Of all the emails I’ve received, many have involved some sort of concern about the wedding night. These concerns include such fears as:
- Will it hurt?
- Will my husband be sensitive to how new this is to me?
- Will my past sexual failures ruin my experience?
- I have absolutely no idea what to expect.
- Will I feel guilty afterward?
These are valid concerns and big questions. How we answer them, and how we go through life perceiving sex and marriage, can have a powerful effect on the quality of our relationships with our husbands (future or present).
Many young women dread their wedding night for several reasons:
- They are insecure about their beauty and their husband’s reaction to it;
- They are ignorant of the logistics of sex and therefore afraid;
- They feel guilty over past failure, which leads to insecurity and fear;
- They put excessive pressure on themselves to perform something which they know little about or only acquaint with past negative experiences (rape, abuse, or sexual immorality).
In this post, I’m going to outline five ways we can counter ‘wedding night phobia’ and give you girls a plan of action to make it something not to fear, but to embrace and look forward to!
My husband and I love to laugh, and our own wedding night ran into a few hiccups that helped break the tension. But we were also very intentional leading up to that moment, which made me anticipate the night with excitement, not fear. Below are five ways you can have that same intentionality about your own wedding night – and sexuality in general.
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Educate yourself about sexuality.
With the church silent, parents unsure and the world loud, many young women enter their teens and twenties with very little working knowledge of sexuality. Not only do they have little comprehension of their own bodies, they are very limited in knowledge concerning what sex looks like in marriage. Rather than being taught that sex is a wonderful thing, having it described in the context of God’s design and being educated about the nature and details of sexuality, these girls piece together a sexual worldview from what clandestine sources they can find.
Because sex is considered ‘bad’, young women often find these sources in obscurity. Things hidden and forbidden are rarely good. So the authorities on sexuality become Cosmo magazine, romance novels, porn sites and rumors. When churches and parents are silent about sexuality, the world will always step in with a voice.
Regardless of your past education about sexuality, take this time as a young woman to educate yourself. Learn about your body as a woman: why God designed you the way He did. Learn about the male body, and the purpose of that design. Learn about what sex is biologically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you aren’t sure where to look, here are some good resources:
-My book, Christian Cosmo: The Sex Talk You Never Had contains an entire chapter on this topic.
– Intended for Pleasure by Ed and Gaye Wheat
– The Marriage Bed (the ‘Biology’ tab is helpful)
– Unveil: Lust Free Living (this book is helpful for understanding God’s purpose for sexuality)
– Sex and the Soul of a Woman by Paula Rinehart
– Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot by Mo Isom
A poor sexual education often leads to fear. This fear is one of the biggest deterrents to a positive sexual experience. Fearful women are unable to relax, trust, and rest in the love of their husband. We must get beyond this fear to truly enjoy this first night, and part of conquering such a fear is a thorough sexual education. The above resources are extremely helpful in this.
It is true that for many women, sex is uncomfortable at first. But in rare cases is it painful, and the more we expect it to be painful, the more painful it will be! Tension and fear create an environment contrary to the atmosphere necessary for a good sexual experience. The more we educate ourselves on what to expect, learn how our bodies work, and accept that God created sex as a privilege and joy (not a duty or guilt-bearing ritual) the better our wedding night will be.
My husband and I were fortunate to have a premarital counselor who took a whole session discussing this with us. She also advised us to read and take on the honeymoon Intended for Pleasure, which was a phenomenal book in the first month of our marriage!
Many girls wonder if studying sex is ‘awakening love before it pleases’ (Song 8:4). But God designed sexuality. If God values sexuality (and He does, which is why He preserves it with marriage) He would not expect us to ignore it, demean it, or pretend it doesn’t exist until suddenly *POOF* you’re married, and your education begins now! But God would expect us to use that knowledge in an honorable way.
We can take captive sexual facts and thoughts for the purpose of education, or we can be taken captive by them for the purpose of lust. That line is a choice we have to make, and we must be vigilant. But we also must be educated about biblical sexuality in a culture which loves to twist the truth.
Talk about expectations.
