Monday, August 10, 2009
After Celia drew a “no unzipping
jeans” line during their first premarital foreplay encounter, Rob withdrew to
take a cold shower.
loved Rob more ever. She was
grasping, without having had intercourse yet, what sex with someone you love
could potentially be. The shift in
focus, from your own pleasure, to thinking about what the other was feeling,
then back again. Being fully in
touch with your body and your mind at the same time. Trying new things together and laughing and talking about
it. This experiment had gone as
well as Celia had hoped it might, from her perspective.
she was not sure how Rob felt about it. Celia decided to make them both a snack
while he showered, because she was a little anxious about how he would respond
when he came out. She walked into
the kitchen and opened the refrigerator.
had seemed like the right thing to do, to stop the encounter from escalating
when she did. Celia had noticed
that Rob’s demeanor had shifted once she had allowed him to unbutton her
blouse. He had talked less, and
every move seemed more urgent to him.
Despite their conversations leading up to this, Celia wondered that if
she had let him unzip her jeans just what the next crossroads would have been,
and if cool heads would have prevailed. And which one of them would have been
the one to hold up the STOP sign.
grabbed a bag of shredded cheese out of the refrigerator, found a bag of
tortilla chips, and began to assemble a plate of nachos. This had been her first real experience
with what she understood to be sexual arousal, and as exhilarating as it had
been, she also understood for the first time just how powerful it could
be. Rob had said the encounter had
been “wonderful” for him, but she was not sure that he wasn’t being mildly
sarcastic, especially since his next act was to withdraw to a cold shower.
the plate into the microwave, Celia wondered if this had been a mistake. It may have been infinitely more
frustrating to Rob to taste this tiny sample of upcoming marital delights than
to have continued to wait.
heard the bathroom door open. Rob
walked into the kitchen, wearing boxers and a t-shirt, just as the timer on the
microwave signaled that their snack was ready.
does Rob say?
Saturday, August 08, 2009
A Cold Shower (Harold’s response)
It's hard to say what the outcome of Rob and Celia's excursion ultimately will be. On one hand, they are fully engaged in conversation about what is going on between them. That is a good thing. On the other hand, most of us realize that such encounters tend to be more emotional than rational. And, I suspect this is why Rob is ending up taking a cold shower.
What can we learn from this episode? I think we see how a couple can negotiate their sexual expression. This isn't just an issue for premarital couples. It is a major concern for married ones as well. Many just do not feel comfortable talking sex. Rob and Celia are setting boundaries that are intended to "leave something for after they're married."
I also think that we learn something from Rob's quick exit. Our sexual response is most often not rational. How many of us have been in those precarious situations where our mind is telling us to stop but we just keep forging ahead because it feels good.
There is a place for the rational and the emotional in our sexual lives as couples. The rational should be used to talk about needs and desires. The emotional should be passion and security enabled by a trusting relationship.
I hope Rob and Celia are able to keep their balancing act going until the wedding day. I suspect there will be plenty more cold showers for Rob until then.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
A Cold Shower (Joanne’s response)
Rob and Celia's first part-way encounter began with some impressive advance preparation -- unlke many premarital sexual encounters. They had meaningful conversation about what moving into this gray area meant and how far they wanted to go. The encounter was structured around practical, agreed-upon ground rules that pointed to their impending marriage as the ultimate goal.
Then, the gray area got even more gray. What does "keeping clothes on" mean? I like that the very question required Rob and Celia to communicate even more about what was going on for them, and they remained connected throughout.
Right up until the very end. Celia does not know what Rob's abrupt evacuation to the shower means in full. Ultimately, we cannot judge yet the success or failure of this encounter, which, for me, rests on whether or not it promoted emotional intimacy or detracted from it. We cannot do that until Rob and Celia make meaning of it together. It is not what happened on the sofa that matters nearly as much as how they interpret it afterwards. There is sex, and then there is talking about sex, what we want and need and what it means. Healthy relationships have plenty of both.
