Let’s Talk About (Married) Sex After Celibacy

42 comments
December 5, 2012 ‐ By Alissa Henry

 

"Black married couple"

Source: Shutterstock.com

“Marriage is the death of sex.” A (never-married) friend announced when she found out my plan to be celibate until marriage. I was engaged at the time and she was horrified at the thought of me marrying a man I hadn’t bedded. The problem was that in order to scare me, she first had to assume that my (albeit, limited) sexual experience in the past had been enjoyable.

It wasn’t.

I found that being in a sexual relationship meant living in fear of accidental pregnancy, possible STDs, debilitating guilt and a rollercoaster of emotions I didn’t even realize were so deep until separation would painfully pull them to the surface. I found casual sex to be a wicked oxymoron and the friends with benefits thing to be better fit for movie scripts.

One day out of nowhere, like unexpectedly catching a glimpse of myself while passing a reflective surface, I saw a side of me that I found repulsive. I saw a girl who had a guy calling her phone for sex but wouldn’t consider calling her his girlfriend. I saw a girl who became so inexplicably attached to a guy that she turned a blind eye to egregious actions. A girl who was relating too much to descriptions of jump-offs and side chicks. A girl who was having lackluster sex with a guy who didn’t even like her that much.  A girl who knew she deserved better but didn’t have the gumption to seek it out.

So I quit. Cold turkey. I don’t even remember the day, but I do remember being done with him and with all of them.

Up until then, I had been looking around totally bewildered as to why I was an automatic loser at this no-strings-attached game. My friends did it. A lot of them. They were bumping uglies with an endless stream of men, yet seemed completely unaffected by their interest or disinterest. The men were as expendable to them as they were expendable to him. They moved on from one guy to the next like it was some sort of video game! I was flabbergasted…and stuck on one guy (who was nowhere near stuck on me) for years. I didn’t get it. Friends tried to give me helpful advice. One friend told me that I wouldn’t be so attached to a guy after sex if I’d just “up my numbers”. That didn’t seem like good advice, so I ignored her! Ultimately, I decided to be done with the game. Besides, what’s the prize in being able to walk away from bed after bed, man after man unscathed?

I knew that I would never get to the point of being able to shut down my emotions and more importantly, I realized I didn’t even want to get to that point. I wanted to have feelings. I wanted to be in love. I wanted to be consumed by a man. I wanted a man to be consumed by me. Approaching a relationship without feelings didn’t seem rewarding at all. Sure it would have kept the tears out my eyes, but I didn’t want to do without the love in my heart.

Looking back now, I’m glad I experienced that time of celibacy. It wasn’t always easy but it definitely wasn’t any harder than dealing with the emotional baggage from decidedly one-sided relationships with men who, honestly, weren’t that great in bed anyway.

And if I could see that friend now, I’d tell her that marriage certainly hasn’t been the “death of sex”. Sure there are sexless marriages, but they’re prefaced with that adjective because that’s abnormal. Honestly, I can’t imagine anyone having sex more than married people.

In fact, according to The Huffington Post:

One of the most comprehensive studies on the subject, which was released in 2010 by the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, confirmed this, compiling statistics on sexual attitudes and habits of 5,865 people between ages 14 and 94. An average of 61 percent of singles reported that they hadn’t had sex within the past year, compared with 18 percent of married people. Looking specifically at those between the ages of 25 and 59, 25 percent of married people reported that they were still having sex two to three times per week versus less than five percent of singles.

Not only does marriage mean having more sex, it’s also much better sex because you’re intimate with someone who knows you and you know him. That alone is one million times better than just knocking boots with some guy who finds you attractive and wants to try out some wack move that his last conquest only pretended to enjoy.

For someone who has experienced sex with a hollow-chested man, I can tell you the pleasure of being intimate with someone who you know is going to be there the next day and the day after because they’ve committed to you cannot be overstated.

