Monday, January 14, 2013

The Honeymoon Series: Myths and Misconceptions About the Wedding Night

One of the more popular posts on this blog is "For Those Fearing the Marital Act". Other popular posts are "For Virgins" and "For Virgins (especially Men)".

Recently a reader contacted me concerned about an older post that implied that sex should hurt women their first time.

So, let's clear up some myths and misconceptions.

If you are already married and things just aren't working well, you may want to read this too.

Sex Should Not Hurt

Sex should not hurt. If it hurts, you're doing it wrong.

According to Columbia University's "Go Ask Alice" sexual advice website, women should NOT expect significant pain from intercourse, not even the first time.

[I]t is always good to remember that not all women experience pain then first time they have sex — in fact, for the majority of women (though every female is different), the first coital experience is generally nontraumatic, with limited discomfort and minor (if any) bleeding.

The Mythical Hymen

One concern is pain that may occur with "breaking the hymen". A hymen is the thin piece of tissue that partially blocks the entrance to the vagina.

A common myth is that the hymen is an indicator of virginity, like the seal on a medicine bottle. Part of this myth is that first time sex must be painful because the hymen may be torn or broken during penetration.

But women are NOT medicine bottles. Many women break their hymens through non-sexual activity. Furthermore, the hymen has no nerve endings. It is a completely meaningless piece of tissue with no known function.

It is a good idea for the bride to have a gynecological exam before the wedding. Most women will not have any physical problems, but if there are problems, they can be detected in the exam and often resolved before the wedding. If she has any concerns, she should discuss them with not only with her doctor but also with her husband to be.

So Why Can First Time Sex Hurt?

When sex is painful, it's usually for one of two closely interrelated reasons:

The woman is not physically ready: Sex hurts because she is not adequately aroused to accommodate her husband nor lubricated enough to facilitate penetration

The woman is not emotionally ready: Sex hurts because she cannot relax and accept penetration, but clinches down and resists it. 

Both cases are usually caused by the couple moving too fast. Taking things slowly will make them a lot better.

A Word to the Men

This post is written for the women who worry about sex being painful AND for the men who love them.

So, if you are one of those guys, here's some advice about how NOT to make a bad first impression.

Making a good first impression is not about skill, it's about attitude. If you are inexperienced too, don't worry. You're probably not going to be that good. How many things are you good at your first time? But that's OK. You've got a lifetime together to get better.

Scripture tells us "He who loves his wife loves himself." Ephesians 5:30. I've already written about the "sexy side" of Ephesians 5, but this is especially important the first time.

Talking about it before hand will help you handle any concerns or expectations.

For your wife to enjoy sex, she has to be able to relax. To be able to relax, she must trust you to be a considerate lover. This trust starts from before day one.

If she is anxious about sex hurting, let her know that you love her and that you would never deliberately do anything to hurt her. If there are any problems, let her know that you will solve them together and that you have the rest of your lives together to take your time and make sex awesome.

If there are any emotional concerns or hangups, talk about these too. Sex is good! There is nothing wrong, dirty, or shameful about sex in marriage.

So, love your wife. Love her body as your own. Patience early on will give your wife a good impression of sex and lead to more and better sex later. A win-win situation!

Tips and Tricks

Great sex is not about technique. Great sex is about trust, intimacy, and communication. Listen. Ask. Communicate. Respond.

I do recommend learning about her anatomy, most notably the clitoris. "Understanding the clitoris is the sign of a man that is invested in his partner and her pleasure, both of which are noble qualities."

But anatomy only gets you so far. Every woman has different likes and dislikes.

Explore ALL of her body.

If your new wife is inexperienced, you are going to be learning about her body together. Don't rush things, just explore and enjoy.  Let her take the lead. (Ladies, it is OK to explore your own body in the context of the relationship with your husband.) Being naked with your wife is a lot of fun for you and her. This exploration is an important part of getting comfortable with each other.
No reason why she can't do some exploring as well...

Move at her pace. Ask before trying something new. If she is enjoying things, then keep going. If she doesn't like something, go back to what she did like.

Talking is good. See?

If she is shy, don't make assumptions. Ask. Talk about it. Listen. Good communication is critical to great sex. No matter how much in love you are, neither one of you are mind readers. After 10+ years of marriage, we still communicate what we like and don't like in the bedroom.

If things just aren't working, then it's OK to stop and try again some other time. You don't have to round all the bases in one night.

Do not be overly worried about finishing in a way that is "oriented toward procreation" while you are still learning your sexuality. If you are concerned about this, however, remember that being "oriented toward procreation" does not necessarily require penetration.

