Friday, September 18, 2015

This Is My Body: Dealing With Wedding Night Nerves

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Sometimes I think I really must be a lunatic.  I just like talking to people about sex.  Well, about chastity, NFP, and the Theology of the Body, specifically, so hopefully not so crazy?  Anyway, week after week, the most-read posts on this blog are the ones I featured two years ago on preparing for your wedding night when you are virgins, when you aren't, and when one of you has a sexual past and the other doesn't.  If you missed them, you can catch them here:

Or maybe you're coming to this from a different place. In the time since these posts were published, I've gotten emails every few months from brides-to-be expressing the nervousness they're feeling as their wedding nights draw closer.  Thanks to what I attribute entirely to grace and well-timed formation, neither Andrew nor I were anxious about our wedding night, but I completely get that there's so much anticipation, conventional expectations, and a lifetime of experiences personal to just you, all packed into one night--it can understandably add up to major nerves.  So here, humbly and imperfectly (and hopefully not too awkwardly…), speaking only from my experience and the candid thoughts I've shared back and forth with other brides, are my thoughts on what seem to be common wedding-night concerns, and how to approach them with love and a spirit of openness.

If you're nervous about physical pain:
Again, I can only speak for myself here.  In my experience, our first few times were uncomfortable.  Yet with complete honesty, I can say the pain was coupled with a very true, pure sense of joy at finally being able to unite myself fully to Andrew and express our love in all the ways we'd been longing for our whole engagement.

The Cross is sometimes described as the agony and the ecstasy, and I meditated on that sometimes during those first few months.  To unite yourself to Christ is to accept suffering, but to unite yourself to him is also to trust in the promise of fulfillment, in every longing of our hearts.  Just so we're clear, I wasn't thinking about these things while everything was going on!  They were, however, constantly in my heart and my prayer life as we adjusted to being newlyweds.  And on the technical side, using a lubricant as often as you need can help ease discomfort you might feel, and so can taking your time with one another before actual intercourse to relax your body.

If you're nervous about the different intimacy you're about to share:
Just like it takes time in a relationship to build communication and honesty in your emotional and spiritual lives, so it is with your physical relationship.  Don't be frustrated if your sexual relationship takes a while, well into your first year of marriage, even, to feel more effortless and free.  If you are truthful and loving, I promise it will happen.

Meantime, it's not bad or wrong to feel like sex is a major step--it'd probably be weirder to view it as insignificant, no?  There's no rule saying you have to have sex the second you walk out of your reception and shut the doors.  Being so close as husband and wife will be completely new, and it's okay if you'd prefer to wait a night or two.  So long as other intimate acts aren't used as a means to an end, it can be really beautiful to just take your time getting to know each other, fully revealed.

If you're nervous about how to communicate in a new way and put your sexuality into words:
I dated someone who genuinely struggled with articulating his emotions and being honest about his feelings towards our relationship, towards how I and other people treated him, and towards his own strengths and weaknesses, to the point that he would often be vague and evasive, partially out of not really knowing how to verbalize his thoughts, only to let out a flood of unfiltered, uncontrolled anger every few weeks.  When Andrew and I first became friends, I remember being so struck by his humble sincerity; he thought (and still thinks) carefully before speaking, yet what he said communicated so clearly what he was really thinking that there seemed to be no division between what he was saying and who he actually was.  I could just see him so clearly, and I feel like I came to know him so truthfully.

I say this because many sex therapists, religious and otherwise, hold the belief that a couple's sex life is a sort of microcosm of the other parts of their life together--that is, if they're generous in their physical relationship, they're likely to express generosity in other, non-sexual ways, and if they withhold things from each other in the bedroom, it can indicate other behaviors in their relationship that point to selfishness or to bottling up conflict.  My husband's directness and honesty are two of my favorite qualities of his, and he's drawn out similar habits in me that had never been tapped by anyone else before.

