Today’s question is from a concerned father:
I have 3 daughters who I want the very best for in marriage. How do I send them off when the time comes. Part of me wants to sit them down and tell them all about everything sexual and part of me says let them discover it on their own do not ruin it by telling them. I could explain oral sex for example, I am completely comfortable doing so but would it be better to let them find it on their own? I am sure the situation will vary some from one to the other but what would you do, give them your book?
I’ve written several times about talking to your children about sex. I believe those conversations need to start early and continue through the years. Sex is an embarrassing or taboo topic in too many households, but if you make your home a safe environment to discuss the topic, your children are more likely to engage and ask you questions when they need answers.
Here’s a rundown of some of these posts:
Talking to Your Kids about Sex: No More One & Done
How to Talk to a Teen about Sex
Is “Don’t Have Sex” Enough for Teens?
The Oh-My-Goodness-Did-I-Really-Sign-Up-for-This? Sex Talk
What about when your kids are grown? How do you prepare them for what’s to come in marriage? Here are my thoughts on that topic:
Principles > Details. It’s far more important to teach principles for approaching sexual intimacy in marriage than provide details about what that looks like. Even grown children may not want to discuss particulars with you.
However, they would benefit from understanding the purpose of sex in marriage, why it matters so much for marriage, what standards to use when deciding what honors their spouse and God in the bedroom, and what to do if/when they have difficulties. These are issues you can address.
Share scriptures that cover marriage and sex in the Bible (like Genesis 2:24, Proverbs 5-6, Song of Songs, 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, Ephesians 5:22-32). Explain how the chapters on love and the Gospel itself apply to marital intimacy. Let them know what the higher standard is for determining what’s good in the marriage bed. You might even share with them generally about your own walk in this regard — how there have been bumps in your marriage regarding sex that had to be worked out.
Too often, newlyweds expect sex to look like what they’ve seen in a romance novel or movie and to go perfectly from the get-go. Prepare them that sexual love can unfold gradually and steadily, and there will be plenty of time in marriage to enjoy the feast of delights if they cherish one another from the beginning.
Encourage them to seek help if physical issues or emotional misunderstandings arise. Think principles more than details.
Share quality resources. The Bible is the first resource you should freely share with your children. Let them know that all those scriptures about how we should treat each other apply to marriage as well, and they don’t stop at the bedroom door. God’s truth should permeate every crevice of our lives.
After that, I have several posts specifically for newly marrieds:
How Much Should You Learn about Sex before the Wedding Night?
What Should a Groom Know about His Wedding Night?
Preparing for the Wedding Night
What I Wish I’d Known before the Wedding Night
What to Pack for Your Honeymoon or Vacation
You specifically asked about my book. As much as I’d love for you to buy Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, that’s not actually the book I most recommend for a young bride. I believe Sheila Gregoire’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex is a great primer for a woman about to enter marriage. Also good for any fiancée (and wife) is Shaunti Feldhan’s For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men. For couples I suggest The Pursuit of Passion: Discovering True Intimacy in Marriage by Jeff Murphy & Julie Sibert and Lovemaking: 10 Secrets to Extravagant Intimacy in Marriage by Dan & Linda Wilson.
Down the road a bit, Hot, Holy, and Humorous would help a wife develop more sexual self-confidence, while Intimacy Revealed can flesh out the connection of our sexuality and spirituality.
These are only a few of the excellent resources out there for those embarking on marriage, to get a better sense of what to expect and to understand God’s design for sex in this covenant relationship.
Give permission for passion. The final role I see for parents is to let their children know that it’s not only okay, but good for them to lean into God’s provision for sexual delights now that they will be in the proper context of marriage. Whether they’ve stayed entirely pure all the way to the altar or messed up some along the way, convey that you want the best for them in their marriage — and that includes a satisfying sex life.
Why is this important? Because I hear again and again and again from wives who struggled to make that shift into their marriage. They focused so hard on staying a virgin that it feels wrong or shameful to unleash their passions, even in marriage. Or maybe they engaged in sex before marriage, but they carried a load of guilt — however light or heavy — and this burden weighs on them in a way that they struggle to embrace what God wants for their sexual intimacy.
Even when we’re adults, we look to our parents for guidance and approval. Of course, that’s not all that matters, but you can play a positive role for your grown children by letting them know that sexual love in marriage is a beautiful thing and you want them to experience its fullness.
Do you have to get specific? I don’t think you do. Honestly, if you’ve been talking in your home as they grow, and you’ve been available for questions, and you lead them to good resources, laying out exactly how things work right before the I Do‘s won’t make much difference. You’ve already done your job, and they know where to find you if they need help.
