Welcome to part 3 of my miniseries on marriage! First I wrote about our attitude towards marriage and then about toxic behavior in marriage; now I want to continue the series with some thoughts on “saving yourself” for marriage.
Don’t close the page just yet…
Many people who wait until marriage to have sex have religious motivation. I certainly did! But I want to focus on some of the more “secular” arguments, both for and against. This is in no way an article to shame or judge, but rather, to offer my perspective which may or may not differ from yours. While I may not definitively change anyone’s mind about the issue, I’d like to at least offer some food for thought.
I want to first address 3 common mindsets or sentiments of those who do not advocate for pre-marital abstinence:
“No one waits, that’s old fashioned.” I have definitely heard this. Actually there are a lot of people who wait. I personally have many friends, family members, and acquaintances who have decided to do so. My wife and I are proud to say we did as well. It’s true, though, that the numbers have been declining. Studies¹ show about 11% of the U.S. population from 1954 to 1963 waited until marriage while only 3% from 1994 to 2003 chose to wait. I wish I could find some updated data, but I would guess that it may be even lower now. It could have something to do with people getting married later², going to college, and therefore having a longer time to wait. Who knows. Regardless, 3% of the U.S. is over 9 million people! That’s nothing to scoff at.
To me, saying something was done in the “olden days” doesn’t qualify it as “out of date” or “no longer applicable”. In many cases there is often something to learn from older practices. As Brendan quoted in an earlier post, “Doing the right thing is always the right thing”. Time is irrelevant. In this case, is waiting until marriage the right thing? Keep reading!
“It’s too difficult/impossible.” As someone who has been through it, I can testify, it’s very difficult. Especially as your love grows more and more you of course want to manifest that love. It’s not impossible, though, nor is it “too” difficult. It basically takes a firm resolution, communication with your significant other, and some common sense to stay out of tempting situations. Praying helps too. Oh, and a catchphrase and/or handshake to seal your pact. Margaret and I used the handshake from Gladiator and the classic line “Strength and Honor” to help get us through.
“But you wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it.” This is used to argue for cohabitation as well. It just irritates me though. First of all, your significant other is a human being…not a car. Cars are tools and they’re meant to be used for a purpose. The analogy seems degrading and it breaks down pretty quickly. Anyways, my biggest problem with this mindset is that I don’t believe you need to have sex to see if you should marry someone. Sex and compatibility are important, don’t get me wrong, but I think it just becomes a poor excuse. Would you really call off your wedding with the man/woman of your dreams just because of some awkward or lackluster intimacy? Love is much more than that and I’d argue it was never truly present if you really need to “test drive” in the first place.
So with those rebuttals dismissed, I want to present 3 secular arguments for waiting for marriage.
Less risk! The CDC says approximately 110 million people have STDs³. Speaking very pragmatically, the less people you are intimate with, the less chance you have of getting an STD. Two people who have only ever been intimate with each other take that chance down to 0%. Now obviously this isn’t so much about “waiting” as it is “exclusivity”, but when you wait until marriage, you have built in assurance.
Similarly, waiting until marriage ensures you won’t have a baby outside of marriage. Duh. I have actually heard someone claim that babies are not a consequence of sex, but biology tells us differently. Sex brings with it the possibility of pregnancy. If you’re not ready for that, you should wait. No birth control or method family planning is 100%. Except waiting. That’s guaranteed! It’s safe to say an unplanned pregnancy in marriage is *usually* easier to handle than one outside of marriage.
Friendship It’s so important in marriage. As husband and wife you should be BEST friends, and all that time leading up to marriage you should be cultivating that friendship. Sex is a beautiful thing, but it also adds a layer of intricacy to your relationship, and it’s not just physical. Science shows us that some crazy stuff happens psychologically and mentally as well. Some would even argue a spiritual connection. Marriage is that commitment, that self-gift, and that environment that allows you to fully enjoy and appreciate all these intricacies. Your relationship deepens, your friendship grows, and your connection is strengthened. But you need to build that base first.
I so appreciate all that time that Margaret and I spent together before marriage just building our friendship without sexual intimacy. We had to learn how to communicate, how to show affection, and how to just enjoy each other’s company. We built a strong friendship and relationship first and I believe we will continue to reap the benefits of that decision.
Self-gift This final argument harkens back to the other articles in this series; we should approach marriage with a mindset of giving not getting. Saving yourself for marriage is a gift to your spouse. You’re actively deciding to deny yourself a certain pleasure now in order to more fully give yourself to them in the future. Just as the culture’s view on marriage is broken, its view on sex is as well. If you only consider sex as something casual, another weird bodily function, something all animals do, then sure, there’s nothing really special about it. But if you look at it through a different lens, you can see it as something beautiful, even sacred. You can see it as a promise, a symbol of life-long union, a complete gift of self. And as I said before, marriage is the ultimate time to give that gift. To me, it just makes sense that, if we have the ability to take an ordinary act and give it so much more meaning and beauty, why shouldn’t we?
There of course is the danger of over glorifying sex as well. It doesn’t make your marriage perfect and it doesn’t solve all your problems, but it will change your relationship, so it’s imperative to put it in the right context.
Well hopefully I gave you something to chew on. I do believe there is certainly a deeper spiritual discussion to be had on the topic, but I wanted to approach this article with a more secular view.
For those of you who are unmarried: at least give waiting a thought – it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
For those of you who think “it’s too late, it doesn’t matter now”: it’s not too late – you can always start fresh and resolve to wait from here on out.
For us married folks: no matter if you waited or not, you’re married for life – never stop building on your friendship and always ask what you’re giving in marriage, not what you’re getting.
As always, feel free to leave a comment, share with friends, add your own experiences, or tell me why I’m wrong. And stay tuned for part 4 of the series…a conclusion perhaps?