Sex in marriage is better for many reasons. You don’t have to look perfect, you don’t have to pretend to like it, you don’t have to pretend to not love him for it, there are no strange surprises, you can experiment more, you don’t have to experiment at all, there’s no feelings of self-consciousness, you don’t have to worry about your naked sexts going viral, you don’t have to attempt to disengage your heart from your body, and you’re not competing with other women in his recent past or near future.

What I wish I’d known sooner is that the horror stories of marriage after celibacy are meant to frighten people and not based in reality at all. Marriage is not at all the death of sex, but in fact is the best I’ve ever had.

What do you think? Do you think married sex gets a bad rap? Are you – or would you consider – celibacy until marriage?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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  • Katrina Anderson

    I agree. I try to break the mold sometimes but as you said, your sexual decisions today might be important to your future long-term partner. This is where things get tricky. It’s important to remember that the world is a complicated place and a great relationship won’t be handed to you on a silver platter just because you waited until you were married to have sex. A “one-size-fits-all” formula doesn’t exist.

    There are men who care about how many men a woman has been with. I probably wouldn’t date those men. In the past, I’ve asked boyfriends how many women they’ve been with and the answer has always made me uncomfortable. Now that I’m older, I don’t ask such questions. My conscious is relaxed if I just leave some things alone. The past is the past and I don’t want a new relationship to be poisoned with past history. Ignorance is bliss!

    Other women may feel like they have to divulge their past to their new boyfriend and if so, then tell him if you think it’ll make the relationship stronger. But don’t be so naive to think your new boyfriend would never use that information against you. Choose your words and your answer carefully :)

  • Pivyque

    I enjoyed being celibate. It’s not for everyone, but I tell people all the time that it is a great idea when they ask. Married sex definitely gets a bad rap. When my husband told his friends that he proposed, they teased him about it. I remember one told him that he must want to be celibate forever because getting married means no sex lol

  • Katrina Anderson

    This is one more example of why anecdotal evidence is the weakest and most unreliable kind. It’s great that you’re having great married sex but the FACT is that many married people cheat for many reasons, one of which is because they have an unsatisfying sex life at home. You can’t erase that reality by saying that your own sex life is an indication that all married sex is great. And 50% of marriages end in divorce…sometimes because of infidelity that was caused by an unsatisfying sex life! Let’s keep things in perspective :)

    • samantha

      In what perspective? Yours?? To say that MANY married people cheat is also anecdotal. I would agree that SOME married people cheat, but not all. I re-read my post, and I never said that ALL married sex is great. What I did say, is that in my experience, it is much better than single/non-committed sex for many reasons. And, to keep things in “perspective” as you say, the majority of infidelity is not the result of an unsatisfying sex life, but for other reasons that have nothing to do with sex. So, yes… let’s please keep things in perspective!! :) The article already mentioned facts, and I gave my opinion on the fact set that was given. 50% of marriages ending in divorce is not because of the sex, but because of finances which has been proven to be the #1 reason for divorce. So, your skewed logic does not create truth… sorry. :)

      • Katrina Anderson

        The first line in your post said “Married sex is the best. I speak from experience.” The IMPLICATION is that all married sex is great simply BECAUSE it’s within a marriage as if it’s a direct result of being married. Then you go on to give examples of how awful the sex was before you were married, as if the sex had nothing to do with the sexual technique and attraction between you and your partners. Your post gave an extreme bias, which is why I gave it perspective to show that while married sex is great for you, it’s not great for everyone. A more balanced approach would have been to mention that while your sex life is great, it’s not because you’re married; it’s because you married the person you were having great sex with who’s in tune with your needs.

        The definition of an “anecdote” is a biographical account. Had I give a single experience, as you did, that would be an anecdote. To say “many” married people cheat is not an anecdote since it does not mention a specific account. Rather, it takes into account ALL marriages and references a general portion of them. Anecdotes fail to see the wider scope of ALL experiences, which is why they’re unreliable as evidence of the larger population.

        I never said the “majority” of infidelity is because of an unsatisfying sex life. My post quotes “…many married people cheat for MANY REASONS, one of which is because they have an unsatisfying sex life…” You must have misread it.

