I remember the last time that I had sex. Even though it will be eight years come January, the memories are actually pretty vivid. It was with a man that I loved (and still love—be careful about dating one of your best friends; sometimes it costs you dearly), but not someone I was truly in love with. I did it because, at the time, I felt—believed actually—that when you’re in a relationship, like going on dates and talking on the phone, sex is simply what you do. And, it was because ever since I could remember, sex had been a part of my life.
If you’re paying close attention, you can probably read in between the lines on all of that. But just in case I’m being a bit too vague, I am someone who is a survivor of sexual abuse. Abuse that happened very early into my childhood. So yes, for me, sexual activity was definitely the norm.
Now that’s not to say that once I was at a point where I participated in sexual activity consensually that I didn’t like it. Trust me, some nights I’m still crying over missing some of the intense and immense physical pleasure that I used to have with some of the men from my past. It’s just that back in 2007, as I looked over at the man who I cared for but I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing, I knew that there had to be more.
And so, I committed to myself that I would go on a quest to find out just what that “something” was.
For me, that meant being abstinent in order to accomplish my goal.
Before I share, by no means am I saying that abstinence is a hot fudge sundae equivalent. All I’m saying is that fasting from anything, for a season, even if it’s not as long as my season has turned out to be, is definitely worth it. It can shed a lot of “extra”. One way or another.
So that said, at the age of 40, here are five things that not gettin’ any has taught me and given me:
Abstinence has taught me that I’m more than sexy. OK, that might sound arrogant but here’s the thing: Growing up, that is what I was told often. I have full lips, big hips and eyes that are piercing without intentionally being that way. And in my 30s, I went from a size C cup to a size double-F (I know, right?). So, when you hear “You’re sexy” a lot, you start to think that there’s not much more to you. And while I still hear the s-word, now there are other adjectives that come from men’s mouths: smart, funny, deep. It’s nice to be more than one dimension in people’s minds. Even as they are looking at my full lips, big hips, eyes and double-F cups.
Abstinence has taught me to raise my standards. Look, I have told many folks that if you lined up all of the men I’ve had sex with (14, to be exact), I’m not ashamed of a single one. Not from a physical and intellectual standpoint, anyway. Yet here’s the thing: Most of those guys, I can’t even tell you exactly what they were to me. I can tell you what they were not, though, and that’s a “boyfriend”. In hindsight, that’s OK on some levels. Trust me, once you get to the age I am, even a boyfriend is not all that appealing. Who wants a “boy” anything in their 40s? I’m simply saying that I’ve had enough great sex to know that it should not and is not the foundation to build anything lasting upon. I’ve also been hurt enough to recommend that you get some serious relational clarity before hitting the sheets with a person. I made up a quote one time and it goes like this: “You only find yourself bending over backwards when the bar is low.” Moving forward, if you want my body, you have to commit to the rest of me. Long-term. Non-negotiable. Crazy people do the same thing expecting a different result. Sex without definition tends to make relationships really…messy. And chaotic. And oftentimes regretful. At least for me.
Abstinence has taught me to not make choices while being “high” on orgasms. Some of you might find a bit of irony in the fact that I’m abstinent, never been married and also a marriage life coach. Personally, I am thankful for being able to enter into the “inner sanctum” of so many unions. And you know what I’ve learned? A lot of people got married because the sex was good, but not because the relationship was healthy. I tell people in premarital counseling “I wouldn’t advise two drunks to get married. I don’t advise two people who don’t have much more than good sex between them to get married either.” Sex offers some amazing highs. Oh, but when the orgasm is over…sometimes it’s frightening what you see. About you and the person lying next to you (or lying to you but that’s another article for another time!).
Abstinence has taught me to really listen to what men are saying (like really listen to what they are saying). The late-and-great Maya Angelou once said something that will make this point short and sweet: “When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time.” When a guy says he’s not ready for a relationship, when a guy says he wants to have sex and remain just friends, when a guy says he’s not sure how he feels about you, he means it. If you decide to have sex with him anyway, he’s not a “dog”. That is called “self-victimization”. Been there. Got a couple of T-shirts you can borrow if you want.
Abstinence has taught me I am worth waiting for. The more I go without sex, the more I see just how special my mind, heart and spirit are. And when you know you’re special, you start honoring yourself as such. I pamper me more. I do nice things for myself. I rest in the fact that whomever gets to partake of this whole-and-purged version of Shellie, he is going to get better sex than all of the ones of my past combined. Why? Because I loved both of us enough to wait to be in love—with both of us. And you know what? Investing into oneself always pays off—big time. Even when the investment is abstinence.