When I was 18, I started dating. He lived five minutes away from school so when my car needed to go to the garage, it made sense for me to sleep on his couch for a couple of nights. When you’re 18 and doing an extra year in school after all your friends have left, you do not want to be catching the bus!
My mum agreed but after coming round to bring me some clean clothes and seeing his sofa, the two of us were hauled up to my parents’ house and given a good old-fashioned talking to about sex before marriage. How as a young Christian girl, I was brought up differently, and the usual ‘not under my roof!’
Four years later and the two of us were married. Suddenly it was all ok again. I had five younger siblings but now that we were married, it was ok for us to be sharing a bed. Before that, if he came to visit and stayed the night, he’d sleep downstairs.
When you grow up in a family with God, the ‘no sex before marriage’ thing is a really big deal. My parents were keen for us to learn about sex of course. They didn’t want to repeat the behaviour of my grandparents and have sex be this secret thing that isn’t talked about. But when it came to actually doing the deed, it was assumed that each of us would meet someone, date for a little while and then get married before making it official in the bedroom.
We were taught how difficult it can be if you’re having sex when you’re not married. At Friday night youth meetings in church it would be drilled into us how messy and complicated and heartbreaking sex before marriage is.
What no one ever told us is how complicated sex can be when you are married.
I always assumed that once you actually got married and you were officially allowed to ‘do it’ everything from thereon in would be a piece of cake. Sure, marriage needs to be worked at. I’d heard that line. Compromise. Communication. Loving even when you don’t feel like it. Yada, yada.
But sex post-marriage? End of conversation.
No one ever told me that he might want it more than me, that sometimes I’d pretend to be asleep when I heard him coming upstairs a little after me or that I’d read an extra page of my book on the toilet and be thankful when I hear him turn the light off.
And it’s not that I don’t enjoy making love. Sometimes it’s amazing. It’s just complicated and I wish it didn’t take so much thinking about, mentally calculating how many days it’s been and whether I can get away with it for one more night because I’m just so, so tired and all I really want to do is sleep.
My mum once told me that she nursed more people on the psychiatric ward with issues around sex than anything else. Not enough. Too much. Wrong person. Wrong sort.
Now that I’m married and officially allowed ‘in the club’ I can understand why! God invented sex, not just for procreation, but for pleasure. Why else would He have given women a clitoris? I just wish that, instead of lecturing us on how wicked we are if we don’t keep ourselves pure, the Church had given us space to talk about how complicated it all can be.
And now with two young daughters of my own, instead of just passing on the party line, I’d really love to be able to help guide and nurture them to make the best choices, to give them space to learn and make their own mistakes, but to do so without ending up totally scarred for life!
I just wish it wasn’t all so complicated.