        The article is light on facts and the only one mentioned comes from the Huffington Post, which only says that 25% of married people aged 25-59 polled in a study are having sex at least twice a week. So what does that say about the other 75%? It sounds like 75% of married people 25-59 either only have sex once a week or the sex is so infrequent, it can’t be quantified. There goes the theory that married sex is the best :)

        • samantha

          blah, blah blah. After alllllll of that, I bet you still want to be married. Don’t you? lol! Bitterness is not attractive. The bottom line for me is that married sex was/is the best sex to me. (no implication other than that.) The decision to get married was not based on sex, it was based on many other factors that I shall not elaborate on for you because it sounds like you’re so determined to prove how great sex is outside of marriage. I don’t deny mind blowing sex can be had outside of marriage, what I do deny without regret is that the sex no matter how back blowing it was during my single life could never touch the sex (even on our worst night) to sex within the confines of a marriage.

          I take issue with folks like you who try to reduce the sacredness of marriage to nothing but a piece of paper, it’s more than that to me, it means more than that. It seems your’e too technically adept to understand the abstractness of such an emotional concept. Trying to reduce an emotional thing to numbers is insanity at best.

          You’re attempt to disprove the benefits of sex within a marriage by throwing out these statistics doesn’t change how satisfying sex is to those within said marriages. And, at the end of it all, you still do not disprove the article which states that married people have more frequent sex than their single counterparts and have more gratifying sex lives. And, if your idea of best sex is based on frequency alone, then it doesn’t sound like you have had the “best”

          I don’t know what else to say to you, other than keep on having your great non-committed sex. Although from the tone of your postings here, whoever it is , is not hitting it right or else your attitude would be much better.

          • Katrina Anderson

            Not sure where you sensed anger and misery since my comments only discussed facts and data, which you may have been unfamiliar with. Thanks for the back-handed compliment anyway…I guess???…smh

            I’m happily single and do hope to be married one day. I don’t attempt to flatter myself by claiming others are miserable and wish they had my life. It’s petty. My life is great for me as, I’m sure, yours is for you.

    • Elle

      Many people in dating relationships cheat as well so what exactly is your point? Playing devils advocate for a minute lol.

      • Katrina Anderson

        I didn’t mention dating relationships in the comment you’re referring to, but you’re right. People cheat whether they’re married or dating and I would never imply otherwise. I can’t disagree with you there :)

  • Ale

    Thanks for this

  • Candacey Doris

    I don’t go for the whole no strings attached sexual relationship thing and that’s just how i feel. I can’t go without getting attached to someone, so i don’t try. I can’t wait to find someone that i can be married to (even if i’m not in a position to be looking right now, i’m still dreaming). Marriage is what you make of it. Most of the married couples i know have healthy sex lives. Some of them are too healthy. The only people who have boring passionless marriages are people who let it happen.

    • Katrina Anderson

      You say that most of the married couples you know have healthy sex lives. How would you know? Because they told you?! People lie about their sexual satisfaction to their own partners all the time and then admit they were unsatisfied only AFTER the relationship has ended. What people report while they’re in a marriage isn’t the greatest indicator of how they really feel. Some women still feel prudish about sex (as indicated by the amount of women commenting that they’ve decided to wait until marriage after reclaiming their celibacy) and don’t know the difference between good and bad sex and don’t know how to communicate to their partners what feels good to them.

      Too many women on this board (and the writer) view marriage as the holy grail to fix life’s problems and that’s just not the case. Marriage isn’t when life starts. You should be enjoying life NOW whether you’re married or not. If it makes your life more enjoyable to have sex with a FWB or a boyfriend, then so be it. Just don’t keep hoping that you’ll get married one day so you can finally start enjoying life, especially when that day isn’t promised to you :)

      • someonelikeyou2

        i agree that of course you should have a full life even w/o marriage. i think that is why we may see so many divorces b/c people didn’t have an understanding of themselves and were looking towards their partner to make them happy or all their dreams come true! can’t put that type of pressure on anyone; so not fair! as you’ve indicated, everyone is different, so i don’t think not wanting to have sex w/o commitment means you are prudish towards sex. everything isn’t for everybody and that’s ok. it’s all about what makes you feel fulfilled and comfortable and
        how that aligns w/ your own personal values which is what i think the author was trying to convey.

