Talking About Sex with Your Fiancé

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Conventional purity culture wisdom is not talking about sex with your fiancé until the week before the wedding at the earliest. In fact, don’t even research sex on your own until close to the wedding. You won’t be able to handle it.

I think that’s well-meaning and ridiculous.

When I got engaged, I joined a Facebook group for engaged and newlywed women — one of the best things that ever happened for my marriage. We talked about sex a lot, and as we all grew up in the purity culture, we all struggled with feeling shame, embarrassment, and guilt about our sexual desires. I was shocked to discover that countless Christian women struggle with sex in marriage because of the purity culture’s negativity towards sex.

In extreme but all too common cases, some women develop vaginismus, a mostly psychological condition where the vagina contracts, making penetration impossible or extremely difficult. It can take years of physical therapy and counseling to even allow for sex. For the rest us, we just battle against feeling like sluts or missing a sense of joy and freedom in our sex lives. Sex is such a mental game for women, I’ve found, and when we’re feeling dirty, guilty, and even just embarrassed about sex, the desire for it drys up.

The thought of chronic pain, vaginismus, or guilty sex sounded awful to me. It couldn’t be healthy to view sex this way, and it seemed far too coincidental that many women in conservative religions developed this unhealthy thinking. I was determined to block such a residual negativity from my bedroom.

So I broke the purity culture rules and talked to Erich about our future sex life. There didn’t seem to be a good reason not to. We’d already discussed every other detail of our lives. Sex is a crucial component to a happy marriage. Sex is a good, beautiful, and intimate thing — not something to be shunted away and hidden from the person with whom you’re intimate. I wanted to work out our expectations for sex before marriage and well before the wedding night, particularly because I was so nervous and embarrassed about sex.

In order to talk about sexual issues intelligently, I researched. I spent hours on the Marriage Bed and its forums. I Googled random questions. I studied up on condom brands and alternative barrier methods. I shared my fears and more particular questions with my Facebook group. I talked about it with my married friends (newlyweds and long-timers), and even my single friends. I wanted to bring sex out in the open as a valid, good thing to learn about, talk about, and care about. I wanted to take the shame out of sex.

Then Erich and I talked about it, at first awkwardly. We used technical terms — sex, penis, vagina, etc. — not euphemisms, because there is no shame in body parts or the actions those body parts can perform. And we asked each other questions about our future sex life. What birth control/barrier method should we use? What brand of condom? How often do you expect sex? How do you feel about this or that kind of sex? Is there something you would refuse to do? And the most relieving question — are you as nervous about sex as I am? Well before the wedding night, we shared our fears, excitement, and questions about sex with each other.

The uneasy/embarrassed/slutty feelings? They eased up significantly after talking with my fiancé in particular and with others in general.

I can’t imagine going into the wedding night without having researched, talked about, and made peace with sex. Erich and I never felt tempted to jump into bed during these conversations. Honestly, the more open Erich and I were about sex and the less of a big deal we made out of remaining pure for marriage, the easier it was to cool our sex drives and save up our excitement for after the I dos. I have no regrets.

When did you talk about sex with your fiancé?

// Speaking of sex…plus another article challenging the status quo

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18 thoughts on “Talking About Sex with Your Fiancé

  1. Korie

    I completely agree with this. I also spent a lot of time researching sex before we got married. We talked about it, too. I think it’s also vital that the conversation not stop. Talking about our sex life prior to getting married made it much easier to continue that conversation after that door was opened to us.

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  2. Karen Wright

    I think it’s SO unfortunate that people aren’t having these kinds of conversations before they are married…or even engaged, really. Sex is a very normal part of life, and deserves to be normalized in conversation. One end of bad is the problems you described. Other end of bad would be this idealization of what the experience will/should be that results in disappointment or feelings of failure when the experience does not match up. The purity culture is telling us not to talk about sex, and then they build it up as this amazing thing (made even more enticing by being so taboo), and reality is for some people it’s really difficult for it to be amazing, and for everyone else constant amazing-ness is just not realistic!

