The Virgin Marriage

Good things come to those that wait. My sweet niece.
Good things come to those that wait. My sweet niece.
In honor of my little brother turning 40 today I’m reposting his love/life philosophies.

The gift that keeps on giving. I love you, sweetheart!

My brother and his bride were both virgins when they married at twenty-two and twenty-years old.

I wasn’t the only member of my family who didn’t support their decision to marry young and statistics say I’m right.

Below are the current percentages of successful marriages by age:

Married by 25 – Women: 50%; Men: 50%
Married by 30 – Women: 74%; Men: 61%
Married by 40 – Women 86%; Men 81%

My brother and sister-in-law are Mormons who live in Utah (where I can never find a liquor store!).

I assumed they married young because they were horny. Religious people, of any kind, irk me.

I feel superior to and judgmental of them, because I think they feel superior to and judgmental of me, considering my heathen lack of beliefs.

With the idea of debunking the stereotypes I polish to high luster in my Machiavellian brain, I asked my brother, Ryan, and sister-in-law, Ginell, if they’d be willing to discuss their sex life with me (as I’ve done with other marrieds Here and Here).

I figured there was NO WAY they’d agree.

As Mormons, wouldn’t they feel discussing their sex life (allowing they have one outside of procreation) is verboten, even sinful? 

So, I was surprised when they whole-heartedly agreed. My brother asked me to send him the questions I planned to ask.

Could I, would I, should I send the questions I really wanted the answers to? More importantly, would they answer the questions candidly?

I winnowed my intrusiveness down to four questions then pressed send.

I anticipated a prolonged silence, so was startled to see my brother’s name on my Caller I.D. screen the very next day.


“Hi Shan, I’m driving home from work and I’ve got an hour to answer all your questions.”

“Right now?”


Silence. Ryan’s not much of a talker. He’s a listener, which can be nerve-wracking.

Was he really going to make me ask my intrusive questions out loud? It dawned on me that I really didn’t want to talk to my brother about his sex life.

Because that’s just weird.

But, then I imagined I was his urologist, minus the proctology exam, and was simply gathering scientific information.

“Did you get married young because you were horny?” I expected God to smite me. I’m provincial like that.

I also expected an embarrassed silence. Instead I got a barrage. The guy talked my ears off!

“When I got back from my mission (for the Mormon church in England) I had no intention of getting married right away, even my mission advisor told me not to do it. He told me to finish my degree and figure out what I wanted to do with my life before getting married.

“But then I met Ginell, and we started hanging out, and we were on a bike ride and I was riding behind her, and I literally had the thought that I was bike riding with my wife.

“I don’t know why, but I just knew she was the woman I was supposed to marry.”

Goosebumps up the insides of my arms.

I’d literally had the same experience.

I’d won a writing award years ago, I was trying to get the philanderer to marry me, my husband was the person presenting me for the award.

He spoke about me as a writer the way I wished a man would speak about me as a woman.

In that instant I knew, with a weird, unanticipated certainty that I was looking at my future husband.

It took us two more years to actually go on a date, which I blame him for. You were very slow on the uptake, Henry!

“Do you ever wish you’d had more than one lover?” I asked.

“I’ve never really thought about it,” said Ryan.

I still don’t completely understand this answer. I’m very curious sexually. How would this man kiss? How would that man hold me? How would that other man perform the Falling Dragon Inverted with double chakras?

(Will send diagram of execution in future post).

For someone like me, it’s a good thing I sowed some oats, because I now know that fantasy and reality are two very different things and that sexual freedom can be lonely. 

“How can someone who hasn’t learned through experience not be curious about other lovers?” I pressed further.

“I think there are two types of people,” said Ryan, “There’s the Committed Type and then there’s The Thrill Seeker.

“The Committed Type wants to settle down with one person. And as long as his intimate relationship with his wife is healthy, he’s content.

“Then you have The Thrill Seekers, people who would feel stifled and bored with that kind of commitment.”

Again, the goosebumps.

“That’s why professions where there’s a lot of danger and uncertainty attract the Thrill Seekers!” I shriek. “That’s why there’s a huge culture of divorce among fire fighters, military people, police officers …”

(Did I mention I dated a firefighter and the son of a cop? Everything somehow always comes back to me.)

“It’s true. There are exceptions to every rule, and I think the other problem with those professions is the amount of time spent away from their spouses.

“I just don’t think you can maintain the sexual intimacy you need in a marriage unless you’re together.”

