Help me fix my negative feelings about sex
November 14, 2014 11:09 PM   Subscribe

I feel strong negative feelings about my girlfriend's sexual past. These feelings are making me hate myself, and pull away emotionally from the relationship. More inside

I'm a man who has been dating a great woman for a little over a year now. We are both young (mid-20s). I was a virgin when we first started dating, but she was not. At the time, I had made peace with the fact that I was an anomaly for having made it so far into life with no sexual experience, and that anyone that I'd want to date and maybe eventually marry would almost certainly have had a sexual history of some sort. When she told me that she was not a virgin, it did not affect me.

I had not yet had sex for a couple of complex reasons. First, I was raised in a very Christian environment that burned into me the idea that sex is the highest level of intimacy that can be achieved between two people, and that it is always strongly connected to emotion. I fell away from religion a few years ago and learned that it is in fact not necessarily that way at all -- that quite often it is just something fun that people do with one another, that there are a million and one reasons that people have sex, and that strong emotional connection is not at all required.

The other big reason that I'd never had sex until my mid-20s is that I always had a very difficult time connecting emotionally with anyone, male or female. I always had many friends to spend time with, but never felt close enough to anyone to engage them sexually. Until I met my girlfriend, of course.

A couple months into our relationship, and after we started having sex, my girlfriend detailed much of her sexual history with me. I didn't ask, it just sort of happened. Outwardly, I responded positively, in the way I believed I SHOULD respond to her trusting me so deeply. Inwardly, however, I had an incredibly powerful panic attack. After we parted ways that day, I began uncontrollably sobbing, mired with thoughts that I still cannot articulate, but which were strong, and unambiguously negative. I cried for hours. I still cry and start to shake to this day, months later, whenever I think about them.

These feelings remained for months, and I pushed them down, because, honestly, I hated myself for feeling them. And I mean HATE. I would stare at myself in the mirror thinking things like, "What kind of monster would judge such a wonderful woman for exploring sexually with different people, like all healthy adults are supposed to do?"

The hate was complex, and I honestly still don't understand it fully. Was I mad at myself for all the years I wasted not engaging people sexually due to being so hung up on making sure it was the "right" person? Was I mad at her? Was I mad at what might be a difference of opinions between us about sex? No matter which angle I tried to attack, I did not feel better. I even tried to "own" the negative feelings by fantasizing about my girlfriend's previous sexual encounters. This, predictably, only made things worse.

Pushing these feelings down has resulted in a war of attrition that I am losing. I feel like a monster. The only way that I'm able to save myself from feeling pain stemming from self-hate over these negative thoughts is by emotionally distancing myself from her, which puts significant strain on the relationship. I don't like this, and frankly, it's making me hate myself even more for continuing on in the relationship. I really do think that I love her, but my love for her makes me feel like I should let her go to find a man who doesn't have these ill thoughts about sex that I do -- a man who can love her for every part of who she is, rather than only most of what she is, like I do.

I have articulated some of these thoughts to her, but am afraid to tell her the extreme depth of the thoughts because I understand how hard it was for her to trust me with these things to begin with. She feels shameful about some of them, and the thought of exacerbating that shame somehow is extremely painful for me. I just want her to be happy.

I am in therapy, but that has not helped with this particular issue. I have finally agreed to start taking antidepressants, but I'm scared to death that they will not work or will make things worse.

This is clearly MY problem. She is perfectly fine; in fact, she's great, and probably better than I deserve. Sexual exploration is healthy. It's a good thing to learn about what you want, and she has lived the right way. And even if I make this about intimacy, I fully understand that I do not own her past, and that it's completely ridiculous to believe that I am or should be the only person she's ever been interested in emotionally or sexually. More than ridiculously to feel this way, it's perverted. If she were to post this question from her end, I know you guys would tell her to ditch me as soon as she could. And I don't blame you; in fact, I think you would be right. But, this is me, the person with the severe problems, asking for help. Is there anyone here who has experienced feelings like these before? What worked for you? More therapy? Medication? What should I do?

