The False Promise of Abstinence

Abstinence was drilled into me as a young girl. To the point where it was implied (and at times, even directly said) that sex was bad. At the same time, like a dangled carrot, I was taught that if I wait (because that’s what ‘true love’ does), then sex in my marriage would be amazing.

At the right time, with the right person—in a marriage relationship—sex would be good. It would be better than good. It would be incredible. Easy. Passionate. Fulfilling.

And so I waited.

Partially for the right reasons and partially out of fear. Fear of becoming damaged goods… Fear of messing up God’s perfect plan… Fear of disappointing the man I hadn’t even met yet… Fear of sex itself: the big, bad, ugly thing it was made out to be.

Then I got married.

And on my wedding night, those fears occupied the bed with me and my husband. They overcrowded and overpowered the room… the mood… me. The anxiety gave way to tears which gave way to more anxiety which gave way to, well, no sex.

It just didn’t happen.

I mean, how could it? I was terrified. Ashamed, even. I didn’t know how to flip the invisible, internal switch from SEX:BAD to SEX:GOOD.

It took a while for me to get there. And, if I’m being painfully honest, I’m not sure I ever quite did. Sex and intimacy were always challenging for me throughout my decade-long marriage. It still felt immoral in a way. Scandalous—as though I wasn’t allowed to enjoy that which I’d saved for this very context.

The promise of abstinence leading to a great sex life in marriage felt like a cruel mirage. A ploy. A lie. A deception.

And now here I sit, single-again… Contemplating sex and abstinence in a different light, given the past few years of my life. In fact, this post has been sitting in my drafts folder since 2010, born out of a conversation with a friend— scribbled thoughts that I’ve been hesitant to formulate or to fully own, since I’m not entirely sure where they’re going, if anywhere at all. And also because I don’t want people to hear that I’m anti-abstinence—because I’m not.

I still believe that saving sex for marriage is what God intended and is ultimately best for us.

But holding to that truth does not mean:

  • That having sex before marriage leaves me damaged and unable to have a healthy sex life with my spouse.
  • That saving sex for marriage guarantees a healthy sex life with my spouse.

Holding to that truth does mean:

  • That I believe God can redeem all things.
  • That a healthy sex life, like all forms of intimacy, takes hard work, honest communication, and vulnerability.

While I wish I’d understood that holistic perspective a few decades ago, I find myself still grappling to understand it now. Somehow, it’s as though the myths are easier to believe, or at least easier to live life by. (Fear can be a powerful motivator.)

I figure a good starting point to freedom and healing is to talk about it. And so as I keep staring at this blinking curser, taunting me to find a way to finish this post, all I know is this—

I want to be fueled by love rather than fear. In this thing. In all things.

[Photo: PhotoCo., Creative Commons]

  • Tim

    Thank you for sharing–incredibly brave. This resonated with me a lot, and I appreciate you voicing this. I will take these two truths to hold to.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Thank you, Tim. Hearing that this resonated with someone makes this anxious feeling in my chest worth it…

  • Jon

    Our oldest is 11. Both of our daughters have had their weekend away with Mom where they talk about puberty, sex and all ‘that’ stuff. He class is in their sex education phase and are very open to parents keeping their kids out of that and studying materials the parent approve. Grateful for that. We hope to teach her the beauty of love in all forms including sex and to show her the positive reasons (along with the negative risk) for waiting. Neither one of us come from a background of healthy sexual education or experience and hope to make it better for our kids.

    Thank you for saying this. Our fears of displeasing God have boxed us into a corner where our help cause hurt. Not God’s plan. My hope is my girls (and son) will learn that it is a difficult, beautiful, loving, passionate, frustrating thing and that they will have to ‘learn on the job’ a little. But the beauty that it can/should be is worth all the effort.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      I love hearing how you and your wife have worked so diligently to change the story for your children. This is HUGE, Jon. HUGE.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Katherine-Harms/602268732 Katherine Harms

    I know what you are talking about. My sex education consisted of being told that if a boy acted “not nice” I should tell him to take me home. At church we heard “save yourself for marriage.” Everything you said rang true, including the disappointment with married love. All that is far behind me now, but I am glad I was able to spare my children the same anguish. It took a lot of courage to tell this story. Thank you.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Thank you, Katherine. Really.

  • http://twitter.com/leelueck Lee Lueck

    Thanks for your vulnerability, Alece. You have dared to say what many experience. As a mom of four 20-somethings, two of them married, I know I have not talked enough with them. I always answered their questions honestly, but they didn’t always ask questions. What I’m finding, however, is that my married daughter and her friends, both married and single, are refreshingly open with each other.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Forcing myself to talk about it now is excruciating because of the deafening silence that has covered this area my whole life. I felt too ashamed to even ask questions or have open conversations with friends (or even my husband). This is one of the big areas of fear for me in ever having kids of my own — because of not ever seeing this modeled well, I fear I would have no idea where to start in beginning to change the story for them. Gah!

      • http://twitter.com/leelueck Lee Lueck

        Asking these questions now and realizing the barriers you face are the first steps toward writing a new story. And never forget we have a God who specializes in redeeming our stories.

        • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

          Holding fast to this…

  • http://twitter.com/mattschaar m@

    Alece, wonderfully written – not necessarily because of an earth-shattering revelation, but because you’re being incredibly, radically vulnerable in admitting your journey.

    I’ve really discovered over the past year what “healthy fear” looks like. Fear of punishment is a choking poison; fear of causing irreparable damage to those that do everything in their power to breathe life into our lungs – chiefly God – is a motivator for us to become greater beings inside our cocoon of skin and bones. And that’s healthy.

    In many ways, we’ve really gotten the frozen rope of things when it comes to understanding sex. Generations of fear now pile upon us and we’re left with the messy byproduct, to the point where we’re simply paralyzed to even share what we think about sex. Thus, for many Christians (including myself for, like, forever), their only form of sex education comes from the pulpit and John Eldredge books. And we’re simply scared out of our wits to explore it with anyone else but ourselves.

    I liken this mode of sexual self-discovery to someone that is trying to learn to make a webpage simply by typing code but having no visual interface to see what comes of it. Our sexuality demands a feedback loop, because in its inherent purpose it binds two people together – to go it alone, with no interface or dialogue, is like allowing the webpage to be written in Korean for a French marketplace.

    And that’s why we need more commentary like yours, Alece. Thank you.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Thank you for affirming my voice, Matt…

  • http://www.shaneyirene.com/ Shaney Irene

    *Standing ovation*

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      sigh… thank you.

  • Logan81

    My friends and I have talked about the idea of “True love waits” on multiple occasions. Like a lot of other things, it’s a great idea in concept, but we’ve taken it way beyond the range of healthy. All it seems to do is either teach that “sex is dirty,” or “sex is the most awesome thing in the world.” Both are lies, and both do nothing but lead to shame and disappointment (I wonder how many couples are disappointed on their honeymoon night when they realize they have no idea what they’re doing?).

    The only way we can hope to have healthy relationships, sexual or otherwise, is through open, honest communication. Kudos to you for being so vulnerable on such a generally taboo topic!

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Thank you, Logan. And I wonder too how many couples have a disappointing night after their wedding — and just never talk about it…

      • I am Kelbelle

        haha. I would gather MOST couples, if not all, who have not had previous experience, would find it “something that must be done”, and not something enjoyable at all. And even for couples who did have experience, I think there’s still some weird sort of pressure. I think the best sex comes on regular days, no special lead-in, fancy clothing or lighting necessary. But THAT… definitely takes time, growth, and communication.

  • Casi

    Thank you for sharing. I agree that I think saving sex for marriage is ultimately best, but love your bullet points after that. There is so much more to the message than what is typically preached. Thank you for adding your voice to this topic.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      I appreciate you, Casi. Thank you.

  • Cheryl Summers

    So much wisdom here. Thank you! Twenty years ago, I was that devoted youth group kid who wore a t-shirt I got from Josh McDowell’s ministry encouraging abstinence. In big red letters it said: “I’m NOT doing it!” Well intentioned, but so typical of the church saying only “Don’t.” We’ve stopped short of painting the picture of beauty that God intends sexuality to be. We whisper a few facts — maybe. It makes us uncomfortable. Two years ago, I took my then 9-year old through FamilyLife’s Passport to Purity. It’s a weekend alone with the same-sex parent. FamilyLife provides CDs to listen to and projects to do together. They say all that stuff that makes parents squirm in front of their pre-teens, and they do a wonderful job of not just saying “don’t” but also painting a picture of beauty. This opens a full dialogue on the subject of sexuality, dating and puberty with my daughter that I would never have been able to achieve on my own. It took this subject out of the shadows and into the light of truth. When I talk to parents about using this material with their own kids, so often the response I hear is “I’ve asked so-and-so if they have any questions and they don’t.” The parent is relieved that they’re off the hook, but the kid is still stuck in the whispers and shadows. My heart has been full as I’ve seen the openess and healthy lens through which my daughter now views this subject, but I’ve also felt this regret and sadness that so many of us were just told “Don’t” and were left in the shadows.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      I love hearing about that resource and the amazing journey of openness it has led you and your daughter on! So glad to know that exists!

  • Annie

    YES YES YES YES!!! And THANK YOU for having the bravery to talk about it! I want to copy/paste each one of your bullet points (specifically the first two) and highlight them.

    Of course, I was “taught” much the same thing: sex before marriage was bad and basically would guarantee you a broken relationship. Saving sex til marriage guaranteed you a whole, healthy relationship, full of honor and dignity (because of course only people who are capable of honor and dignity save sex til they’re married). I wanted a marriage of the best kind, so of course waiting was the thing to do.

    And then I got married … and discovered there were WAY bigger issues in a relationship than the timeline of when you crossed the sex point. Issues that were barely ever talked about, or never. Issues that were sitting right in front of my face the whole time, but I was blind to. Issues that definitely led to the breakup of my marriage.

    It’s like everyone is feeling in the dark … regurgitating an instruction course from the past without reference to whether it works or not … reciting the gigantic rule book the Bible sets down on waiting for sex til marriage …. oh wait there isn’t one–in fact it barely mentions it …. and only making a teeny tiny deal out of how humans treat each other (but that one’s like, cover to cover, right?).

