Q: Waiting Until marriage… kinda?

My (23m) partner (24f) wants to wait until she is married to have sex (anything except to vagina/anal is ok) and I’m ok with this but I want to make sure we are communicating about sex so we aren’t going into our relationship blind. Is there a way we can still figure out if we are sexually compatible without having sex?

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This is a really difficult question to explore, because so much of sex is a journey, a constant unfolding of questions that you’re asking one another. It’s not as though putting your penis inside of her will call out a definite “yes this will work” or “no this will not work.”

It’s the open communication and actually trying things that can help you figure out that chemistry. If we think of it like that, you can definitely figure out a lot of stuff pre-marriage without actually having penetrative sex.

However, you are also missing out on a lot. For some people, that penetrative sex is the key. That’s the thing that really encompasses sex. And because they give it so much meaning, it holds so much meaning. The more meaning you give it, the more meaning it holds. So even if you do have great chemistry together, that first time you have sex after marriage, it can be kind of startling.

I hear this a lot: It was great, it was everything I thought it would be, but at that point I wasn’t quite sure why we waited.

We – and the culture we’re in – wrap up a lot of meaning in sex. And that meaning is absolutely there. It is emotional. It is physical. There are so many factors: romance, well-being, intimacy, understanding of the body and mind. Then there’s a lot of gunk that gets mixed in. Others opinions about romance. Faulty ideas about well-being. Confusion about what intimacy we want or need. Ignorance about the body. The inability to connect body and mind.

My one concern in all of this is that your girlfriend will want to have sex after marriage, but will carry those sex-negative mentalities that many who are abstinent hold. My concern would be that she still views sex as something that influences her self-worth.

Not everyone is like this. Not everyone who waits sees sex this way. But many times, it can be deeply tied to your sense of self. And that’s where you have to be careful.

So here’s what I would suggest. Learn to be sex-positive together. You can be sex-positive without having penetrative sex. Easily. Talk to each other openly and honestly about what you like and don’t like. Read books about sexuality – all kinds of sexuality. Gay, straight, bi, wibbly-wobbly, oral sex, vaginal sex, anal sex, kinky sex, sexual positions, sexual health, anatomical guides, videos, comic books, online blogs, everything. Be consuming machines. And get really good at the things you do like to do together. Whether that’s rubbing against each other, making out, teasing one another, touching, talking to one another, oral sex, fingering, mutual masturbation, you name it. Exist in a space together where the sex you are having is good, positive, healthy, we-love-sex kinda sex.

And be clear about why it is you’re holding on to that penetrative sex. Be clear why it is you’re waiting. And acknowledge truly and openly that when you do have sex together it will be special because it’s special. Not more or less than that.

Beware of warning signs as you’re intimate with one another. Can you communicate cleanly and easily? Do you struggle, but gain progress? Do you feel comfortable talking to your partner about sex? Are there compromises? Do you both respect each others feelings? Do you both feel satisfied? When you’re with one another, does it feel sexual? Does it feel sensual? Do you throughly enjoy the time you spend with one another?

These are questions that you might find you ask continuously throughout your relationship, married or un-married. Sometimes the answer will be no, and thats when you need to ask harder questions. Is this someone I want to be with? Is this someone I want to work with sexually, intimately, romantically? Do we equally want to invest in each other?

While I phrase the extent of this post around a heteronormative relationship (the penis, the vagina, the great and majestical “virginity”) this same mentality can easily be shared with same-sex couples as well. All that matters is what we perceive to be sex. Those boundaries that we create for ourselves.

It is helpful exploring sex before marriage because you can lay these foundations. You can lay that ground work together and grow that little triangle of your relationship pie. You can see what it means to be sexual with that person – and you can see if that person is going to want to and be able to work with you to a mutually satisfying end.

Do you have a question about sex or love? Submit at the top by hitting ask advice and I’ll answer it on my blog.

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