22 October 2012

Love...or Love Addiction?


When I was in my twenties - oh man - I had a very immature view of love.  I was once dating a guy and felt a lot of "love" for him.  But it turns out that we had completely different lifestyles and goals (he was a very good person, but we just weren't even close to being a good match or being on the same desired path).  Deep down, I was actually kind of embarrassed about the relationship because it was SO CLEAR to me and everyone else that we were not a good match, but yet I remained with him for a long time - even with a pit in my stomach.  And why was I with him?  Because he loved me.  He really loved me a lot.  And so I felt "love" for him back.  How could I not?  He showered me with attention, he was thoughtful, affectionate, etc.  Who doesn't love to be loved?  It's very, very easy to love that attention and companionship.  It feels amazing.  Even when your gut says this isn't a good match or you don't fully respect this person's choices in life, the idea of being loved and "being in love" can feel so good that it's like an addiction that you just can't get rid of - you just can't let it go.   You may even hold onto it for dear life.

To my dear readers - are you in a relationship and feeling some agony about it in your gut, yet at the same time feeling like you are "in love" and feeling "love" for this partner?  CONFUSING, right?  Are you in love with someone who actually would not impress you if you stepped back and watched him/her from the sidelines in their lives?  Are you in love with someone, yet in your gut, you have a nagging feeling that this isn't the best decision to be with this person?  If so...

consider the idea that you might be "in love with the idea of being in love."

I hope this makes sense.  And if you think this could be you, know that you certainly are not alone.  I've talked to so many women who have been there.  In fact, we've probably all been there at least once.

Here are two things that I think contribute to this problem...

1.  LOW SELF-WORTH.

2.  SEX.  (yep)

Let me explain... :)

1.  LOW SELF WORTH.
This is the easy one.  ha.  Self-worth is soooo crucial in dating.  Oh my goodness.  Please, please...if you are struggling with this, tackle it head on.  Try to overcome this.  It will help you tremendously as you date and try to decide who to marry one day.  Without self worth, it's easy to feel a little desperate.  It's easy to look past major red flags in a relationship simply because you want so desperately to be loved.  Without self-worth, it's easy to get yourself into some pickles.  It's easy to stay in a relationship for all the wrong reasons.  It's easy to latch on to anyone who throws you a bone.  It's easy to think that you won't be WHOLE until you find a partner or a spouse.  It's easy to feel as though finding a partner is the only thing that matters, and that life is really in a holding pattern until you meet "the one" who will make everything feel complete.  I hope you can see how detrimental this can be in a relationship.  Someone with low self-worth often demands that their partner make them whole; they rely on someone else to provide them with happiness.  Oh dear.  This thinking is NOT HEALTHY.  This will not lead to a healthy relationship.  This will lead to one big roller coaster.

If you feel your self-worth really could use a boost, there is hope for you!  :)  And I think feeling this way is really quite normal, actually.  But...PLEASE CHOOSE TO IMPROVE!  :)  There are so many things you can do!  Here are some ideas to get you started, though I am sure there are many more (if you have anything to add, please leave it in the comments!)

  • Find a professional you can connect with who can walk you through overcoming this (keep shopping around for a good fit, if necessary!)
  • Ask someone you already know and respect to coach you.  A self-worth mentor!  Why not?
  • Go find a church or a supportive community!  Churches can be amazing in helping people to understand their value.  The Mormon church has been instrumental in helping me to develop my self-worth.  Though there are certainly so many organizations that could help in this area.  I recommend finding one!  :)
  • Speak with a spiritual leader or healer.  To me, healing on a spiritual level can bring about the most powerful changes I've ever seen in people of all faiths and belief systems.
  • Get some exercise.  This can do wonders!!
  • Get a Dr. check-up - make sure your hormones, Vitamin D levels, thyroid and other triggers are in check.  Physical imbalances can make you feel down about yourself and your life.  You can help the situation a lot by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Do activities that make you feel positively about yourself.  Serve others.  Find a hobby.  Play an instrument.  Do something daring.
  • Become a seeker.  Try to figure this out.  Read books by experts like Brene Brown & Eckart Tolle.  Talk to friends.  Take classes.  Search philosophy and scripture. 
  • Replace the negative script in your head with a more positive script until those positive words become your belief system.  

What is Love?

