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When intrafaith couples' religion strictly prohibits premarital sexual intercourse, negotiating sexual intimacy can become a multilayered process of identity negotiation that compounds the difficulty of sexual communication. Through the lens of relational turbulence theory, this study explored how devout Christian couples negotiate sexual intimacy by reanalyzing qualitative interview data the first author collected in 2017 from 16 self-identified Christians (8 heterosexual couples). Seven themes revealed how relational uncertainty, partner interference, and partner facilitation manifested in the context of sexual intimacy negotiation. Themes of relational uncertainty experience and prevention included assumption of shared values, relationship talk, and sexual behaviors as an uncertainty catalyst. Partner facilitation and interference emerged as themes of sexual escalation and de-escalation including snowball effect, pinpointing underlying motivations for boundary violations, gatekeeping sexual temptation, and drawing from shared values of sacrifice and prayer. These interpretive findings advance the literature on relational turbulence theory and provide Christian dating couples with practical advice for how to negotiate sexual intimacy in committed premarital relationships.


This article was originally published in Personal Relationships in 2023.


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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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