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Isn’t sexual compatibility important for marriage?

Isn’t sexual compatibility important for marriage?

Dear Paul,

I came across the REAP team website while researching the virtues and values behind chastity, and your team seems to have great advice on the subject.  I’m starting to practice chastity and learn the values behind it, but I have a question for you if you are willing to answer it for me.

If I start dating someone and continue living chastity, what if we get along in every aspect of our relationship, but then get married and aren’t sexually compatible? Shouldn’t we reconsider our marriage because of the sexual aspect? Is it not actually realistic and healthy to have sex during the relationship, to make sure that spark is there? Wouldn’t it be awful to find out after marriage that you two do not connect at a sexual level?


Dear Friend,

I’m glad to know that you found the REAP Team website and that you appreciate our advice on chastity.  I am also very happy to know that you have made a decision for chastity, and that you want to understand the implications that living a chaste lifestyle will have upon your current & future relationships.  The question you are asking is a good one, and it is a question that many others have wondered about.

There are several very key reasons why I do not believe you should have sex before marriage – even if your primary reason is to ensure that you are sexually compatible with your future spouse.

Your question seems to reflect, possibly, some misunderstanding of what sex in marriage is really all about – and I understand how this might happen, especially with all of the cultural influences bombarding us in our oversexed world.  Today’s culture, especially the media, gives us all the impression that sex is everything – that sex should be the center of our lives, and that being sexually satisfied is the key to being happy in life, whether one is single or married.  Though some people believe this to be true, it is a lie.  Though sex (and being sexually compatible) is an important part of a healthy marriage, it is critical to have a proper understanding of God’s plan for the gift of sexuality in marriage, because it is only in following God’s plan that we can truly be fulfilled.

Sex is not primarily about satisfying our own desires – sexual activity is supposed to be a “mutual self-gift” where you give yourself completely to your spouse.  It is supposed to be a renewal of our marriage vows, wherein we give ourselves freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully to the other.  Sadly, our culture has (in many ways) reduced the act of sexual intercourse to simply satisfying one’s own desires, when in fact the focus should be on the other person.  Sex in marriage is not supposed to be about satisfying yourself; although certainly that can and will happen when your focus is on your spouse.

But there is far, far more to a successful marriage than sexual compatibility. I’ve read several reliable studies which indicate that, on average, happily married couples in the United States have sex 2-3 times per week.  That means that those couples spend a lot of their time each week engaging in things other than sex… which shows that although sex is an important part of a healthy marriage, there are many things far more important, including spirituality, communication, shared values & interests, enjoying your spouse’s company, and the ability to laugh and have fun together. These are the kinds of compatibility that should be tested during the dating phase of a relationship. If you have these essential components of a healthy marriage in place before the wedding day, you won’t have to worry about sexual compatibility – it will naturally flow from all of these other components of a good marriage.  And, having all of the other essentials in place actually helps in the bedroom, where they are all necessary…

There is some other research available that shows that saving sex/cohabitation for marriage improves the success of a marriage in a lot of ways (you can check out http://www.economist.com/node/17956905?story_id=17956905;  http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/000302/cohabit.shtml; http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/news/20101227/theres-benefits-in-delaying-sex-until-marriage?ecd=soc_fb for the specifics). Couples who live together before marriage have a higher divorce rate, and couples who wait for marriage (and remain faithful to their marriages) are more satisfied with their marriages and sex lives.  Testing sexual compatibility before marriage does not guarantee that you will enjoy sex more in marriage – in fact, the opposite seems to be true. Furthermore, simply being sexually compatible is not a sign that two people should get married – as I’ve said, there is so much more to love than sex. Some research even suggests that a relationship can survive on good sexual chemistry for three years… but after that, there had better be substance to the relationship to ensure its survival.

