Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sex Series: Bridal Preparation for the Honeymoon - Dannah Gresh

You've had the modern-casual wedding dress picked out for 18 months. To put a touch of traditional into your look, you've opted for a "duchess" bouquet inspired by "Downton Abbey." Your caterer has designed a meal guests will remember, starting with a cappuccino bar and ending with a retro-inspired pineapple upside-down cake. Your fiancé has spent nine months planning a honeymoon in Bora Bora.

But how much time have you invested into the launch of your sex life?

Sex isn't simple.

And compared to that pineapple upside-down cake, you'll spend a lot more time feasting on it in the intimate chamber of your bedroom. Maybe you should spend some time preparing. Here are a few ideas to get your sex life off to a great start.

Prepare your heart with healing if you have had sex in the past. The No. 1 thing that creates inhibition in the marriage bed, in my counseling experience, is a heart broken by sexual sin. Sexual activity creates a soul tie between you and the person you've had sex with (1 Corinthians 6:13-17). Dr. Joseph McIlhaney of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health says that this is not just figurative, but the cocktail of chemicals mixed in the brain during sex creates a strong emotional bond between partners.

Let me introduce you to the female sexual super glue: oxytocin. It's released in the brain when a woman climaxes sexually. It isn't created only during intercourse, but less significant acts of intimacy (holding hands, kissing) don’t create the same kind of bonding. The stronger downloads of the chemical released during more intimate touch and sexual activity create strong chemical bonds. When these bonds are made and then broken by moving on to another partner, we feel broken.

There is hope for healing. I have experienced it. A time of in-depth counseling and deeper-still prayer to forgive your past sexual partners and ask God to release you from any unholy ties to them can free your emotions to enter fully into your marriage bed.

Incidentally, if you're having sex with your fiancĂ© right now, this is a good time to examine God's boundary for it. The boundary is marriage. You can't be "almost married" or "a little married." You're either married or you're not. Visit with your pastor, make a new commitment to wait until the wedding day, and in humility and repentance pray about how you have been living outside of God’s best plan.

Prepare your mind to receive pleasure
. The second most common inhibitor is a result of so many years of waiting. It can be hard for a virgin bride to release herself to believe that receiving pleasure is good. Many times a young wife has approached me to say, "I waited and waited, telling myself 'no' for so many years that now it seems hard for me to say 'yes.'"

While I don’t think it is wise to test the waters physically to know if you are sexually compatible, I also don’t think you necessarily have to save your first kiss until the wedding. Either extreme can be a distortion of a healthy, pure relationship. Both are hyper-focused and deny either the holiness of the sexual act or the beauty of attraction. Be careful that in waiting, you aren’t following man-made trends that make the abstinence message a big fat “no.” Abstinence isn't about not having sex. It's about waiting to have it right.

If you did not grow up in an environment where your faith and family said "yes" to the beauty of sex, you may need to retrain your mind. While some of this work may need to happen after you are sexually active, you can begin a few months prior to your wedding with some good resources. I recommend well-respected Christian sex-therapists' Clifford and Joyce Penner's title The Gift of Sex: A Guide to Sexual Fulfillment. Along with its practical tips and ideas that will help you with any specific challenges you might face, they make a stunning point about the importance of pleasure. They say:

"The Bible endorses a concept of sexual pleasure and assumes a healthy passion.… Animals, however, have sex in order to reproduce; they don't make love for the fun of it. They mate according to hormonal cycles. Humans make love for pleasure. In fact, Scripture instructs believers to always be available to their spouses (1 Corinthians 7:3-5), not just for making babies at the time of the month when that is possible. Therefore, we see sexual pleasure as superseding procreation."

That's a rather strong claim, and I believe it.

One of the most popular books on sexual pleasure is called Kama Sutra. Written by Vatsyayana, it claims to be the first book written on the art of pleasure in lovemaking. In her applause for the book, one author wrote that "Christian and Jewish texts and teachings contain no mention of … sex. In fact these two religions make little or no connection between sex and worship at all."

Mind if I blow this out of the water?

