My Journey With Intimacy

Intimacy doesn’t come easily for me. Although I’ve come a long way from how I used to be, my natural inclination is to shut down my deeper emotions and to only let myself and others see so far into myself. It’s taken a lot of work to get to a place where I can recognize my issues regarding intimacy; effective introspection has taken me years to develop and it’s still a work in progress. 

Somewhere along the way I learned to disconnect sex from intimacy and love. I learned to make it primarily physical. Casual sex comes easily for me- I don’t have to open myself up very much to enjoy that kind of connection. I can have physical closeness with someone without risking a serious heartbreak, both on their end or mine. Not that there’s anything wrong with safe, consensual casual sex; I’ve had some wonderful encounters that I wouldn’t have done any differently, and I’m sure I’ll have more in the future in the right context, especially given my non-monogamous nature (look up polyamory or relationship anarchy if you aren’t familiar with mutually consensual non-monogamy). But casual sex isn’t a replacement for deep intimacy and love. 

One reason I fear getting too close is because I worry that I’ll break their heart. I have a deeply empathetic personality that can’t bear the thought of causing others severe pain. I’ve caused that kind of pain before, and it devastated me. I still bear those scars, and likely will for a very long time. The thought of being truly intimate with someone makes me apprehensive because I know from experience that love doesn’t always last forever, despite what our romanticized societal ideals may portray. Love can and does fade sometimes, and it’s not always fixable despite our best efforts. 

Every time I see memes that talk about “true love overcomes all”, “every relationship is fixable”, “back in my day we didn’t throw relationships away but we made it work” and so on, I cringe and feel society’s never-ending guilt trip for failing to accomplish that. I know I’m not a failure, but some days it feels like it when these narrow ideas of relationships and love are promoted as though they’re attainable for everyone. 

And like many others, I also occasionally harbour doubts that what I have to offer is something that other people will want. If only I were more like this, and less like that. If only I didn’t do this all the time, or forget to do that. If only, if only. But we can’t live our lives on “if only’s”; at some point we have to fix what can be fixed and learn to make the most of what we can’t change. We have to transform those “if only’s” into opportunities for positive self growth, instead of letting them make us feel unworthy of love. 

None of this means that I don’t desire or intend to pursue intimacy and love, because I do. Facing our fears and learning to heal the wounds of the past is a vital part of personal self growth. I greatly desire intimacy and love, despite my fear that I won’t know what to do with it if I find it. Coming to terms with my hesitations and fears is the first step in being able to have the kind of connections that I need and want. It’s also vital in becoming the kind of partner that can contribute to a healthy relationship.  

Writing about and sharing my journey with others has proven therapeutic many times before. Trying to break down what’s in my head to explain it to other people forces me to dig deeper within myself, and hearing about other people’s similar experiences in response often makes me feel less isolated. And I know from being on the other side that reading about someone else’s journey can be a catalyst for our own self-reflection. 

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Why I Regret “Waiting Until Marriage”: Purity Culture Explored

