I’m sexually attracted to my fiance! Should I feel guilty?

Readers, before I plunge into this week’s truly irresistable query, I wanted to put in a brief plug for a fantastic  meet-up coming soon to Salt Lake City: on June 11, Carol Lynn Pearson (applause!), Margaret Toscano (applause!), and your very own friendly Mormon feminist advice columnist (that’s me!) will be speaking at the Mormon Stories Conference, a weekend-long event that includes socializing, service projects, and even a group MoTab outing.  I would love to meet you there.  For more info, click here.

Dear AMG:

 I’m in my mid-twenties, un-endowed, and engaged to be married in the temple soon. Most of the men that I previously dated were men with whom I had no particular chemistry, which meant that I always felt chaste even situations that I consider (in hindsight) to have been somewhat compromising. However, I find my fiance very attractive. Often when we simply kiss, cuddle or touch I get quickly turned on and sometimes I have sexual thoughts and feelings with no warm up or warning at all. Over the past few months even ordinary physical contact has become unexpectedly arousing.

I’m committed to living chastely because I believe it brings personal blessings and pleases my Father in Heaven. There’s not really any likelihood that I’m going to have premarital intercourse or purposefully fool around, but I do feel guilty for the way my body reacts at times to otherwise fairly innocent-looking situations. My fiance and I are pretty frank about everything, including sex generally, but this is one area where I feel self-conscious and abnormal. I’m way too embarrassed to talk about my personal sexuality with my bishop, an older man who alternately talks about the terrible seriousness of sexual sin and expresses his complete faith in me as a “good girl” who gives him no cause to worry. I don’t think he’ll understand, and I’m afraid he’ll deny me a temple recommend, ask lots of awkward questions, or attempt to micro-manage the physical side of our relationship. I worry that my inability to talk to him means I’ll always feel like this is an unresolved issue.

Lately I’ve found myself constantly pushing my fiance away and avoiding any kind of extended kissing, hugging or cuddling, just to be safe. I’m concerned that my stiff behavior is starting to bring unnatural stress and tension into our otherwise wonderful relationship. I don’t want to leave it permanently stilted! However, I also don’t want to feel like I’m trying to slip by on my temple recommend interviews, or that I’m disrespecting my covenants, my fiance, or my Heavenly Father. What should I do?

BC

Now, readers, you know I couldn’t put a question like that on the back burner.  So right away I started thumb-typing into my iPhone:

Dear BC:

That is a terrific “problem” to have!  Being sexually attracted to your fiance is natural, normal, healthful, and–heck, I’ll say it–divine.  I do not believe arousal is a sin. It is a sign that you’ve made a terrific choice in a partner and that your attraction is growing more intense as your commitment deepens.

I totally support you in wanting to stay chaste until marriage, and your thinking on this sounds really clear to me.  I hear nothing hear that would suggest you need to talk to the bishop.

I do suggest that you try to talk to your fiance about the reasons you are keeping your distance.  Make it fun if you can.  Let him know that he’s got you really fired up, and to keep it safe until your big day, you need to set the boundaries a bit more firmly than usual.  An old rule I heard for LDS engaged couples was “2 before 12.”  That is–two kisses, and be home (alone) before midnight.  If you can keep it together until the wedding–how many hours, days, weeks, months?–it’s all fireworks after that.

AMG

Well, no more than a few hours passed before BC wrote right back:

Thank you! Your thoughts are unbelievably comforting.

I was really embarrassed to ask, and after sleeping on it I’m not sure I really want you to answer it on-line. I guess I don’t want to turn it into an even bigger deal in my life. I think in some ways writing out my letter to you was therapeutic enough to get me thinking about how to talk about this with my fiance, which I did this morning. I still have concerns, but it feels like less of a burden now that he understands what they are. We’ve got two months until the wedding. At least they’re a busy two months!

However, if you’ve already started writing on the topic or think that this would be a good question for other people to talk about, feel free to disregard my hesitation and go ahead and post on it. Thanks again,

BC

Two months?  Phew.  Yeah, BC, I think you can make it.  And do I think this would be a good question for other people to talk about?  Do I ever!

