Sex and Marriage: Try Before You Buy!

One of the most common beliefs I hear about new relationships is the “try before you buy” approach. Oftentimes, the reasoning goes, people have gotten married and then found out that they just couldn’t stand their spouse. Or, they found out that they just weren’t compatible. They ended up in divorce. So, to be smarter, live together first and see if it works. Then, if it seems to work, they consider marriage. In fact, I just read a recent article that the new trend is to get engaged, but never actually get married. Move in together, add a ring, but don’t get married. Same goes for sex. People say they want to experience all of the relationship (including sex) before marriage to see if they are compatible. Sex is separated from marriage. Right off the bat, this has nothing really to do with sex itself. All people are physically compatible sex partners. Every single sex expert says that bodies adapt to the partner. A woman can be satisfied with any size penis. The vagina adapts (isn’t God awesome?). Good, completely fulfilling sex is always possible, no matter the physical measurements and abilities. Further, no matter how inept or inexperienced your partner may be in his or her sexual skills, he or she will learn how to best satisfy you sexually as you experiment and practice sex after you are married. Sexual ability is not a talent…nearly all animals do it successfully! This question, then, is really about the ability to get along with each other relationally. The “try it before you buy it” mentality believes that you need to experience a close relationship by living together in order to truly know what your possible future spouse will be like. Then, only when knowing this, can you make a better and more informed decision about marriage.But as people of faith, we look at this very differently. Our commitment is not based on our spouse’s behaviors or performance. It’s based on our commitment to give ourselves completely to God’s plan for marriage. We commit to GIVE to our spouse, not commit to RECEIVE from our spouse. See the difference? Living together is based on the wrong perspective. It wants to “try out” to see if we “get” what we really need from our partner first.  Christians, however, put our confidence not in our spouse, but in our God. We trust God to work our relationship to its fullest intention. We believe that God makes all committed relationships not only workable, but wonderful. To “try before you buy” really suggests that you are not fully ready to completely give yourself to each other and to give yourself to the union. There are selfish things you will not compromise on, selfish things you plan to retain, selfish things you plan to hold above your relationship with your spouse. You want to see if, in keeping these things, you can get along anyway.  What a foolish understanding of marriage! No wonder so many people who have been living together and who finally decide to get married don’t make it! One study said that the only identifiable causal agent for divorce is living together before hand! People who live together before they are married have a higher likelihood of getting divorced. Also, couples who are highly committed to the success of their marriage are more likely not to live together before hand. Finally, people who are highly committed to the success of their marriage and who don’t live together before hand have a greater success rate in marriage. Marriage is about a commitment to stay together no matter what. That means no matter how annoying you may find your spouse! It is dependent on God, who shapes your spouse, AND YOU!, to make your marriage wonderful. It is not more wonderful when your spouse has less annoying characteristics. It is more wonderful when you commit so fully to your marriage that you will let God shape you to be the best person you can be for your spouse. I believe–yes, I really do–that any two people can be successfully and happily married. It is not based on the “Mr. Right” or “Mrs. Perfect.” I don’t believe there is one best person for you somewhere out there. You can be happily married to anyone. The reason is not compatibility, but commitment. Now, it is far easier the more you actually LIKE your spouse. I suggest to couples in pre-marriage counseling to identify important shared interests, hobbies, and activities. It is important to agree on shared values and priorities. It is good to be friends before you are romantically involved. Yet all of these can be determined without living together. It comes in deep communication and good conversation. Communication is the lifeblood of a relationship. If you are finding that you can communicate deeply, then you can continue to build your relationship once you are married. So, where’s love? I’ve not mentioned feeling in love with the other person. The reason I’ve not mentioned it is because it really isn’t important. Yes, I mean what I just said. The formula is not “You meet, fall in love, then get married.” The formula is “You meet, decide you want to spend the rest of your life with each other, make a commitment to each other, and get married.” I know this is the opposite of what culture (and every single movie Hollywood has seemed to produce) says. But Christians live differently, remember? We believe that feeling in love is a gift that God gives to a relationship and will work into couples who are married. Feeling in love is one of the gifts that God gives to married couples. It grows and matures as the couple does. Marital love is not romantic love. Romantic love is the gift God gives to make people want to have sex (see previous blogs). Marital love is commitment. See 1 Corinthians 13 (“The Love Chapter.”) You don’t need to try before you buy. If a person you know and trust, and who is a car expert, tells you that a car is a good buy, you would feel comfortable buying it even before you see it. You trust the guy, not the car. Same with marriage. You trust God, not your spouse. Want to know if you should get married? The real test is if YOU are ready to give yourself that completely to God and to your spouse. Try that before you buy!