Monday, September 10, 2007

When Ignorance is not Bliss

In response to Blissful Ignorance, Zan bravely shared her traumatic honeymoon experiences. She attributed these to a total lack of knowledge. As a result, I felt the need to write another post on this topic.

Ignorance is not bliss if it involves a total lack of knowledge about the way physical intimacy progresses. It is also not bliss if couples believe that first experience is likely to be one of unmitigated joy and pleasure.

The type of ignorance that can be good in many cases is the absence of the sort of detailed knowledge about physical intimacy that can be found in book like Intended for Pleasure or in the later part of One Flesh. This knowledge can much more happily be gained after marriage, much of it through experience and without the aid of books.

Couples preparing for marriage are wise to discuss their expectations with one another. They are also wise if they seek out godly counsel from people they respect. There needs to be much more open communication amongst people in the church about these matters, so that engaged men and women know whom they can turn to for answers to their questions.

One friend told me that in her former church each engaged couple was paired up with a married couple. The week before the wedding, the men and women met separately to discuss physical intimacy. This sounds like an excellent idea. In a one-on-one situation, knowledge can be catered to individual need. This is also a situation of accountability.

If godly, open people are completely unavailable, carefully choosing certain parts of books like One Flesh to read could be helpful. This should really be a last resort, however, since the option of learning through one-to-one relationship is a much better one. Christians who want to help engaged couples would do best to offer them their time and advice, rather than such books.

I don’t want to contribute to any false ideas about unmitigated honeymoon bliss through sharing how wonderful my honeymoon was. My perception that my honeymoon was fantastic is perhaps partly due to realistic expectations about it. I expected pain. In some ways the pain was worse than I expected, and in some ways it was better. If you are engaged and would like any more details about pain and how to manage it, please ask me personally.

We also probably enjoyed our honeymoon to the max because we were so physically restrained beforehand. When you haven’t even kissed before, it adds a dimension of wonder and delight that wouldn’t exist for couples who had pushed a lot of boundaries and only had one or two left to topple.

Communication was a key for us. Physical intimacy would have been much more difficult and perhaps even traumatic if we had struggled to communicate. We can imagine that without effective communication it would be easy for a honeymoon to turn into a nightmare.

The kinds of problems that crop up on honeymoons cannot be solved through saturating yourself with explicit knowledge that often leads to temptation or worry. They can be helped through godly counsel, realistic expectations, honest and tender communication, and virtues such as patience.


  1. Thank you for this follow-up post. I really appreciate it.

    I never commented on your other post, but here is what I would say:
    I can see where Zan is coming from. I found it to be very painful, too, and still do - even after a year. I'm not sure that books would have helped me beforehand, but I have been blessed by them afterwards. As a woman I have found it frustrating that I cannot enjoy it on the same level as my husband. I feel like a failure. Also, I think a lot of women are under the assumption that they will immediately know how to do it "right", and it will be passionate and wonderful and perfect... They're told that by the media, and by well-meaning Christian women who would rather view this subject as "taboo" and "personal".

    Our honeymoon was not what I expected nor what I wanted. Most of that, however, was due to the location. I had my heart set on this particular place, but when a friend offered their mountain cabin to us for free, then I felt like it would be financially stupid for us to refuse. However, I didn't want to be there, and the "cabin" wasn't in a secluded forest, but rather in a sort of subdivision close by a lot of other cabins and no curtains on the windows. We ended up leaving early because I could not relax. I think the honeymoon is a huge deal and while I wouldn't recommend going into debt, but I do think going somewhere you want is important.

  2. I would agree with your recommendations about married couples meeting with engaged couples beforehand. I thought that this was wrong, though.


  3. thank you so much for posting this response to the questions raised below.

    i pray that you and i can become the sort that can minister to other women soon to be married.

    I will post my own thoughts on this.

  4. Ashley,

    I can so relate to you. I think I am a lot like you and it is just the way some women are. It is important to talk with you husband about what you like and how you feel about this. This situation has been good in that my husband and I are very frank with each other about the bedroom. Our "bedroom life" is fine, now, I'm very happy to say. In fact, I think I enjoy the marital act more than my husband. It took awhile and a lot of talking and trying. After I had kids, things got better.

    If you ever want to talk to me about your frustrations (the first year of marriage, I basically didn't feel that I was normal or a woman) feel free to e-mail me.

    I didn't like my honeymoon location, either (I did it because it was cheap), but everyone told me that we would be in the bedroom most of the time, which was just a place for hysteria, so I thought that it didn't matter where we went. (If anyone is curious, wine did NOT work!)

    BTW, we honeymooned (is that a word?) on our second anniversery in Maine and I look at that as our real honeymoon. :-)

    Thanks for everyone being so understanding about my experience. I was pretty torn if I should share it or not.


  5. bravo on the statement about having proper expectations.

    Is anyone a master pianist the first time she tinkles the keys? No, it's nice to hear the notes come out and get a feel for the keys. But it takes time to know this side of your partner ... what they like, what they don't like, what YOU like, etc.

  6. Doesn't One Flesh state in the introduction that there are some parts that are better to read after you're married, and some parts to read separately? It was a long time since I read it!

  7. Thanks for sharing, everyone! I feel I'm going to be much wiser for hearing your thoughts & testimonies.

    Ashley, I can't imagine a worse honeymoon location than one with no curtains!! I am so sorry to hear that this was your experience. I will be praying for you about physical intimacy in your marriage, that you will find godly women to talk to and things will improve for you.

    It is great to hear that things are so much better for you now, Zan.

    I hope this blog post and comments will facilitate more open communication between women on these topics. It is important to start with the assumption that it is OK to talk about it - perhaps not in great detail about personal preferences, or about details that the husband would not want to be shared, but about things that are general enough to be helpful to other women. I think that the comments here have been excellent in that regard.

    Bron, I don't remember the details of the intro to One Flesh. However, I recently spoke to a couple who are reading it at the moment and they said that the introduction did not say that some parts would be better read after marriage. I think perhaps the authors have a different ethos to me on this! They seemed to think it was a great idea to talk about anything and everything before the wedding . . . that was the impression I got while reading it. I think a better option would be to take the book on the honeymoon . . . where couples might well be having too much fun to bother reading it :).