My husband and I waited to have sex until we got married.
In today’s culture this is a weird decision. Having sex is seen as a benchmark of commitment in a dating relationship. A quick google search will reveal scores of articles about when is the perfect time to “Invite him back to my place,” when to give someone a drawer or a key to your apartment, and why it just makes sense to move in together before you get married.
Our reasons for waiting were based on our faith. But it wasn’t easy. In the two and a half years of our dating relationship, we had conversation after conversation about our “boundaries” and “how far is too far.”
Many times we were fed up. What is the point of waiting anyway?
Sure, we quoted scripture references about purity (but did we really believe them?)
Sure, we wanted to avoid pregnancy (but isn’t that what birth control is for?)
Sure, we “believed” sex is for marriage (but did it really matter?)
But waiting? A lot of times, it just felt like denying ourselves something we desperately wanted, a pointless exercise in self-control. I could say I “trusted God’s plan” all day long but I really didn’t get it.
When you save sex for marriage, the wedding day becomes super important. I couldn’t wait to be Aaron’s wife. Our friends (equally as inexperienced as we were) told us to stock up on Gatorade for our honeymoon. We laughed and expected the wild abandon of passion to replace the self-control that gripped us while we were dating. I was ready to throw off the fetters of our sexual self-control and be done with this struggle.
Little did I know that self-control would continue to be a necessary–and beautiful–part of our relationship.
We got pregnant unexpectedly the first year of our marriage and had twins 16 months after our wedding day.
My husband worked hard to support our brand new family of 4.
We were tired, exhausted.
Sex gets more complicated when babies enter the picture. Kids have uncanny timing, don’t they? Nothing like the wail of an infant (or two) to throw a wet blanket on the fires of passion.
There were interruptions.
There were long days and even longer, sleepless nights.
There were worries about money and kids who wet the bed.
There were three more pregnancies and one miscarriage.
There were months of morning sickness and big bellies, postpartum healing, and floods of hormones.
There were 70+ hour work weeks and insurance headaches.
There was falling asleep on the couch at 8:17pm.
There were separate beds and nursing babies.
Sex was still important in our marriage but as we moved farther and farther from our wedding day, self-control became even more important.
In those interrupted moments and sexually frustrated seasons, self-control quietly entreated, “Be kind. Wait. Not tonight.”
I used to think self-control was about muscling my way to good behavior, or denying myself something I really wanted.
I’ve come to realize that self-control is controlling the Self, the part of my heart that says “I want what I want NOW.”
My Self lacks perspective.
My Self loves Brittany the best.
It is, literally, selfish.
But self-control in marriage says to the beloved, “I want what is best for you. I want want what is best for us, even if I don’t get what I want right now.”
While we had months where our sex-life diminished, our intimacy grew, nurtured by each time we chose self-control over self-interest in our marriage.
Before I got married, I thought waiting for sex was about avoiding a pregnancy scare or STIs or guilt. I thought it was about doing what God said because he said “thou shalt not.”
I didn’t realize that self-control is essential to a healthy marriage, because in order to have a healthy a sex life, you have to respect each partner’s emotional and physical needs through life’s unique seasons.
I didn’t get it then, but the self-control we grudgingly adopted while dating helped prepare us to deal with the interludes of abstinence that every healthy marriage goes through.
It wasn’t pointless. It wasn’t just about avoiding sin, or pregnancy, or simply “because God said.”
God always has our Good in mind, and now I can see, ten years later, that waiting was not holding us back. It was preparing us for the very real self-control that is needed in a healthy marriage.
Self control: It’s not just for before the wedding night.
How has Self-Control played a role in your marriage?
Has it made your marriage stronger?
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