The first point applies to all young women, but this point applies to those in serious (leading to marriage) dating relationships or those recently engaged. When having discussions of this nature, it is very important to understand that discussing sexuality with your man will bring you closer on every level. These discussions should be saved for close to engagement, as opposed to early in the relationship, to keep the order of intimacy from being ‘top heavy’ (too much too soon). I usually advise discussing this prior to engagement since sexual history and expectation can be deal breakers for certain people.
Be honest about what you’ve done, what you look forward to and what you are uncomfortable with. Like our worldview, our view on sexuality it often colored by our education and experience. In order to have a positive sexual relationship with our spouse, we have to be completely open. Great sex is built on great trust. Honesty is necessary. It might be hard; it might be awkward; it might be uncomfortable. But it is far better to lay the cards on the table now than to find these things out on your wedding night.
This is also an opportunity to communicate your fears or hesitancy to the man you are marrying. If these are not communicated to him, he may never know what makes you uncomfortable and may move too fast in the excitement of the wedding day and night. Help him understand your feelings and most loving, godly men will gladly alter their approach to calm the fears of their bride.
Remember: marital sex is a journey, not a destination. If you expect your wedding night to be Hollywood, you might be disappointed. And if you expect your wedding night to be painful, you will be tense. Neither of these extremes should be our expectation. Instead, expect to give your body freely to the man you love more than anyone else in the world, and expect him to love you back in the same way. You have nothing to prove except your adoration for the man you are committing to before Almighty God.
Read more: Overcoming Your Partner’s Sexual Past or watch our interview How Virginity Affects Marriage
Accept God’s forgiveness.
Eventually I’m going to have an entire post on this topic. For now, understand that our inability to accept God’s forgiveness and our resistance to our Christ-won identity directly influences our perception of love and self-worth. If we have sinned sexually in the past but have repented of this sin to God (and to our husbands, if applicable), God’s grace has made us new! Why would we pick up a former identity and allow it to determine our sexual future?
By accepting who God says we are in Christ, we are able to confidently accept the love of our husbands. Insecurity cannot hold us down because we are secure in the love and grace of God. This gives us confidence in our bodies, which frees us to enjoy and accept the accolades of an enamored husband without disbelieving his love.
I talk more about this in my post “Is it Too Late for Me?”:
“Satan loves when we wallow in our failure. Focusing on failure destroys hope for change and reconciliation; so the longer he can keep our eyes fixed on our selves and our own inadequacy, the longer he can keep our eyes from the Cross and God’s redeeming grace. Christian girls have heard about grace so long they often cease to understand its application.”
The longer we focus on past sins and our own inadequacy, the less we will enjoy our wedding night. Focus on your CURRENT identity (as God’s beloved and the beloved of your man) and the adequacy Christ has given you, and be free to enjoy the sexuality He designed!
(And visit the post linked above to see what God says about our sins and His treatment of them in Christ.)
Don’t pressure yourself to perform.
One of the struggles we had in the first month of marriage was a (good-hearted) desire to please one another. We were so focused on the other person’s response, when we failed to get the response we expected, one or both of us would feel we had failed entirely. This discouraged us, which made us feel more like failures, which made the cycle continue.
Then I remembered something I read in Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage. I don’t recall the direct quote, but Tim essentially said, “Don’t focus on performing for one another. Focus on loving one another as fully and completely as you can, serving one another in the bedroom, and the results will come naturally with time.”
This mentality changed everything. The truth is, my husband didn’t want me to ‘perform’. He just wanted to love me, and the same goes vice-versa.
This is another reason why discussing expectations is very important. When women go into marriage misunderstanding their husband’s heart and desires concerning sex, they often formulate conclusions based on worldly portrayals of ‘what men want’. These portrayals may be (and often are) nothing like the desires of their man! If we discuss these expectations prior to entering the bedroom, we will be much better prepared to serve one another sexually rather than putting on a three-ring circus of misguided effort.
Some girls worry about the wedding night so much that upon arrival, the tension makes their experience more painful than it would have been had they relaxed. Here is a truth: there is no reason to worry about sex when you are not in a relationship. Educate: yes. Worry: no. Why?