Monday, August 03, 2009
A Cold Shower
Celia and Rob have decided to
experiment with something in between a good night kiss and a full-on sex life
between now and their September wedding.
Though neither is sure what that is supposed to look like, they have
realized through their discussions that they will both need to keep a cool
At Rob’s apartment, they are “experimenting” for the first
had already drawn the first boundary of their first encounter: no going into the bedroom, to which Rob
had readily agreed. Not that things
couldn’t go too far in the living room, but it reminded them both that they
weren’t married yet and that what was going on now was not the same as married
sex would be. Cool Head Decision
had shortly thereafter drawn the second boundary of the encounter: No removing clothing. At first Celia
felt slightly disappointed with this choice, but soon she realized that working
around that obstacle had two benefits:
one, it was another physical boundary (like staying in the living room)
that distinguished this from married sex, and two, it was frankly entertaining
working around the clothing, and this kept them talking and laughing and
emotionally connected. Cool Head
was kissing Celia slowly, up and down her neck, and his hands roamed more
freely than they ever had before.
he whispered. “Does keeping
clothing on mean I can’t unbutton your blouse?”
she said. “Go ahead.” Rob responded accordingly.
few minutes later, he said, “What about unzipping jeans?”
thought. “I think that’s within
the bounds of keeping clothing on, but maybe another time. I think I’d like to stop here tonight.”
seemed disappointed. “Aren’t you enjoying this?” he said.
Rob, I am enjoying this immensely.
And I want to save something for next time.”
sat up and buttoned Celia’s blouse, which was as endearing an act as he had
ever done for her.
was this for you?” she asked him.
was wonderful,” Rob said, kissing her.
“And now I’m going to take a cold shower.”
laughed, thinking he was kidding about the shower, but he left the living room
abruptly. Thirty seconds later,
she heard the water running in the bathroom.
does this leave Celia?
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Keeping Cool Heads
Celia has agreed to “meet halfway” on sex before marriage in part because she understands that this is difficult for Rob and that he would wait if she insisted.
Rob was overjoyed that Celia was willing to be flexible, but the idea of getting going then stopping was intimidating and he wasn’t sure what to think. It would help if he knew what Celia was thinking, because the last thing they needed two months before their wedding was to mess this one up.
“So what does “halfway” mean?” Rob asked. “Everything but actual intercourse, or anything we can do without taking clothes off, or what?”
Celia gestured to him to keep it down, as they were sitting in a public place. “Well, you’ve had sex before and I haven’t,” she said quietly. “What do you think will work?”
“Define ‘work,’” Rob said.
“What do you think will make it possible to meet halfway, for you, without it being more frustrating than satisfying?”
Rob realized that Celia was thinking about things that had not occurred to him. He had been so wrapped up in the black-and-white, sex-or-no-sex perspective. Now that this vast area of gray had been made available to him, he had no idea where, or how, to tread.
He had hated it in the past when girls had led him on, and he was unwilling to put Celia in that position. “Maybe if you just tell me when you want to stop,” he said. “As we go along.”
Celia thought. “But then that makes me the bad guy.”
“No, you’re being the good guy. Girl. For both of us.”
“But what if I get so carried away I don’t want to stop,” Celia said. “Will you be there for me, and remind me what I agreed to?”
“So you want me to protect you from you?”
Celia laughed. “In a way. This means you can’t lose your head.”
“What this means is that neither of us can afford to lose our heads.”
“Sex is a big responsibility, Rob.”
“I know. I am seeing that more with each passing moment.” Rob couldn’t wait to marry this woman. It was fascinating just to talk about sex with her.
Just how far do Rob and Celia end up going?
