Sex, Waiting, and Weddings

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.)

*** Yes.

Intro photo by Emily Takes Photos.

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  • YES!! FINALLY! I’ve been forced out of my lurking on APW to finally comment and say, this is why I LOVE this site. I am also waiting, (having had sex and got really hurt by the relationship falling apart further down the line I put the brakes on and said I was waiting from then on in) and am so happy to hear from another, normal, well adjusted bride who chose to wait. I’m not a conservative evangelical or wanting to bible bash anyone, I just chose to wait. I love mutual respect for anyone’s lifestyle choices, and it has felt within the indie weddingblogosphere to me that this (as in, waiting) is pretty much the only lifestyle choice that doesn’t seem to be seen as a legitimate one. (Possibly a sweeping overgeneralisation but just my gut feeling.) I’ve been accused of being a fundementalist christian (I am christian but fall WAY to the left of the spectrum- no homophobia or women-in-leadership issues here thank you), of marrying my OH purely because I want to have sex with him, (as if I would be that stupid) and of being a repressed, old-fashioned antifeminist. Recognition that people can just choose to NOT have sex in the same way that people can choose TO do it is IMO long overdue.
    Thank You SO much Meg and Liz, reading this has truly made my day!

    • Megan

      I totally agree! Before this post, I felt like my fiance and I were the only couple in the world that had waited to only be with each other, for non-religious-y reasons. It seems like waiting just isn’t supported (or maybe just not talked about) like other lifestyle choices are, both in popular media and in blogs. This post has brought me out of my practical-wedding hiding spot! Thank you so much for representing brides and people of all different viewpoints and choices!

  • Lauren H.

    Thanks, Meg, for having this entire post on the main page without a click through. I don’t mind clicking through to get to the rest of a post, but this made the reading experience a little better. Maybe the newest post can always be fully on the main page? That was nice.

    And thanks Liz, for speaking up and being a thoughtful, intelligent person. Like Meg, I come from a pretty conservative area, and growing up, everyone ages 12-17 in my church did True Love Waits. We all filled out our cards, laid them on the altar, put on rings, and some of us even meant it, but honestly– our parents were watching. I never meant a bit of it, and not waiting worked fine for me. But I saw some people go after sex like it was forbidden fruit, and it was messy. Sixteen-year-olds trading partners in cars in the church parking lot messy, choir loft sex at fifteen messy. Eight months pregnant and already married at high school graduation messy. People need to hear things like this. They need to know how sex will tie you to someone, how it doesn’t always look like it does in the movies, how it’s about focusing on each other and not yourselves, and how you have to be able to relax and laugh if something happens that’s not expected. They need to know that jumping in too early just so they can say they did it, or because it feels good physically, will hurt, and that waiting till you’re ready will be better in the long run.

    Note I said till you’re ready, not till you’re married. I didn’t wait for marriage. And I’m okay with that. I had sex with people that I cared about, and decided before anything happened that if things didn’t work out– I wasn’t a delusional teenager, I knew I probably wasn’t going to marry my highschool sweetheart– that I would leave the relationship with no regrets. And knowing that made it easier when my heart was broken, because I let my experiences become a part of who I was, instead of wishing they hadn’t happened. And now that I’m with Zack, I’m glad I made that decision, because he was sexually active far earlier than I was and talking about what we learned about ourselves from other partners has helped us get to know one another. It’s all abut attitude. If either of us were ashamed that we had sex with people before one another, our relationship would be terribly off-balance. Like Liz said, it’s all about honesty.

    Plus, we were totally a one night stand that just never quit happening. How can I regret that?

    • ANDREA

      “Plus, we were totally a one night stand that just never quit happening. How can I regret that?”

      there are not enough “exactly” buttons in the world to express how much I love this :)

      • McPants

        I was a one-night-stand that never quit too! My fiancee and I joke that we’re never going to be able to tell our kids about our first date, b/c it involves booze, sex, and a house-party so big I had to roust somebody out of my bed so I could get my girl into it. I didn’t meet this person and think she was going to be The Love of My Life. There was no lightning-bolt moment, where I KNEW this person was it the moment I saw her. It was just a series of small moments, and waking up one day and hearing that voice inside me tell me I was happier than I’d ever been, and it was because of this woman. (You know, I feel like we need a post about this, b/c I’m seeing lots of ONS folks in the comments.)

        Enough about me; Liz, that was a really great post. I’ve had the experience of being bowled. The hell. Over. by learning that friends had decided to wait. Like, I hadn’t realized that after age 20 or so it was even still an issue for people; I felt like I waited f o r e v e r and I was 18 when I “lost it”. Somehow I just assumed that everyone in my mid-20’s urban, liberal circle was (and should be) just like me. (Which is utter crap, as you know.)

        I’ve definitely been uncomfortable talking about sex with my friends that waited (which if you know me is very weird, since I’m super sex-positive) and I just want to say thanks for a post that gave me some insight into Waiters, and probably made for better communication w/ my Waiter friends.

        • CaitStClair

          Another one night stand that never quit here! I didn’t know there were so many of us! Do people just not talk about it? I usually don’t have a problem fessing up to it. I usually joke that I must suck at them because I “failed” my first and only attempt.

          I’m also another one that grew up in a conservative small town where “waiting” was the norm. Ironically, I one of the ones that probably waited the longest despite having the least amount of religion and the most comprehensive sex ed. (Thanks mom.) It’s interesting the way things turn out.

          Like Lauren said, I believe waiting until you’re ready is extraordinarily important.

          • Me Too! Our boozy one night stand never quit either!

          • Chelsea

            Haha I love these! While we weren’t a ONS (we’d been on a couple dates), it was boozy and unromantic and honestly fueled more by the fact that I just wanted to get losing my virginity over with than any “this is the one” lightening bolt.

            And yet, here we are, 4 years later and 2 weeks from being married. Can’t say I’d do it the same way if I could go back in time, but since I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out I’m perfectly fine with it!

          • Kim

            Another one here! Like you CAITSTCLAIR, my singular attempt at being a sexually footloose and fancyfree woman failed, and a long-term relationship ensued. The kiddies won’t have to know the WHOLE truth . . . ;)

        • I <3 this. "A series of smalll moments…a voice inside me telling me I'm happier than I've ever been." Sigh.

        • Liz A

          Cheers for Team ONS! I almost didn’t confession-post about mine yesterday bc I thought I’d be the only one.

          And um, yeah, what to tell the kids? Mommy and Daddy were drunk and dancing like white people in a crowded bar and fell in lust over a bunch of Bud Lights and Justin Timberlake? Such a sweet story…

          Meg, I’m going to second that maybe we need a ONS post too…

          • Lauren H.

            Mommy was trying to fix her roommate up with Daddy and she accidentally forgot to come back from his bedroom to her own one night. Whoops? Yeah, we’ll worry about that when they’re older.. possibly never.

        • Annearky

          Aaaaah! Me too! :D ONS at a house party with all manner of debaucherous goodness going on. Neither one of us was in our right frame of mind, but he was going back overseas in two days (No, really.) and we figured it was a pretty cool idea. Plus there was a giant beanbag chair in the house and damned if I wasn’t going to make use of it.

          No idea what we will tell our children.

          I have never understood waiting, myself.

      • Rachael Eisner

        I wish I could say exactly SEVERAL times in a row.

      • Clare

        Oh, you know what? I thought my now-partner was going to be a one night stand, he thought I was a keeper from the start. Awkward! I thought he was really, really nice, but that nothing would come of it so I might as well make the most of him (as it were) that one night.

        I actually got kind of creeped out when he rang me the very next day to set up a date.

  • Lisa

    I’m also a lurker. I read APW religiously (every day, more than every day – like checking constantly for new posts), but rarely comment. I have had sex. With my fiance, and previously. But I just have to say EXACTLY to you, Liz. You are a cool, cool chick and I totally dig your point of view. Well done!

    • So I’m not the only one who has had sex with only one man my entire life! We didn’t wait until marriage (though it was months before we first slept together). We met at 19, were engaged four months later, and were married at 21. Have been together more than two decades.

      My view of sex and marriage has changed quite a bit over the years, though. I think I was a great deal more puritannical (or maybe Victorian?) about it when I was nineteen. Sex was a holy thing. You had it with the sort of man with whom you could imagine having children. I didn’t come from a fundamentalist background, but my parents, both northeasterners, were rather conservative about this, particularly where women were concerned. Your virtue, especially, was tied up in your virginity.

      When I met Dr. X, my husband, he was very much like me, with one difference: he had made the mistake, during the first year of college, of getting entangled with an unsuitable (for him) girl who was very bright but had serious psychological problems. He was quite miserable and feeling rather guilty about having lived with her the previous summer, believing, as I did, that sex was emotionally and all but legally binding. The process of disentangling from her was, predictably, ugly, and he’d vowed that next time it would be for keeps.

      So the morning after we’d spent our first night together (and it was sweet), he proposed. I accepted. Granted, we *were* euphoric and infatuated, so it seemed the only logical conclusion, but it could have gone terribly wrong. (Agreed: sex effs with your mind.) We were young, and silly, and melodramatic, and very lucky. Oh, and I was terrified of getting pregnant. We married six months after graduation, after an engagement of about eighteen months.

      Over the years the whole business of sex and waiting has really ceased to matter so much to me. I have nieces now, and I am less concerned about when in a relationship they decide to have sex (assuming they are of a reasonable age) than with whom they decide to have it (someone who, at the very least, treats them with respect) and whether they’re taking proper precautions. But Liz has an excellent point: you don’t need to have sex to know whether you’ve got chemistry, and if you love each other and care about each other’s needs, you’ll figure it out eventually. So while I probably wouldn’t advise them to wait until marriage, I certainly wouldn’t consider it a mistake.

      I have to wonder, though: if our culture hadn’t made sex into this near-mystical thing that links people inexorably together, would we be a little less hung up about it? There’s far too much emphasis put on the “first time,” which tends to be somewhat of a letdown as a result of combined inexperience and inflated expectations. X, who has always seemed to me profoundly ethical, was dealing with the guilty repercussions from that first relationship well into the first year of our marriage, and although I took it very seriously at the time, I am now certain it wasn’t nearly the grave offense he thought it was. The world didn’t end because he didn’t marry a woman with whom he’d slept, or even set up housekeeping for a summer. She went on to lead her unfolding trainwreck of a life elsewhere, and he was not caught up in it by a misplaced sense of honor and duty.

      As for the ever after kind of sex, in the early days we used to find amusing a maxim of George Bernard Shaw, which we repeated often to each other: “Marriage is popular because it combines maximum temptation with maximum opportunity.” As we have no children, it still applies.

      • liz

        when i made my point about sex tying people- i was referring to the negative entanglements. in the sense that we often stick it out with guys that aren’t worth it, because we feel so close to them because of our physical experiences with them.

        i totally agree that too much emphasis is placed on virginity and, first times, etc. and as a culture, we’re oversexed simply because one time long ago in our very prudish history we made sex into this no-no, dirty word, secret thing. people can’t get enough of secret, can’t-do-that-or-talk-about-it type things.

        lots of good points

      • Alli

        I agree too!

        I’m engaged now and we’re planning on getting married next summer. My fiance and I did not wait until we were married, but we waited two and a half years into the relationship and we’re at over six now. We are each other’s first and only. It’s made it very easy for us as far as hurt feelings and the like would go and I don’t regret the decision to wait at all. I’m glad it gave us time to be sure of each other, our intentions, and feelings. It meant a lot to me that he was willing to wait with me (and encouraged that waiting like I did). If we were older and didn’t have to deal with waiting for graduate school to be over to be married we may have waited til marriage. However, waiting 7 years just seemed a bit over-the-top for us.

  • Rose

    I didn’t wait until marriage, but my husband and I have both only had sex with each other, which I think is completely awesome and romantic and part of our story that I love (although not something I actually tell people). We waited until about 18 months into our relationship (when I was about 95% sure this was the man I was going to marry) to have sex. We were both in our mid-twenties when that happened. I never regretted waiting until I was 24, and I have never regretted having sex when we did. It was right for us.

    • Erin

      Delurking here for the first time!

      I guess I fall somewhere in between. I’m getting married in September, and my fiance and I lost our virginity to each other a year into our relationship (we’ve been together for five years now, engaged for 3 1/2, and living together for two). I was 20. I grew up in a religious household, and thought I would wait until marriage, especially after seeing all the pregnant girls at my high school. I changed my mind, but I definitely think having that expectation helped me to make sure I waited until I was ready.

      No matter when you think you’re ready to have sex with your partner, trust and communication is key. Thank you Liz (and Meg) for a great post. It was great to see this kind of conversation outside its normal religious parameters.

    • MPC

      My FH (not fiance yet, exactly, but FH nonetheless) and I lost our virginity to each other, too. (Although a lot earlier in the process– like 2 months after we started dating! We’ve been together for almost 4 years now.) I grew up in a religious family, but never assumed I’d wait until marriage– more like until I was in a long-term relationship with the right guy.

      When it first became clear to me that “my first” would be “my only,” I was a little anxious– was I missing out on something? But soon I realized that our sex life is this tremendous journey that we share, and we were so lucky to meet up at the beginning, and that is much more valuable to me than notches on bedposts or any of that. Also, it doesn’t hurt that he is (by my completely subjective standards) an amazing lay.

      • Jess

        My FH was my first, too (and I was his). It was drunken and basically a one night stand. And then we didn’t talk for 6.5 years. And we both had lots of partners in between (double digits for both of us). Then we reconnected on facebook and gradually realized that our 18 year old intoxicated selves were onto something. :) It would be a sweet story, if it weren’t so drunken and disorderly.

        That being said, I’m very glad I had those partners in the middle. They taught me a lot and I was definitely not ready to be in a lasting relationship at 18. I’m not sure that I am now, at 25! But I’m a lot less freaked out by it. I learned a lot from most of those other partners (both sexually and emotionally) and don’t regret any of them. Liz’s post about why she chose to wait is refreshing, though. I’m glad that she explained a point of view on the topic not centered around a religious philosophy to which I certainly do not subscribe. So bravo for her doing what’s right for her.

      • Anicka

        Other than the part where we waited for over a year, this is one big fat “Exactly!”

        A great post, Liz. It’s really interesting to hear some of the reasons Waiters have for waiting. I definitely have a lot of respect for anyone who is able to control their “urges”.

  • Cat

    And again APW blows my mind.

    I am 100% guilty of assuming the only people who wait for sex are conservative religious types… and having known a fair few people who married very young for that reason and are now not in the greatest situations I had some serious reservations about the fabulousness of that idea. So much of this makes so much sense, thank you for opening my mind just a little more.

    It’s probably not something that would have worked for me (for what its worth, didn’t wait. Didn’t wait to the point that I usually don’t tell people how little time we waited) but I won’t be so quick to judge from now on.

  • Thank you so much for writing this! We are not waiting nor ever considered waiting, but either way, your sex in marriage advice is fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

  • Emi

    Thank you for this intelligent and thoughtful post, Liz!

    And I will admit, I am one of those who have accused Meg of being a liberal bubbler (albeit in a loving, “You’re one of ME!” way, not in a snide “You know NOTHING of the world” way, sorry if it came off weird).

    Anyway, thank you for presenting a thoughtful and intelligent discussion of your personal choices that doesn’t denigrate those of other people. I have seen WAY too many discussions of this issue in which the conversation devolves into other-people-bashing from both sides.

    I will also admit that I have had a knee-jerk negative bias against people who choose to wait on sex, mostly because I automatically associate it with bible-thumpers and the whole “Purity” movement (shudder). I may not agree point for point with regards to my own experience (though that’s the point of posts like these, I think) but thank you heartily for punching my negative bias in the kidneys. I needed it.

    I do have a general question for Liz and Team Practical. Almost all of the waiting till marriage discussions I have ever heard/seen are in regards to heterosexual relationships, maybe because of the strong conservative Christian association people make. Has anyone seen/had any discussions about this that are focused on GLBTQ relationships? How are the issues different, or are they?

    • Lydia

      The issues are different for some GLBTQ people, because for most same sex couples, marriage in the traditional sense isn’t an option. Waiting until marriage just isn’t a practical decision when you might be stuck waiting forever.
      You can still wait until you’re in a serious relationship, or until you are committed to someone, but that isn’t the same as marriage.

      Most of the discussions I’ve seen or been a part of about same sex couples waiting until marriage dismiss the idea as ludicrous and unfair. I’m sure that in a place where same sex marriage is legal the attitude would be different. Same goes with people who have a strong personal or religious investment in waiting until marriage.

    • I’m a girl marrying a girl, and I think this is more complicated than just the legal marriage part. As, I just admitted above, we were a one night stand that grew into a long relationship. Ginger is the only girl I’ve ever even kissed. And, while I could have waited longer to go all the way, I don’t see how (I personally) could have waited till the wedding. I realized I had same sex feelings in college when I had my first girl crush. At the time, it was really confusing, and I don’t think I could have labeled myself “queer” and started a long term relationship with a girl a few months later, without investigating the sex bit. I think for a lot of queer people, coming out and experiencing same-sex sex for the first time are kind of all intertwined together. Not saying a gay couple couldn’t wait, but often we tend to want to explore our sexuality during the coming out process at some point before committing to marriage.

      • anon for nowww

        yep, and sometimes it goes the same way for straight people! I’m a girl who for various reasons didn’t really date boys in high school but always knew I was straight. along comes my best girl friend to my house one day senior year, to express her undying love for me. it broke my heart to tell her I couldn’t return the feelings, but I thought that would be the end of it. she didn’t accept no, she couldn’t understand how I could possibly know I couldn’t be gay, since I’d never even had a boyfriend (she identified herself as bi at the time, to her I seemed inflexible). so I decided to give it a shot, to see if there was a spark.. months and months and months of pain and hurt and confusion. but I found out for sure that I was straight, and it definitely allowed me to feel a ton of empathy for the LGBTQ community, who are constantly doubted.

        point is, I totally understand sex being integral to the coming out/finding yourself process.

      • Lydia

        I was thinking less of actually being legally recognized as married before sex, and more of what we think of when we think “marriage.” When I was first realizing I was gay, I started to think that marriage wouldn’t be on the table for me. I was basically wrong, because I didn’t have a very nuanced understanding of what marriage is. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, my understanding of what marriage is has changed dramatically. I guess the model I had for marriage when I was younger excluded me, and eventually I realized that I could make my own model. But I didn’t start thinking seriously about marriage until years after I decided waiting wasn’t worth it, when I decided I felt ready to actually get married.

        Then again, I knew I was gay waaaaay before I came out or was in a relationship, and I knew I didn’t plan on waiting until marriage even before that.

        • Great point Lydia! At first, I thought I was straight and would wait for a long term, post-high school relationship. Then, I started coming out as bi, and it took me awhile to realize I COULD get married and have a queer family. Like apart from legality, that getting married and having a family was even an option for me with a same sex partner. By then I had made my decision on whether to wait to have sex till marriage or not. Definitely another important angle on the complexities of waiting till marriage for the LGBTQ community.

        • meg

          “When I was first realizing I was gay, I started to think that marriage wouldn’t be on the table for me. I was basically wrong, because I didn’t have a very nuanced understanding of what marriage is. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, my understanding of what marriage is has changed dramatically. I guess the model I had for marriage when I was younger excluded me, and eventually I realized that I could make my own model.”

          This is why I feel really blessed to be getting married/ a newlywed in the throws of the marriage equality movement. Because I really truly 100% believe that marriage equality benefits *everyone* not just people who are currently denied legal marriage rights. This re-definition and re-understanding and re-making of marriage and family life is so beneficial to us all, I think. It certainly is for me. I think watching and knowing gay married couples was part of what made me feel I could take the leap in the first place. Because I could totally get on board with what they were doing, even if some straight models of marriage freaked me the f*ck out.

    • lmb

      I’m sure this comment was not meant to be offensive, but can we possibly avoid terms like “Bible thumpers” as a way to talk about religious groups? The category of “Christian” is an enormous and diverse one, and using this kind of terminology really erases difference, clumping everyone who self-identifies with that religion under a label with extremely negative connotations.

      Is that cool?

      • Liz

        LMB- i’m gonna speak just for myself here, but when i hear the term “bible thumper” i think of a specific brand of christianity- not an all-encompassing christian circle, but those select few in-your-face-types.

        • lmb

          Fair enough Liz – I understand that people often use the term in that way, to describe a much smaller group of people. I still find it to be a disrespectful term, since it relies on a negative stereotype. I know a lot of people who would probably be considered “Bible thumpers,” and I disagree with some (a lot?) of their politics, but using terms like that makes it too easy to dismiss them entirely, rather than recognize that their belief systems also contain good and truth along with the things that I might not like so much. And that they as people are individuals who hold these things dear to their hearts and who should be respected.

          Anyway, this is probably getting a little too off-topic, as the original post (which was a wonderful read) was SO not about this!

          • Liz

            agreed. derogatory labels are a no-no, anyhow.

    • Cat

      I thought I’d add my perspective to the queer waiting thing. Personally I knew I was gay before I even started dating, though I can definitely see how sex might help a person who is unsure gain some clarity. In my case, not being able to get married did play some part in it, marriage didn’t want me so I didn’t want it. Waiting for it never occurred to me.

      The more relevant issue for me as a lesbian when it came to losing the Big V, was that it was practically guilt free. At the time, I genuinely felt like all the reasons *not* to didn’t really apply to me.

      My religious friends talked about their purity vows and remember thinking ‘if they’re right I’m going to hell anyway so what have I got to lose?’. There was obviously no risk of getting pregnant, my family was totally accepting of my sexuality so there was no guilt there. My high school had a very comprehensive sex education program… if you were heterosexual. It was a big deal at the time *how* progressive it was, but it still made no mention of queer sexual health outside of mentioning gay male sex being a risk factor for HIV/AIDS. I know better now, but I didn’t think lesbians really got STDs, and regardless, we were definitely both virgins. I can sort of relate to older women who talk about the guilt free sex when the pill first appeared, pre-AIDS. And I have to mention that it definitely occurred to me was that what was ‘sex’ for me was what what my straight friends considered little more than a harmless make out session. The *worst* I could do (as a naive teenager) was their guilt free ‘everything but’, I figured that meant that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. And I definitely loved my girlfriend at the time, we’d been dating a while… I felt like I’d ticked all the boxes. I still do really, I have no regrets.

      I think maybe having to consciously examine my sexuality in my early teens meant I was pretty comfortable with the idea. Being gay was a huge part of my identity, and it was being attracted to women -physically as well as emotionally- that made me gay. I had reconciled that a fair while before I was in a situation to contemplate actually *having* sex. So sex didn’t feel (to me) as big a deal as it seemed to feel to a lot of my straight friends. I was definitely ready for it when it did happen and I’m glad that I was with someone in a similar emotional place at the time, but beyond that, losing my virginity just didn’t feel like a huge thing.

    • Calumnia

      I didn’t wait for marriage, but I am in a GLBTQ relationship with someone who grew up with that expectation so maybe I can help answer that question.

      There are a few issues that are different.

      1) GLBTQ sex isn’t sanctioned by most religious groups. So even if you wait for marriage it still isn’t approved of.

      2) For many people, you figure out you are GLBTQ (and where you are in that spectrum) through a process of sexual trial and error. You can still wait for marriage, or have sex, make the discover and then wait to have it again, but I think it is more rare.

      3) Many GLBTQ people cannot get married (either civil or religious). So that means waiting til you are in a committed relationship.

      4) If you are GLB and both cisgendered you can’t get pregnant. And for some people who are waiting because of social pressure (and not personal conviction) pregnancy is one of the public signifiers that you broke your promise.

    • sarah

      Having gone through the coming out process myself and currently being married to a woman, I would be shocked if there are any LGBTQ folks who choose to wait until marraige/life-commitment. I mean, every queer person I’ve ever met had to do a lot of answering the question (asked by themselves and others) “but how do you KNOW?” and enjoying sex with partners of the same sex pretty much has to be a part of that answer. I can imagine a different world in which teens could be sure even without doin’ the deed, because straight folks don’t feel the need to have hetero-sex in order to be sure that they’re not gay — but for now… I don’t think you’ll be running across any wait-til-marriage gays out there.

      • Dawn

        I think one of the biggest factors in needing to explore before you’re sure is that as a society we are only starting to acknowledge and encourage/discourage same-sex relationships openly. As a kid who grew up surrounded by relatively normal “hetero” culture, I certainly didn’t even consider the possibility that I could like other girls until my teen years when the internet opened up a whole new world of sexual topics that my parents would have been horrified to talk about with me. (Interestingly, there was a gay couple in the town where I spent most of my childhood; they were never talked about or looked down on (at least in front of me) and when I was young I always just assumed that they were friends who lived together, or brothers). That lack of knowledge meant that I felt like I had to do a lot more experimenting and self-examination before I could be sure of my feelings (it doesn’t help that the teen years, when many people fully come into awareness of their sexuality, are full of reminders that you’re just a hormonal mess and that you’ll “grow out of it”).