Also, I want you to know that just as a relationships grows and develops and deepens, so does a married couple’s love life.  As spouses grow ever more deeply in love, the love making in the bedroom is simply a reflection of the ways they make love happen in every other part of their lives.  Personally, my wife and I waited for marriage and I am glad we did.  By waiting for marriage, we were able to focus on the compatibility of our hearts, instead of our bodies, which prepared us for a very happy marriage. To be quite honest with you, the first time we had sex – on our honeymoon – it was great, but throughout the 22 years that we have been married, it has gotten better and better.  The more we know one another, grow in love with one another, and become best friends, the more compatible we have become in the bedroom.  As I’ve indicated, compatibility in the bedroom is actually a reflection of how well a marriage is going, and if a couple’s sex life is rocky, it is probably symptomatic of greater issues outside of the bedroom which they need to talk about, perhaps even with a professional.

I am madly in love with my wife, and she is the one and only source of my desire.  But I have to be brutally honest with you – if something were to happen to one of us that resulted in us no longer being able to have sex, it would not be the end of my world nor would it be the end of our marriage.  Our marriage is about something far deeper and far more awesome that any sexual experience could ever be.  I hope that some day you are able to know the kind of love that I have for my wife; a love that transcends physical expression.  Married love is primarily about sharing life, and sharing our hearts – what the Bible refers to as “the two becoming one.”

Finally, I would urge you to keep in mind that St. Thomas Aquinas defines love as “to will the good of another.”  This means that when we choose to love someone we always want what is best for that person, that we are willing to make sacrifices for the other person, and that we will work to ensure that the other person lives a fulfilled life.  As a Christian, I believe that the ultimate “good” that any of us can ever attain is Heaven.  Therefore, we must do all that we can to help others attain that goal – including helping them to avoid sinful behaviors (like sex outside of marriage) that cause a rift in one’s relationship with God.  If we are truly loving people and honestly desire what is best for others, we will also want them to experience all of the benefits of a chaste life, including all of the freedoms you will find listed in this article:

http://www.reapteam.org/chastity-gives-you-freedom

Thanks again for taking the time to write.  I think that it is awesome that you are asking tough questions; it indicates that you are taking this decision for chastity seriously and thoughtfully.  I hope my thoughts will prove helpful as you continue to learn about chastity and reflect on how you can be the most loving person possible, not only to everyone in your life now, but to those you will meet in the future – including your future spouse, if God calls you to the incredible sacrament of marriage!

Peace,

Paul Masek

Dear Paul,

I came across the REAP team website while researching the virtues and values behind chastity, and your team seems to have great advice on the subject.  I’m starting to practice chastity and learn the values behind it, but I have a question for you if you are willing to answer it for me.

If I start dating someone and continue living chastity, what if we get along in every aspect of our relationship, but then get married and aren’t sexually compatible? Shouldn’t we reconsider our marriage because of the sexual aspect? Is it not actually realistic and healthy to have sex during the relationship, to make sure that spark is there? Wouldn’t it be awful to find out after marriage that you two do not connect at a sexual level?


Dear Friend,

I’m glad to know that you found the REAP Team website and that you appreciate our advice on chastity.  I am also very happy to know that you have made a decision for chastity, and that you want to understand the implications that living a chaste lifestyle will have upon your current & future relationships.  The question you are asking is a good one, and it is a question that many others have wondered about.

There are several very key reasons why I do not believe you should have sex before marriage – even if your primary reason is to ensure that you are sexually compatible with your future spouse.

Your question seems to reflect, possibly, some misunderstanding of what sex in marriage is really all about – and I understand how this might happen, especially with all of the cultural influences bombarding us in our oversexed world.  Today’s culture, especially the media, gives us all the impression that sex is everything – that sex should be the center of our lives, and that being sexually satisfied is the key to being happy in life, whether one is single or married.  Though some people believe this to be true, it is a lie.  Though sex (and being sexually compatible) is an important part of a healthy marriage, it is critical to have a proper understanding of God’s plan for the gift of sexuality in marriage, because it is only in following God’s plan that we can truly be fulfilled.

Sex is not primarily about satisfying our own desires – sexual activity is supposed to be a “mutual self-gift” where you give yourself completely to your spouse.  It is supposed to be a renewal of our marriage vows, wherein we give ourselves freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully to the other.  Sadly, our culture has (in many ways) reduced the act of sexual intercourse to simply satisfying one’s own desires, when in fact the focus should be on the other person.  Sex in marriage is not supposed to be about satisfying yourself; although certainly that can and will happen when your focus is on your spouse.

