Courtship is not the Answer: My Courtship Story: Part 8

This post is the conclusion of a series. To start at the beginning, click here. You will see many links throughout this post. I encourage you to check them out since they are very informative on the definition of Courtship as well as some of the outcomes of this mindset.

Looking back, I like many things about our story. I love that we were very honest about our needs and desires as we understood them at the time. I can imagine it would be more difficult to fall in love with someone and then find out afterwards they don’t want children and you do. I can see the benefits of being straightforward and asking the tough questions right away.

On the other hand, there were things that we could not talk about as well. Religious questions weren’t really that relevant, because we were so enmeshed in our families, we hardly had any beliefs that were truly ours, they were all dictated by our families. There are other tough issues that cannot come up when you have intense levels of parental control. Whatever is not safe to talk about in your family of origin, does not feel safe to bring up in the new relationship either.

I think that seeing our relationship as marriage focused was healthy. We weren’t dating just to date, we were discovering each other and searching each other to see if we could see ourselves together.(However I do feel that the marriage focus was taken to an extreme.) I also think that waiting to get involved in relationships until being old enough to start considering marriage makes sense.

I think that spending time together as families is a great idea. You have the opportunity to observe the persons interactions with their own family members and as well as yours. It helps you to learn how to interact with other people as a couple.

Respect for our bodies and sexuality was a good thing. I think it is healthy to have good boundaries in a relationship. Good communication about expectations and mutual respect for each other is pivotal.

The problem is, all of those things could have been implemented by my husband and I as adults in our own relationship. We could have (probably would have) been serious about marriage, boundaries and family relationships and involvement, without the parental control that the idea of Courtship is founded on.
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Actually I can’t think of a single benefit from the parental control and pressure we had throughout our relationship. Even after we were married, it took several years for us to truly “leave and cleave”. We had never been allowed to be our own persons, and old habits died very hard. We would consult our parents and make decisions (trivial or important) based on what they told us. Eventually we progressed to where we would make our own decisions and fret about how to tell our parents what we had decided. It took four years to get to the point that we made decisions and didn’t bother to tell them at all! We were both nearly twenty years old when we started our Courtship, and every decision was taken out of our hands as though we were fourteen year olds. I can only be grateful that my parents were not as extreme as some in the same mindset, such as this girl who was betrothed against her will and ran away from home to escape. Read her story in this order. ONE, TWO, THREE, and FOUR.)

My parents had a long set of rules we were expected to keep during our courtship. Looking back, it strikes me as pretty creepy. My parents were obsessed with controlling a fully grown child’s sex life. I was expected to ask them permission to do anything, and abide by their decision. It was none of their business what my boyfriend/fiancé and I were doing or not doing. The job of a parent entails teaching their children to respect their bodies and even passing on their religious beliefs if they wish too, NOT being the sexual purity police in another adult’s relationship. In the end, every boundary I had wanted, stayed in place. My fiancé and I respected the boundaries that each of us had set in place through evaluating our own values and convictions at the time. My parents rules simply did not stick. I was on my way out of their house and their control, and I had no incentive to follow their dictations any longer. (Other than attempting to keep them happy until the wedding day so that we could get married without having to elope.) I had broken out of the mind control enough to realize I would rather get married to my fiancé than live at home, and we did everything in our power to get that to happen smoothly. Other couples were not so lucky. (Be sure to read his whole series explaining his story of how his fiance was ordered not to marry him in this order, parts ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR and hopefully part FIVE coming soon.)

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There was so much emphasis on avoiding sin, and a major burden to get married quickly to “stay pure”. If you stayed in a relationship for a long period of time, it was assumed that you would fall into temptation and end up sleeping together before marriage, and then your marriage would be doomed to fail, or even worse you could end up not getting married to that person and then you would have sexual baggage and be considered “damaged goods”. If you did slip up and have sex before marriage, you pretty much had to get married if you wanted to “make the sin right”. I would rather have my children take as much time as they need to be sure of their choice, (even if that means they fall into temptation) than to rush things and get married prematurely to avoid premarital sex. Having sex outside of marriage may cause damage, but getting married to a person you do not love, or turns out to be abusive is a far more permanent mistake that is very difficult to remedy.

