Dear Wendy: “He Wants To Wait Until Marriage, But I Don’t!”

I’m almost 20, and I have been dating my current boyfriend, who’s 21, for almost a year now, and even though it hasn’t been that long, I feel like he is “the one.” Before him, I was never able to stick around in a relationship for more than a month, and any talk of anything even remotely related to the future would send me running off. But imagining a life with him is one of the easiest things, and he’s told me he can see himself marrying me, having kids, and retiring and spending the rest of our lives together. Everything’s perfect except he’s a faithful Christian and wants to wait until marriage for actual penetration, although he’s fine with everything else, including oral sex. And the problem is, I’ve always told myself that I would not wait until then. This isn’t a matter of whether or not I love him enough to stay with him, to wait for him — I simply cannot imagine entering a marriage without knowing if I am compatible in that sense, because I know that I don’t want to get a divorce. I probably would not be able to live with myself if I managed to persuade him, especially if he regretted it afterward, but I also cannot imagine us having a life together if I don’t know that we’re sexually compatible. What should I do? — Lose-Lose Situation

Before I answer your question directly I want to share a story with you about this girl I know who, like you, fell in love with a “faithful Christian” guy who wanted to wait until marriage to do it. Although she’d had sex with a couple dudes already, she loved this guy and agreed to wait. But then on their wedding night, he claimed he was too tired to have sex and asked if they could do it the next morning. She was surprised — and a little hurt — but it had indeed been a long day and she was tired, too, and she’d rather they both be well-rested for their first time, so she agreed to wait until the next morning. The next morning came and … well, let’s just say things didn’t go as she’d hoped. But as disappointed as she was, she figured they just needed time to get it right. Fast forward to two years later and they’d had sex a whopping total of 10 TIMES. A few years — and many, many tears — later they divorced and she’s now enjoying a happy and healthy (pre-marital) sex life with someone else.

I tell you this story not because I think everyone who waits until marriage will suffer a similar fate, but as a warning of a potential worst-case scenario (although I suppose the real worst-case scenario would be if she remained married to the guy!). If you’re both on-board with waiting, that’s one thing, but if you want to test the goods before you buy, so to speak, and you skip that part for his sake, you’re going to be awfully resentful if you learn after it’s too late that you bought a dud. And, look, you’re not even 20 yet! Why are you so consumed with planning your future anyway? Can’t you just enjoy being young and dating without all the responsibility of marriage and everything that entails? You’ve got your whole life ahead of you to imagine how — and with whom — you’re going to spend your retirement. Seriously, you’re 19 years old — enjoy it! Life gets hard soon enough anyway; why make it more difficult now with all this talk of settling down with some guy who doesn’t even want to bone you?

OK, so here’s the part where I play devil’s advocate and tell you if you’re just absolutely convinced this is the man for you and nothing I or anyone else can say will convince you otherwise, you can certainly determine whether someone’s sexually compatible with you without having full-on penetration. If this guy’s willing to do “everything but” — which seems like such a crock, but whatever — pay attention to how you feel when you’re being intimate in other ways. Does he kiss you the way you like? Is he interested in bringing you to orgasm? Do you enjoy oral sex together? Do you have a hard time stopping yourself before going all the way? Does he get — and keep — an erection easily? If you answered “yes” to all of the above, that’s a very good sign. It would be hard to imagine having all that going for you only to be let down when you finally sealed the deal. But for God’s sake, if you really don’t want to marry someone you haven’t had vaginal penetration with, don’t. Unless you happen to like the idea of divorce.

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