Today, with everything from the popular casual hookup ethos that promises promiscuity as the key to empowerment to hormonal birth control, we live in a culture that wants to entirely divorce sex from its very real consequences. Making the decision to wait can make your life simpler and safer. However, this choice goes against cultural expectations, and it can make dating seem daunting. Here’s what you need to know in dating when sex is off the table.
1. Know Your Boundaries
You have to know what your boundaries are before you can enforce them. “No sex before marriage” can mean different things to different women. For example, some women are open to some sexual acts, like oral sex, but draw the line at sex with procreative possibilities. For others, even just kissing could lead them down the wrong path and cause them to take things too far. It’s important to know your limits and your needs. Be aware of your physical responses in moments of romance. Make out, or don’t, but always stay true to yourself. The path to true intimacy starts with getting to know yourself.
2. Know Your Worth
Before you ever download a dating app or accept a date, it's important that you have a healthy sense of confidence and self-esteem. If you need external validation, let me be the person to tell you right now: You are worth the wait! You are so deeply deserving of a partner who respects your boundaries and values. When we feel insecure, it can be easy to waver on our decision to wait to have sex because we want to be liked and validated by our potential romantic interest. I encourage you to find the validation you need from within before adding the possibility of romance to the mix.
3. Know When To Bring It Up
It’s not your responsibility to bring up sex, if sex is not something you want to have or talk about. Sex will, inevitably, come up on its own. I encourage you to wait until the guy you’re dating brings it up, then firmly state your intention to wait until marriage. While bringing it up immediately could weed out guys who are only interested in sex, it also means that you’re the one bringing sex into the conversation and assuming men’s intentions. I recommend an innocent-until-proven-guilty approach to dating: Try to operate as if the man you’re interested in truly wants to get to know you. Give him a chance to do that before making it all about sex (even sex you’re not having.)
You will feel much less lonely when you invest in the right friendships, making you much less likely to settle for the wrong relationship.
4. Know Who To Surround Yourself With
Who you choose to be friends with is just as important as you who choose to date, especially when you’re making difficult, values-based choices in your dating life. Are your friends supportive and understanding of your decision to wait until marriage? They don’t necessarily need to be making the same choice themselves, but it's important to have people in your life who encourage you and support you. Be sure you’re not taking advice from people who don’t share your values. Also, fostering a community around you that really gets you increases your chances of finding someone to date who will share your values and respect your decision. Make sure that you’re nurturing friendships with kind people who have a positive influence on you. You will feel much less lonely when you invest in the right friendships, making you much less likely to settle for the wrong relationship.
5. Know That You Will Face Opposition
Choosing to wait until marriage is not an easy choice. It means you have to have confidence, self-control, and the ability to think for yourself, even in the face of strong opposition. You will encounter judgemental acquaintances and men who think they can change your mind and get you in bed. There will be people who think that your personal decision is a condemnation of their own life choices, which it isn’t. There will be people who believe that your decision is some sort of political statement, just because it goes against the grain of the oh-so-popular, sex-positive strain of feminism. You don’t have to like the way other people judge or label you, but you can’t let it get to you. You’re doing what’s right for you, and it’s not a statement about politics or society or anything any other person decides to do. Your decision is simply a statement of your own personal values and boundaries. You don’t need to defend yourself against people who think otherwise. If people don’t understand, that’s on them.
6. Know That Your Past Doesn’t Define You
You have the right to decide to abstain from sex whether you’re a virgin or not. No matter how many people you have slept with, dated, or kissed – you still get to define your future on your own terms. If you participated in hookup culture in the past and regret your decision to do so, you don't have to continue on the same path. You are still worthy of love and respect and you don't need to explain your decision to change your mind about how important sex is to you to anyone for it to be valid.
People who choose to reserve sex for marriage know that sex is powerful, a force for vulnerability and intimacy and true love.
7. Know That Sex Has Value
Choosing to wait doesn’t mean that you don’t value sex; in fact, it’s often exactly the opposite. People who choose to reserve sex for marriage know that sex is powerful, a force for vulnerability and intimacy and true love. They call it making love for a reason, as it can truly foster trust, romance, and healthy attachments. It can be healthy to revere sex in marriage while also understanding that it’s just one part of what makes a marriage meaningful.
8. Know That Your Life Doesn’t Start in Marriage
It’s important to know that even if you’re waiting for marriage to have sex, there is not much else you have to reserve for marriage. Even though you may be looking forward to marriage and actively seeking a husband, it’s important to know that your life doesn’t begin when you get married. As Lauren Windle emphasizes in her book on dating, Notes on Love, singleness is not a lesser state to being married. It’s a different season, of equal stature with the season of marriage. If there are goals you want to go after, places you want to travel, businesses you want to start, or marathons you want to train for, remember that you don’t have to wait until you have a partner to make these things happen for yourself.
With all of this knowledge in mind, I hope you feel encouraged and empowered to move forward, uphold your boundaries, and build meaningful relationships. I truly believe that it takes courage, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence to make the decision to wait until marriage, and actually see it through. I am rooting for you!
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