        So while most of my friends were discussing how much they liked a certain male actor’s rear, I was trying to sort out why I -didn’t- like said actor’s rear, and if that was normal… and when college came around I fell into a perfect storm of curiosity, a willing queer friend, and a lot of time alone in the dorms. If I hadn’t kissed her I wouldn’t have identified as bi, but “bi-curious”, emphasizing that I was attracted to girls but hadn’t done anything with them. I think that the “curious” tag shouldn’t even have to apply, but it’s another indicator that yes, we are expected to “test the waters”, so to speak – to make sure that we really are attracted to someone in the physical sense before we apply the label.

  • Laura

    I just love this site. If you’re waiting, allow me to give you a few field notes from someone who’s virginity has been gone for 20 years (yikes!). The one thing I know for sure about sex is that it’s is equally as important and as unimportant as you’ve probably been told. Yes, it matters. No, not all that much. Yes, it can be a mystical bonding experience. But it might not be. Just relax, enjoy, and try not to put too much stock into it. What is required for a good sex life is pretty much what’s required for a good life, full stop. Reasonable expectations, and a wide-open mind. If you’ve got that, you’re golden.

    • Excellent point! Thanks.

    • Liz

      seasoned experience <3

      in my limited experience, it's been like anything else in our relationship. sometimes it's magical. sometimes it's not. and you can never plan or tell which nights are gonna be which.

  • We have, you know, done it. Our wedding is in August. We’ve had many conversations that sounded like, “what if our sex sucked- could we marry each other?” and “what if we didn’t have sex until we got married- what if sex sucked?” And through those conversations we were really happy we did have sex with each other. BUT!

    Liz’s post really opened up my eyes to waiting. It’s like learning to communicate in a relationship- you learn each others styles, how to groove, what not do do and what to do. You grow together and you learn. So thanks, Liz!

    And as a couple who is having sex before marriage and has had sex with other people in previous relationships, we’re still having fun learning what the each other likes and we we even trying new things. I know some people who have waited and really look down at my choice to have sex before marriage. Just saying b/c I feel like I have to: I don’t think having sex before your married with your fiance or anyone else ruins sex for the rest of your life. I think it two people are meant to truly connect- whether they’ve waited or not- they will. And the sex will be off the hook.

    • Goodness. Just want to rephrase that last bit- some people have judged me for having sex before marriage and I just want people (who are feeling judged for having premarital sex) to know that if you have had sex before marriage (whether you regret it or not) it will NOT take away from sex with your partner after marriage.

      • I think it’s like anything in a relationship. Previous experiences alter and affect your current one, including in sex. Sex can/will still be good with your spouse, but having had sex before may change the experience all the same.

        I had sex with the guy I dated for five years and was going to marry. Then we broke up and a few months later I was married to my husband. Unexpected? Yes!

        Do I regret having sex with my husband before we were married? No. The other guy? Yes. For a variety of reasons too long to explain here it added a bunch of baggage to the sexual lives of my husband and I. But you know, we have trials and baggage from other things too. As many here have said, it really just depends on your ability to communicate.

    • meg

      Dear god no. I hope no one EVER feels bad about having sex before marriage. I wouldn’t want you to extrapolate that from the post, and I don’t think Liz would either. I’m very sex positive, and honestly, part of the reason I ran this post is that Liz is also very sex positive, she just made different life choices.

      • Definitely glad this was posted because lately I’ve been thinking about sex and how it influences/strengthens/stresses/pressures our relationships. Like Liz said, you can see it on people’s faces if they’ve done the deed or not.

        And I’ve especially been thinking a lot about wedding night sex, which I totally don’t think we’re going to have because I’ll either be way too tipsy or way too exhausted. I mean, c’mon, does everyone really knock the boots after 48 hours of worrying, bouquet making, dress steaming, mimosa drinking??? :)

        • meg

          PEOPLE! No, more and more people are telling me that they are not planning to have sex on their wedding night because they have all these party priorities. I don’t know why I keep saying this (clearly I should have put it in my wedding grad post), but prioritize, people! Sex with your partner should go way way way at the top of your wedding day list. Like:

          1. Love
          2. Joy
          3. Bliss
          4. Say Vows
          5. GET LAID. Married laid people! I just got married and I’m all blissed out laid! We’re tired, but damn, laid! Getchaselves laid.
          6. Party party party
          7. All the little stuff, because the rest of it’s little stuff.


          • caitlin

            this may be the very best comment ever. and one that i will definitely be keeping in mind in a few months… ifyouknowwhatimean ;)

          • Not gonna say

            To take the pressure off of our first time we agreed that neither of us would be disappointed if we didn’t have sex the wedding night. But we were definitely going to get naked and enjoy and see what happened next. Sex happened. :D

          • Meg, You know, it may not be so bad to squeeze a little #5 in between the ceremony and the reception. ;)

            Liz, Thanks :) I just don’t want to be hugely disappointed if it doesn’t happen, yaknow?

          • MEG P

            We’re waiting (and Catholic too, but I’d hate it if people thought that was the whole reason why we were waiting!) and we may not have sex on our wedding night because we’re practicing natural family planning and I think I will probably be fertile at that time and we are not ready for children yet. We have discussed this possibility and are very much looking forward to getting naked together on that night and waiting for our infertile phase to consumate our marriage!

            Just wanted to add this to the discussion on the issue :)

          • mollymouse

            I totally agree that sex on your wedding day should be so high on the list that it’s not even *on* the list. It’s a given. We knew we would stay up late, have friends back to our suite to continue the party, and be exhausted, so we had wedding morning sex (haha, obviously I wasn’t a Waiter!) It was the best decision for us because that’s where it fit into the day. It would be so sad if you didn’t get laid on your wedding day!

          • ddayporter

            aaaaahh ok while I agree in theory that wedding day sex is a good priority, since I’ve already announced in my grad post that we didn’t do it, I feel obliged to step up for the masses of non-sex-havers and say that we did not have sex on our wedding night and we did not die! it was not so sad! for some (many? most?), it may be different, it may be more significant for you to do it right away. but as with Everything else, you should set your own priorities! the first time we had married sex it still had the glitter on it because it was the first time we’d done it since we got married. I don’t think we missed out on anything because it didn’t happen between the sunrises of March 20th and 21st.

          • I do agree with you Meg but, if, like me, you happen to get your period on the way to the church, 4 days early, it may be that no matter how much you want to have sex on your wedding day, it just isn’t going to happen. I know you can have sex whilst having a period, but not, if, like me, you have various gynae problems which makes it too painful to contemplate.

            So, with all the best will in the world, it may be that you just can’t. And you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Sex a week later is still lovely.

            And yes, I know people will say, but why didn’t you take the pill back to back. Well, I can’t take that kind of pill, so I take one every day (mini pill) which means I can’t avoid periods. They come when they come. And sometimes that times is when you’re in the car with your father on the way to the church to get married. Wearing a white dress.

          • sarah

            I DEFINITELY had party priorities on my wedding night and I don’t regret it one bit. We’ve been having sex for years and years — but having a party with all of our nearest and dearest — that had never happened before and probably never will again. I am 100% not sad that we didn’t have sex on our wedding night — I mean… that’s what the honeymoon was for!

          • On our wedding night, sex was verboten because I had just had a D&C because of a miscarriage a week earlier.

            But even if we’d been able to, we were sleeping on the pullout sofa bed in the basement and we were exhausted from the day and from having my husband’s parents with us for A WEEK WITH THEIR CONSTANT DEMANDS, so it wouldn’t have happened anyhow.

            We didn’t care. We were just happy to be married.

  • A-L

    This was a freaking amazing post. This issue rarely makes it into the blogosphere, much less in such a mature, well-stated way. Though my family was never part of the Evangelical right, they would go to various Christian churches and my middle school years happened to be spent at an unusual Southern Baptist church (unusual insofar as they were liberal by SBC standards, moderate by most church standards). And like most SBC churches they ingrained the no sex policy until marriage into the youth’s heads. We left there when I was in 7th grade, so I have no idea how well is stuck with others. But that was the origin of my idea, but over time it evolved. I didn’t think people having sex were going to hell, I just didn’t think it was right with me. And as I continued to get older I would refine my views, many very similar to Liz.

    My best friend is a minister and we were roommates while in grad school, and we were both amazed at how many divinity school people would meet, start dating, get engaged, and married, all within a year. We had strong suspicions to explain the phenomena (cough, *sex*, cough) and I hope that being a bit older than some of the other rush-to-marriage folks had a better foundation than those who had rushed in earlier (say, right after high school).

    So, there are probably some people beginning to wonder how old I finally was when I did have sex. Umm, 29. With my current fiance (though we weren’t engaged at the time). We’d been dating for about 10 or 11 months, and it was just the right time. He was willing to wait until we were married though, which was important to me because when we started dating I didn’t know if I would ever feel ready to the deed before our wedding because even though I’m mentally very accepting of people having sex, I wasn’t sure if I would feel any guilt or other feelings about my having sex before marriage. But I didn’t. :)

    Ok, this is turning to a novel, so I just wanted to say thanks for posting this. And as for as Emi’s question goes, the only thing I have heard about waiting and the LBBTQ community has been from Christian conservatives. They say that since heterosexual couples have to wait, that homosexual couples should wait too. But since the conservatives don’t believe in LGBTQ weddings, they’d get to wait forever. So I’ve heard (conservative) people say that homosexuality (being attracted to a non-hetero partner) is not a sin , but acting on it (i.e. having sex with a non-hetero partner) is a sin.

    • I’ve heard that “acting on it” bit too, and it makes me gag. Your comment rocked, though. :)

      • A-L

        Thanks, Jolynn!

    • Sarah Beth

      This sounds a lot like my life. Except I attended a Southern Baptist church school from K3 to 12th grade. And of course the expectation is that none of the students are having sex. (yeah, right!) But of course people were. And the thing is, the school had this policy that you could get in trouble not just by breaking rules in the explicitly written handbook, but you could also be disciplined for anything, done on or off-campus, which they found inappropriate. So, pre-marital sex, pregnancy, admitted homosexuality, drinking, drugs, dancing, etc. were all “fair” grounds for expulsion.
      So, as you can imagine, people kept their sexual activity under wraps. Except that there was always at least one girl every year who got pregnant. (in a school where grades 6-12 was only about 500 students all-together)
      For me though, the biggest problem with the SB’s stance on sex is that, at least in my experience, it went beyond innocence to ignorance. They seemed to prefer the “sink or swim” method of sex ed. Meaning, no one ever tells you anything about how sex works, or how it makes you feel, or anything because the only thing you need to know is that’s dirty/evil and you need to stay away from it. Then they throw two virgins together on their wedding night and see what happens. And what happens isn’t pretty.
      We aren’t waiting until after we get married, but we waited for each other, which was the right decision for us. And we waited a little over a year before we had sex. Sometimes, I wish we had waited longer, because sex DOES mess with your mind. ‘Well, duh!’ you say. But I think a lot of people are really unaware of just how much things change. And I can’t imagine trying to get to know each other that first year with sex looming in the picture.

      • Liz

        sarah beth- so true. not just in christian circles, but in general, we guard all girls from sexual knowledge- and then thrust sexy pictures (by which we define “beautiful”) at them, and wonder why so many girls are sexually damaged, emotionally abused, etc. nothing is explained, nothing is understood, but girls want to be “pretty” so they misunderstand that this means “sexually appealing,” and don’t know what they’re in for.

        • ANON

          This depiction of “beauty” in the media is something that I’ve always had trouble getting to grips with. For full disclosure, I’m a guy considering popping the question soon, hence me here on wedding blogs. Girls are definitely affected by not being provided by a healthy view of what is beautiful, but this same thing goes for us guys. It gets to the point where some think that it is almost inappropriate to not be having premarital sex. I am a waiter, as is my girlfriend and we have been waiting for more than 3 years, largely for the reasons in this article. The media definitely makes this a challenging thing to do.

          • liz

            definitely flip sides of the coin for either gender. women are whores if they don’t protect their virginity. men aren’t men if they can’t get laid. (we even reference “the night he became a man…” in movies, etc all the effing time)

            and it sucks. because it puts us at odds, doesn’t it?

  • Elise

    Finally! Thank you for this post. So true, so good.

  • Woohoo! Can I just say that I love the diversity on APW? And thanks to Meg for being willing to share!
    My husband and I waited until the wedding night as well. In our case, it was because of religious beliefs. I was always taught as a kid that you should wait until marriage, and although I was able to examine that belief as I grew older and more experienced, all of the evidence seemed to support it. Like Liz said, sex complicates things, binds people, makes BABIES for pete’s sake. I wasn’t ready for all of that. Josh and I dated for about 3.5 years before we got married, and spending all that time NOT having sex made us better communicators. If he got upset when I stopped us while messing around (he wholeheartedly agreed to wait, but I was usually the enforcer if you know what I mean), it just taught us to talk it out. We got really good at talking about sex.
    When it came to our wedding night, we were still a little scared. We ordered a pizza and watched tv before we could work up the nerve. And then? The first several times were really painful for me and awkward for us both. We laughed and got through it and just kept trying.
    The more sex we have, the more I completely, totally agree with the sentiment of waiting. I can’t imagine having gone through this experience with someone other than my husband — not the specific man (although I do love him), but specifically the husband status. Being able to go through this really big, lifestyle-changing, emotionally charged process with him has been wonderful. I couldn’t imagine doing it with someone who I don’t trust or who doesn’t love me unconditionally.

    I understand why people have sex before marriage. I also understand that there is trust and love within non-marriage relationships. But I agree with Liz that it’s incredibly romantic to have only had one partner, and that your promised life partner has been present in your entire sexual journey. Plus it really is the best sex of your life!

    • Sharon

      Hi Michelle, just wanted to say as someone who’s still a bit scared (after lots of talking with and reassurances from the FH) of the “it’s going to hurt” part, your comment makes me feel much better. Laugh, get through it, and keep trying. Noted. :)

      • If you are worried about it hurting the first time, there are several things you can do about it. I’ve known of women who had their doctor cut their hymen before their marriage. I’ve known of women who used a set of progressively bigger “stretchers” before their marriage that they got from their doctor. And it also helps to know that a man who loves you will not want to purposefully hurt you. In the book “The Act of Marriage” they suggest that the guy can put some lubrication on his fingers and help stretch you out before sex too when you first start. Having lubrication on hand isn’t a bad idea anyway just in case you need it, as a lot of people do.

        Being afraid it will hurt can make you tense up too much and then it probably will hurt. And it seems just like how women love to tell horror stories about child birth rather than the good ones, they love to tell horror stories about how much their first sexual experience hurt as well.

        But definitely keep in mind that he won’t want to hurt you on purpose.

        • Marina

          Yes. Lube lube lube. Lube is the best invention ever. Seriously.

          • LC

            (Another longtime lurker!)

            I am really glad that this point was brought up. I, like many other posters, loved reading Liz’s incredibly interesting point of view! And while I’m super excited for Liz that her first (few) experiences were pleasant (congrats, lady!), it’s not like that for everyone. My first time (with my now-fiance) was very painful, and even after two years with him, we’re still… how do I put this delicately?… quite a tight fit. It doesn’t hurt anymore, but it’s still tight, and it does pose some limits — so the pain concern may not necessarily be averted completely by lube and doctors and “stretchers,” although mazel tov if it is!

            Not trying to scare anyone, of course, just trying to bold-double-underline that everyone’s experience is different, and that Liz’s experiences may not be yours. Just something to keep in mind!

          • Kayakgirl73

            I had a burning problem with KY Sensitive lube on my wedding night, so it didn’t go the best. Sometimes we could have sex with out lube and other times it was painful. Some ladies on a Christian women’s message board mentioned using Coconut oil as a lube. It’s wonderful. I found it at Whole foods. It of course can’t be used with condoms.

          • Oh hell yeah

            Yes, and not that crappy KY Jelly. Get something good quality from a nice female friendly sex shop. I’ve used Bliss Lube and Better Sex Essentials and some others that I can’t remember the names of.

            If you need a great women friendly sex shop these guys are amazing. I really trust their shop:

          • Faith

            Coconut oil…this WILL BE my lube of choice on the big night;) Gosh, just for the smell alone!

        • Sharon

          Thanks, Ms. Giggles! One of my married lady friends gave me a book that recommended some stretching exercises, so I’ve been doing those. So far it’s been pretty ok – there hasn’t been any pain. It’s more like, er, parking a car than anything else (sorry if that’s waaaay TMI) in terms of getting used to the sensation. So… *fingers crossed*! And yes, FH has been incredibly reassuring in our talks about this.

          Can I also just say how fantastic it is to be able to bring up issues like virginity or fear of intercourse in such a safe space?

      • Aine

        biggest pieces of advice:

        1. go slow. your body will basically be going “this is awesome, but WTF is going on down there?”
        2. Practice, practice, practice. Not that you need to be told, but it makes everything better.
        3. Finally, and I cannot emphasize this enough: TELL HIM AS SOON AS IT HURTS. Because, as my eternally patient FH has pointed out to me (several times), if you’re not happy, he’s not happy. And he’ll REALLY be not happy if he doesn’t learn that you were in pain until after the fact. the whole enduring stoic thing is not a good idea (as I said, FH has had to explain this to me several times. I am a lucky girl, but also kind of an idiot).

      • Liz

        hm. i’m sorry that i gave the impression that it didn’t hurt. i’m a foot shorter and about 100 lbs lighter. and those figures pretty accurately depict our proportions… uh… elsewhere.

        it did hurt. but not enough to ruin it. and it hurt for a bit thereafter- and still does, from time to time. but josh was sensitive to that. he was very aware, very gentle, very careful. and i was vocal about when we needed to stop and move onto other activities.

        but, lady. it hurting did NOT (did not not not) make it suck. i’m a wuss. a major pansy. and i was ok. it was still a happy moment.

        other activities and the certain products ladies have mentioned, definitely help. foreplay is called FOREplay for a reason. getting things rolling for you first will help immensely.

    • We ordered a pizza and watched tv before we could work up the nerve.

      My mom tells me that I was conceived on their honeymoon between “Gunsmoke” and the pizza arriving.

    • fm

      I just (4 hours ago) came across APW. Love it to bits already (thanks Meg), and largely because of the huge diversity of views presented here, such as this wonderful post (thanks Liz), and this comment (thanks Michelle). As a deeply religious Muslim, but one with very liberal ideals, its hard to find a space to fit into within the Muslim community or within the liberal one, especially when you’re planning to have a traditional-but-not, Pakistani-Canadian, kooky-be-true-to-yourself-yet-please-the-parents wedding. But, I guess the point is, as my guy tells me, not to find a place to fit into, but to make one where you not only fit, but fit perfectly.

      Anyways, long ramble aside, it was great to read Michelle’s comment. Waiting to have sex (or in our case, do anything at all) is hard, and it gets harder when people assume that because SOME of our reasons stem from religion, that means that a) we haven’t thought them out, b) we wait out of fear of going to hell, and c) we dislike/condemn all those people who make different lifestyle choices than ours. Just wanted to say, that while all three of these may be true of some people who are religious and wait because of it, it isn’t true for all ;)

      Personally, while I’ve never had sex before, I’ve done a bit of fooling around, which I honestly regret now. I’ve realized that, for me, doing those things with guys I wasn’t going to spend my life with ruined the intimacy and special-ness of those things. Now, I can’t wait till we’re married so I can share a whole lot of firsts with my husband.

      Although, not gonna lie, having experienced sexual chemistry with the-jerk-who-broke-my-heart, and the-eternal-flirt-who-led-me-on, I’m super worried…now that I know what it feels like, what if I don’t have it with the-amazing-man-who-I’m-in-love-with-and-who-adores-me?

      • Dawn

        Sexual chemistry can be “encouraged”, if not forced. Communication is part of that. :)

        When I started dating at 16 the “chemistry” was all nerves. Everything was new and because of this I was always nervous – and nervousness can stimulate arousal. Thrill-seekers tend to recreate those patterns of anticipation and arousal all the time. The rest of us just get it once in a while, and it wears off… and then relationships fall apart because they’ve “lost their spark”.

        Well, they all do. If you think of your love as a fire, you get the spark and the flames at first but what’s left when the flames are gone? If the relationship was built on a solid base and allowed to burn slowly you’ll have a lot of warm, glowing coals, which can easily re-kindle flames if you feed them carefully and consistently. When people complain that the passion is gone it’s usually because they’ve quit feeding the fire through communication, respect and appreciation for their partner, and trying new things once in a while (not just in the bedroom, either – you can have the same kind of sex every night, and it’ll be good if you are always working on improving your relationship through shared experiences in other areas!). You might have had something shocking and new and arousing with the last two guys but with your husband you’ll have something warm and comforting that will last a lifetime, and that’s the kind of chemistry you’ll really enjoy :)

  • Both Meg and Liz are amazing and brave and thoughtful (and so NOT awkward, Liz!). I appreciate he really grown up discussion that is emerging. Waiting…never crossed my mind. For a ton of reasons, some very good (for me), some pretty shallow (for me). Now that we’re engaged, FH and I, with all the love, don’t have the best sex life- it’s a rare sticking point of communication, sharing, and negotiation in an otherwise fantastic relationship. Thank goodness that my age and specific set of experiences puts me more in the mind of Laura, where it is has become ONE factor in our relationship/ journey towards marriage, so the whole thing. And we can work on it. Or not. Right now. Or later. Our commitment (just ours, no judgment) had many mansions…

    Now, as to what Liz actually SAID about sex, and waiting. I had to think after I read the post, because my issues (I’m a “yeah, but…” person to the nth degree) kept interfering with Liz’ beautiful words. So I’ll cop to that, in case others who read are feeling subtly judged by not having made (or been able to make) the decision to wait. IT AIN’T THE POST- if you’re like me, it’s your own “oh, shoot” moment of realizing you HAD a choice (whether you waited with everyone or just with your intended), and guess what…you still do. If, like me, this causes an uncomfortable exposed feeling, you may consider having this discussion with your partner, not attached to the outcome as such, but to your experience of broaching the subject, and thinking about why you may have had that exposed feeling. Is there some stuff in Liz’s words, that you can use?
    Again, thanks. This was a limb, and Meg and Liz, you handled dancing on that limb beautifully.

    • E

      Tamara, just wanted thank you also for the bravery to admit that you don’t have the world’s greatest sex life. Particularly in conversations like these, where people have a tendency to get defensive of their own choices, those who didn’t wait are entirely reluctant to admit that it hasn’t led to the greatest sex the world has ever seen. I think it’s brave to admit that sex ebbs and flows, it’s not always great, and sometimes we need to work (as Liz points out) on all the communication that should surround it.

  • Sarah M

    This is a wonderful, thoughtful post!! For most of my teen years I was of the belief that I was going to wait until marriage, I never really thought about it, I never really had that belief forced upon me by my church, it was just something I thought I would do. When I went to university I found myself having conversations with people about it on more than one occasion. They would ask me why I was waiting and I realized I had no real reason. So my belief transformed into not necessarily waiting until marriage, just that I was waiting until I found someone I was comfortable enough to share that with. So for me, I’ve had sex with one other person before my fiance and for him it’s the same. I don’t regret losing my virginity to someone else at all and while the relationship didn’t work out, he was actually a wonderful first experience.

    It’s so fantastic that we have a place where we can talk about humping like bunnies or waiting until marriage or somewhere in between and be reminded that it’s our choice and whatever we choose is a-ok.

    • kate

      Sarah, I had a very similar experience. Raised Catholic (although fairly liberal) and with a healthy feminist disdain of all the wanting-to-please-boys bullshit that can drag girls into sex before they are ready, I always thought in the back of my mind I would wait for marriage. Like you, it wasn’t until I heard people articulating this belief back to me (thinking I was committed to waiting) that I realized I really wasn’t. It seemed to me that I’d be choosing a partner on the basis of their sexual practices if I held out for someone who was willing to wait, and I realized I’d be prioritizing a belief that wasn’t all that important to me.

      (I should say, it’s clear that Liz and many of the other waiters commenting here chose their partner on a number of good and wise factors, not just the lack of sexin’–but as a student at a liberal university that’s how I saw my choices at the time. You mean I can choose from EVERYONE or I can choose from the very small, conservative religious community who I disagree with on most other issues? No thanks.)

