Abstinence? 3 and a half years later?!
January 29, 2009 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Abstinence? 3 and a half years later?!

Let me start out by saying that I am currently in a sexually active relationship (sort of). We have been together for over 3 years and everything has been great. Until now, I am almost done with my current deplyment (4 months) and I will be home in a matter of days. My girlfriend just broke it to me that she wants to be abstinent. This all comes mostly due to the fact that she is now involved with young life as a leader. Now while I was gone I did like the idea of her being apart of the group, getting out of the house and being socially active instead of being a hermit crab.

I am feeling many things right now. First off on the self-fish side of things I am kinda upset because I haven't had sex in 4 months and I really want it. Not just the act but the connection, the feeling everything that I have been missing out on. Also she didn't really include me at all or ask how I felt about it all or even ask me if I wanted to be abstinent with her.

On the non selfish side of things I am really worried that I am going to get home and some how accidently "corrupt" her. That I am going to be the reason for her down fall if she gives into lust. I orginally planned on staying with her for a few weeks until I get a new apartment but now I feel like if I am sleeping in or around her that I am going cause sexual tension. This really couldn't come at a worse time for me with coming home and now the life I though I was coming home to has now changed. I guess it could be worse she could have cheated on me or something but what am I supposed to do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (51 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I am feeling many things right now. First off on the self-fish side of things I am kinda upset because I haven't had sex in 4 months and I really want it. Not just the act but the connection, the feeling everything that I have been missing out on. Also she didn't really include me at all or ask how I felt about it all or even ask me if I wanted to be abstant with her.

Get a new girlfriend. Adults make their own sexual choices, and there are literally hundreds of millions of attractive, interesting, and sexually active women. Maybe wait until you can do it face-to-face, but dump her.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:30 PM on January 29, 2009 [16 favorites]

Inspector.Gadget has it. Adults in romantic relationships (A) typically have sex, and (B) don't make major life decisions that impact their partners without talking them over first.

posted by ellF at 6:34 PM on January 29, 2009

DTMFA, and don't shack up with fundies.
posted by kldickson at 6:35 PM on January 29, 2009 [10 favorites]

This is not that far off cheating. You had a relationship. She made a dramatic change in the rules - a unilateral change. But put that aside for now.

Is it at all possible that the real deal is she is just freaking about your deployment and afraid to be close? You might be able to work it out when you come home.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:35 PM on January 29, 2009

Yep. DTMFA. If she wants to stop having sex with you after three years, that's absolutely and unquestionably her choice - but, she has NO right to unilaterally impose that choice on you. (in other words - if she doesn't want to have sex with you, she gives up her say in who does)

Break up with her, be truthful as to why, and move on.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:38 PM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

You can't "corrupt" someone accidentally. It's nobody's "downfall" if they "give in" to lust.
Let me go out on a limb and guess that the leadership your partner is involved in is religious. Right?
You have to find a compromise, together, between the needs of your relationship and the requirements of your religion. If this is impossible, DTMFA or DTMF[religion]A.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:41 PM on January 29, 2009

On the non selfish side of things I am really worried that I am going to get home and some how accidently "corrupt" her. That I am going to be the reason for her down fall if she gives into lust.

The choice to abstain sexually is not necessarily a particularly high-minded or noble one. It's a valid choice, to be sure, but you shouldn't set yourself up as more base and "corrupted" than her just because you've made your own choice that you want to be sexually active.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:43 PM on January 29, 2009 [13 favorites]

I don't mean to be harsh here. But you have to ask honestly yourself (and her, but she may be folling herself too): did she get Jesus, or is that an excuse to mask that she's tired of you?

It sure is a better story to tell yourself that you're all into Jesus and moral uprightness, rather than that while your boyfriend was risking his life for our country, you emotionally moved on. Rather than think of herself as "the bad guy", she may be hoping that her ultimatum makes you the "bad guy" who dumps her, the innocent and Christly victim.

I'm not saying this is the case, but it is a possibility you need to consider.
posted by orthogonality at 6:44 PM on January 29, 2009 [8 favorites]

If you two have been together for three years and you've been sexually active and all of a sudden the woman wants abstinence, it simply doesn't make sense. A decision that involves both of you requires your say as well.
posted by xm at 6:44 PM on January 29, 2009

Hold the phone, everyone.

