Adapted from a recent online discussion.
When loving couple is divided on premarital sex, it's a sign
Anonymous: I am in love with a beautiful, wonderful woman. We are thinking of getting married. She is saving herself for marriage for perfectly legitimate but frustrating reasons. She absolutely refuses to have sex until after we are married. This creates a problem for me, not because I am desperate to have sex but because I know sexual incompatibility can destroy a relationship. (I have been part of two doomed relationships that ended for this reason.) I would hate to marry her and learn that an important part of our relationship wasn't what it should be. We are at an impasse here. What should I do?
Carolyn: Well, if you marry her and your sex/skills/attitudes don't line up, then the marriage will be over, right? Pick your reason — the frustration, or your resentment that she presented you with the unpalatable choice in the first place, of either breaking up or marrying blind.
So one solution would be for you to figure out which worst-case scenario you prefer: walking away now and never knowing, or possibly walking away from a marriage later.
The problem with that answer is that it lives entirely on the surface, and assumes that everything about your relationship is great — it's confident, deep, loving, intimate, honest — and sex is the only question mark.
I have doubts, though. The decision to have sex before or only after marriage is the tip of a philosophical iceberg — and while it's possible that you could lay out a credible scenario to explain how you could be great together and differ on this, I'm having a hard time seeing how you could be great together and differ on this.
Let's say (because it's been a while since my last weird image) each of us is a vessel submerged in water, and the water around us is Life.
Let's now say we all have a valve that allows us to control how much water/Life we let in.
To my mind, someone who will not have sex before marriage has a firm hand on that valve, and believes in letting in Life in carefully thought-out and measured quantities. The premarital-ites, on the other hand, strike me as preferring a looser grip on the valve, letting Life slosh in a bit more freely, and seeing where the results take them.
I don't necessarily advocate one valve position over another (although the extremes, obviously, seem perilous — you're either empty or swamped). It's just that these attitudes apply to so many aspects of a life, so much besides sex, that I think it's important in choosing a life mate to weigh carefully whether you have the same attitude on how much Life you let in.
Meaning, it could turn out that you two are sexually compatible — yahoo — but stumble upon other life-flow conflicts without the happy outcome — regarding, say, willingness to take a flier on a new location, or your comfort levels with debt to finance a dream, or the amount of freedom you grant your kids to make their own mistakes.
So I'll put it to you, Anonymous: Do you think you and your girlfriend are philosophically compatible in your approaches to capital-L Life? That's the road around your impasse right there.
Tomorrow, readers run with it.