Opening up to my fabulous readers, how do you believe we can best prepare our children for godly sex in marriage?
10 thoughts on “Q&A with J: Preparing Your Grown Children for Marital Intimacy”
Please don’t sit your girls down and describe details. That sounds like just about the most horrifying thing I can imagine. I think if my dad did that, I’d have to move to Europe for a three year post doc. (I wasn’t planning on doing a post doc at all).
Seriously, don’t do it.
J’s ideas are much better. I’d still not like to hear that from my dad, but it wouldn’t make me die of mortification. (Just for some context on how strongly I feel about this; I am very rarely embarrassed, and I was never ashamed of or embarrassed by my parents. Even as a teenager).
What my mom is doing is make me go to a gynecologist and set up a secret pintrest board for lingerie. The latter is very amusing.
If you want to deepen your relationship with adult children you need to be able to talk discreetly about sex as they grow into adult hood. Also they need your guidance in dating and accountability for not taking liberties they will regret. Most young people have no idea how powerful and destructive sex can be if misused for sure, and also no idea how it can bless if used rightly inside the marriage bed. I have 5 married children and 5 that I hope will be married someday. I think it is incumbent on parents to pass on your wisdom and tell them about your success or failure in this area. Then I would still sit them down before marriage and give them the talk. This will be good for your relationship. Even if they squirm they will appreciate your desire to be helpful. They probably know more about sex than you think they do anyway.
I wrote my independent 26 year daughter (married 5 years ago) a long letter and read it to her with comments. This took several hours and was about two weeks before the wedding. She and I both enjoyed that immensely. My wife was in on most of it. My daughter a year later said that “I was the best marriage counselor she could have ever had.” I am not convinced she was right but will say I was her one and only dad and in that way I could help her like no other man could have because no other man loved her as much as I did. I did not explain oral sex to her, not because I would have been ashamed too but I figured that is personal with them as a couple. I encouraged her to give sex its important place in marriage. One thing that I did say is that it is her responsibility to sexually please and honor her husband and not expect him to think like she does about sex. We have hardly discussed it since as I did not want to enter into this private and sacred sexual part of their marriage.
We make no effort to hide our affection for each other and make every effort to express our commitment in daily life. That is actually the best way to teach them about sex but it does no harm to talk about it. I told my daughter recently (19 years old and soon-to-be engaged) that “nothing beats a really good cup of coffee except really good sex.” The most important thing you can teach your children about sex is an upbeat positive attitude that expresses appreciation for God’s design in marriage! Good sex is an important part of that! Teach it to them. It is your privilege!
Great post J!! Principle over details for grown children is perfect wise advice. My oldest is 9 and over the summer we had our first ‘sex talk.’ It was hard and stretched my parenting skills but we both survived. I went to a parenting conference and the phrase she use about telling your kids about sex is “eight is too late. ” I waited an extra year but knew that she was going to start hearing things at school. It went well and we talked about purity and God’s design for sex. My parents did not do this with me and i could have used Sheila’s book ‘Good girl guide to sex’ all those years ago as a newlywed. It was a very hard transition for me to stay a virgin and then feel like i was doing something wrong. I also know that i am not ‘finished’ with talking about sex with my daughter. First of many conversations.
Kudos to this dad for vesting in the future marriages of his children.
I VERY strongly second alchemist’s opinion: please, please, please do not sit your girls down and talk about details with them! I agree that would be utterly embarrassing and uncomfortable. I have a reasonably good relationship with both of my parents, but anything my dad said that made me feel like he saw me as a woman or anything sexual, instead of just his daughter, made me highly uncomfortable.
J’s suggestions are good. I read the Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex before I got married, as well as the Act of Marriage by LaHaye and the recommended parts of Sheet Music by Leman. Those answered a lot of my questions. As a concerned and involved father maybe you and your wife (less awkward if you two do it together) could gift some good resources to your girls, then let them know you are available and happy to answer any further questions they may have. But I would let them come up with the questions, and not force the conversation.
I’m pretty much guessing at what I would have liked my parents to do–in reality my mom never had “the talk” with me, and my dad’s input consisted of a quick question *after* I was married: “you know it’s okay to be sexy with [husband] now, right?” At that point I felt it was a little late. I was pretty much on my own pre-marriage, but was blessed to find this site and a couple others, as well as the above-mentioned books. I never had the idea that my parents had a very happy marriage or any reason to think they enjoyed a healthy sex life, so I really didn’t want to ask for any advice. I knew from early on that I never wanted what they had (or didn’t have).
