Guest ElizabethLee

Waiting Until Marriage To Have Sex

72 posts in this topic

A description of a Lincoln Center movie, “Good Girl / Gentille” [2005, French], says it is a “portrait of a couple traversing the inconsistencies and pitfalls of a modern relationship.”

Do you agree that modern relationships have some inconsistencies and pitfalls? I do, and I think holding off on sex can solve a great number of them in a great number of cases.

I’m posting this in psychology because I’m especially curious about the conditions under which waiting is good/bad. I believe that certain psychologies or philosophies are key here. However, so far I don’t have it worked out how to identify the psychological prerequisites to healthy sex prior to marriage. It certainly works for some people! Right now I see it as an issue of odds, but I’d like to have it be more sophisticated than that.

As a delimiter, I’m specifically discussing romances where marriage is potentially an option. And the question is whether sex and living together improves or hinders good marriage outcomes.

I look forward to many replies of disagreement or rather many lists of exceptions ;). One major reason I’m posting is that I find the issue topical :D. Indeed, I think there’s an outside chance I’ll be convinced to give up my views.

Here are some quotes from various sources that may spark debate in the context of my contention that the sex isn’t necessary prior to marriage or engagement and indeed may be harmful.

Since I’m a girl, I do enjoy romance novels, and one author who can write a good yarn is Nora Roberts. She wrote a scene between a man and a woman which goes like this:

It occurs to me that we don’t know each other very well. ....  You believe in dating?

She hooked her hands around her knees and smiled.  “It’s a nice preoccupation for teenagers.”

You don’t figure adults can pull it off?

On guard again, she moved her shoulders, “Most people I know have lovers, not boyfriends.”

One of our posters referred me to Fred, whom I really enjoy. He wrote,

http://www.fredoneverything.net/ ']A woman sees sex as a step toward commitment, as fifty years ago a man saw commitment as a step toward sex.

A young male Objectivist recently said, echoing his published non-Objectivist compatriots, “Nowadays, marrying at age 35 or 40 is the thing to do. Anyway, there are so many women in NY, why should I settle?” A young woman promptly answered, “What about kids?”

OK! I think that’s a start.

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I don't think it's a good idea to wait until marriage (or engagement) to have sex.

One problem with doing that would be: what about people who never get married? If they have decided to wait until marriage to have sex, that means they'll die without ever having sex. And also: what about somebody who doesn't get married until he's 40? Or 50? Should he remain celibate for all of those years? I say he should not.

But also, I think that two people ought to get to know each other as well as they possibly and practically can before they decide to get married. And this includes knowing each other sexually. (Suppose, for example, that the two people have very different sexual appetites, or attitudes about sex. This is something that will be easier to discover in the bedroom, than just talking about it. And if there are such differences, it would be good to discover them before marriage and decide how to deal with them, or maybe decide not to get married to this particular person.) More knowledge is always a good thing, and is especially important when one is making an important decision such as whether or not to get married.

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Do you agree that modern relationships have some inconsistencies and pitfalls?  I do, and I think holding off on sex can solve a great number of them in a great number of cases.

Elizabeth, would you be able to specify some of the problems that you think waiting until marriage (or engagement) to have sex would solve? I've heard such claims many times but I've never seen much evidence offered in their behalf. (Furthermore, I'm in agreement with everything Jay P said above.)

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We've discussed this before, Elizabeth--very briefly. I'm sure you haven't forgotten. ;)

My view hasn't changed in the least from then, so I'll just link back to the most relevant post:

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?s...indpost&p=23198

I also agree with Jay 100%.

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I think the first question to answer in respect to waiting to have sex or not is: Is it EASY to wait?

If it is easy, then I don't think a person should even consider getting sexually involved.

If it is hard to wait, the next question to ask is WHY. If the need is based on values, if you admire and desire that particular person, that's fine. If the sexual encounter will assuage self-doubt, overcome boredom, anxiety, or depression, or otherwise negate a negative, it's a terrible waste of sexuality and there are much more effective ways of solving such problems.