Friday, July 24, 2009
Walking A Fine Line (Joanne’s response)
I have never found "slippery slope" arguments to be useful in general because they tend to support either/or, black-and-white thinking regardless of the merit of the positions or variables; further I can think of many situations in which incremental change is useful and even necessary. But the argument definitely does not hold water in this case for one clear reason: Rob and Celia will be married in less than two months. As Harold said, halfway often does not remain halfway for long, and in this case it does not need to. Rob and Celia are searching for a meanwhile solution to an issue that is important to them both. Now, if they were teenagers using "halfway" as a method of birth control, or partners attempting to preserve a technical virginity indefinitely, then I think efforts to escalate but limit sexual expression may well end in disappointment and, worse, pregnancy or STDs (because the couple who believe they're not going to go all the way probably aren't prepared to practice safe sex). For Rob and Celia I can actually imagine a fun, relationship-building game of escalation, culminating in the whole enchilada (as we have said) on their wedding night.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Tacos For Two (Joanne’s response)
I appreciate that Rob took Celia's question seriously about when and why he thought it was OK for couples to have premarital sex. This couple has worked hard and incorporated the gains from their therapy sufficiently that Celia could ask the question without Rob feeling like his position was being challenged. Similarly, Rob has given this thought and stated his conclusion clearly. I hope Celia will respond in kind, and not feel pressure to conform to Rob's position.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Tacos for Two
Celia has challenged Rob on his
position about when he thinks premarital sex is all right.
was drinking an ice tea at the Mexican fast-food place near Rob’s office when
Rob joined her. They were going to
grab a quick bite before their appointment with their therapist, Carolyn.
sat across from her, looking tired from what Celia presumed was a long,
stressful day in the accounting trenches, just as the server called the number
for the food she had ordered.
She brought it to the table for them and began to serve him.
for dinner tonight, honey?” Rob joked.
specialty. The Taco Trio Platter
with rice and beans. And root
beer. Served in paper wrappers,
all for just $4.99.” She sat
down. “You look tired.”
am exhausted by lust, Celia.”
Celia looked Rob directly in the eye, briefly fearing he was serious,
and they both burst out laughing.
line. I’m going to remember it for
watched as Rob unwrapped his tacos to figure out which was which. He liked to eat the fish one first,
then the chicken, then the beef.
Then the rice, then the beans.
This ordering of his food made Celia laugh every time, but it was so
silly as to be endearing.
have been thinking,” he said, having discerned the fish taco. Celia paused in her own
unwrapping. “You wanted to know
what I think about when sex is OK.
So I have been thinking about it.”
nodded. “Thank you for taking my
think sex is an appropriate part of a committed relationship, whether the
couple is married or not,” he
nodded again. “Based on what?”
not sure it is something I can explain my reasoning on. I don’t want to be like the guys in my
office who are way left of me on this, but your position is a little too far
right – this is just where I feel like I fall.” Rob finished the first taco and licked his fingers. “I think it is about growing the
relationship, and if two people agree sex will help them grow it, then it
should be OK.”
thought about this as she mixed her rice and beans together. “What if two people have sex in order
to grow the relationship but then decide they don’t want to be together
think that is a risk they can agree to take.”
does Celia say next?
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
A Bridge too far? (Harold’s response)
I really appreciate Rob's stance against pornography in this episode. Pornography is a very dangerous habit--often reeling Christians and non-Christians alike into addictive behavior which often progresses into a series of risky (and sinful) behaviors. Rob has taken a stance on this issue of pornography that I applaud. But, if I had the opportunity I would ask Rob upon what exactly does he base that stand? The episode infers that his feeling that this debases women is the gist of his criticism. My question to Rob then is "for those who don't feel that pornography is debases women (possibly like those in the cubicle next to his at work) is pornography wrong? Is the "rightness" or "wrongness" of pornography based solely upon how one feels about it? In other words, it is OK for you but not for me. Or, is there a clear line of demarcation that says "pornography is not acceptable?"
Where am I going with this?