Thinking about my exchange with you, BC, set me to remembering bridal showers in the stake where I grew up. Without fail, gorgeous white-haired “Sister T” (always with a Mona Lisa smile) was invited to every bridal shower.  And without fail, gorgeous white-haired “Sister T” (always with a Mona Lisa smile) brought the bride-to-be an elegantly wrapped box with a classy but alluring white satin nightie and peignor.  And without fail, whenever it came time to open the present from “Sister T,” all the other women of the stake (who had bought crockpots and pans off the registry) nudged each other and whispered, smiling their own Mona Lisa smiles.  Because in the Orange California stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it was “Sister T”’s job to put the S for Sex in the Bridal Shower.

Over at Feminist Mormon Housewives, our own Lisa has blogged about being the one to put the S for Sex in the Bridal Showers in her own Idahoan stake of Zion.  But imagine, just imagine, if every Mormon feminist-leaning bride had a roomful of frank and friendly women ready to really dish about intimacy!

BC, I hope you don’t mind if I convene a little bridal shower for you right here, right now.  We’re all collectively thrilled that you’ve found someone who lights your fuse.  And there is a lot of wisdom about sex among AMG readers.  So, readers, now it’s your turn to present BC with the blogging equivalent of an alluring but classy white satin nightie and peignor:  a gift of real womanly wisdom about developing a healthy intimate life with your dear husband.  What do you wish you would have known?  What classy but alluring info would you like to share?

Send your query to askmormongirl@gmail.com, or just ask me in person on June 11 in Salt Lake City—more info is here.

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23 Comments

Filed under sex

23 responses to “I’m sexually attracted to my fiance! Should I feel guilty?

  1. Mike Riggs

    If two months is too long to wait, they can always elope to the Las Vegas Teimple…isn’t that why they put one there? LOL

  2. Briar

    Love that comment Mike, but I agree with AMG this is a GOOD problem and I see no reason for discussing it with anyone other than your fiance. I hope it always stays like this for you but you will find with time and babies that the feelings change. Evolve. That’s okay too. Just always communicate and you’ll make it through all of the changes life has to offer.

  3. Kim

    I am SO with you on this one AMG! What a wonderful, and yes, divine gift that she has to be so attracted to her chosen fella! I remember wanting to literally climb into the physical body of my husband (then fiance) and bask in that oneness. I know, TMI. But really, maybe the larger question is “Why?”

    Why doesn’t SHE recognize it to be the purpose, desire, Plan of Sexual Salvation that it is? I think that just like we are not considered “worm-like” creatures, but children of God, doesn’t it hold true that our sexual sides, when guided by chastity guidelines, are just as much a gift from God?

    Wo, girl, that’s some wonderful problem you have there!

  4. sky

    I’ll echo the “its normal and healthy” sentiments. If I look at all the marriages I’ve seen which fail early, one common theme is “there just wasn’t much chemistry in the beginning”. I’d say woo hoo for the healthy attractions! … all good signs.

  5. Speckk

    In my late twenties now, but I’ve always been interested in strong, intelligent women (I just wish I could figure out where to find them; I know they’re out there since I’ve found a few).

    It seems like teens understand physical attraction, but maturing and building the rest of the relationship is the hard part. I’ve generally followed the physical intimacy funnel where I initially get excited with a tiny amount of light touch. Then I get de-sensitized and it takes something more than a short good night hug to get the euphoria. Then I repeat until I hit the danger line of the funnel which I know not to cross. I’ve only had one relationship which had the right personality chemistry and was mature enough by that point where I didn’t get bored (If only we could have both ended up in the same state).

    I suppose my response to BC’s question is my own question: Why was a faithful young woman wasting time with people she was unattracted too, and then feeling guilty when she does the right thing by getting engaged to a guy who makes her happy? Most church members must be learning chastity wrong.

    Elder Holland’s classic talk, “Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments” ( http://www.familylifeeducation.org/gilliland/procgroup/Souls.htm ), should practically be required reading for BC, RM’s, BYU/Institute graduates and just about anyone else who’s matured beyond the teenage version of the doctrine of sex. My other thought here is Christ’s command in Matthew 5:28 not to look, lust, and commit adultery in our heart/head. Between Christ’s mental injunction and stopping at the physical boundaries of no heavy petting, no french kissing and avoid compromising situations, I see plenty of room for unmarried couples to chastely verify and build on their physical attraction in preparation for a solid marriage.