Aside from rushing to get married in the interest of “staying pure”, there was also major pressure for the courtship to be “successful”. Any time spent with the opposite sex was seen as risky. I was not allowed to hang out with a group of young people without my parents present. Group dates were off limits, any sort of one-on-one dating was practically as bad as having sex. Everyone “knew” that the minute 2 young people were left to their own devices (somehow regardless of how well they knew each other) they would be engaging in inappropriate sexual activity. The risk of flirting, touching, or kissing someone who was not going to end up being your spouse was too high to allow young people to be around each other. Pretty much any interaction between two people of the opposite sex was supposed to be reserved for marriage. The whole idea is pretty dysfunctional, because in the real world you really have to be able to interact with either sex on a regular basis. This type of gender separation leads to social disability as well as sexual issues in marriage. To this day I am instinctively suspicious of men and still find myself occasionally falling into old habits like avoiding eye contact with males, or obsessing over my neckline or how my hips are moving as I walk. It can take women (and men)a long time to get over the sexual messages too. It took several years for both my husband and I to loosen up and really communicate in the bedroom, body image and shame as well as messages about the roles each spouse is supposed to play in a “Christian” marriage, are terrible barriers to true intimacy and partnership. (Read Darcy’s excellent series on “How the Teachings of Emotional Purity and Courtship Damage Healthy Relationships”, Part ONE, TWO, and THREE.)

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Parents want to protect their children from harm. Many parents are drawn to ideas like Courtship because they want to give their children the best, and they remember their own mistakes. The problem is, there is no way to control the choices of a grown child. Yes, you can teach them to respect themselves and others, you can explain your beliefs about marriage and sex, you can encourage them to wait on relationships until they are old enough to consider marriage. But in the end, their actions are up to them. I believe that parental control of adult children always goes badly. There is no way a parent can completely know the desires and priorities of their adult child. Will your child make less than wise choices over their lifetime? Yes. As a child and as an adult they will probably make choices you don’t agree with. That is not your fault. It is not your responsibility to keep your child from living.

Pascal_Dagnan-Bouveret_-_Blessing_of_the_Young_Couple_Before_Marriage

As for my husband and I? It’s kind of like we were betrothed in the old world. Even though we love each other and consider ourselves blessed and fortunate, now that we have immigrated into the new world we wouldn’t want to put our kids through that process. We trust that our children will be ready to make their own decisions as adults when it comes to picking a mate. When I was talking to a counsellor recently, she had only heard a fraction of my story and she was amazed that I was still married and claimed to love my husband. My husband and I somehow fell in love very quickly, and we clung to each other through all of the craziness and change of our lives together. The fact that we were both around the same age, have much of the same background, and both became disillusioned with our pasts at around the same time, and were not afraid to talk about the issues and get help, have played a large part in the “success” of our marriage so far, and our marriage is still a work in progress. The reasons my husband and I are still together, are largely grounded in our own values and priorities. They have nothing to do with how our marriage was arranged and controlled by our parents.

Courtship is not the answer. Even a perfectly planned, controlled and executed courtship will not protect your child from marriage conflict, or even a bad marriage.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03792937108732259684 priest’s wife

    I see where you are coming from…and this was/is your life…but it is so hard to say that certain things in the present would be the same in the past were different. Although I didn't go through your patriarchal past, my one and only boyfriend had to jump through a lot of hoops to get my parents' approval and I probably would have been disowned (maybe) if I had been sexually active before marriage. Would I have remained a virgin if my parents hadn't been so strict? I hope so- but it is impossible to say.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12551344590306491778 HisRuthie

    Thank you so much!! I wholeheartedly agree with everything you've written here! Thank you, thank you thank you for speaking out fearlessly about this innocent looking snare! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Priest's wife- The point of this post was not to argue that everything would look the same if my parents hadn't controlled my relationship. Given what my parents taught me, I think that I would have made many good choices, but would I have remained a virgin until my wedding night without their control? Of course I can't be sure. I have no problem with parents teaching their children to have high standards for a mate, restricting dating for young teens, encouraging children to bring home dates and be actively involved as parents with their children throughout their lives. But when it comes to parents controlling and pressuring adult children in relationships, and obsessing about what they are or are not "allowed" to do physically or emotionally, that is going way too far in my opinion. And I do not see how it is healthy or beneficial. Many of the posts I linked explain this in more detail than I can in just one post. Be sure to read the one linked as "Courtship is not the Answer" it's written by a conservative Catholic.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08135229596877003069 Michelle

    Thanks for this. I have to admit, when I think of my own experience, the courtship idea sounds so good. But the things you have pointed out are definitely good arguments against the approach.

