Strong beliefs: Julia saved herself for Mr Right – her husband, Craig Hubbard
When newlyweds Julia and Craig Hubbard left their wedding reception early to head off on honeymoon, their 200 guests exchanged knowing smiles.
After all, it was understandable the couple were eager to get to the hotel room they had booked before their flight to Jamaica, given that they were yet to consummate their relationship.
Aged 24, Julia was a virgin on their wedding night and, 13 years later, her husband remains the only man she has ever made love to.
‘I was saving myself for Mr Right,’ says Julia, now 37. ‘It might not be a fashionable thing to admit to but, for me, sex is something special that I didn’t want to share with just anyone. I think our marriage is much happier and stronger for the waiting. When you save yourself for someone, you want to enjoy that relationship.
‘The fact that Craig was willing to wait until after we were married means I know I’m with someone who loves and respects me – and we trust one another totally.’
As recently as half a century ago, it was, of course, the accepted norm for a woman to go through life with just one sexual partner.
But could the key to marital bliss be found in giving yourself wholly and completely to one person for your entire adult life?
Julia certainly thinks so. ‘Lots of my married friends are in the process of splitting up and, of those still together, we are definitely among the happiest,’ she says. ‘I like to think that, in part at least, it’s because of my decision just to have sex with one man. I’m not wistful for any past loves, nor do I consider the grass might be greener with someone else.’
The couple were working together at a leisure centre in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, when they started dating back in 1998. Craig, now 42, was aware from the outset of Julia’s intention to remain a virgin until she was married.
‘My parents raised me to believe that it was morally right to wait until I was married before having sex,’ she says. ‘One of my friends became pregnant during a brief fling and ended up having an abortion, which was devastating for her. That compounded my belief that the only place I would feel confident having sex was within marriage.’
Six weeks into their relationship, Craig proposed and they bought a flat together. However, this was not sufficient commitment for Julia and, although they even shared a bed, she made it clear that while they could kiss and cuddle, he would have to wait until their wedding day, a year later, to go any further.
‘I wanted to be certain that Craig loved me and respected my views enough to wait,’ she says.
Meanwhile Craig, who’d had previous sexual partners himself, says: ‘Julia was firm about her decision, and I respected her for that. She’s an attractive woman so it wasn’t always easy, but it was a good test of my feelings for her.’
While Julia insists friends have been supportive of her outlook, it would be easy to mock her for being a prude. But she insists her lack of previous experience hasn’t been detrimental to their sex life. Quite the opposite.
Met at school: Abi and Chris Smith have been faithful to each other ever since they started dating aged 17
Unlike Julia, Abi Smith, 31, didn’t set out to have one partner for life. But 14 years after getting together with her first boyfriend, Chris, she couldn’t be happier that he has been her only lover. The couple, who met at school, first slept with each other aged 17.
‘I knew I loved him early on but I didn’t think “Chris is the only guy I will ever sleep with, we will marry and spend the rest of our lives together”, that’s just how it turned out,’ says Abi, who married Chris, a 32-year-old engineer, six years ago. The couple now live in West Sussex with their two children, Lily, three, and Henry, nine months.
But among Abi and Chris’s friends, they are the only young couple who were both virgins when they started dating, aged 16. They have remained faithful to one another ever since.
Significantly, the Smiths are convinced they are also the most content among their circle. Other friends have strings of failed relationships behind them and, while they might have enjoyed fleeting excitement, Abi says they now tell her they envy her ‘nice, normal life’.
Life-long love: Angie and Edson Chase will have been married for 46 years on November 11th
For his part, Chris believes the fact they were both virgins when they met, and are still together 16 years later, means the bond between them is extra strong.
While Julia and Craig, and Abi and Chris, are still in the early stages of marriage, how does it feel when you’ve been together for more than four decades? When Angie Chace married her husband Edson in 1967 – three weeks after her 18th birthday – it was the norm for couples to be virgins on their wedding day.
‘It never occurred to us that we might be missing out by not having other partners,’ she says.
Angie, 64, and Edson, 71, from Rowlands Castle, Hampshire, met at work – he was an accountant and she an accounts supervisor. Like Angie, Edson, then 26, was a virgin.
‘It helped that it was the first time for both of us so I wasn’t thinking “He knows what he’s doing and I don’t”,’ recalls Angie. ‘It was quite painful that first time but, like good wine, our sex life improved with age.’
Angie, who doesn’t have children, says that one reason neither she nor Edson has been tempted to stray is that they have maintained a regular sex life.
‘We’ve had sex at least once a week right the way through our married life – the only time we didn’t was when I had a hysterectomy, aged 49, because it was too uncomfortable for about six weeks afterwards,’ she says.
‘I don’t understand couples who let the sex disappear from their relationships – we both think it’s very important.’
But after almost half a century with the same man, hasn’t she ever felt that she might be missing out?
‘My hairdresser teased me when he learnt I’d never been with any other men. He said “How do you know he’s any good?”,’ recalls Angie. ‘I said “Of course he is, otherwise I wouldn’t still be with him!”’