  6. AxelDC

    If you are not attracted to someone, you have no business dating him/her, let alone marrying.

  7. BBKing77

    What’s the command… bridle your passions? Not bury or destroy, but bridle. To bridle is to take control of. So long as you don’t let your passions take control of you, but rather keep control of them, there’s no sin or need for repentance or intervention. Even Jesus was tempted, yet he was without sin. So there’s no sin in being tempted.

    That said, to help stay on the right side of that line, it would likely be easier to not flirt with that line too much.

  8. Bill McGee

    A recent study, entitled “Sex and Secularism,” shows that Mormons have the highest guilt about sex, with an average score of 8.19 out of 10. (Much higher than Catholics, for example.) While not an entirely scientific study, it does seem to show what others have said: a highly repressed sexual environment plays havoc with sexual expression and imposes guilt on even thinking about sex.

  9. Cher

    I love all of the comments and just want to reiterate the ones that say TALK TALK TALK! For so long we are told not to talk about sex but now is the time (during late engagement) to really get comfortable talking about sex. What you think you will like, what he will like, general guidelines, etc. Just make sure you are in a public area (huddled around a table at Starbucks) so it doesn’t get you going. :)
    Those feelings are telling you that 1. your body is working just as it was designed to and 2. that you’ve got a good thing going on with your man.

  10. Steve

    Here’s an absolutely unorthodox comment from an absolutely imperfect reader:

    BC’s internal struggle on something that ought to be so natural and normal underscores how dysfunctional we are as a culture when it comes to sex. We need a massive cultural overhaul on this topic (impossible, btw. Although the recent ‘panty hose policy’ reversal is a small step in the right direction. ☺). Until that massive cultural overhaul happens, we’ll remain in this cycle of women experiencing guilt for having normal feelings of sexual attraction. And if they do somehow get over this abnormal awkwardness and marry in spite of their bedroom guilt, the guilt of “doing something bad” still carries with them into marriage.

    Combine this persistent guilt with the introduction of kids, mortgage, stress of life, feelings of inadequacy from trying to keep up with “the RS knitters”/tiger moms, etc, and “pleasurable” sex becomes non-existent within the marriage. All the while the husband is thinking, “damn”, but has no real answer because approaching the subject carries the typical, “selfish man who only thinks about sex” response. And for all intents and purposes, he really is a good guy and believes that there’s more to life than sex, but the frustration lingers nonetheless. It’s a real void for him. He’s not a pervert, not watching porn, really cares about his wife and his family, but has no idea how to approach the ultimate cultural taboo. He says to himself, “weird, when I dated girls they were attracted to me, showed affection to me, and even wanted to ‘do it’ with me. But I was strong and resisted, because it was the right thing to do.” Next thing you know he’s 45, realizes he’s lost 25 years of his prime love making years and says “screw it” and…(insert varying degrees of “non acceptable” behavior here…some innocuous, some really bad).

    What I described above happens over and over because, ironically, we obsess over sex, beginning with Bishops pestering young men as to whether or not they are masturbating (All young men do, btw. All). The law of chastity is so simply defined, yet we as a culture have managed to erroneously and obsessively expand it to imply so many different things (e.g. “feelings of sexual attraction equate to unworthiness and require confession”, or, “the missionary position is the only acceptable way to do it”, or my favorite nugget of wisdom that my mother-in-law still believes, “lingerie must cover your garments”. Please. To the outsider, this is comical. But if we’re being truthful with ourselves, we all know I’m not being extreme in these cultural observations.

    I admit that at times I’m a bit jealous of my neighbor friends, who at the end of a long week will gather in the cul-de-sac, let the kids play and wind down, have a few glasses of wine, enjoy good conversation, forget about all of life’s troubles for a moment, then go inside, put the kids to bed, and “enjoy” one another. This pleasure is part of their routine. To me, they seem normal and happy – and emotionally healthy. They don’t have the burden of questioning whether or not their pleasurable indulgence is wrong. They do what’s natural and normal. We, too often, fight what’s natural and normal.

