kinds of people, yeah, but there is nothing like a marriage.”

There is truly nothing at all like a God-centered marriage that pursues His holy plan for sex. I pray that for the couples who read my blog — that you will not just experience physical satisfaction, but spiritual and emotional connection through this deeply personal, physical act.

Purity B4 Marriage, Sexual Intimacy After: Teen’s Q

Q&AMore Q&A today! Here’s a question from a teen reader. While I don’t encourage teens to read my site, this young lady popped by and asked the following.

Hi J, let me start by saying I am sixteen and not married. I know that I do not really fit your qualifications for questions, but hear me out. First let me start out by saying that I am a victim of incest from my childhood. Which (I think) was the root emotional cause of a lot of sexual mistakes in the past few years, mainly in masturbation and pornography. It has been a bumpy road. But tonight I have been reading a lot of your posts about the sanctity of sex and how fun and wonderful it is for marriage- which I have always agreed with, but not always listened too. (Before I forget, thank you for being honest about good marital sex.) As I was saying, I know what I like- what works to get myself to orgasm. I have found redemption and forgiveness from God (PRAISE THE LORD) but I am concerned for my wedding night. Granted, that is a long way away considering no boyfriend and I am sixteen, but it is a concern. I am afraid that my wedding night won’t be as pleasurable for me, and in turn for him, because I will be impatient or that he isn’t doing it right. All of that already on top of the awkward/I don’t know what I am doing sex. I guess I don’t have my question in question format, but can you just help with… that stuff above?

The responsibility to teach children and teens about godly sexuality rests first and foremost with parents. The Book of Deuteronomy encourages parents many times to teach their children about God (e.g., see Deuteronomy 11:18-19). Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers,  do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” That training should include the Bible’s teachings on sexuality. However, not all parents are instructing their children in the Lord.

The Church also has a responsibility to teach the youth: “These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God” (Titus 2:4-5).

I responded initially to this young lady that “My blog is indeed primarily for married couples, and thus some of my posts are rather blunt for a 16 year old to be reading. However, if my own kid stumbled across such a blog someday, I would hope that she would glean that sex is beautiful and blessed by God in marriage and that staying pure beforehand will enhance that experience later. Moreover, I’d much rather she get perspective from a biblical blogger than the advice column of a Seventeen magazine.”

So while I do not invite teenagers to this site primarily for married wives, some will stumble upon here, and I pray that they find helpful instruction on staying pure before marriage and enjoying God’s gift of sexuality after marriage.

As the reader indicates, there isn’t a specific question, but here’s what I culled from her query:

1. She’s already had a rocky past in the sexual arena.

2. She has found a second chance for purity through God.

3. She is nervous about future marital intimacy due to lingering consequences of the past.

First, let me say that no one should ever use a child for their sexual pleasure. I am absolutely wrenched with sorrow at the thought that this young girl was a victim of incest. I wrote a post about painful pasts sometime ago (That Should Never Have Happened to You).

When the first sexual contact occurs in the context of force or incest, it can wreak havoc with your brain. Such confusion can lead children and adolescents to sex-seeking behaviors such as promiscuity, pornography, and excessive masturbation, as they try to sort through their experiences and feelings. So this young lady’s experience is not some outlier. This is all the more reason why Christians should actively fight against those who would deign to abuse children for their own sick pleasure. Believe me, God wants us to take those people on. (See Jeremiah 21:12).

But a bad beginning is never the whole story with God. I was thrilled to read the words “I have found redemption and forgiveness from God (PRAISE THE LORD).” And when we begin to live out God’s desire for sexuality in our lives, day in and day out, those experiences write a new story on the pages of our hearts.

A teen on God’s plan for sexual purity before marriage can anticipate a wonderful road ahead for marital intimacy. God wants us to experience His gift of sexual pleasure within the confines of a covenant relationship with our spouse. But like all kinds of others things in life, He can use this area to grow us into the people we should be.

So for the wedding night and beyond, teens (and singles) should keep in mind a few things:

The wedding night is the kickoff, not the whole game. If you’ve been anticipating the Super Bowl for a long time, there’s a buzz of excitement when the teams face off against each other, and a football is placed on the kicking tee. When the kicker slams his foot against the ball, the game has begun, and the crowds go wild. But the kickoff lasts for mere seconds while the game goes on for hours.

This is an apt comparison to the wedding night’s impact on a couple’s sex life. Is it a big deal? Yes. Is it the biggest deal? By no means! Like football, some wedding night kickoffs can soar with enthusiasm and others can dribble a few yards and stop. And neither is any guarantee that the game will go one way or the other. So take the pressure off the wedding night to be the most amazing experience ever. It may be good, it may be amazing, it may be “meh,” but it’s just the kickoff for the whole game of marital intimacy.

You have to learn how to have sex with each other. Regardless of how little or how much you know about sex going in, you will need to learn how to meld your two bodies together into the intimate experience God designed for married people to have. It’s important to focus on the two of you together and not simply the goal of climax.

It is easier for most people to bring themselves to orgasm through masturbation because they can immediately adjust stimulation to produce effective arousal. However, God wasn’t seeking ease of personal satisfaction when He designed sexuality for marriage. There are challenges in dealing with another person, gender differences in desire and arousal, and external factors that can impact your sex life (time, environment, etc.). As we address these challenges and learn how to show physical love to our spouse, we become less selfish (read “more like Christ”) and increase our intimacy in the marriage. The paradox is that when we each seek out one another’s sexual pleasure, own our pleasure can shoot through the roof.

Meaning it’s way better than your own hand. It may take longer to reach orgasm with your spouse, but the peak is higher and better because it happens in the context of that loving relationship and increasing intimacy.

You will need to prepare for sex (but not now). When you are closing in on your wedding night, you will need to gather more information and wisdom then. A young woman should see her gynecologist for a complete exam and ask for tips for her wedding night. A doctor can advise ways to make that first time more comfortable. The bride and groom should research and discuss contraceptive choices ahead of time.

A young bride should read up on her body, his body, and marital sexuality. Sheila Gregoire’s The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and Kevin Leman’s Sheet Music are two options. Remember that the most important education will happen there in the bedroom with husband and wife exploring one another and giving hands-on tutoring, but it can help to have some advance knowledge.

DON’T get started too early. It’s not a good idea to consume a lot of information about sex when you can’t have sex. That’s like a diabetic working in a candy store. Sure, you can walk by the candy store, ask a friend how the candy is, and long for the day you can stuff yourself silly with chocolate (oh, that diabetes would be cured). But you get the point: Don’t hang out in the store of sexuality when you can’t afford to buy.

For now, focus on you and God. Want to find Mr. Right? Focus on becoming Ms. Right. Too often we focus on finding our future mate and how great that life will be when we do. I am here to say that it is terrific, although marriage is not always easy. However, the best way to find a wonderful husband is to focus on your relationship with God . . . on letting him grow you into a woman worth far more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10) who will be her husband’s crown (Proverbs 12:4).

Stay pure. Seek wisdom. Remain in God’s Word. Know that you are beautiful and precious to your Heavenly Father. As a daughter of the King, you are a princess. Treat yourself and your body that way, by holding fast to purity and integrity.

four teenage girls

Hold fast to purity and integrity, ladies!
Photo credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

For more about why you should wait for sex until marriage, I did a guest post on that topic for Preengaged.com which you can find HERE. (Their site is great for dating and engaged couples!)