When it comes to Christians and newlywed intimacy, there are usually two extremes.
For some couples, they head toward the altar with the expectation that they will find themselves soon lost in ecstasy and passion—a reward from God for staying pure until marriage. For others, the idea of intimacy carries a lot of anxiety and fear—as he or she tries to figure out what messages of intimacy are “real” between the portrayal we see in culture, the Church’s teaching, and one’s future spouse’s expectations. To add to this, the reality is that 80 percent of unmarried Christians ages 18 to 29 have already had—or are having—intimacy, as reports indicate.
As with most extremes, there is some truth to these for some couples. However, the majority tend to find themselves somewhere in the middle.
This was the case for us personally as our first few times were a little awkward. Three days into our honeymoon we found ourselves in Barnes and Noble trying to find a book to help us figure things out in the bedroom. We’d read a number of Christian books about intimacy prior to getting married, and they were very helpful in terms of the theological and relational aspect of intimacy, but not so helpful on the supremely practical “how to” aspect—and more specifically, how to do it well and mutually enjoy it.
Our honeymoon was eight years ago now, and you might say we’ve learned a lot since then. But looking back to the very beginning, here are four things we think every couple should known before their wedding night:
1. Expect to be s!xually incompatible at first.
One of the common arguments used in favor of sleeping together outside of marriage is the importance of s!xually compatibility. But in reality, compatibility isn’t something that can be tested out in a trial run. Rather it’s something that you build together through shared s!xual experience.
Just like anything you want to get good at, intimacy takes practice. You don’t expect to just pick up a guitar for the first time and play, so why would you expect electrifying compatibility right off the bat?
s!xual incompatibility is a simple fact of every marriage when it first starts out (especially if you are both virgins), but all that really means is that you can now enjoy the process of learning with each other. That is the beauty a life-long commitment to marriage brings: lots of time to practice, practice, practice. And in this context, practice can actually be quite fun. The more you both learn about how your bodies’ work and what you both like, the better intimacy will be for both of you.
2. Take your time.
Amidst the hormones and the excitement of your first time together, it is far better to go slow and take your time. For most women, it is normal for intimacy to be a little painful and uncomfortable at first. And this, for some, can change the pace of honeymoon intimacy. As great as some marriage books and pre-marital counseling can be, this is one of the reasons it’s good to also consult a gynecologist before the wedding. And a word for men—go slow and be understanding.
3. Your intimacy life will have ups and downs just like anything else.
For every couple, it is normal to have ups and downs in your intimacy life. You will have some stretches when intimacy couldn’t be better. You’ll have mutually satisfying, pure-fun intimacy—and you’ll have it multiple times a day. Then you’ll have some stretches where the rest of life has left you fried, and keeping things going in the bedroom will take some work.
Stress, work deadlines, housework, busy schedules, pregnancy, kids, financial issues, health issues and any other thing you can think of that is normal in life all affect our intimacy drives. When you hit a down period, rather than taking this as a sign of a waning relationship, take it as a sign you need to be more intentional. You might even “schedule” intimacy for a season. Very romantic. It might mean intentionally talking about what you both want or what you could try that is different or new. Or, in some cases it might mean seeing a counselor to work through some things that may be hindering things in the bedroom.
Expect to have both high spells and dry spells. When you do hit a rough patch, please know that you are not broken or weird because of it. And know that if you commit to working through it together, good things will likely be right around the corner.
4. S!x depicted in the movies leave some things out—including one very important thing we tend to overlook.
When it comes to intimacy in the movies, there are lots of things that the writers leave out when putting together their scripts. Like when your sweater gets stuck over your head, or shoe laces become an impossible puzzle. Or the ever-romantic moment when you have to stop to think about birth control. Or how about when one of you is ready to go while the other just isn’t quite feeling in the mood.
With all of these off-script possibilities—some comical, some quite frustrating—learning how to laugh and not take things too personally is important for your intimacy life. And again, the more you practice, the less these fumbles will tend to happen.
But there’s another thing intimacy on the big screen will never show you. James Bond can get with another girl every night, and sure, it might seem like it’s amazing every time. But it will never be able to depict one thing—and that’s the indescribable depth of intimacy between a husband and wife. You may be able to capture the physical connection on the screen, but portraying the emotional and spiritual connection—the real, genuine thing—can’t be conveyed in a movie.
Within a marriage though, there is nothing that compares with the level of intimacy, depth and power that intimacy has within a life-long committed relationship. In marriage, good intimacy is even more than just intimacy. It’s about cultivating the exclusive, deep connection you have together and enjoying the passion and fun that comes with figuring it all out along the way.