‘My girlfriend won’t have sex before marriage – is this an excuse?’

‘I’ve wondered if this is an excuse and a means of control’ (Picture: Neil Webb/ Metro.co.uk)

Welcome back to The Sex Column, our weekly advice series where we get the experts to resolve your dating dilemmas.

Last week we helped a couple who felt like they were at a crossroad in their relationship.

This week we have someone who is worried about their girlfriend’s intentions.

She has always said she will not have sex before marriage for religious reasons, but is this the whole truth?

What should our dater do? It might be time for a frank conversation.

The problem:

My girlfriend has made it clear from the start that, due to a religious conversion, she will abstain from sex until marriage.

I’ve wondered if this is an excuse and a means of control. I also wonder whether we’ve bonded.

We met in America but when I was made redundant, I relocated back to the UK. I don’t want her here until I’m settled and she understands this because I have to sponsor her immigration and we both need to be on a secure footing.

She’s open to coming over as a tourist for a few months to test the waters but should this ‘no sex until marriage’ rule be a red flag?

What the experts say:

Sex can be a testing ground for deeper emotional problems, so it does help with bonding, but there are many ways to know someone intimately. More importantly, do you see a life together?

‘At no point do you tell us what it is you love about her or what you enjoy doing together,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin. ‘This sex embargo is now the main focus of your thoughts and it is obscuring all other aspects of your relationship.’

You fear she is manipulating you on some level and therefore isn’t sincerely committed.

‘Is this a conversation you can have with her?’ says Rupert Smith. ‘If you have serious doubts about her, I’d say that any thoughts of marriage should be out of the question.’

But since she has been clear from the start that she doesn’t believe in sex before marriage – and that is her prerogative – you have the choice of being with her on this condition or ending the relationship. Instead of focusing on her, turn your attention towards yourself.

‘Using both your logic and your emotional gut instinct, weigh up what you receive from the relationship versus the constraints,’ says Rudkin. ‘If you enjoy spending time with her, trust her and feel truly loved by her, then waiting to have sex shouldn’t be an issue.’

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Why is delayed gratification so hot?

If you decide you still wish to invite her over to test the waters, ensure you’re testing the right waters.

‘Test your relationship, not its sexual expression,’ says James McConnachie. ‘If your relationship is strong, you can wait. There are other ways to express emotional and sexual feelings – and many kinds of sex that don’t involve penetration. Have you had this conversation?’

But what is clear is that you cannot stay with her in the hope she will change. This will guarantee an unhappy relationship.

‘You must not feel pressured to marry her in order to have sex either,’ says Rudkin.

It is a difficult decision you have to make – one made harder by the sense you feel somewhat forced into making it. But take sex out of the equation, as she has, and be honest about what else you have. You should have your answer then. 

The experts

Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor

James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)

Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist

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