rainbow wheel

some days i feel as if i am staring at a spinning rainbow wheel. i have committed to starting this conversation, both within myself and as part of a bigger theological discussion. and yet…i find myself stuck, wondering where to even begin. i guess i should just go for it.




i had a dream this week (that i actually remember). i dreamed that i had a family. i had a husband and two little boys. we went on adventures, we joked, we held hands. i was happy.

i want that life. i have tried for the last three years to convince myself that i don’t. because it hurts. it hurts to know that i want a partner to travel the world with, and kids to love and teach and learn from. it hurts to know that i am nowhere close to having that life. i have convinced myself to let this dream go, because i have also convinced myself that i will never have it. to hope for it hurts.

because the truth is, for as much as i want that, i can’t imagine that life for myself. i just can’t picture it. i think there are two reasons why: first, i can’t imagine a man with the qualities that i want/need that i can also stand to be around every day. second, i can’t imagine anyone who would actually want to love and be with me every day.

these two premises are deeply problematic. the first makes me incapable of love, the second makes me incapable of being loved. or perhaps more appropriately worded: incapable of loving and incapable of allowing someone to love me. the first makes me unable to hold someone else’s complete vulnerability, and the second makes me unable to trust someone with my own vulnerability.

to me, love is not safe, it is dangerous. it is not worth risking for.

this is somewhat shocking to articulate. in friendships, i tend to love freely and deeply. i continue to risk and invest in friendships, even when i know they can only last for a time, and even though i have been hurt in the past. i can’t comprehend how i can be this way in a friendship and not in a relationship.

to sum: it seems i don’t know how to love within the context of an intimate dating relationship, and it also seems that i still believe that i am unworthy of being loved. so there’s that.

what does this have to do with this conversation about sexuality? to tell you the truth, i’m not sure i know. but it would seem that if i can’t seem to wrap my brain around being in a relationship with someone, it is not a surprise that i can’t wrap my brain around sex.

sex, like many other things, serves a function for everyone. for some, it is merely an act intended for procreation. for some, it is merely an act that satisfies some physical and biological urge or need. i see sex as an act of utter vulnerability – a vulnerability that i can’t comprehend.

some questions that i have moving forward from here:
– why do i still feel unlovable?
– what is it about vulnerability (in dating relationships) that scares me so much, given that i am pretty good at it in friendships?
– how should sex function in our lives? how do we distort that function? what does that distortion do to us as humans?
– is my desire for a family simply related to enculturation and gender stereotypes? is it just because i know that staying single means that eventually i will be the only one of my friends who is still single, and that is a lonely place (for an extrovert) to be?
– is sex part of what it means to be human (the everyone has sex argument)? if i don’t ever have sex, does that make me less human, or somehow deficient?

big questions.

