Monday, January 13, 2014

What they don't tell you.

Update: I just want to clarify something really quick! There is some confusion as to who "they" are, that I speak of in this post. "They" does not reflect anyone in particular, but mainly the general Christian outlook and teachings on sex and purity. This does not reflect the teachings of my parents or those of my church that I grew up in. Just wanted to clarify! Thank you SO much for the overwhelmingly positive response to this. I honestly was not expecting this at all! 

I attended church regularly growing up. In fact, I actually attend more now than I did in junior high and high school. But even so, I was pretty active in my high school youth group. I led Bible studies on Sunday nights, I hosted little girls groups in my home every now and then, and always made myself available when the younger girls needed someone to go to.
One memory I have of doing this was leading a Bible study on sexual purity when I was a 17.
I had no sexual experience, who did I think I was leading this study?
But that's the passion I had for sexual purity. I wanted everyone to know about this gift! (A gift that I had literally no idea about.)

Sexual purity is something I hold dear to my heart; it is something I rally for and I root for those who make the promise to themselves to stay abstinent.
But when I was in high school? What I was taught? That sort of sexual purity message is not what I want young women today to be taught. Why? Because that message failed me. It failed me miserably.

I was taught that sex is great, but it's for married couples. Okay, cool. I agree with that.
I was taught that if you wait, and you abstain from any and all sexual activity, God will be so pleased with you, He will bless your marriage immensely and He will bless your sex life - it'll be fireworks and magic. Even more so, I was always told that your wedding night will be the BEST. And was it? No. (More on this in a minute.)

In the end, has this message been correct?
Eh, maybe. The first part, yeah. I agree - waiting to have sex has saved me a lot of heartache in my youth. There were so many times where temptation arose and I had to back out of a relationship completely just to keep that promise to myself.
But the other stuff? That is where I have been failed.
During my dating days, I clung to that message. I held onto it for dear life, as if my purity was the only the only thing I was good for. Now that I'm married, and have been married for four months, I can sorrowfully say that no, my marriage and sex life has not been blessed.
And our wedding night? We didn't have sex. And you know what? I felt guilty about it. I felt ashamed. I felt as if I was already failing miserably as a Christian wife. This is my duty! Or so I had been told throughout my dating days. This is what we had been building up to, this is what we had been waiting for! This is supposed to be a blessing, not something that I cry over on my wedding night because I am so stressed out over my "wifely duty."
We have struggled so hard. We have gone months without sex, and we are newlyweds, for crying out loud! We should not be having this problem!
But this is our struggle. And my fear is that there are a lot of young couples struggling with this because they were taught the same, and not enough people are talking about this issue.
I walked into my marriage with a skewed vision of what sex would be like for us. For all I knew, some magical switch would turn on and I would be this perfect, sexy wife for my husband - because that was what a lot of Christian, married women were telling me. I figured that since I was married, and since sex was finally "allowed," I could somehow easily tap into the sexy side of me, or that I could easily forget all of the times when I was told sex is just a ploy to degrade women. But no, it's been so much harder than that. I mean, I imagined it would be difficult for us at first, but I didn't imagine that this struggle would follow us into nearly 6 months of marital bliss.

I was taught the fantastic lesson of modesty, but not because I'm a beautiful creation of God, but because my body is a stumbling block for men. I was not taught that modesty does not exactly apply in the bedroom, but I was taught that men view me as a sexual object and I need to dress modestly as to distract them from that, to keep them pure. It was my job to keep them pure. Is this the message I want my daughter to hear someday? No. I want my daughter to be modest, yes. I want her to dress tastefully, and keep the goods covered, yes. But do I want her to grow up being ashamed of her body? Of her sexual nature? HECK NO. Because this is part of what has failed me.

When it comes to sex, I am ashamed. Plain and simple.
I was not taught how to nurture the sexual being that I am, whilst living a Christlike life. It was as if the two cannot coexist peacefully, and that is so incredibly untrue!

So what can undo the damage that has already been done?
Well, nothing, really. And it saddens me to say that. But what I can do is teach my daughter, teach the young women who come to me for advice, I can teach them what I have learned from all of this. I can teach them that Jesus's grace covers all; our mistakes are covered; our desires, even the sexual ones!, are not sinful, our bodies are our own and not to be objectified by men - we shouldn't allow them to be.
I'm going to teach my daughter that sex is amazing, sex is something to treasure and it is an act that truly does glorify God (as weird and awkward as that sounds). It is a physical act that can bring you and your spouse closer, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It's an incredible gift. I will not teach her to be ashamed, I will not tell her that if she has desires that she is wrong and needs to pray for her sins. I will not tell her that she is not beautiful and that her body is a harmful sin-inducing vessel. But I will tell her that it was exquisitely crafted by our Savior, that it is meant for her husband's eyes, it is meant for procreation, and most of all - it is meant to bring her just as much pleasure as it brings her husband! We should not deny our sexual nature! God created us this way! It is us, fallible humans, who have distorted the beauty that Christ bestowed on us. We have made sex an ugly, sinful act. Christ did not do this, we did.
But I digress.
Simply put, I will not teach my daughter what I have been taught.


