Ask Margot-No Sex Without Marriage

Saving yourself for marriage? Here, Margot explains how to have this crucial conversation with your dates before it becomes a problem.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I am a born-again Christian woman who has been dating a man (who isn't born-again) for nearly a month now. The relationship is growing and building up at a nice slow pace, and just last week, before I
You see, sugar, your problem isn’t with your boyfriend. It’s with yourself.
left for a weekend trip, things got pretty heated. I really like this guy, but am not ready for a physical relationship for both religious and timing reasons.

We've not yet had this conversation, though, and he took the position that I didn't "want him." I let him know that was (obviously) not the case. I'm afraid that giving him the "no sex without marriage" talk will send him running for the hills. I'm 38 and, these days, it's nearly impossible to meet someone who isn’t carrying battle scars (in this case, my guy is divorced after 16 years of marriage). How does one broach this topic without having it becoming a game of Russian roulette?
-Willing but Unable

Dear Willing,
First of all, put the gun down. I know you’re afraid of losing this guy, but his leaving wouldn’t be a mortal wound. Even if your guy ditches you, you could be back dating again in a couple of weeks.

You see, sugar, your problem isn’t with your boyfriend. It’s with yourself.

Now, I’m no Cool Hand Luke, but what we’ve got here is, in fact, a failure to communicate. Your back’s up against a tree because you didn’t have this conversation earlier (before any bodice-ripping got under way). And he read something into your actions that your words weren’t able to correct. Now he’s nervous and you’re confused.

From where I’m sitting over here on the screened-in porch sipping some iced tea, you’re uncomfortable balancing your spiritual life with your love life. Your lack of clarity internally about what to say, when to say it or even how to say it has created a mess and now it’s time for you to clean it up. Because until you get clear on what you really want and why you want it — and can tell your partner about it — you’re going to continue to find yourself in this kind of pickle.

To start clearing things up for yourself, ask and answer these five questions:
  1. Why didn’t I tell him earlier about my beliefs regarding pre-marital intimacy?
  2. What are my religious reasons?
  3. What are my timing reasons?
  4. If I explain these things to him and he leaves me, what have I really lost?
  5. Is it more important to me to be in a relationship than it is to be true to myself?
Once you’re sure of your convictions and priorities, you can pick your guns back up, but only if you’re willing to stick to them.

If this fella leaves you based on your religious convictions, he’s doing you a favor.
Broach the subject by telling your boyfriend you want to talk about sex. Let him know that your choice to go no further has nothing to do with your attraction to him (physical) and everything to do with your commitment to your faith (spiritual). You might say something like, “I want to have really great sex with you, and I believe the best way to have that is to wait until we’re married.”

He’s either going to agree to that or he’s not—and you can’t do anything about that. Your job is to stand firm in your convictions and to hold out not only for great sex, but for a man who’s willing to honor your choice.

For my money, Willing, you shouldn’t give up something you care about just to keep someone else happy. Because even though you think you’re trading one thing (your values) for another (his love), it’s a sucker’s bet. If you change yourself to please your man, you’re no longer the woman he fell for in the first place—and he’s not the man you really want, because he doesn’t accept you for who you really are.

If this fella leaves you based on your religious convictions, he’s doing you a favor. Because he’s getting out of the way so a better man can step into his spot. And stop fretting that you’re getting too long in the tooth to attract a suitable suitor. Honey, I was 41 when I met the man of my dreams. So keep the faith!

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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