“Do you think you and Ginell are faithful because you’re both the Committed Types or because of your religious faith?”

“Our religious community supports monogamy in marriage, but there are plenty of Mormons who can’t live up to that ideal.

“I have a good Mormon friend who recently left his wife because he realized he wasn’t the committed type. He knew he was always going to prefer moving from one woman to the next and finally just accepted it.”

“Are you ever tempted by other women?”


“Never?” Didn’t the guy have any imagination? Even Jimmy Carter lusted in his heart, but didn’t stray.

“To be fair, my job is male heavy. There aren’t many women around me other than my wife.

“But even if there were, there’s just no way I would risk everything I have with Ginell and the emotional and mental well-being of my children by straying.”

“My intimate relationship with my wife would have to be deteriorated to the point where there was no hope of repair before I would do something like that. “

As a reporter, I kept trying to unearth the headline. Where’s the controversy? Where are the corpses in the closet?

Isn’t this life of fidelity with just one lover vanilla? The road most taken? A snore?

“If your brother could,” said Ginell on the phone the next day, “We’d have sex three times…”

“A week?” I interrupt, disbelieving.

She chuckled, “A day.”

“What? Oh God, I really didn’t want to know that.”

Ginell admitted she wasn’t up for that, and that when her children were first born there were some stretches where she just didn’t want sex and Ryan had to suck it up.

But, she always has his needs in mind and tries hard to meet them.

It became clear, during our talk, that Ginell’s the classic Committed Type.

“Ryan’s only the second man I’ve ever kissed.” Sweet Jesus.

“How is that possible?”

“I don’t know, I always found something wrong with every guy I dated before Ryan. The other guy I kissed, he had such a short neck. I just couldn’t get around that short neck.”

“But, didn’t you have crushes in school? In second grade I chased the boys around the soccer field at recess, and if I caught them I kissed them! They were terrified of me. Weren’t you ever boy crazy?”

Ginell replies, almost apologetically, “No. Some of my sisters were, but not me. I don’t know why.”

“Can Mormons have oral sex?” I just threw that one in out of curiosity and was informed by Ginell that the Mormon church doesn’t stick their nose in a married couple’s bedroom. What happens there, stays there.

Ryan and Ginell are in their late 30s now, having been married seventeen years. They’ve proved the statistics, and some members of our family, including me, wrong.

I’m glad I took the path I did with all of its messy, silly sex, but I’m so proud of the two of them.

Not just because they’re a happily married monogamous couple (which is great for families and kids), but because they aren’t religious automatons, as I might have cast them.

They’re a married couple who, through the births of their babies, financial and familial stresses, have always managed to find their way back to each other.

I’d love to hear from happily married virgins and non-virgins alike.

How do you stay faithful? Is that essential to your union?

Are there some of you with open marriages who have found that works? Are any of you Thrill Seekers who have accepted the fact that a monogamous marriage just isn’t for you?

If you enjoyed this article you’re going to love Shannon’s book, “Married Sex: Fact & Fiction.” You can order it RIGHT HERE!

48 thoughts on “The Virgin Marriage”

  1. Don’t drink, don’t smoke. What do you do?

    Apparently, you’re knocking boots thrice daily. Thanks for the sweet story, and for not giving it to us straight. I like a little saltiness in my confections.

  2. Well, I have been married three times in my short 42 years so I fit those numbers! The first one was just silly. The second one lasted 12 years together until I could take no more. The last one ended after just two years because we got an unwelcomed visit of cancer. Each one of those relationships taught me a lot about myself and what I *really* wanted in life. I had a lot of growing up to do when I left my parents’ house.

    I was found wandering about my subdivision one winter day by the most wonderful man I could have hoped for. I moved there not because it was home or even that I knew people there. I moved there because something in me told me I needed to. I did not know it then, but I moved there to be found by him. Yeah, it would have been great to be one of those couples that meet young and spend the rest of your glorious days together. But in my case, I am a completely different person than I was at 35 let alone 25! I needed that time, those mistakes, those heartaches and the little victories to grow into the woman he needed in his life.

    When my husband was diagnosed with cancer it changed our lives but in many ways, it changed mine forever for the better. I am calmer, happier, more loving and far less angry than ever. And I finally learned what it really means to love someone No Matter What. That has had a profound effect on how I treat my man every day, with every interaction. I believe we meet the people we meet at the times we meet them for a reason and our lives would be better if we just surrender to going with the flow rather than try to fit into some silly form created by others. That’s why I like you! =) No forms for you!!

