I have been in a relationship for over a year and a half. Several months ago, we began sleeping together at his request. I was unsure about it because I believe strongly about waiting until we are married. However, I compromised and gave in for “special occasions.” Well, these days it seems like he can think of a special occasion for everything! I’ve tried to tell him how I feel and why it is important to wait. At times, I feel even very dis-interested in sex because of the guilt I feel after the fact. He, however, doesn’t want, or see the need, to stop. I love him dearly, and truly believe we have a future together. I, however, would like to move backward and slow things down sexually in our relationship. Some friends tell me once we crossed that line before marriage, we can’t go back. I don’t believe it. What would you suggest for solving this ongoing argument and compromise in our relationship?
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The marriage research literature does suggest that marriages tend to be stronger when partners have not cohabited prior to marriage. I’m not sure if that includes never having sex before marriage, but I am inclined to take the word ‘cohabited’ literally, and say that it is the act of moving in together prior to marriage that changes things. So don’t get too worried about the pre-marital sex part. My own humble opinion is that that, all by itself, is not going to have a lasting impact on your future happiness.
You do have a fairly serious issue here, however, and it is one you need to become crystal clear about right now, before you seriously consider marriage to this man. He is not sensitive to your desires when they conflict with his own right now, and there is no reason to believe he will act differently in the future. So, your relationship is uneven, or unequal in terms of how you get to make decisions. You compromise and he doesn’t. Let me repeat myself for effect: this pattern is very unlikely to change in the future if you two cannot find a way to change it now. My fear for you is that you will marry him and feel more or less permanently compromised for the rest of your days together. Don’t allow this to happen, please. Stand up for yourself and do not compromise your deeply held values. You don’t need to shout or scream or yell; you just need to learn how to say “no” and mean it when you mean it. If this means refusing to have sex with your boyfriend/fianc?e, then so be it. Then, carefully watch how he handles your new assertiveness. It will be normal for him to protest and complain, but what you want to see is that it dawns on him what you are doing, and he comes to accept that it is okay for you to have limits he can’t cross. If he becomes belligerent or otherwise will not stop pressuring you to resume relations, you will know he is not the one for you, because he is far more interested in the satisfaction of his own needs than in your happiness.
A word about compromise is in order here, I think. Compromise should not be a one-sided thing. You compromised something you felt strongly about to give him something he wanted, but what has he compromised? It is not clear from your communication. There is nothing wrong with compromise. Compromises are the bricks out of which relationships are built. However, in the future, make sure that you are both giving up something important when you reach a compromise, because only bilateral compromises ever feel satisfying.