Discuss Theology



Sex & Engagement

October 31st, 2013


What is God’s will for your honeymoon? I normally begin lectures and public discussions on relationships with that question.

I then put up a picture of a multi-story hotel on fire with raging flames shooting a hundred feet into the starry sky. This is an ideal metaphor for a sexual wedding night stretching right through the whole honeymoon!

We waited until marriage, 38 years ago, to have sex. I was 25 and my wife 26. We dated 5 months and were engaged for 6 months before our wedding. I had become an official “non- virgin” teenager six years earlier experiencing a somewhat normal 19 year old guy’s hormonal rampage. I am now 62 years old and look back thinking, “What would I say to my engaged friends contemplating marriage and also contemplating sexual behavior during their engagement?”

I think I would begin by talking about all of my promiscuity up through age 20. Looking back none of it was productive or healthy really. I would talk about the fact that I drank way too much up until then. Abstinence studies have chronicled the corollary relationship between alcohol and teenage sexual behaviors.

It was not all bad. I met some really nice girls back then too. But, all in all, there is some regret and I wish I could apologize to a lot of people. Some of it is downright embarrassing to look back on. The further difficulty was having to inform my wife of my former behavior before we were even engaged. I did not get tested for STD’s but probably should have.

These behaviors dramatically changed in July of 1971. I changed one Saturday morning after being out the night before drinking and smoking dope with my girlfriend. I decided not to do those things anymore because Jesus said people must change in order to follow him. I became a follower of Jesus and it radically altered my sex ethic. I did not really know what was happening at the time but I knew – something had to change.

Apparently all christians don’t have a dramatic change as I did. Two recent large surveys found evangelical christians participating in a lot of pre-marital sex. One survey found 80% of 20-30 yr. old evangelical christians involved and sexually active before marriage with 65% having had sex in the year previous to the survey. The other survey found 25% are sexually active as unmarried evangelicals. The disparity of these two surveys raised the angst level in the evangelical world to a fever pitch recently with a virtual “in house” war over the numbers. Christianity Today magazine chronicled much of the recent anxiety-laden discussion. Let’s just average the two evangelical surveys as both of them involved thousands of people. 52% of single evangelical christians ( in the west) between age 20 and 30 are sexually active.

So evangelicals are pretty much in step with the culture sexually in pre-marital behavior. Maybe a few percentage points behind but not much.

There is another religious survey out there which states that Muslims and Hindus are far more abstinent than evangelicals pre-maritally.

Paul the apostle wrote that, “Each one of you know how to take a wife in honor.” Sexual honor-Biblically- means abstinence before marriage. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:3,4: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity; that each on of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor.”

This has implications after the wedding. One pastor interviewed and counseled many sexually frustrated evangelical men. Their wives had grown sexually disinterested after their wedding. This pastor found that 100% of these men had sex with their wives during their engagements. His conclusion was that the dishonor involved in violating their fiances’ conscience came back to bite them in the marriage bed. ”It created a distrust in me” wrote one engaged woman to me about a previous failed relationship. She had difficulty trusting men after that one.

Consider these 3 points:

1. Women suffer more depression and self-loathing at the break up of a sexually active relationship (McIlhaney, “Girls Uncovered”.)
2. A Columbia University study found that those who live together are least likely to marry each other.
3. A University of Maryland study found that premarital sexually active people are 60% more likely to divorce.

I met my wife, 4 years after the promiscuity stopped. We got engaged in July of 1975. From the outset, we assumed that we would wait until marriage for sex. Having written that, looking back over all of these 38 years, I realize that I was not honest with myself. I was not honest about how turned on I was around my gorgeous fiance every time we got together. For two months, we acted like a fairly typical engaged and “waiting” couple in a western culture. We hugged, we kissed, we made out some. I found myself experiencing hormonal hell two months into our engagement ”waiting” time. I lived in a constantly turned on state. In early September of 1975, four months before our wedding, it was terrible. I compare myself to a caged orangatang looking for a mate. I decided to speak to my fiancé, Judy. I told her that I could not continue this way in a constantly turned on state. She clearly knew how attracted to her that I was.

I felt like the horniest person in church history.

So, I said to her, “From now until we get married, I am not going to kiss you, hug you, touch you- anything!” For the last four months of our engagement, we lived that way. The frustration and anxiety ceased. It was peaceful. I hugged her two hours before the wedding for a picture but that was it.

Honestly, my reasons for boundary re-adjustment four months prior to the wedding were self interest, but legitimate self interest. I wanted a perfectly blue sky with no clouds and no regrets going into our honeymoon. I wanted sex on fire with no ice water to put the fire out. Judy and I waited, and it was well worth it! Trust me!

Through the years, I have had the privilege to learn some wonderful lessons from people that Judy and I have counselled during their engagements. These people also waited and they have taught me a lot. Let me share some of their experiences and the lessons they taught me. All of these are real stories from real people I have worked with but their names have been changed.