Because you do not yet know the man who will be your partner in marital sexuality! That intimate knowledge is the pivotal factor in a worry-free wedding night. It is the love and trust of godly marriage that emotionally and physically prepares us for our first sexual experience. When you love and trust a man implicitly, fear has little place in your heart. And for those in a relationship yet still worried, concentrate on why you love and trust your soon-to-be-husband. These same qualities are what make him trustworthy in the bedroom, too!
Embrace the excitement!
The quality of my sexual relationship with my husband is a reflection of the quality of my non-sexual relationship with my husband.
If we are bickering and bitter, I’m not going to desire intimacy with him! When our hearts our distant from one another, our bodies will not be as open to a sexual encounter. Mind and emotions are closely connected to the physical response of sexuality.
So if we worry about our wedding night, worry about how we look, worry about whether our husband will like us – we are inhibiting our own sexual experience! By trusting God’s plan, embracing our identity, and accepting our husband’s love we can jump wholeheartedly into all the excitement of marital sex.
It makes me sad that since the world talks the most about sex, the world has a monopoly on the fun of it. When I go lingerie shopping, sometimes I ask Jesus: “Do you think Josh would like this?” Because you know what – He smiles on sex done the right way! We get to enjoy it, look forward to it, delight in it, and most of all glory in the love of a godly man. And as we view sex as a positive, lovely, God-blessed experience, our excitement will translate to our husbands, who will be delighted that we enjoy them so much.
Sex is not bad. It is good. But like anything, it takes practice. Like I said before: for a first time, don’t expect Hollywood, and don’t expect disaster. Just expect to love and be loved.
And you know what God says about that?
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
Our Wedding Night Debacle
Finally, allow me to share my own wedding night story. I think it illustrates the principles we’ve discussed so far.
The day of our wedding, I was thrilled to put on the pretty lingerie I wore under my dress. I couldn’t wait for Josh to see me! After our wedding I was happy but tired, my corset was suffocating me, and I was more than ready to go somewhere quiet and take off my beautiful but asphyxiating wedding gown.
We arrived in the hotel room, decorated for us with candles and rose petals. The candles were the only light source, which I appreciated due to the newness of the whole experience.
Insert important fact: I was due for my cycle that day. I had prayed two things over my wedding: Dear God, please do not let it blizzard, and please do not let my period start on my wedding day. So far, so good.
Josh and I had waited until our wedding day to kiss, so the first part of the night was absolutely awesome. Kissing was new and exciting and intense, which made me feel more comfortable and at ease. Just as we were about to go about the next steps in the whole process, my husband (who is well acquainted with my monthly visitor) said the dreaded words: “Babe… I think you’re bleeding.”
“WHAAT!” I nearly screamed, bouncing back on the bed and frantically searching the sheets. Sure enough, there were dark spots on the bed. “This is disgusting!” I wailed, feeling utterly un-sexy in every possible way.
“We’re going to have to turn on the lights.” My husband said, reaching for the nightstand.
“Uh – um – do we have to?” Maybe in another life I would have been fine with looking great and wife-y in the searing light of a lamp, but certainly not now. Not sitting here in what looked like the remnants of a cannibalistic ritual.
“Yeah babe, we need to strip the bed if that’s the case. ” And FLICK! On went the lights. I slowly turned to look at the bed, preparing for a murder scene. Instead, the spots were… purple. We looked at each other.
“I don’t remember anything about purple spots in premarital counseling,” I murmured, forgetting for a moment that my husband and I were more vulnerable with each other than we had ever been. But he was so puzzled and amused, he wasn’t even looking at me.
“Babe – the rose petals made these marks! You’re not bleeding after all.” I looked again, and sure enough! The rose petals had gotten crushed in the tussle. Who knew red roses left purple marks?! We started laughing, the kind of laugh that breaks all tension.
That’s probably a lot more than you ever wanted to know about my life, but it should serve as an illustration that the wedding night is as individual as the couple within it.
Be reassured: God-centered marriage and a God-centered wedding night is a place devoid of fear. (Even when it includes rose petals and purple spots.)
Want more on this subject? Get my book Christian Cosmo: The Sex Talk You Never Had!