But there is far, far more to a successful marriage than sexual compatibility. I’ve read several reliable studies which indicate that, on average, happily married couples in the United States have sex 2-3 times per week.  That means that those couples spend a lot of their time each week engaging in things other than sex… which shows that although sex is an important part of a healthy marriage, there are many things far more important, including spirituality, communication, shared values & interests, enjoying your spouse’s company, and the ability to laugh and have fun together. These are the kinds of compatibility that should be tested during the dating phase of a relationship. If you have these essential components of a healthy marriage in place before the wedding day, you won’t have to worry about sexual compatibility – it will naturally flow from all of these other components of a good marriage.  And, having all of the other essentials in place actually helps in the bedroom, where they are all necessary…

There is some other research available that shows that saving sex/cohabitation for marriage improves the success of a marriage in a lot of ways (you can check out http://www.economist.com/node/17956905?story_id=17956905;  http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/000302/cohabit.shtml; http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/news/20101227/theres-benefits-in-delaying-sex-until-marriage?ecd=soc_fb for the specifics). Couples who live together before marriage have a higher divorce rate, and couples who wait for marriage (and remain faithful to their marriages) are more satisfied with their marriages and sex lives.  Testing sexual compatibility before marriage does not guarantee that you will enjoy sex more in marriage – in fact, the opposite seems to be true. Furthermore, simply being sexually compatible is not a sign that two people should get married – as I’ve said, there is so much more to love than sex. Some research even suggests that a relationship can survive on good sexual chemistry for three years… but after that, there had better be substance to the relationship to ensure its survival.

Also, I want you to know that just as a relationships grows and develops and deepens, so does a married couple’s love life.  As spouses grow ever more deeply in love, the love making in the bedroom is simply a reflection of the ways they make love happen in every other part of their lives.  Personally, my wife and I waited for marriage and I am glad we did.  By waiting for marriage, we were able to focus on the compatibility of our hearts, instead of our bodies, which prepared us for a very happy marriage. To be quite honest with you, the first time we had sex – on our honeymoon – it was great, but throughout the 22 years that we have been married, it has gotten better and better.  The more we know one another, grow in love with one another, and become best friends, the more compatible we have become in the bedroom.  As I’ve indicated, compatibility in the bedroom is actually a reflection of how well a marriage is going, and if a couple’s sex life is rocky, it is probably symptomatic of greater issues outside of the bedroom which they need to talk about, perhaps even with a professional.

I am madly in love with my wife, and she is the one and only source of my desire.  But I have to be brutally honest with you – if something were to happen to one of us that resulted in us no longer being able to have sex, it would not be the end of my world nor would it be the end of our marriage.  Our marriage is about something far deeper and far more awesome that any sexual experience could ever be.  I hope that some day you are able to know the kind of love that I have for my wife; a love that transcends physical expression.  Married love is primarily about sharing life, and sharing our hearts – what the Bible refers to as “the two becoming one.”

Finally, I would urge you to keep in mind that St. Thomas Aquinas defines love as “to will the good of another.”  This means that when we choose to love someone we always want what is best for that person, that we are willing to make sacrifices for the other person, and that we will work to ensure that the other person lives a fulfilled life.  As a Christian, I believe that the ultimate “good” that any of us can ever attain is Heaven.  Therefore, we must do all that we can to help others attain that goal – including helping them to avoid sinful behaviors (like sex outside of marriage) that cause a rift in one’s relationship with God.  If we are truly loving people and honestly desire what is best for others, we will also want them to experience all of the benefits of a chaste life, including all of the freedoms you will find listed in this article:

http://www.reapteam.org/chastity-gives-you-freedom

Thanks again for taking the time to write.  I think that it is awesome that you are asking tough questions; it indicates that you are taking this decision for chastity seriously and thoughtfully.  I hope my thoughts will prove helpful as you continue to learn about chastity and reflect on how you can be the most loving person possible, not only to everyone in your life now, but to those you will meet in the future – including your future spouse, if God calls you to the incredible sacrament of marriage!

Peace,

Paul Masek

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