    I'm so sad by this culture you speak of and the greater culture-at-large. It's interesting. I have a very poor opinion of the culture-at-large where anything goes sexually and where we say to kids, "Well, since you won't be able to keep your hands off each other, let's show you how to use a condom and let's give you free birth control pills" Yet, even though the end result is a bit different by what you describe … in that parents control every outing and every gathering with friends of their young adults … the approach is still the same, "You can't keep your hands off each other…" I am a big proponent of communication and high expectations. I believe that people often live up to what you expect of them. No, not always…but for the most part. And I think this is especially true of children (young teens and even young adults). If children know you expect that they CAN control themselves and you've instilled a love of self with those children…they often will live up to that expectation that they WILL respect themselves and each other and WILL keep their hands off each other.

    That got longer than I meant. I hope to have time to go back and read the stories you linked. My oldest is nearing 10…and it seems like I still have some time to put off worrying too much about this…but I know age 16 will be here before I know it. :)

  • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

    Thanks for sharing. As someone who was married twice and had two children before he was twenty, it's like a window into an almost alien perspective. But I appreciate such windows.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Michelle- “The approach is still the same, "You can't keep your hands off each other…" YES! Exactly! The obsession with sex is exactly the same as the “culture at large”. There is no education or expectation, and no respect for the adult child’s ability to make good choices. Just an expectation that the child you’ve raised is incapable of doing pretty much anything on their own. It shows an incredible fear of letting go, is the child ever “mature” enough to be a grown up? It also shapes the adult child’s life around decisions that the parent MADE (not influenced) FOR them, which can lead to resentment down the road. I agree completely with your assessment of giving your children a love of self and communication and high expectations.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03792937108732259684 priest’s wife

    young mom- you are so right- it's so hard to be balanced as a parent…my oldest is almost 12- sometimes it feels so arbitrary to me- like I protect her from Hannah Montana, but let her buy silly bands…hopefully she will see my intentions are good

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Scott- Everyone's story is so different! Just sharing mine.

    Priest's wife- It is hard. I am sure I will make my own mistakes as a parent. I just no longer believe that there is an idealistic utopian perfectionistic way to prevent all harm to your children, so I guess that's what I am hoping to debunk when I say that Courtship is not the Answer.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03792937108732259684 priest’s wife

    young mom- you don't have to publish this- but it might be interesting to write about frigidity in women who did nothing physical with their future husbands. I know that sexual dysfunction is always a possibility- but I was actually happy to have kissed him enough that I could say that I suspected that we would be compatible- does that make any sense? not that there isn't a 'learning curve' for people who are trying to be chaste- it just seems really next to impossible to not touch at all and then to start making babies right away

  • SarahZ

    Great Series! Marc and I have been enjoying reading it together, and you did an excellent job of telling your story.

  • Alice

    YoungMom, I've been reading your blog because it resonates with me as I deal with the scars from my own RadTrad (Radical Traditional) Catholic upbringing. After reading your courtship story, I am astounded that you and your husband are still married and seem to be happy. Out of curiosity, how does your husband counsel young couples who are preparing for marriage? When my husband and I got married, we found our year of counseling with the priest using the FOCCUS assessment extremely helpful. One priest was really concerned that we weren't marrying freely, although I think he was less concerned after he realized that I had graduated from college a couple weeks before and had a few interviews coming up.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17046924507335607146 Amy

    I loved this, Young Mom! I am still being unraveled myself, and hadn't even begun to dive into my whole crazy and skewed view on courtship versus dating. It's insane how sex obsessed the whole thing is, isn't it? I am going to do things very differently with my kids… still figuring all that out still, but your thoughts were so insightful. Really got me thinking on my whole single life, and how off balance it was. Even picking a person in that whole courtship arena when I was a Christian single, was maddening! To find that ONE person… the find the perfect will of God… ugh.

    Thankyou for your thoughts! I have been reading for awhile, and hadn't had a chance to stop by yet!

    Hugs.. Amy

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Priest’s wife- That could be a very interesting post, I’d be curious to hear other women’s experiences as well. I agree that it is pretty unnatural to go from no touching to making babies right away.

