What's the Big Deal About Waiting for Marriage?

Reevaluating our generation's approach to sex and intimacy.

If Christians are supposed to be waiting until marriage for sex, they aren’t doing a very good job at it. Statistics show  as many as 80 percent of Christians in their 20s admit to having premarital sex. 

I am one of those Christians.

I learned  I was supposed to wait for marriage at a really young age. In fact, before I even really knew what sex was I knew the abstinence message: Having sex before marriage was just about the worst sin you could commit.

I was part of the True Love Waits generation. I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye and When God Writes Your Love Story. I even went on a youth group retreat where I was encouraged to write letters to my future husband. I did and kept them in a box under my bed. If any Christian was going to make it to the wedding day it should have been me.

So why didn’t I?

I now believe I was asking all the wrong questions.

I knew I was supposed to wait for marriage for sex, but I didn’t really know why. Instead of asking, “Why am I supposed to be doing this?” I spent most of my energy asking, “How far is too far?” or, "If I’m saving sex for marriage, can I have oral sex?" "How much kissing is too much kissing? Can I sleep in the same bed with someone?" "What if our clothes are on?"

The wrong questions pointed me in the wrong direction and I paid the price for it—I spent yearsof my life nurturing insecurities and growing in confusion, guilt andanxiety.

When I finally did talk to Christians about the reasons we werewaiting for marriage for sex, the answers I got were vague andconfusing. “Your body is a precious treasure and you need to treat itaccordingly.” “Sex is a gift you only get to give away once.” Theseexplanations didn’t satisfy me. If sex was such a bad thing, I wondered, then how come it felt like such a good thing? What was it that happened after the wedding day that made sex suddenly OK? It all seemed soarbitrary.

I’m convinced  we’re asking the wrong questions. We’re adults. We need to talk about sex like adults. We need to use the words that actually describe what we are doing. But if we’re stuck asking questions like, “How far is too far?” we miss out on the answer to questions like this: "What does it mean when the Bible says to avoid sexual immorality?" "Why would God ask me to wait? Are there actual reasons?" "If sex (and all the things leading up to sex) are 'bad' then why does it feel so good?"I believe  these questions have answers and we as Christians need to develop the courage to talk about them.

So, what is the big deal about saving sex for marriage? If we spend all day asking, “How far is too far?” we’re creating a list of rules and regulations that are pointless. And we wonder why, at the end of the day—no matter where we set the boundary—we have a hard time keeping it.

There are reasons God asks us to wait for marriage for sex:

It Builds Trust. Trust that your spouse is the kind of person who can control his or her sexual urges. Trust that your spouse values his/her sexuality enough to guard it until marriage. Trust that your spouse values you and your needs above anyone else. Trust that your spouse understands the concept of self-sacrifice and delayed gratification. 

Trust takes time to build. You might as well start now.

It Builds Friendship. Sex in addition to friendship creates a really lasting bond in a relationship—one that is hard to break. Sex without friendship is fragile and explosive. It’s like an expensive vase set on an unsteady table. Just give it the slightest bump and it will tumble and break.

How are you working to be friends first?

Happiness Isn't Everything. If the purpose of my relationships is happiness, then any time I feel unhappy or uncomfortable the temptation will be to end my relationship. If the purpose of my relationship is holiness, then I’ll see every discomfort as an opportunity to work toward becoming more whole.

Are your relationships making you happy, or are they making you whole?

You Are Valuable. Strong physical boundaries speak to your value. You are worth more than a movie ticket or a cup of coffee or a couple of dinners out. You are not that easily accessible. It takes more than that. Let your physical boundaries speak to the value you place on your sexuality.

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Are you communicating the right message about your value?

Lust Is Not Manageable. If you think you can entertain lust in a dating relationship (or as a single person) and stop when you get married, you’re in line for a rude awakening. Lust does not have a light switch.

Do you want to get rid of lust now or later?

Whether you waited for marriage, are sorting out your sexual history or just need a reminder your wait is worth it, we can address the questions of sex directly, with honesty. Let’s start asking the right questions.

Ally Spotts is a 20-something writer and blogger (read her blog series on waiting until marriage for sex). Ally believes that what feels like a crisis is almost always an opportunity to step out in faith and do something crazy. She is the author of the e-book Asking All The Wrong Questions: Why Christians Are Waiting For Marriage For Sex. Follow what she is saying on facebook and twitter. 

Top Comments

Frederick Johnsen

6

Frederick Johnsen commented…

The church has done a very poor job at addressing this problem, especially given the modern factors that have come into play. In the last century or so the age of puberty has dropped by about three years (or more) from 16 to 13 while the age people are getting married has jumped from the low 20s to the upper 20s and early 30s. Where puberty and the age of marriage where once much closer it is now possible to have a gap of 17 years - 17 years fraught with temptation in a hyper-sexualized culture. And the best the church can come up with is to slam a bunch of "Thou Shall Nots" down on people or take the liberal approach and say "Do what you want cause Jesus loves you just the way you are." Do we have any real theologians left who can speak to this subject with a balance of biblical knowledge, a respect for God's word and a sense of grace and dare I say common sense?

Tracy

75

Tracy commented…

Here is what I wish evangelical Christians would discuss: how often does the abstinence only project lead young adults who are way too young to nurture a lasting relationship, to marry --yes, they think they're in love, but underneath it all is this drive for sexual connection. This is why we see so many marriages of people in their early 20's, and divorce rates of people in their late 20's and early 30's that should make us all ashamed. And staying celibate until you're 30 -- so you can learn how to have friends? Really?

