Expectations About Sex: How do we help young couples get realistic expectations about sex--without UNDERSELLing it or OVERSELLing it?Expectations about sex can seriously affect our enjoyment of marriage.

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up at the bottom with your own marriage posts.

And today I want to share a personal story and then some things I’ve seen on the web that have got me thinking. I’m hoping that we can all have a good discussion about this, because I’m not completely sure what the answer is.

So let me tell you my story for a bit of background.

Before we got married I picked up a Christian book on sex that was written by a guy. It doesn’t matter which one it was; but let’s just say that it made me a nervous wreck. It was all about how to have an orgasm your first time out, and it explained in detail what he was to do (rub this part 213 times, for instance) and what she was to do (basically nothing, just let him touch you in every way imaginable when it’s all brand new), and I just about died.

I read it in the bathtub, which is where I used to do most of my reading, and I was so upset that I drowned the book. I held it under the water until I was sure it was dead, and then I unceremoniously dumped it in the garbage.

I’m not really sure what I was expecting when it came to sex once we got married, but I can tell you that I wasn’t expecting what happened. It hurt, it was awkward, and it was a huge source of tension for us for  years.

We’ve gotten through it, but it was a big letdown.

Good Girls Guide My SiteAnd so, when I wrote The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I was trying to do the opposite of what that book did. I was trying not to say, “this is what you have to do on your wedding night so that it’s amazing” and put so much pressure on nervous brides about what they must do and what they must experience, and just say, “relax, enjoy, and it will get there one day.”

I hope I succeeded. But I’m still not sure the culture and expectations about sex have shifted, and I’m still not sure how to say it in a short, easily understood message.

Then this week I read two articles by friends of mine who blog who looked at this whole question of expectations about sex in two different ways.

“Wait, wait, wait, and it will be great, great, great!”

Julie from Intimacy in Marriage was writing about the 5 lies that Christians believe about sex, and this was one of them. She says:

There are young people who hold up their end of the biblical bargain by maintaining their purity, only to discover on the wedding night that they kind have been duped.

Not by God.

But by other Christians.

I know, the lie wasn’t malicious.  But nothing good comes from painting a sweeping generalization that from the wedding night forward, sex will instantly be amazing.

Yet, that is what we tend to do.

We scream purity from the rooftops, but are conspicuously vague about sex in marriage. We offer up these polished promises that sex as a married couple will be a flawless blend of ease, tenderness, romance and pleasure.

It will look like every romantic chick flick they have ever seen.

Then — in what must feel like a shocking turn of events — many freshly-married couples close the door of the wedding night suite, only to find everything but sexual bliss.

Read the rest here.

Her point is that sometimes we OVERSELL sex.

Will Sex in Marriage Be a Letdown?

Then the OTHER Julie over at Hot, Holy and Humorous was talking about the other side of it–how sometimes in our effort to prepare young people properly we UNDERSELL sex.

A 24-year-old young man asks this question,

I’m a 24-year-old man who is soon to be married and has never had sex (I know a 24-year-old virgin is quite a rarity in American society).

Anyway, I’ve been reading up on many of your articles on this website, and while I understand that in several of them that are geared towards newlyweds you typically give advice like lower expectations and that it won’t be perfect, I am afraid that I’m going to let my future wife down on our wedding night (or the first time we have sex, because I hear sometimes the wedding wears people out to the point where they don’t feel up to it that evening).

I have a few friends who waited until they were married to have sex and they all seem to say the same thing: that it wasn’t worth it to wait and that it wasn’t as big of a deal as everybody made it out to be.

She writes some great advice to get a good perspective (honestly, the post is really well done), and I completely agree with her.

What’s the Middle Ground with Healthy Expectations About Sex?

When we encourage people to wait for marriage for sex, we also need to give them a realistic idea of what they’re waiting for. Here’s what I want people to know:

God made sex to be an incredible experience in your marriage. It’s going to bring you much closer and help you feel much more intimate. It’s physically amazing. It’s simply fun!

But sex is also a skill which takes some work, and so don’t worry if you don’t get the physical bells and whistles right off the bat. You will get the closeness–revel in that, and then relax and enjoy yourselves and the rest will come.

After all, the best years for sex in marriage are years 16-24, so you have a lot to look forward to! Even if it’s not awesome right away, most people definitely get there! And you can speed up that process by reading good books about sex, relaxing, and showing each other grace.

But sex can also be a source of tension if, when expectations and reality collide, we give up trying, or we figure it’s not worth the hassle. So many couples settle–they settle for too little sex, or they settle for it never feeling that good. Don’t settle! If you want the benefits, you have to work.

The work is fun, though!

But the work also involves staying pure. The more you wander into pornography and stuff like that, the more you’ll rob your marriage of real pleasure.

And real pleasure if what God meant for you. So revel in your closeness and have fun, and you will get there!

That’s pretty much the message of  The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and that’s my philosophy.

But does it still sound too negative?

When I shared the first Julie’s post about “wait wait wait” on my Facebook page this week I had some pushback–several people said it was giving Christians a bad name, and they’d never heard these lies in churches before.

Other people jumped all over and said, “that’s what I grew up with!”

And I think that’s what we do grow up with, even if it’s never explicitly said out loud. We try to sell purity so much that we talk up how amazing sex is in marriage, and how awful it is if you don’t have real intimacy, and it’s pretty easy to draw the connection that “this must mean that if I wait it will be great!” And because most leaders don’t like talking about the mechanics of sex, they don’t really venture in to topics that may involve the word “orgasm”, so they don’t really elaborate.

But I worry sometimes that we’re giving too negative an impression, the kind that 24-year-old guy had.

So I’d love to know what you think–how do we talk about expectations about sex in a realistic way, without overselling or underselling it? And which way do you think we tend to go wrong?

Let me know in the comments–and let’s talk!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! If you’re a marriage blogger, link up the URL of a marriage post you like in the linky below. And then be sure to link back here so other people can read these great marriage posts!

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