    Sarah- Thanks! That’s cool to hear from someone who saw our story first hand. : )

    Alice- I think any real pre-marital counselling would have flagged our parental control issues. My husband usually does a few sessions with the couple (including family backgrounds and patterns, relational issues and conflict resolution) as well as recommending them to a professional counsellor for a full session series of premarital counselling.

    Amy- It just kind of came up by itself in recent months. Whenever I can’t stop thinking about something, I usually end up writing about it! : ) The sex obsession was very skewed, and really impacts your understanding of sex and relationships. We will definitely be taking a different approach with our children as well.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13783085707283000645 Maria

    Thank you for telling your story. <3

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10874287551169058051 Loralee

    Just to give you encouragement that you're doing the right thing with your children, YM. :)

    Neither my husband's parents nor mine ever pushed for courtship or gave us birth control whether we were single or dating.

    Amazingly, my husband and I didn't make love until we were married. ;)

  • Excellent!!!

    You have quite an amazing story. I hope the writing and sharing brings you healing.

    I think it is unfortunately that "courting" is getting so much attention with the help of reality shows like "the Duggars". It is clear that no child in that family can make independent decisions and they had better believe everything their parents do. The faith is not their own. They put on such a peachy christian presence but the reality is Jim-Bob and Michelle can not care for all of their children without the help of the older girls. That is morally wrong to me (to have your children raise your children…tangent I know)

    My sense from being around alot of Catholic and christian fundamentalists is that the parents are trying to protect their kids from making mistakes and in the process they take away all their choices. There are going to be lots of these kids who will be seeking psychological help in adulthood when they finally escape. (I doubt that any of the Duggar's will ever escape–they could not possible with the national coverage and the over identification they have with their family which only begins with the JJJJJJJJJJ names and is so deeply entrenched.

    I have heard parents tell the the nonsense about not kissing before marriage. Ok they did not do it thmeselves but they are telling their kids they are sinful (if they do kiss before marrriage) yikes!!!

    The other day my husband and I talked to my kids and told them that when they are adults they are responsible for their own decisions. We are raising them Catholic but told them they need to make a choice as an adult. We always share with them the depth and meaning we find in the Church but we also share the limitations, problems and our own struggles (as appropriate). I do not believe in scaring then into the church by telling them they will go to hell if they leave.
    I see some major indoctrination going on around me and I'm concerned these kids will find a hard time having a healthy faith.

    I know I strayed from the topic. YOu did an excellent job of summing up your experience with courtship. I pray for you only the best on your journey.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Loralee- Thank you so much!

    Excellent- Thank you. Writing is very healing for me. I’ve written about the “children raising children” aspect before under the label of “Quiverfull”. And I agree with you. It is so hard to break free and find healthy faith after experiencing such control and toxicity.

  • http://nowealthbutlife.com Rae

    "I would rather have my children take as much time as they need to be sure of their choice, (even if that means they fall into temptation) than to rush things and get married prematurely to avoid premarital sex. Having sex outside of marriage may cause damage, but getting married to a person you do not love, or turns out to be abusive is a far more permanent mistake that is very difficult to remedy." Yes. A hundred times yes!

    Thankfully Josh and I had both read the Kathleen van Schaijik article that you link to and basically subscribed to most of her ideas prior to meeting each other. I regret the fact that I was so very stressed about so many things in our dating relationship (like being overly focused on marriage), but I can say that completely rejecting my parents supposed standards and embracing freedom was only good.

    Based on my experience I think that you are right that all of the good of your relationship could have been preserved without the bad. Also, let's be real, not all kids have your and your husband's personality: many rebel from this sort of upbringing and get into a whole 'nother level of sexual trouble!

    Anyway, I'm incredibly glad that you wrote and posted this.

  • Alice

    Rereading my comment, I realized that it was not clear that my husband and I did not "court." We dated, with very little parental involvement, and we refused to ask my father's permission for marriage. We kissed from the time we started dating and our confessors and spiritual advisers did not disapprove. We were still virgins on our wedding day, so we know it's possible to date chastely. I hope our children choose to date chastely and I hope that they trust my husband and me enough to ask for our advice. I have no such relationship with my parents, but my husband does with his and it seems really nice.

