Monday, March 4, 2013

Be Not Afraid: The Sex Post

catholic wedding night, wedding night preparation, wedding night nerves, virgin on wedding night, catholic wedding, catholic couples, chastity, catholic marriage blogs, catholic wedding blogs, catholic marriage prep, catholic brides
source
 Today's post has been on my heart for a while, but I think I'm just now finding the right words.  I've gotten a few emails recently asking about preparing for your wedding night, specifically when it comes to nerves and inexperience.  It seems to me that among our generation, there's plenty of talk about sex in a general sense, both in the Church and in the culture, but not a lot of discussion about, well, the nitty gritty of lovin'.  I've stumbled across a few Catholic sex blogs here and there, with well-intentioned advice, yet in my opinion (and it's just my opinion, mind you), they leave something to be desired.  They sometimes link to sources that are problematic or not credible, and the tone can strike me as lofty and elevated at a time when just getting real might be more effective. 

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@gmail.com.



34 comments:

  1. My husband and I abstained during our honeymoon because I was on my fertile cycle - and I tell you, it has made (in my opinion) a big difference with our relationship and the way we view each other intimately. It was hard, and it was beautiful.

    Going into my wedding night was nerve-wracking due to anxiety about having sex, but I was calmed by being with my husband, who so patiently took care of me. Intimacy is so much more than sex, and I've found that to be a very real and wonderful part of marriage.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's beautiful, Julie! I love what you say about intimacy--you're so right that it's not just the physical.

      Delete
  2. SUCH a fantastic post! We abstained for about 6 months prior to our wedding after a huge change of heart, and then ended up needing to abstain on the wedding night. You know what? Our wedding night was SO LOVELY! Anyway, back to your post... I hope lots of soon-to-be-brides read this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How awesome! Thanks so much, Stacy!

      Delete
  3. This was a great post! Good job for having the "holy boldness" to write it! I think that you bring up so many important points and I hope that many brides-to-be will find it helpful!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Stephanie, I love this post! I would have loved to have read this before we got married. You bring up some really important points, and I really like how you wrote about the "rules." We read "Holy Sex" too (great book) and we also had to abstain on our wedding night (and for a bit after) and I agree that it didn't take away from it :)

    I'm sure this post will be really helpful for many brides-to-be!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Replies
    1. I'm trying to be cool, but I can't. So flattered and humbled. Thank you, Arleen!

      Delete
  6. I wish I would have read this before I got married. You're doing brides-to-be a great service here :) I am looking forward to the next part of the post too! That's the part I could use now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That means so much, Jenna; thank you! I can't wait for Rebecca's part, either!

      Delete
  7. I had to abstain on my wedding night, too. But it wasn't a big deal, because the two of us were exhausted anyway!

    I look forward to your post from Rebecca, because though I was a virgin on my wedding night, my husband wasn't, and that still bothers me sometimes. I know I've got to be forgiving, but I still find it difficult and still feel a little hurt by it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can see how that could be really hard. I hope you enjoy Rebecca's post, and meantime, I'll say a prayer for you, Laura!

      Delete
  8. Stephanie, at your urging, I had already written a post on this and it's scheduled to publish on Thursday! I'll post the link here when it goes up. But, in response to these comments, I'd like to urge new brides not just to be comfortable with sex but to be comfortable with pregnancy. The Theology of the Body is not just about being open to sex, it's about being open to life. I've known more than one person who has had a honeymoon baby -- that is, got pregnant on their honeymoon -- and they were ecstatic about it. On the other hand, my husband and I did not use NFP at the beginning of our marriage and we didn't get pregnant right away. If there are serious reasons to abstain from sex in order to avoid pregnancy, by all means treat NFP as the great gift it is. But if your wedding night or your honeymoon happens to fall during a fertile period, I encourage you to be not afraid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's SUCH a good point, Karee! Thanks for bringing it up and for linking to your post--it's fantastic!

      Delete
  9. Stephanie, on second thought I'll post early for you and your readers. Many people think the Catholic view on sex reads like a long list of "nos", so I came up with 58 ways devout, married Catholics say "yes" to sex. The title is "Chaste Sex: Not What You Think It Is." If you can't follow the link, just copy the URL into your browser. Here it is!

    http://canwecana.blogspot.com/2013/03/chaste-sex-not-what-you-think-it-is.html

    ReplyDelete
  10. Beautiful!

    So glad you decided to write this, even though it's a difficult topic. You didn't shy away from addressing these important, meaningful issues. We're surrounded by sexual messages everyday from the secular culture, and unfortunately that culture often has the upper hand in defining what sex should or shouldn't be. But we have the BEAUTY and TRUTH of the Theology of the Body, and shouldn't be afraid to proclaim it. Excellent!

    By the way, nice to finally 'meet' you online --- I've been following your blog for awhile but this is my first time commenting :) Just started my own blog this week.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Nancy! So glad to meet you, too =) Off to go check out your blog now!

