I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to post on this topic, as SO MANY people have weighed in already… but given my story, I feel like I have a pretty unique perspective on the matter… and if only one person reads it, it’s worth my time to write it all out. So, here goes.
A woman wrote a few months ago that she waited for marriage and wished she hadn’t… And it went viral. It’s tragic, for so many reasons… first, that she has found herself unable to enjoy marital intimacy, and second, that she chose to share with the world a post that has undoubtedly changed the hearts and minds of young girls who might have otherwise done the same (and not regretted it). I can understand the reasoning in some ways, but I mostly just hurt for her… She waited. She assumes it would have been easier or better somehow if she hadn’t. The thing is, though, that she doesn’t know whether it would have been better. I do. I know what it’s like not to wait. I know the hurt, the ick, the expectation that not waiting can bring. But I also know what it’s like to wait. I know how it feels to date a man and, through temptation after temptation, keep yourself chaste and just. wait. So with that unique perspective in mind, let me tell you … why wait?
The first time I remember thinking about sex and what I thought about it, I was 12 or 13. I was talking with a friend who said she had lost her virginity a few months prior because she had been raped. I was so sad for her. She felt that this was going to define her life and that her purity was gone and it didn’t matter what she did anymore. I cried for her. Because we were friends I told her that it didn’t have to change things for her.. that it was sad, and awful, and I was so sorry, but that she could move on and it didn’t have to change who she was. I had already decided for myself before that point that I didn’t want to have sex until I was married. It wasn’t because of my youth group — I didn’t have one. It wasn’t because of my parents — they themselves were never married. It wasn’t because I was passionate about Christ or because I wanted to honor God or anything like that… it was honestly probably because of logistics… I didn’t want to share something that had to be seriously intimate (and, in the mind of a 12 year old, inevitably gross) with more than one person. I saw my purity and my virginity as a gift, and it was the only thing in the wide world that was mine to keep and give to whomever I wanted.
I don’t know if it would have helped or not, but I never made a True Love Waits commitment or wore a promise ring. But at 14, when my boyfriend made suggestive conversation about things we *could* do, I resisted.. but eventually caved. In retrospect, I think it was a combination of naïveté and fear. A part of me thought this could be the easy way out. We had talked about marriage, and what if he was the one? Maybe this is the way I could ‘seal the deal,’ and we really would be together forever, and I’d never have to deal with the hassle of picking a husband or being single or whatever. Yeah, I was definitely naïve.
Unfortunately, the fear I felt wasn’t invalid. He did leave – not because I wouldn’t do what he wanted but in spite of it. After a few months of a relationship that revolved around sexuality on a level that I am, even now, very uncomfortable with, he began seeing other girls. Not behind my back – I was fully aware, but they weren’t. I was afraid to leave at this point because I had given such a huge part of me to this person and I couldn’t just leave that chunk of me behind. My parents, wisely, did everything they could to pry me from him, up to and including moving me about 200 miles away from him. And that worked, in a way. On our one year anniversary, he broke up with me because he ‘couldn’t handle a long distance relationship.’ Unfortunately, when I found myself living locally again six months later, the abuse continued, and I continued to allow it.
I finally began falling for another boy as a new school year began. He was a virgin, and I remember thinking that was cute. At this point, sex had become, in my mind, a weapon; it was power. It’s frightening to look back on, actually. It did feel empowering once or twice, until that weapon was turned on me and I found myself once again at the wrong end of this incredible, soul-crushing power. Once again, my boyfriend began seeking other mates while I bowed to his every whim until eventually, I walked away.
My senior year was about the same, only the boy was cuter, and the abuse was exponentially worse. Everyone could see it but me, as it always happens, and before I fully understood the extent of the abuse I was enduring, I found myself pregnant as a freshman in college, by a boy I couldn’t imagine having to spend forever with.