  • http://www.thegreenlife05.blogspot.com stephanie

    Hi,

    I was jut wondering if your parents still believe courting was the best option. Did they learn from the experience, and do things differently for your younger siblings?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    stephanie- I think that my mom has her reservations about it, but I'm pretty sure my Dad still thinks it is the best option. So far none of my sisters have. 3 of them are adults so far, and all 3 have dated, 1 is married.

  • Rebecca in CA

    Wow. Totally fascinating. Young mom, I read the links to the story of the girl who was forced into a betrothal…but in the last one all she's talking about is the neighbor's light on…what am I missing? Does she write any more? I really want to know how it turned out. I'm just amazed that stuff like that goes on.

    I come from a background of parents who were very loving, and had high expectations but gave reasons for them, and helped us to make them our own expectations of ourselves. The older we grew, the less "rules" there were. As a teen, there was never a curfew, and there weren't punishments. They expected that if we were going somewhere, we'd let them know when we'd be back. We felt good about talking to them about any concerns we had, and our friends all loved hanging around at our house because they felt much easier talking to our parents than our own. Some of my friends were into drugs, a few became sexually active; my brother and I remained virgins and drug-free and confident about that. Not that this was a guarantee, but I think the openness and trust, and the real friendship my parents had with us, was a huge benefit. It seems like kids often feel a need for that unconditional love from *someone* and end up being in sexual relationships because of it, and the major parental control can sometimes be a self-fulfilling prophecy that way.

    Anyway I'm so glad you have a happy ending to your story despite what you had to endure, and that you retained the self-awareness to be able to separate yourself from that unhealthy dynamic. God bless you as you continue to heal.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02787330666573626420 Tawny

    This has been such an interesting series…thank you for your story! It's weird the contrast between your's and mine. My husband and I did everything "wrong" before getting married. We had sex before we got married (even though we are Catholic and intended to wait…what can I say? We tend to be a bit too spontaneous for our own good), had a baby before we got married, conducted most of our relationship thousands of miles away from our parents, and yet we are really happy and compatible, and in love :)

    Initially I thought we would some how be cursed in our marriage because we had pre-marital sex, and although there have been some things we've had to work though, in some ways I feel we are better for having delt with so much before we got married (not really recommending it, we got lucky that things worked out so well).

    I still believe it's better to wait for sex until marriage, but I don't think that sex in a dating relationship is the ultimate test. I just mean that a lot of my family seem to think that if a couple is having sex (or are being "impure" in other ways) then it's a bad/doomed relationship, and that if they are not having sex it is automatically a good/godly relationship. I just don't think it's this cut and dry. Each couple has their own struggles and things to work through.

    It's crazy how things between two people who really want to be together can work out, even under crazy circumstances!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Rebecca in CA- Sorry I couldn't link the whole thing. If you Click Here, you'll see the link for the entire 3 pages of posts that she wrote, starting with parts #1 and #2. It is 20 something parts, so I just linked the ones directly related to her betrothal.

    Tawny- Thanks for sharing. I completely agree! Sex in a relationship is not the ulimate test, and it is definetly not that cut and dry. Everyone will have challenges, and it is up to them to work them out. We had a lot to deal with after we got married, we'd only been together 2 1/2 months at that point, so we really barely knew each other. Being "pure" or "impure" doesn't garuntee anything.

  • talking with family?

    Young mom,

    How close are you to your family now and how honest can you be about what you are going through and you perpective on your childhood? Can you talk with your siblings or either parent about these things you write about?

