I’m 46 years old and I have a boyfriend that I’ve never had sex with, yet.
We had been on exactly three dates when our quarantine started. Only one of those dates had been without our children (we each have one son).
I was pretty sure that there was some kind of social norm that said it was “okay” to have sex after three dates. I have never followed those kinds of rules, but I am endeavoring into a new way of life that includes sexual relationships based on mutual respect and admiration.
Social norms is a starting point for finding my own appropriate boundaries. My own thinking was that I had been single long enough, and it had been almost a year since I’d had sex (which felt like an eternity). I was ready. Why else were we dating? If not to get to the sex part.
Then the pandemic put us into quarantine, and I suddenly lost much control over where I could go and what I could do—including sex.
This external boundary on my life has allowed me to really consider what kind of relationships I want to be in, and how I want to be engaged in sexually romantic relationships.
My examination and reconsideration of my relationships extends beyond this budding romance, it extends to my friends and family. The enforced stillness has given me the opportunity to inventory my priorities, my shortcomings, and my assets—clarifying my desires for this glorious gift of life.
None of this examination and inventory has changed my desire for sexual pleasure, only given me external boundaries that have opened a whole new world of intimacy.
So the quarantine happened after our third date, and I wondered how prudent it was for us to continue seeing each other—given the lack of credible information regarding the virus itself, as well as its transmission behavior. I wanted to believe it was okay because we were both complying otherwise, and we were still being told that it was okay to see close friends and “romantic partners.”
I also know that I can justify outrageous nonsense in order to get what I want. I was conflicted and so was he—we both decided it was worth the risk. I did not yet know that deciding to continue dating in person wasn’t going to lead to sex, I unconsciously assumed it would. Wrong again, I was.
The various complications of children and my custody schedule soon made it clear that unless we were willing to let our first time together be a quickie in the basement while the kids were playing in the yard, there was going to be a long wait. I’ve made enough mistakes and bad decisions based on the illusion of instant gratification through sex, drugs, food, and purchases, to know that anything worth having does not need to be immediately satisfied. This intellectual understanding of my own impulsivity does not make the practice of prudence and restraint any easier. It simply motivates me to release my first thoughts of “act now.”
I easily become preoccupied, obsessed, fixated, and compulsive around sex; these enforced boundaries have given me the opportunity to proceed into this relationship at a pace, that although probably best for me (and it—the relationship), I don’t know if I would be capable of doing on my own.
When spring began flirting with us, we took the boys and the dogs to the woods. As the boys ran ahead, kicking the soccer ball between them, we walked together managing the dog leashes, the trail obstacles, and the occasional fellow traveler. We moved together so easily I thought “I can’t believe we haven’t had sex yet.”
In the past, sex was how I understood and felt physically close to a person. I only recently learned how to cuddle and snuggle without feeling extremely awkward or tortured by the lack of sexual activity. My recent exploration of non-sexual physical contact with a friend was pleasurable and enlightening. It totally disrupted my emotional patterns and reset my neural pathways enough to make this new way of being possible.
My mind, freed from the bond of sexual obsession, notices my attraction to this man beyond his mouth, his hands, the way he moves. I am aware of how I am drawn into appreciation of his fatherhood—his devotion to his son reaches deep into the parts of me awakened by motherhood. His emotional kindness and generosity is a relief to behold. I breathe easy when I am with him. This is what I notice when I listen to him without the distraction of wondering when it’s time for the sex. I hear what he reveals about himself—the attractions and the cautions.
When I am fixated on an outcome of sexual bliss, which I often mistakenly call love, I deny any cautions that people tell me. Countless times, I have blindly moved toward sexual satisfaction regardless of consequences. I ignored red flags, warning of codependency, and my own toxic emotional patterns.
Sex can alter my thinking and overall perspective such that I ignore the obvious destruction and disaster that lies ahead. This distorted perspective, combined with an arrogant need to be right, kept me in relationships with people that I had no respect for—just to avoid admitting that I was blinded by sexual obsession. The fear of the power of this altered perspective is what drove me to marry a man I had no sexual chemistry with.
Sixteen years in recovery from drug addiction, and a vigilant dedication to living a life built on the practice of spiritual principles, has given me much freedom from my destructive thoughts and patterns. I know that I have a choice today about my behavior. I am responsible for creating appropriate boundaries and parameters for myself that protect me from the traps of obsession, compulsion, and self-centered fear.
Quarantine has given me an external parameter, a wonderful safety net that allows me to explore my new boundaries without having to monitor them (much) myself. What a relief to surrender into the moments of pleasurable arousal without feeling deprived or enslaved to the need for a fix.
This abstention from sex is an exploration into the possibilities of intimacy: sexual and emotional. The external boundary of outside forces allows me to come right up to the edge of my own internal boundaries, stretching my capacity for prudence and patience beyond my own willpower.
This global pandemic is shifting the consciousness of our species, and has given many gifts in my tiny little world, one of which is this brand new framework for love and sex. I used to be a sex first, love second kind of woman.
Not this time.