Q: Should sexual expectations for marriage be discussed in a dating relationship?
A: You guys know how often I talk about the importance of reserving sex for the context of a committed marriage. But that’s not the question at hand, so I’m going to save that rant for another day. This question is about the important discussions that need to happen before a wedding day. And I’m GLAD someone is thinking about this stuff!!!
We know that sex and sexual expectations are important ingredients to a healthy marriage..so when do these conversations need to happen?
Here’s the thing: there are no patterns or formulas that can apply to every person in every relationship, for the sake of simplicity, I like to conceptualize the first year of dating as the “get to know you” stage in the seasons of a dating relationship. I talk about the “Four seasons of dating” exclusively in Chapter 10 of True Love Dates, and if you haven’t read that section I recommend you catch up because passing through the seasons of dating is an important part of leading up to these must-have conversation before marriage.
After you’ve moved through the four seasons of dating, and you’re ready to pursue engagement and start the conversation about marriage, then it’s time for the next level of conversations: the pre-marriage stuff. Welcome to Marriage-Prep 101.
In my mind as a therapist, I don’t walk couples through the “harder topics” (such as sexual expectations) until they’ve committed to one another through engagement, because even though there are people out there who think engagement is the “wedding planning” stage -what it really is, is the preparation stage of a dating relationship.
Preparing for marriage. This is a CRUCIAL part of getting ready for marriage, and one that too many couples overlook in the frenzy of planning a wedding.
I still can’t for the life of me understand how there are some people out there more concerned about choosing the right flavor of wedding cake than they are about learning the right way to communicate in a marriage.
In my upcoming NEW book, Choosing Marriage, I dedicate an entire chapter to “expectations” after surveying over 1,000 single people, and 1,000 married people.
Expectations about things relating to sex, family, finances are some of the biggest struggles in marriage if they aren’t properly addressed. Because let me just say this….according to my survey results, there is a HUGE difference between what single people expect in marriage, and what actually goes down in a marriage relationship.
There’s SO MUCH WORK TO BE DONE TO PREPARE FOR A LIFELONG COMMITMENT, and getting your expectations right….but if you do it NOW, you can enjoy the process of marriage LATER.
To sum it up, here’s a brief outline:
Friendship: Getting to know different people of the opposite sex.
Dating: Focusing on ONE person you’d like to get to know exclusively and moving through the four seasons of dating (learning about their personality, communication/conflict, spirituality, family, hobbies, strengths and weaknesses, lifestyle, history, etc).
Engagement: Preparation for marriage and starting to have the next level of hard conversations that need to happen regarding two people becoming one (sexual expectations, finances, gender roles and responsibilities, family planning, etc.). PS. Counseling is a huge part of pre-marriage prep.
Marriage: You’ve now got a really good idea of who this person is and what they believe, see that they’re a good match for your life, and decide to commit for life.
Healthy relationships unfold one stage at a time, but each stage is significant, meaningful, and purposeful. So don’t rush it, and then, enjoy the ride.
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. Her newest book, Choosing Marriage, is set to be released in the Summer of 2018! You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!