If you passionately desire someone and know that desire is based on values, it is fine to go for it. It is also OK to wait -- but only if there is a very good reason for waiting. One might be, as in the case of Wynand with Dominique, to make their first sexual encounter extremely special and unique. I can't imagine that happening very often -- even in romantic fiction -- but it is a possibility.

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From experience of watching some people close to me marry, I don't think holding off on sex until marriage is a good thing. I would think that for two lovers to marry, they should know that they are compatible, spiritually and physically, on all levels of intimacy; and I just don't see how two people could really know that without having sex first.

I do think though that it would be healthier for a relationship to let sex wait until it was established that the two do love each other; because sex outside of the realm of love, personally, is rather disturbing. There is just so much beauty and passion possible if the act is done in the context of love ;), that it would be sacrilegious for it to happen outside of that setting!

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I don't understand how not having sex can reduce inconcistencies and pitfalls in a couple's life. Of course, not having sex prevents all the pitfalls associated with having sex, but that's hardly a reason not to.

I think that "sexual compability" isn't always a given, and that it's something which is better knowing at a relatively early stage of the relationship than much later. Even in cases when there are no incompatibilities, there's often a measure of learning process that needs to take place. Holding off on sex means delaying this learning process and therefore reducing the remaining life stage when the two lovers have achieved the right level of understanding, knowledge, and proficiency. This cannot be a good thing.

I tend to believe that sex does not always require the deepest level of love to be a fulfilling, happy, healthy thing. Of course then it doesn't compare to what it can be in a fully commited and loving relationship, but it's still light years ahead of *not* having sex. I don't believe that the most perfect occurences of physical love can be in any way weakened by the less perfect ones, and in fact I'd think that such sacrifice would only have negative effects on the couple's relationship over time.

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A young male Objectivist recently said, echoing his published non-Objectivist compatriots, “Nowadays, marrying at age 35 or 40 is the thing to do.  Anyway, there are so many women in NY, why should I settle?”  A young woman promptly answered, “What about kids?”

OK!  I think that’s a start.

I'd like to add a bit of context to this conversation.

It is one thing for a woman to wait for marriage or engagement before sex. Women are inherently better at doing that.

Demanding that a man wait -- particularly one who is honestly in love with his woman -- is entirely unrealistic. Particularly if that man is young, say in his 20's. I think it is entirely appropriate that seeking his ideal should occupy a significant portion of his effort early in his life. IMHO, expecting him to wait for marriage/engagement flies directly in the face of the biology and psychology of a healthy young man.

However, later in life such an expectation becomes more reasonable. Speaking from experience (I turn 40 this April ;) ), the air gets thinner. The opportunities to meet one's ideal become increasingly rare. The potential partners are increasingly jaded by bad experiences like nasty divorces, etc. And a forty-something like me who has never experienced a loving relationship is already used to waiting.

As a matter of fact, I'm no longer looking. I don't expect anybody to understand this, but I'm trying to learn to get comfortable in my own skin.

--HH

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And a forty-something like me who has never experienced a loving relationship is already used to waiting....  As a matter of fact, I'm no longer looking.

This is a very sad thing to hear. I know you to be an intelligent, capable, good-natured person, and a man like that deserves the pleasure and happiness that a true love relationship can bring. Please, don't ever stop looking.

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This is a very sad thing to hear. I know you to be an intelligent, capable, good-natured person, and a man like that deserves the pleasure and happiness that a true love relationship can bring. Please, don't ever stop looking.

I agree.

I am also thinking of the wonderful single ladies out there who are having a difficult time finding the right man. As guys go, you definitely qualify as a Good Catch.

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As a matter of fact, I'm no longer looking. I don't expect anybody to understand this, but I'm trying to learn to get comfortable in my own skin.

I understand, because I've just about reached that point myself. Granted, for the time being I have no time, energy, or resources to devote to romance, but that will pass eventually. Once it does, though, I still don't see myself either finding anyone or, if I do, I don't expect ever to succeed at a relationship. I'm too dissatisfied with myself to think that anyone else could be satisfied with me. I've been working a long time at changing that, but thus far with little gain. Life is only so long - sometimes you cut your losses and put your efforts into other things.