    And now I’m pregnant and living with my boyfriend … and I am HAPPY! He doesn’t try to manipulate or control me, doesn’t demean me, genuinely enjoys the person that I am and is unperturbed by things that have driven others nuts … he is patient and generous and kind and actually CARES about my happiness so much. I am by turns flabbergasted, then scared it’s all a sham, then grateful beyond words. Our situation was sudden and unexpected and by no means planned (and six months along I am definitely wishing the stork theory were true!), but it is also a beautiful thing that stumbled into me full speed.

    I will definitely take my soul thriving above being destroyed every day of the week. The hows and whens of sex … practically a non-issue compared to that.

    “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” –Jesus

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Thank you for being open about your own journey, Annie. I appreciate your honesty and cut-to-the-chase-ness.

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ HopefulLeigh

    I’m so glad you’re speaking up, friend. I know so many people who waited and had a difficult time switching mentalities. It’s heartbreaking. We have to have honest conversations about sex and sexuality for our own good and for the good of our future marriages.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Thank you for cheering me on, friend…

  • Jacki

    So well stated. Many of my friends who, like you, waited in part out of fear, ended up struggling to transition from SEX:BAD to SEX:GOOD. I know at least one couple who divorced over it.

    I grew up in an abstinence-focused Christian church and school system. The extreme, over-blown focus on Thou Shalt Not Have Sex seemed, to me, counterproductive, as it focused SO much attention on the very thing these teens were being told they must not do … sex.

    A holistic approach seems more appropriate and productive. And as you said, we should be fueled in all things by love, not fear.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Holistic. Yes. The Church needs to do better at this…

  • the Blah Blah Blahger

    SUCH GOOD TRUTH HERE!

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      A hard conversation, but one I know we so desperately all need to have.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kelly.chripczuk Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    I’m grateful that my Mom gave me a realistic view of sex and I’m also grateful for a wonderful couple who listened and advised both my husband and I when we “hit the wall” early in our marriage. I can’t imagine the way shame would’ve multiplied had we had no one to talk to.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Such a gift. And I know it will be one you’ll graciously give to others just as it was given to you…

  • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

    ‘The myths are easier to believe’ – YES.
    I was nodding throughout this whole thing. I’m so glad I had youth leaders who said ‘you need to work at sex in a marriage’ rather than ‘if you do x then it will all be merry and bright.’

    I am now realising just how rare that advice is. The church has its own Hollywood sex myths. I’m glad you exposed these. (No pun intended!)

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      “The church has its own Hollywood sex myths.” YES. You’re exactly right. So glad to hear you had leaders who shared a healthier, more holistic perspective.

  • Sarah

    Most parents have at least one “When I’m a parent, I am going to do [blank] differently.” This was/is mine. I hated the shame that was associated with sex, like you say SEX:BAD. I want my children to understand not only what a beautiful gift sex is, but how the intimacy that come with it effects your body and mind. Nobody ever told me this. I wish “grown-ups” would have stepped back from the “no, no, no” and taken the time to have an honest, real conversation with me about how wonderful sex is in a trusting and faithful relationship and the way it can devastate your mind and body when it is not. Just like I am not relying on the schools to inform my children, I’m afraid I cannot rely on any help from the church either. Thanks for starting this conversation.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      “Honest, real conversations”… YES. Hoping that as we start them now, we can change the story going forward…

  • http://twitter.com/the_JoeyC Joey

    Thank. You.

    Due to an unfortunate tragedy, I too am standing on the back side of marriage. Hindsight is 20/20, they say, and, looking back at my own marriage, I see things clearly now.

    You are absolutely right. My wedding night was one of the most awkward nights of my life and I’d rather forget about it. We waited, my wife and I, until marriage. A few months later, though, we wish we hadn’t.

    We decided that having sex before marriage, sex motivated by intimacy and emotion as opposed to duty, would have been a lot more fun. At the very least, it wouldn’t have been so awkward, or painful. Or terrifying.

    Looking back, I still believe in abstinence. I think the line is pretty damn blurry, and couples should work it out for themselves, but there is a line nonetheless. In the mean time, we are sexual beings. It’s a part of us and it needs to be embraced, not shunned.

    Good words. Keep ‘em coming.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      I’m with you. I believe in abstinence but “that line is pretty damn blurry.” There just needs to be more openness and honesty along the way, as part of the whole message of abstinence. And as awkward and painful as this post is for me, it’s my way of trying to help start the dialogue… Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Joey. I appreciate it.

  • Spiegels

    I love your message here. As a man who thinks about how he comes across to his two daughters in teaching this subject, I sometimes worry if I communicate shame in addition to fear. I don’t want those things to be motivators for them to abstain. I pray for them to approach it as a response to God’s best for them and for the true intimacy that marriage is intended to bring. I pray that they wont have to learn these truths the hard way like their mom and I did.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Oh yes… Shame… I am just starting to scratch the surface in realizing how huge a role that has played in my life.

