This can’t be happening.
It was my wedding night. My new husband and I had been waiting a long time for this—more than a quarter-century each—because we had chosen to save sex for marriage. But now the moment was here and there was no more waiting. Even though we were exhausted from a day of dancing and celebration, we were plenty eager to get down to business.
Everything felt so wonderful, so natural, so right. The stress of planning a wedding and the big-event jitters had fallen away, and it was just us, together. Perfect.
And then our perfect day hit a speed bump. As we tried to make love, I found myself wincing, then gasping. It hurt, a lot more than I expected it would. After a couple attempts, we really hadn’t made much progress and I felt sinking disappointment creeping into my heart. What if there’s something wrong with me?
“Maybe you shouldn’t stop,” I told my husband. “I can just tough this out and get it over with.”
But he just shook his head and pulled me close. If he was disappointed, he didn’t show it. We fell asleep snuggling, virgins for one more night.
Even though it wasn’t the perfect wedding night I had envisioned, my husband had demonstrated something profound. He loved and valued me and my body more than his own needs and desires—more, even, than I valued myself in that moment. He didn’t just want my consent; he wanted to make sure I felt good and the moment was right for both of us.
I often think of that night when I read heartbreaking stories of women who were taken advantage of by boyfriends or acquaintances, or coerced or manipulated into having sex they didn’t want when their guard was down. It troubles me deeply when I read about colleges holding classes for students to remind them they need explicit consent—the bare minimum—before engaging in something as profound and intimate and deeply personal as sex. A world in which explicit consent has to be taught is a world in which people use each other, putting their own needs and desires ahead of their partner’s.
There’s something so much better out there, I want to shout.
My husband and I did get our moment the next day. It was really special, and it was worth the wait—all of it. But even today, after being married for a few years, he’ll usually ask me before we get physical. It’s not because he’s afraid I’ll say no or because he can’t read physical cues, but because he thinks it’s important to acknowledge that sex is a big deal, and he doesn’t want to make assumptions about my body or what I want, even though we’re married. I’ve never felt used by him, or like a means to an end.
Because I know I can trust my husband to care for and protect me, and to value my body and my needs even more highly than his own, I feel so safe in every aspect of our life together.
I wish that everyone could know with confidence that they are worth this kind of mind-body-spirit love, and intimacy that makes them feel treasured and protected, not used.
That kind of love is real. It’s out there. And, yes, it’s worth waiting for.