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Michael and Hannes,

From a couple of post that I have read today I will mix two of them on this one.

Chocolate is my favorite food as I enjoy it more than any other food. That which comes from putting a sweet piece of goodness into one's mouth brings pure elation.

With that said, chocolate is nothing compared to the elation one feels from having sex with a person that you value and something that I would not go without. I think (and the two of you can tell me to go to hell), that the two of you need to be reminded of the elation of having sex.

Being a prior Marine I have gone months without sex and learned to deal with it. But, unlike being in the field for 10 months without a choice, if I had a choice I would seek out one of worthiness, no matter how long or difficult the hardship.

Though I would not consider it a hardship but a goal worthy of setting and obtaining.

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I think (and the two of you can tell me to go to hell), that the two of you need to be reminded of the elation of having sex.

Go to hell, Ray.

:D :D :D :D :D JUST KIDDING!

I'm actually in a very light-hearted mood tonight, having just watched Chocolat again. My (lack of a) romantic future bothers me not at all - neither should it bother anyone else. ;)

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With that said, chocolate is nothing compared to the elation one feels from having sex with a person that you value and something that I would not go without.  I think (and the two of you can tell me to go to hell), that the two of you need to be reminded of the elation of having sex. 

It looks like piz beat me to the punch by jokingly telling you to go to hell. ;) I can't see how I could justifiably do so seriously given that I mentioned the whole thing in the first place and it isn't even on topic.

Part of the problem is that I know exactly what it is like to have sex with my ideal, it's just that she never thought of me as her ideal. And the whole thing didn't last long enough to qualify as a relationship . I'd marry her today if I thought she'd say yes, but I know she wouldn't. And I simply can't imagine finding anybody who is her equal let alone her better, and years of trying have not proven me wrong. The thought of not having anybody possibly for the rest of my life does bother me, but I'd better get used to it because I refuse to settle for second best.

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It looks like piz beat me to the punch by jokingly telling you to go to hell. :D I can't see how I could justifiably do so seriously given that I mentioned the whole thing in the first place and it isn't even on topic.

Yeah, it's off-topic.

On the topic, there's no problem with sex before marriage, even if you're not certain you've found The One, as long as the relationship is based on values (as AR said in her Playboy interview). I also happen to think that "based on values" leaves a lot of leeway, so that there's nothing wrong with sex even in relationships that haven't become very serious. I don't know exactly where to draw the line to determine what's value-based and what's not; there's probably not even any way to make a universal rule, so it's best left to the parties involved to decide for themselves.

I'm convinced that it really does come down to the value issue, because in my own experience having sex that wasn't value-based left me empty and disappointed, or even guilty, every single time (to the extent I can recall). On the other hand, sex that proceeded from values was always (again as far as I remember) satisfying (spiritually, if not on technical merit ;)) and guilt-free.

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I also happen to think that "based on values" leaves a lot of leeway, so that there's nothing wrong with sex even in relationships that haven't become very serious. I don't know exactly where to draw the line to determine what's value-based and what's not; there's probably not even any way to make a universal rule, so it's best left to the parties involved to decide for themselves.

Yes, actually in hindsight now I'm not sure I would stick to my "sex only in context of love" statement, because I can think of situations where that rule could or should be broken. Maybe a man and a woman meet, and they are falling for each other but for some reason they will never get to see each other again--or perhaps at least not for a long time--I could see in that context the two having sex outside of the domain of true love out of a desire to consumate what could or should have been.

I guess I said "sex only with love" partially out of a knee-jerk reaction against how I see in College-life sex is indiscriminately thrown about or exchanged between people like it were some everyday, mundane commodity when it should be so much more!

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On the topic, there's no problem with sex before marriage, even if you're not certain you've found The One, as long as the relationship is based on values (as AR said in her Playboy interview). I also happen to think that "based on values" leaves a lot of leeway, so that there's nothing wrong with sex even in relationships that haven't become very serious. I don't know exactly where to draw the line to determine what's value-based and what's not; there's probably not even any way to make a universal rule, so it's best left to the parties involved to decide for themselves.