When I look at this issue in an honest way, I have no issue admitting that this is due, in part, to getting married at a young age. I don't think a lot of young couples realize the struggles that marriage will entail. My parents warned me over and over about how hard marriage is, and I took it as a grain of salt (I do recall the words, "but Blake and I are in love!" happening often). But in all honesty, as a newly married, young couple, we are here to tell you, honestly and openly - that marriage is hard. And there are a lot of contributing factors to this. And for us, sex is that struggle. But, the silver lining to this, is that things do get better, easier. Our problems are not yet solved - far from it - but we aren't struggling as much anymore. I'm so grateful for that, and looking forward to the day when I can say, yes, God has blessed my marriage because Blake and I honored God and waited until marriage.

Thank you for reading, if you made it this far. 
This is a message that I hold so close to me, as you can probably tell. I struggled for a long time whether or not I should share this, seeing as this is such a personal matter and one that I'm not even sure SHOULD be shared considering how private and intimate sex is between a husband and wife. BUT, with that said, I do believe that there is power in words that are often unspoken. And I truly, truly hope that whoever reads this will be blessed by these words and be encouraged by them. 
I'm in the process of gathering resources and links to articles that touch on this subject much more eloquently than I ever could. 
But, I am grateful that you have lent a listening ear today and humored me in my attempt to spread a message that so desperately needs to be spread. This is why I urge parents to be cautious of what they teach their daughters. Pray, pray, pray before you start telling her about abstinence and modesty. They are both fragile subjects,  that can either free us or cause incredible damage. 
I am sad that it has caused more harm than good, in my case, but I have been so blessed by a wonderfully patient husband, and for that I am so grateful. Thank you, Blake, for always loving me and caring for me the way Christ cares for His Bride.
As always, I'm always available to talk, answer questions, or just listen in general - never hesitate to email me! You can find me at ehaleytyson (at) gmail (dot) com. 


  1. thank you for sharing this haley—it is never easy to share such intimate parts of your life with ANYBODY, let alone to the 'internet world' where people don't really know you.

    as somebody who didn't grow up with religion, and doesn't identify as a person of faith—this was still incredibly touching to me. thank you so much for sharing your struggles and thoughts on 'sexual purity'. i think in general what society tells us about sex is so skewed, and never hits on the reality of what sex and a sex-life between couples are like, or can be like. in any type of relationship though, all aspects of it take work. the sex part is just something everybody fails to mention.

    anyway. thank you again for sharing; i wish you and blake the very best!


    1. Thank YOU for reading this jumbled mess!
      You are completely right, society and the media (don't even get me started on the media!) tell us that sex is perfect with the right person, they ruin girls' body image, they slut shame, they mock the virgin. It's a no-win situation most of the time! Honesty is desperately needed, and when I went out looking for resources of my own to look to, I was finding NOTHING that helped.
      Anyway, thank you, again, for reading. And your comment means a lot! :)

  2. Wow, what an honest post! For someone who does not agree with teachings of any religion (I was raised Catholic but chose not to practice once I became an adult) mainly because of the guilt and shame associated with many aspects of my life (I could go on but I won't, lol), I can completely see why you are struggling. Sex is a very intimate act and very confusing in the beginning-- whether that's the first time ever doing "it" or the beginning of a new relationship! I mean, my first time was downright awkward and confusing and it was not fun. I'm glad to read that things are getting easier, I think it will take time. Since you are married, and not just dating, you're of course more willing to practice and make it good than someone who's just dating and can basically be like "well this isn't working, I'm out!" And I'm proud of you for that!! The thing with sex (I have experience, as I said before I don't practice the purity thing and that's ok in my book, too!) is that sometimes it just isn't fun at first because you're nervous (feeling guilty and shamed is huge, I bet) for countless reasons, like you might be nervous if you're doing it "right" or how you're breathing or where should you put your hands or "does he feel good, how do I know he feels good?" Etc. I suggest learning to connect with your body on your own, learn what makes you feel good (yes, I'm talking about goin "solo") and bringing Blake in on it, too. Good luck!!!! Again, I appreciate this post and am so proud of you for bringing light to this topic to other young Christian girls who may be soon struggling with this situation, too. XOXO!

