Whenever I talk with couples that are dating or engaged, at some point sex and intimacy will come up. When Katie and I do premarital counseling, there are 5 things a couple must agree to for me to do their wedding. One of them is that they won’t have sex from that point forward until their wedding night. Regardless of their background, regardless if they live together, regardless of where they are on their journey with Jesus.
Depending on the situation, this brings with it an interesting follow-up conversation. Many couples don’t care, they’ve already chosen to wait and have stayed with that commitment. Some are excited because while they’ve wanted to wait, the lack of accountability has made it difficult and they’ve fallen back into patterns they wanted to move away from. Others are frustrated because they don’t see a problem with sex outside of marriage.
I remember once talking with a couple who lived together. They weren’t followers of Jesus and he asked me if this was simply a way for me to put my morals onto other people. It was a fair question. Pastors are often guilty of thinking of ways simply to make people behave more godly without changing their hearts.
I told him that was not the point of this. Here’s why we ask couples to do this and what I told him:
The bible does tell us to save sex for marriage (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21;Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7). The Bible promotes complete abstinence before marriage. Sex between a husband and his wife is the only form of sexual relations of which God approves (Hebrews 13:4).
Sex doesn’t equal intimacy. Many in our culture think they are being intimate simply by having sex. For men, when we think of intimacy, sex is what we think of. Intimacy is much bigger than that. It involves sex, but involves be open and honest with another person, trusting them completely, not hiding from them. Willing to share our lives, our dreams, our hopes, our failures, our hurts, and pain with that person. Far too many couples think we had sex, so we must be in love. As soon as sex enters a relationship, it changes drastically. By abstaining from sex before marriage, they are able to broaden intimacy in their relationship in other ways, ways that are non-sexual.
There are seasons in marriage where sex is not an option. Whether that is traveling for a job, health, children, pregnancy, time or energy. Abstaining from sex before marriage helps a couple to prepare for these moments and for the couple to learn they can trust the other. Is a man or woman able to control themselves when they aren’t having as much sex or intimacy as they’d like.
It builds trust. On some level, usually for women, having sex outside of marriage is a trust issue. For men, sex is mostly physical, but for women it is mostly emotional. It involves trusting the other person. Making a commitment to abstain from sex and keeping that commitment goes a long way of building trust for a couple.
There are other reasons, but these are the top ones. After doing weddings for 7 years for numerous couples who have made this commitment and kept it, I’ve yet to have a couple tell me it was a waste of time or be angry that they made it. In fact, I’ve had almost every couple tell me this was one of the most beneficial things for them in their premarital counseling.
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In honor of preaching on the topic of marriage at Revolution this past Saturday and this coming Saturday, I thought I’d repost some of the more helpful things I’ve written on the topics of marriage, dating, sexuality, roles, communication and others topics related to marriage.
Here’s a list I put together on 15 ways to improve your marriage (in no particular order):
Deal with all your junk right away. Everyone brings baggage into a marriage and some couples work through as much as possible as fast as possible and others don’t. I think when a couple has been married for 2 – 3 years, you can tell if they have worked on their baggage.
Understand your roles and live in them. Too many couples think they can have a roleless marriage and it will work. The Bible clearly lays out roles, what a husband is and what a wife is. Too many wives do what their husbands are supposed to do which lead to men doing nothing.
Be intimate, a lot. It’s no coincidence that every marriage book, every couple who says they are happy, all say they are intimate, a lot. 1 in 5 couples have what is called a sexless marriage (less than 10 times a year). The average for a married couple is 1 – 2 times every 10 days. Wonder why couples aren’t happy? Those stats are a place to start.
Date night. I’m stunned at the amount of couples who do not have a regularly scheduled date night. I won’t go into much detail here because I just blogged about this the other day (you can read that here). Bottom line, you need a weekly date night, every week, protect it with your life and make it a priority and make it happen.
Your relationship is more important than any other relationship (except God). Too many couples make their jobs, parents, friends and kids more important than their marriages. Guess what? A day is coming when it will just be you and your spouse. Make that relationship the most important.
Pray together. This is a great way to connect, especially at the end of a long day. It is a great way to thank your spouse for things out loud. This is especially good if you had a long day or a huge fight at night. This is something EVERY couple should do everyday.
Play together. Admittedly, this might be more of a man need, but do fun things together. If you are both into football, go to a game. Go shopping. Play golf or tennis. Run together. Do something fun that is just the two of you.
Find a mentor. Every couple should have a mentor. From the time of our engagement, we have had other couples speaking into our marriage. They have helped us get to where we are right now.
Put the other person first. One thing marriage brings out is how selfish we are. All over the scriptures when it talks about marriage, it talks about serving each other. If you make it your goal to outserve the other person, you will win at marriage.
Decide that you will stay married even if it kills you (and it probably will). This may sound obvious, but even though couples don’t get married planning to get divorced, so many couples are willing to call it quits really quickly. If you are going to work through all your junk (see #1), you will need the confidence that no matter what, this thing will make it to the end. If you decide to stay married even if it kills you, you can really do anything and get through anything. It will be hard, but deciding this ahead of time will go a long way.
No secrets. It is amazing to me the amount of couples who keep secrets from their spouse. I have had men tell me something and then say, “Don’t tell my wife.” Uh, if you don’t, I will. No wonder marriages implode, they don’t trust each other.
Work out of your gifting. While there are specific roles for men and women in marriage (#2), there are many things in marriage that it doesn’t matter who does them. Things like finances. Some are gifted at it, others aren’t. Do the things you are good at, let your spouse do what they are good at.
Men, lead. This has to do with roles (#2), but too many men do not lead and take initiative in their marriages and consequently, their marriages suffer. Men are called to take initiative, to lead with a servant heart, to passionately pastor their wives and kids. With Jesus as our model, this is something that will save you a lot of heartache.
Stay pure. This is not just for men. This is not just a physical thing. It is an all encompassing thing. Are you physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, mentally attached to someone you are not married to? Your spouse is the person who should meet these needs more than any other person.
Boundaries. Because of what I do, Katie and I have put into place some specific boundaries (you can read about those here). The point is, you must protect yourself, your heart and the purity of your marriage. It is hard to commit adultery if you don’t put yourself in the position to commit adultery.
What did I miss? What would you add as a way to improve your marriage.