LDS Singles

Thriving and Growing as an LDS Single

The Different Sides of Single and Chaste

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By Suzette, from Exponent II, (from the series: Single and Married in the LDS Church)Single-1.jpg

I was almost 21 years old (just pre-mission) when I went through the temple for the first time and covenanted to “live the law of chastity”. At the time, I assumed I would have to “contain” my sexuality for a few more years – and then stay faithful to my husband for all the years after that. I didn’t think it would be very hard.

But, here I am, more than 20 years later – and I’m still on the “contain my sexuality part”. Because I stayed single, I’ve had to make the choice about staying chaste (according to the LDS temple covenant) many times. It is not an easy choice. And it is not an easy lifestyle.

In 2011, Nicole Hardy wrote an article in the New York Times called “Single, Female, Mormon, Alone”; it generated a lot of discussion among my single friends.  In her article (now a book), Hardy describes her decision to leave her celibate, Mormon life and explore sexual experiences. Her choices are different from mine, but that is not what bothers me about the article. I am bothered by the fact that she sees choices other than becoming sexually active as adolescent and even foolish.

She writes: “Most troubling was the fact that as I grew older I had the distinct sense of remaining a child in a woman’s body; virginity brought with it arrested development on the level of a handicapping condition, like the Russian orphans I’d read about whose lack of physical contact altered their neurobiology and prevented them from forming emotional bonds. Similarly, it felt as if celibacy was stunting my growth; it wasn’t just sex I lacked but relationships with men entirely. Too independent for Mormon men, and too much a virgin for the other set, I felt trapped in adolescence.”

Hardy’s experience may tell one side of the story, but I have another. Rather than feeling that my choice of chastity leaves me stuck in adolescence or handicap, I feel it heightens my consciousness around my own body.  I consider my sexual feelings deeply because I am compelled to consistently reconcile my beliefs and my desires.  I have considered my choices and fully own my sexuality. This depth of feeling creates, for me, keen consideration of intimate relationships – and a confidence that I am choosing for myself.

I am tired of the word “virgin” being tied to ideas like naive, simple, scared, fragile, and ashamed.  I would like to see the word make a shift to connect with ideas like courageous, determined, strong and sound … all attributes of a fully aware and responsible adult.   Making a choice is empowering. Gone are the days when I live the law of chastity for fear of my Bishop or the Lord. It is my choice – and I can own that. (And I can feel comfortable with my single friends who make other choices – and own those as well.)

There is still another side to this story. I give the Hardy credit for describing a situation that has my complete empathy: living chaste, at arms length with ones sexuality, into mid-adulthood is a hard way to live.  Sex is a normal part of adult life.  It is, however, a missing part of my live or the lives my friends who live single and chaste.  We are not only missing the act of sex, but the intimacy of shared living.

Many adults live without sex for a few years into adulthood while they finish college or “find the right one”, but we live without sex for an additional 15, 20 years or more. Over time, this physical isolation changes us; creating a wound in body and spirit. It is a dark hurt of longing, unsatisfied yearning, aloneness, and insufficient closeness.

The situation is exacerbated by the feeling that this wound is invisible to our married brothers and sisters who see only the benefits of a chaste life.  It seems that for them there is no real difference between chastity at age 17 and chastity at age 40.  Their sermons about the benefits of “saving ourselves for marriage” don’t fall on deaf ears, but seem to lack understanding. It seems that married leaders equate their 20 year old single experience to our current situation. We do see the benefits of living chaste, but our situation differs for that of a youth. Making sensible choices in a passionate moment is not as difficult in mid-adulthood as it once was.  We’ve had practice with drawing boundaries and are fully aware of consequences.  The harder part is the living; making the choice every day as the loss of a shared bed and a life companion grows. We miss intimacy into the deep parts of ourselves and know that some of those losses cannot be restored.

While choosing a chaste life comes with its price, I still believe it has been a powerful choice for me.  I feel strong. I feel free. I feel whole. And the scope goes beyond myself, which gives me reason to continue choosing it. On its own, the law of chastity may fall short on benefits, but combined with all the principles in the gospel of Christ, it holds greater weight.  All of these principles, together, create a tight weave in the fabric that connects me to God and to others in my faith community. It provides a sense of safety that spreads throughout my life.