Adults in romantic relationships (A) typically have sex, and (B) don't make major life decisions that impact their partners without talking them over first.

Some adults don't have sex, even within the context of a relationship, for various reasons. It's a personal decision, and they have the right to make it.

You're right about the life decisions, though -- and yet, here, too, I don't get the sense that the OP's girlfriend's mind HAS been made up yet. She says she WANTS to, and that sounds to me like she's thinking about it and wants to talk about it with HIM when he gets home. Which means...she's talking over a major life decision with him. So....wherefore the "DTMFA" so soon?

Unless she HAS made this a flat-out, "nope, my mind's made up" kind of decision. I still say it's worth a long talk, at least, rather than jumping straight to cutting her loose right NOW.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:44 PM on January 29, 2009 [5 favorites]

It's her body, of course. She can do what she wants and that's her prerogative.

She doesn't owe you sex, but likewise you don't owe her what amounts to a bizarre and fractured relationship, where you're providing companionship and emotional support, but not having your sexuality even recognized.

You're an adult. You know what you want in a relationship and she has just pulled the rug out from under you. In a sense she's physically dumped you, cut you off from an act that makes a relationship complete.

You deserve to be in the kind of relationship that you want, and you have every right to dump her for making such and arbitrary choice that obviously will impact your happiness and possibly even mental health.

Don't be her dupe.
posted by wfrgms at 6:45 PM on January 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

but what am I supposed to do

Before ending the relationship, talk to her. Tell her everything you've mentioned in this post. Ask her about what brought about this change. This may turn into a breaking point in the relationship, but for now, you two need to do some serious talking.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:47 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Maybe this is her way of fishing for a marriage proposal. It's got to be hard on her, with you being gone so much, and she may be wondering if the relationship is really worth it.
posted by amtho at 6:54 PM on January 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

I googled Young Life.

It is indeed a Christian organization.

Since apparently this young lady is getting serious about her faith and realizing that premarital abstinence is part of the practice of that faith, I think that she is making the right choice.

A better choice on her end would have been to break it off entirely with the OP. Since apparently he either a) does not share her faith or b) perhaps agrees with it in abstract but is not following it she should not be dating him period.

By the way, in my younger days I too made the choice to be retroactively abstinent, a position I maintained for over three years until my honeymoon night.

No one has the right to assume sexual access to another human being, period. No one ever died of blue balls, people.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:55 PM on January 29, 2009 [6 favorites]

I thank you for your service, and I think you're going to get a chorus of agreement here. She has the right to be abstinent and doesn't owe sex to anyone, including you. That said, YOU have the right to be in an adult, sexual relationship if that's what you desire, and it's OK to break up with her. That said, if she changes her mind once you're actually together again (and you've ceased to be a high-pressure anticipated guest) please don't think you've "corrupted" her. sex is awesome and important for the reasons you've articulated so well. maybe she's decided it's gross and wrong, but that's her baggage - don't take it on.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:55 PM on January 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

Did she say anything about not wanting have premarital sex? Abstinent, but only until she gets married? It could be her twisted way of forcing you to propose to her: many women believe that if a boyfriend hasn't asked them to marry him after three years, something needs to change. In this case, she has a convenient excuse to make her sound a bit less desperate, but you should ask her outright if she has an ulterior motive. I'm surprised that no-one's mentioned it so far.
posted by halogen at 6:56 PM on January 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

I expect this evangelical group called "Young Life" is the one to which the poster is referring.

Anonymous, you seem conflicted about this. Clearly you should talk to her about it and in the meantime, your plan to stay someplace else at first sounds good. After the time on deployment hopefully you have some money saved up? It shouldn't be hard to find another place to stay for a while. If you're on active duty, you should be able to stay on base. Yeah, it's not necessarily what you'd most want to do, but you're used to the idea that you can't always do what you want.

"Also she didn't really include me at all or ask how I felt about it all or even ask me if I wanted to be abstinent with her."

