Fonticulus Fides

Friday, July 27, 2007

“Nobody does that any more.”

When my husband and I were dating and later engaged, we were attending an evangelical church and volunteering as youth workers. We’d each had to sign a paper stating that we’d uphold strict morals, which included no drinking, no tobacco, no “recreational” drugs and no sex before marriage.

As we fell in love and marriage was imminent, it became more and more difficult for us to refrain from sex. On more than one occasion, we got very, very close, but our commitment to God and to the belief that sex outside of marriage kept us from making what we believed would be a serious mistake.

Twice this week, we’ve been told “Nobody does that any more” – meaning, I guess, that all couples have sex before marriage nowadays.

It wasn’t like I was a virgin when my husband and I were dating. I’d been raised by atheists. My parents expected me to have sex before marriage. They didn’t offer any advice or any help in getting birth control or anything like that, but they certainly expected me to have sex as a teenager. I managed to hold out until I was 18 and in college – longer than any of my siblings – but I had no reason for waiting until marriage. It never occurred to me to wait until marriage – I just waited until I thought I was ready.

I had a handful of sexual partners over the years – not too many, as I was a “serial monogamous” and I had several longish relationships. But there was a lot of heartache and pain in those years.

When I became a Christian at age 24, nearly 25, my first thought was that I had no intention of giving up sex for Jesus. I honestly didn’t think that I could uphold that kind of lifestyle – let alone find a guy who would understand that concept. It was 1989, after all.

I guess the Lord kind of took care of that for me, because nobody asked me out on a date for years after I became a Christian. I didn’t even know how to find single Christian guys my age who might want to date me. At my church, guys my age were either married or engaged for the most part, and the younger men wouldn’t want a woman with so much experience, if you know what I mean.

After many months of not dating anybody, I got fixed up with Pete, a non-Christian man. We had a nice first date, and I found myself feeling really weird about being physically close to him. I did kiss him good-night, but that was it. He called a few days later just as my friends and I were starting a game of charades (yes, charades and yes, I know how lame that is but it’s one of the few forms of fun we were allowed). I invited him over, but I could tell he was taken aback by the idea of a bunch of young adults playing charades without any beer at all to make it go down easier.

On our second date, Pete asked me point blank if I would ever sleep with him before marriage. I said I wouldn’t – wanting to be true to the Christian concept of proper sexual activity. I had become committed to celibacy before marriage a little bit at a time, without even knowing it, until I was faced with the choice and made it once and for all.

That was it for him. He was nice about it and he apologized, but he said he needed to know he was compatible with a woman sexually or he couldn’t possibly marry her.

I hear that a lot from people. But is it really necessary? I mean, we don’t make our boyfriends/girlfriends have children and prove their parenting ability before marriage. Do we really need to prove sexual compatibility before marriage?

I knew my husband-to-be would be a good father because of the way he interacted with kids and youth at church and because of the way he interacted with his family. This was important to me, having grown up with a very uninvolved father. And though I had to base my judgment on these simple observations, I have not been disappointed. He is everything I thought he was going to be as a father.

In the same way, I had no doubt my husband would be a good lover because of the way he kissed me and held me and touched my hair or whatever. I knew he would be selfless and considerate specifically because he was willing to set aside his own desire for sexual fulfillment until we were married and it was right. More importantly, that self-denial taught me that he would be absolutely faithful to our marriage in the face of the greatest temptation. I know, because I know how tempted we were when we were engaged.

He would say to me, “I love you so much, and I believe in marriage so much, I’m not going to sleep with anybody outside of our marriage, including you!”

I don’t consider that self-denial that we shared during those passionate months of longing before our wedding to be a burden. I know them to be a gift, one of the greatest gifts my husband ever gave me.

I want my kids to have that same gift, and to give that same gift to their future spouses someday. But will it even be possible if society at large says, “Nobody does that any more?”

I have heard that the church my husband and I met and married in no longer instructs couples to refrain from sex before marriage. They don’t consider it a sin any more. I know a lot of Catholic parishes are the same, basically winking at premarital sex and encouraging couples to marry sooner, rather than later, to “correct” the situation.

I’m not a naïve person. I had premarital sex and found it wanting. I chose celibacy before marriage after that and I know how hard it is to resist temptation. But that’s why I found it to be a glorious gift.

Hardly anybody refrained from premarital sex when I was in high school and college and certainly in the early 1990s when my husband and I were dating, but so what? It’s still possible. Only, we have to tell our children that it’s possible and even desirable to wait until marriage. If everybody says, “Nobody does that any more,” but their dad and I, will they even believe us?

I don’t have an answer. I hear myself thinking, “What’s the point? Give up and focus on teaching them to have the safest sex possible” sometimes – just like secular society, I guess. But I don’t want to give up on my children without a fight.

They’re still little – almost 8, just turned 5, 3-and-a-half. But I worry about it now because I know now is the time to teach them the self-discipline they will need. Now is the time to teach them the value of self-sacrifice, even sacrificing what everybody around them says is good. Now is the time to train them to judge their actions not by what everybody else is doing, but by what God says is good and holy.

Is it hypocritical for me to want my kids to abstain from premarital sex when I indulged in it myself? No, not at all. When I was having premarital sex, I had no moral compass. I had no way of knowing it wasn’t good or healthy, either for my physical body, my partner or my relationships. It was a mistake for me to do it, and I hope they will learn from my mistakes and avoid falling into the same misfortunes.

I just want better for my kids, that’s all.


P.S. For the record, I don't feel that people who do have premarital sex are automatically condemned to hell or anything. When I learn of it, I am saddened and sincerely wish that the couple had been given some reason to refrain, but I certainly understand the immense pressure to accept premarital sex as normal and natural. And I know that most people don't realize the merit in giving up what is "normal and natural" for a particular reason (to serve God, to prove fidelity to your future spouse, etc).


  • Dawn Eden's book is a great resource I think.

    By Blogger alicia, at 9:48 PM  

  • Hi, Sparky.

    We did pretty much the same as you. Only difference is that I am Catholic and my husband is "Agnostic". He was willing to give up a pleasure he had enjoyed previously and to abide by "my" rules because he loved (loves) me. I was willing to give up a pleasure I had enjoyed for ten years prior, because I loved (love) him, and God.

    We are happily married for 3 years and are now proud parents. We are solid, and none of our spats ever threaten our union. I believe we truly will beat the odds with God's help. Our commitment to each other is unquestioned. My commitment to God continues, and I always pray for it to be conferred upon my family by my God-given spousal/parental privelege. Our future, though a struggle, does look bright.

    Nobody does that anymore? Blarney. We did.

    Congratulations to you.

    -The Acrophile (and family).

    By Blogger The, at 3:41 PM  

  • Great post, Sparki. Thank you for sharing that with the rest of us. And I second the recommendation on Dawn Eden's book, and her writing generally. I'll have to stop by here more often.

    By Blogger Patrick O'Hannigan, at 3:12 PM  

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