Thank you for reading this. I know how wrong I am, and I will do anything to get better. My girlfriend deserves much better than the man I am right now, and I want to be that better man if I can.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I find it weird that she detailed her sexual past with you. You know...the past in general doesn't really matter much in a relationship so talking about it isn't usually useful in most cases, but sexual pasts are especially weird territory to get into. I always feel that sex is an intimate thing that should only be shared with the person you're doing it with. Talking about how it was with someone else in detail kind of messes with the nature of that intimate event. I dunno. Maybe others will disagree with me on that, but that's how I feel.

"my girlfriend detailed much of her sexual history with me. I didn't ask, it just sort of happened..... I believed I SHOULD respond to her trusting me so deeply."

I cannot fathom why your girlfriend would do such a thing knowing that you were a virgin and almost certainly knowing that you have issues surrounding that. Trust has little to do with it. I trust my partner completely and he does me as well. Neither of us have spoken in detail about our sexual pasts with other people and we've been together for almost a decade now. It's like... why would we? No one I had sex with in the past matters it's who I'm with now that does. I can only assume that perhaps your girlfriend wanted to make you feel a little jealous or something to make up for some inferiority that she was feeling at the time and she just did not realize how her attempts would shatter you so.

Therapy is good. I'm glad that's working for you so far. And I've known guys that lost their virginity YEARS later than you did. One in particular had a mental illness and he did not realize how 'off' he would come off to others. And another guy I knew was passive aggressive to such an extreme degree that his passivity made him seem overtly weak and undesirable. Both these guys were in their 30's when they lost theirs. I know it's not the cultural norm right now, but this is still not as rare as you seem to think it is.
posted by rancher at 11:30 PM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

I 2nd rancher about age at first intercourse. You seem well within the bell curve to me. I disagree about the detail, though; different couples are different because the individuals in them are all different but I certainly don't think detailed sharing is abnormal.

Anyway, people who share your background not uncommonly treat their partner's sexual history with contempt, disdain, shame and judgement. Is it possible that because you've rejected your fundamentalist upbringing, you're subconsciously rejecting this reaction and turning it on yourself?

I mean, instead of trying to walk the walk of how you think you should feel, it might be more helpful to acknowledge how you actually do feel. If that is that you feel less respect towards your partner, or feel diminished or threatened or are made insecure by her sexual past, that's good to know. Generally the only way to work on that kind of anxiety is to work on your self esteem; therefore it's important to identify if that is what is actually going on. And while I'm sure this is a load of hooey, it's common enough to have a name and a whatever, internet course on getting over it.

It's equally possible it's none of that and I'm totally off-base, but that was my first train of thought.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:44 PM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

It sounds to me like there are a couple of really strong counterfactual "should" thoughts in your mind and heart right now. #1, you feel like she should not have her sexual past. #2, you feel like you shouldn't feel #1.

Let's start with the latter. Can you cut yourself some slack? Yes, in an ideal world you wouldn't be upset, but the truth is that you are, and it's not because there's something fundamentally wrong with you. You were brought up a sexually conservative culture, and what's more, a lot of people are disconcerted by their partners' sexual pasts. So you feeling bad, or jealous, or whatever, isn't a sign that you're a creep. You're just a human with some funky feelings.

If it were me, I would try lying down and getting as relaxed as possible, and then just accepting that I felt bad about my girlfriend's sexual past. Don't try to change it right now. Don't judge yourself. Don't do anything but just lie there and think "Yup. I am freaked out about this. That's the truth." If you feel yourself starting to beat yourself up, just notice the thought, and then let it pass. (My old meditation teacher, when you told her something super funky that you had running through your mind during meditation, used to smile beatifically and say "Well, that's a thought!")

I don't know where it will go from there. But I sort of feel like the same kind of mental/emotional process which has clamped down on her sexual past ("terrible! shouldn't have happened!") is now clamping down on your feelings ("terrible! shouldn't be feeling this way!") and some self-gentleness might help you find your way through this.
posted by feets at 11:49 PM on November 14, 2014 [25 favorites]

You're not some horrible outlier. Most people learn not to discuss their sexual past with current partners because, yeah, most people react poorly. It's one thing to know in the abstract that your partner has had sex with other people, it's another to hear the details. Lesson learned for both of you.

In the meantime your extreme reaction is clearly tied to your upbringing. Instead of trying to repress the feelings you might try just feeling them and trying to articulate to yourself what you really have a problem with. Once you hold phobias and emotions like this to the light, they often don't seem like such a big problem after all. Maybe your therapist can help you with this if you can be honest about what you're feeling.
posted by fshgrl at 12:25 AM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

N-thing the opinion that I don't think you lost your virginity particularly late at all. Yes, there are lots of people who started having sex in their teens, but there are also lots of people who didn't. They're probably just not broadcasting that.