      Another factor in my decision not to wait–and here we go with the TMI–was getting involved in an S/M relationship with a boyfriend before I had had sex, and thinking to myself “oh, it’s fine, at least it’s not progressing ‘the bases.'” Um. NO! Like Liz said, sex binds you, whether it’s genital or what have you. I realized that was really some magical thinking on my part.

      Though I didn’t end up waiting till marriage, I sure am glad I ended up waiting as long as I did. I ended up first having sex (I hate the concept of “virginity”) at age 24 with a long term boyfriend who, although something of a disaster in other ways, was very patient, gentle and positive. At this point, after plenty of ensuing drama (and now, years later, being in a different and very happy relationship) having sex with him is about the only thing I DON’T regret.

      I really just want to affirm the choices of everyone who is sharing here. Waiters face judgment and invisibility and non-waiters can also face flak from family, religious or cultural factors. Making thoughtful choices and owning them is one of our biggest tasks in becoming adult, and one of the hardest.

      • your comment really spoke to me (other than the S/M). I too, was raised in a fairly religious/conservative family (although, wow has that changed!) and thought I’d wait too. And then I realized my reasons for waiting were all tied up with other people’s expectations of myself, not what I actually wanted. Although the *idea* of having one partner sounded nice it would also mean canceling out some otherwise great experiences and people, something I just didn’t want to look back on and regret. But that’s my personal choice. I wanted to experience it ALL and if that meant sex then that too, but in the right time, with the right person.

        The guy I dated and first had sex with (agreed on the “virginity” thing) was a kind, funny, awesome and patient guy. I am glad we are still good friends today. And it did mess with my head, and it has, but not so much that I couldn’t get over it and even embrace that part of the human experience as well.

        Now I’m in a great relationship with a guy that I love and that I love having all sorts of sex with. One of the most remarkable things to me is just HOW MUCH HE LOVES MY BODY. It makes me feel beautiful and incredibly sexy and that is something I love as I move along the line toward other parts of the human experience.

        • oh, let me clarify. Your experiences sounded a lot like mine. I wasn’t involved in an s/m relationship, is all I meant. Not that consenting adults who are interested in that shouldn’t be involved in them, just that your experience, except for that, sounded a lot like mine. :)

  • Maddie

    Thank you, thank you. You’ve done it again, Meg (and Liz). I couldn’t figure out at first why this post stuck with me so strongly. I had sex at 16 (albeit with my now husband, but I think I was so hot to trot at the time that finding him early was just some good-ass luck).

    But then I realized it’s because this post is true to the Meg Mantra: you took a subject that is often highly romanticized (often to its detriment) and looked at the practical application and implications of the subject.

    I married my high school sweetheart. We’ve only ever known sex with each other. And countless times I’m either me with cynicism or romanticism. “you’ll

    • Thanks Maddie and Meg (and Liz, for the great post) for: “Sex is no place for generalizations.” As someone who has not waited and has been having sex with her boyfriend for the three years of their relationship, I often struggle with not feeling sexual enough. I base my idea of what constitues “enough” on what I see all around me, on what I hear people talk about, on my friends’ experiences. I have a really difficult time forcing my mind to accept that maybe I’m not quite as sexual as others but that doesn’t mean that I’m less desirable or less… whole? It sounds silly, but that’s how it feels. Like I’m less than whole because I don’t crave sex like some others.

      I think communication is very important as well, like Liz said. Though my boyfriend and I have been having sex for years, we still talk about it pretty much every time beforehand. Like, “you wanna get freaky?” Ha, and it’s half joking and half serious because it still makes me feel a bit uneasy. My friends say it’s unromantic, but if it works for us then it works for us.

      Thanks so much for this post. It was fantastic to hear about this topic from someone who’s not all SEX SEX SEX and actually discussed real life a la migraines and bad moods. Thanks again!

  • Maddie

    Thank you, thank you. You’ve done it again, Meg (and Liz). I couldn’t figure out at first why this post stuck with me so strongly. I had sex at 16 (albeit with my now husband, but I think I was so hot to trot at the time that finding him early was just some good-ass luck).

    But then I realized it’s because this post is true to the Meg Mantra: you took a subject that is often highly romanticized (often to its detriment) and looked at the practical application and implications of the subject.

    I married my high school sweetheart. We’ve only ever known sex with each other. And countless times I’m either me with cynicism or romanticism. You’ll

  • Maddie

    Thank you, thank you. You’ve done it again, Meg (and Liz). I couldn’t figure out at first why this post stuck with me so strongly. I had sex at 16 (albeit with my now husband, but I think I was so hot to trot at the time that finding him early was just some good-ass luck).

    But then I realized it’s because this post is true to the Meg Mantra: you took a subject that is often highly romanticized (often to its detriment) and looked at the practical application and implications of the subject.

    I married my high school sweetheart. We’ve only ever known sex with each other. And countless times I’m met with either cynicism or romanticism. I am forced to stand for something without my consent. Few people ever take the time to think about the myriad reasons that we choose to do what’s right for us. I echo the “comments policy”. Sex is no place for generalizations. Bravo both of you.

  • Meg

    This is a great discussion of a very delicate issue. It’s making me examine my decisions in a whole new light. Thank you for this, Liz and Meg.

  • Maddie

    Oh boo. Sorry guys. My blackberry thought it would be funny to post my comment three times (and only once in completion). Please feel free to delete. Nobody needs to hear how I lost my virginity three times in a row.

    • Liz

      thought you were just trying to drive the point home. ;)

  • Julia

    Liz, thank you a million times over for writing this. My husband and I were in a similar position– I was a virgin and he wasn’t (though he’d only had one partner before me… I think it might have been more complicated if he’d been used to sex being a casual part of a relationship because our viewpoints may have been too different). We ultimately didn’t wait till we were married, but we did wait (five years!) till we were engaged and I felt ready. I feel no regrets about the way things played out and am so glad we made the decisions, and had the discussions, that we did.
    It’s refreshing to see this viewpoint articulated so clearly online. There seems to be such an artificial divide between “wacky Bible thumpers” and “liberal, liberated women,” which dominates the discussion. And for so many of us who are living in the middle of this issue, it’s so much more nuanced than that.

    • Tricia

      I think this can be a particularly complicated situation (and is in fact where my FH and I are). When one person has *experience* and the other does not, expectations can be very different and if it is compounded with the common problem of poor communication around sexual issues (What can I say? I grew up in a very inhibited part of the country. It rubbed off.) it can make for some bumps along the road. Ultimately we have waited (although not the extent that Liz did), but along the way there have been times when we have wanted to move at very different paces. We have worked our way through.

      Whether we will wait all the way to the wedding, only time will tell. Like Liz, for me the decision to wait is not driven by religion although it is influenced by attitudes formed growing up in a very religious part of the country. In large part my reasons echo Liz’s (and have ever since I first started thinking about it back in high school), but my logic actually only took me as far as I should wait until I am engaged and then reassess. I was deeply concerned about the ways in which sex could bind you together. While it is obviously a poor idea to get married impetuously (particularly when very young) just so you can have sex, it is an equally poor idea to get yourself in the situation where you marry someone because you accidentally got pregnant. At this point, whether we start having sex now or three months from now won’t really change any of our decisions or have a big impact on our life one way or the other. And while we are not planning to have children for several years, even if we were to have and *accident* whether that happened now or three months from now would not change any major life decisions (although they would both impact our plans for the future).

      Unlike Liz, I am still concerned about putting a lot of pressure on the wedding night and while I think that she has good advice for how to reduce that, it is somewhat compounded by our personal situation of not having a lot of time after the wedding. In light of my feeling that, for us, the difference between sex now and sex after the wedding is not going to have a huge impact on the big things, we may decide to not quite wait all the way or then again we may wait. We’ll figure it out in good time. (kinda like the names issue which is still pending as well)

      • Liz

        yes. the experience divide can be worrisome.

        i was honest with josh that i was afraid of messing up, doing something wrong. i laughingly suggested we watch instructional videos.

        we’re very open about, “no, do it this way, instead…” during sex. which helps me a lot. because i know if i’m doing something wrong, it’s not going unsaid, which is a relief.

        and a lot of those experience fears i recognized were my own issues- tied up in my own fears of being compared to other women (seriously, i thought i’d grow out of that crap after high school- what makes us so competitive?!). so much of it was stuff i needed to work through personally.

  • This was a terrific post, Liz. My fiance and I didn’t wait, but my best friend and her husband did, and she took vast amounts of crap for it. People assumed that she and her hubby were crazy religious fundamentalists (they’re not), that they were only getting married so they could Do It (they’d been together 5 years), and that they’d end up miserable together because the sex couldn’t possibly be any good (um … no). And while there are resources for couples who chose not to have sex before marriage, a lot of them are tied up in being judgmental/threatening about the choice (“if you have sex before marriage you will go to hell” kind of stuff), which isn’t all that helpful to someone like my friend. It’s great to hear a thoughtful, romantic, non-judgmental explanation of the decision to wait. I think you and Meg helped a lot of couples today.

  • Liz A

    From another Liz, another perspective…

    My fiance and I began as a one night stand. We had both had multiple partners, some serious relationships, some not-so-serious, but the ONS was a first for both of us. The sex was, and is, fantastic. 10 days after we met, I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. 18 days after we met, he told me he loved me. There was no pumping of the brakes with us.

    But that being said, many of the things Liz said resonate with me and despite our different experiences, I found myself saying, Yeah, totally. Because the things that make sex with my fiance the best we’ve ever had are the same–honesty, communication, trust, team spirit.

    • kat

      this was my experience too. Lovers first, friends later! Doesn’t work for everyone, but knowing myself and my fiance like I know do, I totally get why it worked out for us.

      Still a great post; relevant and wise regardless of differing experiences.

  • Anonymous Today

    I love this post. While my fiance and I did not even come close to waiting for marriage, or even for marriage plans, my most significant prior relationship did not include sex (well, there was…activity, but not “all the way” as the kids once said), pretty much for all the reasons why not that Liz lists. And I wasn’t even a virgin, but all my experience had been in drunken flings, and was most assuredly not quality experience, or emotionally meaningful, and yet still managed to mess with my head in major ways. And most of Liz’s points about setting up for success and the ongoing learning process turned out to apply with my fiance – I don’t know if that’s because many of those will apply in any good relationship, or if it’s because while not a virgin, I was brand new to the world of sober sex in the context of a relationship. I suspect the ongoing learning process piece would be key for anyone, whether or not you wait.

  • I knew I liked Liz (: I’m also waiting until I’m married but I feel like it’s so unusual that I don’t ever mention it. Some of my friends think that David and I are sleeping together because I don’t feel like saying what Liz just said. There is so much judgement that get throws around at women by other women regarding sex. APW really is THE same space.

    • Kayakgirl73

      I never really told my friends that I was waiting either.

      • lady

        OMG! Tell people! I lost it at 17 and am totally comfortable with that but, quite frankly, these reasons never occurred to me. I don’t think I’ve ever even known a person who waited for non-religious reasons. For some very strange reason, it is taboo in our society to wait until marriage (or even a committed relationship). While I’m a firm believer in making the choice that is personally right for you, I think young women can really benefit from knowing that there are people out there who are waiting, and that they are cool too (hello…Liz is obviously cool!). When I was in high school pretty much all of my friends were having sex. That’s not why I did it, but I think it’s a big factor for why a lot of girls do. I don’t have a problem with premarital sex (obviously!), but if the whole “waiting-til-marriage” taboo disappeared, I think we would have a much healthier (sexually, physically, emotionally) society. I think we, as women, have maybe gone a little too far with the sexual liberation. I’ve had a few sexual partners, and currently fall into the one-night-stand-that-didn’t-quit category. I will be with my current partner for the rest of my life. The one thing that I regret about not waiting: I will NEVER get to have an amazingly magical first time. I will NEVER experience that culmination of emotion and love and desire and urgency. I want to know what that feels like; to fall in love with someone and experience the nervousness and awkwardness and passion of finally getting each other’s clothes off. At the same time, I probably never would have started a relationship with my boyfriend if we hadn’t gotten drunk and slept together… Wow, sorry this got so long. But, yeah, I think people need to hear that it’s ok to wait!

    • Aimée

      Another lurker coming out of the shadows here!
      My fiancé and I are both in our early 20s, Christians and both involved a lot in our not-so-much-conservative Apostolic Church in New Zealand.
      I decided long before I became a Christian that I too, would wait till marriage, or at the very least until I was in a -serious- long-term relationship. It turned out to be the best decision I could have made.
      Admittedly, it has been a struggle sometimes, and many people don’t believe us when we say that we haven’t “done it”yet and are waiting. We’re one of those “short relationship – short engagement”couples, but in no way was this related to “We want/need to have sex sex SEX!”.
      This entire post has been a great read, and was actually recommended to me to read by said fiancé, to whom I had sent another post, and he link-clicked to this one!

      Thanks a bunch Liz and Meg, you’re both so amazing and do such a great job helping us all out!
      – Aimée

  • eeewhydammit

    Liz, thank you for an insightful, intelligent post.

    I’m Catholic, and I didn’t wait (Don’t tell my family! – When my year younger sister found out I’d lost the big V, she cried! Though she didn’t end up waiting, she and her now husband were ‘good’ throughout most of their engagement.). Sometimes I wish I had waited, but then I don’t think I would fit nearly as well with my liberal Jewish-agnostic FF (Future Fiancee), whom I’m madly in love with, so it turned out all right, didn’t it?

    I was dreading having to field the question of whether to wait from my teen-aged younger sisters, but when the topic does come up, I’ll just point them here!

  • Sharon

    Thank you so much, Liz and Meg, for this beautiful, non-judgmental, nuanced discussion of a topic that most of the wedding blogosphere is silent on. It’s so helpful to have a resource on waiting that is *not* tied up in hyper-religious language.

    FH and I are waiting (2 more months! While our engagement is only going to run about 5 months and change in total, there are definitely days when I wish we’d made it even shorter than that. ;) Liz is onto something with short engagements…), but we’ve been talking like CRAZY about our expectations and (my) fears when it comes to sex. For me, the best part of discussing the topic to death has been seeing FH’s patience and commitment to my comfort, which I think is such a stark contrast to some of the messages that culture at large sends women about how all men are cavemen when it comes to sex. That’s been really redemptive, to borrow Meg’s word, for me. There is a level of intellectual and emotional intimacy that comes from the discussions that I hope will translate well into physical intimacy when we finally, er, do the deed. (And which I think is a great reason to talk about sex with one’s partner whether one is waiting or not!)

    • Sharon! I totally know what you mean about being scared. Even though we both waited, my husband was a lot more comfortable with the subject than I was. Just don’t be afraid to talk about everything with him, even after you’re married. Even though it’s a new level of intimacy (literally and emotionally!), just remember that it’s still the same man that you love and trust. It’s a lot easier to be honest upfront then to spend six months feeling totally awkward and finally blurt out “I hate when you do that!” And don’t be worried if it’s not perfect right off the bat… It doesn’t mean that you’re not meant for each other, you just have to keep practicing! ;)

      • Sharon

        :) I think you were replying to me right as I was replying to your comment above! And this is why I love APW!

    • Liz

      any pre-marriage sex fears i had were tied up in this amorphous concept of sex. sex the idea. somehow, for awhile there, i would think of The Sex and completely separate it from my relationship.

      one day i had an epiphany- “hold the phone. josh is gonna be there. he’ll protect me from the scariness.” DUH. josh is going to be there. sounds dumb, but somehow i had lost sight of the fact that it was just going to be a moment with josh. if that makes sense.

  • v

    i echo all the thanks for the post!… This is def a topic which gets lost in the romanticism/feminist liberation/cynicism/politics and religion. i feel like no matter where you fall on the spectrum of water/nonwaiter somebody’s gonna take issue. No sex – you must be brainwashed, repressed, a victim of the crazy patriarchals… Sex – heathen, missing the emotional component of sex, selling yourself cheap, etc. It’s especially disturbing since most people having the dilemma are young and still defining themselves. They definitely deserve access to info without an agenda.

    I have personally made it from one end of the spectrum (Catholic, true love waits ring, dated a guy 3 yrs without getting nakey, the works) to the other (will be married to a one-night stand in august). Some points from the post and comments i was happy to see>
    *it’s a choice. you should think about it, get info, ask questions, decide what’s good for you and screw everyone else’s opinion! (aa, if only we had that confidence earlier)
    *sex is important> it DOES connect you in weird ways and creates a feeling of intimacy. which is sometimes false. Like the night you had a few too many, went home with someone who was amazing and interesting and intriguing etc etc then you had nothing to talk about at breakfast. Yeah, cause you never got to know each other…i think that (false) intimacy can also make a relationship seem more serious/better than it is and keep you from leaving when it would be the best choice.
    *…and it isnt> have i had sex with someone and regretted it? yeah. Has that been mind/altering or had a negative effect on later relatonships. I’m pretty sure it hasn’t. I think the scare tactics and extremization of sex talks actually have a negative effect. You do it and it might not have been horrible and you didnt end up pregnant or with an std so you doubt everything they’ve told you…leading you to let your guard down (re safe sex) and maybe even lower your expectations (it wasnt awesome, but he seemed nice enough…).
    I gues i’m just agreeing with Laura and liz and meg! Sex should be positive, open, honest and fun! Good luck to all in achieving that!!!!!

  • My goodness, this was an AMAZING post. Thank you, Liz!

    There are occasions when one partner wants to wait and the other doesn’t. (Or in our case, I’m just more committed to the idea of waiting than my fiance is.) This complicates things because I don’t want to just cast his needs and values aside in order to stick to mine. (And vise versa.)

    So, like the advice that Meg gives regarding many other APW dilemmas, it all boils down to talking to your partner about EVERY thought and feeling that you have on the issue. My fiance and I have done this and it helps us stick to our individual values while still satisfying the physical/ emotional needs of the other. (How do we do this exactly? Can’t tell you on here but I’ll just say that we have be good listeners and very creative. Hehe.) And I’ve got a funny feeling that practicing good listening and creativity for FIVE WHOLE YEARS (with just 2 itty-bitty months left…phew!), is setting us up for a long-n-strong marriage. :)

    • Meg

      Good point! My partner and I had/have different views on abstinence, and even what abstinence means and where the lines should be drawn. I wish that we had done a better job communicating our feelings to each other at the beginning of our relationship, though we’ve sorted things out now. It was a very tough process, but SO worth it.

      I commend you, Kim, on your 5 years of working together with your fiance to meet each other’s needs without compromising your own values. That, to me, is exactly what a marriage should be: two people co-operating and loving each other despite their differences.

  • I loved this post. And posts like this are why I can’t get enough of APW! Liz, you are a very thoughtful, intelligent person, and it’s such a great discussion to have. I never thought of waiting, to be honest. Because when I met my fiance, we were both just in a “have fun, no attachments” kind of phase of life, and our relationship was mainly sexual, but eventually blossomed into real love and commitment. We’d both had partners before one another, and I don’t think we have any regrets about not waiting. And I have to say, I am one of those people that just assumed that people who were waiting were only doing it to escape the fiery pits of hell. So it was really cool to have a stupid assumption of mine blown out of the water.

  • I heart bullets and lists, too!
    –I grew up in a small sect of a small town, with smaller minds. I was surrounded by early pregnancies, a lot of shame and guilt, and absolutely no healthy attitude toward sex at all. I did not have any sort of healthy attitude toward sex at all, and have fought to get to where I am now. Currently most of my sisters have been married by 18, and i’m being told strongly not to live with my significant other, while his family is asking why we haven’t yet. :)

    –I am strongly of the opinion that performing various rituals for the sake of beliefs that you haven’t thoroughly thought thru is ignorance personified and leads to big mistakes. I am big on traditions, sometimes just for the sake of them, but I disagree with doing it blindly. That said, I myself have some more conservative leanings than would be expected from my mostly-liberal mindset, and can back these up completely with reason and emotion, and have no compunction about following them. So I thumbs up you, Liz! I love you more than ever (loved the self-catering) for being able to take this horribly muddled topic and stating it so non-judgmentally. I’m sure that this ability was honed through years of getting shite about your decision, but I have to praise you like I should. ;)

    –Thanks Meg for being willing to do this!

    –High five to all of you APW-ites who are commenting soooo wonderfully, and that all of the differing decisions are honored for what they are: the ability to choose. Thanks fore-mothers!

    • And Liz, I *LOVE* your point about always talking about things. I’ve been in several relationships that have had wonky sex lives, and one thing I’ve taken away from that experience and volunteering for years at a sexual assault crisis center is that it is important for everyone to talk about sex. To me, I find it a playful and sexy addition to our sex life to come up with a new way to ask for sex daily, to have little code words that we’ve discussed in advance, and to know that any time it doesn’t work like it does in movies is a success, because if we break down most movies, they are usually not very healthy examples. So I kind of adore you even more for bringing that up.

      And while haven’t waited for marriage, we definitely had discussion after discussion about sex beforehand, and still engage in them. It’s fun and air-clearing, and very, very intimate. Which is what it should be.

  • To my bloggy friend Liz, you rock. Love, Meghan

  • Charlotte

    Could of this have been “Why Sex is Important and Healthy in a Relationship” Instead of “Why I Waited”?

    This is a very thought provoking subject and I’ve re-written my little comment here several times in an attempt to get it right. Let me begin by saying that I live in a France, a place where girls are NEVER told “true love waits” “wait until you find the right person” “wait till marriage” etc etc etc. I, on the other hand, went to Catholic school and was literally told (I’m not making this up) “Sex is your one way ticket to hell”. As one can imagine, I have a serious mental complex about sex and think the more people I’ve slept with, the “number”, the closer I am to becoming a whore. Many of my French friends don’t even know how many people they’ve slept with and don’t care either. Yet they still have all those great things in their relationship that Liz talked about, open communication, team spirit, honesty. I just wish that virgin could be taken out of our vocabulary and that all this talk about “when” could be replaced with “who”. When I discussed this with my shrink (and yes, I’ve decided to see somebody about my scars from Catholic school before getting married) he said that sex is just sex. Yes it’s important to relationships and should be sacred but by putting so much emphasis on my virginity and what not I was giving it undue importance.
    Liz, your body is yours and nobody can tell you what to do with it or criticize you for your choice. A woman can have all those wonderful things in a relationship with one special guy or ten special guys. Thanks for a good article, you’ve made me think

    And I just realized there isn’t even a title to this article

    • N

      I love APW but never comment, but I just HAD to say that your comment about needing to change the conversation about sex from “when” to “who” is about the smartest thing I have read in a long time. What a great way to think about the issue of “waiting.”

    • kate

      Great reflection–I think “who” includes not just who the partner is but who YOU are, as well. For me, I knew I wasn’t ready until I had become much more comfortable with my own body and personal spaces (like literally, my room is messy and I need to not have shame around that) than I was as a teenager. Being comfortable enough to tell someone else “That feels good” or “What you just said hurt my feelings” or “I can’t sleep when you’re cuddling with me!” is a big part of being ready, I think. And of course, we all know people who have gotten married and still aren’t able to communicate their feelings and needs, and that’s a big problem for them and their partners!

  • ddayporter

    wow Liz! I’m just going to +1 all the comments above that talk about how ridiculously cool you are for talking about this in a completely not awkward, mature, smart way. and blowing my assumptions about waiters out of the water. I mean I kind of knew there were people who waited for other reasons than religion but I never imagined I would hear such a compelling justification. I’m in the “honestly never occurred to me to wait” camp.. I was never religious and didn’t believe in hell and that seemed the only reason anyone waited. If only I had seen this post when I was 19! I don’t really regret my sexual escapades because they have shaped who I am today, and I like who I am. no wait I Love who I am. Yeah. but I can’t deny a little smacking myself upside the head. at least now I have a resource to hand out to any young minds wondering about their own motivations (this blog will be around when my kids are teenagers right??).

  • Man, I just accidentally erased my comment! But in that time, Charlotte posted and much of what I was trying to say is similar.

    I didn’t wait until marriage, but did wait until I was 20, which among my group of friends was “late”. I used a lot of the same reasoning – love, trust, respect, committment, knowing sex ties people together and makes things so complicated.

    My husband and I each had 2 or 3 partners before each other, and we are OK with that – it is part of our life experience, right? We waited several months into our relationship to build a deep, stable, nonphysical relationship first.

    I really agree with Charlotte that I think it is more “who” then “when”, but that may partly be because I didn’t place a huge emphasis on marriage as a way to cement my relationship (I hope that doesn’t sound judgy, I really don’t mean it to).

    But regardless, as long as people are thoughtfully making their decisions to have sex the first night, wait til marriage, or anywhere in between, I think you have to respect that. It is when people have sex/don’t have sex without knowing why they are doing so or whether their reasons are good(i.e., a 15 eyar old saying “everyone else is doing it” is obviously not a good reason) that we run into problems.

