A worry I have is that if I ever get married, my wedding night will be a disaster. Even when I’m past sexual sin and my husband knows all about it, I’m afraid that at the age of 20, I’ve already lost a part of me. I have seen countless stories of women who didn’t have a “normal” wedding night because their past sexual sin had changed their mind/how their body reacted.
I’m kicking off a new ‘series’ here on the blog. I am getting more and more e-mails and instead of answering them one-by-one (which I would love to do but don’t practically have time to do) I’m going to start answering them here on the blog. I’ve called the series “Questions Girls Ask” in hopes that, as this platform expands, I will be able to add series like “Questions Parents Ask” or “Questions Pastors Ask.” The above is an e-mail I received from a 20-year-old reader.
It’s e-mails like that that make me so passionate about what I do. It may seem short, but there’s a lot going on under the surface. It’s heavy. It’s weighted. And it so clearly demonstrates why we have to be careful with how we address sexual sin and why we have to go out of our way to extend grace.
This e-mail is full of fear, shame, and fear of judgment, and that’s not freedom. Here’s my response:
Let me say, as a Christian woman and a 30 year-old virgin, I understand your fear. Years ago, it haunted me. I was convinced that my past with pornography and masturbation was going to completely destroy any future marriage, starting with the wedding night. I envisioned this night filled with tension and frustration as my future husband blamed things I did on pornography. Something would go wrong or I would do something and he would say, “That’s because you are a freak and were into porn.”
What if I wasn’t turned on by him? What if he wasn’t turned on by me? What if I did it wrong!?
It was tough. I would go to friends’ weddings and imagine their wedding nights (not in extreme detail) as these beautiful, sweet, passionately perfect times. Mine, I was convinced, would be completely opposite. I had already ruined it.
What changed my mind? Well, I started talking to my friends about their wedding nights (Oh yes, I did. It’s dangerous being my friend). I learned something in that ‘research.’
The normal (aka. perfect) wedding night doesn’t exist.
Grasping that truth will set you free from a lot of fear, shame, and worry.
The Christian Wedding Night Myth
There was (and still is) a tactic employed by much of the so-called “purity culture” that says:
Save sex for marriage and your wedding night will be perfect.
I can name a handful of purity books that emphasize the perfect wedding night as motivation for staying abstinent before marriage. They present ridiculous standards like simultaneous orgasm with step-by-step instructions on how to each such ‘success.’ Alternatively, they threaten that past lovers will lurk in your room or stand beside you at the altar or that past sins will pile up on your marriage bed like bags of rotting trash.
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
It’s terrifying, and leaves women with sexual pasts wondering if they’ll ever have a ‘normal’ sexual future. But here’s something you need to know:
There is no ‘normal’ wedding night
I’m not sure what stories you heard from your friends, but it’s likely that the ‘normal’ wedding night you are picturing in your mind doesn’t actually exist. For anyone.
Virgin or not. Talk to your friends who don’t have sexual pasts and see if they had textbook wedding nights and the answer will probably be no.
I have friends who went to the ER on their wedding nights with severe UTIs. Another friend cried most of her honeymoon because she felt she was doing it wrong. Some women find sex painful; in some cases extremely painful.
It’s normal for the guy to finish early (one said he didn’t know of his guy friends lasting more than a minute on their wedding nights). It’s normal for the woman not to reach orgasm the first time.
It’s normal for things to be awkward. It’s normal for you to be completely exhausted (because weddings are stressful).
That’s what a ‘normal’ wedding night looks like. It’s possibly passionate, probably exhausted, definitely awkward, a little bit clumsy, possibly painful, and positively nothing like you planned. And yet, by all accounts worth the wait. Welcome to the real normal.
What is not normal is a passionate, perfectly-scripted, 3-hour love session a la Twilight.
The advice my panel of married friends gave was simply not to have plans. Yes, discuss expectations (is it ok if we nap before? would you like to take off my dress? etc), but the only place there is a script for sex is in the movies.
Sheila Wray Gregoire is a Canadian author who writes about sex- a lot. She has entire posts devoted to the wedding night including one entitled “Wedding Night Disasters.” Reading the comments will quickly lay ruin to any preconceived notion of a ‘perfect wedding night.’ In the post, Sheila says,
I think too often in the Christian church we romanticize the wedding night a little too much… Personally, I had a horrible wedding night. I was so stressed to do everything right that I totally tensed up. And I felt like a total failure. I would have been much better off if the wedding night hadn’t been such a big deal.
A sexual past does NOT equal disaster
Why does that matter for you? Well, it matters because the standard you have in your mind as a ‘normal’ wedding night is likely not even achievable by the most chaste and knowledgeable person out there. It simply doesn’t look like the movies- and that’s ok.
A sexual past does not destroy your wedding night. It doesn’t leave bags of rotting trash on your bed and doesn’t invite seedy lovers into your room to watch. That’s all ridiculous and flies in the face of everything we believe about hope, redemption, freedom, and grace.
Ultimately, that’s the issue here- the shame. You are putting future consequences on forgiven choices. It’s like you can’t heal and move on and grow because you feel like you haven’t finished your ‘punishment’ yet. That’s not grace. At all.
What would be the point of grace if it didn’t change the story? What would be the point of grace if it didn’t redeem ‘disastrous’ wedding nights?
Will it still be awkward? Sure. Because it’s the first time you’re doing something together. You both could have previous sexual experience, even sexual partners and that doesn’t mean you’ll know how to have sex with each other. It’s day 1- and we all know that day 1 (of school, of a new job, in a new church, wherever) is always a little clunky and awkward. Sex isn’t an exception to that.
Could your sexual past cause some extra hurdles in intimacy in your marriage? Yes. But honestly, we all have baggage and pasts that we bring with us into all of our relationships. Part of the relationship is learning to work through that together.
You are already well on your way to that when you say that your husband will know. You already plan on being honest with him and bringing him into that area in your life- letting him know of your struggles. Besides growing in freedom and healing in your own life, being honest with him is one of the most important decisions you can make.
I have found, from the experience of my readers, that secrecy kills intimacy far more than sexual pasts do.
Your wedding night won’t be perfect, and that’s ok. It’s Day 1 of your marriage. Lord willing, you’ll have years to figure it out. Extend yourself some grace, don’t fret about a standard that doesn’t exist, and purpose to keep the lines of communication open whenever that time comes.
Have a question you’d like to see answered? Contact me.
Recommended Reading for new brides/ brides to be: The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex by Sheila Wray Gregoire7