Engaged and struggling…

Engaged and struggling… January 9, 2012
I am a faithful and active member of the LDS church.  In my teens I brushed with a form of textual pornography. I worked through it with my bishop when I was 17 and never went back to it since. I over-corrected myself.
I found the love of my life six months ago. We got engaged last month. And I’ve been more affectionate with him than anyone. We’ve napped together, cuddled horizontally, pushed each other against walls/counters when kissing, kiss with tongue, and sometimes push the boundaries of what I feel are my absolute limits. This morning he placed his hip/upper leg in the exact spot I told him I felt pleasure in (what I feel is my clitoris I think) and I became shocked/stunned with pleasure and I told him it was not a good idea. We have pushed limits before and I defaulted to the Bishop, a result from how I handled sexual feelings before and from the ingrained feelings of knowing I went against the Strength of Youth, and the Bishop told me it was a commandment and something there to protect me.
I shared these feelings with my fiance later today, explaining the intense feelings of guilt and that I’ve been suffering from depression/anxiety. We’re really open with each other and tell each other everything. We’re excited about our compatible libidos and sex drive. We’re excited to try new things (thanks to your site, I was able to see that things besides just the missionary positions are not only ok, but can really help the relationship between husband and wife).
My fiancee works harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. He is the most wonderful person with children and will be such a great father. He cooks well. He has a great testimony that has touched my heart on many occasions. But when the prophets say things like playing cards and dice are evil, PG-13s have the influence of the devil, oral sex is wrong, etc. etc. then it leaves him feeling these words are not doctrine and that the Strength of Youth is not commandment but recommendations. That since we know, love and commit to each other for eternity (even though we’re not married quite yet, not for another four months) that what we’re doing is okay. Good even to help me desensitize and to get over my guilt about sex. I am a sexual person and I do not enjoy the level of guilt. I want to be able to be like him and to be confident that nothing will happen between us. I know nothing should really happen between us, we both love the temple, both want to be there, and feel sorry for those who didn’t make it. My family has even given us a hard time about a long engagement, but our schedules only work out for five months from now.
My question is… am I still too unnecessarily conservative? Is the Strength of Youth just a recommendation? Is this pattern of guilt going to continue in my marriage? How do I stop it? How do I embrace my sexuality without jeopardizing our chance at the temple?  I’ve always been told if it feels wrong, then it probably is, but I don’t trust my feelings because half the time I feel great about it, the other half like I’m this monster. Depression and anxiety haven’t helped me with this problem. But I’ve taken care of those illnesses, I’m just at a point where I want to enjoy my relationship with my beloved fiance. I can see that it frustrates him that I’m always judging myself. He has this conversation with me every time we try something different and I’m not sure if its a sin or not and have intense feelings of guilt (which are lessening the more I try and understand these feelings of closeness with him and our relationship). I wish I knew I can still go to the temple even when we cuddle too closely, as long as we don’t pet (touch each other inappropriately with our hands), we don’t take our clothes off (we always kept them on, I’m still a very modest person), we don’t penetrate anywhere at all (not orally, anally or vagina/penis), and besides today we haven’t been out of hand with arousal. We’ve always kept our heads.  
Can I still have a temple marriage even when he aroused me like he did? Should we talk to the Bishop? Will the Bishop make things worse?  I want to be with the love of my life who accepts all of me for me, and I accept all of him for him.  I think I have sexual dreams, I don’t remember them but I wake up feeling aroused. Is this normal? Am I ok to have such a strong sex drive? I’ve never masturbated, just brushed with textual pornography once because of curiosity (like looking up sexual positions, etc. when I was a teen). 
But my biggest feeling I get is… am I ok? Does the Lord still love me? Will I get through this? Will I lose my fiance if I don’t know how to handle these feelings of guilt? Is my fiance normal? I love him so much. He loves me so much. What are we to do to make it through in one piece and preserve our love for one another and keep working hard together like we have been?