    • Morgan

      I’ve always said that my advice to my future hypothetical offspring is to wait until they are in love. At least the first time. Because the who really does matter.

      I waited until I was 20, and in love, and it was SO MUCH better than my friends who has sex for the first time in the back of a church van, for example. It was a Big Deal to me, and I am glad I was with someone who loved me and was deeply sensitive to my needs. I’m also glad I didn’t stay with that guy, because by 5 years later, it was clear we weren’t a good match. But that’s okay – not everything has to last forever, and I’m glad I didn’t marry him, as I would by now have divorced him. I’m glad I didn’t wait until marriage to have sex, because I WOULD have been the girl who married the wrong person for the wrong reason.

      My husband and I started out as friends with benefits before quickly falling in love and moving in together. I’m very grateful that in this relationship, we did just dive right in to bed, because I’m not sure we would have ended up here quite as smoothly if we hadn’t. (Life was complicated.)

      So, I guess, I’m trying to say the who and the why are what really matter to me, and that’s what I’ll try to pass on to any kids we might have.

      • meg

        Funny enough, I’d disagree. I think WHEN is more important than WHO. IE, make sure you’re ready… if you’re in love great, but that can also complicate things. Plus, often you’re in love before you’re ready.

        • Charlotte

          On second thought… I agree. What I didn’t articulate is that age doesn’t matter. When we look back on the experience of “losing it”, whether it was a husband, special boyfriend/girlfriend I hope we remember the WHO and not put special importance on the age. “You were 22? Heck, I was 14”, kinda thing. Some people are ready at 14, some need a ring and to know it’s the only guy ever. I think we are trying to say the same thing, I just said it backwards.

          • meg

            Yeah. For some people. I could care less about my Who. That is more or less why I picked them when I picked them. But I’m super happy with my choices, they were right for me.

        • Liz

          yes, and.

          i’m always suspicious of “being in love.” call me a cynic. but i thought i was in love a number of times in high school. really.

          and as a (mostly) grown-up, i can look back and say, “hell no.”

  • Katelyn

    Oh, wow. What a fantastic post! I was raised hardcore Catholic, grew up in a small conservative town with abstinence-only education, and I got myself into quite a bit of trouble at 14 (although, fortunately, the trouble didn’t involve babies- but it certainly could have). I learned a lot of hard lessons, very young- about social perceptions, about how mean and nasty and rumermongering people really can be, and about forgiveness and healing.

    Most importantly, I learned about how important it is to be emotionally ready for sex. And even though I didn’t wait until marriage, I did wait a few years to grow up. And when I did have sex, it was with someone I loved deeply, and when I was ready. So this post has a lot of truths that I hold dear- about trust, honesty, and levelheaded thinking when a relationship, married or not, involves sex. And I know by comparison what a deeper and more fulfilling experience it is when you do the deed with someone you love and trust.

  • Totally new to APW and I’m not even engaged (yet…working on it), but I wanted to pop up and say that I LOVE this post. I have a radically different experience with sex than Liz – my partner and I are both academically-inclined sex nerds who spend a lot of our time and energy doing activism around sex positivity and sexuality/LGBTQ/gender communities. (And, er, a lot of our energy having sex.)

    But, I completely relate to the thoughtful attitude of this post. It is so awesome and enlightening to see a considered, careful and self-aware version of the decision to wait! In my experience that’s a choice that doesn’t get a lot of positive press or support from liberal communities. I know a few people who’ve caught a lot of flak for making the same choice, and I’ll definitely point them this way.

  • Bethany

    Thank you thank you thank you Meg and Liz. Liz, I emailed my fiancé a link to your wedding graduate post (we’re a-typical traditionalists too! And I’m self-catering my wedding!), and I’m going to email him this one too. Actually, I was just reading much of it to him over the phone. We are also waiting, and I assumed that I was the only blog reader/lurker who was. I got the biggest grin when I started reading this post. Your lists were great, and will, I think, give us lots more to talk about (we’ve been talking already). It was so refreshing, and reiterated to me how happy I am about our choice. I especially liked the part on 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… his commitment to waiting was a sign of his love for me… in the sense that setting a good foundation for our marriage was more important to him than a physiological impulse”

    Yeah. Yes. I believe that displaying self-control in this area (especially when it’s difficult) can really give you practice putting your partner’s interests ahead of your own, which to me is part of the work needed in any marriage/relationship.

    Meg, I cannot begin to express how much I love this blog. I am constantly surprised by how insightful it is, how it beautifully and delicately talks about sensitive issues, and how it really makes me think about what is truly motivating my decisions. Bravo.

  • Kashia

    Thank you Liz and Meg. This was a wonderfully interesting and well written post about a topic which is often ignored or at least greatly complicated to discuss.

    Reading through all of the smart and thoughtful comments I started thinking about how we understand and relate to our bodies (and by extension sex) is often deeply embedded in familial, or cultural (religion etc.) narratives. So unpacking that narrative and how is has affected my/your/our understanding of this topic is a good place to start. That said, many of the other members of Team Practical who chose to comment also point out how what you do or feel or don’t do is still a choice that you have (which is a pretty liberating idea regardless of if you wait or not). I think one of the best things my parents ever told me about sex was that they hoped I would wait until I was in a loving and committed relationship. That to me makes sense with what many of the comments (and Liz’s fabulous post) have been saying about open communication as so important in respect to sex.

    Yay for APW!

  • I really appreciate this post, and I would love to see a counter-point post from someone who didn’t wait, and here’s why: physical touch is one of my primary love languages. In my first marriage, I married someone with whom I was great friends. I thought that the friendship would carry us through the patches where physical attraction wanes (like it does), being of the mindset that sex should not be, and was not, the most important thing about a relationship. While I still agree that sex is not THE most important thing, sexual compatability is extremely important to a healthy and happy marriage, and it is not something that I would ever want to discover after it was too late.

    I’m going to revert to two examples from television because these are familiar examples.

    First, there is Charlotte’s marriage to Trey on Sex and the City. Charlotte loved Trey, and they decided to wait until after they were married. Charlotte worked hard, very hard, to make her marriage work despite Trey’s inability to have sex (unbeknownst to Charlotte during the dating period). Ultimately, it was something she just couldn’t get past. She felt rejected, lonely, unloved. In her second marriage, she found someone who loved sex, and loved being physical with her, and it has been an excellent marriage filled with love and affection. Their affection for one another has seen them through extremely difficult years of trying unsuccessfully to conceive and then through the adoption process. Because sex works to bring two people back together and to remind them at the most elemental level why they are together in the first place.

    Next, there is the Draper marriage on Mad Men. To his extramarital lovers, Don Draper is a thoughtful and fantastic lover, but to his wife, he is a premature ejaculating dud in bed. This is not a reflection of sexual prowess; it is a reflection of emotional feelings. He feels duty and responsibility toward his wife, but he is not in love with her. His wife is left feeling frustrated, lonely, unloved, and despite her morality, open (but deeply conflicted) to finding the affection she needs from someone else.

    It is easy to pass these examples off as just literary license; nothing more than drama. Except that I have lived them. We want friendship to be the most important aspect of a marriage, but for those of us who experience and express love physically, sexual compatibility is essential and not something that should be discovered after the fact.

    This does not mean that I believe in promiscuity, nor that sex is the single most important aspect of a relationship. But for me, it is certainly high on the list.

    • YES. Two very, very interesting and important examples. Sure, they are pulled from fiction, but they’re based on some very real situations that people experience. I think that Charlotte’s experiences are really telling, and to me shed a little light on why sex before marriage could be a good thing. If I could counsel Charlotte, knowing what I know now, I’d tell them to have at least a year’s engagement, and allow themselves sex before marriage, but after becoming engaged. That, to me, seems like a good compromise– it makes the couple wait until they are serious about spending their lives together, but gives them time to explore the sexual side of their relationship. It’s not all that romantic, but it’s easier to break off an engagement than it is to annul a marriage.

    • meg

      I’m not sure I’d want a counter-point post, because I don’t want to divide the world between “waiting” and “not-waiting,” primarily because I don’t want other choices defined as a negative (you didn’t wait). Y’all were clear you wanted to open up the sex can of worms on APW, and that will continue as long as I’m given fodder (my sex life is off the table). So I’m excited to have other posts on the subject, I just don’t want them to be counter-points or rebuttals to this…. the world is too complicated to break it down into two world views.

    • Liz

      i think we agree. maybe. but i may be misunderstanding what you mean by attraction.

      josh is the first man who made me go, “dayum.” i dated all men to whom i was… meh… not so attracted. but, like you’ve said, i figured our emotional connection was more important than any physical chemistry. in my case, though, i didn’t need to have sex with any of these men (cough, boys) to figure out that there was something different about josh.

  • Also! I commented before but I want to add one more thing:

    In defense of Christianity, the Bible doesn’t say that having sex outside of marriage will send you straight to hell, and I’m sorry to the people that were damaged by that scare-tactic. Please don’t think that all Christians or Waiters are condemning you for making a choice other than the one they’ve made!
    We’re all friends here!

    • Another Thea

      Exactly…I’m so sorry that so many of you had such an awful experience religion-wise, because honestly, when you get down to it, my reasons for waiting are EXACTLY the same as Liz’s, plus a strong feeling that the marriage bond (and sex as a part of that bond) is something sacred as well. And I do feel that I was taught that as a part of my religion (I’m Catholic). Basically, I’ve thought long and hard about it and decided that it’s something I want to wait on, but not because “my religion says I can’t,” but because “there reasons why I prefer not to, and the philosophy behind the practice of my religious life happens to agree on this.” Blind obedience, or obedience for the sake of obedience, just doesn’t cut it here.

      However, I did have a healthy sex education from my parents, which probably helped matters immensely.

      • fm

        See, you said it SO much better than I did. Exactly!!!

    • meg

      I don’t think that was implied. I grew up in a very religious Christian household, and we didn’t believe in waiting at all.

      And no, not all people who are waiting for religious reasons threaten others with hell…. but boy-oh-boy some do. I was regularly threatened with hell in High School even though I was A) Baptist and B) Not having sex. But apparently not ascribing to the doctrine of waiting was enough for that one way ticket. Sigh.

      So, in sum, Christianity, like everything worthwhile, is complicated.

    • Liz

      what meg said.

      that wasn’t implied. i actually very carefully avoided bringing my spirituality into it.

      that was one of the assumptions i faced repeatedly (as well as many others) and i think it’s clear that many commentors have held the same misconception. i wanted to make it clear that a fear of hell did not weigh in for me- and in doing that, i didn’t imply that it does for everyone else who subscribes to a certain religion.

  • What a great post! I am far from a virgin (is there an opposite of virgin? Because I was probably that back in the day… gross I know) but it’s just SO DIFFERENT when you’re with someone you love, and are having sex for the right reasons (not just because of the bow-chicka-bow-bow or the pressure).

    And Liz, I heart you.

  • Elissa

    I know that this deals with the emotional side of sex but I wanted to share that a lot of my decisions regarding sex were due to the education I received on the subject. I’m from Texas, but before they really clamped down on abstinence-only sex education, I actually had a comprehensive sex education in middle and high school, and learning about safe sex helped me to make decisions. I took steps to ensure that I would be protected (from pregnancy, STDs, etc.) and understood the gravity of doing the deed because of that. If I had just been told, “Don’t do it,” I might have made mistakes or ended up not being as vigilant about partners and/or birth control because of ignorance. So for that education, I am thankful.

    On to the emotional — I knew, at 16, that I was ready to have sex with my then-current boyfriend. I know that it was kind of on the young side, but I made the decision with all of the mental capacity I had at the time, and I didn’t (and don’t) regret it. But like Liz says here, a lot of the same rules applied – we communicated, we understood what was okay and what wasn’t, we respected each other. I think Charlotte above hit the nail on the head – it shouldn’t really be about “when,” it should be about “who.” I trusted him, and he’s still one of my best friends, though the romance is all gone now. :)

    My husband had been a virgin when he met me, which is something that people tell me to be wary of (and I admit, sometimes I worry) – since he hasn’t “tried out other people,” he may feel like I’m not “enough” 5, 10, 15 years down the road – but that’s a different discussion. He and I didn’t wait, either, and that decision worked for us as well. Honestly I never thought I’d get married, so “waiting until marriage” didn’t mean much to me… but once I realized that my husband was amazing and I was happiest with him, I changed my mind about marriage. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I didn’t wait for marriage because I didn’t think about marriage in the first place. I thought about trust, compassion, understanding, love, communication, (and a million other things) in making my decisions. Which works for some of us :)

    • Jess

      My fiance was in a similar situation when I met him (not the same, but similar), and I must admit that I’ve had that momentary fear that some day he will want know what sex is like with other people. But from my experience, it’s definitely not about quantity… it’s all quality. And we’ve got that going on!

      • Chelsea

        Jess (and Elissa), as the virgin in the “one of us was a virgin when we met” scenario, one of the best things you can do for your man is to trust their decision and their ability to know what they will and won’t regret. Back when we first got together, this was a way bigger deal for my fiancé than it ever was for me – his worrying over it caused me more grief than any thought of “missed opportunities” ever has!

      • liz

        why would you wonder about what else is out there if what you’ve got at home is damn good?

    • Elissa

      Also, I want to come back to this and add this second thought (but I didn’t think it warranted its own standalone post, so I’m adding it as an addendum to my previous one).

      I feel like I have open communication with my parents about my sex life – not really the details, but that I do it and that it’s a normal part of my life – and my parents sometimes talk to me about theirs – again, not the details, but that they are still into each other and do it. A lot of people (like my sister) find the disclosure weird, but I think a lot of hangups about sex come from the way people banish it from normal conversation. I kinda feel that my parents’ frankness and honesty about sex, along with acknowledging that I know what I’m doing with my life and my body, and their trust in my judgment, helped me while I was growing up and navigating these difficult fields. I could ask questions and nothing was really taboo.

      Does anybody else have this sort of open discussion with their parents?

      • I wanted to add, yes, I have that same openness with my parents as well. No details, but acknowledgement. My dad never shied away from talking about sex with me as an adolescent and I know that helped me make the decisions that I did. He answered questions and never laid down ultimatums. He left the decision in my hands and let me know that. He also let me know that if I chose to become sexually active, he expected me to come to him so he could take me to the doctor to get birth control. Knowing that I had my dad’s trust went a long way. Not only did I not want to complicate my life with sex, I had enough teen angst :), or feel that I was ready for sex, I didn’t want to betray my dad’s trust.

        • hmm, that comment is supposed to go under my other one. anyway, not sure if i made it clear that as an adult that openness exists. i somehow segued to adolescence. so yeah. i’m with you on that. ;)

    • Elissa, I received that same Texan comprehensive sex ed before it became all about abstinence. I didn’t wait for marriage, but learning about the responsibilities sex carries with it compelled me to decide that I would not only wait for love, but I would wait until after I finished high school, regardless if love came before then, at the very least. I felt that sex was complicated and that wasn’t something that I needed to deal with. I knew I wasn’t ready and the last thing I wanted was to end up pregnant.

      • Morgan

        I’m from Alberta, and I grew up not even aware that there was any other option than comprehensive sex ed. I will say, from my large circle of acquaintances, good sex ed made it more likely for people to wait, rather than to rush. And I can count on one hand the number of teen pregnancies that I or anyone in my circle even knew about. It just didn’t seem to happen. Quite possibly because we learned about birth control in like grade 7, but partially, I’m sure, because it wasn’t The Forbidden. It was part of life and we were educated about it. I mean, we were always told that abstinence was the only 100% sure way to avoid STDs and babies, but the teacher’s next sentence would be about success rates for condoms, so we all knew it was just part of the script, you know?

        • Unfortunately, that isn’t so. I am grateful that my formative years took place before the abstinent only reign. Your school is proof that comprehensive sex ed works. ;)

  • LPC

    Let’s start at the end and work backwards. By the time you hit 50, if all goes well, your sexuality will be fully integrated with the rest of your persona. Let’s start at the beginning. When you are 12, your sexuality is usually over there, in a corner, or even a closet, and barely ever discussed with anyone.

    How you get from 12 to 50, and wind up happy at 50, is the question. Waiting until marriage to have intercourse is one part of a long, long process. I celebrate anything that works in the project of how to have a good, meaningful, joyful life.

    There are many other ways to get to 50 happy with your sexuality. All of them are going to involve a lot of work on communication. You have to communicate with your partner(s), sure, but you also have to communicate with yourself. It’s not just about getting the mechanics right. It’s about getting the emotional, spiritual, and unknown parts right too. And I know very few people for whom it has been simple, no matter the route they took.

  • I went to Catholic school all the way through high school – which meant the only sex ed I had from the establishment was a combo of abstinence and “sex is dirty – except in marriage.” What that meant was a whole lot of people breaking loose after high school, getting pregnant, getting married, wham bam bam. That, and women in high school who were pariahs because they were pregnant – not a single one came back the following year because they were so ostracized. I set a different deadline for myself than the wedding – when my fiance and I got engaged, I went on birth control (another Catholic no-no!) and we did it – 9 mos before the wedding. That was mostly because I was terrified though. I didn’t need that sort of stress (no matter how unstressful you try to make it, I was going to freak out – I promise) on my wedding night.

    And we, too, were a one-night hookup at a party that just didn’t quit. No idea how I’d explain that to any kids we have…..

    • Oh, and one other thing – laughter. Not just talking about sex – we laughed our butts off the first time. Made things 10000 times easier!

  • EXACTLY!! That was exactly my experience completely. From the weird advice and comments to a lot of the reasons why we waited to how we set ourselves up for success (lots of talking before and after the wedding, even reading several books on the subject together). WONDERFUL comments.

  • Amber

    I’d like to offer a different spin on ‘waiting’ – I decided very early on I would not sleep with anyone unless they were a steady boy/girl-friend and I felt they loved me. As it happened, I didn’t have any serious/long-term relationships until I was 19 and met and got together with my fiance. He wasn’t a virgin but wasn’t that “experienced” either, having only had a couple of drunken (and frankly rubbish, his words) one night stands. I set him a timeline of when I was prepared to do when, because let’s be honest, sex covers a variety of activites and there’s plenty to do before you get to the make or break virginity point! People thought it was nuts but it worked for both of us – he wasn’t guessing what I would/wouldn’t do, what I wanted/didn’t want from him, or what he was expected to do/try! So while marriage wasn’t what I was waiting for – I thought I’d never get married at this point in my life – the commitment and communication Liz is talking about really resonated with me. I found it an empowering experience to wait – even for a little while – and be waited for, and my boundaries discussed and respected, and I firmly believe our relationship is much stronger than if I’d chosen to sleep with him earlier than my ‘timetable’ said, no matter how…difficult it got sometimes. And now we’ve decided we will marry eventually, it’s a whole new wait and one that gives us time again to have the conversations Liz so eloquently recommends. So thank you Liz, for expressing a rarely-heard perspective, and thank you for Meg and the Team Practical community for being who you are :)

    • kate

      Setting the timelines for what/when sounds like a neat idea! No stress going into a date about “ooh, will we push it just a bit farther this time?” And MAJOR kudos for having the confidence and self-knowledge to do that at 19, I definitely did not!

  • Erin

    Loving this conversation. APW happens to be the awesomest place on the Web because we are all really talking about this and affirming each other’s decisions, even though 1.) we’ve never met, and 2.) we have strong personal opinions. You all rock!!

    And, also, glad to see the Waiters side represented here. Yay for diversity of all kinds!

  • I’ve yet to make it through all of the comments, but man Liz, that’s some fascinating, smart, witty advice/experience sharing. So awesome. I’m blown away by the honesty of this post and your talent at crafting it in such a readable, clever, engaging, funny, intelligent, non-offensive and engaging way. Bravo & thank you!

  • OMG! I’m so glad you wrote a post about this, Liz, and put it up on APW, Meg!

    For the record, my fiance and I are not waiting. We live together, connect the dots.

    That being said, we started out in a relationship from across the country. We physically could not be intimate because we were so far away from one another. We HAD to talk to be intimate. We talked about our expectations of sex (just like what Liz wrote), what we liked and didn’t like (um, we weren’t virgins), our fears and hopes for our relationship, ect. I think had we been in the same town at the same time, our relationship would be totally different. Neither one of us is paticularly good at dating, so I imagine we would have bypassed all that and maybe hooked up or walked away from one another.

    It sucked at the time, but having the opportunity to get the ‘big talks’ done early did wonders for us. Especially because he had already been married and divorced and I’m pretty young. We waited for about two months, essentially, and then had long breaks in between (because we were so far away), but now we live together and the sex thing is totally different. (Maybe like waiting till the wedding night and then the post-honeymoon phase. That’s where we are). Now, whenever we have a problem, we can talk it out because that’s how we started.

    I like that you wrote that you can tell if you haven’t had sex in a while because of the way you treat each other, totally true! I notice it, too!

    I think it’s awesome you opened up to us, Liz. Thanks for putting this up, Meg! I greatly appreciate it!

    • I have a close friend who lived with her FI for a year and they still waited until marriage. Talk about me having to abandon assumptions after I found that out!

      • Anonymous for sex talk

        My fiance and I often spend the night together, and plan to move in together a few months before we get married, but we’re waiting until the wedding for sex, too. (I have no doubt that we’ll be able to wait for sex sex, but I definitely know that controlling the other things that happen between “neck and knees,” as Liz put it, will be more challenging.) I’m sure that most/all? of the people we know assume we have sex, and honestly, I don’t do anything to disabuse them of the notion. I’m just not comfortable talking widely about our sex life or lack thereof – I think the only other person who knows that we’re both virgins is my sister. (Look at me, even commenting anonymously!) I’m sure I could shake up people’s assumptions if I wanted to, but I’m not inclined to.

        • Tee

          I’m a little late to the party, but I had to comment to this. I have been with my boyfriend for seven years (since high school!). And we have been living together for five. And we are waiting until our wedding to have sex. Whatt!? Impossible, right? But true. I know everyone believes we are having sex, and that is awkward for me. But equally awkward would be to tell every family member, friend, and acquaintance that we are virgins. Why try to convince them of our choices?

          But it is something that the two of us share, just as we will share in our experience on our wedding night. It has been a difficult journey at times- oh the restraint!- but we have created a relationship based on communication and understanding, and enjoyment with life’s experiences and adventures outside of sex. Throwing sex into the mix, once we are married, will elevate that love and fun to the next level!

  • Andrea K.

    Wonderful article. You really addressed a lot of issues. I am so glad to have read it. I haven’t read the comments yet. I will though. But right now I just need to vent my story. Because it applies.

    I have been married twice. My first husband was the first man I slept with. This was back when sex was the “holy grail/forbidden fruit” I wasn’t suppose to sleep with anyone, hadn’t been planning on sleeping with anyone but then I put myself in a compromising position and basically got raped while I was sleeping over at this guy’s house…someone I barely knew. I didn’t get pregnant or anything but I suddenly I felt attached to this guy. Sex can do that. Despite my parents telling me not to, despite his abusive nature, despite my coming to my senses and breaking up with him only to be pressured and getting back together with him…I married him less than a year later. (I was 19 at our wedding)

    We stayed married for 8 years. I had two wonderful children with this man that I barely knew, mostly feared and felt inferior to. Basically because I thought no one else would want me because I had sex with him. Eventually this man became more than I could handle. I got up the courage and I divorced him, mostly for my children’s sake. I couldn’t take care of them and their father.

    Time passed and I met a man. I was attracted to him and he kissed me the night that we met at a friend’s party. I didn’t plan on having a relationship with him. But a few phone calls and video conferences later he took me out on a date. We were “friends with benefits” and I slept with him. Basically because I wanted too. I wanted to get my ex hunsband’s “mark” off of me. For the first time in my sexual life I made a choice and for the first time I really enjoyed sex. A lot.

    This man and I continued dating for almost 4 years. Sex was an important part of our courtship but mostly because I discovered that I really liked it. Life was fun with him and our relationship progressed. We were always a step behind in calling us what were were though. We dated for 5 months before we were more than “friends with benefits” we were moved in together for almost 6 months before he “officially” lived with me and the kids, we felt like we should get married months before he put a ring on my finger and now, more than a month after we got married I realized that we have been “mentally married” since he asked me almost 2 years ago.

    I guess I have kinda lost where I was going with my story. But what i think I want to say is that your post summed up a lot of pit falls that I fell into with my first marriage but not with my second and sex has kinda everything and nothing to do with it at the same time…So Bravo LOL thanks!

  • What a lovely, thoughtful post, stuffed to the gills with good advice.

