And Here Comes the Vulnerability

I was reflecting about the post that I wrote last week and some of the feedback I got in response. When I posted it, I was fully aware that people would disagree with me, I was prepared for that.

But the main concern/criticism was that it came across as too idealistic (which I can own I am a very idealistic person), and sounded like this: follow this formula and you’ll have a happy Christian marriage. Which I hope is my truth, but was not supposed to be the main point.

What I recognize is that my post last week lacked vulnerability and honesty about our own journey. I want to hit some things that my last point missed. Those were my dreams and plans and ideals, and we do have a happy marriage and I think much of it is tied to how we prepared and intentionally moved towards marriage. But also it wasn’t perfect. And still isn’t.

We were together for 4 1/2 years before we got married, things did not go 100% as planned. We did not keep every boundary that we intended, we compromised on boundaries and many others we respected just because that’s what our partner wanted. My husband wasn’t in agreement about not living together before marriage, but some things you have to give up on if you want it to work, you can’t make someone live with you after all.

So lets dive in. The first year or so sex was  unequivocally off the table. Wasn’t even a temptation, sure I was interested, but I could hold off on it for many reasons that’s a bit too complex to get into it here. We were all so new to everything, figuring out how to be together. And we also were each others first boyfriends/girlfriends so there was that.

I was convinced waiting till marriage for sex would be easy and it was, until it wasn’t. Kissing was a very good distraction. There was a lot to explore and master in our first year together and I wasn’t willing to offer more than that because I was very confident he was only going to be my first boyfriend anyway. Until our first dating anniversary where we affirmed our relationship through his gifting me a promise ring. Neither of us called it that at the time, but it fully was, and at the same time our relationship almost imploded.

Things got hard. When we really dug in and wanted to be together for something serious and long term (at that point I was still unwilling to define our relationship in terms of marriage, but I also knew this had moved beyond mere dating), suddenly everything was on the table. Then of course I started to hit the “Christian marriage threshold” (basically two years in you should get married or let them go). Which I think is total nonsense, but being enmeshed in a particular Christian college bubble, I was feeling some pressure. But I always do things at my pace.

Fast forward just over a year, finally I said we could get engaged.

Two months later we were engaged.

Progressively our boundaries sexually were pushed and re-configured and drawn. And I felt immense guilt and torture not only because I thought it was wrong, now I can look at my younger self somewhat gently, but also because I was set up to fail and didn’t understand it. I had been told SOOO much about saving sex until marriage without much of the reality. I was told as a woman especially that it would be easy. And like I said the first year or so it was easy. I was quite content with kissing, until I wasn’t. Hormones were raging, intimacy was building, and I was deeply curious in a a way I had never expected.

In all honesty I had zero interest in sex until I started dating my husband, and I was convinced–and in some ways promised–that sex wouldn’t be a temptation. It was like the anti-drug campaigns that were popular in the nineties: Just say no. But as I discovered in the complexity of a relationship and the realities of a body just saying no wasn’t the easy solve all solution.

I still hold on to these ideals. I still firmly believe discipline and boundaries among other things have given us a strong foundation for our marriage. I also can admit that we did not hold to all the boundaries that we intended and I have worked through them, sought forgiveness, and have grace for myself in that. And I don’t see myself as a hypocrite for falling short of my ideals. We all do at some points. What I can say though is that this discipline, shared goals, shared values, as well as non-sexual intimacy created a firm foundation for our marriage. There is a lot of advice I would happily give my younger self and encourage her to let go, but I would have made basically the same choices if I had to do it all over again. It worked for us, and I think it could work for other people, but also at the end of the day that’s between you, your partner, and God.

Thanks for reading.

Glitter and good vibes,

Juanita

 

 

 

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