        • Katrina Anderson

          I’m glad you understood what I was trying to say…except for one thing. I’m not saying that you’re prudish if you don’t have casual sex. But I am saying you’re prudish if you’re waiting for marriage to have sex because you think that’s the only way you’ll get a man to commit to you.

          What makes a person fulfilled and comfortable is largely based on gender roles placed on us by the society we live in. As women, we’ve been taught the rules of being a “good girl” and taught why we should want to be one. I don’t always subscribe to gender roles…especially when I don’t see a need for them. My goal is to expose women to the choices we have instead of always conforming to the status quo. This article did little (if anything) to dispel rumors that only a certain type of woman has casual sex and I’d be hard-pressed to find the same article written by a man. The writer compared her friends’ sex lives to video games, as if to say they weren’t taking their lives seriously SIMPLY because they had sex. Nevermind if these women were in college, or working on a career, or were otherwise contributing members of society. They weren’t serious because they were having sex!

          Women should be comfortable stepping outside of traditional rules and re-write them every once in a while. I’d hate to live a life according to how others say I should behave just because of my gender.

      • Pivyque

        Well, I can’t speak for all women, but I don’t feel prudish about sex and if I was not satisfied, I would let my husband know because we have open lines of communication..especially about sex. You have to be satisfied! At any rate, marriage isn’t the holy grail. My perception of marriage was terrible before I met my husband. I was like, men are controlling stalkers lol I decided to wait so that I could focus on enjoying my life and doing the things that I wanted to do. Casual dating is easier when sex isn’t involved (to me anyway). My ex and I had a great sex life, and the feelings were there before that happened, but I couldn’t enjoy my life because he always wanted to be around me. If I was out with my friends, he’s calling every so often. If I just wanted some alone time, he was STILL calling. God forbid that I went on a trip with my family somewhere..arguing all day lol On top of that, he was randomly getting mad because I wasn’t ready to get married…smh. After we broke up, I didn’t want to be in another serious relationship and I can’t have sex with someone that I don’t have feelings for. I’m just not wired that way. So, I just locked it up and enjoyed being unattached. Every woman’s experience is different tho. I do think people should develop themselves before deciding to have kids and/or blend their lives with someone else’s. I remember Beyonce saying that she wanted to become the woman she wanted to be before becoming a wife and mother. More women should have that mindset.

        • Katrina Anderson

          It sounds like your ex was the girl and you were the guy!….j/k. Many women would love to be in your shoes…with the guy wanting to get married, calling to check up on you (as long as it wasn’t too needy). But if you couldn’t reciprocate his feelings, you had to move on.

          Having sex with someone you mutually care about is the best. I’m at a point right now where I’ve been celibate for a few months and I’d like to wait until I’m with someone who I have strong feelings for. That’s really what I’d like to happen but who knows how long it’ll take? I doubt I could wait any longer than another six months. I admit I have a somewhat strong sexual appetite that spikes every now and then, so I don’t make vows to abstain from sex. Most times I’m fine without sex but when I have an itch, I have it taken care of :)

          • Pivyque

            Lol We were young (16-22). We were each other’s “first” so we were both clingy for a good minute, but when I grew out of that, he didn’t take too kindly to it. At any rate, I know how you feel. The first few months were a killer for me because I had gotten used to a few times a week lol After a month, it started getting easier, but that itch didn’t get any less persistent when it did come! Good luck with finding that person sooner rather than later!

      • Candacey Doris

        Of course you should enjoy life. But i’m not one that feels having sex with someone is what makes it enjoyable. No marriage isn’t the holy grail, but it’s not the end of life either. it’s a part of life i look forward too. I just feel that if someone has a bad sex life when they are married, that’s a problem with them, not with marriage itself. People talk about marriage being bad for sex as if they are planning to just shut it down when they get married. Well i’m not.

