Although delighted and grateful to be called to marriage and to have met the man I'm made to enter the Sacrament with, I fell into a spiritual, emotional, and physical funk as our time of discernment and engagement began.
My husband-to-be had not waited for me.
I had known the whole time we dated that he was not a virgin but as he was revealed to be my husband, this sexual past wounded me and stirred up a number of insecurities.
Would he compare me to others, even subconsciously? And would I be up to par?
Would I be a disappointment in bed because I don't have any experience?
Why was I suddenly embarrassed about my virginity? Feeling like the only one who hadn't studied for a test?
Would I feel free enough to explore holy sex without wondering, “Was it like this for him when he was with so-and-so?”
For months, this subject weighed heavily on me. I sought advice from married bloggers, talked and cried about it with my fiance (over and over again), and begged the Lord for help.
Trista's conclusions about waiting, forgiving, and honesty, with a little help from Fulton Sheen (we're mutually obsessed!):
“All love craves unity. This is evident in marriage, where there is the unity of two in one flesh.” -Venerable Fulton Sheen
I had to reexamine my struggle. In the midst of the surprising heartache, there is still a lot to celebrate. Your fiance showed amazing courage and docility to the Holy Spirit by embracing chastity. He is committed to caring for you and letting true love grow. What a holy man! Your commitment to chastity, together, is beautiful and a blessing to your future marriage. Rejoice! Don't let the Devil rob you of the joy that is rightfully yours by keeping you focused on the past. Pray to the Lord for help to keep rooted in the present.
Let's get more than physical.
If you remain focused solely on the physical aspects of sex, then yes, it does seem like there will be nothing new for your fiance to experience except a new body to have sex with. That's the carnal definition of sex, though, and not the one the Lord or your fiance has in mind. As Venerable Fulton Sheen writes, "Sex love substitutes one occasion of pleasure for the other, but love knows no substitution" (Three to Get Married 75). Sex withing marriage is not just physical – it involves the soul, the mind, the heart, and the will, as much as the reproductive organs (Three to Get Married 125).
You are entering into something much deeper than the bonds developed through sex outside of marriage. You are entering into the marital act, the symbol of the union of your souls, which in turn is a symbol of the union of Christ and His Church (Three to Get Married 76). This will be a new, grace-filled experience for both you and your fiance!
Instead of focusing on your lack of tips and tricks from Cosmo, focus on being yourself, remaining honest and open, and loving your fiance. Sex is about communion of persons, not a test where you pass or fail based on what you can do.
“I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth.”
Whenever you feel yourself getting anxious or beginning to compare yourself to others, stop, pray, and remind yourself that you are wonderfully made. Spend time before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, praying and pondering Psalm 139. Let Him make you confident of who you are. Journal your thoughts and anxieties; talk with a trusted priest; and ask you fiance to affirm how beautiful he thinks you are.
Also, ask your fiance to actively use your Love Language (I'm sure he does, but doubling up never hurt!), because when you're feeling safe and connected, it's easier to resist the anxiety. Keep exercising, primping, and getting full nights of sleep. When I'm feeling well-rested and physically strong, I've noticed I have the strength to kick my worries to the curb.
My fiance and I seemed to struggle with this topic at least once a month. For days, I would live in a haze where this was all I worried about morning, noon, and night. I couldn't seem to climb the wall of fear and leave it permanently behind. I knew this wasn't God's plan for me--“Do not let your hearts be troubled”--and I needed divine help. If I couldn't move on, I trusted that the Lord, in me, could.
Through confession, the Lord gave me the graces to see things rightly, to bury my obsessive thoughts about past lovers, and to grow in trust of my fiance.
On July 12, 1939, Pope Pius XII told a group of newlyweds, “...the Catholic family is based upon a sacrament. This means we are concerned not with a simple contract...but with a true and proper religious act of supernatural life, from which flows an almost undeniable right to obtain all graces, all divine assistance necessary and appropriate to sanctify married life, to perform the obligations of the conjugal state, to overcome its difficulties, to carry out its purposes and to achieve its highest ideals.”
If you find yourself still worrying, anticipate God's grace. You're not married yet; you haven't entered into the Sacrament. When you do, you will be given all the graces needed for your sanctification and for your marriage, including sex. Trust Him! He is with you in all things!
Be kind to yourself and your fiance. Loving, like all things, takes time and trial and error.
There is for the Christian no such thing in marriage as choosing between body and soul or sex and love. He must choose both together. Marriage is a vocation to put God in every detail of love. In this way, the dream of the bride and groom for eternal happiness really comes true, not in themselves alone, but through themselves. Now they love each other not as they dreamed they would, but as God dreamed they would. Such a reconciliation of that tension is possible only to those
who know that it takes three to make love.
who know that it takes three to make love.
(Three to Get Married 31-32)
Hopefully all the dialogue that's been going on has been as eye-opening for you as it has for me! Trista and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments or in an email, so don't be afraid to speak up. You can reach Trista at firstname.lastname@example.org and me at email@example.com. Meantime, I stumbled across this article on this very subject and thought it had some valuable wisdom, as well. Let us know what you think!