This is the sort of stuff that terrifies me. Wait until after you get married to have sex – an academic study and a family therapist say so!
The therapist’s logic is that as sex is one of the most common causes of rows in relationships, it’s better to delay sex until after marriage. No, I’m not following either. The study, though interesting, is from an institution run by Mormons, in the notoriously conservative state of Utah, so let’s not pretend that there might not be some small biases here.
More depressing is the experience of two Irish couples speaking about their decision to wait to have sex before they get married. It’s the idea that you have “clearer heads” if you’re not sexually active; that it’s “weak” to give into sexual feelings; that if men (only men, their responses imply) have slept with someone other than their wives they’ll be discontent, and most irritatingly, the definitive “Couples who refrain from sexual activity before marriage are just going to be happier”. Full stop.
I know, I know. This is the kind of thing that newspapers love to print so that people can get annoyed about it. It’s also the kind of thing that validates a lot of assumptions – that everyone wants to get married. That everyone will get married. That a good relationship means getting married. That despite it all, despite the crazy liberal bias out there (where? Where?) really at the end of the day everyone just wants their one true love and to be settled down with the Love Of Their Life.
I don’t believe in Loves Of Your Life. The American journalist and sex advice guru Dan Savage (‘Savage Love’) talks about how every relationship you are in will fail, until one doesn’t. Excuse me, mister. The end of a relationship is not automatically a failure. Painful, often, sure, but the point of many relationships isn’t that they last forever – it’s that they’re good while they last. In an era where people may frequently move jobs, move towns, move countries, it makes far more sense to think about relationships as something which need to be with The Love Of Today – by all means considering long-term possibilities, plans and goals where appropriate, but always ensuring that each relationship is in itself a good thing. Not something which will later be compared to a marriage, not something which prepares you for the ‘real’ love later on, not something which seems like it could ‘become’ good if you follow a rigid path, but something worthwhile in itself.
The Love Of Today might sound pretty flippant, but the benefit of it as an overarching theory is that it works for all relationships, not assuming that everything needs to lead to marriage or long-term commitment or monogamy. It reminds us that people grow and change and that the person who’s a perfect fit at fifteen might not be at twenty, or be great for us at twenty and completely wrong at forty. We don’t always want or need the kind of relationship that could last forever – and there’s a whole lot of worthwhile, valid and meaningful middle ground between the fleeting one-night stand or holiday romance and the lifetime commitment.