And frankly, I see as much a problem with the things you named in people who haven't been sexually active before marriage as in people who haven't. Lust, or attraction to people who you aren't committed to looks a lot different if you haven't fetishized the act but understand it to be one aspect of intimacy.

I know this comment won't be popular here, but people are demonstrating with their lives how they operate with these messages (and I don't think this article offers anything that wasn't mentioned in every church abstinence program I've ever seen.) It doesn't work, and the church is plainly losing credibility. Responsibility, respect, relationship skills -- these ought to matter to us. But this crazy attention to sex before marriage isn't helping. Inevitably, we end up demonizing most people who are putting their lives together -- not like crazy frat boys, but like responsible caring adults.

228 Comments

Frederick Johnsen

6

Frederick Johnsen commented…

The church has done a very poor job at addressing this problem, especially given the modern factors that have come into play. In the last century or so the age of puberty has dropped by about three years (or more) from 16 to 13 while the age people are getting married has jumped from the low 20s to the upper 20s and early 30s. Where puberty and the age of marriage where once much closer it is now possible to have a gap of 17 years - 17 years fraught with temptation in a hyper-sexualized culture. And the best the church can come up with is to slam a bunch of "Thou Shall Nots" down on people or take the liberal approach and say "Do what you want cause Jesus loves you just the way you are." Do we have any real theologians left who can speak to this subject with a balance of biblical knowledge, a respect for God's word and a sense of grace and dare I say common sense?

Robert Eetheart

8

Robert Eetheart replied to Frederick Johnsen's comment

The sad part is that most people ignore the reason WHY the age of puberty has been reduced so drastically. Perhaps the growth hormones we daily inject into our bodies and our children's bodies through foods has something to do with it. Something to ponder about.

Anyway, I know it was off-topic. Carry on.

Chris Schroeder

2

Chris Schroeder commented…

Teaching abstinence because "God said so" is an archaic and flawed method. Teaching benefits of respecting a relationship between you and your significant other is what's important. Knowing that nobody cares if you're having sex or not is important. Knowing that it doesn't make everything right is important. It will be fun and enjoyable, but the sooner you indulge in that behavior the harder your relationship will be. But if you are having sex before you're married, I hope people are doing in the context of a relationship they intend to keep as long as they're alive. Besides, marriage by our standards is like baptism to a believer: an affirmation of a commitment made between a man and woman to the world so they can keep them accountable and be witness to that relationship. That's how it was for a loooooooong time before governments came around like the ones we have today. Marriage in the eyes of the government is basically for tax reasons.

Tracy

75

Tracy commented…

Here is what I wish evangelical Christians would discuss: how often does the abstinence only project lead young adults who are way too young to nurture a lasting relationship, to marry --yes, they think they're in love, but underneath it all is this drive for sexual connection. This is why we see so many marriages of people in their early 20's, and divorce rates of people in their late 20's and early 30's that should make us all ashamed. And staying celibate until you're 30 -- so you can learn how to have friends? Really?

And frankly, I see as much a problem with the things you named in people who haven't been sexually active before marriage as in people who haven't. Lust, or attraction to people who you aren't committed to looks a lot different if you haven't fetishized the act but understand it to be one aspect of intimacy.

I know this comment won't be popular here, but people are demonstrating with their lives how they operate with these messages (and I don't think this article offers anything that wasn't mentioned in every church abstinence program I've ever seen.) It doesn't work, and the church is plainly losing credibility. Responsibility, respect, relationship skills -- these ought to matter to us. But this crazy attention to sex before marriage isn't helping. Inevitably, we end up demonizing most people who are putting their lives together -- not like crazy frat boys, but like responsible caring adults.

Taylor Broussard

1

Taylor Broussard commented…

I think the " you are valuable" is the most important reason.

All morality is based on it. We are created in God's image so our value is innately precious and worthy of love. So precious Jesus died for us.

If somone isn't a virgin or whatever there sexual past, it doesn't change there precious value. They are still worth waiting for. We are all worth waiting for, so let's do it.

Suzanne Vink

1

Suzanne Vink commented…

Still, there are important questions missing. There are enough couples happily married for their entire lives, not regretting having had sex before marriage, knowing how to be friends and all that, and they are not an exception. So what does make waiting so special and better than than the other road? I think my own church did a good attempt to trying to let young people be critical, ask those 'why' questions, but it was not enough. There would only be examples of people who were happy they waited and people who were absolutely broken about the fact that they did not. How can you make an objective choice when you do not get to see the whole picture, or hear from people who are happy with sex before marriage? The problem with this is that in moments of doubt (or desire?) it suddenly seems like a major eye-opener when you meet people that are happy with the choices they made about having sex before marriage, making waiting all the more difficult in such critical moments. Being open and honest beforehand about the options that are out there makes peope able to critically reflect, before they arrive at those decision-making moments.

I see the same with many more of these the-christian-way vs. the-non-christian-way issues, where we are told by the church that you will feel empty, or regret, or become addicted to things that are 'of the world' (depending on your church and background: pornography, alcohol, going out, drugs, gay-debate or even just dating, watching television, or whatever) which may (at least at first) be entirely untrue! You do not necessarily feel empty or bad for going out or drinking a beer, or in the case of this article: having sex before marriage. You may regret that you did it (or not) but it won't necessarily leave you broken or empty. Which makes the feeling of "The-church-lied-to-me-I-don't-feel-that-bad-doing-this-and-now-I-lost-my-trust-in-them" all the worse in that moment. Lines can be blurry sometimes and if we don't really understand the world because we do not want to provide the full picture about the bad AND THE GOOD of it, making radical choices about things like sex before marriage can come around and bite us, like the writer of this article experienced.

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