      I’m so glad you are being intentional about how you communicate with your daughters. That already sets you largely apart from what was modeled for us…

  • http://twitter.com/ModernReject Nicole Cottrell

    Alece,
    I’m so thankful that you wrote this. It takes courage! I’m so thankful too that you are offering freedom as our motivation, not fear.

    I will say though, that I had sex before marriage and it did damage me. It did and still does affect my marriage bed. It is certainly not something God can overcome. He has offered me healing and hope, but there is still more to do.

    But, again, as you stated, being fueled by love can make all the difference. I wish I had known the love of Christ those years ago so I could have said “No, I’m worth waiting for…” But, I can say it now as I wait on the Lord.

    Blessings to you, friend.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Oh friend… I know neither path is without its burdens. Grace and healing and full redemption for both of us.

      Thank you for your strengthening words. Love to you, Nicole.

  • Muneerah

    Hi Alece, I am an abstinence advocate at http://urbanchastity.blogspot.com/ I really want to know if you plan on getting married again? If so, will you remain abstinent until then?

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      I don’t know if marriage someday is something I can “plan” for, but I haven’t discounted the idea, if that’s what you mean. While hope remains elusive, part of me deep down does still hope I will find love in that way again. And as I still believe in saving sex for a trusted, committed marriage relationship, yes… I plan to remain abstinent until then.

      • Muneerah

        :~) <3

  • Muneerah

    Alece, will you remain abstinent until your next marriage? Just curious…

  • Brian Eubanks

    Alece, thanks for sharing.

    I grew up being taught the same things as you were. I’m in my early 30′s and am still a virgin. If I had experienced love, I would confess probably would not have saved myself.Being my age, I’m more than ready to have sex. Recently, I even asked a friend if she would be disappointed in me if I had sex out of marriage. I feel confident that I would be judged by my closest friends. I wouldn’t fault or judge my wife if she wasn’t a virgin (and I’ve accepted that fact that she probably won’t be a virgin), but I’m afraid I would put so much guilt on myself if I wasn’t one.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      i hear you, brian. and that resonates with me. a lot. thank you for sharing honestly.

    • Vero

      I’d encourage you to trust God. If she felt dissapointment it probably would be that you missed out on the best, not because she was ashamed of you. You could still have a good marriage if you weren’t a virgin.

      I felt the same way. My desire to lose my virginity grew the older i got. My husband and I both married as virgins. I was 31 when we married and it was an 8 mon relationship prior. We both were pretty free about talking about sex and expressing affection. There were so many treasures that we found in each other because we waited til our wedding day. Its a very vulnerable thing to share with someone…. we both are very glad we didn’t give up. I do think our amazing sex life though is due to being able to share openly with each other and have great communication. So definitely look for someone that not only loves God, is on the same page as you but is open and doesn’t have trouble talking about sex and desire. God made sex good. I knew that before I was married and never felt ashamed of it. Its definitely worth waiting for and can be so much fun, but its not the majority of what makes a marriage. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and increase your circle of friends either if you are ready to get married. We found each other on christianmingle and are not afraid to say it. Best.:)

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    Yes. This needed to be said.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Thank you…

  • Kim

    I grew up much the same as most church going people; I ‘knew’ sex before marriage was “wrong” and I remember the Sr Pastor talking to us in 5th grade saying how wonderful sex is within a marriage. I also remember my high school leader sharing that sex got better with each yet of marriage due to the closeness that grows each year. I don’t remember ever being taught, however, to honor God with my actions or lack thereof. I remember the illustration of ‘the gift’ and how it should remain wrapped until marriage. I took all of this very seriously. My mom just said DON’T have sex until you’re married. Period. I was scared more by the prospect of tarnishing my reputation than anything else.
    I didn’t date through HS so that was easy but I had a few serious relationships before marriage. My beef with the while save yourself for marriage bit is that so many people do everything BUT actual intercourse. Or they start and then stop before completing anything in an effort to “wait” or be able to SAY they waited. If you consider the point of waiting…. The intimacy factor etc then where is the limit or line that one shouldn’t cross? It’s easy to say that you shouldn’t go too far. By once you get the engine going, it’s not easy to stop.
    I admit that since I had and still have insecurities instilled by my family, I considered physical intimacy a sign that I was accepted and wanted. I can say that my husband is the only person I’ve actually had sex with but I was pretty physical with another boyfriend. And my husband and I did have sex prior to marriage mainly, I would say, due to my insecurity. I was afraid of losing him even though I knew we would get married. Strange, but true. Now I struggle because I made this mistake AS a Christian. People often say they did this before they knew they shouldn’t. I knew. But I did it anyway. I know God has forgiven me but I can’t honestly say I’ve forgiven myself. I hate that. I feel like God has forgiven and forgotten and I keep bringing it up so many years later. As far as sex goes, I don’t see why the big deal is. I dislike it tremendously. It’s not fun, or relaxing, or enjoyable.
    A a side note, my husband and I realized that we made a mistake and for the year prior to marrying, we abstained. In fact, we rarely kissed if at all. To this day, I do not enjoy kissing my husband! I love him and we have an amazing family. I hate everything physical. I love Jesus!! But I have to wonder if it is so terribly terrible to see if you are physically compatible before vowing to spend the rest of your lives together? I’m not saying to be promiscuous. I’m saying that we try to make sure we are compatible in every other area…but that one is so taboo that it becomes awkward and almost irreparably damaged before you can even get started.
    My hubby and I are in it for the long haul. We love each other an have been through so much, we are not giving up. Yes, we have tried to talk about all of these things. Nothing has ever changed. I wish so much that I could forget about my mistakes and yet a sin is a sin. But the sex sin is the one that Christians grasp ahold of and cannot let go of. I know I just rambled forever but your article struck a chord. I thank you for opening the forbidden door and welcoming discussion!