I can totally understand your insecurities around your (lack of) sexual experience, because it's something i used to struggle with too at times. And I think that it's really easy for too many details from a partner about their sexual past to trigger and fuel those insecurities. It's worth working on overcoming those insecurities, however I think it's also important to establish boundaries about these things.

My ex used to massively overshare about his sexual history and it was really upsetting to me. I said to him one day, "i know you have dated and slept with people before me, but i don't want to know details." He ended up admitting that he was trying to make me jealous, or make himself seem more desirable than he thought he was.

I'm not sure why your girlfriend shared details about her sexual history with you, but i think that it is problematic that she did. It's okay to be upset about that and I think that you would be on the path to overcoming some of the insecurity if you talked to her about it. I think you should at least do this so that you don't find out yet more details that you don't want to know.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 1:21 AM on November 15, 2014

I wonder if it may be a good idea to basically tell her what you've told us, emphasizing that there's nothing wrong with her history and that you're the one with the problem here. Maybe she'll be upset, but if she's as great as you say I suspect she'll try to work with you on this. The alternative is to not tell her, and it sounds like that's not working out well.

It sounds like you would have problems with the sexual history of anybody you dated. If that's the case, it may be good for you to bear that in mind and to make it clear to her. This is an issue you would have had with anybody, so it's just something you'll have to work through.

Look, we all think terrible things, all the time. It's the human condition. If you do terrible things, you're a terrible person. But if you think terrible things but do good things instead, congrats, you're a good person! It sounds like you're making a real effort to be a good person. Give yourself some credit.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:14 AM on November 15, 2014 [8 favorites]

If your therapist isn't able to help you deal with your anxiety around sexuality (aside from suggesting antideppressants), there is absolutely nothing wrong with finding a new therapist.

And, if you respect your current therapist, but don't feel like (s)he is helping you process your issues, you can also be honest with that therapist and ask for a referral.
posted by miss tea at 3:32 AM on November 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

You know, something that I think a lot of people who come from a conservative background don't think about is that sexual freedom is, or at least ought to be, just as much about the choice to not have sex, or redefine sex, as it is to engage in lots of different sex acts with multiple people. Sometimes people can come from a really strict "no sex before marriage, heterosexual only" super vanilla place and be a little closed down to the idea that that culture is just as much about sex as what's sometimes presented as its liberal sexy funtimes opposite.

So with that you still have this (absolutely harmful, imo) stigma about virginity, about having to enjoy sex all the time and if you don't you're doing it wrong, about prioritizing and assigning tons of meaning to sex that may or may not be there. And I see that you're unpacking that in your question. Who is to say that your relative inexperience devalues you as a person in any way? That's awfully crappy, just as crappy as the idea that someone who is consensually promiscuous is somehow less.

I think you're working through this dissonance. You've outwardly willed yourself to believe a bunch of things that are still, for you, as an individual, something you aren't internally feeling is the truth.

Please give your antidepressants time. That fear you're feeling is the depression talking. Fight it with whatever righteous fury you've got left, okay? They don't always work but there are so many people who are helped by them, who subsequently can do things like: love other humans, write beautiful novels, care for animals, teach others skills, enjoy living on this planet. It might not seem like it but it's worth trying.

Anyway, for right now I think that you've got to give yourself some slack. Outwardly, continue to support your partner. But also, do let her know that you're working through some stuff. I wonder if you have something else that's stressful that you're avoiding and focusing in on this issue instead? Try to find the other things in your relationship and life that need tending. Take care of the little things that have maybe fallen to the wayside and you might find yourself working through this big thing in a healthier way.
posted by Mizu at 3:47 AM on November 15, 2014 [10 favorites]

I also think that you were not super late to the party. My boyfriend and I were both beginners (I like that word better than virgin) at 24 and 23, and I had never even kissed anyone before him. (I'm not religious at all, I just had a hard time growing up, being bullied, not having many guys around, some bad luck etc.) It did bother me that he had kissed some other girl before he met me, so I can only imagine how much it would have bothered me if he had done more when I hadn't. Yes, it shouldn't matter, but feelings aren't always very logical, don't you agree?