  • Katie

    Young Mom, I have followed your courtship series with great interest. The terminology of "courtship" vs. "dating" is fascinating to me. My husband and I would say were were "dating" during our relationship, but others would call it our "courtship" because we weren't going on "dates" all the time (mainly due to having no car and little money during college) and because we didn't kiss. This wasn't forced on us in any way – we had both kissed others in past relationships and taken things a little further physically than we had wanted to, so we each came to the same conclusion before we even met each other, that we would want to save that first kiss until the altar. I wouldn't recommend it universally, but it bore great fruit for us! Oh, and we dated for 3 years before we got engaged and 4 years before we married. I was shocked to read that your father didn't think you and your husband would be able to make a several hour drive immediately after the reception before the wedding night. Maybe my perspective is due to the fact that my husband and I had a several year relationship – what would a few more hours be? One of my favorite parts of my husband's and my story is the fact that we really got to know each other before we even started dating. There was such a foundation of friendship there and we got to know each other in a group setting first. Some of the things that drew me to him were the way he treated others. I would want my children to be able to get to know members of the opposite sex outside of the pressure of dating or courtship as well. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Talking- I live a distance away from family, so I interact mostly through phone and email. I try to be as honest as I can when the different issues come up, (some I have written about here, and some I have not)and so far it has mixed results. My Dad does not engage, my Mom contradicts me and tells me I remember wrong and that since some things have “changed” the past doesn’t count. Siblings reactions are mixed, I have 2 sisters who are sympathetic and actually have the link for my blog, my other adult sister is in extreme denial, and the rest of my siblings are still underage and living at home, so we don’t speak in depth that much. I talk a bit about it here.

    Katie- I think that knowing someone for a time before beginning a relationship is very helpful. I hope to give my kids that opportunity to know and experience many people, especially in group settings. My Dad thinking that we would not be able to make it 3 hours after our wedding is tied to the extreme view of sex within this mentality, in reality a couple more hours really is nothing. All of the parental control that courtship stands for, is to prevent the 2 young people courting from “sexual impurity”. They really seem to think that there is no way to control your sex drive, and further imagine that they as third party control figures CAN somehow control their children’s actions.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02614822971755761394 Rebecca

    This is such riveting stuff. I continue to stand in awe of God's grace that He delivered you out of the domination, brought you into a good marriage where you and your husband are equals and gave you one mind about the wrong stuff in the upbringing. Thank you so much for sharing your story and insights. It is all so well thought out.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08182764259794123398 dasunrisin

    This is a great story. Thank you for sharing!

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous said…
    Thanks so much for this series and for your prespective on the religious aspects of courtship, marriage and sex in general.

    I read a lot of stories of 'pure courtship' and commented a couple of times on the prevous post. As a couple who do not come from religious background but who now try very hard to follow Catholic teaching in our marriage. We are both very much attracted to quite a fundimentalist interpritation, partly I think because (I in particular) regret having been sexually active before marriage and I wish that my own background had been more restrictive as I believe it might have saved me from myself.

    But I do see from reading your story just how difficult, traumatic and harmful, such a background can be.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15377583333000789903 Mrs. Anna T

    My husband and I met through an internet site for Orthodox Jewish singles and were married within 4 months. We never held hands before we were married, let alone anything else, despite the deep attraction (I could really identify with your descriptions of sitting as close together as possible, etc).

    The main difference from your story was (for better or for worse) the lack of parental involvement. We popped up for a family get-together to tell we are engaged, and did all the wedding planning alone. No one controlled what we did together, we weren't bound to anyone's subjective arbitrary rules, but only to the guidance of the Jewish Law. I was 22 and he was 27.

    We didn't get engaged after 2 weeks, though. Nope, for us it was a whopping month. :o)

    All I can say is, you are very, very lucky to end up with someone you could love.

  • Anonymous

    I don't. come from a religious background and I'm not sure I really understand the full implications Of courtship as you describe it.

    But I am enernally greatful that more by luck than judgement I was still a virgin when I met my husband. His is a Catholic and we went on to have a very chaste engagement (we did kiss but no more).

    I wouldn't force my daughter (or my sons) to wait but I would advise them to and help if I could. What's your view ?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Like I said in this post, share with your children what was helpful or encouraging for you and why you felt it was that way. Regardless of how anyone tells you that you can "help" them stay virgins, in the end it really is up to them.

  • Anonymous

    as someone who had premarital sex and is very happy to have done so (to the extent that i would encourage my children not to marry without have a sexual relationship first), i read your story with great interest.

    i think your conclusions are dead on, and appropriate for parents of many different values – communication, and encouraging your kids to understand your values but also to know who they are.

    i hope my kids will wait until they are adults to have sex, and will be confident and mature enough to say no to any form of sexual contact that makes them uncomfortable, so i see a lot of parallels with the fear of hypersexualised culture and media some commenters above have identified. i'm very much in favour of comprehensive sex ed, but think that too often it sticks to biology, when it should talk about issues like relationships, emotional well being and consent.