What you have to understand is that there was a large part of me that entered each of these relationships fully believing that I could marry this guy. The relationships began and these guys exhibited marryable traits. They all went to church and were fairly active in their youth groups. They pulled out chairs and opened doors. They didn’t dress like thugs. Each of them was actually in our high school ROTC program, which required a level of discipline and poise that you wouldn’t expect from the ‘average teenage boy.’ These weren’t the bad boys — they were the good guys. But sex. changes. everything.
I’d like to say having a baby helped me get my head screwed on right, but it didn’t. I still hoped, in a way, that sex could somehow lead to marriage — it always worked in sitcoms, after all! I endured a couple more ’empowering’ situations with other boys before deciding that this wasn’t going where I wanted it to. I remember driving home from my boyfriend’s house one night and it finally hit me — sex is bigger than me or this boy. It’s bigger than an activity that you do together. It’s an emotional and spiritual giant and it can and will swallow you. It was there in the driver’s seat of my car on Hwy 80 that I realized why sex is meant to happen only within marriage.
I don’t know how pertinent it is to the story, but it was a few months later that God shook up my whole world, and I got baptized and actually changed my life. Or I guess, my heart, because I was still a single mom making barely enough to pay for rent, gas and daycare, but it didn’t feel so hopeless anymore. That doesn’t mean I never made a stupid decision about a boy again… but I did feel somehow different about it.
A few months later, I reconnected online with a guy I had met on MySpace a year and a half earlier. He was a Christian – and now I had a way better grip on what that actually meant. I wanted to approach this relationship differently… with conviction. He was a virgin, and I liked that… but this time it was because I hoped it would keep him from trying anything. I hoped it would mean he’d respect me. Something my friend when I was 12 told me that always stuck with me was ‘once you give him more than a simple kiss, you’ll never have his respect again.’ I wanted to be respected. I wanted my feelings to matter – not just about sex but about life and TV shows and the color of my hair and how I dressed and whether I was well and what I was interested in. Any boy who had ever had more of me than a simple kiss soon lost interest in my feelings about any of those things.
Anyway, for some reason, this Christian boy took a chance on me. And to tell the truth it was so hard to stick by our convictions. Once you’ve been there it’s so hard to step backwards, even with a new person. It would be a lie to say we never stumbled or were never tempted, but we fought hard and made it to our wedding night before giving ourselves to one another. And you know what?
It was different.
There wasn’t some magical thing that made it amazing in spite of our inexperience, but the respect, the actual active, even-when-it’s-not-easy love he felt for me, the trust that we had given to each other — that he had earned — in the hard waiting… that made all the difference.
I can tell you, with more experience than I wish I had, that sex is better when you’re married to someone who truly loves you, than it is when you are dating someone who says they love you. It isn’t picture-perfect, it didn’t eliminate the natural process of it all, but it didn’t kill me inside. It still had all the markings of two people who still don’t know everything about one another written all over it, but it felt more like the beginning of a process than an event to get over with.
To anyone who has waited and regretted it, I would say to remember that you have the rest of your lives to practice getting things right, and if one party or the other is unwilling to do so, there is counseling for that. Don’t give up or think that you have to be miserable, because that isn’t what marriage is about. This is part of the ‘for better or for worse’ that you signed up for…
To anyone who hasn’t waited or didn’t wait, there is no condemnation here, but there are always abundant opportunities for redemption. If you have questions about that, comment below and leave an email address and I would be happy to talk more about that.
To anyone who is on the fence, I implore you to wait. Don’t let one girl’s bad experience change your life forever.
To any and all of the above: You are a gift. You are worth waiting for. You are precious. You are pure. You are lovely. Nothing you have done changes any of that. And it’s never too late to start over.
**and, side note: to cut down on first-night awkwardness, I recommend reading books like Sheet Music & The Gift of Sex before your wedding night, and discussing sex with your future spouse, as well as participating in premarital counseling. Sex isn’t wrong, bad, or dirty – it’s complex, intimate, and important. Treating it like it isn’t – one way or the other – is ultimately damaging to everyone involved.**