Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Love, Sex and...(Rewind)

I've been thinking about sex a lot lately. I suppose that shouldn't be a great shock...after all I am a male and we have a reputation for thinking about it all the time. If I was still 15, it might seem more understandable, but alas, I'm much older than that. But my thoughts of sex are not what one might expect. It's not the thought of engaging in sex (though that idea does appeal to me after seven years of celibacy), but rather what sex has meant to me throughout my life.

For the past several weeks, the concept of "love" has been a primary focus of conversation and/or messages to me. In my church, it has been the center of several sermons. One of the books I recently finished reading helped to clarify what love is really all about. In my treatment group, we discussed the relationship between love and sex. The devotional I read each day has focused on it as well lately. I'm beginning to think that Someone is trying to get me to re-examine love (or the lack of it) in my own life.

My sister recently made a comment in reference to some of my writing about how she connected love and sex throughout her life. For her, sex was the only love she knew. I've thought about her comment off and on since she shared it, and after thinking on it, I realize that in some ways sex filled the same spot in my life. I just didn't realize it.

For me, nearly every relationship that I had (or wanted to have) was sexualized. If not in the flesh, then it certainly was in my mind. If I liked a person, or if I believed they liked me, it was in invitation to bring sex into the equation. That seemed to be what the relationship was built on. But a strange thing happened in those relationships...they didn't last very long. When the sex was over...or got boring, there was no anchor to the relationship and we would drift apart.

As I have reflected on those relationships, I have come to realize that very seldom was I the initiator. Even when I was married, my wife probably initiated sex more often than I did. Sometimes it was overt...and often it was more subtle. But for me, it was very rarely overt and almost never a verbal request. I'm not certain why except that it is probably centered on my fear of rejection. I wouldn't ask for sex because I was afraid they might say no.

Psychologists who specialize in sexual issues say that children naturally want to explore each other in sexual ways and that it is harmless. In fact, the research seems to show that children who do explore their bodies and the bodies of other kids their age are less likely to have any type of sexual dysfunction as adults. Sadly, that was stolen from me as a small child (as it has been for countless children through this country). From my earliest memories, I was afraid to explore sexually with others. I was too embarrassed and carried too much guilt. I don't know if it was related to being threatened by an older man who molested me or if intrinsically I knew that the sex I had experienced was wrong, but discussing or initiating sex has been a major struggle for me throughout my life.

And that brings me back to the "love" and "sex" connection. I've come to learn that love is really about relationship and everything that it takes to build a good relationship. Conversation. Honesty. Integrity. Selflessness. Knowing each other. Investing in each other. As a child, I didn't have any of those types of relationships...at least I didn't recognize them if they were there. Instead, the relationships held something else in common and that was sex. I wanted to be around people who would interact with me sexually. It was the indicator to me that I was OK...that I was special...that I was loved.

I realize now that my concept of love was defined by sex in my life. Not in every case, but in most. The only exception would have been my wife, but it was when I got into internet sexual-based chatting that our relationship began to be torn apart. Maybe it was a bigger part of my understanding of love in that relationship that I believed before.

I am thankful that God has given me the courage to write about the issues in my life that He slowly reveals to me. And I'm thankful that my words are read and commented on. It's a sign of love and lack of judgement that I had never realized in my life before. God continues to reveal His own love for me and demonstrates that love through the words and actions of others. Sex is great...but there is nothing greater than the intimacy encountered in a truly loving relationship with someone else.

1 comment:

Deb said...

Wow. Incredibly insightful and painfully vulnerable. I'm so proud of you for being willing to explore how both love and sex have impacted your life, and how the early abuse and sexualization continue to inform how you survive. I know this isn't easy. You are not alone, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate that your courage is allowing me to feel less alone. I love you.

Seven years of celibacy. There's a post here.