Abstinence was drilled into me as a young girl. To the point where it was implied (and at times, even directly said) that sex was bad. At the same time, like a dangled carrot, I was taught that if I wait (because that’s what ‘true love’ does), then sex in my marriage would be amazing.
At the right time, with the right person—in a marriage relationship—sex would be good. It would be better than good. It would be incredible. Easy. Passionate. Fulfilling.
And so I waited.
Partially for the right reasons and partially out of fear. Fear of becoming damaged goods… Fear of messing up God’s perfect plan… Fear of disappointing the man I hadn’t even met yet… Fear of sex itself: the big, bad, ugly thing it was made out to be.
Then I got married.
And on my wedding night, those fears occupied the bed with me and my husband. They overcrowded and overpowered the room… the mood… me. The anxiety gave way to tears which gave way to more anxiety which gave way to, well, no sex.
It just didn’t happen.
I mean, how could it? I was terrified. Ashamed, even. I didn’t know how to flip the invisible, internal switch from SEX:BAD to SEX:GOOD.
It took a while for me to get there. And, if I’m being painfully honest, I’m not sure I ever quite did. Sex and intimacy were always challenging for me throughout my decade-long marriage. It still felt immoral in a way. Scandalous—as though I wasn’t allowed to enjoy that which I’d saved for this very context.
The promise of abstinence leading to a great sex life in marriage felt like a cruel mirage. A ploy. A lie. A deception.
And now here I sit, single-again… Contemplating sex and abstinence in a different light, given the past few years of my life. In fact, this post has been sitting in my drafts folder since 2010, born out of a conversation with a friend— scribbled thoughts that I’ve been hesitant to formulate or to fully own, since I’m not entirely sure where they’re going, if anywhere at all. And also because I don’t want people to hear that I’m anti-abstinence—because I’m not.
I still believe that saving sex for marriage is what God intended and is ultimately best for us.
But holding to that truth does not mean:
- That having sex before marriage leaves me damaged and unable to have a healthy sex life with my spouse.
- That saving sex for marriage guarantees a healthy sex life with my spouse.
Holding to that truth does mean:
- That I believe God can redeem all things.
- That a healthy sex life, like all forms of intimacy, takes hard work, honest communication, and vulnerability.
While I wish I’d understood that holistic perspective a few decades ago, I find myself still grappling to understand it now. Somehow, it’s as though the myths are easier to believe, or at least easier to live life by. (Fear can be a powerful motivator.)
I want to be fueled by love rather than fear. In this thing. In all things.
[Photo: PhotoCo., Creative Commons]