As a single mother in her thirties, life had presented me with a whirlwind of challenges and joys. Amidst the chaos of parenting and the pursuit of career goals, I found myself at a crossroads. It was a moment of introspection that led me to make a decision that would redefine my relationship with myself and my approach to intimacy – I embarked on a one-year celibacy vow.
My world has an odd connection between happiness and romantic experiences. The choice of a celibacy vow was not intentional in the beginning, instead, my crossroads were that of what it takes for me to be happy and what I need to feel secure and safe. I wondered how can I give that to myself. Dating more times than not has led to an imbalance within me, instead of a heartwarming unfolding to a grander bigger picture. After deciding to take a couple of goals very seriously and strategically I found myself extremely busy. After a couple of months of remodeling and school, I decided to choose celibacy during this period to save myself from being spread too thin. I choose to prioritize myself, my goals, and my family vs choosing to refrain. I hope that differentiation makes sense to the reader.
This may be lengthy, yet I would love to process this in writing thoroughly. I hope I accomplish that here.
The decision to embrace celibacy wasn’t about denying myself pleasure; instead, it was a conscious choice to recenter and prioritize my well-being. There are goals I set up for myself which require time and dedication. Getting to know my date placed him as the last priority, which seems unfair. Reviewing the few intimate experiences I had was showing me the options I had were not a true fit and in fact could cause heartache if I was to continue with someone who did not truly fit. I needed to get clear on what I need and deserve. Through this journey, I learned that my worth isn’t tied to external validation or the presence of a romantic partner. I rediscovered the importance of self-love and nurturing a positive relationship with myself before seeking it from someone else.
By this I mean:
My worth is evident to myself with getting more clear of what I have to offer a partnership.
Not trying to fit in, not making attempts to change anyone's mind about me or what might be good for the other person's future. Holding back on attempting to set a pace and instead allowing a man to lead. How he leads is an indication of how important and recognizable to him what I have to offer in reality.
I have within me exactly what I need to show myself I am capable of more than I may be understanding at that time. If I want more money all of the moving parts and opportunities are already in my world and it is up to me to take action exactly how I expect a partner to. When I want myself and my children to feel safer and protected, I can make a better decision to provide us exactly that via security cameras, nurturing the relationships with people who have my back and show up with authority, installing a fence, rewiring my thinking and relationship with God/Source/The Universe, etc. If I want more fun there are ways to enjoy, receive pleasure, and get excited around me, going without a date does still lead to fun, meeting new people, and smiling children's faces. I can buy a motorcycle on my own, I can shoot guns and people who are in alignment with whatever activity I am hoping to have more of in alignment in terms of hobbies. It is up to me to say yes and understand I am welcome.
Because I know I am a loyal, nurturing, healthy, traditional woman, I also know I require a specific type of partner. When a gap in communication or activity occurs, I am worth the space being filled out of desire and recognition of who I am. Holding back, reaching out, initiating more, and being uncomfortable with allowing a potential mate to walk away (as I am not giving them my body) discounts myself. Intimacy and pleasure of the mind does not require physical contact. I offer mental and emotional depth, if this is not alluring to a gentleman then he is not for me.
Let go with an appreciation for the experience, I do not need acknowledgment for what I have to offer from a specific person, it comes in many forms.
There are already people in my world who know I am trustworthy with their internal processes. I keep information private. I am a go-to for people to seek solace and comfort.
I get in-person winks, likes/comments, words of information, and acknowledgment from people already in my world. I do not need this, as I hope, to be shown to me in the external world through a specific source.
I feel beautiful in many ways. My children, my friends, my co-workers, even my clients and strangers who take the time to express a positive acknowledgment. I realize many more people need more of this in their lives and may not be aware of the confirmations they DO receive when "wanting attention."
I will get back around to self-love and nurturing myself in a bit.
