Former Virgin, Now Angry/Sad

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Encouraged by his parents and his parents’ church, Juan had made a deal with God when he was 12: he’d stay a virgin until he married. In return he’d get a wonderful virgin wife, and they’d love each other and have a glorious sex life with God’s blessing.

It only partly worked.

Through high school and college he had various sexual opportunities, but he believed in his vision. He stayed a virgin until marriage, and he did marry a wonderful girl when they were both 23. But although Simone was also a good Christian, she was definitely NOT a virgin—just the opposite. She had a lot of sexual experience. And she had enjoyed it.

So although they had good sex together for a few years, Juan couldn’t stop fantasizing about the other men in her life before him. Worse, he began to feel he had missed out on something by limiting his sexual experience to his wife.

Juan was 35 when he came to therapy. He was angry with his wife, and angry with himself for caring about this so much. He was losing desire for her, and they were both concerned.

“I want to sleep with other women, but I shouldn’t,” he said. “I don’t want to lie about it, but how can I deal with this longing? And how do I stop thinking about the other guys? She’s had plenty of sexual adventures, and I’ve only been with her. It just isn’t fair—I followed the rules, she didn’t, and now it feels like I’m paying the price.”

“It Just Isn’t Fair…”

Of course, I was very sympathetic.

“You did what you thought was right for you,” I said. “Maybe it didn’t turn out the way you dreamed it would, but given the powerful pressures on you at the time, it was the best decision you could make.” I encouraged Juan to be sad and compassionate rather than self-critical, remembering how young he was when he made this crucial life decision.

I explained that while his choice seemed right for him as a boy, it wasn’t binding on anyone else, of course, least of all a stranger. So when he decided Simone was his soul-mate, her non-virginity had not actually betrayed HIM—but it did feel like a betrayal of his decade-long commitment to his future wife. He felt like a fool, angry that his destiny was mocked by Simone’s life story. It was understandable, but irrational and damaging.

“This all helps put things in some perspective,” he told me, “but what am I going to do about having sex with other women? I have to make up for this imbalance.”

“Thinking there’s an ‘imbalance’ is part of the problem,” I said. “Simone had her life before you met, and you had yours. Your choices were independent of each others’. There’s no imbalance there because there’s no connection between your histories before you met.”

If he was dissatisfied with some of his life choices, I said, Simone is not to blame. “Maybe you’re angry at the church,” I suggested. “Maybe you’re angry with God, or with the way the Church has interpreted God.” He didn’t even want to consider that, which made me think it might be true.

Angry With Her? Himself? The Church?

“You know,” I continued, “you can feel both anger AND gratitude toward the church. You don’t have to choose between the two feelings. If you feel you were misled, if you feel you were promised things the Church couldn’t really deliver, you can be angry or embarrassed about that, and still appreciate the good things you feel you got from the Church.”

OK, he said warily, he’d consider the idea that maybe he’s angry at the Church, and that he’s been projecting that onto Simone. “And if you feel like a sucker for believing a fairy tale,” I ventured, “go ahead and feel like a sucker. Feel embarrassed. It won’t kill you, and it might help.”

But whatever we call it, what about his urge for sexual adventures with other women?

“There are lots of reasons to NOT sleep with women to whom you’re not married,” I said. “Some are better than others. You’re in pain now as you question your reason back then. But if you choose to NOT sleep around now, it would be for a much different reason—a much better reason.”

He thought that over quite a bit. “Separating my choice back then from my present or future choice is very powerful,” he said.

Wanting His Youth Back?

A central issue, I think, is that Juan is never going to get his youth back. He’s never going to be Simone’s first sexual partner, and he’s never going to be 20 and single again. He’s never going to be young and carefree, passionately discovering the many flavors of eroticism—and of women—while discovering his own post-puberty sexuality, all with a healthy, flexible body that feels like it will be young forever.

No matter how many women he sleeps with NOW, at age 35 and married with two children, he’ll never have an experience like that. That’s the destiny Juan created for himself, and I think he’s angry about it.

“Sleeping with other women now won’t give you what you want,” I emphasized, “which is a different past.”

For the first time since our initial session, tears filled Juan’s eyes. We were silent together for a while.

What he could do, I gently suggested, is let go of both the unsatisfactory past he had, and the fantasized, romanticized past that he didn’t have.

“And then,” I said, “you can get on with the rest of your life, and have grownup sex with your grownup wife. When you aren’t angry with her and you accept the unique treasure you actually have, when you welcome her back into your life exactly as she is, I bet you two can have some pretty satisfying sex.”

After a few weeks of sadness, Juan did exactly that. And it worked out just fine.


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