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Holding Out For Love

March 14, 2011
woman teasing a man

I know you want it...and I want it too. But you can't have it until you pay. That's right, you can look, but you can't touch. Apparently that's how this game is played.

After the “More than Sex” posts a good friend of mine e-mailed me and told me that her husband thinks the reason men don’t want the rest of me is because the sexual part of me is available. (The truth is, it isn’t really available currently, but men may perceive it as available.) She – or he – also said that sex “demotivates men.”

Can you guess what I’m going to write next? Well, that idea really frustrates me in a lot of ways.

First of all, it suggests that in order to get what I need from a man, from a relationship, I have to actively withhold myself – or at least an important portion of myself. That sounds like game playing to me. And I thought men didn’t like games. I know I don’t like them.

Well I like Trivial Pursuit, but that’s because all the information I have stored in my brain is rather trivial, so I kill at that game – but that’s beside the point.

My point is, if a woman has to withhold herself from a man in order to get what she needs from him that doesn’t sound like love. In fact it smacks of prostitution to me. But is that how it has to work? Does a woman have to continuously withhold herself in order to get what she wants? Even if it isn’t sexual withholding — like say if it’s information or affection ro kindness or information — that just doesn’t seem fair. And it really doesn’t sound like love. It sounds like business. Like a transaction.

“You can have yours once I get mine. Pay up front and then come back to the bedroom and I’ll give you what you want.”

So, that idea hurts. Beyond that, it demotivates me. I don’t see myself wanting to work toward a relationship with this sort of paradigm in place. I can’t imagine purposely, actively, withholding myself — any part of myself — from someone I’m supposed to love.

I’m an artist. A communicator. A creator. A writer. Withholding myself actually hurts. So am I doomed to be alone because I won’t play this withholding game. Or, dare I hope, is this an unusual personality trait that means I will have to find a special type of man to match me?

A man who is grateful for what I have to offer and what I can give without having to have it dangled in front of him and kept out of his reach — without being put through his paces before he gets a reward?

The idea makes me sad. Even if I could manage to withhold myself (even a portion of myself) for a time, what happens when I finally give in and make myself completely available to a man? Will any man suddenly lose interest? Will he be demotivated?

Sex demotivates men, don’t you know?

Of course, I’m not just talking about sex. I’ve actually seen evidence of this in all areas of relationship and personality. I have a tendency to put a lot out there. And people assume, or deduce that this means there’s nothing more. I’m honest, so I must have told the whole story.

Another friend of mine recently told me that I don’t have much feminine mystique. There’s no mystery for a man to unravel with me. And that makes me less attractive. And when he said that, it hurt.

Because even though I try to be as honest as possible. Even though there is a lot of me that’s available. There is still more. I’m complicated. There are parts I don’t understand that become revealed to me through the eyes of others. Things revealed during a relationship. I’m an iceberg like everyone else. There’s a lot below these surfaces.

And I want someone to see those things and love me anyway. Not see those things and run away because the availability makes them less special.

And what of marriage? Isn’t that kind of availability and vulnerability (physical and emotional) the whole point of marriage? Or do we have to play this game first and then the whole model changes after the vows? And if so how can anyone prepare for such a commitment?

(When it comes to the sexual aspects I suspect all of my christian friends will say that things do change post marriage because that’s what the system has told them. Of course the dogma doesn’t include an explanation of how.)

Anyway, I’ve been holding out for love for a long time. But I can’t see myself withholding for love. That seems like the opposite of what person should do in order to let love in.

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. dave c permalink
    March 14, 2011 8:45 am

    I don’t want to say it, but at this point it sounds less damaging than anything else going on… I think you’re shopping with slim pickens at this point. That’s all.

    That, and most of the relationships I know that really work—with engineers at least— are the kind where you do 90% of the initiating and grabbing. I know it’s not fun, but it’s all because of personality flaws.

    • March 14, 2011 8:48 am

      I can initiate sexually if he initiates mentally and emotionally. You think I’ll ever get anywhere?

      • dave c permalink
        March 14, 2011 8:51 am

        In theory, you should be able to.

