Preparing for marriage is not for the faint of heart. From the endless discussions about dresses, decorations, and seating arrangements to the weeks of pre-marital counseling and honeymoon planning, it’s enough to make any bride-to-be exhausted before she even says “I do.” But there is something else that deserves attention in the wedding day prep that many times gets overlooked. In fact, the very mention of it might make your face get hot from embarrassment, even though you secretly dream about it at night. It’s the one thing you are trying not to think about in the flurry of wedding planning. You might be guessing what I’m talking about by now. It’s the often thought about, rarely talked about subject related to the anticipated wedding day.
But the reality is that few areas of the marital relationship cause more problems and anxiety than the sexual one. Some proponents of sex before marriage say that the relationship is doomed for failure if you don’t take the plunge before the wedding day. How will you know if you are sexually compatible if you don’t try it out first? But even in our own Christian conservative circles we have misconceptions about the wedding night and every night thereafter. Some eagerly anticipate sex with their husbands and feel like less of a woman for it. While others dread it or have little interest in it and fear being a dud for their beloved future husband. And how many young women have heard that if they only save themselves for their future husbands then sex will be worth the wait, as if abstinence contained some magic potion promising perfect sex.
But what happens if it isn’t? What happens if when you get married sex isn’t what the romantic movies or True Love Waits curriculum promised it would be?
Virginity is not a down payment on the guarantee of amazing sex. And that’s not the point, anyway. Sex, like every good thing (including marriage), takes work. Contrary to nearly every movie’s breathless, raucous, and perfect portrayal of sex, the reality is that sex doesn’t always end up that way. And when we promise nearly married people that this is what awaits them if they simply hold off until the wedding night, we are doing them a grave disservice.
Trusting What a Movie Can’t Tell You
Because we often unknowingly take our cues from the entertainment industry we can be tempted towards unhelpful expectations, and subsequent disappointment, when our wedding night (or first few months of marriage) don’t look like a well choreographed love scene from the latest Hollywood release. When my husband and I got married, our pre-marital counselors spent our final session of counseling preparing us for this reality. They encouraged us to spend more time communicating and less time expecting perfect results. I have even known of some couples who chose not to consummate on the wedding night simply because they wanted to take time getting to know each other first. While it’s hardly a Hollywood ending to an otherwise perfect day, there is something sweet about the comfort and rest the covenant of marriage affords even the nervous and awkward newly married couple.
A movie promises perfect results every time. But a movie isn’t reality. The covenant of marriage promises protection, comfort, and care that lasts a lifetime. Don’t be discouraged when your sexual relationship doesn’t model what you’ve seen on screen all these years. Banish those things from your memory and look into the eyes of your spouse. By God’s grace, there you will find joy, comfort, and understanding that will guide your sexual relationship in ways a movie never could.
When Things Go Wrong
One of the most surprising aspects to the sexual relationship for me was how differently I felt towards it once I was finally married. In the days leading up to our wedding, like many eager brides, I could hardly wait to be one with my husband. After our happy nuptials, I sang a different tune. I spent many hours in those early days in frustration over my lack of interest. Where was the excitement and passion I was promised? My husband and I had remained pure with each other, why was I so conflicted? If I believed the lies of the culture I would have assumed that our purity meant we weren’t sexually compatible. And if I only believed the false promises that are often fed us about abstinence I would have believed something was wrong with me.
God designed sex to be learned and worked at over a lifetime. It’s not a one time pleasure filled event meant to be experienced with multiple partners. It’s a marathon race where some miles are much easier than others. We were made to learn and discover our spouses relationally, emotionally, and sexually for the course of our marriage. Lack of interest, passion, or even pleasure does not always indicate a problem. It simply means we are human beings trying to live redeemed lives in a fallen world.
The Problem of Pain
I would be foolish if I didn’t mention that there are some instances where the sexual relationship only brings pain, shame, and sorrow because of past or present sin on the part of one or both spouses. And there is abundant grace for that. While my husband and I remained pure with one another prior to our wedding day, I had a sexual past that others might assume would have hardly made me worthy of white on the wedding day. I felt tremendous shame whenever I thought about how I had sinned against God and my husband, and even though I knew I was forgiven, it still haunted me (and even sometimes does to this day).
The promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that through him we are white as snow. Through his precious blood our shame is covered completely and we are pure in God’s (and our spouse’s) eyes. The sexual component to our marriage is not doomed for failure because of our past sins. We can still experience the wonderful treasure of a one-flesh relationship lived over a lifetime because of what Christ has done in our life and the life of our spouse.
Preparing for the Wedding Night
So if you are on your way to the altar, hear this as friendly advice from a girl who has been there. There is no greater preparation you can do for your wedding night than to love God and love your husband. Every aspect of our Christian life (including our sexual nature) is continually being conformed into the image of our Christ. It takes work. It takes prayer and communication. And it takes a lifetime. While your wedding night might not be everything you ever dreamed it could be, it will Lord willing be so much more than that if you trust that his good gifts, like sex, take work and time to manifest themselves in our lives. God delights in doing good to his children. And his good towards us always ends better than a Hollywood movie.
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