        • Katrina Anderson

          Making a commitment to spend the rest of your life with someone should be something to look forward to. I’m not implying that it’s the end of life and I’m not saying that you’ll enjoy sex less when you get married. The odds are stacked against married sex though since, according to the study presented in the article, 75% of married couples have sex once a week or less. As you mentioned, sex in marriage is largely up to the people in the marriage. To stay out of a rut, they’ll have to do something that the other 75% aren’t doing. For me, this won’t be a problem. I have a healthy sexual appetite and love to try new things…hehe.

          There are many things that make life enjoyable and, as humans, we’re biologically programmed to enjoy sex. We’re here because our ancestors really enjoyed sex! People struggle with virginity/celibacy because they’re trying to fight nature. There should be no shame to enjoy sex along with all of life’s other pleasures :)

  • Laine

    I’m sorry, but the reasons you give for marital sex being better, could also apply to having sex within another commited relationship, or even casual sex. You should never pretend to like it when you don’t, or not love him for it. Wether you experiment or not choose to also has nothing to do with the status of your relationship etc etc. I’m happy that you are now having fulfilling sex, but the fact that you were not having that previously has little to do woth the status of your previous relationships, in my opinion.

    • http://www.yourtango.com/users/cheekee-baby cheekee baby

      She’s not saying it can’t be good and fulfilling with a man you’re “just kicking it” with all she’s saying is that for HER it left her feeling empty and used.

  • someonelikeyou2

    love this article! i’m the same and couldn’t possibly imagine being w/ a whole bunch of men! yuck. just not my cup of tea! i had the same horrible emotions too after meaningless sex and truthfully i didn’t have many friends that understood how i felt either. they didn’t see an issue w/ just hooking up w/men for sex. but now i have made other friendships who understand and support my decision because they feel the same way after years of heartbreak and pain. although its not easy, i’m celibate too and found that i’m happier w/o the worries/baggage/insecurities, etc. that come from being intimate w/someone who doesn’t love you. congrats on your marriage and for following your heart! :-)

  • http://twitter.com/eps0609 Phoebe Simth

    I know many women and men who do no think sex is good in their marraige, mainly because they are not sexually compatible. Although they are compatible on some areas, they find themselves unfullfilled in teh sex area.
    Is this enough to keep them in the marraige? Sometimes. But is the simple vow of marraige enought to keep them for cheating (looking for sexual satisfaction)? The answer to that is also Sometimes.
    Sex matters. it should not be the top priority, but it is definitely important to many, many, many people. It is a part of the balance of a true an meaningful, holistic marraige.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/ChakaKhanian?feature=mhee ChakaKhanian

    I don’t understand why people, especially those who are supposed to be encouraging you to abstain until marriage, love to put these doubts and fears in your mind about sex after marriage. If so many single people were that happy in their relationships, why do they keep bouncing from person to person? Could it be that *gasp* non-commitment is actually the death of sex?

    • pretty1908

      i agree !

  • pretty1908

    hmmm…. I understand completely what the writer is saying. Marriage isn’t all about sex ! Relationships shouldn’t be either. I know everyone won’t wait until they are married, but waiting does have its benefits. Now that I am abstaining, Life is a bit less dramatic. I am able to have furfilling friendships with the opposite sex without questioning motives or my worth. sex doens’t ensure anything but confusion, possible STDS, and headache.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kelli.a.thomas.7 Kelli Ann ‘kat’ Thomas

    I.LOVE.THIS. I have been celibate since August. It was hard at first because I thought couldn’t go without sex, but I was tired of wasting p*ssy and feeling empty & used over a guy that wouldn’t even be around for the long term…..it has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made this year. By taking myself out of the dating game & being celibate, I’ve built stregth & self esteem by not caving into temptation and realizing that I don’t need sex, or a man, to be happy. I’ve dedicated more time to my family, friends, and work. I’m a little nervous entering the dating world again because I know celibacy will not work with a lot of dudes, but I know myself and I know I’m worth waiting for.

    • http://www.yourtango.com/users/cheekee-baby cheekee baby

      LMAO @ wasting p*ssy. I don’t know why but the way you said that is just too funny to me.

