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.”