What longtime married women want single women to know about sex

Where does the real pleasure of sex come from? 23 surprising confessions from the women who put in the time and commitment to really know.

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For a woman searching the “truth” about sex there are countless options out there, from searching on the Internet and reading the latest sex surveys, to asking a best friend who seems uber knowledgeable on the subject and is never short of male attention. We can even look to celebrities who’ve been known to offer their own—often questionable—advice on what to do and what not to do in the bedroom. All this advice can leave us feeling a little confused and uncomfortable, trying to be something we’re not.

Normally we might look to our moms for advice, but very few of us would feel at ease discussing sex with them, no matter how close we are. What’s the next best thing? Asking other longtime married women, of course! They’re the true “sex experts”—the ones who’ve been through the ups and downs of dating and matrimony. (Let’s face it, no one anywhere, anytime can claim a perfect, problem-free long-term marriage.) Times and cultures may change, but relationships between men and women don’t. No matter what anyone says, we all want the same thing in our lives with our spouses (or future spouses)—meaning, durability, commitment, meaning, and lifelong love, even when our current culture tries to tell us differently.

We asked a handful of women—who range from seven years married all the way to 35 years—to share the true, deeper truths about sex we don’t often get to hear:

Sex is the closest my husband and I can get to one another as a married couple. It rebinds us after a terrible fight. It is the fun that we have in trying to find out what the other person enjoys. It is a great stress reliever and it is so fun to lock the kids out and sneak away to be together in the midst of the chaos of our lives.

It is the ultimate in vulnerability and giving of one’s entire self. It is a relationship I can know and trust that I alone have with my husband. No other person shares in that exchange with him. Other girls may think he is cute, or crush on his mad guitar playing skills, but I am the one who gets to share my entire self with him and he shares his entire self with only me.

My husband and I were told in premarital counseling that sex is the “oil in the lamp” of marriage. Almost 30 years later, I agree. When I start feeling irritated by my husband and little things annoy me or I feel distant from him, I think, When is the last time we were intimate? We need to add ‘oil’ to the lamp of our marriage. We generally have sex at least once a week, and I consider us one of the more happily married couples I know.

Knowing that we are participating in that sacramental life makes the act of sex not just a physical one, but a deeply unitive and spiritual one.

Sex before marriage lacks, in its inherent nature, freedom. It brings a lot of anxiety about possible pregnancy and commitment issues, enhances insecurities. It can also blind us to how good or bad our relationship actually is. It attaches us to the other person and makes us feel obligated to stay with them even if there are some huge red flags.

Married, loving, monogamous sex is safe. Not only because such sexual partners aren’t at risk of STDs or sexual violence—but because there is a freedom in the trust and exclusivity and bond that we share with our spouses in the sacrament of marriage. It’s safe to explore, to play, to seek pleasure from another person and give it, too.

Sex within marriage is freedom!

On our wedding night, I remember thinking: I am free. I am yours and you are mine. I wasn’t worried about what he would think of me. We were in love and starting a journey together. We were truly able to give of ourselves completely without fear or worry or lack of total commitment.

Sex before marriage is like sticking one foot in the water. Sex after marriage is truly jumping in!

If you haven’t slept together before your wedding night, the switch is not going to suddenly turn on. You won’t instantly be having hot sex. It might be great, but allow space for adjustment to each other sexually.

Immediate hot sex is not the pay-off for remaining virgins or “good” girls!

Married sex is worth the wait. I learned this in the context of a loving, committed, supportive relationship. It was so different than the rushed, physical-only encounters I’d previously experienced that it’s hard to compare the two.

Sex is so much more than a mere physical act. Marriage offers a frame that puts sex in the context of commitment in a way that no other relationship can give.

There is a beautiful diversity of experience sexually within marriage. We don’t have to conform to a standard or anyone’s standard. As we age, we find ourselves in new and deeper ways. Our depth of experience is so expansive.

Even after all these years together, we still come to know each other better in this intimate way.

I love that sex is something we share only with our spouse. It’s exclusive, intimate, private. My husband and I have friends and work colleagues of the opposite gender whom we like and respect. But sex is only between the two of us.

Having been in dating relationships where chastity was a huge struggle, I look back and remember nothing else. The relationship became totally about the physical. How far we went physically became a barometer—and often the only barometer—of my interest in a person, rather than our emotional intimacy, time, and attention.

My own sexual history came out of a deep need for male attention and affirmation. I was pretty promiscuous and rarely developed good relationships apart from the sex. When I met my husband, I learned that it was possible to have a relationship based on more than sex.

Sex creates a bond between two people. If a dating couple has that kind of intimacy, break-ups can be extremely painful, the pain longstanding. One partner might take sex more seriously than the other.

Sex makes it harder to walk away from dating relationships when we need to.

Long-term married sex can lose its luster. Because some of the fun of sex does come from novelty and straight-up physical desire. Years and years together has redefined for us pop culture’s versions of novelty and passion to something more profound. A life together includes those things, but includes a lot of other things (such as money problems, sickness, kid issues) that can take the fun out of sex for weeks (or months!) on end.

The hardest thing about sex in marriage is the expectations of how often we will have sex. At the end of the day, after nursing an infant and having kids need me all day long, I often struggle with just wanting to go to bed and not be with my husband. I’m always happy when I do take the time to be intimate with him even if at first I don’t want to.

Marriage—including sex-—is giving of ourselves sacrificially. Sacrifice! Now there is a word we don’t use in our culture! He also has to sacrifice during certain times of the month when we are practicing Natural Family Planning or other times when we have to abstain. Married sex requires a lot of patience and sacrifice and a continual putting the other person first.

A word from the expert

Turns out, the women we talked to know their stuff. In an interview with Dr. Les Parrott, a professor and co-founder of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University and the co-creator of the SYMBIS premarital assessment tool, offered similar wisdom:

Sex can hijack the “normal progression of intimacy.” According to Parrott premarital sex can “play with your mind,” rearranging the actual chemistry. This causes us to believe things that might not be true. Things like thinking a current beau is “the one.” He could be. But it could also be “brain chemistry going crazy.”

Sex in the wrong relationships can “wound the spirit,” Parrott says. We feel the woundedness—and the guilt—when we experience “this life-uniting act without the life-uniting intent.”

Sex doesn’t ruin a life. Or a soul. Or a future marriage. Parrott reminds those who feel guilty that there is no need for a “shroud of shame or guilt.” Couples who’ve had sex but want to explore a chastity until marriage, can “move forward” and “become virgins again in your spirit.”

Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira

Caryn Rivadeneira is the author of five books and is a columnist for Her.meneutics and ThinkChristian. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, three kids, and one red-nose pit bull. Visit her at carynrivadeneira.com.

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