  • Anonymous

    I'm another who had premarital sex and was happy to have done so. I would hate for my first time to have been with the man who became my husband, because we were able to get a lot of that awkwardness out of the way before we met. And sexual incompatibility is a real thing. How awful to find out only after you're married that your spouse is into X, but you're into Y. It can be just as devastating as finding out your spouse doesn't want children but you do.

    I'm glad there was a happy ending to this story. I hope you two have many happy decades together.

  • http://trans-spirit.com Chelsea Rose Wendt

    I'm thinking of a short talk I had with my Dad after my first year at college. He asked if I'd had sex. I hadn't, but was so utterly ashamed of that fact that I lied and told him I had. He was disappointed, and over the years I've wished I'd had the courage to tell him I hadn't; but the truth is that neither his approval nor his disapproval meant or means anything to me – only his love. Whatever he did before marriage I'll never really know, and maybe it worked for him and Mom, or maybe it didn't – but I love them. Nobody has anybody else's answer, and we don't really even have our own answers. Science is really cool, and can be very powerful, but life is not a science experiment, there's no repeatability whatsoever. I had about 5 lovers before I met my spouse, and we've been together for 26 years. We've been through a lot, including my transition, and raising 4 kids, and we love each other in a good way; a way that is ours. We lived together for 3 years, she wanted to marry but I didn't see the point. When I did marry her it was beautiful, and I could never regret it for long. But that's because we got married as an expression of, and a support for, our love; not because it was some program that was supposed to be "right." There's just telling our story and trying to be as close to honest as we can get. And that's what I like about your site: your level of honesty is high, and you tell a good story. Thanks.

  • jen

    wow, reading your blog made me think a lot. You sure grew up in such a different lifestyle, then I can ever imagine. I'm not even sure what to type, except that I admire the honesty of your writing, and it sounds like you are making a great life for yourself! :)

  • Chxlive

    Hi, Young Mom. Really enjoyed your story! Since you are now attempting to consider a different path from the only one you know, I'd like to offer a couple of ideas. The fact that you weren't even allowed to *walk* normally shows that you were never expected to be comfortable in your own skin. That's really sad. My dad always exhorted us to stand up straight and hold our shoulders back – to this day (I'm 52) I'm self conscious about my body and feel uncomfortably aware of how I'm standing/walking. The fact that your entire community was obsessed with your genitalia and what you were or weren't doing with them is entirely creepy. There is no respect there. That's none of THEIR business!! I have 2 children, and I homeschooled them. In CA, there are a lot of homeschooling charters that make it easy – they give you curriculum, offer classes and fieldtrips you can participate in if you like – so the issue of social isolation is minimized. I was also raised in a restrictive Christian environment where I was expected to do as I was told, and it was quite damaging for me. So I decided to do things differently! I decided to regard and respect my children as full-fledged persons, and so I let them "drive", so to speak, and took on the role of making it happen. I ask them what THEY want to do – where they want to visit, what they want to learn about, what they want to wear, what and how much to eat – and then I make it happen (because I'm the adult and they're just kids). I support THEIR choices instead of demanding they acquiesce to mine. It's turned out *great*! My son decided to go to a small high school, and he finished his freshman year with 2 As and the rest Bs. He was on the golf team and did football spring training. Note that this choice included riding the train both ways – I could have driven him but he wanted to ride the train. A lot of his fellow students ride the train, so he's now got train friends, and class friends, and sports friends. My daughter finished 7th grade with all As (including 1 A+!) through the homeschooling charter. They're both popular and confident. And they're kind – I've been sick for a week, and they both took it upon themselves to do dishes, cook, and clean. I never required chores, either. I made sure the kids knew how to clean, and then left them to THEIR job – growing up and learning. Their job is not to do my housework for me. Too many people have this preconception that kids are nasty little brutish things that must be strictly supervised and ordered about, or they'll grow up to be nasty BIG brutish things. This isn't true – children are good and they want to please us. By treating them with kindness, approval, and confidence that they can make good choices, they grow up kind, self confident, and able to make good choices. You noted the problem of separating from your parents – it's true that at 19 (or marriage, in your case), a switch does not flip that turns a child into a capable adult. Kids need opportunities to practice adult behaviors such as making choices for themselves. Restricted from this, they enter adulthood crippled and are MORE likely to make bad choices in attempting to figure out how to negotiate the adult world. I let my children make FAR more choices than any other family I know, and my kids have turned out wonderfully. BTW, respecting your children as persons means not hitting them. I trust you do not spank your friends – do you?? Violence does not create positive effects. Trust your kids. Set a good example. Encourage, encourage, encourage. And the rest will work out on its own! Thanks again for sharing your experience!