    I honestly did not wait, and I honestly do not regret not waiting – with a few mild exceptions (no deep regrets), I am OK with what I’ve done and who I’ve done it with. If anything, the not-really-a-deep-loving-bond type of relations helped me to cherish the kind that does come with, and help create and strengthen, a deep, loving bond. I suppose I could have learned to be the kind of girl who didn’t need to try it out before deciding to have high standards, but it didn’t work out that way and I’m fine with it. I do envy those who did not do it before deciding they should wait to do it – I get the feeling I’d just look back and think “wish I had” as opposed to “happy I didn’t”. But you never know. Maybe that’s not true at all.

    My FH and I live together now and…I guess it just seemed right to not wait, so we didn’t. If anything I think that did in fact help me make clearer decisions. I already had the just-like-married life with my FH, so I had the mental luxury of considering marriage as something completely removed from that: instead of “do I want to live with/have sex with him” I could think of it as “do I want to take what we have and make it legal and binding and permanent and all those scary words?” Thinking of it that way, I felt, was freeing. (I’d ask how he felt about it, but he’s asleep now).

    This is the one place where I will mildly and softly disagree with the article: “Who can say that having sex has made them more capable of thinking clearly and making good decisions? It complicates things.” Well, I can say that. I think if I’d waited, I might not have considered marriage so thoughtfully, because my mind would be clouded with “but I wanna have SEX! NOW!!11!” and I would have been itching to marry long before I was actually ready to do so…it does take a lot of self-control to keep mental mastery of your downstairs bits and still make levelheaded decisions, but honestly I don’t think it would have worked that way for me. Maybe I don’t have that self control, in that way. I would have made very rash decisions indeed – I would not have married any of the partners I had before my FH, but our relationship (that is, my and my FH’s) was a long time in evolving from acquaintances to friends to best friends to lovers and I do believe it needed the time it took to get there, because we needed to mature as people (we met when we were 18. We will both be just about 30 when we get married. 12 years, man). If I we had jumped into marriage earlier, it’s not that we wouldn’t have been just as right for each other then as we are now…but we wouldn’t have been emotionally ready for marriage, from a youth-and-maturity standpoint. Now, we feel we are.

    But, you know, that’s just a personal thing. It won’t be true for everyone, just how it worked for me. And otherwise, it is really quite refreshing to come across good, not-so-religious thoughts on this topic, and treating it like the open and realistic subject it is, not some hushed taboo. The great thing about feminism is that we now have the right to do what we want with our bodies, and if for some women that means waiting until marriage for their own, personal and very valid reasons – then kudos.

    • Lauren

      If I could Exactly this a hundred times I would! I totally feel the same way about my relationship with my FH. Since we are “basically married” (or at least feel that way), we’ve considered marriage with a much more detached perspective… if that makes any sense. It’s definitely liberating.

    • FM

      I totally agree with your disagreement that having sex cannot in some cases make you think more clearly and make better decisions. For me, my sexual experiences with others prior to my husband and then with my husband when we were dating helped me to realize and appreciate more fully things about my husband that were special and wonderful and amazing, things that are present in all of the ways he is with me and our relationship, but that were first most striking to me in our sex life (that I feel I recognized as such because I could contrast to my sex life with others before him). And I can say that my sexual intimacy with others has similarly illuminated things about those relationships. There are definitely guys in my past I would have quit seeing, or let go of emotionally, more quickly if I hadn’t felt somewhat bound up with them because of the sexual intimacy we had shared. Just to say that I have been in both places – some where sex clouded the judgment I would otherwise have had in a negative way and some where sex helped my judgment in seeing how great or not great a guy/relationship was.

      • I agree, but from a different way (if that makes sense).

        For guys I’ve been with in the past, I can name at least two that I stopped seeing before I otherwise would have BECAUSE we slept together.

        If we hadn’t, my mind would have been boggled with “I wanna have sex! Should we have sex? Are we close/intimate/loving enough now to have sex? Sex! Sexy sex sex!” and I would have stuck around longer, trying to figure out whether or not our relationship was ‘deep’ or ‘intimate’ enough (because let’s face it, people say “you know when you know” but in some cases, you don’t. It took 9 years of friendship for my fiance and I to figure out at the same time that we had that connection. I guess we’re just slow.) Sleeping together sort of confirmed what I knew in my gut: that no, “this is not the right person”, that true intimacy was lacking, and it was best to look elsewhere. I am not saying we slept together and then I dumped them, I am saying that after our relationship had reached that level, I came to realize things I might have taken a lot longer to figure out, just because there was something “not right” with the physical part of the relationship.

  • Love you Liz. As always, you are inspiring and refreshing.

  • ““Normal” couples move gradually, right? You don’t just tear around all of the bases in one night (usually)”

    AMEN. Growing up, this terrified me. I thought ‘so I’m supposed to be totally chaste and not do anything, and then all of a sudden anything goes we do everything all in one night?!’ It terrified me and made me dread the wedding idea because having all that attention of “ooooo, sexy times for them tonight finally!” on me was just, well, ick. I didn’t want to go all around the bases with someone all in one night. Not judging those who do, but for me….that was something that made me uncomfortable, and that’s what was sold to me in my religious upbringing as The Way Things Are Done. Period.

    It’s part of the reason I fell away from religion really, because I kept getting that idea marketed to me, and it made me more and more and more uncomfortable. There are ***many*** other reasons why I fell away from religion, but that definitely played a role.

    So I just wanted to thank you for bringing it up. I really respect your approach to this article, because it’s so dang reasonable! :) I didn’t wait, but I absolutely agree with what you’re saying here.

  • Emily

    I just got back from my honeymoon – which was also the beginning of what I expect to be an amazing sex life – and was thrilled to see this thoughtful post. I initially decided to wait for religious reasons, but let’s be honest, it’s really hard to wait if you don’t see any concrete benefits to it. Luckily, I find that God generally doesn’t tell us to do something (or not do it) just to make our lives difficult – it turns out that waiting was incredibly beneficial for our relationship, for many of the reasons Liz discussed. (I’m totally not saying everyone has to wait – just that it was a great thing for us.) In our relationship, the most obvious benefit thus far has been in our communication skills. (Living across the country from each other for three years is also a great way to improve communication, fyi, though I can’t say I recommend it.) Also, when you’re busy not having sex, you’ve got to find other ways of showing your love. Now that we’re married, sex is a very important part of that repertoire, but it will never be our only way of showing affection or serving the other person, and I’m thankful that we had the time to practice non-sexual lovin’.

  • Sarabeth

    Not that I have great hopes that everyone will make it this far down in the comments, but: I haven’t seen anyone articulate what my own underlying reason for having lots of sex before marriage (or engagement, or even, in many cases, serious relationships) was. Which is that I never thought it was particularly likely that I would get married, or have an equivalently stable partnership. I thought of myself as someone who was likely to be single for most of my life. I was wrong, but I didn’t know that when I was twenty, and I didn’t want to forswear sex in the absence of such partnerships, so waiting wasn’t really an option. I’m curious if anyone else has had a similar experience, or what others think about the implicit connection between these decisions and the projection of your life than your younger self had.

    • april

      Whew – I made it! :-)

      And I read your post and seriously went – “YES!” out loud. In my office.

      Saving myself for marriage was never on my life radar screen, even though the religion I’d been raised in and family I grew up with firmly preached abstinence until marriage. Aside from wanting to get out of the church (which I did at age 18), I wasn’t a big fan of staying a virgin until I married. And heck – I wasn’t sold on the idea of marriage either. Had no hopes or dreams for it. I thought a nice, steady relationship somewhere down the road (like, in my 40s or when I was “old”), after I’d had some “fun” was a good goal, but marriage? Nuh-uh.

      So: let’s just say I went out there an enjoyed life. A lot. And I’ve no regrets about that. And then one day met a fabulous guy, and guess what – I married him. I’ve got heaps of respect for those that choose to wait, because obviously – they have their reasons. Just like I’ve heaps of respect for those that co-habitate or take a few trips ’round the block (so to speak), because we’ve got our reasons for that too.

      I’m not making much sense here, probably and have lost my point… but I certainly appreciate this post and ALL of the comments here. That’s what I really wanted to say.

      Side note: Liz’s post is wonderfully refreshing, courageous and so well- written (truly – it takes guts to write about sex, and she did so in such a candid, open and non-judgemental way). So – kudos Liz and thank you so much for sharing.

      P.S. I just went back and looked at Liz’s grad post and couldn’t help but think: “Holy smokes – they’re both effing beautiful! How did they keep their hands to themselves!!??!” LOL ;)

      • Liz

        bahahaha. thanks! ;)

    • Sarabeth,

      I’m with you. I had sex because it was on my checklist of stuff adults do, not because I was really interested in sex, or the boy I had sex with (at 18). I just knew going to college as a virgin was lame; and I’d spent my entire life trying not to be lame.

      Later in life, I discovered that I had probably been sexually abused as a young child, and had definitely had some “weird” touchings happen as a teen. My decision, subconsciously, was to dismiss my body entirely and lead with my head- I was smart, loved books, and not very coordinated…so who needs a body? This also made me very ok with not being a woman who got married, or with needing to love the men I had sex with.

      With my FH, we were truly friends first, for a long time (for me- a semester is forever), and I had no idea he even “cared” for me, much less wanted to be as intimate as we are today. So in a way, we waited, and it was the first experience I had even had with that, or with talking about sex first, or anything. It hasn’t guaranteed us a great sex life (see my comment above), but it also has allowed me to revisit my previous unconscious reactions, and realize, like someone said above, that this is MY peculiar path from 12 to 50, and that I don’t have to follow anyone else’s narratives except my own. It can’t even be a narrative until the moment is past, anyway, so why would I depend on someone else’s life to dictate to me, how I live mine?
      To the waiters, understand, you have no idea yet whether, ultimately, this was the “best” overall decision for you. To those of us who practiced, neither do we, and it’s too late to take back the past. All we can do is support each other towards making the best decisions for ourselves, given the individual constellation of circumstances each of us face. I think the entire point of Liz’s post, besides her telling you HER story (not yours; for real, she doesn’t know all of us, waiters or practicers) is this: think about what you’re doing. Think about who you are. Talk to your partner. Talk to your partner. Talk to your partner. And if you make the “wrong” decision (for you)- make the Decision, right. I made the decisions of my past more right by learning what works for my current reality; therefore, while I felt “guilty” and “burdened” my my sexual past, I now no longer feel that has anything to do with my future, in the sense of WHO I am. It does, however, change what I choose to do. And if, God forbid, FH and I break up, the lessons I learned from our sexual life will accompany me. And I make it good.
      Hope that said something useful.

      • sarah

        @Tamara, thank you so much for sharing this. I feel like there are so many people who experienced unfortunate events as a child, and yet this subject is still considered to be a “taboo” in our society. As a teenager, I also realized the same thing about myself, and this often made getting close to guys a very hard thing for me to do. I had wanted to wait to have a serious boyfriend before “doing it”, but at 19 I still hadn’t found anyone real, so I just decided to get it over with, so to speak. I think a part of me thought that I was never going to find anyone who really understood me anyway, so what was the point in waiting? I met a few more people… then I met my soon-to-be husband (somehow, fiance just doesn’t cut it anymore, 6 days before the wedding!) just before my 21st birthday. So, he wasn’t my first, and we didn’t wait… but, because of my past, having sex with someone I actually cared about deeply actually proved to be a lot harder and more emotionally difficult for me than having “meaningless” sex. Probably because I worried that he would abandon me, like so many of the other men in my life had before him. He didn’t. I have to say that I was probably not the easiest person to deal with at first, and it took me a while to really open up (both emotionally & sexually). He was there, and he didn’t run away. I think that is why I knew almost immediately that he was a special person, and that if things worked out, we would be together. Less frequently, but still sometimes, I’ll have issues [during]. So, talking about sex has just become part of our relationship. Because we have to, and it’s important to. Even if you’re not dealing with any intense issues like I am, it’s still important to talk about sex. I’m not going to lie and say that it’s now super easy for us to talk about it; it’s not, it can be extremely hard and awkward at times. But at the same time, it’s so necessary.

    • meg

      Oh, I’d say 90% of APW readers are way-pro pre-marital sex. I think that’s assumed to be the default, and why it’s not really being discussed in these comments. Since that *is* the APW reader baseline, I thought it would be more interesting to kick off sex discussions with the amazing Liz. I’m contrary like that.

  • Jo

    Liz, you’re my heroine. Great post, thank you for your thoughtfulness… and of course, thanks Meg for inviting it and sharing it with all of us. You ladies are amazing.

    I read a really intense article (Love, Actually: How girls reluctantly endure the hookup culture) in the June 2010 Atlantic Monthly magazine that just arrived at my house a few days ago, where Caitlin Flanagan talks about how teen girls today are struggling with the combo of sexual freedom fought for by their mothers and the impulses of hormonal young men and women, which don’t always lead them to the best experiences. I guess I think that this piece that Liz wrote is a nice antidote to that struggle and is something I wish all young women everywhere would read before they make these important decisions. Because there are things that you can’t take back, and there is beauty in waiting, whether it’s for days or weeks or til you’re married.

    And Liz, thanks for reminding me (with my husband for almost 6 years now) that sex should be more about giving than receiving, just like all things marriage. That is also an important reminder for a happy marriage. So much good stuff goes on here!! Ok, blissing out on you guys, off to work!

  • I LOVE this post even though we didn’t wait until marriage. This speaks to all couples, and I’m glad to see that someone decided to finally voice something about the wonderful world of marital sex. My fiancee is the only person I’ve ever had sex with, and while I’m a few down the line for him I think it’s amazing that I know what he likes, that our sex isn’t awkward because I haven’t had experience with others, and that we can communicate in a way that makes us both feel safe and loved. Whether you have sex with one person or many, I think the take home message is clear: communicate with your partner.

    Oh, and the whole sex on the wedding night thing? Pretty sure that won’t be happening for us, if it does that’s great, but if it doesn’t we’re not going to sweat it. We have the rest of our lives to get frisky, not to mention the honeymoon!

    • meg

      Can I just voice my loud PSA of: HAVE SEX ON YOUR WEDDING NIGHT! Seriously, people. Cut that party off 15 minutes early and make time. I think it is really important and validating and binding and amazing. You just made this huge huge commitment and had a huge huge party to celebrate. Now get laid already.

      But I’m traditional like that.

  • Liz- wonderful, wonderful post. Thank you for being so honest about what led you to make the decisions you made and for opening up discussion on a touchy subject. Like most of the women on here I would also stress that communication is key. You can’t possibly expect to have a great sex life without honest communication and trust.

    Meg- Thanks for continuously posting such great things!

  • What an awesome topic. I always thought I would be a “waiter” but apparently my self control (and his) is lacking. I think what is also important about waiting is that both sides need to see the importance or at least the significance of waiting. If not, it would just be a lot of resentment on both parties. For whatever reason (and maybe just a lot of stereotypes) I find that if the guy wants to wait it seems better than the other way round. Girls see a guy wanting to wait as chilvarous. And guys see girls wanting to wait as prudes. But I am overgeneralizing. That is just what I notice.

    • Liz

      damn male-centric culture.

  • A

    Not to put a damper on anything, but… Abelard and Heloise’s story is not actually that romantic. If you read their primary works, Abelard admits he raped Heloise: “Even when you were unwilling, resisted to the utmost of your power and tried to dissuade me, as yours was the weaker nature I often forced you to consent with threats and blows” (Abelard’s Signed Letter 4). So yeah, not the best example of a positive sexual environment.

    And, as my $0.02, I completely disagree with “that’s what sex is about at its core (spending all of my energy for what he wants” and that “I’ll do whatever you want me to, baby” is NOT unsexy”– for me, sex is at its core about sharing myself with another intimately (not about each of us only giving each other pleasure but also reveling in our own) and I fundamentally oppose the idea that “doing whatever [he] wants me to” is “sexy”– that could not be further from the truth for me. Doing whatever *we* want is sexy, me asking him if what I want is okay and him enthusiastically agreeing (or vice versa) is sexy– NOT I’ll do whatever you want me to. That leaves open too many doors of uncomfortable acquiescence for me to be my mantra.

    • Katelyn

      A, I read that section much, much differently, and completely agreed with it. Sexual needs are complicated, and sometimes one partner needs something when the other doesn’t. In which case, a little bit of compromise is necessary. I certainly do it for my FF, because he needs it, and although not sexually fulfilling, it makes me feel good that I’ve done something for him. In that way, it’s always mutually satisfying. And that’s how I understood what Liz said about it.

      As far as a he/me/we distinction (or an other person/yourself/the two of you, but that doesn’t have the same ring)… well…. that doesn’t really exist in sex, does it? But I think Liz was trying to say, that trying to please the other person results in pleasure for everyone. And that’s a really awesome, cool thing.

      • ddayporter

        yes! and I would add to that, I don’t think Liz meant that it was Only about your partners needs, it’s about both partners, but if both are saying “I’ll do whatever you want” it has the same result as your asking your partner for something and he agrees and vice versa. it’s of course absolutely necessary that both partners would approach it that way, and I would hope understood that neither partner would ask for something which would be uncomfortable for the other to do. which gets back to how important communication is.

    • meg

      I’m a big fan of Dan Savage’s “Good Giving and Game” mantra. Sometimes being a good partner is trying something you’re not that into for your partner, and seeing how it goes. (And this is Dan Savage, so he’s totally including things like getting tied up in a furry suit.) So yes, you should always be on board before something happens, and yes you should always always be communicating clearly, and YES you should have a safe word.* But I’m backing up what Liz is saying – I think she’s saying something very sex positive and cool.

      *PSA on safe words: when testing your limits, even if it’s just having sex for the first time? I think a safe word is amazing. Lets you let go and feel protected.

      • Sarah

        I just had to also say that safe words are great. At first it feels weird, but they really do help you to be safe with each other (as well as taking the phrase “safe sex” to a whole new meaning!).

    • Liz

      ick to the stuff i overlooked about abelard. just ick. i’d only heard the legends and read a letter or two- never got the full story. ick.

      what i said about sex being about giving was said in tandem with making it CLEAR what the boundaries are. josh would never ask me to do something i would not want, and if he did, i would have no qualms saying no.

      but we can best revel in our own… satisfaction… if we’re both ardently trying to please one another.

  • Tessak

    I am a semi-lurker (I’ve only commented once :P ) but I follow this blog religiously because it is just so interesting. Although I am not waiting til marriage, I am waiting for sex, and I completely see the points that Liz makes here. Sex really does mess with your mind. Really, anything physical does a little bit. But sex is the ultimate physical act: you can’t get any closer than that to another person. I too grew up in a conservative family, surrounded by conservative people, and I have seen how this can negatively affect the sex aspect of life. Young girls get pregnant, people get married too young…I’m seeing this in an acquaintance of mine right now, who is 19 and pregnant, marrying a guy she’s only known for four months in July. Everything I have seen has convince me to wait til I truly love a man, am committed to him, and am physically/emotionally ready to have sex.
    I’m still a virgin, even though I’ve been dating the love of my life for a year and a half now. And we have recently decided that we are ready to have sex. It was hard to wait for so long, but I knew that I wouldn’t want to have sex too soon. While I’m not waiting til marriage, I have no regrets for not waiting, because I know that I did wait for someone amazing and absolutely wonderful, who could vey well become my husband one day. I strongly encourage people not to take sex too lightly, and to wait until you have the love and respect you deserve to give yourself to a partner, whether it be before or after marriage.

  • anon

    I grew up smashed between two cultures: my conservative family and their religious “True Love Waits” mantra which seemed insincere to me AND my wild high school friends, some of whom were having an*l by 16, which seemed scary and flippant to me. I floated between the two, soaking it all in, and discovering that the only person who could ultimately make the decision for me was me. I had sex with my first serious boyfriend in college who I dated a long time, and like Liz’s “Sex Links People” point, I ended up feeling trapped in a relationship that was manipulative, emotionally abusive and destructive of my identity. I didn’t get trapped ONLY BECAUSE of the sex, per se, but yes. It was a big factor. How can it not be?

    I am now dating the man I’m going to marry, but I am still working through my old, failed relationship through my current sex life. My most vulnerable anxieties and unhealed wounds emerge in sex. I feel incredibly guilty about it – bringing my “baggage” into this new, lovely relationship. My fiance is so supportive and willing to talk through everything, and I feel myself healing every day. But I still often wish that I had waited – not until marriage necessarily – but until I was independent and strong enough to judge whether the man in question would build me up or tear me down.

    • Lordy. Are we actually the same person and I just don’t know it?

      I’m glad you’re both working on and dealing with this. Obviously, it doesn’t just get better as soon as you’re married. Well, maybe it does for some people. But we struggle a lot. And our sex life is not the best. At all. But sometimes it really is amazing and I have hope that it will keep getting better and better over time.

  • Nervous about nothing, Meg :)


    This post meant so much to me, because of some sexual issues my guy and I are working out right now. We’re not Waiters (obviously), but I identified so much with what you said about what sex means in a committed relationship (i.e. a marriage).

  • meg

    I just want to chime in and say that there is a slight waiting/ not waiting dichotomy emerging in the comments, and I’d argue it’s something of a false diachotomy. Our choices are not black and white, the are shades of grey. I don’t think one choice is better than the other, but that we have things to learn from each other.

  • MinnaBrynn

    In the past, “waiting for marriage” has provided a level of protection against the manipulative guys I seemed to attract. So, even though my FH seemed like a nicer guy than anyone I’d dated before, when we started dating, I needed that level of protection (or at least to put that decision so far off that it was a non-issue). Over the next four years, as I got to know my FH better, there were many, many times when I/we thought about not waiting. But we stuck with it. The reason why sounds silly when I try to explain it, but here goes:

    We had made waiting a promise to each other, one of the first we made to each other. If we got to a point where sex would be a comfortable idea for both of us, even though it meant breaking our word, how could we proceed and still expect our word to mean as much in the future? Despite it being just between us, the agreement to wait until marriage was a vow as serious as the ones we’ll make in 8 days, and the idea of breaking it feels equally serious.

    It wasn’t just about vows or promises. It sounds unromantic to start off a relationship thinking about the what ifs of being attracted to someone else someday, but growing up I saw a lot of relationships die. These were relationships that both the husband and the wife wanted, but one or both of them couldn’t keep themselves from acting on an attraction to someone else, an act which killed their marriage. So, even though I can’t imagine being as attracted to someone else as I am to my FH, I needed to show myself that I had control over my behavior, even when facing desire and lust and attraction.

    We’re 8 days away from our wedding night, which has meant lots of awkward, unsolicited advice. And yes, sometimes I think many of our friends were those people rushing into marriages so they could have sex, because they can’t even comprehend our “plan” to not to have sex on our wedding night. If it happens, it happens and that’s fine too, but between our exhaustion levels (my FH fell asleep in a store yesterday in the 10 minutes it took me in the changing room) and my FSIL’s wedding the day after ours, first time sex isn’t a priority. Sleeping and relaxing and getting back to being ourselves instead of “bride and groom” are. We’re not worried. We’re not in a rush. We’ve got the rest of our lives to figure this out.

  • Ashley

    What a great post and fantastic contributor! I also liked that the full post was displayed on the main page, without a click-through. Someone above suggested displaying the full text of the current post each day, and I think that’s a great idea.

    As far as my perspective- I didn’t wait. Looking back, my initial reason for not waiting was totally about rebellion. The noise surrounding premarital sex was pretty intense for me. I went with my Christian youth group to a True Love Waits rally when I was about 11 years old…and my perception then was that it was 1) too early for me to wrap my mind around such a big decision, 2) too forced and theatrical, and to my mind, insincere (picture 300 preteens in matching t-shirts holding candles and watching a silent pageant of a girl having premarital sex and then dying during childbirth…ick,) and 3) not a decision I was willing to let anyone else make for me (I was totally that kind of kid.) So when it was my turn to sign my virginity away to God and a vague image of some future husband, I quietly folded up the pledge card and tossed it in the trash. When I lost my virginity a few years later to my high school sweetheart, it had a lot to do with love and a little to do with distancing myself from the notion that sex was somehow bad or shameful.

    Over the years, my ideas about sex have matured quite a bit. Now at 25 and newly married to my partner of over 6 years, to me sex is an extension of intimacy. You can have intimacy without sex, and vice versa. And intimacy in my relationship comes from good communication, putting my husbands’s needs ahead of my own, trust, vulnerability, friendship….and sex, too, of course:)

    • meg

      The full post thing is complicated, giving the financial realities of blogging and running this site. I forgot to put in a break today, but I’m not sure that’s going to be a regular thing. I know. It’s annoying from a user point of view…. but at the moment readers are not helping to pay the APW bills. So. It is what it is.