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      I so appreciate that you shared some of your story here, Kim. Thank you… I think your story resembles so many — but most are probably afraid/ashamed to say it. You are courageous and strong for putting words to what you feel and to what is.

      Do you feel like there are wounds there that need healing? Like maybe time with a solid Christian counselor would be a help — just to talk through everything?

      Thinking of you tonight…

  • Talia

    alece i love this!

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Thank you, friend. So appreciate you!

  • http://twitter.com/truebluebrenda Brenda W.

    I’ve had several conversations with some of my close girlfriends about this topic. We call it the “secret shame” – that a lot of Christians don’t succeed in doing the deed on their wedding night, and/or have a difficult time adjusting to sex suddenly being okay. Thanks for bringing this into the light and taking some of the shame out of it!

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      I think it’s more common than is spoken of, for sure… It has to be. Makes me sad… There needs to be more conversations like this…

  • http://profiles.google.com/lisapippus Lisa Pippus

    Preach it! As a late twenty something single girl who’s been raised in the abstinence culture, this raises all the questions and points that my good friends and I have been talking about and asking – how do we transition (god willing) at some point into marriages with healthy expressions of sexuality. I’m so glad you’re speaking up about this!

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      It’s not easy. I’m not saying it can’t be done… It can. But it takes more preparation and hard conversation than I had… I’m glad you are talking about this too, Lisa.

  • http://twitter.com/angusnelson angusnelson

    Singing my song girl. I totally thought that after TMania I’d have to get struck by lightning if I didn’t marry the the next woman I’d have sex with. Even then, I dare not try any other position but missionary… good grief! So very pleased to read your always honest, superb writing on an issue more people need to talk about. Appreciate you heaps and heaps!

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Ahhhh yes, the TM piece compounded the issue for me big time. You could be sent home for even voicing that you “liked” someone of the other opposite sex?? Talk about setting us up for failure and not teaching us ANYthing about healthy relationships. Sigh… Lots of un-doing in my mind and heart still needs to happen…

  • JwHw

    I think the most important thing to remember it’s all about the relationship. I was a very stanch supporter of abstinence and still am. However, it really doesn’t mean much if you don’t know WHY you’ve chosen a different path. My mom always told me that sex is basically just the cherry on top of what should be a sundae and I’m glad she drilled that into me. My story is flawed and not what I would have wished it to be but my marriage is getting there because my husband and I share vulnerability. When people see sex as a roadblock in their relationship, I often see that they have so many other problems that sex just seems like the last thing they should focus on (just an observation, I’m not a counselor). If you can’t share vulnerability in other areas of your life why would you be able to share it in the bedroom? I say this not as a point of condemnation but as a point to stop and think. When people get married, it’s one broken sinful person marrying another sinful broken person…which can be extremely frustrating. We are in a dying, broken world full of dysfunctional families and thoughts that threaten to suffocate what should be our joy filled spirit as children of God. I think it’s important to know why we are making a decision instead of just making because someone tells us it’s right or wrong.

    Another important point is, when we are steeped in a sex focused culture it is so hard to change our paradigm that love=sex. I mean, especially as a woman I know it’s hard for me to want to have sex with my husband if I’m not feeling especially “loving” towards him. If we are using 1 Cor. 13 to define love it takes on a whole new meaning doesn’t it? If I take the attitude that I am presenting my body as a gift to my husband, I choose to love him…it changes my attitude towards sex. This is a part of my strategy and it might not work for everyone. However, gift giving is one of my love languages so maybe that’s a bridge for me…I don’t know. :-)

    I think a lot of the problem is that women are so thirsty to feel loved and wanted…that they are far too eager to settle for someone who doesn’t share vulnerability, someone who doesn’t respect their bodies or choices. I don’t say this to make anyone feel bad but to let you know that you aren’t alone! I was raised in an abusive home where there wasn’t a whole lot of “love” going on. Perhaps if we made sure that all the other parts of the relationship were there i.e. 1 Cor. 13, perhaps sex would feel more natural and less “dirty” or “bad”? Would we experience joy when the time comes? I don’t know…just a few thoughts.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      I so appreciate your thoughts here… Thank you for being honest and open about your own journey and the things that have been a help to you along the way. I think they will speak to others as well.