PURITY RINGSI was raised in what many people refer to as “purity culture”: I was taught that abstinence was the only acceptable way to live, I was encouraged to wear a purity ring and “save myself” for marriage. And I did it all- I got myself a purity ring, saved my virginity and even my first real kiss for my wedding day, and encouraged everyone else to do the same. And at the time I convinced myself that all this was good, that I wanted it this way. But looking back, I wish I’d done it differently.
I feel cheated out of romantic moments that should have happened in a natural progression within my relationship.
Instead of having my first kiss in front of two hundred people, I wish it had been PRIVATE, and in our own time. I resent the fact that this incredibly intimate moment was shared with everyone, instead of happening at a romantic moment earlier in our relationship. I was indoctrinated with the idea that this somehow made me morally superior- so we waited. As a result, my first kiss was sort of an awkward shock instead of a tender, loving experience.
The Wedding Night
As for the wedding night- well, I could write a book on this subject. The wedding night is painted as this magical experience, more so because it’s your “first time” together as a “pure couple”. But what they don’t tell you is that your first time is often not very romantic at all.
Both people barely know what they’re doing, for one thing. You’re not supposed to know too much about sex prior to marriage because it can cause “inappropriate thoughts”, so how can you be fully prepared? I used to subscribe to a Christian forum that was about marriage. They had a separate thread for engaged couples and didn’t allow them to view threads for married couples. And of course you can’t watch porn or read erotic fiction, and even love scenes in movies are considered bad. Most people who fully devote themselves to purity culture have no sweet clue what to do.
It’s sometimes painful for the gals the first time! The hymen usually has to be stretched or torn, and because you’re nervous and it’s been so hyped up in your mind, you’re probably not creating much natural lubricant (bring lube, people!)
You’re exhausted after an insanely long wedding day- it’s not the greatest time to have such an intimate experience for the first time. I really wish I had been having sex beforehand because then I wouldn’t have had to deal with those issues on such a special night. I wish that my first time had been a part of our natural relationship progression- not forced into a wedding “schedule”, waiting until society said it was ok for me to enjoy it.
It’s also awkward knowing that people KNOW it’s your first time- when you leave the reception as a couple known for your purity stance, you get the winks and nudges of people who know full well that you’re about to get laid for the first time. Awkward! And even if they aren’t actually thinking it or poking fun, it’s still awkward. Especially when your parents drop you off at the hotel. (Red face) When you’re already sleeping together, it’s not a big deal- nobody is really thinking about your “deflowering”. Or at least YOU’RE not thinking about them thinking about it.
Relationships must progress in an unnatural manner to be deemed “appropriate”.
All couples reach a point where they are emotionally and physically ready to go farther than just holding hands. Normally, a couple can simply take it as it comes- when they’re ready, they make love. But in purity culture, you have to deny yourself those things- and that can put a strain on your relationship. If you can’t move forward, where does that leave you? It keeps you in a constant state of stressful limbo that can only be fully remedied by getting married or splitting up. That’s why so many Christian couples get married so young- often before they are really ready for it. I have no doubt that this is partly the reason for the high divorce rate among Christians- it’s even slightly higher than “the world’s” divorce rate. What does that tell you? Purity culture isn’t working!
Purity culture demonizes masturbation.
I used to feel absolutely disgusted with myself if I broke down and masturbated. I thought I was gross, a terrible sinful person. For women, how can you instruct your man to bring you to orgasm if you don’t know how it all works? Speaking from experience- it’s pretty difficult. Since I got over my indoctrination against masturbation, my sex life has gotten SO much better. And contrary to what purity culture teaches you, masturbation and porn do not necessarily go hand in hand. Many people don’t use porn but still masturbate. Masturbation is also a lot of fun during sex- a lot of guys get very turned on watching their partners touch themselves, and it’s lots of fun to touch each other that way. But when you grow up hearing how bad it is, you either lose out or constantly feel guilty about enjoying it.

I regret waiting until I was married. I know some people regret not waiting, for other reasons. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what a couple decides- as long as it’s genuinely THEIR decision. If they want to wait, great! If they’re consenting adults and they’re being safe and healthy about their pre-marital sexual actions, great! No one should look down on them or judge them for their choices, and young people should not be raised to think that there is only one acceptable way to conduct a relationship. Humans are far too diverse to slap one solution on everyone and expect it to work. Shouldn’t we realize this by now?

Every couple should decide what’s best for THEM specifically, not what society or their social groups tell them is best. And believe it or not, I fully support a couple’s decision to wait if that’s what they feel is best for them. I also support a couple’s decision to live together and/or never get married at all if that’s what they want. It’s none of my business!

So why do I even talk about it? Because I grew up in social circles that told me that there was only ONE way to have a successful relationship, and anyone who dared to step outside of this narrow mold was treated differently. They were “sinners”, “doomed for relationships problems”, and were always pressured and encouraged to get married as soon as possible. I was taught that girls who had sex were low hanging fruit, they were dirty and used, somehow broken and less worthy. It may not have been said in those exact words, but the message was crystal clear. I grew up with this intense shame about my sexuality, and I hope to prevent another generation from growing up with the same shame and limitations. I want everyone to realize that they can choose their own path, and for other people to stop shaming and judging  them for doing so.

I also want people to stop telling lies about how much better purity culture is. If it truly offered something better, then the church’s divorce rate should be much lower- but it’s actually just the same if not higher in the church. If purity culture was really all that great, then why do so many people come out of it disillusioned later in life, or have to deal with marital/sexual/mental problems caused by an unhealthy view of sex? And why do states that rely on abstinence only education have the highest rates of STD’s, teen pregnancies, and abortions? It doesn’t work. It just causes unnecessary shame and harm.