    1. I love your view point from the non-religious side. Yes, I agree with you - one of the many downfalls of abstinence only teaching is that there is so much shame and guilt associated! And those teaching this message neglect to acknowledge that we were made to be sexual beings! It would've saved me so much heartache had I been taught how to coexist with the spiritual me and the sexual side of me. But alas, damage has been done. Looking forward to working on this over time!
      Thank you for the suggestions! It's nice hearing realistic opinions from people other than "it gets better." So thank you!!

  3. I want to leave a whole long comment because I also waited and I really wish I had been given more information and guidance about how things might be. But I'm on my phone and so I'll just say, it gets sooo much better!

    also, if you haven't read it, I highly recommend Sheet Music.

    1. I have read Sheet Music! I read it prior to getting married, and actually should read it again (and I JUST deleted it from my Nook. Face palm).
      I am with you - the resources for realistic expectations are just NOT there.
      I'm currently reading The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex and I'm enjoying it so far. It's really shed some light on a few things... I wish I had read this one before we got married, as well!
      Thank you for your comment! Like I said in another comment above, I'm super looking forward to working on this over time - and hopefully I'll be able to update with a more positive ending. ;)

  4. This is such a great post. I am so glad you wrote it. I decided not to believe in waiting until marriage and I do not regret that choice one bit, but I do see where the idea is rooted. There are a lot of relationships that can hurt, and they can hurt worse when sex is added... because of this shame. Because women feel they need to cover their bodies from men's hungry eyes. Honestly, I dress how I want, which is pretty modest now that I'm older and just don't care, but if I had cleavage would I show a little bit of it... well, yes. I know my behind is a great asset and I wear pants that make it look so. I also know the dangers of relying on looks and sexuality to court a possible relationship though. I know them because I lived them. Sex only became bad when I thought that was the only thing I was really valued for. When I was valued for my quirks, and my "sexiness" was founded in the silly things I did, then sex became a gift. Because there was trust, and the ability to laugh when things seemed a little weird (sounds, body parts, etc all funny with the right person).
    It's something I've thought about a lot, because I was raised with and am still working through the guilt of it at 27. Not that I didn't wait, I don't have guilt there, but of being a sexual being. I have made progress, as I have learned to love myself and find myself to be a "sexy" (good lord that word makes me wince) person.
    I've been wanting to write posts about this, write posts in forms of letters to young women about what it means to be sexy, and what to look for, what to really look for in love. It just hasn't fully come out yet. I just want young women to learn way earlier than I did that being who you are, exactly as you are, is going to work for someone. and they are going to love it. and if you want to improve, go for it, because they are going to be there with you on that, but remember that smaller clothes, or provocative dance moves, or party tricks, or alcohol aren't going to make you feel good at the end of it.
    I don't think this is quite as organized as I wanted it to be, but thank you for the honesty. I think it will be well received. And I think it is SO important for these things to be talked about. Also, there is a book called Slow Sex... I hear it's pretty good.

    1. I applaud you for your decision! You know, growing up Christian, I was told that waiting is just how it goes and if you make any decision otherwise, it's sinful and wrong. I think this message is ruining young girls. It certainly messed with my head when it comes to sex, now!
      I don't think enough emphasis is put on the fact that there are long term effects on shaming girls into purity. I believe in the message, but there are so many flaws. SO MANY. Ugh, so much to say and so few words to eloquently state how I feel! ;)
      Good luck on writing your posts! I sat on this one for weeks before deciding to publish - If you post them, let me know!! I want to read them!
      Thank you, thank you for your encouragement and for sharing your story! <3

  5. As someone who WAS married for almost 10 years, divorced, and am now in my 2nd marriage... it's really up to YOU. I understand this is personal, and I appreciate you sharing it.

    People can look back on their upbringing and blame everyone else for their problems they might have. But, today, it's YOU that decides. Don't be victimized by your past but be empowered, change your MIND.

    I am 30 years old, and maybe someone with 10-20 years more experience would look on my comment... maybe saying something completely different. Everyone is DIFFERENT. All upbringings are. I get that.

    You wrote "We have made sex an ugly, sinful act." but that is SO untrue. Maybe in your life that is the message you have heard. But, do you know what is amazing about being an adult, paying your own bills, having your own kids? You get to choose to be DIFFERENT than those who raised you. Which.. obviously you will. But, you don't have to wait UNTIL you have kids to change your mind. Start today, Haley.

    Sex is INCREDIBLE. It is AMAZING. But, after having a baby and having it damage my body with stretch marks, fat, and super widened hips... I thought I looked like garbage. I have to MAKE THE CHOICE to move past it. There is NO "magical sexy wife secret" and all of us struggle with our bodies. You get to choose whether it will defeat you or not.