In truth, Christianity alone of all the major world religions boasts the most radical of holy books. It's called Song of Solomon or Song of Songs and stands out uniquely among religious books as an unashamed celebration of physical pleasure. Written in approximately 970 B.C., it beats Kama Sutra by 1320 years. (How's that for a thrashing?)

Prepare the atmosphere to begin learning how to pleasure one another.With co-habitation on the rise, many forego honeymoons altogether. That's sad. God really wants you to spend time learning how to bring happiness and pleasure to each other. Don't believe me? Deuteronomy 24:5 says, "If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married." Many believe that the intention was that the man would grow in friendship with his bride and that he'd learn to love her intimately. Can we at least take a weekend or a week to study each other?

Take care and attention in preparing for your honeymoon. Here's a top 10 list of things that ensure you'll be prepared for your honeymoon. Most of these are things you need to talk about. Communication is key.

10) Don't overbook your honeymoon. Instead of trying to tour Rome, why not rent a cabin on a lake? Think sex. Expect to spend your time in the bedroom. A good sexual experience doesn't happen when you are both tired.

9) Discuss your first night before you plan your wedding time. If your wedding is in the evening and you plan to party until midnight, chances are you'll both be pretty tired by the time you cross that threshold. You might want to consider not consummating your relationship until the next morning. Lowering the expectations could avoid a few tears if you both fall into bed exhausted at 2 a.m.

8) Pack atmosphere stuff. Your iPod with some good tunes, a couple of candles, massage oil, KY-jelly (a necessity for many new brides), pain relievers (sometimes the first time causes some discomfort), and feminine hygiene products are all good things to have in your honeymoon box. Don't forget the chocolate.

7) Take showers. Your wedding day will be a long day, and a shower will both refresh you and make you feel more confident. This doesn't mean you'll shower every time, but being clean for each other makes learning new things more comfortable. Talk about this in advance.

6) Dress up. While everyone is different, dressing special usually has a good impact on someone. Either he'll like it a whole lot, or you'll just feel sexier. Later on, you can talk about what he likes. And what you like. If he thinks you look hottest in his T-shirt and your panties, borrow his T-shirt. A lot.

5) Slow down. Take some time to explore each other's bodies and get to know each crack and crevice. You don't have to consummate things right away. In fact, you don't have to consummate your marriage on the first night at all. The goal really isn't intercourse. It's intimacy. The fact is you have a better chance of effectively scoring together if there is a lot of foreplay. (I'm keeping it PG here, but read the Penners' book. As a woman, your body will simply work better with a lot of intimate foreplay.) It's a good thing to talk about this ahead of time because a guy's body works pretty fast.

4) Give yourselves freedom to laugh. You'll be clumsy at first, but you have a lot of years to practice. One young woman who completed some premarital counseling with me reported that she and her new husband fell down in the shower, taking the shower curtain with them! They erupted into laughter as they enjoyed the newness of learning. (Note from them: Do not lean on the shower curtain in the throes of great passion!)

3) Don't expect to have sex four times a day. The female body often has to get used to sex. The hymen must stretch or be torn in most cases, and this causes some soreness. Don't be surprised if you need a break. And while most virile young men can have sex many times a day, their sperm only replenishes every 72 hours, so it's likely that he won't have a need to have all-day sex marathons during your honeymoon. Take the pressure off of each other to perform all the way through to intercourse.

2) Be prepared to call someone if you have problems. Anything can happen. For example, a young bride can get what was once commonly termed "honeymoon cystitis." It's just a discomfort from your body being introduced to the bacteria in his. (After all, there's a lot going on "down there.") Take the phone number of your OB/GYN and maybe a trusted mentor you can talk to if you run into any medical or emotional challenges.

1) Pray together. After my husband and I enjoyed one another for the first time, he curled me in a blanket and got on his knees. He prayed for our sex life. He asked God to protect our marriage bed and keep us for each other. It was one of the sweetest moments in my life. And the true culmination of our wedding day.

From your flowers to the song you march in to, you’ll spend more hours delighting in preparing your wedding than almost any other event in your life. But remember, that perfectly crafted menu will be gobbled up in 20 minutes. You’ll have a marriage bed to enjoy your entire life. Be sure to spend a little bit of your time and budget on it.

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