As a teenager, I didn’t know much about sex.
At home, the word “sex” was never mentioned, let alone talked about in any depth. At the Catholic high school I attended, all I remember was a brief acknowledgement that sex before marriage was bad. No reason was ever given for why someone should consider choosing to wait.
With a real absence of communication around this and many messages to the contrary (aka the “restricted” sections of Dolly magazines), I couldn’t see any reason why I should wait. It never even went through my mind to consider the bigger picture. My only thinking around sex was as long as I loved someone, it was all okay.
It wasn’t until several years and multiple relationships later, that I began to question why I always felt like something was missing.
Longing for something more
My experiences didn’t match up to what today’s culture tells us is a healthy, fulfilling relationship. A loving relationship is enough right? Heck, there doesn’t even need to be any commitment – just do what makes you happy, what feels good, no regrets. How often do we hear these words?
I chased the elated emotions, but the depth that I craved just couldn’t be found. Let me get real here: authentic intimacy should never leave you lying in bed wondering what’s wrong. No part of that is fulfilling. Doing what I thought would make me “happy” usually just left me feeling numb and empty.
It was a messy cycle. Something always felt wrong, but I never knew what it was. So, I told myself I was over-thinking and that my feelings didn’t have any truth to them. It’s hard to challenge what a culture defines as “normal” when that’s all you’ve ever known.
When I started to truly question why I felt like relationships weren’t fulfilling, very few people seemed to understand the emptiness I felt.
It wasn’t until I started going back to church and made new friends that, for the first time, I was able to honestly explore why others chose to save sex for marriage. I was able to observe beautiful examples of marriage and how their decision to wait had positively impacted their relationship.
For the first time, I was able to question if I wanted to choose that too.
It was the hardest decision I have ever made, because the unknown scared the hell out of me. I had to trust that there was more for me than the emptiness I felt. I had to trust that a fulfilling relationship was actually possible. I had to be brave enough to live differently.
I’m not sharing my story in the hopes of convincing anyone to do anything. I share in the hopes of helping anyone to understand why choosing to wait is a very real and valuable choice.
My decision to recommit was much greater than just saving sex for marriage, it was grounded in redefining intimacy. See, as a teenager I didn’t know much about the meaning of sex, but I knew even less about intimacy.
My values changed, not only because of my faith, but because my first-hand experiences had taught me that true fulfilment couldn’t be found in the relationships I was living. True sexual intimacy needed to be experienced inside the commitment of marriage.
At our core, we all want to be known and loved. We want to be with another person that accepts us and loves us for who we are, free from fear of them rejecting us or leaving. Marrying someone says this: it is a lifetime promise to love unconditionally; It is the ultimate commitment where someone says I will always be there and will always choose you.
That’s exactly why, in past relationships, there was always room for fear, doubt and rejection. The sexual intimacy I experienced was outside of commitment. My heart knew that sex wasn’t communicating what it was designed to say.
Authentic love and intimacy doesn’t leave a person feeling doubtful or insecure. As soon as I understood the weight of this and where the source of my emptiness lived, I never wanted to feel it again. I could no longer choose to feel empty or hurt, knowing there was another option.
I said goodbye to feeling off, to the doubt that never stopped haunting me, and the constant fear of rejection. I stepped out from what I had always known, and trusted that there was more.
I decided that the next person I would give my whole self to would only be my future husband – the one who promises and commits to loving me not just for a moment, but a lifetime.
What waiting communicates in dating
There are plenty of misconceptions when it comes to dating and waiting for marriage. As someone who can make the comparison, I need to express just how freeing and intentional dating can become when sexual intimacy is removed from the picture.
For someone who wants to eventually get married, the purpose of dating is literally to figure out whether or not you will marry a person. That sounds intense but it’s true. Without sexual intimacy present, there is total freedom to simply get to know the person you are dating; the importance of building friendship, trust and having fun spending time together. I’ve learnt to date creatively and continuously learn to show love in new ways.
True character shows in a man waiting to save sex for marriage. It’s incredibly attractive. It means he is choosing to date a woman with the intention of getting to know her and her heart – not just her body. In our sexualised culture, that reveals to me the personal character essential in a future spouse.
It reveals characteristics of what authentic love is: selfless, sacrificing and honourable.
Beyond the title of “virgin”
Do you know how many times I have heard “But you’re not a virgin? You can’t just reverse that”.
Correct – I am not a virgin. Recommitting to saving sex and intimacy for marriage does not change the past.
When we start again, our memories or experiences aren’t entirely forgotten because we choose to now live differently. Memories can be haunting, especially damaging, broken experiences which require significant healing.
But what really matters here isn’t virginity. What really matters is the change that takes place in a person’s heart and mindset.
It is choosing to move forward that matters. Anyone can start again and choose to live differently, no matter what they have been through or previously chosen.
It’s never too late to make a choice that will provide freedom from feeling empty, hurt, fearful or broken. That’s not what you are meant for.
The fear surrounding starting again
I won’t sugarcoat this: the decision to recommit was hard. I had to work through many fears, all of which whispered that I was unworthy, unable to start again and that I didn’t deserve better.
It required boldly embracing a new normal.
For me, the hardest part hasn’t been the fact that I didn’t wait, but accepting love from someone who has. But regardless of the past, the truth I need to boldly hold on to every time doubt creeps in is this: I am just as deserving of love as someone who has waited.
My past does not define my worth or destine me to only experience horrible relationships for the rest of my life. Virgin or not, we are all worthy of fulfilling, authentic love.
Starting again also required real forgiveness, not from others, but forgiving myself. I am no less of a person, and no less of a gift to my future husband because of my history. This same truth applies to you too.
Though of course I wish I could one day say to my husband “I waited for you”, I know that my recommitment honours, prioritises and upholds authentic love. My choices made from the moment I recommitted are what matter and what continue to mean something. True love will focus on this, not the past.
I had to (and still do at times) speak truth over myself and remind myself over and over again. Worthy. Infinitely loved. Precious. Equal.
The one beautiful upside is that because I have experienced first-hand what I wish I hadn’t, I am now so passionate about protecting my future experiences. My future husband will be deeply appreciated in a way that I cannot fully express right now, and I’m so excited to one day (soon) know the fullness of intimacy within the context of marriage.
As I get closer to my wedding day, there is no single part of me that wishes I hadn’t chosen this or that I’d just given in along the way. In fact, the closer I get, the more and more all of this makes sense.
This choice protects and upholds authentic love.
That’s what we’re meant for.
P.S If you are struggling with painful, traumatic experiences, please talk to a professional and seek out healing. My heart goes out to you with empathy. It’s so important to know that you are never alone.