      • jolynn

        I’d help pay. And I’m sure that there’s a lot of people out there wiser than I who would volunteer to help be comment repliers and moderators and put up posts, etc.

        We heart you! Sorry for the 200+ comments!

      • ddayporter

        I usually read the post first in my reader so the click-through isn’t an issue for me. you have to click through to get to the comments anyway, I’m not sure what the problem is to click through when the post has a break. I’ll pay for the site too but not for a post without a break in the middle. I’m sure there’s enough you need paid for already.

  • Amy

    I think this was a beautiful post, and wonderfully brave. It takes a lot to put your choices out there for the world to judge, and I think your advice for couples choosing to wait is spot-on.

    That said… there really are some sexual incompatibilities that love and friendship and open communication just cannot overcome, and sometimes you just aren’t going know what they are going to be until you get some practice. Most people do not know who they are as sexual beings until they start doing it, and that’s actually more true for women than for men (women more often “develop” kinks than men do… most men know what their kinks are pretty early on in their lives as sexual beings). Go check out Dan Savage’s column and/or podcast, and you’ll get an idea of the true range of sexual desires out there.

    I say this not as a criticism, but as forewarning to those considering the path of waiting.

    All of that said, I think that for any couple choosing to wait, Liz’s advice here is the best possible advice to follow. I only have one thing to add… masturbation. It’s healthy, it will help with the self control, and most relevant to this discussion, it will help you get to know yourself as a sexual being so your sexual communication with your partner pre-marriage can be more knowledgeable.

    • meg

      I think you know if you’re compatible or not just by fooling around, I really do. It’s like when people say that you shouldn’t get married unless you’ve lived together. If you’ve spend a lot of time together? You know. The rest is just details, you can work it out.

      • Amy

        Meg… most people can. Most couples. But definitely not all.

        • meg

          But Amy – you’ve got to let people make their own choices. I just dislike selling fear… “but it might not work.” I mean, yes, it might not. But that’s the case for all of our relationships on one level or another. Am I promoting waiting? No. But I’m saying I don’t like this particular line of argument a whole lot.

          • ddayporter

            exactlyyy. THANK YOU for being anti-fear tactics. gets me so riled up.

          • Amy

            That’s a fair point. I’m not trying to say people should make choices out of fear… but I do think they should make choices that are fully informed. Anything in life is a risk. I definitely think waiting is right for some couples, but I also think that a lot of people have been disappointed by the concept that “love conquers all”.

          • Liz

            i reread and didn’t find “love conquers all” mindsets in any of the above.

            yes, people have different sexual quirks and kinks and likes and dislikes. some are very different than others. but being willing to try, willing to talk about it, and willing to do what works for your partner are more essential than practicing first, i would think.

            but we’re beginning from entirely different baseline points of perspective. to me, sex is about josh. it isn’t about the act. it isn’t about my parts or my experiences. for me, sex is most fulfilling when josh is satisfied. if that means i need to try out some crazy kink, ok. i’ll give it a go, without weird looks or judgment. and even if it’s not personally satisfying, it’s satisfying because it is for josh. in your comment, it’s clear that sex is a personal thing for you- sex is about whatever is going to please you. for me, that doesn’t factor in. and so far, that’s worked out splendidly in pleasing me- because josh is coming from the same perspective. his best pleasure is pleasing me.

            this is why i find the “expectations” talks to be so important. because there are certain kinds of kink that will NOT be okay with me. and we’ve talked about that beforehand in very detailed ways- and are lucky enough that it’s not an issue, because our priorities and perspectives align enough that josh, too, thinks degrading forms of sex aren’t appealing.

            who knows if one day something is going to pop up that josh likes and i can’t do. or vice versa. but i’m not afraid of that, because that’s not my motivation in having sex- sex is about enjoying josh, however that plays out.

          • Annearky

            The worst thing in the world is being tied to someone who you are completely sexually mis-matched with. It’s an absolute nightmare.

            I’m with Amy 100%. It’s not “selling fear,” it’s common sense – discover who you are as a sexual being (and what kinky shit you’re into) before you decide who you’re going to be sleeping with, every night, without exception, for the rest of your life.

          • DNA

            I know this post is old, and maybe this wasn’t even the intention in the first place, but I just want to put it out there that kinks and degrading forms of sex are not the same thing. Just wanted to sprinkle some kink-positiveness. :)

  • Marina

    This is a fantastic post.

    Because here’s the thing: I didn’t wait for the wedding, but I did wait. And I think many of the things in this post apply to anyone who waits in a relationship–whether it’s for a wedding or a third date or moving in together or whatever. Like talking. A lot. A whole lot. And then some more. :D Everyone should talk more.

    There’s a couple of things that don’t ring true for my experience, though. Liz mentioned not wanting to “rush around all the bases” right at once, and I think this was the best thing I got out of not having a goal of waiting. I could take my time with ALL elements of sex, and there’s so much more to it than touching genitalia. I decided when to incorporate different elements of sex into my relationship based on what felt right, without any deadlines of when I couldn’t do something and when I could.

    Along those lines, it also doesn’t ring true to my experience that “sex” is… well, any one thing. Touching genitalia or whatever. I’ve had some makeout sessions that were as intense as traditionally defined sex. So drawing a line anywhere on the sexual continuum (first base is fine but not third base, kissing is fine but no bathing suit area touching, holding hands is fine but no kissing, whatever) feels somewhat arbitrary to me.

    And the last bit is… the “one and only” concept isn’t romantic to me. Honestly, I just plain don’t understand the appeal of having a “one and only”. I mean, okay, I understand it intellectually and absolutely think it’s a valid choice, but it doesn’t seem particularly more romantic than other choices, I guess.

    • Liz

      romance is romance. for some, it’s candles and roses. for others, not so much.

      same probably is true for sexual experience, i reckon.

  • Wow. Liz, this was very brave and very sweet and I think we all are grateful to you for treating us like intimate friends with your advice. When I first read the opening of this post my face flushed and my heart raced a little bit because I was preparing to feel judged, or to unconsciously judge others based decisions made.

    However, this post never went there, not even close. It was great, great advice for all couples, married, unmarried, sexually active together or not. So much of this was cerebral and heart-centric, which is really where the majority of sexual troubles and joys lie anyway.

    As usual here, a post well worth the time put into creating it.

  • Paige

    I don’t have anything profound to add, but thanks for this post and all the amazing comments. I usually don’t read through all the comments (esp this many!) but I literally couldn’t stop myself.
    I thought I would wait, but too much pressuring from friends in college got to me and I lost it at 19 to a hot shot college basketball player that I really had NOOOO connection with. Everyone insisted I was so lucky and couldn’t let the chance slip me by.
    Now I’m engaged and my fiance and i didnt wait til marriage. we waited until i was ready again since i had emotional scarring from my first (i still regret it:( ). but i can talk to him about absolutely everything and have never felt so supported in that part of our relationship.

    i think this post and all its comments is great because everyone has a respectful and unique viewpoint on the matter. i feel im leaning towards the it’s best to wait for ‘who’ not for ‘when’, but i love hearing from the women who waited to marriage, who were more ‘loose’ because they never thought the would be married, and everyone else in between.

    is it just me or could this be turned into some kinda book or something? haha:)

  • This post is amazing. Liz, thank you for offering to talk about this; it has been absolutely insightful. And Meg, thank you for encouraging her and giving her such an amazing space to share this!! Y’all are rockstars.

    I had a long, rambling comment ready about stuff, but I think that this post and these comments stand for themselves. Upshot: I started having sex at age 16, but to the man I’m about to marry, ten years later (aww, high school sweethearts). Everyone has their own way of doing things, and we can only seek to understand one another, and make decisions that are right for ourselves.

    Thanks, APW, for encouraging posts and discussions like this. Meg, you’re the best.

  • Thanks for posting this, Meg. Thanks for sharing it, Liz. It takes guts to do that. I have to admit, though, that I’m also interested to hear from an advocate of waiting who is on his/her second marriage. I would have written this post somewhat word for word before my divorce but would write the opposite now that I am in my second marriage after learning more about the world and myself through sexual relationships (with him and with others). Like Liz says, how would she know what she’s missing? It’s the best sex she ever had. Now that I know what I was missing in my first marriage, I would never encourage another woman to get married as a virgin. I would respect her decision to do so (like I respect Liz) but I would never advise someone to do it. Is there anyone out there in my shoes who feels differently?

    • meg

      Yeah, but you can have LOTS of sex before marriage and still have no idea what good sex is….

      • But like you said, Meg, there’s a lot of grey here. Sure, you could be the exception who never finds a good partner just because of the luck of the draw. More likely, though, if you are open to experiences while still being smart about it, you’ll learn about yourself (and the sex will get better), you’ll learn from different men (and the sex will get better) and you’ll have a broad range of experience (so you’ll know when the sex just won’t get better so you can move on). Like I said, I think waiting is a choice that works for some people (and I have close friends for whom this is true) but I wouldn’t recommend it if I were asked.

  • What an awesome post. My fiance and I grew up in quite conservative communities and though we havent waited till marriage, we did definitely wait to be ready (3 years into our relationship). We have only had sex with each other, and (for us) that has been the best thing. Liz’s tips for waiting are great too…even if you arent waiting for marriage, but still waiting for the right person. Our first time was a bit awkward for sure with learning about each other, but it was also incredible. And we were totally prepared for that awkwardness because we had always been very open about talking about sex and we knew what each other liked and didnt like, and had an idea of expectations. I really appreciate Liz writing this post and showing that people who wait dont have to fit the stereotype that they are often assumed to fit. Kudos to you!

  • Another Liz

    Wow. I’m another who’s never commented before, but this post is so *exactly* how I feel (and covers some of the *exact* same points my fiance and I have talked about together), I just had to say YESS! I’ve always been comfortable with my decision to wait, but it can be so hard to explain it to someone else…so thank you for spelling it out so clearly, non-confrontationally, and non-judgmentally. That is all :)

  • Oh wow, so many wonderful comments!

    My story: I always wanted to wait because that’s what my church told me I should do but also because I saw my mom live a very promiscuous life that made all things sex related downright disgusting and immoral to me.

    When I met my FH, I soon learned he had been with many people and it nearly broke my heart because I was saving it and kind of expected someone else to do it too for me. It took me a long time to get over that but in the end I decided to have sex with him because a) I loved him before I knew about his other partners and knowing it didn’t change who he was; b) I decided that for me, I wouldn’t let it be about the act but rather about the person; and c) I no longer bought into that whole “give yourself to your husband” stuff and decided as a feminist, my body belonged to me and that I would share it–not give it–with whomever I pleased (no one deserves it and no one can own it is my mantra!). I don’t think waiting would have made much of a difference because for us because it’s about us, not the ones before.

    Honestly, the worst part of deciding to have sex was the fear of judgment from other people. And yes, people were haters and are still trying to send me to hell (*rolling eyes*), but I also found lots of support in unexpected places from my other Rebel Christian friends and eventually, I was okay with it.

    It’s still hard sometimes to get past the terrible things I was exposed to as a kid. Honestly, it has diminished my sex drive dramatically which often makes things difficult for my FH, but we talk about it and he understands and wants to work through things with me. Communication is key. Some weeks we are on fire and other weeks there’s nothing. We try hard not to let society and “rumors” about sex dictate our life. For us, sex is part of our relationship but not the reason for it, and it’s certainly not the measurement of how successful we are as a couple! Our ability to share our feelings and thoughts with each other is the real rod of success if you ask me.

    And if you haven’t had sex yet and want to ask, I’ll just say that sex isn’t “special” every time. Your sex life doesn’t have to look like a scene from the Notebook everyday. Those expectations are unreal. Some days, it’ll probably be just something you do like dishes. Other days, it’s like a carnal feast! Whether you wait or not (because both are good options), just be realistic. :)

    • Paige

      “Honestly, it has diminished my sex drive dramatically which often makes things difficult for my FH, but we talk about it and he understands and wants to work through things with me. Communication is key. Some weeks we are on fire and other weeks there’s nothing. We try hard not to let society and “rumors” about sex dictate our life.”

      this SO spoke to me. you put how i feel in words, which i didnt think i could do! i feel like our sexual relationships with our FH are almost identical, down to me being more chaste and him having been with a number of people before me… etc. im glad to find someone going through the same exact thing with their FH. we also have great sex days and not so good days where i just feel awkward and whatever.

      do you ever feel like you won’t totally be able to let yourself go until youre married? sometimes i feel like that…

      • Hey Paige! I’m so glad I’m not alone either!!

        Yeah, I do sometimes feel like it could/would be better after marriage but when I think about it rationally and not emotionally, I realize it’s too difficult to decipher whether those feelings are real or just a result of social conditioning and therefore are unreliable. I was told for so long that “sex will be amazing *once* you are married” that it’s been difficult to really leave that mindset behind. It’s really just another of those “sex rumors” circulated from my days as a virgin. I would really like to believe that it will all be comfortable for me when we finally do tie the knot but I think I’m old enough to know now that nothing changes overnight and no piece of paper will validate what we already feel in our hearts… But, that being said, I really, really, really long to marry this guy and I will! But not to make the sex life better or to be more socially acceptable. When we’re ready to set a date and pick out the rings, we’ll do it because it felt like the right time.

        I like what other people have said about having a “sexual journey” where your thoughts change over time as do your expectations and feelings about the subject. You and me, we’re on a journey too. Married or not, one day we’ll both overcome our parent’s bad examples and the expectations of society and be freer people because we didn’t bow to either of them. :)

  • Oh dear! I hope that last bit didn’t come off as unsolicited sex advice–what I intended to say is that waiting or not, I think the result is the same. :)

  • Corinne

    Thanks Liz for being so honest with your post and I totally respect that this a personal choice for every indivuidual. What concerns me is that there seems to be a lot of comments here and what Liz orginally said about sex messing with your mind and binding you to people. I realise that sex is different for everyone and that people can get into terrible situations because of it, but I’m really struggling with this idea of how sex would mess with your mind. There seems to be an unhealthy focus on sex, I know this a sex post so of course, but to me sex is just another component to your realtionship. It is no more or less important than the other components of your relationship. I’m not saying that means you have to have it, but I’m saying you need to focus on it like you would other parts of your relationship, you also need to put effort into like other parts of your relationship. I’m not tied to my fiancee because we had sex (if that were the case I would have been tied to other people a long time ago!). That’s not to say that sex cannot be an amazing thing, but so can trust, commitment, great communication etc. It’s the combination that makes sex with your partner that more special.

    • Liz

      no disagreement here.

      i think what i’ve experienced, however, is that sex-like-things can make you feel like you have “something” with a person- where there is nothing. (a thought that i think has been echoed in the comments by a few)

      but, yes. sex is just one component- there are many others that can tie two people in a similar way, making them feel like they have a solid relationship when they have nothing in common, no solid foundation.

      i consider sex extra-potent, though, because it affects us in so many complicated ways- physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially…

  • 1.) Is this the biggest exactly-fest in the whole world? I mean, how many exactlys is the most exactlys ever on a post? And is that counted in the number of comments? What I’m trying to say is that this is evidence of some serious synergy, if you ask me.
    2.) Outta the park, Meg, outta the park
    3.) I’ve never heard someone talk about waiting to have sex until after marriage outside of the context of religion, so this was pretty refreshing. Especially since I’m one of those formerly polyamourous, kinky, queer BDSM, from the chandeliers on tape in front of everyone gay girls.
    4.) I love this stinky blog.

    • meg

      When I put this post together I kept thinking of you… and wondering what you were going to think. Swear.

    • willow

      exactly-fest! I ‘exactly’ that.

  • lmb

    This is an actual conversation between my now-spouse and his colleagues which took place during our engagement. We were both virgins and had chosen to have sex only with each other, after getting married.

    [Fiance and gradschool classmates are out at a bar. Inevitably, the conversation turns to sex.]

    Classmate #1: So, F, how many girls have YOU slept with???

    Fiance: None!

    [All classmates laugh at the hilarious joke.]

    Classmate #1: No, seriously, what’s your number?

    Fiance: None!

    Classmate #2: Guys, come on, he doesn’t have to tell us if he doesn’t want to.

    Apparently being a virgin is so far-fetched it must be a joke? I guess it is just another case of assuming that because someone has certain social markers (in grad school, in a long-term committed relationship, gregarious personality, and *ahem* stunning good looks in the case of my partner!) we can therefore deduce all kinds of details about their personal lives and choices.

    • I’ve definitely had moments like that. There have been times during my graduate classes where it seems like it’s just assumed if you were ever once a teenager than you surely have had sex (among other things). It’s interesting what people will decide about others.

    • Sarah

      Haha, I’ve had moments like this. My man and I didn’t wait, but we’re each other’s firsts, and people who met me after we started dating couldn’t believe that he was my first and only. Because I have a huge sex drive and a damn kinky side and I love talking about sex. But yeah, that always surprises people that I’ve only had “sex proper” with one person.

      • L.

        I can relate – not for me, as I have had sex, but for my fiance. He’s a very attractive man, who has waited for marriage – for me! – and apparently I should be worried that he is gay (which, it goes without saying, would be just fine if he wasn’t, you know, engaged to me, a woman).

        All I can say is that while we haven’t made love yet, it has been, um, very difficult to wait. Difficult enough for me to be quite sure he is heterosexual.

  • This is SUCH a good post and a well needed one!

    As a former True Love Waits youth-group rebel (I very openly did NOT sign the form) I went on to have a baby at 16 with my first boyfriend (which made me terrified of sex, and now, at 29 I have had less partners than ANY of my friends) but religious forbidden fruit or not I agree with the mess, I agree with the mess-with-your-head, and even at my utmost mature decision to sleep with my now husband I cried afterward because 1. it was very shortly after ending a 3 year relationship with my prior and 2. it was probably just plain too soon.
    I *know* he would have respected and even agreed if we had decided to wait until we were married (we knew really quickly marriage was what we wanted with each other-hurray!) but we decided we could handle it and it wasn’t frivolous and/or meaningless.
    There is a great book called “What Our Mother’s Didn’t Tell Us” and it touches on the subject of waiting in a very pro-feminist way. I respect the advice in that book, and this post.
    And I’m so happy to hear of other women who have or are waiting. Its nice to know its not as rare as i had thought.

  • My mom was VERY “You must have sex before you get married! It’s important!” from when I was oh, 11 or so (she was married in 1970 after all) & I grew up in an insanely liberal area, so it’s interesting to read this. I didn’t really get why you waited from this post? So it was an interesting read, but missing a few key details, like your age or if you decided this at a very young age? Did I just miss that part? It would be interesting to know!

    I’m a total prude, I think I’m getting married so I can stop having sex. Haha, did I say that out loud?

    • Liz


      and also, i’m 24. josh is 28. i decided probably during high school. i was always a thinker, ha.

      • Oh! Well that doesn’t seem that long to wait, really, though I guess kids are having sex REALLY young now. Personally, my boundary was that I didn’t have sex until after high school / I left my parents home and was on my own – but I’m getting married for the first time at (almost) 35. That would be a very long virginity. (Not that that’s a problem if it’s your thing, but I think for me waiting until 35 would have been a bit odd. ;D)

        Thanks for sharing your perspective!!

    • LOL. (is there some cooler alternative to “LOL” so that you can let someone know you LthefuckOL’ed without writing LOL?)

  • Lyndal

    Hmmm. awesome discussion! and this comment is a nod towards the grey scale/spectrum of sexual relations that Meg mentioned earlier.

    I grew up in a sexually ‘realistic’ household (if that makes sense) There was no pressure to wait until married, but definitely wait until it was right for me. My mother always said sex (actually she always said ‘love-making’) was a special thing between two people. My dad on the other hand, rather unhelpfully said ‘if you not having sex by the time your 19 then there is something wrong with you’. He didn’t mean this of course, but I think it was his way of trying to protect himself from his baby-girl growing up. So basically, I feel I had fairly heathy attitudes to sex, combined with a healthy family life that nurtured my self-esteem and provided positive role-models.

    Before I met my partner, we both had had active sex-lives and numerous partners and we both learnt a lot about ourselves physically and emotionally through that process. But when we met, we actually waited for quite a while which was something many of my friends could not understand – so I do understand some of the social pressure that those who wait feel. My partner was definitely ‘the one’ and a small part of me has always wished there had been no one else before hand, but when we did get sexually intimate (way before we married) it was like I was a virgin again. Physically I knew the process, but being with my partner, the depths of physical and emotional intimacy that has developed over the years is nothing compared to what I had experienced before – it is like everyone else had evaporated or just didn’t matter.

    And I guess what I take from all this, and what Liz so well describes/advises, is that whether you wait or not, sex in marriage and committed relationships is a process and a learning curve that can be beautiful and fulfilling but takes honesty, commitment, openness and communication. So really, whether you wait or not for THE wedding night perhaps doesn’t matter. What matters instead is the relationship that you and your partner have to build your lives together in all its aspects.

  • Oh hell yeah

    This article is SOOOOOO good.

    And can I say that even though I didn’t wait for marriage to have sex I pretty much think that everything in this article applied to me as well.

    Love. Love. LOVE the perspective you bring to things Meg (and team Meg).

  • AKR

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. I’m here to respectfully disagree with some points – disagree in that these choices do not seem right for MY life, not disagree with the choices anyone has made for their own.

    I have a weird perspective, maybe. I have only had sex with my fiance, and only once we had been dating for some time. But at the same time, I tend to believe that sex is a need that we as living breathing mammals have – it is not dirty, not to be pushed aside, not be ignored and resisted – it’s a natural act, as normal as walking and breathing. It’s in our make-up to want to reproduce. That’s just how the world works. So I think that resisting sex, or other contact of a sexual nature, it kind of turning your back on how nature (or God, or gods, or whatever) created you.

    My other comment is maybe a bit too much information, but I intend to share anyway! When my fiance and I first had sex – actual intercourse – I bled. Profusely. For 6 hours. I sat in the bathroom and read a good, occasionally almost passing out from panic. My fiance tried to go back to sleep after awhile, but he was a wreck, feeling like it was in some way his fault. It wasn’t, and I was fine, and everything turned out fine. But at random points I think about how unbelievably glad I am that we did not wait until our wedding night. I’m so happy that I can enjoy the post-wedding haze and not end up bleeding and crying and panicking. That is not how a wedding night should end.

    • Liz

      i’ve heard the anti-natural argument, and meh. some people never have sex. some people have it all the time. we’re all naturally different. learning to control our physical (yes, natural) urges is healthy, and also is a social construct (hullo, we don’t cave to these natural urges in the middle of olive garden). part of becoming a grown up is learning to control yourself- to hold your pee til you get to the toilet.

      not intending to be crass.

      • Anna P

        bahaha. I just imagined a world where none of us waited to pee til we got to the toilet.

        p.s. I think every single comment already said this, but:
        Cheers to you Liz. Great post. Total exactly-fest.

  • Aly

    I know few will read this far down, but I seriously need to get in to this conversation.

    First of all, THANK YOU so much for this. Non-religious waiting-for sex resources are practically non-existant, and that drives me crazy. My bf (hopefully soon fiance…) and I of 4 years have not had sex yet, for no religious reasons whatsoever.

    We’re also not waiting for my reasons. We’re waiting because of him. And if you think that the cultural narrative that assumes that any couple in their 20s is having sex is heavy, try rethinking the cultural narrative that ALL BOYS want sex, and its is the girls responsibility to make them wait. I never planned on waiting for marriage (although I did want to be in a serious relationship) so when my boyfriend and I started talking about sex a year into our relationship (I wasn’t ready until then) and he told me he wanted to wait, I was shocked. And thanks to that lovely cultural narrative that “teenage boys/early 20s boys only want one thing” I assumed the problem was with me- he must simply not have wanted to have sex with me. And that was a major hurdle I had to get over, to understand that he loved me and wanted to have sex with me, but also wanted to wait, for all the reasons Liz listed.

    I’ve come to except all his reasons, although its still hard- let’s be honest, I want him. But like Meg said, there’s not “waiters” and “non-waiters.” If such labels existed, I guess I’d be a non-waiter who happens to be waiting. Because I love him, and its important to him. And I will wait for him- after all, I’m certainly not going to break up with him just to get laid by some guy who doesn’t love me. But to use a term from the engagement posts, we’re couples waiting. Doing things at OUR pace, regardless at how crazy or prudish others think we are. We’re making compromises to build our relationship, and I love it.

    Sometimes the peer pressure gets to me. Sometimes the stories I hear from my friends, the stuff I see on TV, makes me feel like we “should” be having sex, and that we are the only people in the world past the age of 20 who aren’t. Our culture sends such as weird message- sex as a teen is BAD BAD BAD, but sex in your 20s and beyond is pretty much expected. So this post is amazing- its really makes me realize that there is no normal, there is just figuring out what works for you and doing it. And isn’t that what Team Practical is all about?

