Relationships aren’t what they used to be. Having conversations with people who feel the same has started to feel like those conversations we heard our parents have about the difference in their music and ours. I don’t know if it has always been as bad as it is now or if it’s just one more thing social media highlighted for us. Either way, exclusivity, loyalty, communication, all these terms have become indicative of nagging or arguing and if those are the things we feel about the concepts that should be the keys to healthy relationships, what are we even trying to do anymore?
We all go into relationships looking for what we want for ourselves in others but how often do we try to see if we have what they need in us? It seems like a given but with communication on the fritz, how can we even know the things about each other that we need to know in order to be all that we need to be for our partners. I found myself in a relationship at one point that I knew I had no business being in simply for the fact that we weren’t able to communicate our issues effectively with each other because communication itself was stressful. The more I got to know him, the more I knew I wanted nothing more than to undo everything but I didn’t want to be shallow and nagging so I pushed through. It got to the point where I’d find myself hanging up on him mid story, mid argument, mid “why I love you” because the way he spoke gave me anxiety. I know, it’s awful to hang up on someone and pretend you got cut off hoping when they called back they’d forget what they were talking about. I was wrong for that but when I say anxiety, I mean literal anxiety attacks. It was depressing, being with someone who I could barely talk to because the way he spoke, the things he said all made me want to poof out of existence. No shade, we just weren’t compatible.
Since then, I have been celibate for 1 year and 2 months, to date.
It was during that relationship that I decided I wanted to be celibate. We discussed it and he agreed. Seems like a messed up thing to want in the middle of a relationship, I know, but I honestly, I had no unreasonable expectations. If he wanted out, I wouldn’t have blamed him. I didn’t expect him to agree to it, he was free to go but he decided to stay. That’s when things got messy.
There were some things about that situation that played a major role in my decision to be celibate. I came to realize that taking sex out of the equation will show you each and every place where there is a disconnect. Those disconnections are the places that get pacified because “at least the sex is good” or “atleast I’m having sex on the regular”. For me, the sex wasn’t good. Definitely not good enough to fill in the many gaps that were present and that’s when I realized that the way I’ve been going about things was backwards. As far as progress goes, I can’t regret something that has helped me grow as much as that failed relationship did but I got to the point where I no longer wished to go out on emotional limbs for anyone.
One important lesson I learned during those trials and error relationships was that men are no more sure (in general) than women are about any given thing. It was a “DUH!” moment for me, admittedly but I had to cut myself a lot of slack. A lot of men do come across like they know who they are, what they want, how to get it and what to do with it, though that obviously isn’t always the case. I don’t hold it against them though because a lot of pressure has been placed on them to know and be sure of all these things, to be leaders, to be providers and there is little room for error. This doesn’t excuse everything, just a lot by way of expectations. I’ve grown to learn that men are just as susceptible to uncertainty as women are. They are just as liable to be fickle. They have insecurities, just like women and they aren’t automatically suited to lead just because they are men. None of those realizations made me hate men and none of those realizations made me want to bash men. Realizing those things made me want to take control of who I found myself entertaining and the amount of energy I put into vetting that person. There’s a big difference between choosing and “being chose”. Although there was a screening process involved, I decided that it wasn’t enough. I no longer felt flattered to catch anyone’s eye, no matter how much potential they had. It no longer suited me to passively be dragged into and through relationships. It became necessary to raise my standards a little more.
A few reasons that pushed my decision to abstain…
1) YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOURSELF SETS THE TONE FOR EVERY OTHER RELATIONSHIP YOU’LL HAVE.
Sounds simple enough, but it took some time to realize that my relationship with myself needed work. I embraced some changes in the early years of my adult life and with those changes came a deeper understanding of myself and thus a deeper appreciation for myself but I didn’t know that back in 2010 when these changes began that I barely even scratched my own surface. Trial and error relationships forcibly taught me a lot about myself - things that were important for me to know, but after a while, I had to realize that there was a lot left for me to embrace about myself and instead of employing my heart as a crash test dummy for the wild rides I’d find myself on, I decided that it would be best to not do any further damage to it and the remaining hope I had that longevity in love was possible. Also, the time I have been investing in myself and my art has yielded so many amazing results.
2) I WANTED A BETTER RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THAN THE ONE I TOLD MYSELF WAS ALREADY THERE.
I know it’s unpopular opinion that sex should be saved for marriage and based on the way our hormones are set up, I can easily see why. I don’t have those “I wish I waited” regrets simply because spilling tears over spilled milk doesn’t get it back into the box (I didn’t intend that pun at all, to be honest). Am I saying that I won’t have sex again until I’m married? I hope that’s possible but to be 100% honest with myself – I can’t plan that, my self control is phenomenal but I’m still human. I can however say that I don’t plan to have any flings, any relationships with anyone that doesn’t fully suit me as I’ve come to learn and love myself. I don’t plan to have any relationship with anyone who does not believe as I believe and who is not willing to have God at the center of whatever is being built as I have made Him the center of all that I am and all that I do. That’s non-negotiable.