In a way she did. You apparently talked with her about her involvement in this evangelical group and approved of her involvement (not that she needed your approval.) You can't really be that surprised when she adopts the beliefs of the group.

On preview, I see someone else has linked to Young Life.
posted by Jahaza at 6:56 PM on January 29, 2009

(Oh, and amtho definitely has a point as well.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:57 PM on January 29, 2009

Sex is a normal and vital part of a romantic relationship. A reunion after a long separation is ordinarily an occasion on which lovers would have sex, usually vigorously and repeatedly. It sounds to me like she is saying that she does not want to be your girlfriend.

The good news is that since there is nothing wrong with sex, you will not corrupt her if you sleep with her, so you can stop worrying about that. However, I would not try to sleep with her. In fact, I would not see her at all after you return.
posted by kindall at 6:58 PM on January 29, 2009

If you two have been together for three years and you've been sexually active and all of a sudden the woman wants abstinence, it simply doesn't make sense. A decision that involves both of you requires your say as well.

No. I've actually seen this happen before with unmarried couples in the south, particularly when the chick becomes "spiritually active."

Sex outside of wedlock for some groups is still a major taboo. Particularly evangelical groups. If a young, unmarried woman hopes to (for whatever misguided reason) participate in and be a part of a church group or religious organization, it's vital that she come across as virginal.

The peer groups involved are particularly sensitive to sexuality, so in the case of our poster, his (hopefully soon to be ex) girlfriend has probably been faking being a virgin the whole time he's been deployed. Now that he's on his way back she's freaked out that he is going to blow her cover.

Putting out and being found out can still get you kicked out of many religious schools and it's not unheard of for parents to completely disown daughters in such cases.

Years ago I had a friend who was enrolled at Bob Jones University. It got out that she had a secret off-campus boyfriend who she was active with... didn't take long for her to get kicked out. Her parents summarily freaked and wouldn't let her move back home, so there she was, borderline homeless, sofa surfing in a hick town until she got on her feet.

Backwards, weird, and the source of much angst and emotional suffering... but that's the way people treat sexuality out there in the bible belt.
posted by wfrgms at 7:00 PM on January 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

"I don't mean to be harsh here. But you have to ask honestly yourself (and her, but she may be folling herself too): did she get Jesus, or is that an excuse to mask that she's tired of you? "

The flip side of that coin is, did she get Jesus and find a socially acceptable strategy to force the person's hand in marriage?

Speculation on motives gets pretty meaningless fast.
posted by 517 at 7:02 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and don't discount the possibility that in getting out of her "hermit crab" shell, she met some dude (some charismatic youth pastor type) in Young Life.

I've seen this in people who announce their Christianity, in atheists, in everyone in between: relationships end emotionally before they end physically, and people make new emotional connections with new potential partners while their current relationship still nominally exists. I've even done it to a small extent myself, though I try very hard not to "bridge" like this; and it's happened to me (though without my knowledge) where a woman in an existing relationship emotionally connects to me, then dumps her boyfriend, or where I've been dumped after a girlfriend "bridged" to someone new.

The symptoms are pretty much the same; nominally the relationship still exists, but the frequency of sex and emotional intimacy declines, all for superficially "valid", "non-threatening" reasons. She's spending more and more time with Group X (where new partner happens to show up), less and less time with you. She's thinking about new guy, not about you. Then she needs space, or she wants a lifestyle change, or "honey, you should do your own thing tonight". Then she dumps you, or qorse, doesn't, but does her best to be distance or angry or cruel, hoping to get you to dump her.

Again, I've been that "new guy" without knowing it, and I've been the "old guy", and I've seen it from, uh, both sides now: I've heard, once I was in a relationship with her, that "I has this sexual dream about you and woke up next to him thinking he was you", and I've heard the other side: "oh, I can't tonight, I'm hanging out with the girls again tonight / working late / competing hard on my sports team, we'll talk later".