    • meg

      Love this.

    • liz

      i wanted to wait AND josh wanted to wait. we were both aligned.

      but josh had a few “mistakes” in his past. and i’ll be honest, sometimes his strength of willpower bugged me.

      how was it that he couldn’t resist the other girls he had dated, but he could so easily resist me?

      it’s very easy to get wrapped up into that train of thought (especially if you’re prone to insecurity or comparison), without recognizing that HULLO guys learn about themselves sexually, too. and josh, in his experiences learned some of the things i listed above and didn’t want to make the same mistake again.

      kudos to you for stickin it through with him.

    • L.

      I feel like I need to say thank you on behalf of your boyfriend, even though of course, that’s his job and I can’t speak for him in any way!

      Which is, of course, a ridiculous way of saying something about me. My fiance and I have committed to not making love until we’re married (in 6 months and counting down…). He has never had sex before. For both of us, there are are religious foundations to the decision we’re making now, but these religious beliefs really just make sense of our experiences.

      There are several facets to my experience, but one of them is this:
      When I was 18 I fell in love, in that frantic, intense, desperately-wanting-to-be-loved way that 18 year olds sometimes do. My boyfriend, who it should be said was perhaps even more in love with me, had had sex, assumed we would have sex, and was, well, just confused that I didn’t want to. After a few months of confusion and tears and, well, pressure, I caved. We had sex, but in this awful ‘I don’t want you to leave me’ / ‘what I want doesn’t really matter’ way. And like Liz said, it tied us together – for 3 years. Despite the fact that we actually didn’t have anything in common.

      Don’t get me wrong, he was ultimately a good guy. Also the fact that I caved? My responsibility. But still, the whole thing was awful, and very destructive. It had an impact on the relationships that followed, and while I learnt good things from the experience, there are days that I wish I had learnt them some other way.

      Anyways, my point is: that experience makes me want to say how wonderful it is that you are willing to wait for the person you love, even if it is very difficult. Self-control is damn hard (like, damn hard, for me) but I believe it is a special kind of gift you can give someone.

      My fiance’s self-control is something that makes me feel loved in a way I never thought I would be. I’m really looking forward to showing him how much I appreciate it in a few months time :)

  • Oh hell yeah

    And sorry, I really should have given a shout to Liz there. Liz – amazing article. I officially have a crush on you, smarty pants.

  • I didn’t wait.

    I waited until I was in love with someone, but I don’t think I waited long enough.I was too young. I didn’t know myself yet. Although, I suppose sex is part of getting to know yourself.

    I once slept with someone I didn’t love. Just once. We had been “seeing each other” for six weeks or so. He knew my views on sex (ie- I hadn’t slept with anyone I didn’t love), and I think that he wanted to prove to me that sex could still be good if you didn’t love the person. He was a lovely guy and certainly didn’t pressure me into anything, but I was heartbroken at the time and I think I decided to do it when I was still in that haze.

    It was okay, but it just didn’t have “it”. I barely saw him again after that (my choice).

    I am glad that I didn’t wait for marriage, but in my experience (and just in my experience), sex isn’t worth it unless you’re in love.

  • Kayla

    Thank you so much for this post! I also waited (for religious and personal reasons, but really, isn’t religion a personal reason?). I commented once before (I think on the subject of long engagements) and mentioned in passing that we had waited until we were married. I remember feeling such anxiety after posting that comment. Were people going to ridicule me? Obviously, no one did, which is one reason I love this community. But I hated that I even had reason to feel so self-conscious about my decision.

    I totally agree with almost everything Liz wrote. Especially that you don’t need to have sex to know if he/she is “the one.” If you have a great relationship aside from sex, you can make it work. My husband and I had a few kinks to work out in our sexual relationship. BUT, we were committed to each other and to making it work. And never once did I think, “I wish I had known this before we were married.” I still thought how incredibly lucky I was to be married to this person and that we had our whole lives to practice and get better at the whole sex thing. And you can tell if you have physical chemistry with someone long before having sex, am I right?

    And, Meg, I heartily agree with your PSA about having sex on your wedding night. It being our first time, our wedding night sex was not mind-blowingly spectacular. Or anything like the movies. But, I still remember it with so much happiness. There has been better (much better) sex since then, but I wouldn’t trade that memory for anything. So even if you’re tired or stressed or have to wake up early to catch a plane, at least make an effort to do it. It’s worth it.

    • meg

      I don’t think it’s ever mind blowing, exactly. But it totally felt different for us. We were like, “married sex. HOT! Who knew?” But mostly we were tired, and sweaty, and tired and did I mention tired and hot…. and it was something we’ll always remember I think. So maybe it was mind blowing. Just not in the way you’d think.

      (PSA alert ;)

  • Jessi

    I am so happy about this post.
    It is something that is so rarely talked about but clearly is more common than people think.

    My husband and I dated for almost four years without having sex (we just got married at the end of April and were both virgins).

    We have been married 6 weeks now, and I am SO SO SO glad we waited. No regrets. And I think that is what truly matters in all of this. That all parties are happy with the choices and decisions made.

  • La

    I particularly loved Liz’s last bit about “taking one for the team” and doing it even when you don’t feel like it. This is an attitude that I adopted not too long ago after grad school stress killed my libido. I just wanted to share that this has made the sex better all around, and I have no doubt that this will extend to other parts of our relationship. What scared me the most about getting engaged in the first place was the realization that I would officially have to curb some of my selfishness. This team spirit idea has helped me a lot with the sex stuff and the transition towards married life. Thanks for mentioning it Liz!

    • Anna P

      I, too, am on board with the “taking one for the team.” I actually embraced this a while ago when I read an article on marriage with Kate Hudson (when she was still married… OOPS! but I think the advice is still valid) where she basically made the same point. Even if you’re tired, just do it. Because usually once you’re in the *moment* you won’t be regretting it, but you might regret NOT doing it. Maybe that opens a can of worms since her marriage ended, but I always try to remember this advice even though with the hours I’m working right now I often would rather go right to sleep. However, I haven’t yet regretted choosing to delay sleep a little. It’s a little sacrifice or a little compromise for the greater good. BONUS: I fall asleep much faster and more soundly afterwards.

  • Bee

    I understand why people find it “refreshing” to hear non-religious reasons for waiting. However, that doesn’t mean that those of us with religious reasons for waiting are judgmental or oppressed, or not liberated, or naive. My fiance and I are waiting for religious reasons. But then again, I sometimes make dietary decisions for religious reasons (no meat on Fridays, certain dedicated fast days), and I sometimes make clothing decisions for religious reasons (I cover my head in Mass), and I often base the time I wake up in the morning on religious reasons (Mass/prayer times). With all the mundane, day-to-day decisions I make for religious reasons, why wouldn’t I have religious reasons for this uber-important decision? This isn’t to say one must have religious reasons to make this decision, but I try my best to make all of my decisions based on my moral and ethical code, which I happen to find through my faith, so our decision to wait is based on my faith and my fiance’s faith.

    I don’t make any of my religiously-based (is that a phrase?) decisions out of a fear of hell, but rather a deep and honest belief that God wants what’s best for me. I don’t feel oppressed in my decisions, but rather I find freedom and peace and fullness. I know that when my fiance becomes my husband that I’ll be in a place where I can fully give of myself to him and he can do the same for me, and I know that were I to have sex tomorrow, as much as I would like to, I couldn’t feel free in it. Not because I’m afraid of going to hell, but rather because I’d feel like I was holding something back. I know that my decisions may seem a bit extreme or strange in today’s society (I’m waiting to have sex with my husband; I go to daily Mass when I can; we don’t plan to use birth control; neither of us have dated many other people), but they are the right decisions for me. They aren’t naive or ignorant. They were all made after careful thought, consideration, prayer, discussion, study, and questioning. Some of the “religious” decisions I make also have other additional “non-religious” reasons.

    I don’t think I’m a nut, or a bible-thumper or some sort of judgmental fundamentalist. And I’m not naive; I’m a public school teacher in NYC. Do that job for a couple years and then tell me if you think it’s physically possible to come out the other side naive. I believe that everyone needs to make their own decisions in their own time. I want those around me to be as happy and as fulfilled as possible, and so of course I want to share those things that make me happy and fulfilled with them, but sharing is different from shoving it down their throats (and if I tried to do that, I would no longer be happy anyway, so really it would just be a room full of unhappiness, and who wants that?), but I respect that everyone will come to their own decision, and I firmly believe that that is a good thing.

    I guess what I’m saying is that yes, my fiance and I are waiting. Yes, it’s for religious reasons (as well as other types of reasons). But if I am not judging the choices or the reason for those choices that other adults have made (although if I think someone close to me is acting in a self-destructive manner, I hope I’d have the courage to approach them about my concerns) then I don’t know why my choices and the reasons behind them should be judged. I’m sure that wasn’t the intention of anyone here, but be careful about the assumptions you make about people waiting for religious reasons. And be careful about making assumptions as to what exactly those religious reasons are.

    • Liz

      i think the common misconception is that religious reasons for any decision = blind obedience. obviously this isn’t always the case- but from the sound of some comments, is based on personal experience with religious friends. thanks for pointing out that religious and practical reasons need not be distinct.

    • meg

      Whoa. I don’t think anyone is judging you. We’re pretty pro-religion here at APW. What we don’t tend to be pro is people pushing their views on others, and I think that’s been what people have been complaining about (sometimes less gracefully than others, but all with pretty good intentions). I didn’t love being told I’d burn in hell for not making the same choices as others (and that’s not a myth, that’s a reality). I don’t, however, have any problem with people making personal choices for religious reasons… I make plenty of personal choices for religious reasons.

      I picked Liz to write the post because she was speaking to something that everyone could relate to. Making a choice because you think God thinks it’s right for you is a great thing, but that post might not be a great spring board for a generally secular interfaith discussion. Doesn’t mean it’s not VALID, it’s just very particular. I wanted to have Liz talk about the very universal elements of her choices.

    • MEG P

      Amen and hi-five!* Oh thank you thank you thank you! I’m so with you on the “not scared of going to hell God knows me”. And how hard is it to live in a world that sees religion as a list of oppressive rules to follow? Thank goodness we have the APW community who don’t judge.

      *An “exactly” wasn’t enough!

    • Emily

      Bee, thank you for putting this so eloquently! There are certainly problems with the way some parents/churches/etc try to teach abstinence, but I think a lot of us who have stuck with the decision to wait have done so for the positive religious reasons you mention, and not out of fear or because we haven’t thought it through. Let’s be honest, it’s much easier to wait when you’ve thought about what you’re doing. Hooray for a forum that sees both religious and non-religious reasons for waiting as equally valid!

    • In a wonderful and funny way, I can appreciate what youre saying about the rhetoric. Lemme tell you why. I get a little touchy when lesbian brides go into this *thing* when they start talking about how both of them are wearing a dress and how neither of them is “the man” in the relationship. As a femme, my hackles rise a little, because, for me, fawning all over a two dress lesbian wedding in one breath and then talking about how womanly the members of the couple are is a socially acceptable formula for being anti-butch. In the same way, saying “Liz’s secular abstinence is so awesome” and “isnt irritating that those religious people are always shoving abstinence down our throats” is a socially acceptable way for being anti-religion. So your point is well taken. Isn’t it interesting how there is a subtext when you pay attention to a conversation that goes: “this one way is awesome” “and this other way isnt awesome”. Like two dresses are awesome because hurtful hetero-normative assumptions about lesbian gender suck. And secular abstinence is awesome because rigid religious abstinence sucks. Well, sometimes religious abstinence is transcendental and lesbians who look like boys are the backbone of our community. Secular abstinence is awesome and religious abstinence comes in many flavors, if I may. Two dresses are awesome and a dress and a suit are their own special celebration.

      • Liz

        what’s most interesting to me isn’t the “secular reasons are awesome, religious reasons aren’t” – it’s the assumption that because i have listed practical reasons, i must not have religious ones.

        i never mentioned my spirituality. on purpose.

        but i certainly never said “i don’t have any religious reasons for making this choice.” it’s just been assumed throughout. as if practicality and religion are mutually exclusive.

        interesting to me.

        • meg

          I assumed you did have religious reasons.

          • sarah

            at the same time, i think that’s part of the problem, too. we assume that anyone who is waiting til marriage is probably doing it because of religious reasons. i usually assume this because it is almost culturally synonymous… even though i tried to wait until i found someone i cared about (but i never intended to wait til marriage), although i am by no means religious. it’s just interesting how society dictates our assumptions sometimes without even realizing it!

      • L.

        You’re awesome. I just want to say.

  • Liz

    cheers to all you folks who balanced my “sex is important” with “meh, not that important.”

    yes. sex is important. but what i failed to say, and you all did so well is that- ok, maybe you’ve made a sexual mistake in the past. it is NOT the end of the world.

    our culture manages to both overemphasize AND underemphasize the weight of sex. we’re rarely told how important it is- in the sense of how it impacts us emotionally, how it affects our relationships. but we’re often faced with this idea that sex is somehow worse than other “mistakes” we make as we go. the past is the past. i hope that made sense. so many comments about baggage and regret from past mistakes made my heart heavy.

    similarly, sex within marriage isn’t always huge. some nights are pure magic. and others are meh. just apart of the daily routine. and you’ll never know which will be which- even with a ton of planning. so having a meh night of sex. it doesn’t destroy anything. it’s just the ebb and flow of marriage, as with all things.

    ps- thanks for not burning me on a stake!

    • meg

      Amen. Sometimes it is. Sometimes its REALLY not. It’s funny how that gets passed over in almost all discussions of it, and funny how both things can be so true at the same time.

      Night kids. Play nice….

  • Moz

    Fantastic, generous post. Thank you Liz and to Meg for facilitating it.

  • I loved this post. It’s nice to have a grown up conversation about this topic where the “waiters” don’t call the “doers” hoe’s and the “doers” don’t call the “waiters” prudes. Ahhhh… Take in the amazing-ness that is APW.

    In my case, my FH and I didn’t wait for marriage, but we did wait until we knew we were committed to each other. I’ve only ever had sex with him and vice versa and right now I couldn’t be happier.

    Sex is something the two of us have forever to work on and it is a constant source of opportunity for us to express our appreciation for eachother.

    Thank you Meg & Liz for a very insightful post!

  • Bethany

    My FH and I are both virgins and plan to be until the wedding night. Yes, we are religious and yes we were instructed many times in our youth to stay “pure”, but like every single other aspect of our religion, at some point in our adult life we questioned, researched, and decided our view on it.

    I remember at 16 I didn’t know why I needed to, other than that’s what the pastor said to do. When the subject became more of a pressing matter, I had to delve into my soul and find out what was right for me. It took a long time to figure out, and I’m still coming up with bullet points (thanks Liz for adding a few new ones!). It’s funny, we both did what was right for ourselves and for each other (although unknowingly at that time…)

    Here’s the thing that gets me:

    “Josh had never seen me in less than a bathing suit, and touched anything between my neck and my knees before we got married.”

    When I read this, outdated-influence made me cringe with guilt. Like I said, we knew we wanted to save sex for marriage, but who ever thinks about things like umm ya know…other stuff not technically sex but more just like fooling around?? Because of what most people I go to church with believe, I feel guilty sometimes that we have done such things.

    And then I say to myself HOLD ON.

    We talked about it with each other for so long and in such great detail and came to a mutual decision that FOR US some things are ok that would not be considered ok for other couples. No guilt, no going-to-hell, no disgrace…it is what is right for our relationship :)

  • e.y.l.

    Thank you Liz, and Meg. I wanted to raise something of a tangent at this late stage in the comments; but I believe it’s not too uncommon and hasn’t been mentioned yet. I’m talking about not having had sex before getting married because you haven’t been able to (vaginismus is the medical term).

    My FH and I met when we were young and I hadn’t had any other significant sexual experiences. While we were intimate fairly quickly, we waited a long time before attempting full sex but just couldn’t. It took me a long time to seek help and face up to it but we’re working on it now and determined to overcome it. (Good for remembering your priorities about what matters and what doesn’t when wedding planning actually, and for working on communication with your partner.)

    Anyway, I would never tell anyone about this in real life because I find it so deeply embarrassing, and as others have mentioned there is something of a taboo if you’re not having wonderful, easy, plentiful sex in your 20s. On the other hand, I feel like I’ve been caught out both ways by cultural messages, because my (Catholic) upbringing at home and school told me again and again and again that sex before marriage was absolutely wrong and my biggest fear was becoming pregnant, which in my head was worse than death (and I wasn’t even close to having sex at the time!). And I think that this is the cause of the unconscious reaction to shut the muscles that my body takes when sex is attempted. So…I’m all for sex positivity. Also, you can feel very alone and freakish if you’re going through this so I wanted to put it out there.

    • My best friend in high school was having trouble having sex and we some how discovered vaginisimus. We called it vagi-christmas.

  • Merry

    Lizzzzzzzzzzz, first of all I just want to say that I loved your wedding. It was very chic and very unique, just beautiful! And the fact that you and Josh waited for 3 years… well done especially you’re such a gorgeous looking couple and it required such a determination to stay away from temptations! Me and my husband didn’twait and have had sexual partners in the past, although I wish that I waited for him.

    I really loved your article and I wish that not only APW readers can read this, but teens and women’s magazines readers as well, hence they can see from another point of view, and more reasons why they should wait. It is very true that women usually get too attached with the men that they had sex with, and it made them stay in bad relationships or hurt even more when they do break up with the wrong guys.

    • meg

      I felt the need to chime in here: this article was about why LIZ waited, and why that was great for her, not about ‘why you should wait.’ I actually don’t think you should wait, for the record, unless it’s your thing. I would never tell a kid to wait (though I would tell a kid it was their business and they should do what was right for them and their partner).

      Just needed to clarify that.

  • Calumnia

    I would love to hear some discussion about sex-talks, both for people who do and do not have sex pre-marriage. How do you talk about sex drives and compatibility and long distance and monogamy?

  • mollymouse

    Liz, I’m so glad you wrote this! The big ideas here are communication, thoughtfulness, and choice. Somehow, my previous thoughts on waiting lost sight of the fact that people may go through those 3 things and still choose to wait. Maybe because I had many friends who were “blindly obedient” to their religion and married quickly with sex as a main focus, only for it not to work out (again, with sex as a big factor in each case). I just couldn’t understand – I’m excited now that I do. I always thought I’d encourage my future daughters to not wait, but now that I can see the other point of view I’ll be able to inform them of both sides and let them choose for themselves.
    APW continues to make me a more open-minded, thoughtful person!

  • Another Liz

    Im not the Liz above…just making sure you know cuz this is a very different story.

    Thank you so much for these posts – I have felt a lot of shame over my behavior during the years and I just didn’t know how to talk to my fiance about it. This helps.

    SO – my story is I lost my virginity to a wonderful guy in HS that I just KNEW that I would marry. We went to college, grew up, and decided we would…get married. This should be a storybook happy ending but its really, really not. He died in a freak accident.

    I had saved myself for marriage…for religious reasons….and then didn’t, and now my fiance is dead. Needless to say, this was a major mindf*** – I wasn’t mad at God or myself…just mad. So I had a lot of sex….not because I wanted to…because I was sad and drunk and a lot of other reasons that make little to no sense. I dated guys that were horrible because the perfect guy was dead – No lets make it a little worse, it wasn’t cause he was perfect-he wasn’t, it was because I didn’t think I deserved nice…or nice enough…or even a little bit of okayness. But in the end, I am a sweet girl and couldn’t put up with not-nice people. ( I love that APW says that sweet girls have great sex – geez)

    So i was essentially screwing up my life, literally and figuratively, and no one noticed. Everyone just thought, wow, bad taste in men. They didn’t remember how great my high school boyfriends were. They didn’t remember how much in love my fiance and I were. So I continued….until I finally had sex with the worst of the worst….I mean, bad guy I had managed to avoid for years – but he loved me. He loved me enough to notice and say, this isn’t you, you deserve more, you deserve great. So it turns out this bad guy was good inside too. So, I changed my life, found a wonderful man who treats me with every bit of respect and love any girl deserves and surprisingly fell madly in love. Not substitute love…serious groundshaking unbelievable love. I can’t believe I got it twice in one lifetime but let me tell you how fast that life change happened. It was almost instant.

    Love, physical and emotional, is a powerful force. Wait until you can’t wait any longer – whatever that is for you. It does tie you to the person. I’ve had one night stands that changed my life…for the better. My one night stand made me hope for better. And I believed it and went after it. Whatever you do, think about it. Sex is great but it is cloudy.

    Love you guys!

  • gloster

    I’m a loooooong-time lurker, and had to reveal myself after reading this post! My fiance and I don’t have intercourse. I say it that way to be clear; we are physically active, but full blown sex ain’t happening until after we get married. We are both 26. We have been together for 6.5 years, lived together for 2, and yes, quite a few times it’s been really difficult to put the brakes on things! Learning self-control is truly empowering to me. And I feel that this decision has brought us so close in many other ways, helped us grow and mature. It was not a religious decision for us. He grew up Catholic though, so that’s ingrained in him. My family was pretty open, and I remember my mom telling me that I’m responsible enough to make my own choices, but that sex changes who you are. It changes your relationship. Another big factor is that no birth control is 100% and no way we are having a child right now!

    And at the risk of comparing myself to others, I’ve seen my close friends make different decisions, with various outcomes. Two of my best-friends-since-grade-school were both pretty outspoken about waiting (I was not so open about my plans)….neither of them did. One became engaged in college and soon after had sex with her fiance. Granted, she thought she was marrying him, but it didn’t work out. The other friend also boasted about waiting until marriage, and she slept with only one guy before getting married, to a man who she soon cheated on and is now divorcing. I learn a lot from other peoples choices, and these examples do reaffirm my choices.

    Also, like an earlier commenter, I just let most of my friends believe that we have sex. I don’t feel I need to tell everyone details. My family and one close friend knows. And my doctor, who, unlike many doctors before her, actually believes me! (Side note: I have had that cutting the hymen procedure while I was under for another surgery)

    Thanks, Liz for presenting your thoughts in such a clear way! I totally identify with this. Sorry, I feel like my comment is a mound of gobble-gook, no cohesion. Hahaa!

  • Suzanna

    Just another Huzzah! for this site, and for Liz and Meg. Wonderful, thoughtful stuff.

  • themoaner

    Great thoughts, from posters and Liz/Meg!

    I’m not a waiter, but OH and I dated for nearly two years before crossing that threshold. He was a virgin till that point, while I wasn’t…and I can say, without a doubt, that our first time was a mind-bending experience. Sex with someone I knew, cared about, loved deeply, and had spent time preparing for the experience with was light-years beyond the other partners I had before. We didn’t need to wait until marriage, because we spent so much time talking and preparing…but we certainly did need to wait a while. The first ten minutes were full of laughter and incredulity, and even a year later there’s a little warm spot in my heart when I think of that evening.

    Thought I would offer a middle ground to the group, as well–waiting, but not waiting for a set date or event. Wait till you’re ready…then give a few more weeks. Still ready? It’ll be fantastic.

  • Melissa

    It had never occurred to me that a mature, grounded woman who was not a christian evangelical would wait. So, thank you, for explaining. I was riveted from the first paragraph. As for me, I had sex with my fiance on the fourth date. I had not thought that it would happen that night. We’d only barely shared a peck on our third date, but that kiss on our fourth date, WOW. I might have started chucking my clothes off during the kiss. I don’t remember. Sex with him was so amazing for so many reasons beyond the physical. After the first time, I had a feeling that it bode well for the relationship and that the quality of the sex was an indicator for other things. This is dangerous territory to tread, I know, but lucky for me, in this instance, I was 100% right.

  • I’m not going to read the hundreds of comments before mine, so if I’m repeating anything, sorry! I do want to say that I have a LOT of respect for this entry, both for Liz for sharing something so personal and for Meg for allowing a very different perspective from her own. Wow. Kudos to you both, ladies!

    Secondly, my hat is off to you, Liz, for being able to wait through three years of dating to have sex or even go to second/third base. (Yay for baseball euphemisms for sex!) Like mentioned above, I grew up in a super conservative environment, and I even went to a Bible college, so I saw a TON of people get married super young because they simply couldn’t keep it in their pants anymore but didn’t want to “sin.” Oi. An eighteen year old and a nineteen year old are probably not mature enough to make the right decision when it comes to picking a spouse–especially where hormones are involved! (I’m sure there are some who could be, but I haven’t met very many, if any at all…)

    At the same time, I think you’re very correct in saying, Liz, that sex–really, any sort of physical relationship–can really mess with clear thinking. From personal experience–both mine and seeing close friends’ experiences–it’s very hard to have any sense of clear judgment on a relationship when you’re thinking with your hormones and how good it feels to be with so-and-so.

