- 6 years ago
[using an anonymous login for privacy’s sake.]
I feel like I’m in a unique situation and I’m so very confused about whether or not I am being reasonable, rational and making good choices. I’ve gotta share a lot of background here, so I apologize for it being long.
Due to painful childhood experiences of several varieties, I suffered from severe depression in my late teens and alternated between pushing people away with my craziness and then (when I got my head on somewhat straight), putting up walls to keep them out. I had a couple of largely-insignificant dating experiences and in my 20s I was never in danger of violating the belief that I shouldn’t have sex before marriage. By the age of 30 was convinced I would never be loved and never marry.
When the opportunity to get involved with a man 17 years older than me developed in my early 30s I jumped on it (and him). I knew it was wrong because I didn’t love him and I wasn’t going to marry him (he was of the same mindset), but I told myself this was my only chance so I might as well take it. Looking back, I know I valued myself so little that I didn’t care I was hurting myself. The physical component was very enjoyable, but soon I started to hate myself afterwards because I felt the emptiness of our emotional relationship contrasted with the physical closesness, and I knew I was “settling.” Now that I have fallen in love, I see how bad (unhealthy, reckless and empty) it all really was and regret it so much.
Fastforward to two years ago… After some VERY effective therapy that has peeled back a lifetime of pain, misguided coping skills, etc., I was encouraged to try online dating as a way to get my feet wet and build confidence. I honestly didn’t believe anything would come of it, but my therapist challenged me to do it as an exercise and so I wasn’t super-choosy in the characteristics I was looking for–I thought I’d just have a couple of dates with a guy and go on my way to the next (I was “unlovable” in my mind, so why would I expect they’d want more than that?). Much to my great surprise after a couple of “duds” the first few months, I met the man I plan to marry this Fall when I’ll be 40 years old.
Getting to know him has been a further journey in healing. He is immensely patient, loving, gentle, etc., while still being a strong and confident man. He makes hugh-strung me more peaceful and calm, and he says I take him to emotional heights he never believed possible. He thinks I’m gorgeous (a shocker to me), brilliant, etc., and seems to be amazed he got so lucky as to meet me. We’re the same age, he has no children, and while he’s had a couple of serious relationships, he’s never been serious enough to want to live with anyone.
Sounds perfect, hunh? One big problem is that until he met me, he wasn’t religious. He was raised Catholic until he was old enough to tell him mother he wasn’t going to church (age 10?), and I was a lapsed Protestant pastor’s kid. Falling in love showed me that this crazy dance of love and marriage is so complicated that we need the spirtiual component to make it work, so at his urging we started going to “my” church last summer and he is serious about learning and growing in Christianity. He still has so much to learn, though…
The lack of spiritual grounding and experience on his part means that we come at things from completely different cultural contexts. For example, he respects that I don’t think sex outside of marriage is a very good idea, but it just baffles him at a fundamental level. Earlier in our relationship I most definitely wasn’t ready for sex, and he was ok with that. After 18 months I feel physically and emotionally ready, but I don’t think it’s part of God’s plan for people to have sex without a lifetime commitment in place.
Add to the mix that at times I am still more likely to create walls and over-intellectualize things than to be open and emotionally-available (on any subject), and I even doubt my own desires and perceptions. I think I’d be 100% more comfortable if we waited until we were married, but the logical side of me knows we’ve probably already crossed all sorts of lines even though we technically haven’t had intercourse, so I’m on shaky ethical ground to argue that by not going “all the way” we’re somehow behaving in a better way than we have already. And I worry that I’m deceiving myself by focusing on the intellectual arguments against it rather than whatever unconscious issues are lurking in my psyche. I also recognize that sexual relations (of any kind) are a very natural part of expressing love and creating connectedness, so I don’t want to end up drawing an arbitrary line that isn’t born of genuine principle (I believe God gives us instructions to make us happier and healthy and that we need to follow the spirit as well as the letter of the Law).
My Fiance is NOTHING but loving to me and I joke he has the patience of a saint but that’s really not far from the truth. I see how much he wants to “make love” to me–there is definitely a physical component, but in his mind sex would be the ultimate expression of his love to me. We are so close now that it hurts me to deny him, though I continue to do so. I see how my rejection hurts his heart and makes him feel distant from me and I start to feel terribly guilty. I truly believe in a cooperative and equal relationship (something we live out in all other aspects–no manipulation, communicate clearly and honestly, don’t try to change each other, etc), so it doesn’t seem fair at all that I am the one saying no when he’s not on the same page and he had no idea this is where we’d end up when we started dating. When I think these thoughts I start to feel terribly unworthy of someone with some much love and patience for me.
We talked about it again last night and I think I stressed him out with the circles my mind goes in on this subject. One thing I realized is that if we were getting married in two months, we’d both be willing to wait. But six months seems too long (lame, I know). I pointed out that couldn’t possibly be intellectually/ethically honest and we had no answer to that. I asked him if he thought he could be okay with waiting until we’re married and his honest answer was that he’d never considered that we would, so he didn’t know.
I was taught that God always has reasons for instructions given and that we need to look for those underlying principes to apply them to modern life and to our own individual circumstances rather than acting as if a legalistic checklist keeps us on the right track (i.e. Paul’s instructions about things done without love). I keep trying to do that here but fall into confusion…
Everything about this relationship has been healing for me and “in the moment” the desire to go all the way is 100%–that’s a change from the past where it was very easy for me to hold back. The only thing that is holding me back now is intellectual doubts. And maybe on the emotional front I am afraid of messing this up–because I love him so much and I want to build a life with him I don’t want to do anything that hurts either/both of us (and frankly, I can see how both directions could end up hurting us). The terrible irony is that I seem to be hurting him by rejecting him.
All the advice I see for cases like this seem to involve 1) younger people without a lot of life experience and with raging hormones; and 2) people who are coming from a background of emotional health. Any physical contact with him has been so healing for me, and so to reject him is so confusing.
I know the above is probably all over the place, but that’s exactly where my heart and mind are. Any advice or clarity would be SOOOO helpful.
Thanks, Christian Bees.