My husband and I did find dealing with the sexual tension difficult especially as we neared our wedding day. The tension was so sensitive and so easily arousable that it seemed the further we pushed ourselves from temptation, the greater the tension got. We got creative in how we tried to express our love. One time, he decided to express his love vocally by telling me in numerous words how much he loved me, how attractive he found me, etc. It wasn’t even dirty talk. It was arousing me to the point where it felt dirty and pleasurable and felt if he didn’t stop I’d just throw myself at him. Sometimes we’d sit on opposite sides of the room, and it was like I was tracking him like a cougar hunting its prey. My eyes just kept following him as I resisted the urge to be near him.
All that sexual tension disappeared the day we got married. And then at our wedding night, consummating our marriage was impossible for me. I mean, I had never been physically able to use tampons or submit to a vaginal exam, but my doctors and the married women I talked to insisted it was all in my head. There was nothing physically wrong, and sex wouldn’t be anything like going to a doctor’s office. The hormones would guide me and override my anxiety. That didn’t happen though.
I was diagnosed with vaginismus maybe a week or two after we married. Certainly there was a mental connection to my physical inability. Nothing was physically wrong. It was more like a form of anxiety attack that shut my muscles up and made attempts painful. The pain affirmed my fears and it created a cycle. It was teaching my body to tense even more. The more I tried to force it, the worse the involuntary muscle response got. The muscles were becoming conditioned to act that way.
In the meantime, it killed all sexual desire and tension in me. I had nothing positive to look forward to. Being near my husband knowing sex was on the table made me dwell on having to go through that again. I could think of nothing else and as I’d notice my body fail to respond to his touch or kisses, I’d panic more. “My body’s not working. Its going to be horrible. Its going to be worse.”
Learning to engage in sex (and enjoy it), was a journey of my own self mastery. In a way, it was a part of chastity. I had to learn how I functioned and how to make it function well. The self control goes both ways. If we’re abstaining, I know myself enough to know how to manage my sexual feelings. Then there are times in marriage where you may not particularly be interested in sex, but between your spouse’s desire, NFP, your work schedules and when your children aren’t demanding your attention, you have to take what chances you have. And that self mastery helps you to build up those moments so that you are in fact able to enjoy that union with your spouse.
As such, I’d say being chaste is like having a sail up in the wind. If you are trying to avoid going letting the wind carry you away, than you have to master that sail. You have to pay attention to the wind and learn which way to turn it at the right moments. The Catechism affirms that cultivating this self mastery is a lifelong task.
I personally think lack of self knowledge based upon inexperience lessons culpability for sexual sins. To commit a mortal sin, you have to have full consent of the will. There is a difference between saying “Hey screw what God says, I want this” and the struggle and mistakes that occur as you strive to be chaste.
Go to confession frequently for the grace to help you grow in self mastery. Save as much as you can for your wedding night, but don’t be too hard on yourself for your mistakes.
And BTW, I do not regret saving myself for my husband. It was hard on both of us. He definitely felt very rejected and unwanted and undesirable at times, but this is a struggle we got through together. I can’t imagine sharing this struggle with anyone other than my husband and it makes us appreciate the value of the intimacy we now share together.