When I married my husband in 1973, it was "very important" that he not see me in my wedding gown until my father escorted me down the aisle. Our guests waited at the reception while we took pictures. When my daughters were married, we took the pictures earlier. Not being seen before the ceremony was just “not practical.” Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, a lot more than just the pictures has moved before the ceremony.
In Barbara Wilson’s Kiss Me Again; Restoring Lost Intimacy in Marriage she quotes a recent study as saying that 95% of Americans today have sex before they are married—including Christians. Often we justify our choices by saying that we are in love; we are planning to get married; what difference does a ceremony make? The media tells us it’s “just sex,” but Wilson maintains there is no such thing as “just sex”.
“God is not trying to ruin our lives,” she says, “or spoil our fun by prohibiting sex outside of marriage. He wants to protect us from forming bonds that can hinder our ability to have sexual and emotional intimacy in marriage.” (p. 19)
Wilson discusses the impact of endorphins and enkephalins that give us pleasure and oxytocin, “biochemical superglue” that binds mother to child, and husband to wife. We condition our brains to respond to stimuli much as Pavlov’s dogs responded to the bell they associated with food and began to salivate even with no food present. It is not just porn she is talking about here, but that really great sex we may have had before marriage. This is not a science book although the scientific evidence for God’s way is nice to know. Wilson is writing for married women who wonder why sex is no longer as much fun as it used to be. She blames our prior sexual experiences, even the ones that didn’t go all the way to intercourse, or that were with our present spouse.
“Having learned as single women to guard our hearts from being hurt with sex, we can shut down emotionally and sexually in marriage…. Rather than feeling sexy, we clothe ourselves in shame, pain, regret. The power, the games and the self-protection we learned in single sex become patterns in married sex.” p. 7
I was especially interested in the levels of emotional intimacy she borrowed from Roger Hillerstrom’s The Intimacy Cover Up. Wilson says we tend to stay at the level of intimacy we were on when we first had sex. The sex makes us feel good and safe (at least, initially), and moving to a new level of emotional intimacy puts that comfortable feeling at risk.
Most of the book is about how to experience healing of the bonds that still tie you to past loves (whether you were previously married to them or not) and the shame you associate with your regrets for the choices you made even with your present spouse. Wilson takes the reader through a series of exercises to identify the pain, its sources and seek healing, ultimately becoming your husband’s best friend. The format of some chapters is workbook, but the answers could easily be written in a separate (more private) notebook.
Buy it for yourself or a loved one. Buy it for your church library and be sure it is reviewed in you church bulletin or newsletter so the woman who thought she was the only one can find it. Barbara Wilson has another book called The Invisible Bond: How to Break with Your Sexual Past that is geared for singles.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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