Sometimes she'll end up with new guy, other times he's just sort of a practice at being emotional (and or physically) intimate with someone other than you -- just her getting back into the game. It doesn't really matter, because either way the ship has weighed anchor and is sailing away. But the signs are there: whatever reasons she gives, whatever she rationalizes to herself, she's not interested in physical intimacy with you, and that means she's more than likely not interested in emotional intimacy with you either. Whether she weighs anchor and slips away in the dark of night, or gives herself a bon voyage party and you a 21-gun salute, she's headed out, and you're now, fondly cherished or deeply regretted or both or neither, a part of her past.
posted by orthogonality at 7:11 PM on January 29, 2009 [6 favorites]

Some of you (orthogonality, sorry, but you are the latest) are overthinking this plate of beans.

She had sex with you before, and probably felt very guilty about it-perhaps she didn't talk to you about that, perhaps she did-and since you were deployed she had the chance to clear her head without your attractive bod being a temptation.

She is most likely NOT tired of the OP. She is most likely NOT not wanting sex. But she IS wanting to be a "good girl" (quotation marks only because I know my audience here.)

People of faith like sex just as much as everyone else. They want to have it just like everyone else. But our understanding of sex is that it belongs in the covenantal bounds of marriage. For those that don't see it that way I understand that looks ludicrous, but for people who are believers, it matters.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:41 PM on January 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

wfrgms, you make an interesting point that just didn't strike me. Religion aside, if its a personal choice, you are on either side of the line, no? Hopping here and there doesn't make sense. What if the group finds out that she was once sexually active- how does one hide what has been, hmm?
posted by xm at 7:45 PM on January 29, 2009

I wanted to underscore the last point made by St. Alia of the Bunnies. This, by itself, is not enough to mean she's no longer into you.
posted by Jahaza at 7:45 PM on January 29, 2009

"What if the group finds out that she was once sexually active- how does one hide what has been, hmm?"

It's not clear there's any reason she'd need to hide it. We Christians are into that whole
repenting of your sins thing
posted by Jahaza at 7:48 PM on January 29, 2009

I think those who don't know what Young Life is don't really get what's going on here. It's an evangelical Christian organization where the leaders (usually college-aged) lead high school kids. They specifically talk about abstinence until marriage. My sister was in this group (much to my chagrin) and her leaders were a married couple who, according to them, abstained until marriage (they got married when they were about 21).

It's not fair to assume she wants to dump him. She may feel that having premarital sex while teaching kids against it would be hypocritical. It would be. She has the right to make that decision.

However, you, OP, don't have to agree to it if that's not what you wanted in a relationship. That's not what you signed up for when you were with her. If you think the relationship is worth putting up with that, then by all means try to do it. If that's not what you're looking for, you are absolutely not a bad person for ending the relationship. Also, don't worry about "corrupting" her. She is an adult, and she makes her own choices. If she sleeps with you, it's not your fault.

It's also possible that she is fishing for a marriage proposal, but it's also very possible that she isn't.

You should really just talk to her about what she wants, and what you want and how this will be a big, difficult change for you.
posted by fructose at 7:49 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Geez, lots of cynicism about abstinence hereabouts. Speaking as someone who knows quite a few people who've made that choice for a variety of reasons, her wanting to consider abstinence does NOT necessarily mean that she
-- secretly wants to break up with you
-- is denying your sexuality and doesn't love you
-- thinks sex is gross and weird
-- is trying to entrap you into marriage
-- is in love with a youth pastor

or any of the other bizarre, Occam's-Razor-defying explanations people have come up with thus far.

Some people subscribe to faiths, Christian and otherwise, that regard sex as something awesome, but best practiced within the bounds of marriage. Sometimes people's depth of commitment to their faiths does grow over time, and they may simply decide that they want to do things a bit differently from here on forward. Doesn't mean she's a bad person, or a different person from the one you left behind. Doesn't necessarily mean you no longer have a full, loving, supportive relationship with her; plenty of people (myself included) have been in abstinent relationships for various lengths of time, and with lots of communication and joint commitment they can be very emotionally (and physically!) fulfilling. So, your girlfriend is not abnormal, the request is not abnormal, and your relationship could be just fine going forward if you agree to this.