  • Kaleigh

    I am not yet married, but I strongly relate to the ways you said you felt leading up to marriage. I’ve been dating a wonderful Christian man for over two years now, and I always go back and forth between desire and guilt. I always assumed the “guilt switch” would flip on my wedding night, and it never occurred to me before reading this that it might not. If you could go back to about two years before your got married, back to when you were dating, what would you do differently? How would you recommend I work on my own understanding of sex and abstinence to have a healthier sex life in my marriage? I’d love the advice…

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Such great questions, Kaleigh. I don’t know that I have the answers, but one thing I wish that had been different for me was being more comfortable simply talking about these topics. It was so taboo in my home growing up, that even as an adult it was (is) awkward and even painful for me to dialogue openly about. If you have married girl friends you trust, maybe start there. Ask if they’d be willing to be honest and open to answer your questions and share about their own experiences and journey… Cultivating the practice of forcing yourself to have uncomfortable conversations will go a long way in being able to do that with your spouse…

      • Kaleigh

        Thank you so much, Alece! I truly appreciate you sharing your heart on such a sensitive topic.

  • http://www.nosuperheroes.com Chris Lautsbaugh

    Great post Alece. Well said and grace filled

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Thank you, Chris.

  • jenna esme

    I don”t know why people would think it shameful that they have a hard time on their wedding night. It’s something new, that you learn together. You go from being newlyweds just starting out learning and experiencing together and growing in your sexual relationship just as the rest of your relationship grows. It’s silly to expect it to be great your wedding night and thinking that experience with other people is going to help your sexual relationship with your spouse is crazy. What is great on your wedding night is that you’re together, you get to wake up together ( if you were able to sleep with that person in your bed next to you, taking up all that space ;) ) and you get to keep practicing at sex as much and as often as you want to get better at it. :0

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Silly though it may be, it’s an often-unspoken expectation many people have. Talking through it openly in advance and in the moment would go a long way in alleviating the feelings of disappointment and even shame.

      • MarkAllman

        Unvoiced expectations are at the root of many relationship problems; sex and otherwise. I think people should have frequent discussions around expectations. It is hard to meet an expectation you don’t know about and equally hard for a loved one to meet yours. I think the first few times it is a hard conversation to have but it can be very beneficial because I think over time we get better at explaining our expectations and then better at discussing them when we don’t agree with an expectation. I also think our expectations change over time too surrounding a lot of things in life.

    • Alecia

      This was my initial thought as well. Thanks for voicing it. And Alece’s response is right on too. We need to talk more about how it’s okay that the wedding night might not be magical. You have a lifetime of building up the sexual experiences together.
      I so appreciate, Alece, you being willing to talk about this and at the same time express that yes, abstinence is important and Gods best for us. But that making those choices out of fear is not how we should be setting our children up. I think it seriously ends up holding us back when we finally are in our marriages. And it can and often does take years to overcome those things.

      • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

        I think some people heard what I said as “abstinence sets us up for failure” and that’s not it at all. It’s the lack of openness, honesty, and vulnerability that sets us up for failure.

        Thank you for hearing my heart, Alecia.

  • Zack

    Wow. I’m shocked and saddened after reading some of these posts. I work as a counselor, and I would implore anyone dealing with these issues to please go see a couples counselor or sex therapist. Couples MUST communicate, especially when things are difficult or there’s a discrepancy in needs management like sex. As a Christian man, I know some of my buds who are married deal with these issues. No one wants to share such private information, but when they say that things aren’t like they’d imagined, one can assume. I have expectations such as frequency of sex and all. However, I don’t feel that the expectation that my wife will be interested in my pants is unreasonable. It would be unfair to marry someone, knowing that sex is what many Christian men have been waiting for, fighting for purity for, and I have no interest. Once married, that’s an issue that will have to be navigated with care. I’d get extremely CBT on a client dealing with these issues. The woman has issues around her body and sexual release, belief systems, etc. darling with some of those cognitive distortion would be helpful. Secondly, the behavioral side would be practical steps the couple could engage in that build intimacy and affirm one another and that touching is not……fill in the blank.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      As hard and awkward as it would be, this kind of counseling is so needed… Thank you for joining the conversation here, Zack.

  • Jane

    Wow, thanks for that!. Its sad what you’ve gone though :( Great that you’ve learnt so much, but it sucks that it must have been so hard.

    I agree – this whole idea of preaching that abstinence leads to finding the one which leads to having a great sex life and marriage is so wrong and sets people up for disappointment. We are meant to follow Jesus and love Him, which includes not having sex outside of marriage, but that does not mean that marriage will be a fairy tale or that sex will be good. Some of the abstinence teaching almost sounds a little prosperity doctrine….

    Although maybe if there wasn’t so much negative taught about sex e.g. that its dirty, or you’ll be damaged if you do it, people would have a happier attitude towards it in marriage…and maybe a realistic expectation.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      YES. I’d never thought of it that way before, Jane, but you’re right about the abstinence teaching having a bit of prosperity doctrine in it. Hmmm…

  • http://www.facebook.com/miriam.yvanovich Miriam Yvanovich

    Thanks so much for this–I was raised with a similar perspective and I hope to impart something much more holistic and less fear-based to my 2 daughters.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Changing the story, Miriam. Love that.

