CW: Sexual abuse.
I want to talk about something I’ve never actually fully had the opportunity to be expressive about before. Or maybe the opportunity was there but I have never felt safe enough to talk about this. I don’t fully feel safe to do so now if I’m honest, but others relating to & getting help for it seems more important than how I feel.
When I was in my early 20s I was told after a doctor appointment I had fibroid tumors (common, I know), to the degree that my likelihood of having children was minimal. I remember going out with a friend afterward & trying to hide how devastated I was, which was crazy cause… I didn’t really know I wanted kids as much as I did until the possibility of not having any was presented to me. Despite that, as someone who had developed the idea of having to accept every circumstance as is, I began to adopt behaviors that would help me deny everything I truly wanted — deep, intimate love where sex is NOT the foundation, marriage, & children. I accepted singleness, & told myself I was the girl you fuck, not the girl you marry. It was easy to do so after being sexually abused multiple times, being assaulted, being promiscuous, & being addicted to pornography for years. The idea had been deeply rooted by that point and I wasn’t even aware of that until recently.
I’m sure a LOT of women can relate to my story… Even a lot of Christian women… But they can’t tell it because of how they will be perceived or judged. I’ve been celibate for over 10 years & have laid down my porn addiction only relapsing twice in the last 7 months (more on why porn is absolutely terrible in another post I’m sure), but for some, my victories seem to matter significantly less than my struggles do.
In my experience, no one has talked openly about the shame that can come with singleness & infertility or the threat of it. Especially in a world where marriage & children are idolized (I’m talking about the Christian world & my family specifically). But in general & as a whole, we definitely have an unhealthy obsession with non-platonic relationships & families.
Just a few weeks ago in church, the sermon was about “divorce-proofing” your relationships & when the pastor hit us with the stats about how those who have more bodies are more likely to get divorced it felt like a nail in the coffin. I imagine that he knows God (for those who believe), a transformed heart/mindset, & a change in lifestyle or choices can supersede history or there are exceptions to the rule but uh… Yeah… Didn’t feel good.
Sidenote: I couldn’t find any recent research that has determined how & why women having a higher body count increases the likelihood of divorce. I really hope it’s not this one study from 2016 (data from 2002-2013) that people keep referencing in order to deter women from high-risk sexual behaviors or convince us to pursue marriage. The author himself states at the end, “this research briefly paints a fairly complicated picture of the association between sex and marital stability that ultimately raises more questions than it answers.”
From my experience, it all points back to shame. Others speaking to or at me (or others like me) from their beliefs & experiences & sometimes speaking with arrogance and without listening or considering those who have different experiences and why they do…
Me not understanding the root of the thoughts and feelings about myself, acting from unchecked and unhealed trauma…
Being taught that marriage & kids are the ultimate victories & tickets to acceptance.
Again, I can only speak from my experience & I will try to express this as succinctly as possible. Here’s the bottom line: Being sexually abused taught me I need to cover up so I’m not sexualized. Covering up didn’t work very well, so I started giving it away so people wouldn’t take it. I also wanted intimacy, & that was the only way I was receiving it at the time, especially after my grandmother passed away. Fast forward to me ending up in a serious relationship that ended poorly & while I will not take full responsibility for that relationship ending, I can honestly say that my unaddressed shame & mindset regarding sexual intimacy played a role in that ending & is part of the reason why I’ve remained single ever since.
Maybe if people would be a bit more gracious & get to the root of certain behaviors or mindsets we could stop being so quick to write others off. We of course can & should be wise as we engage with others in order to determine what the relationship should be.
These days I’ve stopped denying how I feel & what I truly want, & am more open to the possibility of marriage & children than I have been before while also actively practicing contentment with my current reality & pursuing healing for myself.
Here’s what I’m not saying:
- I’m not saying women should heal for the purpose of getting married & being a mother.
- I’m not saying adoption or mentorship aren’t viable options for those who can’t conceive.
- I’m not saying that you should not explore treatment options that work for you/are affordable.
- I’m not saying you are hopeless, useless, or not valuable if these options aren’t available to you (like some aren’t for me).
- I’m definitely not saying there’s anything wrong with being single &/or not having children, whether by choice or otherwise, & that women who fall under these categories can’t lead happy & healthy lives.
I’m saying there is something deeply wrong with the general mindsets & judgments regarding these issues that contribute to the shame of many women who experience them… The mindsets & judgments that dehumanize us.
I’m saying that while being in a relationship, engaged, married &/or being a mother may be amazing experiences, a woman’s identity is not based on whether she is or not. It’s not based on her past, either, especially if she has taken the steps to move forward from that.
I’m saying that more women should tell their stories in order to give & receive support/encouragement, should they have the courage to do so.
I’m asking those who do not understand this experience to stop making women who do feel hopeless, useless, & not valuable — to truly see, love, & support us while we navigate our reality. Judgment free.
Through therapy & connection to God, I have had to unlearn A LOT, to say the least, & I can confidently say I’ll be a perpetual student. That doesn’t mean that I or others like me won’t ever be free of the past or the thoughts influenced by them… It just means it takes some time and there is grace for us, despite what the general consensus might depict. I genuinely believe that. On some days more than others.
But for those who need to hear it & do not yet know, being single & without children is OK… I promise.
If you want to share your story or journey or experience of overcoming mental distress or as someone with a diagnosed mental health or mood disorder you’re OK with that being shared publicly on the YNF website, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or contact me through the site. Anonymous submissions are always welcome.