On the other hand, you're also a person with needs of your own, and you're the only one in a position to know whether this is the sort of relationship you want right now. As people have noted, it's also just fine to decide that you really need a sexual relationship at this point in your life, and to part ways on those grounds. What won't work is you sticking around with your current GF, but resentfully or halfheartedly, feeling as though you "deserve" a relationship you're not getting. Either way, before you DTMFA or resign yourself to a sexless next decade, best policy is going to be to have a long talk with your girlfriend about what she wants, why she wants it, what YOU want, and what course of action is best for both of you. Try to be open-minded, listen to her side, but remember you have valid needs, as well.

So, in sum-- communication. Tough one, but by no means impossible. Good luck!
posted by Bardolph at 7:51 PM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Also, I forget that evangelical Christian culture isn't as omnipresent everywhere as it is in the southern, heartland, and small town U.S. Young Life, the whole abstinence thing (they even teach the hell out of it in public school, whoopeee!) was huge where I'm from, so sorry if I sounded impatient.
posted by fructose at 7:57 PM on January 29, 2009

A lot of times people think they want to abstinent, and want to see if their partner would theoretically be OK with it, and then they change their mind about it because sex is so much better than no sex. One guy I was getting serious with who used to be super-religious asked if I would be OK with still dating him if he ever decided he wanted to go back to abstinence. I lied, and said yes, thinking I'll deal with it later if I had to decide. He was satisfied knowing that I wasn't just using him for sex. And he never did want to become abstinent ever again. So she might change her mind when/if you guys start spending time together, and it won't be because you're "corrupting" her, so don't feel bad if that happens. One thing to consider though, is if she pulls something like this after 3.5 years, do you really know her that well?
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:58 PM on January 29, 2009

Nobody knows why she's made this decision. You have to ask. If its not working for you, you can break up with her without being guilty of anything.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:07 PM on January 29, 2009

"Abstinence. Okay. I can support your decision. But then who should I have sex with?"
posted by rokusan at 8:17 PM on January 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

Please MeMail me for a military girlfriend's perspective on this issue that I'd rather not discuss openly.
posted by charmcityblues at 8:25 PM on January 29, 2009

If there's anywhere else you can stay while you and your girlfriend are sorting out your relationship, I think you should take it. Being dependent on her hospitality while you're resuming your life is a stressor that you don't need. It won't make the issues around your relationship any clearer either. Like everyone said above, you're not her corruptor, but you need space for yourself that's not fraught with tension so you can adjust to being back.

Do you have friends or family around who can help you out and support you? Please ask for help, and don't try to get through this by toughing it out.
posted by gladly at 8:32 PM on January 29, 2009

No one has the right to assume sexual access to another human being, period. No one ever died of blue balls, people.

I don't think anyone's saying he has the right to have sex with the girlfriend. He has the right to decide if sex is important to him or not, and to communicate that decision to her. She may then have to decide if the issue is important enough to her to break off the relationship.

It doesn't have to be as base and selfish as the high-school "put out or get out" scenario. It's about two people who may or may not have the same values, and whether they should force a relationship that may be a bad match.

18 years ago, I was in the same situation, military deployment and all. I went along at first, but it caused an insurmountable resentment. It wasn't about blue balls, it was about rejection and the feeling of loving someone so much, and only getting 90% back.
posted by ctmf at 8:50 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been on her side of the equation (and yes, even though I'm a man). A long, long time ago, when I was a kid your age and under the influence of an organization probably not dissimilar to the one your girlfriend is involved with. Most of the DTMFA anti-religion crowd in here are basically talking about a world they don't understand. They think they do but they really don't.

Organizations like the one your girlfriend is involved with exert a lot of pressure on their members. They are not just promoting abstinence as a nice idea, they are presenting it as the only acceptable option before God, the author and creator of all existence, you know? They are telling her relationships are actively harmed by sexual activity and that having sex now is imperiling your opportunity for the transcendental bliss available to the obediently abstinent couple who submits to God's authority and wait until marriage to experience blessed, sanctified sexual intercourse. If your girlfriend was raised religious this is quite possibly a resolution of guilty feelings she had throughout your relationship.

I suspect you're both quite young. You've been gone and this group has undoubtedly been the major influence acting in her life for months. I'll give it to you straight: you're about to head into this situation and things are going to get very complicated and there is no easy or simple outcome by the nature of the situation. Breaking off the relationship is as simple as this one gets.

