Because I have always been the girl before the girlfriend.
Yep, you read that right.
I willfully abstained from sex for one year and one month.
What would motivate a single, 20-something-year-old to make this decision?
Well, the reason for this choice probably started about three and a half years ago, when the guy I had been sleeping with claimed he wasn’t ready for a relationship after his divorce (yeah, you read that part right too). Yet, three weeks later, he had a girlfriend. After that, I spiraled into a string of failed relationships before they even started due to ghosting or men breaking things off because they weren’t ready for something serious, only to see pictures on Facebook with their new girlfriends shortly thereafter.
It took me a couple years, but I started to recognize a theme—I was the girl before the girlfriend. I’ve always been confident and secure in myself, but this never-ending trend in my love life really took a toll on my self-esteem.
Why wasn’t I good enough to be girlfriend material?
What was wrong with me?
What did the girlfriends have that I didn’t? I couldn’t figure it out. It’s the 21st century and I’m a 21st-century girl who shouldn’t need to wait to have sex and for that matter, didn’t want to. Sex isn’t all that I have to offer, so why should I hold off on it like it’s some prize the guy has to win? I am the prize.
But after getting my heart broken one too many times, I decided a change had to be made.
I made a promise to myself that I would not have sex with anyone until I felt like it was headed in the direction of a relationship or until something more serious was established. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a boyfriend, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up that things were progressing toward a relationship, have sex, and then get let down once things ended before they actually began.
One friend thought I would give in, another friend didn’t even believe that I was practicing abstinence. But even just after declaring it, I had already felt better about myself.
When I would tell people about my promise, their responses ranged from “how can you live without sex? I could never do that!” to “good for you, I’m envious of your willpower.”
Let me just mention here that this promise was in no way religiously motivated, nor was I holding out for “the one.” My promise was designed so that my heart would not get broken by guys who did not want to stick around after the sex. I just wanted to weed out the assholes who had no intention of taking things further with me. Which is why I was honest and upfront about my promise with every guy I dated during the year.
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The first guy was a sweetheart and completely understanding of my promise. I never felt pressured and he never made me feel like I owed him an explanation. Things just sort of fizzled out after he moved to a new town for work.
The second guy claimed that he was okay with the promise, but made it clear he was not looking for a girlfriend, I didn’t feel comfortable with him, especially knowing that what we had wouldn’t have room to grow. He also asked why he always gets stuck with problems that other guys created for women and when he made my discomfort about himself, I peaced.
The third guy was okay with my promise…until he wasn’t. The last time we were in bed together, he said if we didn’t have sex, he didn’t want to do anything at all.
The fourth guy was the one I finally broke my promise for. He specifically said he wanted me to feel comfortable not having sex with him. And I did. But we had built an emotional connection that I felt sex could only add to. It had gotten to the point where whether we had sex or not if he had ghosted me and found himself a girlfriend after we dated, it would still hurt either way. So in that instance, I knew that my promise to myself wasn’t protecting my heart from being broken because feelings had already been caught.
I still feel great about myself. My promise did exactly what I set out for it to do. I dodged some guys who seemed trustworthy on the surface but ended up showing their true colors when it came down to it.
Without sex as a distraction, I was able to be more intuitive about guys’ motivations. I learned that in my past relationships, what was lacking was an emotional connection that could stand alone, without sex. Sex was the basis for most of my relationships because it happened so early. I’m still not a proponent for “waiting until the third date,”
I think sex should happen when both parties are comfortable and it feels natural. When you know that your self-respect will not be compromised by having sex with someone, you’re most likely ready. But when sex is the foundation, the relationship has no room for growth.
I still don’t have a boyfriend, but the point of the promise was never to acquire one. If you’re someone who struggles with finding the right time to have sex while dating, I strongly urge you to make a promise unique to yourself, based on your relationship or dating goals. It really helps to take a step back from the confusion of dating and sex and just focus on what you want and what you have to do to get what you want out of your love life.
This past year and one month have been a beautiful lesson in patience and using my voice to state my needs and demand that they are met.