So, this is my very, very humble attempt to do something a little different. I just want to share my heart with you. Mostly due to grace, my husband and I were virgins at the altar, and though we weren't nervous, there were still plenty of things that prepared us along the way and that we found out at the beginning of our marriage, things that I hope help you in whatever small way I can offer.
Pray. Maybe this is an obvious one, but really bring your wedding night to prayer, especially if you're feeling shy or apprehensive. Ask the Lord to cast out your fear. Ask Him to bring parts of your heart to light that might need healing or re-orienting. It's different for everyone, but when I consider it, the thing that brought me completely joyful anticipation and no fear at all was studying John Paul II's Theology Of the Body. Some of the late, great Pope's basic ideas are these: our sexuality is who we are and how we are created as men and women, and the fall caused the disordered view of sex that has caused some so much heartache. But, when we strive to love purely, holding nothing back and desiring nothing but to revere, not to use, the other person, we can get back a piece of the Garden as it was meant to be. No shame. Married love is only a tiny image of the amazing divine love of the Trinity. Incredible, isn't it? This only scratches the surface, and there are plenty of resources out there that explain TOB far better than I can (Christopher West and Jason and Crystalina Evert have some wonderful books on it). I really have come to believe that viewing marriage and love through this lens has tremendous power to heal many wounds and to help one approach sex with joy and trembling, in the best way.
But, don't take yourselves too seriously. All of the prayer and the theological stuff is wonderful, but it's seriously okay if that's not what's running through your head every second--I mean, it's your wedding night! What I'm trying to say is that there's definitely a "head" aspect of sex that sees the bigger divine picture. It's certainly noble and worth contemplating, but don't forget that there's the "heart" aspect, too--the more earthly, sensory, and emotional experience. That's such a good thing! Just because we're not in Heaven yet doesn't mean that our time on Earth should be joyless. God created sex, and if everything of Him is inherently good, then of course sex is good. The body is good. Pleasure is good. Enjoy each other's beauty! He rejoices in a husband and wife delighting in one another, so don't put too much pressure on yourself to see your first night together as just singing choirs and flapping angel wings. Yes; a spiritual reality is taking place, but remember to find a balance so you can be present in the earthly one, too.
Be patient with each other. Just like it takes time to build emotional, spiritual, and physical intimacy at the beginning of your relationship, it also takes time, we discovered, to adjust to sexual intimacy. It makes so much sense to me in hindsight. Magazines and the culture can make it seem like if you're attracted to each other, then--bam!--your sex life will instantly be blissfully simple and complication-free. We've learned that it's so important, though, to talk honestly as you learn one another in a new way. In my opinion, vulnerability and honest communication are what simplify things, and the natural attraction you already feel will follow. It's okay, and good, in fact, to talk about what feels good, what you like, what hurts or isn't comfortable, and even what turns you on (physically or otherwise). Honesty is sexy, right?
Try not to view sex in terms of rules. Someone told me she felt really strange going from being unmarried one day, when abstinence is a priority, to being married the next, when it's suddenly not. I can definitely understand the anxiety--it can seem like there's not much difference between unmarried and married than just some words and a big party. If you're feeling this way, I'd encourage you to pray about seeing sexuality as more than a set of rules. True; abstinence ends in marriage, but chastity doesn't. It's not a rule; it's a path to true freedom. Chastity is all about purity in your thoughts, words, and actions and about ordering sexual desire properly so that you aren't enslaved to it. So, it's natural that marriage brings a different approach to desire, but as long as purity and respect are present, sexual desire is nothing more or less than a new expression of the same love that's always been there.
Another word about rules: The Church requires that every marital embrace be both unitive and open to life (though not necessarily resulting in a new life each time). That said, I know how tricky it feels to navigate a new sense of freedom when it comes to married love and certain acts. There can be questions of, "Is this okay?" "Is that?" and "Did we mess up?" While it's true every sexual act requires that the husband climax only during intercourse, you might be surprised to find there are few other directives about what's permissible. So long as both individuals feel their dignity is being honored, and so long as the climax rule is upheld, very little is off limits. Be open to new things, talk about them, and pray together.
Additionally, while sexual morality is certainly important and while I'd never profess to know the state of someone's soul, I'd encourage you not to get too caught up in scrupulosity about certain acts or premature climax, particularly in the beginning. If your intentions are pure and are coming from a state of innocence, then trusting your husband and giving him the benefit of the doubt should foster an understanding that things finishing prematurely are unintentional. In my opinion, the sense of purity that's still there in situations like these means that this wouldn't be a serious issue of culpability.
It's okay to take things slow. If you're abstaining for NFP reasons or even if you just don't feel ready, there's no requirement that you have to go all the way on your first night. When you're experiencing each other intimately for the first time, there's still so much that's new and special to discover about your spouse, and it should feel like a moment to savor, not to rush. A few ladies I know, myself included, needed to abstain on our wedding nights, but we've agreed they were still wonderful and beautiful and gave us even more to look forward to.
By the way, I highly recommend the book Holy Sex by Dr. Gregory Popcak, which discusses the nature of sex in a theological, but approachable, voice and includes extensive sections on the more technical, physical details of lovemaking in a reverent way.
What if you're bringing something different to your marriage? If you've had sex before, or if you've been hurt in some way, know that there's nothing, nothing, that the Father's mercy and the graces of the sacrament can't ultimately heal. Since that's different from my experience, I've asked my friend Rebecca to share her story of healing and how it shaped her wedding night and her relationship with her husband. You can read it here.
Until then, consider this an invitation. Maybe this was helpful to you, or maybe it sounds crazy. Either way, tell me what you think! I love hearing from you and would absolutely welcome your thoughts. And if you feel like some girl talk, you can email me anytime at stephanie.captivetheheart@