The Real Housewives of New Jersey got deep about their own sex lives after discussing Jennifer Aydin’s conservative views on sex and marriage. The Turkish beauty is married to a plastic surgeon, and they share five kids. But the RHONJ wife had a (sort of) arranged marriage. "So, I was actually set up. I didn't have to marry him if I didn't want to. We set each other up, and I would hope to do the same for my kids,” she says. Jennifer says they never had sex before they married.
The cast had some strong opinions about that. Melissa Gorga said, “Most of us have tried out our husband before we married him.” Joe Gorga says “sex is number one” and if he didn't have it often, he couldn’t function in his daily life. Teresa Giudice piped in that “you gotta test drive before you get married,” and she wasn’t talking about a car.
Basically everyone agreed there has to be sex before marriage — especially with the person you’re marrying.
Then there’s The Bachelor’s Colton Underwood, who at 26, is still a virgin with 30 women in one mansion all fighting to change that.
The first episode of this season repeats the fact that he is a virgin over and over. And over. In case you didn’t know. They've basically made it his whole identity. It’s pretty suspenseful actually, watching to see if some lucky lady will be the first to win him over in the show’s famed Fantasy Suite.
Mindy R. Schiffman, PhD., clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist who runs a private practice in Greenwich Village, New York, says that she thinks you don’t necessarily have to have sex before marriage.
She explains: “What is important is how you feel treated by your partner and to understand and be accepting of each other’s expectations,” she says.
Tell that to Teresa.
Well, it’s actually very common in her practice to see couples who marry without having had sex — with anyone.
“I can’t say how common it is for couples to remain virgins until they marry,” Schiffman says. “It might depend on how you define sex. Many couples are very sexual but reserve intercourse for after marriage. These couples already have a good idea about one another’s sexual responsiveness and needs. For couples who have little physical contact before marriage, sexual interactions may be more awkward. It is essential for heterosexual couples to think about pleasuring one another in varied ways, learning one another’s bodies, rather than racing toward intercourse.”
She adds it’s not about the experience in bed, but how much you are willing to communicate with your partner about your wants and needs.
“Experience matters if you are willing to learn from your partner. People, especially women, require individualized attention to their response to stimulation. Partners who think they know what to do but aren’t sensitive to their partner aren’t learning from their experience,” she says. “Couples who are willing to talk and learn in a new relationship are often the best lovers.”
John Marchini LCSW specializing in sex therapy, disagrees. “If being sexually active with each other is important to the couple, I believe consummation of the relationship should happen early. Sexual compatibility is tested in the field, not the classroom,” he tells Personal Space. “Being sexually educated is necessary. Being aware of one’s sexual desires and expectations is a plus. Having the capacity to accept and express and communicate about these desires and expectations is ideal. This ability can come with more experience, but not guaranteed.”
He adds that he has not yet met a client who has remained a virgin until marriage.
Dr. Maha Nasrallah says that from what she’s seen in her practice, having sexual experience can lead to better sex. “Specifically because the person knows their body and sexuality better, and builds confidence with time,” she says. “It is natural for sex to feel awkward and even not very enjoyable in the beginning because the person is anxious and not very knowledgeable regarding his or her body and sexuality. The more comfortable you are with your body and with sex, and the more connected you are to your body, your pleasure, and your partner, the better the experience.”
But, she adds, “this doesn’t necessarily mean that people should have penetrative sex with a partner to feel more relaxed and in control of their sexuality.”
“One can achieve many of the same benefits by exploring their own sexuality through reading and learning, reflecting, discussing, and physically exploring their body,” she says. “Of course this doesn’t mean that I encourage people to do anything that does not feel comfortable or good for them, nor that they should change their personal values and beliefs as a result. If having sex is something that is only comfortable for them within the confines of marriage, then it could potentially be a negative experience if they engage in it in ways that are conflicting with their values … I practiced in the Middle East for several years, and it is quite common for people from religious backgrounds to stay virgins until marriage. I assume it is the same for religious communities in other countries.”
Therapist Sandi Kaufman says she would advise people to try to have sex before they marry. “Sexual chemistry is so important and I would advise it. If people can’t have sex before marriage due to religious reasons, obviously there are ways to get around full-on intercourse,” she says. “I’m not sure of the percentages of people remaining virgins until marriage. It’s religiously and culturally influenced. I’d say it’s uncommon but it exists.”
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