  11. Johnny Dozer

    @Cher: Yes, communication is key in any relationship. But DO NOT hold off until late *engagement to talk about what you may or may not like when it comes to sex; it should be pre-engagement. Sexual dissatisfaction is a huge (if not, #1) marriage killer in the church. I plan on talking it out BEFORE getting engaged to make sure that we are sexually compatible. Also, don’t have this discussion at Starbucks. I’m sure the other people are there to ENJOY their coffee.

  12. Kim

    @Steve: for being an imperfect person, you nailed it perfectly. Thanks for a well-crafted, heartfelt response.

  13. Jon Shurtleff

    One of my favorite subjects ;-) As one who thought he might have committed the unpardonable sin by masturbating, I think this is such a crucial subject. It’s absolutely essential to a successful and happy life to have a healthy understanding of sexuality in all of it’s joyous wonderfulness. You *should* be so strongly attracted to your fiance that you can hardly keep your hands off or each other. But it must be kept in perspective. I do believe strongly that abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity, heart, mind, body and soul is essential to marital happiness. But that doesn’t mean that abstinence is a bad thing. While we are preparing for marriage we should look forward with great excitement and anticipation to that physical relationship. It’s still that way after marriage. As they say, sex is really all in the head. The desire might build over a few days of positive experiences together like flirting, wearing attractive clothing, going out to dinner, good conversation, discussing goals and dreams and aspirations, talking about your children’s accomplishments and even scripture study and contemplating the eternities. If there aren’t fireworks in the living room there aren’t going to fireworks in the bedroom. But you have to keep it in perspective in another way. Sometimes people get it backward and think that if their sex life is bad then they need to improve it directly by improving their technique, for example. One of the best things I’ve read about it comes from Hugh B. Brown, Jr.’s book Human Intimacy. That is that the quality of the sexual relationship is a ‘barometer’ of the health of the relationship, not the other way around. If the relationship is healthy then the sexual dimension of the relationship will be healthy. That’s how couples who’s sex life is problematic for some reason such as physical disability can still be fulfilled and happy. The same applies to the pre-marriage relationship. If you have a healthy relationship with your fiance the strong physical attraction will reflect that. A strong physical attraction alone without a healthy relationship is prima facia evidence that you should *not* continue the relationship. By extension, in my opinion, in most cases where a pregnancy results involved, a couple should *not* get married, but put the child up for adoption. This goes against traditional ideas but my experience has led me to this conclusion.

    So just enjoy the kindling of the flame and then bask in the glow of the fire once you get married.

  14. Jon Shurtleff

    Correction. That’s Victor L. Brown Jr. not Hugh B. Brown Jr.

  15. Joshua

    Perfectly natural, understandable, and in every way in accordance with God’s design for our human existence. Just make sure it remains within the limits of your agency.

  16. DK

    Do these replies all hold true even if you aren’t engaged to that person?

  17. ReNee McDonald

    After 18 years of marriage and eight kids, with the youngest being 6 weeks old, my husband and I are more sexually attracted to each other then ever before. (hence, the eight kids!) It wasn’t always that way, because we had to overcome our cultural reaction to sexual intimacy. But I don’t believe that it is our religion, but the people interpreting what sex means in our religion. It took lots of frustration, talking and constant unselfish understanding to get to the point of complete and utter ease in asking each other for what we both need and want sexually. I hope that my children will grow up more at ease and comfortable with the thought that sex is not only a normal part of life, but it is a divine gift that seals and cements a relationship.

    Without being graphic, i have come to accept and act upon this old adage:

    A Cook in the kitchen, a lady in the parlor, a mama in the nursery and a whore (for lack of a better word) in the bedroom. It is definitely a good thing to be so attracted to your (future) spouse that you can’t seem to get close enough to him without actually crawling inside that lucky devil. ex in wonderful and healthy!

