Love, Sex

Christians, Sex Before Marriage May Improve Your Future Relationship (Here’s Why)

Photo: Unsplash 
What Does The Bible Say About Sex Before Marriage Or Premarital Intimacy For Christians

What does the Bible say about sex before marriage and premarital intimacy?

Sex before marriage may be one of the most difficult and confusing topics for a Christian.

Although sexual acts are an everyday part of music videos, movies, and conversations among almost every group of friends, Christianity teaches that having sex without marriage is dirty and impure.

As a Christian and a psychologist, I see people struggling with this all the time in their married life.

RELATED: Can Christians Marry Non-Christians And Other Questions Singles Ask When Dating Challenges Their Faith

I didn’t become a Christian until I was 29 years old so I grew up with different ideas about sexuality. I lost my virginity at 15 to my high school boyfriend, with whom I was in love. But, like so many young relationships, it didn't last. I had many boyfriends after him and many sexual encounters.

When it comes to the teachings about sexual intercourse, I’m grateful I didn’t become a Christian until I was already an adult — and someone who was already married with a child, for that matter. I didn’t have to face the guilt and shame that is so pervasive on this topic.

My parents raised me to value sex and treat it with respect. I remember, specifically, as a young teenager, having a conversation with my mom about it. She encouraged me to wait until I was in love. I did and I’m glad I did.

However, most Christians who are raised in the church are taught to wait to have sex until they marry. Some won't even touch or kiss their partner until the wedding day. They believe their marriage will be blessed if they can follow God’s desire for them.

If this is the case, why do I have so many married couples sitting in my office who did it "right" but still have a horrible sexual relationship?

It's not easy to do a complete 180-degree turn, from thinking sexual contact is shameful and sinful to something beautiful. These couples were forced to shut down their sexual desires and urges for years due to the fear of feeling dirty and guilty.

By the time the wedding night arrives, they're horribly conflicted and don't really have any idea how to have good sex.

Sexual desires may have been given to us by God, but it's a challenge to tap into them after years of repression. Couples think they can suddenly start swinging from the chandeliers but it doesn't work like that.

Many of the struggling couples I work with don't even know their own bodies. Childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood is a developmental sequence for a lot of things, including learning how you like to be touched.

Self-touch, masturbation, and experimentation alone or with others is a normal and natural part of human sexual development. But, biblically speaking, this would all be a sin. That just doesn’t sit right with me.

It seems cruel of God to wire us with these urges and desires and then instruct us to suppress them. It’s like waving candy in front of a baby!

I do not believe God is cruel. I believe He is love.

Two thousand years ago, young girls were married off at 13-years old. They could wait to have sex until they were married. I would have succeeded in being pure before marriage if I was born over two thousand years ago.

Times are different. In fact, one study found that 80 percent of unmarried evangelical Christians engage in pre-marital sex. Interestingly, the same study found the divorce rate is higher among evangelical Christians than non-religious couples.

Why? Based on what I've seen in my practice, the answer is shame. People are ashamed of their natural, God-given sexual desires.

Waiting to have sex until marriage can be valuable as it can protect the mind and body from deep heartache. For women, especially (and some men, too), there is an attachment that occurs when sexual intimacy takes place.

RELATED: What Is Celibacy & Why Christians Should Abstain From Sex Before Marriage, According To The Bible

If the relationship ends for unwanted reasons, it is natural to experience a very deep pain as the attachment is lost. The church teaches that having sex is like giving a part of yourself away. That is true and makes ending relationships and sexual connections very painful.

But, I view giving parts of yourself away as empowering, not victimizing.

If I choose to have sex with someone, then I am empowered to connect to that person. If it doesn’t work out, then that will probably be painful and sad.

But, it was my choice to have that experience and I can choose to learn from it. That part was given and now I take it back. It is still mine that I — or you — can choose to do with what you feel is best for you.

God’s desire in abstaining is for our own good. He is a loving God and cares deeply for our hearts. However, I have a hard time standing behind the use of shame and condemnation to teach a loving message, no matter what the message is.

Sexual exploration and intimacy need to be an empowered decision, one that comes from a place of security and maturity. If sex is being used to fill a need or some insecurity, then sex will probably be a damaging experience.

I'm not encouraging sex outside of marriage, but I do encourage my clients to be honest with themselves.

You can talk to God about this as He desires to have this open communication with you. He will guide you and lead you according to His love and grace without any shame or condemnation. Ask yourself and talk to God about why you want to have sex.

What are the potential positive or negative consequences? Is the desire coming from a mature and healthy place or is it a wound that needs healing? Is it an insecurity that needs assurance?

If so, then you are vulnerable to deep pain.

Not all sex outside of marriage has to be damaging, despite what the church teaches.

Sex outside of marriage can be a learning experience. It can be gratifying, pleasurable, fun and exhilarating. It can be a healthy release that promotes a wide variety of positive mental and physical effects. In fact, the health benefits of sex include a boost in your well-being and physical health.

Sex is a gift from God. It is something to be treasured and nurtured. But it can look very different for different people. That's why it is a personal decision between you and God.

It's a decision you and your partner should feel empowered to make.

RELATED: What Is The Biblical Definition Of A Christian Marriage, According To Scripture

Lesley Goth has been in private practice since 2004 as a clinical psychologist. She is an expert in the field of Trauma, Anxiety, Depression, and Couples counseling.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.