When my book Letters to Love was released it became public knowledge that when I married at 38 years old, I was in fact a virgin. For whatever reason that information created some questions from readers. The question that I found most interesting was: "Now that you've been married a few years, do you think saving yourself sexually for marriage was really that important?" Isn't that a great question!! Was it really that important? My answer? No, it wasn't! And Yes, it was!
My answer is "no" because I do not see it as the secret weapon to a problem free marriage. It is not, in my opinion, the single decision before that makes all things great later. It doesn't assure sexual success or satisfaction. It isn't necessarily indicative of more intimacy or connection. The purity I may have brought to our sex life was not the definition of my worth as a wife or a woman. I brought plenty of impurities in other areas and a vast amount of un-godliness in other ways. Sometimes we, as Christians, can place so much importance on the legalism of subjects like pre-marital sex that we begin to believe that our righteousness and worth hinges on the definitive category we fall into instead of the grace that God extends to hearts that receive it. My choice to remain a virgin until marriage did not guarantee a life of joyful intimacy and sex in my marriage anymore than someone else is disqualified from joyful intimacy and sex because they had sex before they were married. Neither does it make me more loved by the creator and savior of the world. I am not in better standing with God because of my pre-marital sexual status. God's grace and love is bigger than our virginity or lack of it. So whether it has been given away, kept, or stolen from us, it doesn't matter – NONE of us is separated from the love of God that is in Christ. Romans 8: 38-39.
My decision to remain sexually pure before marriage was one that I made early and often in my life. At first it was 2 parts commitment to God and 3 parts commitment to not disappointing my mother, with a healthy dose of absolute fear thrown in for good measure. Those reasons remained the same for 20 years but managed to change in priority and intensity as I came to understand relationships, men, God, faith, and myself. As those reasons changed I discovered how faithful God proved to be in his love for me and how dangerous it was for me to limit his love to my ability or inability to earn it by keeping the rules. When I realized that God's love for me isn't doled out as a reward for when I am able to be good but instead is doled out without measure so that I'll desire to do good – well, that was transformative for me. It actually made the boundaries of saying "no" to sex less important (and less the goal) but easier to have and easier to say. The goal became honoring a God who already honored and loved me so my boundaries were now being set to protect a love I already had instead of attempting to earn a love I really wanted.
Although I don't believe it is the secret weapon to marital success or the primary building block to a life of faith, God tells us that sexual purity is important and I must concur and also answer, "yes" to this question. At 38 years old, naked, clueless and just on the other side of that which was potentially mortifying, scary, and vulnerable instead I found safe arms to fumble, fail and learn in. Although I could have chosen to fumble, fail and learn earlier with somebody else I did it in the same arms that I intend to find myself in day after day and night after night until I am feeble and old where I will find them still. The security that thought and feeling produces for me is immeasurable. His arms. Only his arms. Only him. After getting to know each other in lots of other ways. After A LOT of other firsts: First time he sat on the same side of the booth with me, first time he complimented me, first time we met each other's families, first time he saw me sad and said the right thing, first time he told me I was beautiful, first time we fought, first time he dressed up to take me out, first time we prayed together, first time to cry with and for each other, first time to hold hands, first time to kiss, first time to say "I love you"… After all of those firsts! After the ceremony. After the legal piece of paper. After the celebrations and toasts. After the 19 months of seeing that he was going to still be here tomorrow. After all of that security and safety was tested, nakedness seemed the next best step. And OH! How it was! From my book, Letters to Love:
The wedding night. A first. My first. Our first. Years of wondering and hearing the opinion and experiences of others melted away as he touched me. Somehow it never felt as awkward as I imagined it would. Where he touched, warmth followed. We became a choreographed dance of fumbling finesse and graceful guessing, a naive knowing that would grow as we grew. Together, he and I.
Almost 9 years later, I can say that nobody else is ever on my mind when I am with my husband. I might be thinking about the amount of laundry I need to do but I am never thinking about the dirty laundry from my past. What might have been considered a boring single life has actually benefited my married life. I have nobody to compare him to. My mind is with him and my heart is for him. I believe because of this we have avoided some relational hurdles. In my professional practice as a therapist it is often previous relationships that can produce doubt, fear and insecurities in our current partners. I have certainly avoided some personal hurdles as well. I bring no guilt or shame to our sexual relationship. I don't feel used, dirty or damaged. I felt uncertain and insecure mind you, but I think that was a good trade off.
I discovered early in the marriage that my lack of experience was actually a benefit for us too. Besides getting to be my only teacher and my only partner which is something we both love, I am able to give him something he didn't even realize he needed. My husband has been deeply betrayed by most significant women in his life. They were not who they said they would be. They were not who he needed them to be. This created both trust issues and relational barriers for him that ran deeper than he ever realized. Because I was faithful to him for 20 years before I ever met him, I am able to give him the gift of trusting me. He doesn't fear that I will be unfaithful to him because I wasn't before I knew him. He doesn't doubt my word, my motive or my choices because they honored him before they were about him. This provides the same safety and security to him that he provided for me when he was willing to wait until marrying me, even though I would not be his first. This kind of relational trust and safety cultivates a loving acceptance that is as rooted in grace as Christ's love for us. Isn't that what marriage is supposed to be? About grace. About love. About acceptance, security and trust. About faith in our God and about honoring him and each other. That's what matters in marriage isn't it? Not which box you check in the pre-marital sex column.