    1. It's a tough process to do a 180 on your thought process. And trust me, I'm not trying to play victim to my upbringing! I'm trying to shed light on a hurtful message that the general Christian community is teaching.
      As for clarification on my "We made sex..." comment, I love your viewpoint. And maybe I should have been more clear when I originally wrote that. But I am speaking of the general Christian idea of sex when you're not married. When you are not married, the idea is that sex is wrong, and if you have premarital sex, you are sinning. Then all of a sudden, when you are married, it's a-okay. That mindset is SO wrong. And THAT is what I meant by that. We need to be taught from the start that yes, sex is incredible, but just because you make the choice to have sex before marriage does not make it gross and dirty. That's what I meant. :)
      I know what you mean about the magic sexy wife thing. I struggle SO much with my body, and you know what? Blake STILL wants me. Even when I've laid around all day, in sweatpants, dirty hair and no makeup. That is helping break down those walls that have been building since I was junior high.

      Thank you for your comment! I appreciate the contrasting view, and the view of someone with far more experience. <3

    2. Yes, I understand. I grew up in a Christian household and was constantly fed the same message. I went to church all of my life and all youth pastors, pastors, and people in the church had the same message. No sex until marriage. I understand where you're coming from. However, none of that stopped me from having sex before marriage. Different strokes for different folks.

      When you continually say "the damage is done" it's an absolute. There are no ACTUAL absolutes in life. We can grow, mature, and get better at things. Most people start out hating wine... and like it, with time. Sometimes things just take time and your sex life in marriage will get better, with time.

      I think women have unnatural expectations for their bodies. Even though I could have been breastfeeding my kid at 3am with greasy hair and haven't shaved my armpits for 3 days... my husband still wants me... EVEN with all of that. Letting go of unreasonable expectations is a smart step. Men don't want perfect women with perfect bodies. Yeah... maybe they are on the media... maybe they are in all the pornos... guess what? They are just fantasies and while they are unhealthy to have fantasies... it's GOOD to remember that real men want REAL women... not airbrushed, women don't need 6 packs... (of beer? ;) but seriously) ...

      My biggest fantasy is to eat whatever I want without gaining weight. Ha! Well, that's not real life so I can chuck that one.

      You are GORGEOUS Haley.. and I think you know it DEEEEEEP down inside that you are pretty. So, GO with it.

      One thing I read in a book about "Sex after a baby" was that sometimes you have to GO with sex when you are feeling the moment. Maybe it's not 10pm, in bed, under the sheets... maybe it's 2am in the laundry room, maybe it's 3pm in the shower... DO it when it feels right for you and not just because it's some weird standard... Sex isn't bound by anything but YOU. ;)

    3. I truly appreciate your insight and your experience! Seriously. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me, and I'm hoping to take this with me as Blake and I work through this. It's a process. A long, slow, painful one. But hey - we're getting there! :)

  6. I love this post! I remember after I got married thinking that something must be wrong with me because sex was NOT this easy thing... We waited until we were married and I am sooo glad we did, but it was not what I was expecting. Society has turned sex into something that it's not. That is something that I definitely struggle with too.

    Sex is a wonderful thing and I feel so connected to my husband through it, but it isn't always an easy thing to do... The great part is, we have the rest of our lives together to work on it, and truly believe that God will bless that part of our marriage. :)

  7. I have one small comment besides I love your post. From a Pentecostal up bringing...I totally get where your coming from. Not gonna lie, still comes to mind , the iron rod God has waiting to "strike" when we make a mistake. ~ I know thats not true, but when its been taught, its hard to get out of the thought process.....the comment i wanted to make was in response to another comment about "after having kids and messing up your body." In a weird, strange, beautiful, magnificent, wonderful way, when you have sex with your spouse, experience the miracle of a life growing inside of you, seeing and feeling what your body was designed specifically to do that a man can not, it is somehow better. When you see what you together have created. How intimate that is!!! Stretch marks and all. Sounds strange, but you will understand. Thumbs up to you, girlfriend!

  8. I couldn't agree more with what you have said! I admire you for putting this post up. I didn't grow up in church, my family starting going in my early teens and I eventually drifted for different reason but I still make it a point to maintain my relationship with god. I too have been told exactly the same you were told, but my parents always made it known that it is nothing to ashamed or embarrassed of.

    It's more hindering for a girl growing up being taught that way; rather then teaching her that she is a beautiful creation inside and out. Sex has been twisted and turned into many different things and people tend to forget the simple meaning of a man and woman coming together in such a beautiful way. I only hope to teach my daughter then same. I wish you the best!