        I don’t know, I feel like sex and the urge for sex exists on a different plane than love.

        I do, however, believe that one night you spend with a hook-up buddy is one night you aren’t spending with someone that could be really awesome.

  2. March 14, 2011 9:45 am

    I don’t think you have to withhold anything necessarily. I just think mmmmmaybe you have to get better about distinguishing the guys who’re playing games from the guys who aren’t.

    I think we all tend to be too quick to slap labels and set absolute rules for ourselves after a string of bad experiences, when what’s really required is a fine-tuning of our judgment.

    In that respect, I think setting rules like, “I have to do this on this timeline” and whatnot is just an easy out….

    • March 14, 2011 9:47 am

      Thanks, Dennis. I have been very frustrated every time some one suggests such a hard and fast rule to me. I want answers, but answers that come in the form of limitations very rarely feel like truth. And hey, I loved your blog today — sorry for my impatience!

      • March 14, 2011 9:53 am

        No prob. It’s sad… I can comment on other people’s blogs, but my own blog is freaking blocked by my work. Ugh.

        If you’re curious how I feel about the whole rules thing, look up my “Just Be Yourself… Unless You’re Ugly” post. I’d link it, but… again, I can’t access my blog right now. Anyway, I think people set rules for themselves, because they don’t want to do the hard work of really trying to figure out what they’re doing wrong. And, unfortunately, only you can figure that out for yourself. No one on the blogosphere (or even in real life) truly knows what you’re doing that’s attracting all these douchebags, ya know?

        Just my twenty cents. :-)

        • March 14, 2011 10:45 am

          For a while I just thought it was the city/part of the country I lived in. Whatever it is (not that I’m going to stop trying to figure it out), I at least have the mental and emotional fortitude to avoid a relationship with a d-bag. And, as I keep saying, I’m not doing the sex buddy thing anymore. Although some of my commenters have me now pegged as a promiscuous woman. And it seems every one of their comments is aimed at any difficulty I’m having being all my fault for ever engaging in premarital sex. Love how that paradigm of sexism still hasn’t shifted.

          Anyway, I think I remember reading that post. And at the time I was more accepting of the idea that there are some hard and fast rules and that I just haven’t found them yet. I do think there are some basic guidelines that people should follow. But that’s in life, not just relationships. You know karma stuff — like don’t lie, be generous, imagine how the other person feels. That kind of stuff.

          • Blake permalink
            March 13, 2012 11:39 pm

            People who fault you for pre-marital sex are judgmental idiots. If I ever hear anyone say anything like that to you… well, you know, Tanya Harding.

        • Andy permalink
          March 22, 2011 11:51 am

          You might call this twenty cent worth. Some people have the gift of discernment more than others. Most of us have to learn about the process of making good judgement calls simply by trial and error. Either way, acquiring discernment and using this gift to our advantage and responsibly is priceless. Discernment has everything to do with what you are suggesting.

  3. March 14, 2011 10:08 am

    Most of the relationships are like a game of poker… or chess… you can’t play with only one strategy all the time, you need to change… There are times when you gotta show your cards, and there are times when you gotta hide em…
    And yes, I believe marriage is many a times just a civilized/institutionalized form of prostitution… We have many such marriages in countries like Pakistan/India…

    • March 14, 2011 10:46 am

      Thanks, Naeem. I hadn’t thought of the concept of multiple strategies before. That’s a good insight. I may have to start playing chess or poker in order to practice for dating.

  4. Roxanne permalink
    March 14, 2011 12:38 pm

    As someone who is also holding out for love and has never had sex, I can tell you that I’m having the same difficulties. Therefore, your sexual experience can’t be totally to blame. A lot of married people think that they’ve succeeded at love because they’ve found someone they love who is willing to commit. Their unsolicited advice is certainly not absolute truth and can be faulty even if they think that’s what got them to the alter. The truth is that while “barking up the wrong tree” won’t get you what you want, there’s also a fair amount of luck involved with finding someone.