That's a very good point. My "refusing to settle for second best" language can quite properly be interpreted to mean that I advocate a vicious false alternative: either find Miss Right and turn her into Mrs. Hacker or be celibate. Yuck! I certainly don't advocate that, and finding somebody special enough to be a "best friend with benefits" is not something I would consider second best. It's the same sex sans values you mentioned that I had in mind when I wrote that. And that kind of sex has always made me feel empty at best and dirty at worst, too.

Come to think of it, such a relationship is perfectly healthy and moral if the lovers are honest with eachother. It happens all the time: married couples discover that what they thought was their ideal turned out not to be. "Best friends with benefits" can equally likely find out over time that they had their ideal all the time, but they just needed to discover a few more things about their partners and/or themselves.

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"Best friends with benefits"

Umm, I don't understand your post at all [referents unclear]. Are you saying that you'd be happy to find a best friend plus sex and that would make you feel great, that it would be a fine first choice? And that married couples who settle for non-ideals but stay married because they're such great friends are doing the right thing?

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Excuse me, we must now interrupt the regular programming on this thread for a test of the emergency broadcasting system. This is only a test. Can you hear me? Hannes TLI and Michael Piz, I’m sure I’m just as old, just as busy, just as single as you are, but I have a radiant certainty that passionate romance is just around the corner. As men, you may need even more, perhaps a plan to build new corners. Unfortunately, at least several other Objectivist gentlemen feel as you do.

Just as a test, let me see if we can make progress on this crucial matter: motivation. Please join me for a trip to your benevolent universe. Problem solving always starts with a guided tour, did you know that?

The first stop is Psyche, in this case the mastery of your souls. Please don’t think of non-dissatisfaction or comfort with yourselves. These are red lights to induction. Instead, ask what is your unique genius? Who are you? What love have you offered? How do you recast your past love lives into a compelling story, whose climax could well be writ on the next page?

What do you want for your romantic life story? Is it a sad tale of aching hearts and pains? Aren’t many bruises often the result of daredevilry, a life lived to the hilt? It’s a choice, to race towards the next curve, with no regrets. It’s a choice, to carve the happiest memories deep into your soul. It’s a choice to take your tools and rebuild – higher.

Only after motivation is strong and clear is the test over.

“What’s so amazing that keeps us star-gazing? And what do we think we might see?” That’s the purpose of art. Do you have enough art in your lives. I have the most amazing artwork in my life. I see my world, here. That’s the second stop: fuel and inspiration for your stories of you.

The third stop is where we linger. How do you live a romantic life today? Do you take the effort to initiate joy with women you know? Did you smile, tell a joke, or give a compliment? Did you send a Valentine or a rose lately?

It’s an emergency, there’s no air to breathe, it’s stifling, without the daily spark of man appreciating woman and her reply.

Don’t let it go. Can you hear me? This was only a test. For results in real life, please consult your calendar for a date with destiny.

This concludes the test of the emergency broadcasting system.

Or does it? Do I get my [surely well deserved] “Hmmmm”? If this is not sufficient there is a part two that could be appropriate.

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Umm, I don't understand your post at all [referents unclear].  Are you saying that you'd be happy to find a best friend plus sex and that would make you feel great, that it would be a fine first choice?  And that married couples who settle for non-ideals but stay married because they're such great friends are doing the right thing? 

I see that the phrase "best friend with benefits" was not a good one to use, so let me rephrase.

What I am saying is that it is possible for two people to love each other without being each other's ideals. (Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden come to mind.) In such a case it is perfectly moral for those two people to be in a romantic relationship, especially if the alternative turns out to be waiting for years in loneliness and celibacy before they find their ideals. It is not the preferable arrangement, but it may be better than such an alternative.

The point I was trying to make by mentioning the married couple is that we can't predict the future. A married couple passionately in love at first may lose the fire that ought to be in a marriage. Similarly, a couple that started out as lovers but not each others' ideals may learn over time that they in fact are. If they had determined to only get romantically involved with somebody they held to be their ideal at the beginning of the relationship, they would have cheated themselves out of something wonderful.