What they taught me: Engagement sexual Boundaries must be set at the raw “turn on” level-early in the engagement.

Both Joe and Suzie had asked me for advice as their relationship began at the dating stage and they invited my input throughout. I spotted him one afternoon sitting on a picnic table on our campus. I was in my car, heading to the airport to fly to Europe. I had just found out they got engaged. So, I stopped the car and asked them, “Have you guys set good physical boundaries for your engagement?” She responded, ” Yes, we are going to wait for sex until we are married.” I got out of the car and replied, ” that is not specific enough.” I usually encourage young couples to go to a coffee shop somewhere and make a memorable and wonderful event out of setting their physical boundaries together for their engagement. Then come give us feedback on what they decided. They really should set their own boundaries because everybody’s boundaries may be different.

Each couple should set their own physical boundaries to facilitate waiting. Sometimes, like I did, the boundaries have to be re-set mid course. But there was no time for that as I was on my way to Europe and they needed help, so I said. “Boobs are out, crotches are out, no oral sex. Do you understand?” They both said yes and smiled sheepishly. I got back in the car, hurriedly caught my plane and went to Europe. They stuck with it until their wedding. That was less than optimum, but it worked. They made it work at a very raw and very real level.

Couple # 2
What they taught me: Sexual boundaries must be realistic during an engagement.

Lonnie and Karen were engaged with a beautiful relationship. They invited Judy and me to help them set appropriate engagement sexual boundaries. So we asked them where the “turned on” lines were in each of their bodies and minds? Lonnie responded, “We’ll, all she has to do is walk into the room and I get turned on. ” We responded and said, “Uh, Lonnie if you are going to get to know Karen you are going to have to be in the same room with her so you can talk with her and get to know her better preparing for marriage.”

At first, Karen was not honest about her boundaries and actually enjoyed getting turned on. That had to change, and it did. Her first set of boundaries were not reasonable and she was getting too stimulated to last for the longevity of the engagement. It is really not fair to either person, to knowingly turn on a fiancé or allow ourselves to be turned on when we have agreed to wait til marriage for sex. Getting turned on is like starting a rocket engine. Rockets are really not designed to shut off. Different couples boundaries are different, we must respect that. They waited and made it but it took reasonable boundaries.

Couple # 3
What they taught me: Boundaries may need re-adjustment.

They began their engaged relationship fairly normal with some kissing, hugging etc. Somewhere in there because of the physical chemistry, they decided to stop kissing. They re-adjusted their boundaries to rule kissing out. They continued hugging, holding hands etc. As the wedding approached, one day Sam came to me and said, “We crossed our boundaries last night and I wanted to let you know”. To which I replied, “What did you do?” ”We kissed.”, said Sam. ”Either re-draw the boundary lines to rule ‘kissing in’ or go back to the original boundaries. Stick to them.” Psychological studies have found that crossing internal boundaries carries real psychic damage.

Looking back on this time in his life, Sam sent me an email this morning which I found both enlightening and he reminded me of something I had forgotten about their engagement. I quote his email of this morning verbatim: ”We decided to hold to the no kissing thing-and as I remember it – about three weeks out from the wedding we had to go to no touching whatsoever. Basically at that point the temperature was so hot that we felt like it was the best way to just keep away from temptation. Whenever we were walking together and Suzie would loop her arm in mine, she was innocently thinking ‘we are walking arm in arm’ – while Captain Hormone was thinking, ‘My arm is touching her boob’. So we just went to a total no-fly zone for the last three weeks. It actually created MORE freedom in our relationship those last three weeks.

I probably said some things to her verbally about how much I was looking forward to our wedding that would have caused the wallpaper to peel, but we kept it nonphysical and it was really freeing and actually enjoyable.

And that is to say NOTHING of the payoff on the wedding day and after. Wow!” Sam and Suzie re-adjusted their boundaries and Sam now says, “Wow!” Many years afterward!

Couples # 4 and 5
What they Taught Me: When it is time to burn it down, burn down the hotel

Through the years, Judy and I have received some of the most amazing feedback from couples we have counseled. Many times, while they are still on their honeymoon. We have been notified by phone, email, voicemail or told in person! These couples are so happy that they waited. Sometimes it is the groom and sometimes it is the bride. They are all celebrating some awesome sex!

4. Mel and I stood in the back of the congregation as the entrance music for his wedding started. He and I began to walk in to the service but as we did he stopped me and stated. “Bro. I am on fire!” I looked at him and literally began to laugh out loud as we walked down the aisle together and I turned and said to him, “That is the whole point!” The point of waiting until marriage for sex is precisely so that it will be wonderful and as Mel said, “on fire”.

5. Rick married his beautiful southwestern girl. They waited until marriage for sex. I saw him later, in another part of the world, he said to me- first thing. “We burned the hotel down, we burned it to the ground and torched it!”

Let’s celebrate the flames made hotter by the wait!

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