Incidentally, after we first started being intimate, I also had sobbing spells just like you. I was under a lot of pressure in other areas of my life as well, but I guess the sex may have been the final straw. I ended up seeing a therapist as well (after my GP just looked at me funny) and he said that maybe I was grieving a part of my life I never had. Maybe after finally finding love after 24 years (which is not that late, but later than most people assume - no one who has sex later than high school likes to admit it freely) I opened the door to my suppressed loneliness and sadness and it all came out at once, crushing me. Sex is emotional, even if you're doing it casually, which I at least can't.

Can you try to discuss this possibility with your therapist (or a new one)?
posted by LoonyLovegood at 5:51 AM on November 15, 2014 [8 favorites]

You are really giving yourself a battering here. I don't think that's fair to you. You seem an incredibly thoughtful and reflective guy. Do feelings always reposnd to 'logic' ? Some would say yeah, I'm not so sure.

I am the daughter of a drinker. I have a friend who also is. I never cease to be amazed at the mirroring in our psychology and life choices/experiences. Your history is powerful shit. Yeah we can break from it and do things differently and in a hopefully more enlightened way.. but this is long, hard work. Go easy on yourself.

I don't find it weird/deliberaely jealousy inducing that gf wants to share this stuff with you. I was much the same at her age (would do less so now, but not then). Sex is an interesting subject. She is relativley close ot her first burst of experience. It's part of her multi-faceted life, it doesn't define her.

If it gets painful to hear a certain thing, try saying that. Maybe there can be negotiation around how much can be shared at this stage or whatever.

She's with you. She is physically and emotionally intimate with you. Yeah you can have one without the other, but the two together are really special.

Check out Betty Dodson Dodsonandross site - an amusing/engaging sexologist who has a lot to say about sex/religion etc in a very thought provoking and non-shaming way.

Read up on shame - try Bradshaw for this. Think theres also a youtube talk.

Dr Nerdlove can be good and he responded to a guy from Honduras on this recently.

You might or might not find the Masters and Johnson series on sex interesting if you can get it. Well put together dramatisations of the early sexologists as they operated in a vacuum that went against the 'moral majority'.

It's going to be ok, ya know :)
posted by tanktop at 5:59 AM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think your level of honesty is great - probably further than a lot of guys get when they are confronted with their girlfriends as real, living human beings. And you need someone who will hear you out fully without judging you. GF is probably not the best choice for that person - not a comment on her personally, that's just the dynamic in general.

What you resist, persists. You can't fix negativity. I have found it best to sit with it in meditation, observe it, journal about it, and talk about it in depth with a trusted person. It doesn't go away but by being aware you can keep it from running your life. Good luck.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:00 AM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have finally agreed to start taking antidepressants, but I'm scared to death that they will not work or will make things worse.

It's not clear to me, but I'm reading this as you have agreed to take them but haven't yet started. It can take a while for antidepressants to work, and a lot of people need to try a few to find the one that works for them. So definitely allow enough time for this to work first.

And, as mentioned above, if your current therapist isn't working for you on this issue, it's totally legitimate to find another one who is better for this.

It's normal to feel jealous and/or uncomfortable about a partner's history (just as they might about some aspect of you, including plenty of things other than sexual), but as you seem to be well aware the intensity of your feelings, and the extent to which they are impacting your life, is not good and is where therapy can help.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:07 AM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

My husband calls his irrational brain -- lizard brain. Lizard brain just has feelings that aren't rational and don't make a lot of sense. Lizard brain is just kind of instinctual.

Then there's regular brain which is logical and makes sense.

We all have lizard brain about something. It's okay. Really. You are not a bad person for having lizard brain. It probably comes from your Christian upbringing.

The thing is that you are giving lizard brain way too much power and you are treating it too seriously.

To take it's power away-- just talk about it, even make fun of it. Tell your girlfriend about it-- "hey even though I am a sex positive modern man, lizard brain is stuck in the fifties." You get the idea.

If I were dating a man, and he explained his Christian upbringing, and then told me he was having lizard brain on these types of issues-- but he realized lizard brain was cray cray--I'd be fine and I'd talk with him about it.

