Up to this point, I’ve given a lot of experiential context as to why I decided to save sex for marriage. I realize though, I wouldn’t be true to my graduate school research roots if I didn’t provide some more concrete data for the advantages of dating abstinent. I’m going to be honest—research bores me to no end (Sorry, Dr. Plisco!), Yet it’s so necessary! We should, after all, be well-versed in information that supports our value-based decisions. I know that many people reading this do not (or will not) subscribe to my belief that we should save sex for marriage and probably think I’m a complete nutcase. But what if I could show you that abstinence before marriage can be one of the best decisions you ever make for your relationship?
The Relationship-Sex Trap
Ever known you needed to end a relationship but then you guys have sex and that notion becomes a distant thought yet again? I’m going to assume, if you’re not personally able to relate (wink-wink), you know someone who can. Did you know that the brain has a very powerful role in our romantic interactions? Specifically, the neurotransmitters dopamine and oxytocin.
Dopamine has much to do with what we perceive as a rewarding experience and then the reinforcement thereof. Dopamine is a key player in addiction. Let me also add, dopamine is amoral. Which means, it doesn’t distinguish between something that’s good for us versus something that is not. In romantic (or intimate) situations, dopamine is interacting with oxytocin to promote bonding.
Oxytocin has been nicknamed the “love hormone” or the “cuddle hormone.” When this hormone is released, it serves to put a person in a more relaxed and trusting state. Like dopamine, oxytocin is also amoral. It does not distinguish between a loving monogamous relationship and a “hook up.”
What does all this mean for you? Glad you asked!
Because your body and brain are experiencing sexual pleasure, as well as strong sensations of attachment and bonding that are involuntary, the chances of you making an improper mate selection are pretty high. What ends up happening is, these intense feelings of pleasure and attachment are confused with true intimacy. All relationships aren’t meant to work! Yet, by engaging in sex prematurely we become entangled in relationships for periods of time with individuals who are not meant to be our spouses.
Sex is not Intimacy
Often times, the words sex and intimacy are used interchangeably. While the two are not wholly separate, they are hardly synonymous. Intimacy is a deep and selfless knowing.
“Intimacy exists in a relationship when two people experience a sense of security, support, trust, comfort, and safety with one another.”- Dr. Jason S. Carroll, Institute for Family Studies
Sex is a physical act that does not require intimacy. To be fair, in the proper context, sex is a more climatic element. It is the physical manifestation of the intimacy shared between two people. Sex as a replacement for true intimacy is detrimental to establishing a solid emotional foundation.
According to the article “Compatibility or Restraint? The Effects of Sexual Timing on Marriage Relationships” (Busby, Carroll, and Willoughby)
“Early sex may increase the risk for asymmetrical commitment levels, less developed communication patterns, more constraint to leaving the relationship, less sexual satisfaction later in the relationship, and less ability to manage adversity and conflict.”
It was found, the longer couples waited to have sex, the more stable and satisfying their relationships were in marriage. Participants in this study who waited until marriage to have sex had significantly higher levels of communication and sexual quality.
Busby, Carroll, and Willoughby found a strong correlation between premature sexual engagement and unclear intentions in relationships.
“The ambiguity of early sexual initiation may undermine the ability of some couples to develop a clear and mutual understanding about the nature of their relationships.”
On the other hand, when relationships are entered into without sex, there’s a greater sense of clarity, responsibility, and security about the exclusivity and future plans for the relationship.
Abstinence is Pro-LOVE
Everything about dating abstinent is extremely intentional. From the treatment of the other person in the relationship (the way you regard them) to dating toward the bigger picture. The underlying goal is to love the other person well right from the start. It is understood that loving them well means honoring them at all times—mind, body, and soul!
The following sources were used in the creation of this post:
- Slow But Sure: Does the Timing of Sex During Dating Matter? By Jason S. Carroll
- Compatibility or restraint? The effects of sexual timing on marriage relationships. Busby, Dean M.; Carroll, Jason S.; Willoughby, Brian J. Journal of Family Psychology. 2010, Vol. 24, No. 6, 766–774.