How do you know when you’re ready to have sex?

The easiest way to know if you are ready to have sex is to look at your left hand. If you do not see a wedding ring, you are not ready for sex. This may seem like a simplistic answer, but look at the logic behind it. What does it mean to be ready for sex?

Sex cannot be reduced to a biological act. Every aspect of the person is affected: the body, heart, mind, soul . . . and your future. Therefore, a person is physically able to have sex long before he or she is ready for its consequences. But instead of zeroing in on the negative consequences, it is more important for a person to understand the meaning of sex. Then it becomes clear when we are “ready” for it.

We are commonly told with regard to sex, “Just say no.” Why? “Because sex before marriage is bad.” But what kind of answer is that? Most people have never been told why—why sex within marriage is so good and beautiful and why sex outside of marriage is a counterfeit of the love that we have been created to give and receive. Instead of fear tactics, we need to hear the truth about the goodness and beauty of sex and God’s plan for love.

To help us understand the gift of our sexuality, Pope John Paul II gave the Church a series of teachings known as the “Theology of the Body.” In it he explained that when we accept the demands of love and live according to the truth of our sexuality, we make visible in our bodies the invisible reality of God—that he is love. If we don’t understand this deeper meaning of sex, marriage may seem like nothing more than a piece of paper that legalizes intercourse. Once we are aware of the greatness of the gift of sex, we will have an attitude of reverence toward it, and only with God’s permission will we lift the veil of its mystery. This demands faithfulness to him while we are waiting to find our spouse. And we can start preparing for a good marriage right now by avoiding anything that could harm a relationship with a future spouse.

If a person does not understand the meaning of sex, he or she may give it away to the first bidder. Some say that they want to save the gift of sex for the “right” person, someone they really love. But strong feelings of love do not make a person ready for sex. This is clear in sexually active couples who are afraid of what sex means. They fear that their lovemaking could bring forth life. They also hide what they are doing from those who love them, such as their parents, and they fear that the incredible bond they have created might not be permanent.

Within marriage no such fears exist. Instead a husband and wife are ready to give and receive each other without reservation. They understand that sex is like saying wedding vows with your body. It is making a complete gift of yourself to another person.

When a person understands the meaning of sex, it becomes obvious that premarital sex is dishonest: it is a lie in the language of the body. With your body you are saying, “I give myself to you entirely. There is nothing more of me that I could give you,” but in reality there is no such commitment and gift of self. There is a total physical gift but no total gift of the person. The gift is reduced to a loan or a lease, because the body is given to the other temporarily. In other words, you are ready to have sex when your body speaks the truth: “I am entirely yours. Forever.” Therefore, only in marriage can one be “ready” for sex.

To read about some of the consequences of sexual activity before marriage, click here.

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