It would only be a problem for me if you really believed everything lizard brain is telling you. But clearly you don't.
Life is short. Try not to beat yourself up for having feelings.
posted by bananafish at 7:21 AM on November 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

The hate was complex, and I honestly still don't understand it fully. Was I mad at myself...

Yes, I think you're probably mostly mad at yourself. That's a really common component of depression, is anger turned inward.

Like you, I made a 180-degree shift away from a conservative upbringing. Afterward, I started having a lot of anger and hate toward specific people, based on their behaviors. I would get really mad at lying liars who lie, for example. It was complex, sure, but I think the biggest component of it was me being mad at my former self. I had believed stuff that was false, I had tried to convince others of falsehoods (that I sincerely believed at the time), and then after the scales fell from my eyes, I was super ashamed that I could have "lied" like that for so long, to so many people.

Of course I knew intellectually that it's only wrong to spread falsehoods if you know, or suspect, they are false. And I knew intellectually that I hadn't done that; I had been sincerely mistaken. But that irrational *feeling* that old-me was a lying liar who lied, and I *hated* old-me for that, was leaking out in irrational ways at random people who were telling understandable little white lies.

If you were still following your old religion, what would you think of a woman who had sex before marriage? I can tell you what some of the guys I grew up with thought, and said openly: she's a whore, she's a chewed-up piece of chewing gum no one would want to unwrap on their wedding night, I deserve better, she can never be trusted to be faithful... If you would have thought anything like that, you probably hate old-you for thinking it. You look at your girlfriend whom you love and respect, and you *hate* old-you for his misogyny toward her. And that makes it painful to look at her.

What helped me was accepting what old-me did. That was really me who thought and said and did those things I did when following that religion. And if I hadn't left, I would still be doing that stuff. Instead of emphasizing "but I've changed; I'm a different person now," I would sit and marinate in remembering the facts of what I actually did do, and the fact that that was me. It was kind of overwhelming, but I had to lay it all out and accept that it happened before I could really forgive myself for my role in it. And then after I forgave myself, it was no big deal to forgive people who told understandable little white lies.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:30 AM on November 15, 2014 [13 favorites]

I'm going to be controversial here and say that if this is such a big thing for you, and such a struggle it might actually be better off breaking this off and having some time alone to work through it at your own pace. It's just something to think about.
posted by Middlemarch at 9:26 AM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

As others have said, you are being really hard on yourself, in a way that's fairly common among people dealing with depression.

You have feelings. Feelings are ok, even if they're negative. They happen, and we don't always have much control over them. We do have full control over our actions, and you are doing the appropriate thing and not letting your feelings of anger inspire you to take angry action against your girlfriend, like calling her names.

You seem to be catastrophizing your feelings of anger, however, as if feeling angry makes you a horrible person. It doesn't. We all feel angry sometimes. It may be helpful to unpack your "anger about feeling angry" with your therapist, or with a new therapist, or by journaling. Anger can also be a symptom of depression, especially for men, and it may be worthwhile to see if the new medication helps decrease that particular symptom as well.

I also know that many conservative religions stigmatize anger to a very unhealthy degree, so paying attention to what messages you've learned about anger and how you're using those messages to beat yourself up, along with learning healthier messages about anger, may also be helpful.
posted by jaguar at 9:43 AM on November 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Anonymous, in a nutshell, you feel this way because you are hard-wired to be mad at rivals who are after your woman. It's an evolutionary thing.

This sounds simplistic, but all men and women (especially during their 20's, 30's and beyond) are somewhat run by emotions. At it's heart is the human desire to have children. Don't misunderstand, even people who profess to having no interest in children (like myself for example) have a hard time avoiding the very strong proprietary feelings that are associated with lovemaking/sex.

If there is a creator, He gave us these feelings to go forth and have families. If there is no can still be reasoned that we have these strong feelings so that we'll keep the species going. Sex is about reproduction, after all.

Prisons are full of men who went ballistic because another man made a pass at a woman they had bonded with sexually. Stop being mad at yourself for being mad. It is natural. (Even though your girlfriend's trysts took place in the past).

If you wanted to get over this fairly easily you could have more sex with other partners. Just know that your jealousy is explainable as a survival issue. You are sure to be jealous again in the future! You're human.
posted by naplesyellow at 9:47 AM on November 15, 2014

Hi, anon. I'm ex-evangelical-christian too. I'm 11 years into this post-Jesus world and that time will make such a big difference for you. Things are so raw in those first few years. Cut yourself a break, okay? It's a big change you're absorbing, one that most people don't need to negotiate.

