We’re Christians; I’m ready for sex but he wants to wait

I am ready to have sex and my boyfriend is, too, but wants to wait because we are both Christians. Should I wait for him or should I dump him? What should I do?
Lena replies:

Binx, you did a nice job of posing your question very succinctly! Ultimately, the choice of either breaking up or staying together is yours. However, while you were able to express your question well in just a few sentences, I am going to give you a long, detailed response in a few paragraphs. This is because I want to give you as much background as possible, lots of food for thought and things to consider, in order to help you make the best, most informed decision possible.

For starters, I think it’s cool that you have come to terms with both your faith and your sexuality, realizing that they can be complementary rather than contradictory parts of your life. This may have been a non-issue for you from the get-go, but a number of young people who identify as Christians have found themselves in between a rock and a hard place sexually, having trouble with their sexual desires conflicting with the teachings of their spiritual upbringings.

Abstinence, waiting ‘til marriage… wait, what do these mean to you and yours?

While abstinence may be a big word in many churches, schools, and public campaigns these days, here at Scarleteen we encourage users to inform themselves, keep their beliefs and backgrounds in mind, and ultimately make the decision that works best for them personally, whatever that may be. Waiting until marriage for sexual contact may be the right choice for some, but it’s not even an option for many others. Therefore, instead of having one, all-inclusive answer to all young people considering sex, we offer the alternative and extremely extensive Sex Readiness Checklist.

All that said, I am going to take your word that you are ready to have sex; right now the issue is that while you and your boyfriend both feel ready, he wants to wait–- due to his religious views on premarital sex, I assume? And that's waiting until marriage, I also-- but perhaps incorrectly-- assume? I have a few different thoughts on this.

Something to keep in mind is that you two may already be sexually active, even if that doesn’t mean having sexual intercourse. Abstinence means the absence of any and all sexual activity, including masturbation, from one’s life; celibacy means the absence of partnered sexual activity but has room for solo activities such as masturbation. A lot of teens who believe in the importance of waiting until marriage before having vaginal intercourse -- and I'm being very specific for a reason, as you'll soon see -- are sexually active in other ways, such as having manual sex (fingering or "hand jobs"), oral sex (on the guy or the girl) or even anal sex. It’s OK to participate in the activities that feel right to you, and there’s nothing wrong with picking and choosing; in fact, we advise all people stick with what’s good and comfortable to them and their partners.

However, it’s also important that you’re honest with yourself and others, taking the necessary precautions towards safer sex, such as using condoms or other barriers for, yes, oral sex. That's because you can get STIs from oral sex, for example, and can even become pregnant from anal sex. If you decide to wait yet are finding it difficult, I’d recommend planning, assessing or even avoiding possible situations to help you stay within your limits. Some people would sincerely like to wait but suddenly change their minds while in the bedroom -- or another location -- and end up having unprotected sex, a scenario to absolutely avoid by all means. Therefore, even if you are holding off on certain partnered sexual activities for now, it’s not a bad idea to be prepared just in case and have an emergency back-up plan. Again, what you do is up to you two, but I do recommend defining what these terms mean to you and reading up on various topics, from STI risk assessment sheets to the concept of virginity. Knowledge is sexy! I believe that the more you know, the easier it will be for you to talk things over and make that decision.

Forget the roses and candlelit dinners, this is really just about sex!

Your post was quite short and sweet and to the point–- do you also wait or break up now? If you should wait, what are you waiting for? How long? Because you didn’t go into more personal details about your relationship, I will just address the sex issue from a pretty objective standpoint. You may have been dating for two years or two weeks, you may share everything or it could be opposites attract, you may have been through some really hard times together or you may have had a more fair-weather relationship. While it’s really hard to sum up a relationship in just a few lines, I am under the impression that this difference is the main, blaring issue for you right now and the other stuff isn’t. The fact that you have been able to discuss the topic of sex already is a good sign for your relationship, even if you're not at a point where you both agree.

People are ready at different times for different things, sexually and otherwise. Even with the same partner during the same encounter, you may be ready for a particular sexual activity one minute but then decide you don’t want to partake in it a minute later. And that’s OK! Sexual negotiation, working together to find something everyone’s OK with or expressing and respecting each others’ wishes and boundaries, is a key part of any sexual -- or romantic -- relationship. After all, we are having that sexual relationship with another person, not just a penis or vagina or some unfeeling being; it’s not just about just you or just your partner but what feels good and is acceptable for the both of you. For example, let's explore the concept of sexual readiness outside of "waiting for marriage." One person may be ready for sex right now while their partner is open to eventually having a sexual relationship but not yet; the other person understands and respects that, even if they would really like to have sex then, but is happy enough with the other aspects of the relationship to stick around and see what happens. Conversely, the same couple may find themselves in a role reversal when the day comes when the the slower-paced partner is ready for sex but the other partner is having a hard day or is just not in the right mindset just then. (These are some examples of the type of sexual negotiation all equal sexual partners, married or not, deal with on a regular basis. It may seem like a lot -- after all, being sexually active does bring some big responsibilities along with the positive benefits -- but it's really quite pleasantly intimate, not to mention pretty darn essential, in the long-run.) Is what I've described above actually where your boyfriend is or was I on-target about his waiting for marriage bit?

The bottom line: Should I stay or should I go?

Sometimes there are fundamental differences among partners that are just too big to try to make work. While it’s important to respect where your partner’s coming from, it’s also up to you to decide to either accept those terms as is or to decline them, end the relationship, and look elsewhere. From your post, I get that you respect his decision and are not trying to get him to change his mind. That’s really important, something some adults don’t even seem to grasp; wishful thinking may be nice, but it doesn’t help you get anywhere. Facing reality, which can be harsh but also doesn’t have to be when approached honestly and communicated compassionately, is essential in the long-run.

Has he respected your feelings and can he discuss yours in a non-judgmental way? Are there other things in this relationship that make you want to stay, even without the sex you would like? If that's not the case or if sex is the most important factor for you, then it would probably be best to end this relationship so you both can find partners who are looking for the same kind of relationship. One last thing on ultimatums: They should be presented as yes, no or maybe so in terms of breaking up or not, but by no means should they be used to manipulate the other person into staying in a relationship that he or she is not really OK with but afraid to lose otherwise. People will talk of "guys trying to coerce girls" into having unwanted sex but the opposite can -- and, unfortunately, does happen, too. I'm not saying that I think this might be the case with you, not at all really, but I do want to bring it up.

Friends without benefits

You currently have a romantic relationship that you would also like to also make sexual; he would like to keep the romantic relationship as is, without adding sexual aspects. Currently, neither of you is happy with that. How about switching to a platonic friendship where you share the closeness but without the sexual pressure? He'd be free to find a partner who wanted to hold off on sex and you'd be free to find one whose views are more on par with yours. There are actually a lot of benefits to this. Transitioning from a romantic relationship to a platonic friendship isn’t always easy and doesn’t work for everyone, but it also might be exactly the right thing -- now or in time once feelings have been processed.

This isn’t an easy dilemma to be in. While it’s too bad if the topic of sex is the "breaking point" for this relationship, it’s also perfectly OK. After all, some people break up over much “sillier”-seeming stuff, and that’s OK, too. The key is that you are both at peace with your personal beliefs, whether that means being in or out of this relationship. Good luck to you both!

Here are a bunch of articles for you (and your boyfriend!) to check out. They're great for informing yourself as well as starting discussions:

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