    1. Dear VetteGirl — I sound a lot like you. I had two long terms relationship prior to marrying my husband (each one for five years). The only reason I’m not divorced is because neither of them asked me to marry them. Sigh. Today I’m so grateful they didn’t. My marriage is like many marriages, it has its tender spots, but this man is the best man I’ve ever known.

  3. FAIR WARNING :: I’m about to ramble. I hope you can make sense of this because I’m going to be all over the place. People are blown away when they find out that I am a prude since I’m such a thrill seeker. I lead a very flavorful life, but when it comes to intimacy, I tend to keep those details private and on the DL, or I start to blush. When we first started dating and we were building the trust between us, we pinky-promised that if either one of us were to cheat, the other person is allowed to drive over the cheaters foot with the car. 12 years later, the vow stands and I have yet to meet or even see anyone on the ‘big screen’ that gives me butterflies like my husband does.

    P.S. I really enjoyed reading this story.
    P.P.S. I didn’t proof, so ignore any typos. Thanks!

    1. Nicole you were succinct and eloquent. I am so glad you don’t have any smashed metatarsils. (I have no idea how to spell that). Congratulations on twelve years without Jake Gyllenhal getting under your skin!

  4. I think I love your brother. What a sweet man. I think of myself as a thrill seeker, but not in the carry-on-a-tumultuous-affair kind of way and definitely not since I met my husband. Like your brother, he’s a very sweet man. But I don’t know if we would have gone out more than once if I had met him in my 20s. I needed to do some crazy living before I settled down. And in our case, we have a better marriage for it.

  5. My husband and I were both virgins when we married in our early 20s. We didn’t even get to consummate our marriage until 3 or 4 months in thanks to the fact that I needed surgical help to break my hymen. True story. We’ve been married 12 years now, lots of babies, and really don’t do anything the way the experts say we should to keep our marriage going, but it works for us. I love the way you wrote this piece. It was fun to read and I enjoyed the way you contrasted your preconceptions with their answers.

    Anyway, if you wanted someone else to interview, you are welcome to ask us. We talk about pretty much anything. 😉

    1. Hi Carrien — thanks for the offer, I’ll contact you as soon as I finish a couple of other ideas. I remember meeting you and your baby at BlogHer in 2011. Such a yummy baby.

  6. I was a virgin when I married at 28, partly due to my faith based values – but having said that my husband is agnostic. We had each only had one boy/girlfriend at that point, although I’d kissed a lot of boys at university!
    Having said that we are both the committed types, he has to confess to me every time he notices someone attractive (aww) and I’m genuinely a one-man woman. Even James Bond didn’t stir my loins!! I’m fond of though to spice things up 😉
    Neither of us has a massive sex drive which can help and can hinder, and he’s a night owl and I’m a lark (well not a night owl anyway), which brings its own timing challenges with small people around. So we muddle on through together, and when things become frustrating we talk about them. I think he enjoys routine less than I do and sometimes complains that life is like ‘groundhog day’ – but what do you expect when you are both working and bringing up children?! The idea for either of us of life and its parental responsibilities alone is far more hideous than building a life together. Not to mention that we make each other happy, in a usually quiet and contented way.
    The myth that marriage is ‘happily ever after’ is very invidious in society. We have to create it together a day or a moment at a time.
    We celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary next year. 🙂

    1. Hi Lydia — I love this comment. Sex is just one aspect of marriage and an important one, but sometimes I feel like there’s so much pressure coming from advertisers to have the hottest sex life or we are somehow failing on some level. Communication, compassion and commitment seem like the path the two of you have taken. Congrats.

  7. This was such a touching interview – made me giggle. I love that you come from such different backgrounds in the same family.

    My husband and I sowed our wild oats well before becoming Christians (at age 25 and 27) but while we were not the big V, our marriage was. And I relate so much to your brother and his wife. Love, love, love monogamy.

  8. This post was awesome. I loved it.

    I was 17 when I met my husband. We dated for 6 years and then got married. He is my one and only and I have always been kinda happy about that. 🙂

  9. I have been married for 10 years to the man who is also my best friend. I was 27 and he was 31 when we got married. Both of us had dated and “done it” with others before we met. Before we decided to actually date one another, he saw me dating guys and I set him up with a co-worker! But once I realized what was standing in front of me and who he was and who I was around him, I knew he was the man for me & after 10 years of marriage and a total of 16 years of knowing each other, I wouldn’t change a thing.