First of all, congratulations on your upcoming marriage!  What a wonderful time in your life.
There is a lot to cover in your comments so I’ll try and hit on the main points that stand out to me:

  • Anxiety – Anxiety – Anxiety:  Way too much of it.  It raises some red flags for me regarding the possibility of your falling in the spectrum of obsessive compulsive disorder.  More specifically scrupulosity: obsessions and compulsions within religious themes.  You mention having been treated for both depression and anxiety before – both these disorders will enhance feelings of guilt and doubt of self worth.  I would recommend further psychological evaluation and treatment to help assess whether or not anxiety is playing too large a role in your life.  
  • Along this same line, you seem to be very hard on yourself.  For example, you report having viewed “textual pornography” when it seems to me all you did was look up some definitions of sexual positions and/or language out of normal teen curiosity.  This is not something I would put in the “pornography” department. 
  • Arousal in of itself is not a sin.  Arousal is a normal biological response that physiologically and psychologically healthy humans experience under a variety of circumstances.  For example in dreams, when encountering an attractive person, when kissing, when viewing erotic material, etc.  How we behave when aroused is what has the potential to be moral and healthy or sinful.  From what you report of your sexual exploration, it does not sound to me like you are breaking the law of chastity.  You are staying clothed, you are not touching genitalia and/or breasts, there is no penetration – this sounds pretty chaste to me.  
  • Hallelujah you are able to feel arousal for your future husband!  What a wonderful gift!  Be so grateful for this natural response your body is having.  You will have many years ahead to enjoy these feelings and explorations together.  My main concern would be that this inappropriate guilt regarding arousal will continue once you are married.  If so, it could potentially ruin your ability to give over to the wonderful abandon necessary to enjoy touch, exploration, orgasm, etc.  Inappropriate guilt will be the enemy you can bond together to fight off.   
  • I’m not in the business of telling people they should or should not go to their bishop.  This is a highly personal decision.  You can go talk to your bishop about whatever you want.  I will go as far to say the things you report don’t fall under “confession” material in my opinion.  If getting your bishop’s opinion on the matter would help assuage your guilt then maybe it would be a good idea.  My only concern with clients who have OCD traits is they tend to present things to their bishops in a worse light than the behavior warrants.  Confessing to a bishop can also become part of compulsive behavior.  The best combination I have found for clients with scrupulosity is to have both a professional counselor and a bishop aware of the issues and in contact with one another as to the presenting problems.  
  • Your relationship with God: I’m concerned with the question “Does the Lord still love me?”  Maybe it’s my perspective as a parent – but as a parent I would never want my child to doubt my love for them.  I would never want them looking at me with constant fear of my disapproval.  So my question to you would be:  Is your religion working for you or against you?  What God are you worshiping?  Is He one who edifies you and helps you feel empowered and able to move forward in ways where you progress and find joy – even through your weaknesses and sins?  Or are you worshiping One who leaves you feeling less than, belittled, and/or overwhelmed – never able to meet a set standard?  Where are you in your understanding of the gift of the atonement?  In your understanding of your self worth?  Just saying, but it may be time to convert to the gospel of Jesus Christ. 🙂 
  • The only thing I’m picking up on that isn’t “normal” is the amount of anxiety and self-doubt you are experiencing at a time when you should be basking in the joy of your engagement.  Otherwise, it sounds like you are two “normal” lovebirds preparing for the biggest adventure of your lives. 

I wish you the very best in that journey.  I am encouraged by your desire to be worthy to go to the temple together.  These common goals, values and desires can serve as wonderful foundations to your future relationship.  Use the law of chastity for your benefit – as the Lord intended.

And P.S.  Get a book on female anatomy, get a mirror and find out where your clitoris is.  Its one purpose in life is to give you pleasure.  A perfect anatomical design if you ask me.  Enjoy!  🙂

A note I will include for those who have married in or out of the temple with issues of not having kept the law of chastity as they understood it :  I am concerned when these feelings of guilt, shame, secrecy, etc. stand to destroy the marriage.  These circumstances are covered completely by the atonement. Please be willing to forgive yourselves and your spouse.  Don’t allow mistakes of passion and love (so easy to fall into) to destroy what you both so desperately want, desire and deserve.  The author of this hopelessness is not God.  Please get help to overcome these negative feelings if you are in such a situation.  It is not worth going through a life together with this kind of pain.  It is not what the Lord wants for either of you.   

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