It sounds like you want to honor her decision which is nice and reflects well on you, but it will be very tough to carry through (and if it isn't truly what you want you're going to have to really think about what this relationship is going to be for you in the longer term). However good your intentions as soon as you get into any amount of physical intimacy your instinct is going to be to push it as far as she will let you get away with.

If she cuts it off you're going to be frustrated, resentful, and guilty. She'll be upset about having to fight you off, she may very well be sexually frustrated herself, she may simultaneously feel guilty about how far she went and about disappointing you at the same time. If she gives in she's going to be guilty about it, she'll likely blame you for leading her astray, she may feel compelled to confess this to someone in her religious community. It's quite possible she put some kind of pledge to be chaste in writing. Ready for more fun? If you come prepared with birth control it demonstrates that you are just plotting to turn her from her convictions from the get go. If you show your support for her ideals by forgoing being prepared you run the very real risk of rashly having unprotected sex and we all know what the potential consequences there are. (But don't fool yourself into believing this kind of thing happens "accidentally." It happens when you decide it happens and act on it, however unplanned or in the heat of passion it might be).

Even if she decides she doesn't need to be abstinent after all she will be in the difficult situation of having to lie, either directly or by omission, to these new, influential mentors and friends in her group. That's a lot of pressure. The people leading this group aren't living in some kind of fantasy world: they know what it is going to be like for a young couple where the man has been out on deployment for a third of a year, even if they are not acquainted with your history of being sexually active, which they well might be, because these sorts of group encourage people to confess openly of their "past sins" and to give testimonial of their life leading up to conversion or re-commitment to the faithful path as they present it.

I don't have much good advice for you, to be brutally honest. I think your relationship is in a pretty bad place because you have had a severe parting of ways on a pretty fundamental subject. It's easy enough to say she changed the rules so dump her, but of course you don't want to dump her, you've been with her three years and you love her, and being "within your rights" isn't going to make you feel any better about it. On the other hand, If I was your buddy I would really caution any consideration of marriage (unless it was really seriously on the table before this and even then proceed with caution) because it is under an unnatural and distorting pressure and marriages made under unnatural pressures at your age tend to break up, which is a much worse scenario than a relationship ending.

As much of an old saw as it is I do agree with Bardolph: really talk it out with her and try to be honest with her and with yourself. It isn't selfish to want to be sexually active if you're not morally opposed to it. It's certainly not selfish to want to have your say in the decision. If you're going to try to make a go of it your best chance is to set the boundaries of physical intimacy right away and strictly and let her take the lead on anywhere it goes past that. Give yourself time to figure out how you really feel about the relationship post-sex. It's very possible she will move past this phase of her religious views, I did. In the end if you just aren't satisfied break up with her decently before you start getting severely tempted to look for something on the side to make up for what you're missing. That's about the best you can do.
posted by nanojath at 9:33 PM on January 29, 2009 [11 favorites]

Yes, nanojath, that is exactly what it was like. She was frustrated as well, but actually doing anything triggered a shitstorm of guilt and crying and pledges to "do better."

Which really made me feel like a shithead for having, I don't know about "needs," but certainly ideas about what I wanted from a romantic relationship, of my own, you know? I'm not saying she was a crazy person or unreasonable or LOLfundies. It didn't work out. I found someone I was more compatible with.
posted by ctmf at 10:02 PM on January 29, 2009

People are way too quick to suggest dumping a S.O. on here. But I notice you mentioned sex, sex, sex in your OP and didn't mention love once.

Fair enough, sex is the topic here and it's on your mind. Four months is a while. That said, if you love each other, you do need to talk about this together. Set it all out on the table. Obviously she's taken it upon herself to make a big decision about the relationship without your knowledge or consent to take it to that level.

But these sorts of things can be worked through sometimes. To what level does this abstinence mean to her? You talk about the "connection", but a connection can be shared through non-sexual and sexual but non-intercourse ways. And then there are those who think oral and anal sex are just fine by God. You need to figure this out.