    We have our highs and lows, not only in the bedroom but with life, but we can always come full circle and find each other again. Love, commitment, fun, communication & being a friend to eachother is so important in a marriage.

    We still play cards or dice or scrabble or just watch a movie together. But we also know & respect when we need space and we don’t get offended by that. Trust is a huge factor for us and we trust each other fully.

    Does he find other women attractive? Yes and he tells me. Do I find other men attractive? Yes and I tell him. I think that is human nature. But I know neither one us is going anywhere and we are here for the long haul together.

    1. Becca — I love hearing all of these stories of sweet marriages. Headline news about marriage is always depressing, but there are many more successful, loving marriages out there than we know. Congrats on marrying your best friend. My husband is my hero and champion.

  10. My husband and I are definitely oddballs in today’s society. We eloped after only two months of dating. I was 18 and he was 23. We are both each other’s first and only. (I had some boyfriends before him, but it never went that far. My husband had never even had a girlfriend. I was his first kiss and everything.) We weren’t supposed to last 6 months. Here we are 13 1/2 years later.. .

    I have to say, having a man that I’ve completely trained from the ground up has had its perks. I got to be the one to teach him to kiss (and the way *I* like) and together we learned about everything else.

  11. I love this post! My husband and I were 21 when we married, and both virgins. And people have so many preconceived ideas about what that means – about us, about our marriage.

    But we’re 16 years in. Blissfully married. We have two children, boys 10 and 5. And while, like your sister in law, there are periods where it’s the last thing I feel like {I also have Bipolar and Fibromyalgia so there are medical issues}, our sex life is rewarding, exciting and healthy.

    And neither of us wish that we’d experimented. We may not have anything to compare it to, but we know we’re happy and that it’s working for us. 🙂 And also, while people may not believe it – choosing not to have sex before marriage, even if it’s religious {It was for us} is not easy. We weren’t un-horny, we weren’t robots. It was hard. Excuse the pun. 🙂 But it also feels right for us. I’m glad that he’s the only man I’ve been with. I’m glad my wedding night was so perfect, and that I felt like it was a gift I shared with exactly the right person.

    I know it’s not for everyone – certainly it wasn’t for any of my siblings. And that it’s hardly the only factor to successful marriages. But marrying young can still be a wonderful thing.

    1. All I can say is good for you! I think most of us would like to have missed all the frogs we kissed, you were blessed to find your love so young.

  12. I knew two things about myself, very young: 1) If I married I wanted it to be one time and for all time, and 2) to get ‘there’ I would have to rock my socks for a while. Let’s just say- I had quite a collection of fabulous foot warmers. ANd- I’ve been married 32 years. Lucky me!

  13. This was actually pretty interesting. I would never have been able to get married before sleeping with the person I was marrying. I worry too much about chemistry to leave it to fate. I fall into their married really young category (we were both 22 when we got married)and neither of us has ever been with someone else but we weren’t virgins when we got married. So far so goo. Together for almost 10 years and married for almost 5.

  14. I love this! As a Thrillseeker, dating in my 50’s, I’m always a little spooked by the Committed types I run in to. I’m going to cut them a little more slack…

  15. I’m 23 and my husband is 27. We’ve been together for almost 8 years, married for 2.5 years now.

    My husband and I are the only sex partners each has had, though we had sex before we were married. I’m bisexual and have never had a chance to have any sort of relationship with a woman. It’s something I’m interested in and I have my husband’s full support. My husband will always be the most important person in my life, no matter how many others I may see outside of our marriage. This arrangement suits us fine. We’re both ridiculously happy and still in love with each other. In fact, some of our friends tell us that they wish they could have as much fun together as my husband and I do!

  16. Thankfully, my wife and I have defied the odds, married at 21 and 20 and will celebrate our 43rd anniversary in March. I do like the first comment, glad you asked.

  17. I think Mormons have a higher marriage success rate (I’m not saying they never get divorced!). My parents got married young, after dating for only 6 weeks and have been together for over 20 years, always faithful, never separated.

    1. Hi Emily — I think you’re probably right about the Mormon divorce rate being lower. I think having a community that supports staying married has an effect (for the better and the worse).

    1. Hey Alexandra — I did attend church with my family until I was 18 years old. The Mormons are probably some of the kindest, most helpful people you’ll meet. Religion of any type, thus far, doesn’t resonate for me spiritually. Which I suppose makes me a heathen. Sigh.

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