On Dating: Should We Talk About Sex?


[Guest Post by Lisa Velthouse] – Should we talk about sex?

If so, when?

And how?

And what is OK to say, and what isn’t?

And what, oh what, would our youth pastors think if they heard us now?

Christians in a dating and marrying world are typically aware that the Bible’s teaching on sex reserves it for a married husband and wife.

They are often also aware that the Bible celebrates married sex unabashedly.

Song of Songs, anyone?

As to the practical implications of all that, however, the clarity quickly fades into big questions and big confusion.

But let’s get our grounding here, and begin by remembering that the Bible is not about sex. The Bible teaches about sex and talks about sex, and we all would be wise to listen and obey its teaching. But what the Bible is aboutis not a what.

It is about who.

About Jesus, the perfect one who died under the complete weight of our sinfulness. About God, whose love was and is the engine for total forgiveness and joy. About anybody and everybody else, whom God loves and whom Jesus died for and whom didn’t and can’t and won’t deserve it.

Sex is a secondary issue at best. But that doesn’t mean sex isn’t worth talking about.

In fact, talking about sex is one way to dig out from the confusion, questions, frustration, and guilt that often surround this issue. Here are four ways to talk about sex before getting engaged.

1. Talk with God.

It has to start here. Ask for his strength to help you be obedient and to find joy in obedience, and for his grace to forgive you in your disobedience. Get to know the good news of his love, and understand that it means no obedience can bring you any more deserving of him, and no disobedience can make you out of his reach.

2. Talk with a trusted friend within the Church.

Have someone in your life who knows the gritty details of your life, including what role sex has played in it. It’s probably ideal that this person be of the same gender.

Admit your failures and be honest about temptation.

Ask the friend to encourage you in the gospel, reminding you that obedience is beautiful and that God is not surprised by the presence of sin in any person.

3. Talk with the person/people you’re dating or considering dating.

Yes, talk from the very beginning. Agree together that God’s plan for sex is best, and work toward obedience in that direction. From experience, in this phase of a relationship it helps to talk minimally about sex. Treat it as something that is genuinely off the table for the time being.

Focus on other ways to connect: communication, affection, conflict resolution, time together. If your relationship moves to marriage, those connecting points will be part of what promotes a great sex life for life.

Note: If you can’t agree together upon the importance of honoring God’s plan for sex, then, biblically speaking, you have bigger issues to deal with, and they’re about things far more foundational than sex.

God’s authority and goodness, for starters.

4. Talk with the person you’re engaged to.

Now you know that sex is going to be a part of the picture, so begin looking in that direction as you prepare more and more for an actual marriage.

Practice celebrating the idea that sex is for marriage: looking ahead together and gearing up for the lifetime of experiences that will be uniquely yours. Encourage each other in obedience; this discipline will be useful and beneficial for the entire life of your relationship. Begin talking about specifics, not to experiment prematurely but to hone your expectations together and to anticipate serving each other selflessly.

Look forward to what the two of you don’t yet have—the waiting is a bliss worth relishing.

Lisa Velthouse is the author of Saving My First Kiss and the 2010 memoir Craving Grace. Formerly Brio magazine’s “Brio Girl” and columnist, she has also been a contributor at RELEVANTmagazine.com, Christianity Today, and other venues. Lisa is a Marine Corps wife and a new mom living in Southern California. Find her at lisavelthouse.com, at her Facebook fan page, and on Twitter: @LisaVelthouse.

[Photo: Grace E. Jones, Flickr]


  • Emerald

    When and how is best to talk about sexual past in a relationship? Is it better when dating or when engaged? Please give me some advise, this is something that makes me really nervous when I meet a guy I like or think about starting a relationship because I want to be honest from the beginning when that person comes to my life. Thank you for your time!

    • Lisa Velthouse

      Hey Emerald, great question. That “when” is influenced by a lot of larger and greater things, but here are a couple thoughts.

      Specifically to your question: Definitely before engagement. If you’re promising to marry someone and give your whole life to them, at that point there shouldn’t be any big secrets—whether positive or negative—still waiting to be told.

      To the greater point: When a marriage (and relatedly, when a dating relationship) is doing what God intended it to be doing, that relationship is allowing both people to pour out themselves for the good of the other, as an example and a blessing to the watching world. Which means at least two things:

      1) With regard to the past, if there is any regret/guilt/shame/apprehension/embarrassment about what you’ve done, the other person does not add to the pile; rather, he/she reminds you that God forgives as far as the east is from the west, and that when you have accepted God’s gift of grace, God no longer sees your sin. He sees Christ’s righteousness instead. In turn, this other person is able to see Christ in you rather than focusing on the sinfulness in you. How is he/she able to see that? On to point #2:

      2) If they’ve been changed by God’s grace, the person you’re dating should understand that sin makes life a level playing field. Nobody is any better or worse or any more/less deserving of God than anybody else, regardless of what has or hasn’t happened in their bedrooms or anywhere else. This means that in all things, relationships should be seasoned with grace. If God has wiped my past sins clean, I have no right holding yours against you (or mine against me!).

      If you understand you’re forgiven for your sinfulness (and it’s important to start there), but in a specific dating relationship you’re still nervous to bring up the past, perhaps you doubt that the other person will be able to forgive you. (Maybe he/she doesn’t understand sinfulness and forgiveness?) Or maybe you simply need to get into the habit of admitting your sinfulness out loud. It takes practice: “I was selfish just now. Will you forgive me?” “I am careless sometimes. Will you forgive me?” Confessing on a regular basis helps make the act somewhat more comfortable.

      Make sense?

  • Jermaine Lane

    I was given this advice a long time ago, maybe it would be helpful? When you talk with your significant other about sex, do it in a very public place (cafe, restaurant, parade, etc.) to keep yourself to…yourself.
    I long for the day when The Church will take a deep breath and allow grace and trust to supercede folklore and tradition. It’s either you can’t talk about sex in church, or if it’s brought up, it’s a lot of rules and tradition and not about listening to and caring for the wounded and the broken.

    • Lisa Velthouse

      Jermaine, I think your point about talking in a public place is helpful in general; however, the “public” element of it can hinder/discourage a certain kind of honesty and openness. (The sort of conversational honesty & openness, for instance, that an engaged couple might benefit from developing.) If the goal is to avoid letting sex-talk lead to sex, engaged couples might try writing letters back and forth about sex. That way, you can talk honestly and candidly, but there are parameters helping limit the conversation. I’ll reference back to the original point here, emphasizing that all of this should serve to encourage each other toward obedience.