So the issues here (if you want to stay together) involve boundaries. How you need to decide the boundaries of your relationship together, and also to find out what boundaries exist in her definition of abstinence.

As for staying with her until you rent a new place, I don't necessarily think it's harmful. Just plan on discussing things early on. As someone upthread said, you shouldn't think of yourself as temptation or as something that can 'corrupt' her.

But discuss. Communicate. ASAP.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:33 PM on January 29, 2009

Skipped the comments after the first nine DTMFAs.

Life is long. If you marry someone, you're together for (god willing), like sixty years. During that time, sex will come and go. I say, give her some patience and some space. She might just be nervous about your homecoming.
posted by salvia at 11:54 PM on January 29, 2009

her wanting to consider abstinence does NOT necessarily mean that she
-- secretly wants to break up with you
-- is denying your sexuality and doesn't love you
-- thinks sex is gross and weird
-- is trying to entrap you into marriage
-- is in love with a youth pastor

or any of the other bizarre, Occam's-Razor-defying explanations people have come up with thus far.

No, more than likely she has allowed her evangelical environment with its self-loathing view of the human condition, and the provably flawed doctrine of abstinence-only, to convince her that she should alienate herself from her own sexuality. She also probably believes that sex is a quantifiable thing that can be "given" only once in a way that is meaningful, and that any deviation from this means she is unclean and undeserving of redemption.

The irony is of course that in her quest for spiritual approval from a voyeuristic father-god, she has actually done two very destructive things: 1.) Damaged a long term relationship and hurt someone she supposedly cares about, and 2.) by spreading the abstinence only message she is putting her mentored teens at increased risk for unwanted pregnancies, STDs, and at best forcing them into early and unfulfilling marriages.

Yeah, nothing bizarre about any of that is there?
posted by wfrgms at 12:15 AM on January 30, 2009 [11 favorites]

Being apart is tough. Especially during deployments. Deployments bring added stress and fears. It isn't unusual for both sides to become more religious during the separation. People need something to cling to. You didn't say what service you were in, but I bet you remember basic training, right? How many people went to church every Sunday? How many do you suppose still do?

I am not saying that these people are being hypocrites. More along the lines of the footprints in the sand type of thing, if you are a believer. But once you get home, things will have changed again. It won't be as stressful. Perhaps abstinence won't be as important to her once you are together.

Once you are there, sit down and talk. Ask her what she is feeling. Tell her how you are feeling. Don't panic until you can sit down and have a discussion face to face. You have time to gather your thoughts. Don't do anything rash until you are together again. Being together will give you all the direction you need.
posted by Silvertree at 7:23 AM on January 30, 2009

In a relationship that has lasted over 3 years, you need to have a discussion about changing the rules of the relationship in such a material fashion.

Now you may have that discussion and work out that you are in it for the long term and move forward. Alternatively, you may decide to call it quits. Regardless, there are two of you in this relationship and you both have an equal vote.

I was happily in a relationship for 2.5 years without sex, but knew from the start that pre-marital sex wasn't an option for her, so it wasn't an issue.
Move on 4 years to a 6 month relationship where my then girlfriend found God again and changed the rules to make it a non-sexual relationship. We decided to call it quits.

I wouldn't be so quick to say DTMFA but you should be aware it's an option. Again, it may or may not work for you, but you both get to vote on the ground rules.
posted by arcticseal at 7:41 AM on January 30, 2009

I was dating someone for a number of years who "out of the blue" told me that their ex-wife was uncomfortable with me staying over when he had custody of their son. Strictly for religious reasons. As understanding as I tried to be about it, I felt like MY values weren't being respected, and broke off the relationship. I'm now in a relationship who thinks very similarly to the way I di.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:56 AM on January 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

On the religious front, let me note that Jesus didn't say anything about sex between unmarried people, but he had a word or two on the importance of reconciling to your brother and on knowing bad trees from good trees by their fruits.

