(Header image via Dailymail.co.uk)
On May 5 Lauren Akins, wife of popular country artist Thomas Rhett, released a memoir called Live in Love about the couple’s love story. The memoir explores what it’s really like to be in the relationship that fans have imagined to be perfect, and what it takes to continue loving each other through the challenges of life. In an interview with Today about the book, Lauren opened up about why she and Thomas Rhett waited to have sex until marriage.
We were both virgins. We’d taken our parents’ words and our youth leaders’ words to heart, and there was something so special about knowing we were starting from the same place as we thought about getting married.
This perspective can feel rare and strange in a culture where gratuitously pornographic songs like “WAP” (very strong lyrics, read at your own discretion) are celebrated as empowering. At the tamest level, sexual exploration often is modeled in our culture as just a normal part of finding oneself. As a result, many young people can feel eager to give their virginities away in the hopes of gaining popularity, status, and bragging rights (something Devi on Netflix’s Never Have I Ever was desperate to do).
Lauren admits that she and Thomas aren’t perfect, but that they did ultimately decide that saving their virginity for one another was an important value to uphold.
If either of us had dated people who didn’t have the same values, who knows what might have happened? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we didn’t kiss a ton or get a little too close a few times. We just always made a choice to stop short of breaking the promise we’d made: to save ourselves for marriage.
Lauren rejects the view that abstinence is old-fashioned and outdated by sharing about how special sex can be with someone you intend to spend the rest of your life with. She also reminds us how big of an impact our words and roles can have on the next generation — even if we don’t see the full effect of our impact for a while.
Perfection is not the goal
Thomas Rhett once wrote a song for his wife called “Die a Happy Man,” which gave fans the impression that they’re a perfect couple. In the music video, they walk freely alongside horses on the beach, and never stop smiling. How could they possibly struggle in life? One of Lauren’s main goals with the book was to deconstruct this facade.
We do love being married and we do love our kids, but I think that we struggle just like every couple does. And as a woman, I struggle like every woman does. As you know, every day is not easy and our kids are not perfect, our marriage is not perfect, and I don’t have a perfect view of myself. So I just think being vulnerable and honest is just something that our world really needs right now.
When we leave out the fact that we all sin and fail, we run the risk of pushing unrealistic standards on others. This pushes away the possibility of having a deep connection with them. As we think about our children, it’s important to recognize our own imperfections before focusing on theirs, so that we can approach them with love and understanding in all situations.
What if my teen has already been sexually active?
No one has ever lived a perfect life but Jesus Christ, and we can’t expect that our children will match him. We should do whatever we can to destroy any binary conception of purity/impurity. Those who are taught that purity is all-or-nothing, and then sin sexually, may feel trapped in a continuous alienation from God. In fact, an affirmation of God’s unwavering love to someone who has sinned sexually might be the very thing that leads them to pursue a lifelong devotion to Jesus. There is always room for grace—for ourselves and our children.
As long as we still have air in our lungs, it's not too late to go to God. If your teen is struggling with feelings of guilt, shame, or both, show them love, grace, and forgiveness. Shame only invites isolation and pain, but kindness and understanding invite restoration and deeper relationships.
Reflection and discussion
Lauren and Thomas set a beautiful example of how a couple can love each other fully, while also keeping marriage sacred in their lives. If this is something you feel ready and comfortable talking about with your teen, use these questions to get a conversation going.
- Is sex something your family talks about?
- What would it take to create a safe space to discuss the topic of sex with your child?
- If you discovered that your child had sex, how would you respond?
- How can we reject fear and embrace the truth of God’s sovereignty in all things?
Questions to ask your teen:
- How do you feel about Thomas and Lauren’s decision to wait until marriage?
- Do you want to wait until marriage with your future spouse? Why or why not?
- What does culture say about sexuality?
- What married couple do you look up to? What do you admire about their relationship?
- What do you think makes a successful marriage?
- Why is it important to acknowledge our imperfections?
- Do you feel like the church does a good job in talking about sexuality?