Choosing to practice abstinence is a big decision and a very personal one. No matter what your reasons, the challenge is twice as hard when you're in a relationship. Not only is there the temptation that comes from being physically close to someone you care about, but in some cases, you'll have to convince your partner to respect your plans regarding when to become sexually active.
"To me, abstinence is not only the will of God, but a way to show my love and respect for my future wife," says Marcus Riley, 19, a student at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. "It is hard sometimes, especially when in a relationship as I am now, but I just remind myself that while I haven't met my wife yet, she does exist. And no matter how much I love my girlfriend, I love her [my future wife] more," he adds.
Dealing With Others Choosing abstinence can feel like a lonely choice. Riley, who shares his beliefs with like-minded peers at his school, has an advantage over individuals whose choice raises eyebrows and invites disbelief or even ridicule. The way in which you share this information with friends is also a matter of personal preference. Not everyone is comfortable being a billboard for abstinence.
"Each personality is unique. One person choosing abstinence might say to his or her peers, 'Hey, it's my choice. Respect it. If you don't like it, that's your problem,'" says Tina Antilla, marketing director of the A.C. Green Youth Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Phoenix, AZ. "A less forward personality might show his or her choice of abstinence through his or her actions, for example, by choosing certain friends and activities over others," she says.
Helping your partner accept your decision can be tough, especially if he or she doesn't share the same values or understand why you choose to abstain from sex until marriage. Remember that a person who is willing to end a relationship just because you won't have sex with them probably never loved you in any real, mature way to begin with. This works both ways: just as no one should pressure you to have sex to stay in a relationship, no one should impose abstinence on you. To practice abstinence, you need to make a commitment to yourself. It won't work if the motivation comes from an outside source.
"Some people lose partners as a consequence of their choosing to be abstinent," says Paul Okami, PhD., adjunct professor of psychology at the University of California in Los Angeles. According to Okami, some people choose abstinence as a way of testing their partner's commitment. "A partner might ask, 'Do you really love me enough to deal with not having sex?'" he says.
Making Abstinence Work If you're committed to abstaining from sex until marriage, the following steps can help you feel more confident about your decision:
- Examine your decision to be abstinent. You should know why you made your decision.
- You should have enough confidence in your decision so that no one can change your mind.
- Acknowledge responsibility for your body and what you do with it. Know that you can control yourself.
- Don't give yourself excuses or ways out, like "I'll be abstinent unless I meet someone really special."
- Try to date people who share and understand your views in life.
- Be realistic about your future with someone. Just because you think you'll marry them now doesn't mean you will.
- If you slip up, don't throw in the towel. Look at each day as another chance to meet the challenge you've set for yourself.
- Always keep in mind that abstinence is not forever. You are just holding out now for something better in the future. It'll be worth it.