I Gave Up Sex Three Years Ago. Here’s What Happened.
This article originally appeared in RELEVANT. In this version, I have changed the word “celibacy” to “abstinence” for accuracy.
This month marks my third year of sexual abstinence. That’s right, I’ve had zero sex for three whole years, and I couldn’t be happier.
When I initially became abstinent, it wasn’t a deliberate decision. In fact, it was almost forced upon me when I decided to serve as a missionary for six months with a team of seven other women. During my time as a missionary, I had a lot of time to reflect upon my life and talk to God in between my 60-hour missionary service commitments and sleeping.
Relationships were a category I talked about with God frequently. I had been pretty sexually active after high school and throughout college, and I bought into the lie that having sex with a variety of partners wasn’t a big deal. However, it wasn’t until I sat down with God and studied the Word that I realized how distorted my view of healthy relationships had become.
As I dug into the Word, I learned about God’s vision for marriage and sex. I saw that God’s heart was for a marriage to be a sweet and loving partnership, and that sex was to be the ultimate manifestation of the love between a husband and wife (Ephesians 5:31).
After a series of unfulfilling sexual relationships with men who didn’t love God and didn’t truly love me, I decided to make a change. Instead of dating the way culture told me to date, I made the decision to date God’s way and save sex for marriage.
Shortly after I decided to really commit to abstinence, I met my now-fiancé. We have been together for more than two years, and have both seen the benefits of abstinence in our relationship. Here are three things I’ve learned after three years of sexual abstinence:
Don’t believe the cultural lies about sex.
When I was in college, I used hookups with guys to make me feel prettier and empowered, and I believed that sex within my dating relationships was a reflection of how healthy my relationships were. I was naive and thought that sex was simply a physical act that felt good, and that having sex with men to whom I was attracted would make me feel good.
It wasn’t until several years later that I realized how much my drunken hookups and sex with guys I dated had both hurt my heart and persuaded me to stay in unhealthy relationships. I had given a part of myself to men who didn’t truly love me and I hadn’t respected myself enough to realize I deserved better because my body is God’s temple (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Though our society says that sex outside of marriage is freeing, the reality is that the baggage from my sexual relationships followed me for years, long after the relationships ended.
Sexual abstinence will lead to a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with your partner.
Though my serious college boyfriend and I were long-time friends and had shown great love to each other, our relationship lacked depth. This is because our relationship was built upon attraction, conditional love, and sex — instead of God and His unconditional love.
It wasn’t until I met my fiancé that I understood how deep love between two people could grow and that it was possible for a man to love me as deeply Christ loved the Church. I also learned that I could find a man I respected enough to submit to (Ephesians 5:22–33).
My fiancé and I both share a great love for God and service to the Church, so when I told my fiancé (who was also very sexually active previously) that I wanted to abstain from sex until marriage, he agreed. That commitment allowed us to put God at the center of our relationship, versus our attraction to each other.
Our abstinence has forced us to address issues between us and get rid baggage we have carried around for years, instead of defaulting to the “sex bandaid.” It also showed me that my fiancé valued our relationship more than sex and showed him that I did the same.
As a result, we have been able to build a strong partnership with a solid foundation that will enable us to have a sweet and successful marriage.
Being unmarried and sexually abstinent is freeing.
When I was having sex in my dating relationships, I felt burdened. I carried around the fear of potential pregnancies, hurt feelings, shame from drunken hookups and feelings of inadequacy. However, when I committed to abstinence, everything changed.
During the past three years, I haven’t once had to carry around these heavy burdens, which has been incredibly freeing. And because my heart and mind are free, I’ve been able to focus on bettering myself for God and His people, building a tender relationship with my fiancé and serving the Church (1 Corinthians 7:34).
When I was sexually active, I didn’t realize how much my sexual relationships negatively affected my head and heart. I also didn’t fully understand God’s design for sex in the context of marriage. Over the past three years I’ve seen how the fullness and freeness of sex can only truly be experienced in a fully committed, Godly relationship because sex is so much more than a physical act — it’s a physical, mental and spiritual union of two people who love each other unconditionally.
If you’re tossing around the idea of committing to sexual abstinence or questioning your choice to remain abstinent, my advice is to save sex for marriage and treat your body as the temple that it is. As a result, you’ll experience deeper and more meaningful relationships, avoid the emotional pitfalls that accompany sex outside of marriage and live a freer life.