When it comes to marriage, expectations are one of the first things a marriage counselor, coach, or premarital program will encourage you to put on the table and address. Oftentimes, people don’t even realize the rigidity of their expectations, or how many they actually have!
Adult couples often squirm in their seats when asked about their sexual expectations. For many, it’s a source of awkward unknowns or it becomes an emotionally charged conversation.
So many things contribute to the creation of your specific expectations about sex and what it should or will be like in marriage: Cultural influences, religious beliefs, past life experiences, and family dynamics are some of the most significant. From household chores all the way to those intimate moments in the bedroom, you bring a world of thoughts, feelings, and associated assumptions to your marriage.
Here are a few tips for dealing with your “sexpectations,” or expectations about sex:
- Understand what sex means to each of you
How do you define affection? How do you define sex? How do you define intimacy? Are they one in the same? Do they each stand on their own? Sex researcher and therapist Esther Perel eloquently states that, “sex is not something you do, it’s a place you go.” Knowing that sex, in the realm of a marriage, is so much more than a single physical act will allow you more space to explore the other layers of meaning that go into it for you.
- Know that sex changes over time
Couples go through developmental stages! You have probably heard of the “romantic” or “Honeymoon” stage, which defines the passionate and intense beginning of your connection to one another. This will change over time, and it’s not a bad thing. What this means is that sex will transition from feeling like an effortless part of your relationship to something that must become intentional. Like watering a garden, you must nurture the sexual part of your relationship.
- Know your boundaries
Simply put, I define boundaries as “what is and what is not okay” according to you. In marriage, you are both entitled to your own boundaries around sex. There may be things you do not feel comfortable doing and there may be things you want to explore with your partner. All of this is okay, but it is your responsibility to your spouse to communicate these boundaries with them. We cannot expect our partner to know our boundaries if they are not expressed.
- Don’t compare your sex life to the rest of the world’s
Social media and the news thrives off of people’s most intimate issues. Don’t worry if you see the media posts proclaiming that “if you’re not having sex 10 times a week, something is wrong with your relationship!” The best thing you can do is figure out what is right for your relationship, based on your needs and each other. If you have serious concerns about your marital intimacy or sex life, the best thing to do is seek professional help.
- Talk about it before the wedding night
Whether you have already consummated your relationship or are waiting to do this after you are married, talking about your sexual expectations before marriage will benefit your relationship so much. Talk about how you envision your sex life growing or changing throughout life’s transitions (e.g. changing jobs, having children, or if illness strikes one of you). If this topic just feels too uncomfortable, I encourage you to explore the potential fears and anxieties you may be holding about sex.
What else do you think is important to discuss about sex before marriage? How has your experience been influence by your ability to communicate with one another?
Liz is a millennial wife and licensed couples therapist in Dallas, TX. She finds passion in helping other millennial couples and individuals navigate through the terrains of dating and pre-engagement, the premarital journey, and the newlywed stages of marriage. She blogs and speaks on the importance of building an intentional marriage and believes that marriage is one of the greatest gifts life has to offer!