    • March 14, 2011 2:06 pm

      Roxanne, thank you for offering such an interesting perspective and for being open about where you are coming from. Great point of view to share.

    • Andy permalink
      March 22, 2011 11:58 am

      What do you think about a couple who is committed to:
      • a relationship that shares mutual respect for each as an individual
      • compliments the others choices
      • is willing to learn and practice compromise
      • listens to each other
      • shows mutual respect and adoration for all kinds of intimacy
      • prays together
      • encourages family relationships and use of talents
      • practices complete trust towards one another.

      The difference here.
      They have committed to this for many years without being married.

      • March 22, 2011 12:10 pm

        Sounds great. But if I were the girl in this relationship I would probably want the ring — especially after a year or two. Extra especially if children were ever a possibility. Not that I want kids, but children born out side of a marriage aren’t as protected as those born within one. Both parents are more protected as well.

        • Andy permalink
          March 22, 2011 12:36 pm

          Forgive the unedited version here. Time is short. I don’t mind mentioning this for those viewers who are working very hard to find the “right one”. It is probably apparent to most who are single and I would also say, practice faith, God does not design the “chosen one” for each of us. I hear couples say such things. “I found the chosen one whom God made just for me. That is silly. If so, divorce would not be such an option. God does however, give us the ability to do just what I mentioned in the previous entry. Every relationship has its own set of dynamics which can be good and can be bad. The success of a marriage depends on how much each person is willing to work together to adjust some of these dynamics in order to survive. At times, a marriage undergoes a mode of survival. My first marriage of 14 years ended simply because one and sometimes both partners were not happy with their position in life. The key components which lacked were simply a willingness to compromise, pray and share. Our children had an easier time with such a transition for several years because of at least a great willingness to work together and provide the nec. things which helped them. That in itself demanded compromise, individual prayer and a willingness to share with the kids feelings about the process while acting like adults. That was 8 years ago. Today, I am now a little over two years remarried. Not nec. to the “chosen one”.
          The relationship happened because of the willingness to take time, learn more about compromise, more about sharing feelings, respecting each others wishes and more importantly, doing the things together which good friends enjoy. Yes, we are more compatible. Very much so. With the experience of the previous relationship though, I can say even as a christian, this relationships strengths and the willingness to grow started and were practiced before the rings were shared. Even if we did not marry for 15 more years, a commitment of the heart and willingness to stay the course would be the same. This kind of commitment between you, your partner and your maker takes place there first. It must. That is what establishes the platform to make your marriage grow. And yes, the kids benefit from this process married or not, especially when they are included.

  5. Roxy permalink
    March 14, 2011 5:32 pm

    Don’t be discouraged. You’re looking at this through the wrong lens.

    It’s not about holding out for the sake of holding out, for the sake of playing the game. You’re holding out because your sexuality is a precious commodity. It is highly connected to many of your deepest feelings and fears, it’s directly related to the intimate parts of your personality that you keep hidden whether you realize it or not. It’s also a highly risky behavior– especially for women, who have to bear the struggles of child birth and can more easily acquire STDs. To have sex too quickly is devaluing that part of yourself.

    When you meet someone new, or even if they aren’t new, you each have to get to know each other at a deeper level, to develop trust for one another. You show that person that you respect yourself by making them work to develop that trust with you, and you also show them respect by being willing to wait to gain their trust.

    It shouldn’t be a game at all. It should be an exercise in respect and trust. That doesn’t mean you have to alter the part of your personality that lays it all out (you and I have that in common), but learn to savor the fact that sex is generally better if you have a solid foundation to begin with. (You know that means something coming from me…I’m one of the lustiest people I know) ;)

    And, like your friend said, it will help you weed out the dipshits that are only in it for the instant gratification. As frustrating as that may immediately seem, they weren’t worth your time in the first place.

    It’s about respect and trust Crystal. Not mind games.

