Awhile back, the smart and thoughtful Liz (you’ll remember her wedding and her post on self catering a desert reception) mentioned in East Side Bride’s comments that she’d waited to have sex till her wedding night. And I was surprised. Not surprised because I don’t know people who have waited (I know lots), but surprised because that didn’t quite fit in with my mental file of what I knew of Liz. And if I’ve learned one thing in my thirty years of life, it is that when someone really surprises you with a belief, you should ask them about it. Because they will *always* have something really thoughtful to say, because guess what? If they are stepping out of what you expect from them, they’ve really thought it through, and they will make you look at your own decisions in a new light. So, right away I wanted to get a drink with Liz and get her to dish…. but…. I don’t know Liz in real life (yet)….. and I’m actually not that nosy. So. When Liz popped up in the comments on APW and offered to write a post about it, I insisted that she do it now, now, now.
Before we get into this, I want to state, for the record, that I have really complicated feelings on this subject. As much as readers like to regularly accuse me of spending my life in a liberal bubble, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I (we – David and I grew up in the same town) grew up in a really conservative area, and the vast majority of my counterparts in high school gave lip service to waiting till they were married to have sex. What ended up playing out was less pleasant. As sex became THE forbidden fruit, people became more and more focused on it. We saw a lot of our friends pregnant at 16, and a lot of our friends married at 18. Most of the time, things didn’t end well. Goodness knows that can happen when you’re not waiting, and that waiting can be a wonderful thing, but for us, growing up? It didn’t always play out that way. So, given my long and personal life experiences with this, it’s a complicated subject for me. Not bad complicated, just complicated.
So of course I was dying to discuss all this with Liz, and (no surprise here) I was thrilled and fascinated by what Liz wrote. She wrote a WHOLE lot of things I agree with, but modern women are not supposed to say. She gave really good advice to people who are choosing to wait (and frankly, good advice on this subject is hard to come by). She wrote things that made me think, and laugh. Best, her story had a happy ending. For me, personally, that’s redemptive and amazing. So, here is Liz, on waiting to get laid. Because Liz is awesome, she told me, “I’ll try not to make it TOO raunchy.” And she almost succeeded.
I’m so excited and nervous about writing this post. After I suggested it, I tried to chicken out, but Meg is a persuasive lady (have you noticed?). When people would find out that I was a virgin, or that Josh and I weren’t sleeping together (I know, right? How does that even come up in conversation? I can’t for the life of me remember…) I was met with a ton of questions/warnings. You guys think unrequested wedding advice is crossing the line? Try sex advice. Yeah. Here are some of the things I heard which turned out to be very untrue… (and, uh, sorry in advance. I really like lists and bullet points.)
1. Waiting puts a lot of pressure on your wedding night. False. Well, ok. I could see how this could be the case for some. Josh and I sorta worried about it. We also knew that we’d probably be exhausted, maybe grumpy, maybe a leetle sloshed after the wedding. So Josh suggested we just have no expectations for the wedding night- we would have all week of our honeymoon to have sex. Let’s not rush and cram it into that night. I gotta say, this definitely removed that pressure of The Sex Time. It was genius. I would really advise anyone else who’s waiting to set this standard- not just to remove the pressure, but so that you can ease into getting to know one another’s bodies (even if that sounds like a middle school health class video). Josh had never seen me in less than a bathing suit, and touched anything between my neck and my knees before we got married. “Normal” couples move gradually, right? You don’t just tear around all of the bases in one night (usually). Same can go for Waiters (as in those-that-wait… not those-that-serve-at-restaurants).
2. It’s gonna be awkward. Umm. No. Josh and I were already experts at enjoying spending time together- and believe it or not, we pretty much already knew the basics of, um, what goes where… I think this is probably only true for people who expect it to be like movie sex, and then try to force some fake, sultry, smoky crap. One of the APW brides once suggested that the wedding day be treated like any other day- just be yourself. Laugh if something’s funny. Don’t put on some false self. Same is so very true for sex, isn’t it? It’s much more of an intimate moment if it’s two people, totally exposed and being themselves together.