  18. N

    You are probably already married, but I thought I would add my two cents. I agree with Joanna! A powerful attraction to your spouse is something to celebrate, something to enjoy and express fully when the time is right, not to feel any kind of guilt about at all. Sounds like you were smart about wanting to keep your behavior in line with your values, but that hopefully didn’t lead to more guilt about your feelings of passionate love. Those are good feelings – awesome, in fact. In our early marriage my husband and I read some good, marriage focused books about sex that helped us learn. It was an amazing and fun and bonding process for us. There were a variety of things we experienced – it is completely amazing to experience the full intensity of sexual passion, but don’t worry if sometimes you try something and it doesn’t go as planned (some things go well and some don’t as you are learning together). Some things don’t always feel as good as you hoped, some things take practice, some things might end up being funny or embarrassing. That is totally normal, and not something to worry about, as long as you can keep opening yourselves up to the learning process and lovingly watch out or each others’ feelings and needs in the process. And, don’t ever feel bad if you really enjoy your sexual feelings and the intensity of the experience. As you learn what feels good and what doesn’t, it allows you to fully explore and express you sexuality together, and develop an amazing bond. Good luck!

  19. DH and I really, really liked each other, and were engaged for the longest five months the world has ever seen.

    We made sure to keep clear boundaries because we didn’t want to stress out about possible outcomes.

    One day, we had a li’l revelation that we needed to kiss more. True story. The Holy Ghost was all “You guys are about to get MARRIED. If you’re worried about going over-the-top with the goodnight kiss, perhaps you could consider kissing more during the daytime?”

  20. Michelle

    Living in Utah. I see young adults getting married shortly after the men return from their missions. Women seem to want to take advantage of the opportunity to get married. Because these young men are sexually frustrated and can’t wait to get married. I had many friends that this happened to that had no chemistry because they got married to soon. Some of these friends are divorced. And some are just going through the paces of a typical Mormon family with no passion. There seems to be alot of pressure for mormons to be married. In this state anyway. I am glad this woman has found the man of her dreams. Best wishes to this couple.

    woman has the chemistry with her spouse. I waited for the right man until I was 30. I knew it was right.

  21. John Paladin

    If my wife and I hadn’t gotten married when we did we certainly would have been subject to Church discipline!
    You are supposed to be physically attracted to your fiance. After 15 years of marriage I still want to jump my wife.
    We have been made that way for a reason – this doesn’t mean give in to every urge, but it does mean your feelings are natural, appropriate, and – within limits – capable of being expressed and acted on. After marriage you will see (I hope) how truly wonderful giving full expression to those feelings can be.

  22. Taylor Brimhall

    Im Mormon. I felt piles upon piles of guilt for everything that I did that was not perfect. It also left me severly depressed, suicidal for years, and now Im diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which, for the most part, is something you develop your whole life and then when you are 18, 19 years old, it really sets in and youre basically fucked. Yes i said fucked. You know why? because the minute I realized that the people in the church are one thing and that God is TOTALLY different, I got my life back, because God is perfect at loving, people arent, and i want to use harsh language to describe my torment that the small minded people of the church wreaked on my soul. Ya its bad laguage. But its how I feel so whatever. Why would God punish you for feelings that HE GAVE you? He is responsible for our chemical makeup. Do the best you can without crossing over into darkness like I did, and still do today. Evil is actually self hatred. Thats what the people in your ward say, right? But its funny that they put so much pressure on you to be perfect, and are only tolerable of you if you wear repentence on your shoulder. Its all about balance. If you talk to your fiance and he feels the same way back, do it to it! All of this self devaluation does is screw you up later. Im 26 and found the raddest wife that is also mormon and have been married for three years. We did things before we got married but didnt have sex. Thats how far we could go without going crazy. We are sooo happy, but not the fake happy that you see at church. Im talking we have been through HELL and made it back kind of happy. All the goody goodies that did everything that was expected of them, (got back from mission and married a 19 year old girl, etc), their marriages are falling apart at a faster rate than even the evil me expected. And they are dragging their kids down with them!!!!! All because they lived life in a box, like you it sounds like, and after the box opens, life hits like a super nova. Im glad I didnt marry a gal like you. you would just make me feel guilty about everything. youve got a long way to go. hopefully you made it this far without skipping because you condemned me at the top. you can judge me. i am most certainly judging you. but i know youll make it cuz at the heart of the people of the church is a REALLY good person. it took me a while to see it, but i totally do. im telling you all of this because i hope you find that balance, and i know what its like to be afraid of my bishop. fear is not God. i guess i could have just written that last sentence haha! good luck. youll be needing it.

    cheers
    taylor

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