Living chaste allows me to participate fully with my community of Saints – and holds me in solidarity with them. This community sustains me with their own faith and trust. I am better and live richer because I am whole with them.

By choosing to live chaste, I sacrifice parts of myself and am built stronger in others parts. My relationship with Christ allows me to believe that His atonement will, in time, heal my wounds and deepen my understanding.

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Author: pickleclub1971

I'm a single mom of 2: a Southern CA native, who transplanted to Utah 4 years ago. I have one 18 year old who is off to the Ivy League, and one 14 year old who is in high school. I served an LDS Mission to Southern France and I’ve also lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, Idaho, Northern Arizona, and New Hampshire. I love 80’s music, classical music, choral music, playing the piano, singing, speaking what French I still remember, and talking about history and music with whomever will listen. I love that my kids are better at math than I was at their age. (But they still get frequent historical references from me…anyone familiar with Ducky from NCIS? He’s that kind of medical examiner, I’m that kind of mom.) My kids also think I know all the lyrics to all the songs from the 80’s, mainly because I’m good at making them up and faking it when I don’t know. Sometimes they catch me. I’m currently disabled with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I want to get better (of course) and be an advocate for trauma survivors and others with mental illnesses. I like people in general. I suffer from the delusion that I can make everyone my friend, but of course that isn’t possible: but I still believe that the world can be a better place.

4 thoughts on “The Different Sides of Single and Chaste

  1. Both here have missed the point entirely shall a man leave his mother and father etc…. And I am sure with out a doubt that each has had a choice of men who were not the Prince Charming expectation, and felt, thought and behaved as of I choose this man I have settled for less, funny thing is in the church like one bishops wife put it all the priesthood leaders has one thing in common they married above their head, and before you think I am some loser I am actually a widower and have a keen sense of sieze the day, both missed seising the day with their sexuality, I was also a sex ed teacher, married in the temple and served a mission, and watched good men get over looked because they did not have enough money, the right job etc, they are good looking hell one was even on the cover of GQ, nope not kidding the point is women complain about men wanting too much it goes the other way both of these women whom I am sure are wonderfull had they settled so to speak and worked to have a life with their husbands would be fulfilled sexually and spiritually which they both deserve

    • I don’t think you have to be looking for Prince Charming (or the Princess) for the search to be difficult. I see where you’re going with that, but there’s no way to be able to accurately judge someone (especially someone you don’t know) whether or not they’ve passed up on a prospect. It’s not just about more or less money or good looks, even though it unfortunately is sometimes; but rather it’s about compatibility.

    • Talk about going off on a tangent. I don’t think this article was about not being able to find prince charming.

    • You know what the successful relationships I know have in common? They BOTH feel like they married up, not just the husband (or the wife), and they feel that way because they have complementary ways that they left each other up. Just by demographics, it’s ridiculous to suggest that all single women are single because they passed up good opportunities. For every good man getting “overlooked” there are at least two equally good women getting overlooked–particularly in the 30+ crowd where the ratio is closer to three-to-one. Every LDS single guy I’ve known that complained about women being too picky either had issues quite a bit deeper than looks or money or actually meant that the specific one or two women that he deemed to be good enough for him did not reciprocate. You wanna know what my super high standards are? A guy who is sufficiently self-motivated to 1) keep a current temple recommend, 2) do what it takes to get the bills paid (i.e., you don’t have to be wealthy, just not racking up credit card debt), and 3) actually ask me out. After that it comes down to compatibility, and I firmly believe that’s something you can’t know until you actually spend time together. That’s why I’ve never turned down a first date and rarely turn down a second. And yet, here I am, 35, never married, and never even been in a relationship that lasted long enough to “officially” be called a “relationship”. I once had a guy ask me what it felt like to be smarter than every guy in the singles ward. I don’t remember what I said, but I know what I thought: “lonely”. So, tell your single guy friends go ahead and overlook the smart women and the women who aren’t damsels in distress, but don’t complain when they get overlooked by the two women out of 100 that they deem sufficiently above them to be worth their notice.

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