In fact, it's probably a good idea to wait for the honeymoon to try sex if you think there may be issues. On your wedding night, you may be exhausted. Even if you are wired and excited from the wedding, you are stacking the deck against yourselves. Plus, wedding planning is stressful enough without worrying about whether the wedding night falls on a red stamp day or a white baby day.  Of course, you are certainly free to enjoy each other if you both feel ready.

Be prepared if he shows up on your wedding night.

When you do attempt penetration, the best position is the one where she feels the most comfortable. Don't think that you have to conform to some cultural idea of what sex should be. If one position isn't working, you may want to try another. If you have any reason to think that you might hurt her, try a position where she is guiding things.

If you have a genuine physical concern, such as endometriosis, you might want to get a book and see what positions you think might work for you. Sometimes a slight change of position might make the difference between pleasure and pain. Even if you don't have any physical concerns, it may give you some ideas for fun and exploration.

And guys, being relaxed goes for you too. If you're too nervous, he won't work. If this happens, don't panic. Just slow down and calm down and the problem should solve itself.

The first time probably won't last for very long the first time. There will be a mess. Placing a towel under you will prevent "wet spots" and allows for easy clean up.

There's always a second time...and third and fourth and...


Sex is designed to feel good. As you are learning your sexuality, things may feel unusual or even slightly uncomfortable for her at first. This is normal. Sex should NOT be painful. Pain is NOT normal. Pain is a sign that something is wrong. If sex is painful, STOP.

Stop even if she insists on going on despite the pain. She may feel pressure to satisfy you or to consummate the marriage or to "become a woman". Do not let her hurt herself for you or for some cultural idea of sex.

If things go wrong and she is hurt by sex, give her a chance to heal. Wait 48 hours before trying anything again that might hurt her. Abstinence is a part of marriage as well. Spend the night in between doing something sweet and romantic that makes her feel loved.

For example, a reader shared the story of one woman whose husband made gourmet ice cream and brought it to bed the second evening as part of them having a special sexy honeymoon, even though they needed to wait before re-attempting things that hadn't worked the first night. She felt loved, and while it didn't magically clear up the physical issue, it did allow them to work through it rather than scar her emotionally for the rest of their relationship.

Spiritual Side

This is a Catholic blog, not a sexual technique blog, so what is the spiritual side of all of this?

The Book of Tobit tells couples how they should approach their wedding night. Tobias and his wife Sarah begin their marriage with prayer and thanksgiving.

When [Sarah's] parents left the bedroom and closed the door behind them, Tobiah arose from bed and said to his wife, "My love, get up. Let us pray and beg our Lord to have mercy on us and to grant us deliverance."
She got up, and they started to pray and beg that deliverance might be theirs. He began with these words: 
"Blessed are you, O God of our fathers; praised be your name forever and ever. Let the heavens and all your creation praise you forever. You made Adam and you gave him his wife Eve to be his help and support; and from these two the human race descended. You said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make him a partner like himself.' Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age."
They said together, "Amen, amen," and went to bed for the night.
Tobit 8:4-9.

Tobias and Sarah come together on their wedding night not with lust, but with the noble purpose of beginning a lifetime of love together and all that this love brings forth. For those of you getting married, I hope that your wedding night begins a lifetime of love together as well.

- James


  1. I don't know how to ask this less awkwardly, but something caught my attention while reading. What exactly is meant by, "(If this is the case, ladies, do be charitable to your husband. If you are worried about the act being "oriented toward procreation", remember that this does not necessarily require penetration.)"?

    1. The problem is when couples get started, but are not able to continue to penetration.

      Some couples believe that the only proper way to finish is in a way that is oriented toward procreation. This is to maintain the unitive and procreative aspects of intercourse. (I am of the opinion that you shouldn't worry too much about it while you are learning, but others take a different view.)

      If men get started, but cannot finish, this can lead to a a very uncomfortable condition called vasocongestion or "blue balls", which is why wives need to be charitable. Unfortunately, couples believe that continuing to full penetration and internal climax is the only proper way to prevent this, leading them to go faster and farther than they are ready to go.

      The solution is for the couple to finish in a way where procreation would still be possible, but without full penetration.

      I hope that explains it without being too explicit, but if you have any more questions, please email me privately.

  2. Pain could be caused by yeast infection. If you feel rubbed raw during, and stinging pain immediately after when you urinate, those are symptoms. Discharge may look white and lumpy, or none at all. You might not bei itchy. So try a three day over the counter cream.

    It worked for me.