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3 Comments

Filed under relationships, sexuality

3 responses to “rainbow wheel

  1. Natalie W

    Hey.
    Normally if I happen across someone’s blog, I don’t leave a reply because it feels like I should have had an invitation to a conversation like that. But I really wanted to comment on some of what you wrote. I think this is very touching, and very human, and very honest.
    You said “first, i can’t imagine a man with the qualities that i want/need that i can also stand to be around every day. second, i can’t imagine anyone who would actually want to love and be with me every day.” That rings a bell with me. I spent several years quietly crying for my brothers and male friends, being certain that in our culture there were no boys who actually grew up to become actual men. Even after I found some hope for them and some counter-examples, it didn’t apply to me; a man who would make sense for me came out on paper as a list of opposites who would be too good for me anyway. And a couple of years ago I fussed to a married friend that, really, how do you stand the same person every day, for ever?? (She told me, yes, it sounds that way, but when you are actually with them, then a lifetime does seem like not enough time. Yes, she said that.)
    And then I got married. –This is the part where you want to throw something at my head. I know. I wanted a guy I’d been friends with for years to suddenly turn to me and for everything to click; instead I got a stranger at a party who asked me out on our first date. Nothing looked like I had pictured (and if you think you’ve worked hard at not imagining a married future or planning on it, well, I at least get second place. I tried so hard not to bet on anything like married-with-kids!). And he’s not some things I thought I needed. And he’s a collection of opposites I didn’t think existed. And my schmoopy friend was right, even though I wanted to throw things at her head.
    I am not saying “OMG, just wait for your FAIRYTALE!”, I am saying please don’t write off your heart, or yourself. I’ve done that too, in self-preservation, and it does damage. (I think you know what I mean.)
    But I am telling this story out of order. It wasn’t “and then I got married.” It was “then I was in a relationship with a stranger, and I was very happy, and I was incredibly uncomfortable being happy, and prowled around to all my friends saying ‘is this normal?? When does stuff go wrong again so I can know what’s real??’ and feeling better when we got into a fight because that felt more familiar.” And I think you say that. “it seems i don’t know how to love within the context of an intimate dating relationship.” –Yes. I don’t know if you’re SUPPOSED to know. I don’t think that love is ever completely safe, and in a dating relationship it certainly isn’t, and I think that you and I both feel that. Friends told me on different occasions that after we got engaged, and after marriage, I calmed down and relaxed, and they could see it in my relationship with him. (I had decided to marry him if/when he asked, and I wanted to be with him, and I knew that he was good and safe and loved me. And when he proposed, after a year & a half, my entire reaction and my only feeling was terror! I said yes very quickly, because I knew the answer, but I thought I might vomit. Complete terror. It passed after a while and we had a lovely evening, but I’ve never seen people act like me on Youtube proposals.)
    We are all unloveable, and we are all lovable, and I know some women far more accomplished and wonderful than I am who weren’t married until 40. And some who weren’t/aren’t. And maybe you will be, and maybe you won’t be, and maybe it will be a strange timeframe. But it’s not because you’re unloveable. And it’s not that you can’t learn to love someone in that context, either. I really think you can (I still am). (Again, if I were in your shoes I would want to throw something at me here. Sorry! Everything you said resonated with me and sounded familiar, and I hope that doesn’t offend you.)

  2. Natalie W

    And I think that you are very right, that this plays into/informs how we deal with sex. Love is vulnerable, and sex is vulnerable. And humans pair them up and split them up in a lot of ways. I like your questions, and I hope you don’t mind if I offer the answers that I have for some of them.
    “- what is it about vulnerability (in dating relationships) that scares me so much, given that i am pretty good at it in friendships?” This makes a lot of sense to me, personally. Friendships can go on indefinitely, and we can assume/hope that they will. Dating relationships tend to progress, either towards loss, or towards permanent legal states, which are huge terrifying decisions. It’s hard to take it casually. It’s probably not even good to take it casually, most times. They are designed to progress like that.
    “- is my desire for a family simply related to enculturation and gender stereotypes? is it just because i know that staying single means that eventually i will be the only one of my friends who is still single, and that is a lonely place (for an extrovert) to be?” That’s certainly a personal question, but I’d hazard a “not necessarily.” We do all want to belong to something/other people, and family is the most basic form of that. And it brings us joy to share things with others. And gender stereotypes are one thing. But gender itself isn’t a complete construct. There are some powerful and real things going on.
    “- is sex part of what it means to be human (the everyone has sex argument)? if i don’t ever have sex, does that make me less human, or somehow deficient?” I would stand up and scream “No!” to this one. Sex is the most important thing to animals. We are more than animals. I appeal to Jesuit poets (G.M. Hopkins!), or the example of the Biblical Jesus Christ, or Nicola Tessla. They were not less than other people because of celibacy. I didn’t have sex until I got married. That’s a lot longer than some people waited, and a lot shorter than some others. But it’s something. I know sex is a HUGE, complicated deal, but I would like to compare it to someone who has never (will never) have ice cream because of a deadly allergy to dairy. Does that suck? Yeah, it does. Can’t go to ice cream when everyone else does’t think twice? Crappy. And we could debate the implications of frozen yogurt or sorbet for a while, but really, the point is that they aren’t less of a person or less of a good cook or worse at friendship or a poorer engineer or teacher or president because of it. Is dairy a human experience? Sure, maybe. Less so in Asia, I guess. Italy more so. But a defining characteristic? May it never be. And if that is how sex is being presented, then it does a great disservice to dear and worthwhile human beings, of whom you are one.
    Sorry for such long comments. You said some excellent things.

    • Natalie,

      Thank you for your responses. I really do appreciate your engagement with me on this topic. I don’t think I will get too much into responding to what you have here, because this post is just one of many in a series that I am doing on this subject of sexuality. My goals in this series include exploring my own story as well as the nature of sexuality and some of the bigger theological questions that are at stake in the conversation. I hope to further address many of your thoughts and points in future posts. I haven’t been advertising them on facebook, but maybe I will start if people are interested in the dialogue. 🙂

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