Christian (which Rob professes to be) behavior has to be guided by an absolute standard. This is why the Bible is an imperative in the life of the Christian. And, this is why the presence of the Holy Spirit is crucial. We need a moral compass--that isn't subject to cultural whims. We can stay centered because we have an anchor, even as we allow for differences in opinion in our doctrinal expression.
Pornography is not wrong only because it demeans women (although it certainly does). Pornography is wrong for many reasons including lust. In the same way that the Bible instructs Christians to avoid pornography, it admonishes against premarital sex. Rob ends this episode with a clear feeling that premarital sex should be acceptable if it is a means of joining and expressing your love in a more intimate way with someone that you intend to spend the rest of your life with. As a Christian, I do not feel comfortable defining "right" and "wrong" based on my personal feelings or preferences. I know a few scriptures that would confirm that. And, I strongly wish Rob had a strong Christian male mentor that could help with with these unravel his feelings and his faith.
I do appreciate Rob as being a good and thoughtful person--showing maturity in many ways. But, I encourage Rob to look for the roots of his faith and develop more spiritual maturity.
As I think about Rob's spiritual journey, I am reminded of the Bible parable of the Sower in Matthew chapter 13. This parable teaches an important lesson about the four different types of responses that people have to God's Word. I desire that Rob's life exudes what the parable describes as "good ground", setting the stage for God's richest blessings to fall upon him and Celia in their future life.
Friday, July 03, 2009
Faith Matters (Harold’s response)
When you're a single person interested in being married, how do you know when you have found someone that you will spend the rest of your life with? Honestly, you never really know. You hope. You believe. You have faith that the person that you plan to marry will follow through with it. You have faith that the person you marry will be committed to you in every sense of the word. And, you have faith that you alone will be the object of his or her desire forever. We all hope for this in faith.
I had a conversation this week with a co-worker who described two friends of hers that were unmarried, intimate partners. Last week, the young man decided that he was finally going to propose to her after dating for four years. My coworker went with him to pick out a ring. He didn't purchase the ring that day thinking that he would go back another day to look again. But, that night his world was turned upside down after his girlfriend informed him that she was leaving him. A couple of days later, he learned that she had gotten engaged to someone else and was moving in with this other man.
Admittedly, I don't know the details of this couple's relationship. But, I offer it as an example of sexuality and intimacy in our culture. You can think that you are ready to marry someone one minute only to realize the next day that this will never happen. In the meantime, if you have been having sexual intercourse with this person you realize that you've given your most personal treasure to someone who has now moved on to the next intimate relationship. While there are no guarantees to faithful intimacy when one gets married (e.g., look at the nationally publicized case of South Carolina's Gov. Sanford's adultery), there is certainly more commitment--or at least legal and financial repercussions for infidelity.
Now for Rob and Celia, it is good that they are having the conversation about their own sexual relationship. As Christians looking for guidance in a culture that treats sexual expression like a commodity, I would refer them to the Bible--a guide that has been lacking in their conversations. Our culture tends to see sex outside of marriage as fine as long as it is monogamous. Scripture, however, forbids serial monogamy--considering it adulterous. I would refer Rob and Celia to Matthew chapter 5:27-28 as a starting point for their discussion. It reads as follows "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But, I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." I would also point them towards 1 Corinthians 6:18 which starts out saying "Flee fornication." And, 1 Corinthians 7:2 which reads, "Nevertheless to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband."
I know these scriptures seem extreme in our Western culture. But, God's Word stands the test of time. God expects us to commit ourselves sexually to one person for a lifetime--not our culture's ideal of serial monogamy. And, God honors our pursuit of this ideal with supernatural blessings--I certainly can attest to that one. There are no guarantees as humans make bad decisions all the time. But, when a couple waits until marriage to express themselves sexually I believe that there is a natural and spiritual significance to this delayed gratification. I hope Rob and Celia can wrestle with those scriptures in a way that enriches their relationship and their faith.
Page 1 of 2 pages 1 2 >
Return to home page