  • Chxlive

    I feel this exaltation of virginity is damaging. It's basically saying that, if you have sex, you are worth less as a human being. Unless you're married, in which case it doesn't affect your worth as a human being. Or does it? How do people successfully transition from "sex is bad and damaging" to "sex is (at least) acceptable"?
    The biggest factor in a marriage ending in divorce is that the couple married young. Teen marriages are most likely to divorce; marriages where the couple is at least in their late 20 are most likely to endure for life. What is our priority as parents? To set our kids up for lasting marriage, or to save ourselves the ick factor of imagining them having sex?
    I will encourage my children to finish their college degrees before marrying, so that, when they have children, they will be best set up to provide for them. And I am completely *fine* with them having premarital sex – this appears to have no measurable effect on a marriage's durability.
    I was divorced when I met my dear husband – he was 8.25 years younger than me, and I was 31. One of the best things about being a divorcee was not having to pretend to be a virgin any more. We were engaged within 3 months and married in less than a year from when we first met (and we didn't start dating right away). This year we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.
    It's none of my business what my children do with their bodies, and it's screamingly inappropriate for me to dictate how they are to manage their own lives. To tell a child what s/he should do with his/her genitals is invasive, disrespectful, and presumptuous. Maybe your kids don't want to turn out like YOU did – is that a cardinal sin? It also sends a bad message, especially to girls, that the condition of their genitals defines them above and beyond any other personal characteristics.
    What of a girl who is raped? She will go to her wedding a non-virgin – should she feel bad about herself for something beyond her control? How in such a 'virginity first and foremost' environment can she ever feel comfortable and confident about herself as a woman or as a future bride? If virginity is promoted as the ideal, how can she believe that a good man will ever want her, given that she no longer has "that" to "give" him (eww, more creepy)?
    A few years ago I read of plastic surgeons who are re-stitching middle-aged married women's hymens so that they can be "virgin" for their husbands again. This seems a natural development, given the idealization of virginity.
    Why should we accept such obviously misogynist standards and the dictates of religious groups that have shown that they are out of touch with reality? Being a virgin until the wedding has no objective value; it simply communicates the fear/disdain/contempt of physical contact and physical love, and may well poison the couple's ability to have a healthy sex life. And what if a virgin bride is later abandoned and divorced? How is she to imagine her prospects of remarrying, when she believes men prize virginity above all else?
    People need to keep their minds *out* of others' undergarments. There are far healthier things to be thinking about. Don't twist your children's minds if you can possibly help it.

  • Chxlive

    My Christian father did the same thing with me, and though we were very close, I still thought it was totally *CREEPY*!!!

  • April

    Really great series. Thanks for speaking out.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11663755505294701819 Sentra d’Winter

    I was at the edge of my seat reading this – horribly terrified for how it might turn out for you… I don't have the background to really identity with growing up so isolated and with such a lack of control. But your writing was so vivid and powerful, and you drew me in so strongly that i felt like i was living it though you.

    You truly have a dynamic writing style, and have been bless with such a talent!

    I'm so relieved to read that you and 'Hunk' did come to a place where you both where at ease, and you made it work for you. Thank you for sharing this with the world.

  • Maddi

    Kudos to you and your husband sticking together, even as you both changed and created new values and beliefs differing from the ones you grew up with. That’s true love. Very interesting read.

  • Leoal Nelson

    Such a different situation than me. My husband and I were both brought up non-religious. We met in high school, had sex with each other at the age of 17, moved in together at 19, got married at 25, and will be married 10 years this year. We have two little boys, 7 and 2.5. My sisters both dated at their own discretion, lived with their boyfriends, and got married after living together at least a year. (my sister will be married 8 years this fall, and had her third baby yesterday, my other sister is almost at her second anniversary) My husband’s brother had a similar experience, as did several of our friends. In fact, the only people we know who are divorced are people who “waited” (not all of them though, in fairness)

    I find these kind of stories interesting because they are so alien to my personal experiences. Thanks :)


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