      Good for you though don’t waste the p*ssy.

    • Katrina Anderson

      “Wasting p*ssy”…what exactly does that mean? Was your self-worth tied to what’s between your legs? Does your p*ssy have a finite value that’s almost used up? I hope not. Whether you slept with one man or 100, you shouldn’t feel as if your value has changed as a result. You’re more than a walking p*ssy. A man’s commitment to you will be based on a desire for you; not for your p*ssy. Withholding it from him won’t generate commitment either. If a man leaves you for sleeping with him, he never wanted you in the first place. Next time you meet a man like that, go in with your eyes wide open and know that whether or not you sleep with him, he just wants sex. If that’s all you want too, then it’s all good. Enjoy it while it lasts and move on.

      I’ve been celibate since July so I’m not criticizing celibacy. My celibacy was sort of unplanned in that I stopped enjoying sex with the person I was dealing with. As soon as I find someone who piques my interest again, I’ll have no qualms about having sex again. Whether that sex lasts for one night or a lifetime, I can’t say. But I can say the only time I take someone to bed is when I know I’ll be able to look at myself in the mirror the next day :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/HEARTLESS.iEASHA Ieasha Ellise Reeder

      I wish more women would have your view on this topic.

  • Katrina Anderson

    It seems the writer of this article should be advocating sleeping with someone you have mutual feelings for–not necessarily having sex within the confines of marriage. Any FWB relationship where you’re having sex in the hopes that the relationship will turn into more is bad. The writer says “I saw a girl who had a guy call her phone for sex but wouldn’t consider calling her his girlfriend.” It sounds like the problem could’ve been prevented by waiting until she got the title of “girlfriend” before she started sleeping with him if the lack of title caused her so much guilt. We’ve all been there and the remedy is to not make the mistake again. The writer also neglects to mention that accidental pregnancy, STDs, and lackluster sex happen in marriages just as they happen outside of marriage. Divorce happens happens too.

    Casual sex isn’t for everyone and even for those who choose to go that route only do so for the time they enjoy it. When it’s no longer enjoyable, they stop. Let’s not assume all sex that’s casual is bad and shameful while all sex after marriage is good.

    • Nope

      I agree with everything you just said. Marriage isn’t the safety zone for sex, and doesn’t eliminate irresponsible sex which is the REAL reason behind unplanned pregnancies, STDs, hurt feelings, etc.

      • Pivyque

        That’s true, but I think she is going based of the idea that both partners in the marriage are faithful and responsible. lol

        • Katrina Anderson

          If only life could be so simple…never having to worry about infidelity, responsibility, sexual satisfaction, and human nature. But I think we call those fairy tales…lol :)

          • Pivyque

            Hmm..I can’t call them fairytales. I’m faithful to my husband and we are responsible (especially when it comes to sex). We don’t want to make any babies. Granted, i’m not with him all the time so I can’t say for a fact whether or not he has ever stepped out on me, but I believe he hasn’t and I don’t have any indication of it being a possibility.

  • http://www.yourtango.com/users/cheekee-baby cheekee baby

    I like this article. Any woman who has herself convinced that long-term she can be happy with a Friends with Benefit situation is a fool. If you do it long enough with a man you WILL develop feelings. So that leaves you with the choice to keep hopping from man to man, juggling multiple men at once, fooling yourself that you are happy and even want the crumbs he is giving you while he is searching for the woman of his dreams.

  • lynn

    Love this article!

  • channon

    You completely understand how I feel and what I’m currently going through. at least I know I am not the only one.

  • pickneychile

    I think it gets a bad rap from people who have no idea what they are talking about. Lol, I abstained until I was married and had people feeding me the same foolishness. It’s amazing! Granted I don’t have anything to compare it to but I can say the stories I hear from my unmarried friends are less than desirable. And they are often filled with a lot of unknowns..”does he really care about me? Is he using me for sex? Are there other women involved? Has he really been tested? Who is he texting all the time when I’m laying next to him? Am I pregnant?” Just too much for me to deal with and I’m thankful I never had to.

No thanks