As for the married couples who discover that over time they have become non-ideals, then they probably should get divorced and start a new search for The One. But that is not an ironclad rule. There may contexts when they should stay together. For example, a couple who has lost the romance but is still best friends might put off divorce until the kids are out of the house.

I hope that clarified things. ;)

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...

As a delimiter, I’m specifically discussing romances where marriage is potentially an option.  And the question is whether sex and living together improves or hinders good marriage outcomes.

...

To speak to the original question, I see no problem in having sex before marriage, for many reasons previously stated by others -- sexual compatibility as a prerequisite for marriage, for example, and that there is no need to torture oneself with waiting if a partner whom one loves, but who is not one's highest ideal, turns up.

I was hoping to discuss the idea of living together before marriage more, though. I personally refuse to do it, but this has more to do with a bad past experience than having decided that it will necessarily damage a relationship. (I lived with, and broke up with, the same man twice -- this was before discovering what I really wanted in a romantic relationship -- and it taught me that a breakup is MUCH harder when you share an address.) But, if a couple is rational, and are in love with each other for the right reasons, does living together harm the relationship/decrease the chances for marriage/etc.? I haven't worked this one out yet, and am curious to hear more.

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Stellavision,

I think living with someone is perfectly suitable within your context. I would not make this move right away though as I would want to get to know them first. Then I would take the step to get to know them even further by doing the move-in. Even with all the insight you might think you have about them, waking, sleeping and watching their general day to day habits will give one further insight into how the person acts to certain situations and teach you about their fundamentals of dealing with life. Living together is a way to find out if they truly are what you want and see in the person.

But, remember this person was not raised the same as you, nor do they have the same perceptions as you in all areas. What I mean in different words is do not set a check-list of exact behaviour according to your life. It is the fundamentals that have to reflect not the type of furniture or color of the walls and towels. This person could of had messy parents that left the kitchen dirty every night and now they hate this, so they constantly clean-up before watching a romantic movie with you. This is not a fundamental standard that has to directly reflect yours.

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What I am saying is that it is possible for two people to love each other without being each other's ideals.

One point I would like to clarify. By two people in love but less than ideal, do you include people whose value systems are a bit different from each other?

In other words, do you think that two people can fall in love if say one (with complete honesty) thinks that God exists while the other is an atheist? Or would you include two persons whose level of intelligence is very different?

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I would want to live with a person before getting married to her. There's a huge difference between dating someone - even very seriously - and living with someone. Of course, I'd only want to take this step after having known the person for a while.

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Stellavision,

I think living with someone is perfectly suitable within your context.  I would not make this move right away though as I would want to get to know them first.  Then I would take the step to get to know them even further by doing the move-in.  Even with all the insight you might think you have about them, waking, sleeping and watching their general day to day habits will give one further insight into how the person acts to certain situations and teach you about their fundamentals of dealing with life.  Living together is a way to find out if they truly are what you want and see in the person.

I don't think that living together is required to find out whether a person has all the fundamental characteristics you need in order to live happily together. My boyfriend and I have been together for two and a half years now. In that time, he's learned quite a bit about my tics and I know about his. I don't think there's a whole lot he could learn about me by actually moving in with me that he doesn't know already -- we've already spent a great deal of time together and I already know how he acts in everyday situations, not just when we're on a big date.

My discomfort about living together stems from two sources: the idea of "why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?" (ie, offering many of the benefits of marriage without requiring the corresponding commitment), and the fact that I have lived with someone before and the breakup was IMMENSELY worse than it would have been had we not shared an address.

But, remember this person was not raised the same as you, nor do they have the same perceptions as you in all areas.  What I mean in different words is do not set a check-list of exact behaviour according to your life.  It is the fundamentals that have to reflect not the type of furniture or color of the walls and towels.  This person could of had messy parents that left the kitchen dirty every night and now they hate this, so they constantly clean-up before watching a romantic movie with you.  This is not a fundamental standard that has to directly reflect yours.

Of course not. I don't insist that the person I live with share every single one of my values -- just the fundamental ones.

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