A great number of unmarried Christians have sex. Your problem isn't strictly religious -the pressure of that group and the disruption of your communication while you were deployed look like more important factors.
posted by ersatz at 8:20 AM on January 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Mmm. Logically - do you want to marry this girl? As in what were you thinking just prior to this latest development? Because you're not getting laid until you either marry her or ditch her. Simple as that. And really - if you're not going to marry her, three years is long enough to waste on someone that doesn't make the cut. (And married people don't have sex anyway apparently, so this deal is starting to sound like a bit of a shafting... probably not the good kind.)

Sex is important. Don't let anyone try to guilt you into thinking that it's not. If this relationship was honestly worth the sacrifice on your part your Ask Me would've sounded quite differently (for any number of reasons).

And emotionally... well - feel free to break the news via whatever method she felt was appropriate for you.
(But UGH! We have DNA testing. Surely "God" can take that pole out of his ass now?)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 9:14 AM on January 30, 2009

This isn't any different from your girlfriend announcing, three years into the relationship, that you're now in an open relationship and she's going to be sleeping with other guys. She's unilaterally altered the rules of your relationship, and that's not cool.

You have to sit down with her and have a long talk, but ultimately, it sounds like she doesn't want to have sex, and you do. That doesn't make either of you bad people, but it does make you incompatible as romantic partners.
posted by EarBucket at 10:00 AM on January 30, 2009

Jesus most certainly did talk about immorality, but this is not the topic on this thread. We all know that the religion of Christianity demands abstinence before and fidelity after marriage.

Again, let me state for the record that after my misspent youth, I did become abstinent for around three years and then married a virgin. I consider that the benefits of following the Biblical teachings are quite tangible. The sex is much better, frankly.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:54 PM on January 30, 2009

I'm a little stunned by the instant "DTMFA" replies..

Maybe you should not worry so much about it, if you're not back and haven't talked to her in person yet. Give it a little time and then maybe you can tell what to do or how things are going to go. I mean it sounds like she missed you, and decided to do something positive while she was alone, by getting involved with this organization, volunteering, etc. Maybe things will be OK.
posted by citron at 1:58 PM on January 30, 2009

The only real advice here is that you need to talk to her about this. Other posters are right... you're both in a relationship that was sexually active, and she doesn't have the right to unilaterally change that and at the same time expect the relationship to otherwise be the same.

Others have mentioned that you're not "corrupting her" if you end up remaining sexually active anyway. That's objectively true, but with a honking big "BUT" that you should not ignore:

Now that she has made this pronouncement, if you become sexually active without having the above conversation, she may believe that you corrupted her, which can manifest in all sorts of unpleasant and catastrophically unpleasant ways. As a worst-case scenario that may get me crucified here, but is nevertheless in the realm of possibility: you don't want to be in a situation where her religious guilt makes her retroactively wonder whether or not she actually consented to sex. (please realize that I am not saying this is something that happens often, nor is this a sexist "women are irrational amirite" statement... a man could just as easily have the same response to such intense cognitive dissonance)

My point being, adults in sexual relationships need to be able to, on occasion, have an adult conversation about their sex lives. This is one of those occasions and you would ignore it at your peril. Make it clear what you are or are not willing to accept (and make sure, going into the conversation, that you know what that is). Be prepared for the relationship to end if you can't find compatible ground. And make sure the issue is explicitly settled before you take the next steps (sexually or romantically).
posted by Riki tiki at 2:45 PM on January 30, 2009

nanojath speaks the truth. The fact that she's a leader in Young Life, and not just attending, means that she has a lot more pressure on her to be a transparent role model, and that to hide such a serious sin (in their opinion) would be very stressful for her. She may very well adore you and adore the sex, and yet the pressure and social consequences and self-loathing add up so that it's not worth it for her.

We can't really offer good advice to you without knowing your own religious views and the level of your commitment to this woman. I would advise that you put yourself in her shoes though, because she's in a tough position too.
posted by heatherann at 5:47 PM on January 30, 2009

Abstinence isn't so bad. I'm just abstinent with one fewer person than Christianity would like. But I echo the sentiment that you should discuss this with your partner. It would also behoove you, if this is truly someone you love and want to be with, to enter into couples therapy. There are obviously some boundary issues here (differing sexual desires, unilateral decision-making, respect for the other person) that some external mediation could help.
posted by Eideteker at 3:45 AM on January 31, 2009

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