You might not be in the right place for this relationship right now. Here's an idea to mull over: A good relationship can end well. A good relationship can be temporary. Two people can love each other and not stay together and neither of them made a mistake. If this is hurting you just because it's this year and you're still processing some truly fucked up programming, that's okay. There's integrity in recognizing that.

Jeff Eaton wrote an article called A World Without Consent that really helped me work through some of the intersections between evangelicalism and rape culture. Maybe it will help you a bit too. If you want to reset your ideas about sex, seek out writing by people who think the way you want to. You'll absorb it with time and immersion. This is a good place to ask for resources for that.

The main thing I want you to know is that this project of ours of finding our feet again and unlearning a culture we've rejected, this is a lifelong project. It's a lot of work. It gets more manageable as you go. It's worth the work. All the rough bits now are not sins, especially the bits that only happen in your mind. You're learning, you're shedding, you're growing. It's uncomfortable and distressing and necessary and you can do it.

On preview: I don't really recommend sex with other people just yet. Take your time. Turn the volume down. Try those antidepressants (yep, helped me too!). You're in choose your own adventure land now -- don't feel pressure to have sex by a certain time or in a certain way. Go with your gut, do what you are comfortable with.
posted by heatherann at 11:05 AM on November 15, 2014 [6 favorites]

Well, I am not a therapist, or your therapist....but one thing that jumped out about your question to me is that you say your girlfriend is the only person you've ever had this kind of emotional bond with, the only person you've felt comfortable opening up to in this way, and that the only thing that makes these negative feelings go away is pulling back from her. I wonder if being confronted with your girlfriend's sexual past is so painful for you because confronting the fact that she had been that intimate with other people in the past may mean that the relationship you share is not unique, not as sacred to her as it is to you. Therefore your instinct is to pull back, withdraw: if I don't let myself care about her, she can't hurt me, and she may hurt me, because I'm not special to her the way she is to me. Could be off base, of course, but maybe something to think about that would go a ways toward explaining the disjunction between your conscious beliefs about sex and your emotional reaction here --- it may be that the sex itself is a red herring, it's what the sex symbolises to you that's got you so anxious and miserable.
posted by Diablevert at 1:44 PM on November 15, 2014 [9 favorites]

Find a therapist who has expertise in sex issues to help you work through this, since it sounds like your standard therapist isn't able to assist.
posted by shvaughn at 1:44 PM on November 15, 2014

This may not be a very popular idea, but I think you might enjoy Nietzsche's book Genealogy of Morals, if you haven't read it already. He addresses exactly the kind of issues you seem to be experiencing, this painful tearing apart of your soul between what you feel you should feel and what you feel. He says that Christianity, and bad values generally, have a way of repressing human instincts and true feelings so that a sickness of the mind develops. Over time that sickness can ruin a person, it can cripple their potential (and their ability to love). But a proper understanding of nature and human beings can lead one to attain internal clarity, simplicity, empowerment and control, satisfaction.

I love Nietzsche and have found him extremely liberating and also insightful in his notions about human relations and social dynamics. Figured I'd suggest him since your post so strongly reminded me of his work.
posted by poilkj at 2:08 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

One thing that really strikes me about your post is that you seem to think that everyone but you believes sex should have no emotional connections : ..."and that strong emotional connection is not at all required"...
"exploring sexually with different people, like all healthy adults are supposed to do?" ...Um, no. There is no "all." If there's anything healthy adults should be able to do, it's decide for themselves what (if any) sex they want. Plenty of nonreligious people believe that sex should have emotional connections--do you, independent of your religious upbringing? I don't think you want to be a robot. If you DO think that sex should have emotional connections, and your girlfriend doesn't, then at bare minimum that means you have differing values about sexuality. It doesn't mean that either of you is wrong, necessarily, but it's something to keep in mind.

It could also be that you worry that your girlfriend DID have emotional connections with previous partners, so if she left them she could leave you too.
posted by Violet Hour at 2:41 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know how wrong I am, and I will do anything to get better.
I find this statement concerns me: you just may need more time to work through having grown up with one set of beliefs and now you are trying to forcefully replace them by another. Because this is the pattern you know: "Repent of your wicked ways. The world out there is promiscous and sinful", and so you now replace this with chastitiy and purity. Only you are repenting of the opposite.

