One of the many touted benefits of saving sex for marriage is supposed to be the avoidance of heartbreak on the road to finding true love. The idea is that sex creates deeper emotional attachments, which can be more hurtful in the even of a breakup. Courtship proponents talk much of guarding each others' hearts. And some take it further still by striving for "emotional purity," which is the attempt to not get too emotionally attached to someone until you are married to them.
I can sympathize with trying to avoid heartbreak. Nobody wants their heart broken. It hurts. But there is an undercurrent to the meaning of heartbreak in purity culture that the outside world doesn't have. In purity culture, it is heavily implied that if you have endured heartbreak over a potential mate, you are damaged goods. You gave too much of your heart away and cannot give as much to your future spouse. Outside of purity culture, most people view heartbreak as a normal and sometimes necessary part of living. It's something you learn from and move on. In fact, there is a general consensus that that being vulnerable and open to love and intimacy is worth suffering through however many heartbreaks are necessary to find true love.
I suppose I might have been considered a success story to purity believers in that I hardly dated anyone and therefore never got my heart broken by a boy. I never fell in love with anyone until I found the right person. But that took 28 years. And I will readily admit that I probably missed out on a lot of life experiences, had I not been so insecure and concerned with doing things the "right way." But more importantly, it didn't stop me from getting my heart broken. I had a falling out with my best friend in high school. I had some really lonely years after college. Many people have been heartbroken by their parents. And I think there are plenty of people who have had their heart broken by someone they loved but never dated because that love was unrequited.
All these other kinds of relationships and heartbreaks are ignored. In purity culture, the only thing that matters is the sexual and emotional purity between two prospective heterosexual mates. To them, whatever heartbreaks you've suffered from your other relationships don't count. They don't break off pieces of your heart and leave you damaged the way romantic relationships do.
It's irrational, isn't it? But that's what happens when you idolize sexual purity and marriage. It becomes more important than anything else, causing massive blind spots.
The other thing that concerns me about the talk of heartbreak in purity culture is that they are giving young people the impression that they will never suffer heartbreak from their spouse. When combined with the pressure to marry young to avoid fornication, that can cause people rush into a lifelong commitment without properly evaluating if it is right for them. If we taught young adults that marriage can run into heartache, too, maybe some would pause before jumping in too soon. Maybe they wouldn't treat marriage like a race to the finish line if they knew there was still a lot of hard work required to maintain a lasting relationship.
I would much rather suffer through a few early heartbreaks if it meant making a smarter choice in a spouse later on than suffer my first heartbreak due to a failed marriage. It's much harder to move on past that kind of heartbreak, especially when your entire life is invested in that relationship.
If purity culture valued the hearts of adults who have gone through divorce as much as they care about young virgins, I wonder how their teachings might change?