3. You need practice. Meh. Not really. Like I said above, we kinda figured out how things work. Beyond that, sure, sex gets better the more you do it. But trust me, the first night wasn’t awful.
4. You need to know if you’re compatible/if he’s “the one.” I hafta wonder at using sex as a barometer for that sort of thing. And it’s kind of like kissing, isn’t it? Your first kiss may or may not be awesome, but you get better at kissing as you kiss each other more. You become attune to one another. Whether or not he’s awesome in bed in the first round doesn’t determine how good you can be together- and I’m guessing if your chemistry is fantastic enough that you wanna marry the guy, you’ll do just fine. (Also, who do I have him to compare to…? It’s the best sex I’ve ever had.)
5. So you think you’ll go to hell if you have sex? Not even close.
So if that’s not why I waited, then why, right? If not to avoid the fiery pits of hell, what could it be?
1. Sex effs with your mind. Honestly. Who can say that having sex has made them more capable of thinking clearly and making good decisions? It complicates things.
2. Sex links people. I don’t know how to put this in a forward-thinking, logical-sounding way. But, sex ties people together in this near-mystical way, doesn’t it? How many of us have clung to no-good-people because of how attached we felt as a result of being physical with them (or is that just me)*? This directly ties into the above- it just complicates things.
3. Finding the “right” person. This one’s the key, obv. There’s something so undeniably romantic about having only had sex with just one person. Finding the right person to sleep with or marry- that takes time. And clear-headed thought. So these folks who say they’re “waiting” to have sex, and then hurry up and get married because they can’t keep it in their pants any longer- that kind of defeats the purpose, to me. Sex is important. Take your time in figuring out who you want to be there to share that experience.
4. Self control. I probably couldn’t tell you how much respect I have for Josh as a result of the self-control he displayed in the 3 years we dated. Did I know he wanted to do it? Hell yeah- sometimes it’s obvious, if youknowwhatI’msayin. But his commitment to waiting was a sign of his love for me… not in the cheesy, “true love waits” sense. But in the sense that setting a good foundation for our marriage was more important to him than a physiological impulse (and I’m not saying it wasn’t a struggle for me… have I TOLD you how hot this man is?). Being able to control your downstairs bits demonstrates the kind of maturity necessary to pick a spouse… ya dig?
5. Growing together. Getting used to doing it is one more intense way in which we’re growing together. I get to experience this whole new world, and I get to have a husband by my side as I figure it out. Awesome.
6. Romance. Can I just reiterate how amazingly romantic I think it is? It’s like Heloise and Abelard. Doesn’t the fact that they couldn’t even touch each other almost confirm for you that their love was the deepest kind?**
Because we were waiting, we needed to sort of… set ourselves up for success. Spending 3 years with a sexy man and not touching him. That, um, takes work.
1. Short engagement. Know how I just told you not to rush into getting married just to have sex? Yeah. This is different. Once you decide that you do want to get married, don’t set some 2 year long engagement. That, my friends, is called TORTURE. “Yay, we’re going to have sex together! …but NOT YET.” Womp womp.
2. Lots of sex talks. I think we probably talked about sex pre-marriage more than people who aren’t waiting. Sex is kind of a big chunk of married life… if we’re already discussing if we want to have kids and where we want to live, it only makes sense to talk about what sex is gonna be like. (there are pretty clear limits to this… “Oh, baby, I can’t wait to do this to your that…” not really the best route to go if you plan on waiting.) We talked about likes and dislikes. I know you’re wondering how I could know what I like or not, since I’ve never tried. I think there are some things you don’t need to experience to know. For example, I don’t need to try having Josh choke me while he’s doing his thing to know that I’m not a fan of the “play rape” sex. Nope.