Understanding Pleasure Beyond Physical Intimacy
Celibacy challenged me to explore different forms of pleasure beyond the physical realm. I delved into hobbies, self-care routines, and activities that brought joy and fulfillment. It was a revelation that pleasure is derived from way more than physical romantic encounters but can be found in the simplest of everyday moments – a beautiful sunset, a good book, or a heartfelt conversation. Somehow, over the years I associated the word pleasure with sex, when in truth pleasure is natural in everyday life. With this perspective, my mind has now attached what I know pleasure to be to a much broader definition.
Here is where I was making a mistake, diving in. Simply put, the physical part of me was so eager to try new things and explore that I began skipping a very important step. When is the last time you have asked yourself, "What seduces me?" Do you know what you need to be seduced? I did not. The initial process of this "entity" meeting that "entity" was that of a colliding force rather than a seductive introduction feeling out compatibility. Most of the people do not have the intention to make it through the introduction phase. I was able to go an entire year without being seduced or even closely interested in connecting with anyone who came back from the past or crossed my path during this period. I went on some dates and did enjoy myself. I have begun to pick up on cues much better if a person will be able to plant fantasies in my mind I wish to grow into an experience, hence seduction.
Also, by jumping right into sexual exploration, as before a few months of interactions had passed, I had been using my sexuality as a form of power. It can be, and for me, this was a behavior picked up throughout my previous marriage. Once I do not wish to continue. Is sex about power or pleasure? Dom/sub, Poly/ENM, BDSM, 3some/orgy, and the like are great avenues to explore, no judgments here. The question is, does this come down to power or pleasure? Huge realization of the distinction between sex and love. By jumping right into the physical pleasure experiences I deprived myself of the experiences I truly want and may need for ultimate satisfaction. With patience I am showing myself what mental seduction and an emotional allure, which may be more sustainable, showing myself a more reliable level of compatability. By getting physical early on, a thought I had was 'easy come easy go' (a direct result of beliefs that needed to be evaluated and nurtured), this approach kept me in power, or so I thought. Power is not pleasure, for me. Power play is not directly freedom to explore.
Embracing Sexual Identity and Desires
During this period, I also had the opportunity to delve deeper into my own sexuality and desires, without the distraction of romantic pursuits. Knowing I was not getting into a relationship soon, I focused on understanding what ignites my passions and turns me on. It was a time of exploration in the sense of what am I truly drawn to whether it is in what porn I am watching at that time (honest talk here) or what imaginative fantasy I am having. What fantasy I have is a huge insight into my sexuality! Let me tell you, people can talk a real game and not deliver. More times than not in previous sexual experiences I was left unsatisfied. Satisfaction is more than physical, it is also mental and emotional. These are extremely intertwined. To feel emotionally safe enough to do what is needed to orgasm without judgment requires a very specific mindset of the other person in the experience, and the physical techniques usually are a result of such a mindset. Make sense?
Gaining a clearer understanding of my preferences and needs in a relationship began to be an area of exploration after a few months. It is fun asking myself what I require and what can I do without. I asked myself, "What do I think I am going to get out of this?" There are so many options and I've done my share of exploring many options. I won't go into the details, instead admit to myself the extent of exploring I've done was essential to my journey for I have been able to more clearly see my psyche. Where the desire for such experiences came from (childhood, movies, porn, and other people's opinions). A lot of my sexuality was in-fact pieces of other people's thoughts and not a true indication of what I need to be satisfied. I do not think exploration is necessary to be able to identify these aspects of ourselves.
Reshaping Notions of Personal Fulfillment
Celibacy allowed me to redefine what fulfillment means to me. It’s not about conforming to societal expectations or timelines but about honoring my own journey and growth. I realized that my happiness doesn’t hinge on being part of a couple; it’s about being content with who I am and embracing life’s experiences, whether single or in a relationship. Fulfillment is about self-care and nurturing who I truly am. To be fulfilled (not happy), we have to be authentic. We can not pretend to be someone we are not. We can not pretend we do not want something a person is unable/unwilling to give us. We can not set aside our most important goals thinking a partner would want to help. We can not tell ourselves it does not get any better than this. We can not keep ignoring that inner voice. I've done it.