Maybe that would be a different situation in your case. But I would still keep it to making known that you’re available for questions, and let them lead the discussion. I had tons of questions (and still have a few) and if my parents had made known they were open to talking about them, I probably would have begun the conversation.
I’ve tried to be open and all that, but my daughters never want to talk about sex. They get all embarrassed and then try to disappear as quickly as possible. I overheard my oldest, 18, telling her friend that she has had questions before but she’d rather Google it than voice it out loud. It kind of hurt my feelings at the time.
Please—PLEASE—don’t go into details. My dad sitting me down for a chat about oral sex sounds like one of the most horrifying things I can imagine. (I’m married, I get that my parents have sex, but I don’t particularly want the image in my head).
Honestly, I think this is something that really needs to be an ongoing conversation throughout the child’s life—not the kind of thing you start discussing when they’re adults (and by that point, I promise they know about oral sex, even if they haven’t engaged in any sexual activity!). I absolutely agree with J about the “principles, not details” guideline. Even then, it’s not something I really ever wanted to sit and discuss with my parents, but it’s a better option (and one I wouldn’t have been as likely to completely block ifrom my memory).
Start this stuff early on and it’ll be a whole lot easier down the road 🙂
I wonder if online discussion groups for some of the books you suggest would be helpful. The anonymity in the format helps us be candid, and the encouragement is invaluable. Even after 30+ years of marriage, I needed a LOT of help dealing with the visual temptation information in “For Women Only.” I would not recommend giving that book to a bride-to-be without some support. I would likely have remained single if I had known about that information before I married. I recently read “Through a Man’s Eyes” and learned that my reaction was not uncommon.
This conversation seems to be going in two directions, but I think the central issue is Jim’s comment that “if you want to deepen your relationship with adult children you need to be able to talk discreetly about sex as they grow into adulthood.” I am the father of a married daughter and a married granddaughter. My daughter (who is nearly 50) does ask me for a lot of advice, since we had a good relationship when she was a child and a teen.
I’ve been reading STRONG FATHERS, STRONG DAUGHTERS, by Meg Meeker, M. D., a gynecologist with years of experience dealing with teen girls. She insists that the primary responsibility for teaching girls about sex is the father, and I agree. (A caveat, though–some of Doctor Meeker’s opinions are outside the pale of Biblical morality.)
Like Jim, I’d leave oral sex out of it (unless she asks), since that gets a bit too intimate. Like some of the mothers who have commented, I also recommend books by Sheila Gregoire.
One thing that many parents don’t seem to get is that for girls older than eight, and boys older than ten, the father is the adult that children most respect, IF he’s had a consistent, healthy relationship with them when they were small. Daddy, to many girls, is somewhere between God and the man she wants to marry, in her eyes. I’m not all surprised that Jim’s daughter told him the he was “the best marriage counselor she could have ever had.”
Mothers with daughters can be like the positive poles of two magnets–they oppose one another. Daddy? Well, if he’s the guy who treated you like a princess from your earliest memories, and was there for you every day as you grew to puberty, he’ll be the guy who you want to admire your prom dress and to give you Bible-based advice on sex before you marry.
I do realize that some moms are raising girls alone. Let me suggest get help ASAP–Grandfather or your pastor, perhaps. If you wait until she chooses her on male model, he’ll likely be a rebel.
Interesting take; I agree with some of what you said here. I think both parents should be involved in teaching their kids about sex, but they play different roles. For daughters, fathers especially help her feel good about her appearance and respecting her body. They set the tone a lot of times for how women view men generally, and I tend to agree that they influence how a girl feels about sexuality more than mom.
That said, there are things a mom can teach a daughter that he can’t. He can’t talk about how her body functions and the female experience. SHE can. There are questions I would never have asked my father but my mother answered. I also know a single father who made sure an aunt was available for such details for his daughter, because he knew some things he wouldn’t handle as well as she would.
That’s my take — and I think it shows the beauty of God’s design in the mom-dad, two-parent family. Yet I so appreciate your encouragement for fathers to step up — such an important message. Thanks!
Thanks, J. It sounds like we agree. I didn’t mean that moms don’t continue to have a role–they certainly do, especially in the areas you mentioned–intimate details.
One more thought: It’s a mistake to believe that girls don’t start having sexual thoughts until they have their first period, around age 13-15. Most begin to feel sexual urges (which they don’t understand) at about age eight, and a few do begin to menstruate that young. I know. My mother and my daughter both did–which is to admit that my mom did talk with me about things most boys don’t have a clue about. The Lord took Mom home this spring–she was nearly 97.
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