I find I really agree with heatherann and bentox humperdinck.

I takes time but not months but years. And in the meantime be accepting of yourself.

20 yrs ago, at age 30, I left a fundamentalist Christian church, that I had joined age 17. As from about age 15 I had been on their fringes, the majority of my socialisation on sexuality came from them. When I left at age 30, I was a virgin, I had never even kissed anyone, or touched anyone. In that church, women were not allowed to look men in the eyes or shake hands with them.

For the first two years after I left, I did not even recognise the signals men sent my way. My brother taught me to read them. When with 34 i met my current partner (we are still together some 15 years later), and had the first sexual experience of my life with him, four years after leaving xtian fundamentalism my mind was still quite messed up about sex.
I think one of the bad things of that type of sexual socialsation is that having sex is placed on such a high pedestal that expectations are huge: both for the act itself but also for its emotional meaning. Which also makes it very hard to accept others more casual approach and experiences.

What strikes me in your post is, that you seem to think that sexual experimentation and promiscuity, early sex, etc is superior. Says who?

You mention as a reason for having first sex in your mid 20s is that you are very difficult time connecting emotionally with anyone, male or female.
This is another typical xtian fundamentalist belief: I need to be able to connect emotionally to anyone instantenously... nope, you don't. Give it some thought.
There is nothing shamefula bout not be able (or willing) to bond with everyone right now. So you are a private person. So am I, and leaving xtian fundamentalism meant I could finally stop feeling about about it.

I think on the whole, maybe a step back might help you. Acknowledge your own emotions, and don't try to be someone you are not and hate yourself for it.
Yes, the teachings on purity and virginity are BS. But this does not mean you have to now become an advocat for promiscuity instead!
Rather, find out what you believe. Read books, talk to people, your therapist, go listen to lectures - whatever widens your horizon. And give yourself time.

One of the stupidest things about fundamentalism, Christian or otherwise, is the conviction the world is black and white. No it is not: it is colourful and individual. And if you reject the sexual purity teachings, it is not necessary to believe or act out the oppposite to prove you left it behind.
Take time to investigate what you yourself believe about human sexuality. I found that I prefer monogamy with my first love, and find it fulfilling. So I am actually doing it the way fundamentalists insist is the only way, but because I choose to.

I can make a choice not to follow the ingrained tendency for black and white. I can chose any colour including black or white.

Re therapy: I found that whilst therapy was helpful, the most help I received from a therapist who was not judging, eg not telling me what to think but encouraged me to explore, to shape my own opinion. It is harder but worth it.
posted by 15L06 at 4:51 PM on November 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

The fact that you have these feelings is perfectly normal. What is wrong is your reaction to them. We're animals. Jealousy is a feature, not a bug. You were built to want to be the only person with her. Your lizard brain is set to sex=procreation and you being the only one around is a help to that. And the lizard brain has trouble telling between fantasy and reality. Its programmed to hurt upon any image of your girlfriend with anyone.

So its natural. And that means its not wrong and that you aren't trying to be a bad person by feeling these thoughts. You're just having them. You're not opressing her and you did the right thing and your logic side came up to bat when she brought them up.

So the problem is you reacting to her and distancing yourself. I suggest you simply say "jealousy" to yourself every time you have the feeling and let yourself feel the worst of the physical feelings there and then, and then let go until it comes up again, be it 5 seconds, 5 minutes or 5 hours later.

There is nothing wrong with you feeling this. Its normal human emotion.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:38 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try to normalize this a bit. You aspire to be 100% accepting of sexuality that is counter to how you were raised. You are, currently, maybe 25% of the way there. You can play the part, but you can't internally live up to your ideals. That is okay. This is something you will have to work at to change. You're not going to completely uproot how you were raised in a short amount of time. I think it would help to just accept this conflict between your ideals and your lingering beliefs forged during your upbringing. That self-hate stuff is coming from trying to take these two opposing ideas and smush them together to make them consistent.
posted by deathpanels at 10:07 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older WWEMD? (What Would Errol Morris Do?)   |   Should I go to school to be a SysAdmin? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.