3. More sex talks. We also set parameters and discussed expectations. If there’s anything that’s detrimental to a relationship, it’s unvoiced expectations. I told him what I expected sex to be like, what I was hoping for, and he did the same. There was nothing that was more healthy for our sex-life… and I would recommend it for everyone, married or not, waiting or not.
And now. We’re married. And doing it. And life is good. Some of the important things I’ve gleaned through our ongoing learning process include…
1. Recognizing that sex is a delicate thing. It’s one part of our lives that impacts so much else. If we haven’t had sex in awhile, you can probably tell by the way we talk to and treat each other- that’s not an old cliché, I think everyone would agree it’s true. It’s the physical representation of everything that marriage means to us- so if the sex is bad, something’s off here. What do I mean by that? In sex, we’re entirely vulnerable and exposed, flaws and all- and yet when we look at each other, we’re overwhelmingly attracted (isn’t that a beautiful idea?). Sex at its healthiest is when two people are entirely focused on one another- sex isn’t about physical urges (not entirely at least) or body parts… it’s about paying attention to one another’s wants in a very personal and special way. Because of this, sex is that place in marriage where we have the most propensity to appreciate one another, and the largest capacity to hurt one another. It’s so, so easy to feel slighted or ignored or manipulated or unfulfilled or mistreated in sex. It’s a very delicate matter.
2. Open honesty. If he wants it, he needs to tell me. If I feel like he’s going at it in a roundabout way, I feel manipulated. (How many of us have dated guys with little manipulating ways of conning us into sex? “But it can do serious damage if I don’t…”) If I don’t want it, I need to tell him. If we both have the understanding that the other person is going to be honest without insult, there’s no need to feel guilty or try to hint. This kind of honesty may sound unsexy (“Hey- wanna do it tonight?” versus donning lingerie and sprawling across the bed), but I recognize that it’s just a stage in learning about each other. Like all other things in our relationship, if we do it enough, I’ll get to a point where I can (mostly) intuit what’s going on. But even then, communication is going to be so essential. Isn’t it with everything in marriage?
3. Team spirit. Like I said above, sex in its purest form is not about what I get out of it, but what I can do for the other person. (If he’s spending all of his energy trying to please me, and I’m exerting all of mine to try to please him… we both end up… satisfied, I guess? Can I say that, Meg?***) So sometimes, I need to take one for the team and just do it when I don’t feel like it. Sounds tres unsexy, no? But if that’s what sex is about at its core (spending all of my energy for what he wants), then I’m definitely in the spirit. (FYI: “I’ll do whatever you want me to, baby” is NOT unsexy.) Other times, when I have a migraine or am in a bad mood, he can lovingly (without being begrudging) drop it. (we’ve talked on here about how the roles are sometimes reversed- I’m not trying to catalogue or generalize, just speaking from my own experience)
So um. There you have it. Probably the most awkward post on APW yet. I’m not sure exactly how to wrap it up- maybe, “Go have some great sex, you guys!” I know you’re thinking, “Wait a second. You were a virgin until 6 months ago. How are YOU going to tell ME how to have great sex, amateur?” I can’t. But I can share what I’ve learned on a now-unconventional and bumpy road. And hoping to help Meg open the floor for others to do the same. Ready? GO.
And before I open the comments, I’m going to remind EVERYONE to stay civil and not judge each other. Both Liz and I shared some personal thoughts, ideas, and experiences here. Neither of our ideas or life experiences have to be shared by you, but the should be respected (and if you see them not being respected, report those comments please). I’m going to take it a step farther and say, if you’re talking about your personal experience, try not to universalize. Waiting, not waiting, or heck, waiting till after marriage for polyamory was right for you? RAD. Just don’t tell us we *all* need to do it.
And now, let’s talk about sex (baby).
*Not just you, Liz.
**Liz asked me if this was cheesy, and I was like, “Yesss… a little. But you can say it anyway.)
Intro photo by Emily Takes Photos.