3) BAD SEX, MEANINGLESS CONNECTIONS AND RAISING BOYS TO BE MEN FOR OTHER WOMEN
No shade. I’m not insinuating that my exes weren’t good enough for me. Despite how those relationships ended, I found that I was a perfect fit for each relationship I was in at the time I was in them, as I was. That was the problem. I didn’t want to be who I was, I wanted to be better and so I aimed to be better. There were relationships that my wanting to grow became problematic for. I wanted to try new things, I wanted to figure out who I could be. Instead of seeing that as ambitious, there were those whose insecurities pushed them to mock my ambition as pretention. Those were the guys who would either encourage me to not do too much or guilt me into not doing things that involved interacting with other men. There were relationships I just couldn’t juggle; attempting to domesticate myself in order to “play my position” while aiming to level up in my own spaces left little energy for what was important to me and essentially wasn’t good for me. I didn’t want to believe that I was fated to be unfulfilled conversationally, sexually and emotionally and it came to the point where I would rather no sex than bad sex and miscommunication with anyone for the rest of my life. Also, there were cases of the boys who I tried to force to grow up, they fought back. After a certain amount of arguing and tense interactions, we’d write it off as irreconcilable but then he’d grow up for whoever came next. While there was a little satisfaction in having it acknowledged that I wasn’t just nagging but had a legitimate cause for concern, I was tired of being the test subject.
4) I NEEDED TO KNOW WHAT I WANTED.
I knew enough about myself to know what I did and didn’t want on the surface but the more I leveled up in my personal growth the more things changed and the more standards I had. Realizing this let me know that I needed to either set my standards to what would fit the person I was growing into or just wait until I got there to go back to “dating”.
5) SEX LOST ITS MEANING
Prior to actually losing my virginity (in college) I thought sex was special. I thought it was supposed to be an intense connection between two people who already had an intense connection. Growing up I realized that not everyone felt this way. That didn’t change what I thought it should be or what I wanted it to be but those trials and errors did manage to snuff my fire out significantly. I got to a point where even in relationships, I had to be under some kind of influence to connect sexually and if I wasn’t, my mind would roam and I’d have to fake interest in what was happening. Those kinds of interactions made for great materials to write about and for a while, I accepted it solely for the purpose of feeling just enough to keep my poems flowing but I grew up. That’s no longer sufficient and I’d rather quit art altogether than to put myself through anything just to feel something.
MIX IT ALL TOGETHER…
I’ve outgrown the influence of my peers, film, television, music and such that expresses this socially acceptable expression of “live your life” as it pertains to love and sex. What relationships have come to represent is unappealing and disheartening to me but I don’t intend to allow it to deter me from what I want for myself or my belief that I can have it. I do intend to wait as long as I need to to assure that what I bring to the table is nothing short of sincere and that my faith, my intentions, my ambitions, my loyalty and my desires are matched. Celibacy has cleared that “this might be able to work” filter from the bigger picture for me. I give myself time, now, to read people’s intentions and having no expectations for them rules out making excuses for who they show me that they are.
Since deciding to abstain, I’ve been in a couple situations where I had the opportunity to observe men’s behavior objectively. There’s so much more that is communicated in these interactions than what is actually said. Being celibate doesn’t give you superpowers that allow you to see who is sincere and who isn’t but when you stand on your decision to be removed from doing things the way you have always done them, you give yourself the time you need to locate your best interests in a situation before physically putting yourself there.
It hasn’t been the easiest journey by a long shot. There are bouts of loneliness, I must admit. They don't tempt me to fold as much as I thought they would, though. I fill them with conversations with friends and setting new goals for myself. It's still not easy, though. In the beginning, I felt a little aimless and thus more susceptible to crashing. I knew why I was doing what I was doing but thoughts of “what’s the point? No one respects relationships as much as you do so you’ll be waiting forever” definitely came through to shake my foundation. I can honestly say prior to the 8 month mark, I was ready to start making bad decisions again. The frustration was real. I don’t know if I would have gotten as far as I did if someone didn’t come along to give me a little hope. I had a couple conversations with a friend who I had feelings for at one time. The conversations reminded me of why those feelings where there to begin with and although being in that space to have those conversations with him at that point made me a lot more tempted to say “screw this journey”, it also inspired me to press through. I know, it does seem ass backwards. Finding someone with potential that matched my recently upped standards should have made me want to jump in because what are the odds that he’ll be available when I feel ready. Except, seeing that potential made me want to wait even more because “do something you’ve never done to get something you’ve never had.” I was 10 ½ pushing 11 months when this all happened.
Now that I’m here, well past a whole year, I am thankful that I stuck it out for several reasons.
1) If I allowed myself to rush in for what I wanted, I’m sure we would have expired by now and our friendship would have gone bad with it.
2) I chose me. I needed to choose me. Showing myself the love that I needed was a step in the direction of being ready for all the things I want with someone else eventually.
3) Making a decision against your habits is a necessary step in changing those habits.
Overall, I’m still growing, I’m still learning and I’m still hopeful that at the end of this journey I’ll be an even more refined version of myself. Also, that whoever I find myself with will be the last one. I know this all seems a bit much but the lengths you’re willing to go for what you want says a lot about how badly you want it.
Kimolee Eryn is an artist and writer who believes in creating for a purpose beyond the purpose of creating. She believes that a life should be lived not just to sustain itself but to cultivate peace, love and growth in all adjacent beings and hopes to exemplify that in all she does.