  6. Dre permalink
    March 14, 2011 8:59 pm

    Crystal. I guess I am one of those married who blog on here thinking they have good advice. I really hope I do in this area. And what I give now, you can take or leave. I just felt compelled to post a comment because I feel that there are some serious pieces to the puzzle missing here that were not discussed. Like I said, you can take this or leave it. I have been married for 6 years now and have a great sex life. I found a guy who respects, treasures and adores me without the sex part, so the sex is just a bonus and I saved myself for when I was married. I adore my husband and it is not always easy emotionally in our marriage, but I don’t think playing games is EVER the answer. We have a policy of having intercourse when we both are up for it. However, we never deny each other with any kind of anterior motives. There is no pressure, no games, no debates, no begging. It is as simple as that and I find my time with him to be extra special, and extra satisfying. About the “withholding of yourself sexually to get something else” – I don’t understand that. I find that through my experience, my husband respects me and when we have intimate times together, he feels connected and wants to be more engaging to me. Sex is God’s design to be special for a man and a woman to come together and be and feel connected to one another. It is a beautiful thing. It is not something that needs to be over thought about: it is not a bargain. The word “prostitution” when referring to a man and woman under God’s law of marriage makes me sick. I am usually a private person about this kind of stuff but this is serious stuff. You CAN be interesting to a man because you are an artist, a communicator, a creator, a writer. Be yourself and you are interesting.
    Hopefully you will find a good man who respects you and find you interesting before the sex part comes into play.
    I am just myself, I have my interests, he has his, we are married with two kids and still have great sexual experiences. No strings attached. It is an act of pure love. An I believe sex and love ARE on the same plane, if they are not, that is pure lust.

  7. A Dude permalink
    March 15, 2011 2:14 am

    CrystalSpins:

    Please read roughly a year’s worth of Dan Savage columns and/or listen to his podcast. The man gives some specious advice, but he’s right on about one thing: You always need to be honest with those you’re involved with. If just knocking boots with guys isn’t cutting it for you, if you want a relationship, you need to be honest and forthright about that, and you need to back up your words with actions. You need to tell these dudes you’ve been writing about what you want. You’re cool having sex with them, but you want something more, too. You want to go on dates and see what happens. You want something else. You can’t go through life letting people use you for their own bullshit and expect them to suddenly understand what you want. You need to say it, and you need to say it to their faces, and if they say no, then kick them out. And if all of them say no, then find a higher class of guy. All of this isn’t about them; it’s about you, and not demanding you get what you want and what you deserve. And the sooner you realize that, the happier you’ll ultimately be.

    • March 15, 2011 9:25 am

      Hey dude, thanks for the comment. After reading it I want to make it clear that I am ALWAYS as honest as I can possibly be with everyone in my life (even the men) about what I want and what I think. So, I have been honest about the fact that I want more than sex when it comes up. I have also backed this up with actions (or rather inaction). I have either told all of these “dudes” how I feel and what I want or simply told them no to their offers for sexual encounters. I appreciate your concern and your direction. And I think most women need to be told this exact thing. However, I am (currently) not one of them. I’m not letting anyone use me and I’m being honest and clear about what I want. As for a higher class of guy — I’m starting to suspect they don’t exist in single form.

  8. Tanya permalink
    March 15, 2011 7:13 am

    This is an interesting post with lots of food for thought. The comments are also really interesting, and I love what Roxy in particular had to say. As the woman whom you are quoting, and whose husband you are quoting, I thought I’d better weigh in. :)

    First of all, I want to make it clear that I was responding to your initial “more than sex” question: “What makes a man decide he wants more from a woman than just sex? Or domestic favors?” But in this post you talk a lot about getting what you need from a relationship with someone you love, which I think is pretty different.

    Also, what I said was not advice from a married, Christian crone trying to get you down the aisle; it was my response to the initial question above. So if it was advice, at least it was solicited advice, and I’m definitely not saying “This is a strategy I used; it worked for me; you should do it, too.” Certainly as Roxanne said, there’s luck involved in finding a marriage partner, and a whole host of issues besides sex, but your initial question was really about sex so that’s why we’re talking about it.

    I also want to point out that I didn’t say “sex demotivates men” I said “free sex demotivates men” and spent some time talking about that distinction.