    I’m still a virgin myself, although my fiance and I have gone pretty far physically, and although I’m nervous about the wedding night (will it hurt?!), I’m also very excited to be joined to my future husband so intimately. And although I’m trying to keep the pressure off the evening, I’m also planning on doing it. (So both Liz and Meg can breathe easier.)

  • Katherine

    Meg & Liz, thank you both for the very insightful post! Today is 4 weeks til my wedding. We are ‘waiters’ and it’s been difficult, but it is something we agreed on together and decided to stick it out til the wedding night. I have been a little anxious lately about wedding night ‘expectations’ so we have talked about it frankly so we both know what the other expects. (Communication is a wonderful thing) And I know all will be ok, it IS a learning process for us both!! We have tried to always be understanding of the other person’s needs and or wants… And now I’m just super excited about not only the wedding night, but also the rest of our life together!! :)
    Thanks again because it really is good to see a favorable view of ‘waiters.’ Too often I get looks of disgust from people who barely know me. It’s great to see people with different viewpoints being able to discuss rather than argue. Thank you everyone!!

  • alta

    I feel that waiting for religious reasons has been…bashed a little here. My husband and I waited for sex until our wedding night because of religious beliefs that are very important to us. We were not teenagers and we did not rush into marriage so that we could have sex. We dated for four years before we were married and had lived in places across the country, traveled and I was in graduate school at the time. Our personal reasons for waiting included much of what Liz stated as her reasons in addition to our religious beliefs. Waiting for marriage because of religious beliefs is just as legitimate as any other choice and should be respected.

  • Madge

    Hi Meg, Hi Liz,

    you’e done great things here. i’ve always been torn about this, so it’s really good to have somewhere safe to discuss this and not feel judged! and meg, thanks for stepping in and keeping the discussion in line.
    have a nice weekend! Sex ahoy :) (or not, should you so choose!)

  • This post is extremely interesting to me because I have never heard of anyone (until now) who shares my thoughts about pre-marital sex….with completely different spiritual beliefs. I am actually a Christian, so is my fiancee, and although we are politically and economically liberal, we also strongly believe in our Biblically-based moral values, and pursuing a relationship with Christ. Reading these comments (very thoughtful and interesting ones if I may add), makes me want to clear a few things up.
    First of all, now this is what I personally believe, and I am by no means trying to force it on anyone: the Christian belief is not as simple as, if you have sex, you go straight to hell. Just like loving parents, God has set boundaries for us in order to protect us. All of the cons about pre-marital sex that Liz talked about are the exact same reason that I, as a Christian, also refrain. I, along with other Christians do not try our hardest to be obedient to God’s laws about relationships because we are simply afraid of damnation. Think of it this way: my fiancee and I do what we believe God wants us to do because we love him. We also believe there are consequences to actions.
    Second, I think it is possible to think someone else is wrong, without being disrespectful. What is the definition of a “Bible thumper?” Usually people consider this to be a religious person who is in your face all the time, and constantly trying to convert you. I believe that God wants me to share the gospel with others (not in a rude, forceful, violent, or unloving way of any kind). Is that so wrong? Also, (this is hard to say), I do believe marriage was meant to between a woman and a man. But, I voted No on Prop. 8, and I am adamantly against the government taking taking away the right to marry from same-sex couples. Some of my close friends and family members are gay, and I love them all very much, as human beings who are allowed to make their own decisions. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with all of their decisions.
    In another example, my fiancee and I have decided (me being vegan, her being vegetarian), that we do not want any animal products at our wedding. This is because we think it is WRONG to support the meat industry. We also do not think we are in anyway better than those who eat meat. People are allowed to make their own decisions, but on the other hand, people also need to be able to have the freedom to disagree with other beliefs. Now, please keep this in mind. People must always be loving and respectful of each other, even if they do think it is wrong to have pre-marital sex. Not just as a personal decision, but in general. Also, further clarifying, it is never okay to force someone to think or act the way you do, even if you think their lifestyle choice is wrong. Sorry if I strayed a bit from the main topic, but I felt called to address some of the sub-discussions in the previous comments.

    • liz

      hi, alexander! i guess 300+ comments is a lot to read through, so i’ll do a brief recap of some of the topics already mentioned:

      -spirituality was excluded from the conversation at hand entirely. i did NOT say that all christians believe sex would send you to hell. but i DID reference the common thought- that those who abstain from sex (no matter their religion) do so from fear of hell-fire. there are many who have various religious takes on the issue of abstinence, none of which i addressed. i simply made it a point that i do not equate sex with damnation.

      -the “bible thumper” term was also addressed previously. i did not use the term, but it was discussed that it is not a general term for all of those who believe in the bible- just those who perhaps are aggressive in forcing their beliefs on others.

  • Kira

    I realize that I’m a few days late in commenting on this, but I just want to say thank you for this post. Despite the fact that I was raised without religion or any sort of pressure from parents or family to “wait,” I knew that I would wait to have sex until I found the man that I loved and intended to spend my life with. I lost my virginity to him at 21, we are moving in together and I know, without a doubt, that we will be together forever. Thank you Liz and Meg for presenting the fact that “waiting” isn’t always about religion.

  • Meredith

    While most of this makes sense, I’m really confused by the reference to Heloise and Abelard, especially in the context of romance. Yes, she at least apparently only had sex with him, but he raped her. Repeatedly. According to his own words, he violently attacked her. I do honestly think it can be romantic to have only one person sexually (and am in this position almost on accident), but I feel the ‘love’ of Heloise and Abelard is a horrible example to use.

    As for the rest of the article, I commend you on being able to abstain for reasons that make sense to you and your husband. I think it’s amazing that you stuck to something very hard, and it wasn’t just to please someone else. I went to a Catholic high school and saw many people giving lip service to waiting, and then saw many of those same people discussing their active sex lives the next day. I personally did not wait until marriage, but your story made so much sense that I hope people who feel pressures to have sex can take comfort in your advice and make a good decision for themselves and their partners.

    • liz

      i CRINGE about that reference now.

      so a full explanation- i’m an english teacher, and a LOT of classic literature references the abelard and heloise thing as an example of romance at its truest. that’s all. i did NOT know the complete history until a previous commenter clued me in, and i would remove the reference completely if i could. but it’s there, and it’s wrong, and it’s based in my incomplete knowledge.

  • 3girlsmomma

    i have been reading this blog feeling such honor to all of you women!! i am 55, divorced for many years and i still don’t think i have the wisdom so many of you have graciously shared. for me, sex as a teenager was some warped sense of “feeling loved” by my boyfriend. sex was a way to keep HIM happy, while i was left with all the worries i.e. pregnancy etc. after marriage, it was sort of the same idea. sex was something i did for him to make him love me. how did all of you young ladies figure out the rest? i mean the communication, the sharing, the team approach to this melding of your lives? (these are not questions i expect to be answered, i am in awe of all of you young ladies-such a wealth of wisdom to start off your married lives.) i can only hope that my trial and error of living and experiencing life has given my three daughters the understanding of relationships and marriage i have read here today.
    I am going to steer my girls to this site, as one is engaged, i really feel she will be given the insight i lack and the wisdom she will need to work through the issues that arise in a marriage and relationship.
    i salute all of your opinions and wish you all happy, fulfilled, blessed marriages/partnerships.

  • YOU are a smart woman. I’m so glad you shared this with everyone. Thanks.

  • peanut

    Ahhh!!! So many amazing posts while I was away in Yosemite! OK so no one will read this, but I wanted to thank Liz for her advice because although I am not a virgin and I have already had sex with my husband, I have not had married sex with him and I think that your points are insightful for planning a sexual life together.

    • peanut

      oops I meant fiance, not husband, duh :)

  • I just spent the last 2 hours reading all the comments, and have so many thoughts. I loved this post and thank you, Liz, for being so open and honest about your experience. It gave me a lot to think about. I wrote a big long comment about my own experiences, but then deleted it. Basically, I am starting to regret some of the sexual decisions that I have made (not because of this post, but the post helped me to articulate some thoughts that were rolling around unidentified in my head). I am I guess you could say, “pre-engaged” and we have had (and are having) sex, but for a number of reasons I’m starting to think that I want to slow things down in that area. I know it requires an honest and open conversation. We’re great at communicating but the conversation makes me nervous. Particularly because I am unsure of my own thoughts about it right now and so I don’t think I’ll be able to articulate them well to him.

    I don’t know how many people are reading down this far, but I was curious if anyone has experience or thoughts about slowing things down or changing directions sexually with a current partner once you have “gone all the way” with that person. I am going to spend some time reflecting myself and then sit down for a discussion with him, but I just thought I’d throw the question out there. Thanks!! I’m a long-time and loyal reader, but just now getting into commenting!

  • college student

    Liz (or anyone else who might offer insight)-
    Your points really resonate with me, and although I haven’t made a decision to wait until marriage, I definitely do agree with a lot of what you say. I’m a college student right now, and from what I can tell, supporting this view will often cause boys to distance themselves from me. How did you deal with pressure from boys (or specifically boyfriends) throughout the years that you were dating, before you met your husband? I’m not bothered by the idea of dating a boy who has more experience or has made different choices than me, but I feel like at a certain point most guys will stop being interested in being in a relationship with a girl who is not willing to have a physical relationship. I realize that this sounds like I’d put out just to get a guy, which is not what I want, but if I do eventually want to get married some day, I am going to have to date lots of guys and if they won’t even bother dating a girl who isn’t going to have sex, aren’t I ultimately hurting myself by waiting? Basically, how did you deal with the pressure, and what did you say to boys if it ever came up?

  • Beth

    I was sent a link to this blog today, and I am so glad this post was one of the first I came across. As a person who’s not even dating someone at the moment (then why am I on a wedding blog? Whatevs.) I cannot thank you two enough for putting something like this out there. I am a practicing Catholic, but religion is one of the last reasons I’m waiting, and I’m glad to know there are others out there who have the same reasons I do – if just so at the times where I’m feeling the pressure, I can remember there is some solidarity out there! Also, this topic, as mentioned before, is always a bit awkward and taboo, so honesty is appreciated.

    Loved it, and will definitely be reading more of this lovely blog! :)

  • Thank you so much Liz for writing this post. A lot of people can make waiting seem like a very bad thing (“What if he totally sucks in bed? Then you’re just stuck with someone who sucks in bed forever.” Yes, I actually heard that after I got engaged when people found out we were waiting (Side note: Why does everyone feel this is their business to know after you get engaged? At least that’s what it felt like to me.) It is so nice and refreshing to hear someone other than myself talk about the positive aspects on waiting. I have been waiting for a post like this for a long time.

  • Caroline

    My FH (not fiance yet) (ha, some else here started there comment that way too.) and I waited a while. We were both virgins. At first, we wanted to wait for marriage for “sex sex”, though we didn’t wait any longer than we wanted to for some “sex” things. There were a lot of things factoring into that. We wanted to wait because we felt it would be so special to have sex for the first time on our wedding night. We wanted to wait because when we met I was 16 and he was 19, and didn’t want any possibility of anyone getting him in trouble for statuatory rape, since the age of consent where I lived was 18 (16 where he lived), and the minor doesn’t have to consent to pressing charges. We wanted to wait because I know so many people who have had like 3 types of contraception fail at once, and since I am pro-choice, however for myself, don’t think I could ever have an abortion, we wanted to wait until it was slightly more feasible that we could handle raising a child, if an accident occured despite good contraception. Clearly at the very very least this meant being high school graduates at the minimum. We wanted to wait because we weren’t ready yet.

    We ended up having sex the next time we saw each other (we were long distance and saw eachother every 6 months) after my 18th birthday and graduation. We had already made private promises/vows, and decided we would get married someday. To me, this was an essential step, and I don’t think I would have had sex with him without/before it, and I think it was to him as well. I think our libido’s got the better of us, though being long distance, we talked about it a lot first too, it wasn’t spur of the moment.

    I’m definitely glad we had sex when we did, because it was really special anyways, just being each other’s firsts, and exploring (and laughing) about it together. (and it was AWKWARD. Despite everything, we had some trouble making the parts fit together the first few times. Thanks puritanical cultural norms that gave me unrealistic ideas of sex positions…. Laughing together about it is such a great memory though.) And we’ve had some great sex since then. And you know what, I think wedding sex is still going to be great (we talk about it a lot.)

    And we both love being each other’s one and only. To us, it is romantic. to each their own.

  • Cat

    Late to the party here, but WONDERFUL post, Liz! I didn’t wait (lost my virginity at 17 to a guy whose name I didn’t, and still don’t, know), messed around a bit in my early twenties, but I 100% respect those who decide to wait. Not waiting worked out fine for me – I had sex with 7 people before meeting my boyfriend, he had had 5 partners before me – but those choices may not work for someone else. Everyone’s different.

    I actually feel like, as Mollymouse pointed out, the big ideas – communication, thoughtfulness, and choice – could be applied to nearly anything in a relationship, not only sex. In fact, those three things are OFTEN touted as the big ideas in a relationship, but no one talks about those things regarding sex, and I’m so, so, SO glad that APW is the place to have that discussion.

  • Wow. I think I have found my new favourite wedding/lifestyle website.
    This post is awesome. Recently had the discussion with my (much younger) sister about waiting til marriage – we both had initally made that decision (for religious reasons, yes I’ll admit) and ended up not sticking with it (for hormone-related reasons, yes I’ll admit). Turns out I’m to be married to my First in less than a year and I *love* that he was my first and only, hopefully for the rest of our lives.
    There’s probably nothing I can say that hasn’t been said my the bazillion of previous posts, but I’m totally sharing this post and this site to all and sundry because I am melting in crush-love.

  • Mary L

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post!!!!
    As a 23 year old “waiter” engaged to a wonderful 25 year old man who did not wait before he met me, but has been fantastic about waiting the past three years this post was really inspiring to me!
    It’s so nice to just read your simple non-argumentative explanations of your choices.
    Thank you for being so open and positive.

  • JARS

    I just stumbled across this post and I find the entire dialog fascinating. So many perspectives, it’s pretty cool. However, I would like to offer up one perspective I didn’t notice in the comments. Granted, I didn’t read all 291 of them, but I did some thorough browsing. So if I’m repeating what someone else has said, I pre-apologize.

    I was raised Catholic and was a strong Christian into my mid-teens. I made the True Love waits promise. I sincerely believed that one of the greatest gifts you could give your future spouse was the gift of your virginity.

    In my late teens, I “fell away” from Christianity because I began to realize some very fundamental disagreements I had with it’s theology. However, I still maintained a lot of the ethical/moral views I had as a Christian, including waiting until marriage to have sex.

    That all changed when my relationship with my highschool boyfriend began to crumble. I wanted him to stay with me and I knew he wanted sex and was deluding myself to believe that if I had sex with him, he’d want me more. As time passed, I realized simply put we just weren’t well suited for each other, sexually active or not, and I ended the relationship.

    Fast forward six months to when I meet my now-fiance. We both agreed that we wanted to wait to have sex, our primary reason being we couldn’t stand the thought of accidentally conceiving and not being emotionally/financially/structurally ready to have a child together.

    I guess I should explain some parameters as well: we’re both pro-life (I’m not trying to spark controversy here, that’s just the easiest way to put it) and I do not want to be on the pill because I just personally don’t dig the possible side affects. They kind of freak me out. I know they’re unlikely and rare, but still they scare me enough to just not take the pill.

    We’ve been going out almost three years, we’ve been engaged for about 5 months, and we’re getting married in about 4 weeks. Have I wanted him? Yes, very much. Am I emotionally ready? I have been for a long time. Are we financially capable of taking care of a child? Yes, but only just barely. We could have sex now, but we’re totally into the romantic idea of waiting until our wedding night.

    So I guess you could say it’s a strange combination: a non-religious, pro-life, relationship founded decision to wait until marriage. :)

    The funniest part is I’ve had two female cousins – both very, VERY hardcore Catholic – get married in the past two years and both of them had to change their wedding dates because they got pregnant post-engagement.

  • Hey there!

    My friend sent me this link because she knew I’d find it interesting, and BOY did I! I share nearly the exact same thoughts and values as Liz mentioned regarding waiting to have sex until marriage. This post made me ridiculously happy because at times it feels very lonely to have these opinions. So many people and friends of mine judge me for wanting to wait, and don’t see how I can do it. I’m glad to read that I’m not the only one, and I hope one day I can find a man who will share in or at least respect my values.

    Thank you for posting this Liz, and Meg! I really, really appreciate it. :)


    I know I am rather late for the party, but I am so glad I found this.

    My FH and I have had sex, with each other and before. However, some time after we decided to get married, we also decided to commence waiting and it has been a very interesting experience. Our relationship has changed over this year, mostly for the better, and some for the more difficult-but it has never been bad. We get a lot of flak from people we know but aren’t good friends with when they find out which is stupid because we aren’t trying to convert people to doing this unless they ask, but as soon as someone finds out they are absolutely in our faces and making fun of it and us and otherwise just being douche bags. There are exceptions, but for the most part, that is what happens. All of our real friends have accepted it and moved on. My mother, when I told her what we were doing just simply said “TMI!” and that was the end of the conversation, lol.

    Anyway, I am happy to have found this for my sister, who is religious, but who also got very hurt and simply wants a good man who will take her for who she is and not for how much or well she puts out.

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  • Kate

    Thank you. That’s all I can say. I’m almost 24, have never been on a date, and a room mate just freaked me out about my decision to wait. I just figure that because I’ve waited this long to have any sort of intimate expression with someone else, I DO have a lot stocked into this and I would rather just worry about the emotions invested in one person. Lack of meeting this person yet is beside the point.
    Anyway, just thank you. Bookmarking for when I get worried.

  • Ivy

    I read this post and it made me cry. Thank you, thank you, thank you for talking about this.

    I’m going to admit something I’ve never admitted in print before here and say that I’m 27 and still a virgin. I don’t know that I’m waiting for marriage, necessarily–but I definitely am waiting for the right person. (I also have a lot of complicated feelings around marriage and how it’s defined in our society, which is why I don’t say that I’m waiting for that; I’m also bisexual so there’s a very good chance I wouldn’t even be able to marry that right person.)

    So often I read things where people mock or insult people who wait, for whatever reason. Although I spend time with a lot of folks who would consider themselves open-minded, I am so tired of hearing that I’m afraid or that getting laid will solve my problems. (No, really, it wouldn’t.) To read something like this and know there are other people out there who feel this way, and who have found partners that are okay with it means so much to me that I can’t even put it into worlds. Thank you for sharing this.

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  • this is, by far, the best thing i’ve ever read on the subject. thank you for being willing to tackle such a complicated and awkward-to-talk-about issue — in such a real way.

  • Siobhan B

    I completely agree with this entire article. I won’t be a virgin on my wedding night but I have only had one sexual partner and that is my Husband to be. I am an abuse victim and so my first time was probably a lot more sensitive a topic and had a few extenuating circumstances which lead the process to being quite similar to “waiting” with talking, having set boundaries about what we were willing to try and others we would leave for a while.

    I think this process alone lead to a relationship that I don’t think I could have had previously. In fact, its one thing that I tell a lot of my friends, even those who are currently sexually active. “Slow down, enjoy the process”. Its sometimes hard to stop seeing sex as “the goal” and instead as just the beautiful, bonding experience it can be.

  • Jessy

    All I can say is “Wow” and “Thank you” to Liz, Meg, and everyone else for all the amazing stories and advice. I have read probably only the first twenty or so comments (I would have read more, but it is 7am and I need to get ready for school at some point today). Anyway, my story is simple. (And here I apologize for this and all following parenthesis) I am 17 and currently in a relationship with an amazing guy who is twenty (more about him later). I am a virgin and I always thought that I would wait until marriage, but now I’m not so sure about waiting. Because of the age difference, we are not “officially dating” yet, we’ve made out a few times (and our chemistry… Amazing!), but for the next four and a half months, the brakes are on for even that. We are talking about sex for after I turn 18 (the four and a half months). By then I will be attending the same college as him (not on purpose, we live in a college town). We dated briefly two years ago before he graduated high school, but neither of us was mature enough to really know what we wanted out of a relationship. We stayed friends until about two and a half months ago, and let me tell you – that kiss would have kicked any Hollywood romance scene in the a$$. Anyway, since then we have spent some time getting to know each other better and talking about what may happen after I turn 18. When this relationship first started again, I told him that I was waiting until marriage to have sex, he respected that decision. I have grown up in a conservative religious home and being a “Waiter” is just who I was brought up to be. I even got a purity ring a few years back, although, it got lost like pretty much all the rest of my jewelry does- a sign perhaps? I also think that there is nothing as romantic as losing your virginity to a fellow virgin on your wedding night. In the past month, we have talked about the possibility of sharing our First Time together when I’m 18 – after I’m ready. We have been talking about it like it is going to be a sure thing, that we are going to have this romantic night together someday in the near future, but after talking about it and reading some comments, hear and elsewhere, I am starting to reaffirm my first beliefs. I don’t want him to think I am trying to rush him into commitment. I know what many of you will say, “Unless he is ready to be committed to you, you should wait.” Some of you may get this, but maybe not: Even if he is not “The One” he is the one I want my first time to be with. I know he cares about me so much, and I know that we can talk about this together. I guess my comment is more of a melodramatic plea for advice. Should I make him wait until he (if he) puts a ring on my finger, or should we just let what will happen, happen after I turn 18? If I lose my virginity before I’m married, am I going to regret it?

  • Liz,

    I have to say when I started reading your article tonight I was strongly impressed by your thoughts and insights. I got married 2 years ago, and my husband and I waited to have sex before we got married. In fact we had both decided to save our selves for marriage. I am impressed by your strong opinion and grateful that my husband and I are not the only people out there saving themselves for marriage. I am also impressed by your thoughts and insights and wish I had this article 2 years ago before I got married. Your ideas and thoughts are so on the nose of some of the things my husband and I did, with few exceptions. I love your braveness and amazing talent for writing.

    Thank-you for writing this!

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  • SeraphL

    Oh my gosh, THANK YOU. I’m 24 years old and have decided to wait for marriage to have sex, and you would not believe the amount of flack I get for it. Sometimes friends have made comments that have left me feeling like a second class citizen.
    I never had much opportunity for sexual entanglements when I was younger (mainly because I was very very N.E.R.D.Y. Still am, but I’ve learned how to rock it) but by the time I got to university I was pretty darn sure that there was not going to be any casual sex in my life. I’d seen too much emotional pain, underage pregnancies and battered self-esteems. The decision is based on my Christian upbringing, but not in a strict “Hellfire and Damnation!” way. It was simply that the majority of couples I saw in my church had loving, solid marriages. Apparently there was something sensible in the guidebook!
    I’m really looking forward to sex, if and when I get to have it. I’m expecting it to be fun, endearingly awkward, and probably a little hilarious. I’ll probably laugh at some point. I do that a lot. It’s certainly a challenge to keep my hands to myself sometimes , but for all the reasons above it’s the right thing for me to do.

  • Jocelyn

    This is such an amazing read! My boyfriend and I have decided to wait, howver we have both have sex in previous relationships. I really want to ask a question.. Put it out there and get some feedback..
    I am 100% on board with waiting, it’s just hard for me because I don’t really feel “wanted” my boyfriend I think is afraid that if we start kissing it’s going to lead to much more, however it’s been a year and a half and it’s never gone to far.
    I guess I’m just wanting to not be the only woman who does not feel wanted because of waiting!?
    And ladies if I’m being completely crazy just tell me!!

    • Katie

      No you’re not crazy; I had a pretty similar experience, I think. I’d had sex before meeting my (now) fiance, which was also before I’d decided to become more serious about my faith. Most of it was in very abusive relationships and, for me, it led me to think that all guys wanted me for was sex. So when we decided we weren’t going to have sex, I had a very hard time believing he wanted me (even though he was a virgin).
      It took a lot of patience, honest communication, reassurance and an increase in maturity to get (mostly) beyond that. My advice would be to talk to your boyfriend when you feel this way. This way you can express your feelings, as well as give him a chance to better understand your perspective of your physical relationship.
      And a piece of unsolicited advice, if I may, about going too far: in my experience, it got harder the longer we knew each other (which, by the time we get married this summer, will be almost 6 years). We did much better with respecting our boundaries in our first two years than those following. For us this was the result of a number of factors, none of which will necessarily happen for you. But, if I could do it over, I would’ve set a plan for how to stick to our limits instead of just setting them. This could be through communication, a same-gendered accountability partner, only meeting in public/semi-public areas or whatever works for you.

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