Sex Before Marriage


All religious texts preach refraining from getting physical before marriage? If the couples are truly in love what is the harm in having sex?

—Sandra, India


Sandra, yours is a good, if frequently asked, question. I won’t attempt to respond from the view point of “all religious texts,” in part because I represent the yogic tradition and in its more relied upon texts from ancient times (Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras, e.g.) these “religious texts” don’t bother to mention the question!

Therefore I think that so far as the all-but-universal caution or taboo in regard to premarital sex one can just as easily rely upon common sense. Dependable birth control did not exist until recent decades and even now isn’t necessarily universally available, at least in all parts of the world (I suppose).

So the first and most obvious issue is pregnancy: its impact on the couple, their relationship, the extended families, and most of all, the “unwanted” (or unexpected) child!

More subtle but both related and important are the feelings, maturity, and relationship of the two consenting adults. At a young age when sex urges are both new and very powerful, the young adult is blindsided (by lack of perspective and experience) to see how easy it is to get into a relationship and how difficult, emotionally, it is to extricate oneself from a relationship.

Few, under the compelling attraction and power of sexuality, can see clearly (or even want to consider) the emotional, perhaps physical, and psychic impact of sex enjoyment without commitment.

Now, admittedly, you posit that the couple is “truly in love.” Well, that’s hard to argue with, then, isn’t it? But, I’m not too old to have forgotten that when I was young and smitten that I didn’t know the difference between infatuation and love. When the sex urges are strong it’s very easy to say “I love you” and mean, really, “I want you.”

The bloom on the rose of romantic love pales soon enough. Few such couples could honestly imagine themselves in relationship with the other if, for some, let’s say an illness or traumatic injury, sex was no longer possible between them!

So, when “the morning after comes” and each of you has other interests, jobs to go to, and things to do, and differing opinions about this or that, different friends and activities, your respective parents and siblings to attend to, and, as for now the romantic urges have been temporarily satisfied and have subsided, well………then what?

The reason society has long attempted to confine sex to a committed relationship is not just social stability in raising children, but there is a deeper purpose: sex and romance, alone, are not true love. It is true love that our hearts seek and that our souls, made in the image of God, seek: to be One! I have lived long enough to have seen many couples who enjoyed great sex but divorced because they couldn’t live with each other. It was, not surprisingly, a painful journey to the end.

A “spiritual” marriage is one between two souls whose higher qualities are encouraged and nurtured: wisdom in one; caring and compassion, in the other; a spirit of service, patience and self-giving in one; strength and endurance, in another. You should your respective characteristics to ascertain their compatibility towards virtue, calmness, stability, reverence for God, openness to truth, and commitment to doing what is right and just. Then, and only then, can there be basis for a lasting and fulfilling partnership.

Nature and God have given us sex attraction to light the spark necessary to perpetuate the great drama of life. Few people, lit up by romance and sex urges, realize just how primordial and archetypal are those urges. Sex power is second only to our instinct to survive. It is much larger than our egos even.

And, sex desire and indulgence, gratified for its own sake, enjoyed avidly and with abandon, feeds the flames of ego and body attachment thus securing ever more strongly the chains of bondage. As with food, other pleasures, money and power, more and more brings less and less satisfaction. By then we are trapped in the power and habit of indulgence and a consciousness bigger than ourselves.

Society, reflecting universal principles, has sought, sometimes foolishly, sometimes wisely, to circumscribe the unleashing of such primordial powers which can ruin or create lives.

Ok, I have painted perhaps too strong a picture. What I am saying is that these instincts need, properly speaking, for our own longer term happiness, to be kept in balance and in check. All things have their proper time and place. We are souls, not bodies; souls have no gender. Romance and sex can never bring us happiness, only temporary pleasure followed inevitably by moods and fighting if such urges are the only interests two people have in one another.

Though it would take some time and experience and self-awareness, I can promise you that the couple that indulges more frequently in sex will find their relationship on a roller coaster of moods and disagreements. The couple, who, by contrast, maintain a respectful and mature relationship and for whom sex is a secondary expression of their love, will have a more satisfying and stable relationship.

So, this is not about NOT having sex, it’s about “Why.”

Finally, yes, many a young couple starts out (whether before or after marriage) “hot and heavy” and gradually, perhaps with having children, cool down and mature together. Sure, why not? But, how do you know that this will happen if the overriding impulse to unite sexually is mostly for that purpose?

I suggest that you offer the question (if not of having sex then of the long term value of the relationship) up to a person or persons you consider wise and who would consider your own happiness thoughtfully. Obtain some outside validation that your relationship is worth taking the risk. Once you give in, it is going to difficult to reverse direction without pain and hurt. Once you give in, you are primed to repeat the mistake again, and again, and perhaps again.

Those who live in that serial monogamy pattern later find that they both cannot attract a suitable, committed partner (for lack of self-control and magnetism) and can never really trust their own feelings because they have “given them away” and spent their currency wantonly. We’ve sold our feelings for a cheap thrill, too often, in other words.

We can never find happiness without balance and self-control. A difficult lesson in the face such strong urges, but one millions and millions of human beings have learned, if at all, the hard way. Go slowly. Pray for guidance. Ask for counsel.


Nayaswami Hriman