  • Stephanie

    My husband and I abstained until we were married, but there was a night while we were engaged that we went for “the drive.” We got in the car, got on the interstate and decided to talk about our expectations, histories, thoughts, desires, the wedding night – everything about sex. It was also decided that we would not stop the car until we had talked about Jesus and our mothers. :) We drove for several hours and the conversation helped us both go into that time with less fear and more excitement.
    I was blessed to have parents who were open about the topic in appropriate ways but as they did not become believers until later in life and had lived together prior to marriage, they were sometimes at a loss as to how best to encourage me in making that transition. Having “saved myself for marriage” I can tell you that it has been a wonderful blessing in our relationship, but specifically for me, that as my husband and I are intimate together I do not have to fight back memories of past experiences. God gives grace to those with a past and complete freedom in married sex is possible even if there was not complete abstinence before. His grace also extends to those who abstained before marriage and now find themselves struggling in marriage. Neither person is resigned to their “fate” as we serve a God who, as Alece so perfectly stated, “can redeem all things.”
    Communication and vulnerability have been real keys in the joy my husband and I have found in our sex life. Sadly, I’m realizing that this is not the norm. A wise mentor once told me, “vulnerability breeds vulnerability.” Alece, with this article you have allowed others the freedom to step out from behind the Christian fear facades and engage in raw dialogue. Excellently done, my friend. Whatever our stories, past and current, we can all benefit in community engaged in conversation.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      I so appreciate every word of this, Stephanie. Thank you thank you thank you!

  • http://www.devotionaldiva.com/ Renee Johnson Fisher

    Alece, thanks for helping me realize the same is true when it comes to having or thinking about having children. I share my story here: http://www.devotionaldiva.com/2013/02/on-anxiety-why-im-not-ready-for-kids/

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Great post, Renee!

  • Katy

    I was really blessed to have parents who spoke about my value and God’s intention for marriage, they also informed me that the first time was not like the movies and that it was something to be worked at. I also had open communication with friends who had gone before me into marriage and was given great books to read during engagement “Intended for Pleasure: Sex technique & sexual fulfillment in christian marriage” by Ed Wheat MD, Gaye Wheat and “A celebration of sex: A guide to enjoying God’s gift of sexual intimacy” by Dr Douglas Rosenau. I would also highly recommend Mark Driscoll’s sermon “Real Marriage” he boldly approaches the topic of Sex and our cultures misconceptions that its gross or a god, and our freedom in Christ to experience it as a gift.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Thanks for suggesting resources that may be a help to some people, Katy.

  • Christina

    Amazing. It’s like reading my own story but without the marriage part. Sex before marriage used to be in alignment with me but now it’s not. But maybe that’s just an excuse for being messed up about sex. Thanks Alece!

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      I think more of us are “messed up about sex” than we realize because so few are willing to talk about it…

  • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

    Mmm. Preach.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      That made me smile. Thanks, Justin.

  • Michael

    Hi there, just read you article – what a neat piece – and rather daring, to poke sticks at the sacred cow of sex and sexuality that Christendom makes for itself. Asking the questions that no one dares ask, and pointing out that so many of the taboos and stigmas are necessarily justified.

    I was a “good boy” and kept my pants on until I was married 21 years ago (that’s not to say I didn’t think about it!) and in that respect although I have no regrets, the one thing I do see now, having been pushed under the bus with “Divorce” on its destination board, is that sexual intimacy is only ever going to be as good as the relational and emotional intimacy in the marriage. While everyone was banging on about how we must wait until we were married, and then it would be OK, no one ever said it was only ever going to be as good as the relationship it was founded upon. We had to try and find our own way sexually, as there is sod all good and honest help out there for Christian couples – most of it covers the missionary position and not a lot else.

    Finding myself now in a very good friendship with another lovely lady, I am discovering the sheer pleasure of intimacy in relationship – the openness and transparency that brings life is way better than sex, and sex is pretty damn good.

    So thank you for your truthfulness, vulnerability, and your bravery in writing about this,

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      “no one ever said it was only ever going to be as good as the relationship it was founded upon.” THIS. Thank you, Michael.

  • Sarah

    I just say… practice makes perfect and communication is key. I am not married, but have friends that are. They had issues in the bedroom at one point in their marriage because of lack of trust in the relationship. I say that because if there are issues in your relationship apart from sex, it will lead to issues in your sex life. Sex is meant to be enjoyed, but I do think, like any other aspect of a relationship, it takes work and communication.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      “it takes work and communication” – absolutely!

  • Taylor

    My wife and I were given a great book to read (Intended for Pleasure by Ed and Gaye Wheat ) before we were married by an older married couple who were also very honest with us about honeymoon, that it will likely not be “magical” the first time and possibly for a while. This couple also gave us wise advise not to read the book together (because of content). They told me as a guy to read it the week of our wedding and that my wife could read it sooner, but we should begin talking about it what we learned in the book immediately. I highly recommend the book because it encourages communication about sex between husband and wife from the beginning and going forward. The book is intended to gently encourage married couples to communicate and work on their sexual relationship to be the fulfilling experience it was meant to be. These friends and this book helped me be ready for honeymoon and to have realistic expectations. This book has also helped us over the past 17 years of marriage as we reflect and practice what we have learned. Intimacy takes tender care, nurturing, patience, and a lot of work. I want to encourage you all to continue fighting for a healthy God honoring love life. I highly recommend all to get this book!