They've served us well in every part of our relationship, but in our intimacy, as well.  I truly feel like the best remedy for nerves about communication is simply to be honest from the get-go about what you both like and dislike, what's uncomfortable, and what you are open to.  At first, I felt shy bringing up stuff like that because we'd never had an opportunity to talk about it before, but it has helped our marriage so much, not just in the sexual category, to be completely open and to talk about things with love and charity.  Bringing everything onto the table, in a prudent way, eliminates so many possible misunderstandings or feelings that stay hidden because they are never addressed.

If you're nervous about making the night special when you're abstaining for NFP reasons:
We prayerfully made the decision to postpone pregnancy in the beginning of our marriage because Andrew was in grad school and I was unemployed.  Our wedding fell right in the fertile middle of my cycle.  The thought you're having, that abstaining might take away from your wedding night, is totally understandable, and it definitely went through my head a few times.  Every couple is different, of course, but being on the other side of it now, I can honestly and so joyfully say that not being able to have sex right away wasn't disappointing at all and didn't take away one thing from our wedding night.

On that first night, there is so much that is brand new and special--being completely alone, seeing each other for the first time, and learning how to be intimate in a new way.  You're so free.  That said, in our case we weren't thinking at all about what we didn't get to have, but what we did.  I think, too, that for us, going from mostly just kissing before marriage all the way to sex on the night of our marriage would've been a huge leap, and I'm actually grateful for the opportunity to just enjoy one another slowly at first.  That's not to say it wouldn't have been nice to have the chance if we hadn't been abstaining; it's just that nothing felt missing, and things were wonderful as they were.

If you're anxious about being disappointed or the night not being special just for the reason that you'll be abstaining, I'd encourage you to pray about not seeing sex as a finish line.  Try, instead, to see every act of intimacy as something beautiful in and of itself, not just a step on the path to something else.  I know that for me, I was concerned about the morality of certain acts if they weren't going to result in going the whole nine.  A faithful married friend advised me, at the time, to view each of these other things as an act of love that isn't striving for anything more beyond the present moment.  When they are approached with love for the other and a sense of purity, she reminded me, there is nothing wrong about them, and they aren't acting as some sort of false start or way of arousing the other person without fulfillment; they can be completely fulfilling and beautiful on their own when there's no grasping for more.

On your wedding day, you stand before God and man and vow that the good of another person is more valuable, more important to you than the good of yourself.  On your wedding night, acting with love when you've chosen to abstain is a heroic sacrifice and an immediate, tangible way of living out your vows: putting aside your wants for the good of the other and, in this case, for the good of your new marriage.

Alright.  Thoughts, friends?  Andrew and I once gave a talk to engaged couples that we high-fived over afterwards, only to read the surveys and find the general sentiment was "don't talk so much about sex." Oh the humbling; how I need it.  But if this post has helped you, I'd love to know, and my prayer is that it bear much fruit and living water in your marriage.  Feel free to toss in your two cents of advice, and if  you feel like chatting, email me anytime at  I love hearing from you!


  1. So I just wrote a long comment about how I really needed to read this, particularly that link about when you're not a virgin on your wedding night. And then I chickened out about posting it so publicly for anyone to see, because I got a little personal, so I guess I will just say thank you for this!

    1. I'm glad it was helpful. Drop me a line if you ever want to chat =)

  2. "That said, in our case we weren't thinking at all about what we didn't get to have, but what we did. I think, too, that for us, going from mostly just kissing before marriage all the way to sex on the night of our marriage would've been a huge leap, and I'm actually grateful for the opportunity to just enjoy one another slowly at first." - yes, agreed!

    I did experience pain for the first few months, and looking back, think we could have taken a bit more time before consummating our marriage, until I truly was 100% comfortable (my head said I was; my body said otherwise).

  3. This is a super important topic to have available for newlyweds-to be! I wish I had come across something so open and honest, as there weren't really very many places to validate those feelings in the comfort of anonymity. I wish I had a friend who was engaged so I could share all of your posts!!! Haha.

  4. Very helpful ,thanks!



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