      Delete
  11. So just minutes after reading this post--my first time visiting your blog--I realized you had commented on my blog! Thanks for the sweet comment, and thanks for writing this post? I have been married for 5 years, but it is always good to read uplifting posts about sex from the catholic perspective.

    ReplyDelete
  12. (that should be a !, not a ? :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. You are the best! Thanks for allowing anonymous comments! Stephanie this is beautiful and I will be sharing it. Though you've set the bar very high for my post - I hope I can live up to it.

    Bold holiness - yes! That is what this is. Written beautifully, honestly, and with respect for those reading it and for your relationship.

    You are a beautiful soul my friend.

    ~Rebecca

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That means so much; thank you!! I did get a ton of spam this morning, so I'm not sure if this will be permanent, but for now, I love getting to read your comments! Can't wait to read your post!

      Delete
  14. This no-longer-newlywed (five years!) really enjoyed this post. Thank you for writing something like this, especially since I see so many engaged women who are worrying about their wedding night. As I'm more or less a revert to the church and church teachings, and as I learn more about how many couples are being very chaste before their weddings (some not kissing at all, some ONLY kissing), I think it's important to let them know that IT IS OK not to do everything on their first night as man and wife. So many resources out there are vague, which can be confusing and misleading, so it is helpful when there are more explicit articles, like this one, to read and take comfort in. Not everyone has a married sister or friends to confide this is...and even if one does, they might not want to talk about it.

    I wasn't a virgin, but had only been with my husband (my first/only boyfriend!) and just like we didn't go on one date and immediately have sex (and not three dates either...I didn't jump into anything lightly), why couldn't the same go for a married couple? As long as everything is "OK" in the eyes of the church, why not go slow and take your time? I would be terrified if I thought I had to go from kissing to sex in a few hours time, and I know why my engaged friends are feeling this way. In trying to do everything right and not sin in the bedroom, many Catholics have forgotten that there are two very nervous, vulnerable people who need to have more guidance in this next big step of their lives, or are afraid of speaking out about it for fear of being dirty or interfering in private matters. I think if topics such as these are discussed in a caring, respectful manner, we are only helping our fellow couples with their marriage vocations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Such valuable advice, Jen. Thanks for sharing your story!

      Delete
  15. As someone who writes a well-intentioned Catholic sex blog that often leaves a lot to be desired, I appreciate this post.

    Different people have different needs, especially in this area. Engaged couples have different needs from newlyweds have different needs from married couples with children, and what will make one person blush will give no useful information to another. This is why different perspectives and different approaches are necessary.

    Unfortunately, many Catholics have taken reverence around sex to the point where they aren't talking about it at all, which doesn't help anyone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! I absolutely agree that every couple's needs and experiences are different, and ministering to everyone at one time is impossible. Props to you for not being afraid to talk about it!

      Delete
  16. I've been searching for a Biblical explanation of how to prepare for the wedding night for a friend. Your thoughts, as well as some of Rebecca's, are insightful and encouraging. Thank you for taking the time to invest in others' marriages with an appropriate level of transparency. (an agreeing protestant Christian)

    ReplyDelete
  17. This has to be the third or fourth time I've come back to this blog post since I bought your Wedding Planner book in April, Stephanie... I'm getting married in 40 days, and my future husband and I have been chaste for three years, though we messed up a lot our first year of our relationship... After conversions of heart (several, for me), we've been on the journey toward God's will for us, which turned to engagement, and--in a super short time, now--marriage!

    I'm praying that though the two of us have known each other more intimately than we should have, and gave way too much too early, the Lord will still shower His mercy and grace on us, our wedding night, and our future intimacy in marriage. Despite our mistakes, we've waited and longed to please Him and do things the right way for three years, and here we are, but 40 days away from our day and the start of our new life together. I am so excited, and I just pray that our intimacy will be and become as beautiful and life-giving as we've been hoping and longing for it to be, since we've begun walking the narrow way of conversion to chaste love for one another. Thank you so much for this post, and if you can send some prayers our way, I'd dearly appreciate it. God bless!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tammy, what a beautiful witness the two of you are to the Father's grace and mercy! Truly. Congratulations on your coming marriage!

      I recently heard a quote from St. Augustine that goes something like, those who are lost in their passion are less lost than those who have lost their passion--your love and desire for one another is so right and good, and I am so sure your choice to pursue chastity will bear such fruit in your marriage. I will absolutely pray for you as your wedding day draws near, for a renewal of your intimacy and a lifetime of pure-hearted love. I'm so thankful that this post and my book have been helpful to you! Thank you.

      Have you read the companion post to this piece, one by a bride whose experience with chastity was similar to yours? I hope you find it inspiring =) http://captivetheheart.blogspot.com/2013/04/be-not-afraid-sex-post-part-2.html

      Delete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...