    Alece, thanks for your thoughtful words. I too have been changed by Africa, as my family and I have lived in Uganda for the last 3 years. Blessings to you for you candor, honesty, and truth shared!

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      “Intimacy takes tender care, nurturing, patience, and a lot of work.” TRUTH.

      Awesome to hear of your mutual heart for Africa, Taylor. Love connecting with kindred spirits…

  • MarkAllman

    Alece,
    So very true…every word.

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Thanks for linking over and reading, Mark.

  • Lisa

    I’m so happy you wrote this! It really is an issue and topic that needs to be explained and talked about more!

    • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece Ronzino

      Thank you, Lisa.

  • alana

    that’s true but the mistake we make is thinking that we are to shut off those emotions(that’s partly because of how they speak about it and we have to blame because as you get older you can find out for yourself what the bible says your pastor etc. ids not the authority on God’s word God is the authority on his word so listen to God and not the ppl that tell u sex is bad God says it is good and God is not a man that he can lie) and that’s not true have sexual desires is normal don’t shut them off just exercise self control before marriage and when you get married let go of those boundaries because you are now free and commanded to have sex be vulnerable be bold and free

  • Chris Dagostino

    was at work several months ago and was thinking about the depression and anger that plagued me throughout much of my teen years, and I think much of it can be linked to Jesus’s words about lust in Matthew 5:27 and 28. I often felt guilty and angry when I felt any kind of sexual urge, tingle or emotion, and since adolescence is a time when we guys feel that frequently, there was a ton of anger and guilt. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I saw a minister on TV–Creflo Dollar, I believe– teach that the purpose of those passages wasn’t to make us feel guilty or repress our sexuality, but to emphasize God’s grace and to make us realize how much we need Him in our daily lives. It was like, “Gee, NOW someone tells me.”

    Needless to say, I don’t have nearly the urge to seek out a mate as I once did, because I don’t want kids and the thought of having sex with someone makes me anxious and a llittle revulsed as well. In the meantime, there are secular people who wouldn’t give God a second thought who are having normal sex lives because of the “practice” they had in their teens and twenties.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

  • Eve’s Apple

    I too was brought up to wait until marriage and I bought into that hook, line and sinker. Now that I am nearing sixty and still single, STILL waiting (yes, folks, I have been abstinent a lot longer than some of you have been married), I just wonder how appropriate that advice still is. I feel that in some ways I have been lied to. Girls like me were told we could have our cake (chastity) and eat it too (a normal dating life). We were not told that by insisting on premarital abstinence we might be taking ourselves right out of the marriage market. We were never told that waiting for marriage might mean waiting not five or ten years but twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty or more. We were not told a lot of things.
    I have heard that if a woman has not married by the time she is fifty, she only has a 1% chance of making it to the altar under the best of circumstances. “I may be worth waiting for”–but it’s a pretty good bet at that age that while you may have waited for him, he has not been waiting for you. So here we go again with the old double standard tango. Let’s face it, I’ve known too many aging involuntarily single women in the church, but no men with that problem. And I for one am tired of being commended for my chastity by those who are safely married. I am not your pet virgin.

  • Eve’s Apple

    It is about time that someone told the truth about abstinence’s false promises. I am nearing sixty and am still waiting for marriage. When you think about it, that means I have been abstaining from sex longer than many people have been married. That’s not how it was supposed to work out.
    I just wonder how many women are out there who bought into the whole romantic wait until marriage business who are still waiting decades later. Who have watched the years and decades go by with no hope of change, who see their chances of having children wither and dry up, and who are basically treated as “pet virgins” by their more fortunate married fellow churchgoers. You know what I mean, the whole stand firm in your faith, what a witness you are, etc. We are supposed to accept our fate without a word of complaint.
    “I am worth waiting for,” a married woman told me, a woman who had the fortune to marry well and in her twenties and who now is awaiting grandchildren. Well, SHE may have waited for him, but did HE wait for her? I can guarantee that by the time you get to be my age, men who have waited to have sex with their future brides are about as common as male tortoiseshell cats–that is to say, practically non-existent. Sort of makes a mockery of the whole thing, doesn’t it. Especially given that a woman over 50 who has never married has only a 1% chance of making it to the altar under the best of circumstances. But they never ever talk about that when they talk about abstinence. They never ever tell these starry eyed young girls that by practicing abstinence they may be taking themselves right out of the marriage market. Oh, no, it’s all scare stories about sex. Well, there’s another dirty little secret they don’t tell you, and that is women who have bought into the SEX BAD/NOW SEX GOOD mindset are more likely to develop vaginismus than those who haven’t.

  • Kayti

    Just stumbled upon this and all I have to say is WOW and YES. As I read your blog my first thought was, “Is this something I wrote?” You story is the story of so many, including myself, so THANK YOU for speaking truth and being brave.