Sex out of marriage
Can sex out of marriage ever bring the best values to human love?
This kind of love desires above all the good of the beloved, and therefore it has its fulfilment only in the security of marriage.
In a successful marriage, each partner needs to have complete confidence in the other. Sex conduct before marriage has an important bearing on the degree of this confidence. If each was able to control his or her sexual impulses before marriage and, by doing so, was able to show consideration for the security of the other, then the effects will last throughout a lifetime. On the many occasions when abstinence within marriage is found necessary, each can feel sure of the other’s capacity for faithfulness. Such self-control in matters of sex, if won early in life, is a great stand-by in times of crisis, and, besides being a source of comfort, it tends to influence other spheres of life also. For in married life people soon find that other readjustments requiring discipline are frequently needed to achieve happiness. The person whose past sex experience has been dominated by sheer animal pleasure finds it difficult to adjust to a situation in which the good of a loved one is now the main object.
Some couples who claim to be sure of their love for each other have no qualms about the morality of intercourse before marriage. This certainty may not last if another attraction is experienced some years after marriage. The thought of the pre-marital conduct will make it easier for the tempted part to yield, and it will also cause grave alarm to the other partner.
The temptation that many lovers have to satisfy the other sexually before marriage is based on the idea that this is in the interests of the other person. This notion is mistaken for many reasons. One obvious reason is that intercourse before marriage makes marriage itself almost second-hand - at least, in one important aspect. But, more important still, couples find that once sexual intercourse is experienced, it is almost impossible to discontinue it. Peace of mind is often destroyed, in spite of the lax moral standards of the times. Apart from the danger of pregnancy, such experiences affect the girl in spite of herself – often morally and emotionally, such a hurt is deeper when marriage does not follow, and when she later meets someone whom she loves and respects and wishes to marry.
Per-marital sex often, of itself, breaks up an association. It does this for physiological and psychological reasons, since, outside marriage, nether sex nor love is given a fair chance; and an association often breaks up that would, in the state of marriage, have worked out quite normally.
Another point of view is that those who rush prematurely into sex relations risk spoiling their chances of getting to know and appreciate one another as persons, and, consequently, their love will not develop in the way it should. This development follows from a gradual discovery of each other’s qualities of mind and heart. It is this progressive discovery, rather than sex relations, that leads more surely to happiness, for sex alone is not a true bond. We see this clearly in those boys who consort with “easy” girls, then move on without a qualm.
When a boy urges a girl to “prove” her love, he often forgets that she can scarcely, if ever, be as uninhibited as he can; for she has the ever-present possibility of pregnancy and accompanying anxiety that goes on for month after month. If he really loves her, he cannot afford to ignore this, no matter how willing he himself is to take the risk.
Because of pregnancies through “mistakes”, many marriages have to be hastened and responsibilities undertaken before the couple are ready. The problems attached to pregnancy, both social and personal, are there before the wedding-day, and because of this, the young couple feel a resentment. This state of affairs naturally takes the edge off the joy of marriage.
When a marriage in these circumstances does not take place, there is always heartbreak for the pregnant girl. She has to face many problems both before and after the birth of her child, and she finds, to her dismay, that society is far from being as “permissive” as she had imagined. In fact, one of the ironies of modern life is that society just does not approve of pregnancies outside marriage. Yet this is the very same society that bombard its youth with, or allows its youth to be bombarded with, every kind of erotic stimulant, through the media of sexy advertisements, sexy fashions, sexy entertainments and the like.
Young people who are deeply in love but unable to marry for some time, for educational or economic reason, have a special problem. They cannot help feeling that the act of union here and now has the same spiritual meaning that it will have for them when they are married. They discount the fears of unwanted pregnancy and other social consequences, and they require other reason for abstaining from expressing their love. Such a reason can only be found in an understanding of what marriage means. They should realize that to be biologically ready for marriage does not necessarily imply that a couple are culturally and morally prepared. Marriage is the greatest adventure they will encounter in life, and it requires for its success all sorts of qualities that have barely begun to develop during adolescence.
Nevertheless, the necessity of having to wait before marriage can create a conflict which requires skill and courage to resolve. It can only be resolved, in fact, by honest discussion and by coming to a right decision. Then it is up to the couple to support each other in keeping to the decision. Life, they should realize, will be full of conflicts, and many more serious decisions will lie ahead of them than those concerning sex control.
Marriage at an earlier date is an alternative, though this solution may have other effects, educationally or vocationally. Otherwise, the young couple must learn together how to forgo an immediate pleasure for a greater future good, and to respect the values of those who love them and also the values of their future children.
Since marriage calls for a constant, self-sacrificing love, and since this is the only kind of love upon which happiness can be based, the self-sacrifice must begin before marriage, not only financially and socially, but also emotionally.
These considerations take us back to the meaning of love as the driving force of life. They stress the big gulf between pleasure and the happiness of the beloved at heart, but also the welfare of all those responsible for or dependent on the beloved. This latter truth is often selfishly overlooked.
Admittedly, continence is difficult for young people nowadays. But it is by no means impossible; and those who desire to maintain or achieve it can do so by keeping the meaning of sexual love clearly before their minds and by avoiding all situations which might be a temptation to them – drinking too much, being alone together in a secluded place for too long, being in the lounge or the car with the light out and with nothing else to do but want each other, and similar dangerous situations. If a couple are really in love, they can be a strong support and help to each other in controlling themselves for something which they value more than immediate and passing pleasure.