    Abstaining from sex is not the same as denying your entire sexual being. We are sexual creatures and undoubtedly that will come out in your relationship — but that doesn’t mean you have to have sex, necessarily. I think your iceberg metaphor could work here, too. Just as there are emotional parts of you that you don’t reveal right away, there are sexual parts of you (and spiritual parts, and so on) that you hold back on until you can trust the man you’re with. When you feel you can trust him for those emotional and sexual parts that you keep beneath the surface is your call. As a Christian, I don’t think marriage has some magical switch that changes everything, as you say I probably believe — but I do think marriage is the commitment to wait for. Most people have some kind of a commitment gauge, such as no sex on the first date, or no sex unless you’re “in love,” or something like that, and to me marriage is a contract that can make that commitment clear to both parties, before God and their family and friends.

    As far as waiting on sex becoming a form of prostitution, that’s an interesting perspective. However, I would disagree at least on a personal level. For one thing, it’s not as if my husband is always wanting sex and I’m always wanting emotional closeness and so we do each other a favor. No, I’m into the sex too, and so on.

    But when you speak about a relationship being “business. A transaction” and how distasteful that is, I have to say I think a big part of a relationship is businesslike, and that’s okay. It’s not all romantic mushy gushy staring into one another’s eyes. Running a household or a family can be a lot like running a business. My husband and I each have roles to play, though we help each other out. For example, we both wanted to have a family but we didn’t want to leave our kids in day care. So we have a baby now and I stay home and he continues to work. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t help with the baby, and that doesn’t mean I have to ask him for ten bucks to buy myself lunch. We each play different roles in the household in order to be more efficient and meet our goals. It may sound terrible but it’s actually quite lovely to let each person play to their strengths and desires.

    The reason all of this works is because we have each other’s best interest at heart, because we love each other.

    Hope this makes some sense.

    • March 15, 2011 9:20 am

      I’m sorry if you felt misquoted! I wasn’t approaching this as a holistic treatment of the issue. Your comment was really a catalyst more than the specific thing I was responding to. There are a lot of ideas flowing around me that I was dealing with. So, this was mostly my initial emotional responses (after your catalyzing statement) and the thoughts that flowed from there. Of course I know you didn’t intend anything negative! I hope you didn’t feel misrepresented! And you always make sense.

      • Tanya permalink
        March 15, 2011 11:31 am

        Not misrepresented, just wanted to clarify a few things. :) And it got really long. Thanks for sparking the thought and the conversation.

        • March 15, 2011 11:53 am

          Thank you so much for the clarity! I appreciate you going into so much detail and for your perspective on the whole thing. I LOVE YOU too! Long is fine — especially if that’s what it takes to explain yourself.

  9. Nathan permalink
    March 15, 2011 3:15 pm

    Interesting comments. Why no response to Roxy or Dre? I am interested in a response to their comments and am wondering why you commented on everyone else’s and not theirs. Enjoying the conversation!

    • March 15, 2011 4:43 pm

      Sometimes I don’t have anything constructive to say. And it’s especially difficult to respond to really complicated comments — especially if they are a little off point.

  10. Dre permalink
    March 15, 2011 11:12 pm

    Thank you Nathan.
    After reading your post, I felt like I responded to the points you are trying to make and went a little deeper into them. Oh well.

    • March 15, 2011 11:55 pm

      Dre, sweetie, please don’t be offended. Your comment was very welcome. And on a side note, I adore you so much that I was thrilled when I saw that you commented! I definitely appreciate your candor and genuine care — especially considering the subject matter.

      The thing is, I just don’t have a response. Perhaps that is because it was very late when I read it last night, and now here it is late again. It didn’t strike me as wise to try to come up with a response when one didn’t come to mind. I’m very rarely at a loss for words, and I have found that when I am it is safer to just go with that.

      As far as the idea that the comment was a bit “off point” I didn’t mean to suggest that it wasn’t relevant just off (my) point (s) of the original post. (Same with Roxy.) Also, I didn’t see any questions that needed to be answered so I thought, considering the length, that it was enough and didn’t need to be added to.

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