Fulfillment is knowing on a core level this is your life, your choices, your beliefs, and your actions making a difference. If you do not stick up for what you truly want and take a stance for change from within..... well, the same old experiences will continue. Fulfillment is being honest with yourself first, then those around you, and allowing your world to rearrange according to internal changes. Quite literally.
Taking a step further into happiness, the chemical balance. Considering happiness a lack of or excess of chemicals in the brain has been the biggest eye-opener for me. How many times has your mood elevated after getting laid? Seriously, the chemical concoction delivered to our physical being during and after sex is magical. I am not an addict by any means when it comes to substances, yet there is a hook with intercourse, a change of chemistry as a natural side effect. Hence, I am happier with sex. While that may seem true, are you in the long run more fulfilled with it? This has my attention now. There is an advantage or a clouding of the mind with the "honeymoon phase" which I believe is directly delivered through sex. When I date with a gentle intro into how the person affects me and skip the chemical overload phase, simply put I see them with more clarity. I have developed the new desire to only give people a hook on me if I am truly interested in a future with them. Otherwise, this becomes a distraction from the life I intend to live. A muse is not a need. I'd rather have better management of my emotions or natural chemical balance. Knowing this going in, changes my choices.
Cultivating Self-Esteem and Confidence
Perhaps the most profound lesson I learned was that true confidence stems from within. By taking this celibacy vow, I cultivated a deeper sense of self-assurance. I am learning from my flaws and strengths. For me that means, I have a general underlying weakness of impatience, an extreme difficulty trusting people, and I do make decisions based on emotions. Flip side, I am extremely loyal and trustworthy, and I have a deep urge to nurture those closest to me and put myself second to them. These are different attributes than other people have, those are my examples. This newfound confidence radiated into all aspects of my life, empowering me in ways I hadn’t imagined.
As my year of celibacy came to an end a few months ago, I am reflecting on the incredible journey this has been. Ending the Vow via a dating app the man who entered my world to (unknowingly to celebrate the year-long process) just so happened to be a top-notch lover, 50 shades of grey, ultimate fantasy experience that no doubt confirms everything I wrote about here. I will always remember that man, whew lordie, quite the gift. The process wasn’t just about abstaining from physical intimacy; it was a journey of self-discovery I stumbled into. This experience has equipped me with a newfound sense of self-esteem, a deeper understanding of my desires, and a redefined perspective on what it means to know and value oneself. As I share my experience I can honestly say I look at romantic relationships in a much healthier view. I can get sex anytime, that alone is not satisfying to me. That is a high, instant gratification but imagine how sex can also be a source of appreciation, acceptance, and a safe space to dive into the depths of who you are. I adore and am open to this belief.
A Year of Celibacy
To anyone considering a similar path, I encourage you to embark on this journey with an open heart and mind. If you stumble into a lack of sex in your world and have epiphanies, please share.
Side note, previous to this, the longest I've gone without receiving sex in a relationship is after I have birthed a child, being 4o days. The longest I've not sought out sex outside of a relationship was 10 months directly after my divorce cause I was an emotional mess, handicapped, and vehicle-less. For reference, I consider myself a very sexual person outside of those two circumstances. If someone would have told me in my 30's as a single woman this would be an experience, I would have never believed them. I've considered intercourse an essential need since the experience began. The transformation in what I would receive from porn is also dramatically transformed. Maybe I've had enough exposure or I simply understand where the curiosity comes from now, but my imagination is much more satisfying. Funny, I noticed myself interacting with someone wondering what they may be like to experience sexually, my imagination has taken the driver's seat for self-pleasure as another side effect of this one-year celibacy vow. My imagination has expanded dramatically. If you are thinking about taking a vow, do not allow those understandings of yourself to be a limitation. Try it. I will not go back to being as open as I've allowed myself to be with these above epiphanies.
Remember, your worth is not defined by your relationship status, but by the love and respect you have for yourself, how well you know yourself, and how dedicated you are to guided change.
Thanks for reading, Brandi.