It’s June, and my wedding invite box is full. People are rushing to and fro taking pictures, choosing flowers and sampling cake. All the preparations for the big party are methodically and sometimes frantically being put into place for the big day. But, is anyone talking about what happens after? That’s right, I’m talking about The Honeymoon. And I’m not just talking about the destination, but I’m literally discussing what that post-nuptial trip is historically all about - sex.
Somehow, in the midst of all the preparations, this very important topic gets pushed aside in favor of the party decorations. Or it gets joked about with sly winks and nods at bridal showers and bachelor parties. However, it is this very subject that can often make or break a relationship, and the honeymoon is far too often the time when the pattern for the sexual relationship becomes set. Moreover, I see many couples who are still trying to heal from the hurt and miscommunication experienced during this time, and wish they could do it all so differently, hoping their children won’t get caught in the same cycle. So it’s time to realize that if you’re big enough to get married, you’re big enough to talk about sex.
Here are four ideas to consider as you start thinking beyond your wedding and into the future:
You can go on a honeymoon without having sex
I know this idea goes contrary to historical and cultural expectations, but please keep reading. If you’ve decided to wait to be intimate until you’ve actually said, “I do,” then there are more important things than just jumping straight to sex - namely trust and communication. Just because you now have permission to be naked with each other doesn’t mean you have to be. No one needs to know and no one should ask. I encourage newly-married couples to continue developing their relationships along natural timetables. Slowly incorporate new areas of the body and new ideas and don’t be afraid to talk about them. This will allow you to build a foundation of trust and true and lasting intimacy which will help create the kind of relationship depicted in all those wedding magazines. And, if you’re going someplace fantastic for your first trip together, you may actually get to see some of the sights.
Sex and intimacy don’t magically happen
Unfortunately, our 21st century technology hasn’t brought us some sort of universal download regarding sex and how to go about it upon getting married. It actually fits into the same category as swimming lessons, learning to ride a bike or baking bread. It’s a skill and requires time and effort to learn. I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but I promise if you view it as such, make time to learn and practice and allow for some spectacular fails without thinking you or your partner are “bad” at sex, you can then have all the romance you want. Up to this point in your life you’ve been learning things on an individual level. Sex is different because it’s something you learn as a couple, making it a bit more challenging but also more rewarding. Read books, take classes and, above all, talk openly about it with each other so you can enjoy this learning experience together.
Hollywood really hurts couples regarding what they “think” sex “should” be like versus the reality. Again, remember that you are actual human beings and not edited, well-lit, flawlessly made-up characters on a big screen. Real intimacy can be awkward, messy, humorous, and full of sights and sounds you’ve probably not experienced before. You may trip as you’re trying so hard to walk alluringly to bed. He may get his ring caught in your hair. Whatever it is, it’s yours. This is your experience and your relationship with another individual also probably feeling as awkward, excited, curious and frightened as you are. You can’t expect your partner to know what you like or what to do. Or to know your body better than you do. The expectation is that both people will be able to express fears, doubts, desires and wants in a clear and understanding way so that both involved feel safe and cared for. Beyond that, keep Hollywood out of the equation.
Even if neither of you has previously had sex, you still have sexual history
Everything you learned, saw, heard or experienced growing up regarding touch, intimacy and sex you are bringing with you into this new relationship. How you view your own body. What you were told was right and wrong. And, of course, any trauma you may have endured will all be part of forming your attitudes and expectations of your present sexual relationship. This is something you need to talk about.
In our book, we help couples navigate this conversation because it can sometimes be tricky for those just starting out, but it’s such an important conversation to have. No topic should be off-limits and try to be as honest as possible. One man with whom I worked said his wife never let him see her legs and always kept them covered with long socks, although she let him see other parts of her body. He thought it was because she was cold. Later he found out her father had often teased her about her “stork legs” and she was embarrassed by them. He felt sad for all the years she had carried that thought around and told her her legs were one of features he was most attracted to. He wished they had talked about that sooner.
Your wedding day is important, but it’s the actual relationship that counts
As you are planning for your big day, don’t let all the little things get in the way of setting the stage for a meaningful, mutually satisfying and happy marriage - of which sex and intimacy are a major part. Don’t let anyone else define what your physical relationship “should” be like and what you should or should not include. Take your time. Talk. Laugh. Have fun. Make mistakes. Forgive. Learn. Let your honeymoon be a happy memory from which you build your intimate life.
Alisha is a Life Coach specializing in Sex and Intimacy as well as the co-author of a recently published book titled Real Intimacy; A couple's guide to healthy, genuine sexuality. Find her at realintimacybook.com.