    This makes me think of birth control which is a related but different topic. Many young girls are married off with absolutely no idea of what birth control is or how helpful it can be. Combined with a culture that doesn’t even talk about sex, the system easily becomes quite misogynistic. Women can’t talk about what’s going to happen to their bodies and they are not allowed to learn about tools that can give them some empowerment. Also the brainwashing idea of “letting God plan your family” creates even more shame and possibly makes women mothers of more kids than they actually want, even if they think it’s what they want. I’m curious to know how you came around to being morally OK with using birth control because if you were raised at all like me, I’m sure you were steeped in the “quiverfull” mentality which demonizes birth control as the next best thing to murder. (ironically, all the so-called “pro-life” people should be the ones leading the charge when it comes to promoting birth control…it’s the first defense against unwanted pregnancies and abortion!!) I currently don’t need to use birth control but am starting to consider my options for the future. Thankfully I have plenty of girlfriends who talk about theirs so I have a good starting point but it’s still a very confusing thing to have to navigate because of so many options and all the different ways your body can react. Another reason to make sex a normal conversation topic!

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    • Bailey Steger

      So many great points! For me, I don’t use hormonal birth control for health reasons (a personal health choice, not a moral choice), but we use barrier methods. I was pro-NFP until I discovered how unpredictable and unreliable it can be, which led to me reexamining my beliefs about birth control. Basically, it came down to whether I thought it was moral or immoral to use any interference in planning my family. I’m of the mindset that it’s perfectly acceptable to plan one’s family using moral, healthy means for legitimate reasons, while accepting any surprise children as a blessing. My mentor taught me that it’s about the mindset of responsibility and openness to life, not the method. So I’m 100% supportive of women exploring and choosing the best BC/barrier/NFP options for themselves!

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  3. Ruxee

    Honestly, it was a very, very good thing for us too.
    I had my fears (lots of them) about sex, and I was very shy with my body, so I needed “the conversation”. I think we started talking about sex quite a few months before the wedding and it helped me immensely on our wedding night that I knew what our expectations were, I felt accepted and it was all fun and enjoyable. So I would recommend any young couple to talk about intimacy with each other and with an older couple, to us it was definitely a win.
    And you are so right, the more we talked about it, and opened up about everything, the easier it was to keep our sex drives in control.

    Thanks for another great post!

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  4. Kristin H.

    Thank you for posting this! I’m not married or engaged, but I did start dating someone at the beginning of the year. So even though it’s not an issue for me yet, I’ve thought about this before…I’ve never been able to imagine that going into marriage completely ignorant about sex could be a good thing! I grew up in the purity culture, too, though maybe not to the extreme extent that a lot of girls did. But personally, it’s even been an adjustment for me to not feel awkward about taking his hand or hugging or sitting close, ha! All of those purity books and years of teen class lectures of “no touching at all!” were more engrained in my mind than I realized, I guess, even though I care about him and want to show him physical affection. There has to be some kind of middle ground!

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    • Bailey Steger

      Yes! Erich was blown away about how awkward I was about showing any sort of physical affection: “You’re so homeschooled,” was the conclusion he came to. ;) I agree — I’m interested in having conversations about a middle ground on physical affection during the dating/engaged years!

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  5. Hannah B.

    I was told, shortly before the wedding, “It will hurt the first time.” Oh my gosh, my husband and I spent so much time on Google, trying not to panic. IT HURT WORSE THAN ANYTHING FOR TWO ENTIRE WEEKS, and now I just look back at my past self and scream, “Use lubrication!”

    My ignorance of my own anatomy was appalling, I had no education about cycles and fertility other than the bare minimum, period stuff. I didn’t know what a condom was.
    The first time my fiance and I even mentioned sex was in the car, driving away from our wedding. “Sooo…neither of us has mentioned sex yet.” “Well. Looks like you just did.”

    I just learned that my BROTHER was at least given a book with diagrams the night before his wedding. Because he’s a man. -_-

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  6. WorkingMama

    Excellent article and topic.

    On a related note, I would say that one of the best decisions I ever made was to go ahead and kiss my husband while we were engaged, even though I had previously thought that we should wait until the “I do’s” to share our first kiss.

    It meant a lot to me that before I decided to kiss him, he respected my boundaries, and it meant a lot to him that I took the initiative to finally kiss him (a month into our engagement), just because I loved him and I wanted to. But perhaps even more importantly, it helped me to feel safe and comfortable with him on our honeymoon.

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