2.  SEX 
OK, I think sex plays a huge part in getting addicted to "love".  You see, sex creates a powerful bond between two people; it DOES create a desire to be with someone.  In fact, that's why it's so dang amazing for a husband and wife to have it in their marriage.  :)  There are few things more powerful than sex.  BUT, when two people who are unmarried and who are still trying to figure out who and when to marry and how to make the best decisions for their lives.....sex can really, really muddy the decision making process; it can make your brain go to mush.  You see, sex creates feelings of love, safety, security, desire and bonding.  But it can create those same feelings EVEN IF you are with someone who you know deep down is not a good match for you.  In other words, you could become bonded with the wrong person, with a jerk, with someone who is not ready for marriage, with someone who is not treating you well.  You may not even be on the same page in life at all!  Yet sex can bond you and make you feel enhanced feelings of being "in love" with each other.  Talk about getting yourself stuck in a difficult and confusing situation.  Some may think I'm old fashioned on this, but I believe in empowering women (and men) before they get married, when at all possible.  I think if you remove sex from the equation, it leads to less long-term roller coaster relationships that should have ended a long time ago.  It leads to less devastating, heart wrenching, messy break ups that can feel like a divorce.  Instead, it provides an opportunity for people to think more clearly and therefore make better decisions regarding marriage.  And because of that, I'm all for it!  
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I'd love to hear your thoughts! Do you think I'm off my rocker?  Spot on?  :)

And, do you think you've ever been in a relationship because you were addicted to "love"?  Any wisdom or thoughts to pass along?


(first image source: unknown, second image source:  wendesgray)

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59 comments:

  1. I love this post. It's been something on my mind. Just this week I broke up with my boyfriend. He was totally in love with me, wanted to marry me, and we had an amazing friendship. EXCEPT I just wasn't on the same level as him. My head and heart never really agreed and my GUT was saying no. Although we were not sexually involved, it was still super hard to break things off because we were so emotionally connected. However, I think it's the right choice.

    I think I loved the idea of being in love with someone. Who doesn't? I loved being loved by him. I loved the idea of being in love and having someone love me the way he did, I just didn't love him as much as I should have. We both were similar, looking for someone to marry, however, there were some core issues that were a tad bit off. Miniscule things really, but huge in the long run. The sad thing was that he was a REALLY good guy. No complaints, just not the most compatible match with me.

    I think it takes great courage to end relationships that are so entrenched with feelings of love because you can feel like you are dying. It is so rough. Almost like your world is ending. I almost backed out of the break-up but my mind was made up (after being wishy-washy for so long), but my gut knows what's up and I have to be true to myself. It's either break-up with him now, or later. But there will be an inevitable break-up. I'd rather experience it while we are dating, while the waters are still somewhat shallow.

    I asked myself this question: if we were to stay together would I be true to myself and happy in 3 years? 5 years? I shuddered to imagine that future because I really didn't want it. I knew it was time to call it quits. It's better to end something and experience pain rather to regret a poor decision and live in pain for a long, long time. Thank you for this post. It is very insightful.

    Also ending relationships for the sake of being healthy is worth being single for a while. Being emotionally healthy is empowering. Taking the time to develop a great foundation of self-worth is priceless. It's a sacrifice, but totally worth it. - Julie

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  2. Dead on!

    Self worth - aaaargh, I have a friend who is suffering from this problem right now...and I can see her heading for trouble, all for the desire to be "loved". Definitely best to tackle it head on first. Rings so true about relying so much on the other person in the relationship to make you whole, too!

    The gut feeling - my last relationship was a bit like this too. We started dating, but after a short time, I had that undeniable gut feeling. I couldn't get rid of it. So I broke up with him. Then...it hurt!! A lot!!! That awful amount of pain that comes from the other person's reaction, plus not having that significant other in your life anymore. So after a very short time I asked him to take me back. This possible short story then turned into a long story, full of a lot of tears and heart-ache and pain. Yes it hurts to break up, but when it's the right thing IT WILL GET BETTER! Instead, prolonging a relationship of two people who just weren't right for each other, things ended up so awful that by the end I kinda wished we never met. I definitely had definitely became emotionally bonded with this person, and even after the last and final time when I knew that we were NOT a good match and would be MISERABLE if we had gotten married, it was still really hard to let go, completely. I'm glad to say I finally did, and boy am I much happier!

    I really wish I had stuck with my gut feeling the first time. If you are not a good match in a lot of key areas, then it is best to break up. Now. You will both be happy with that decision later, regardless of who made it!

    Great post, thank you!

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  3. I think this is one of your best posts to date, Mara - addressing really vital issues! And I think you are right that self-worth and sex are two of the main reasons why people stay (or enter into) in unfulfilling relationships (though I'm sure there are probably others too). I myself have certainly been through what you are discussing here in the past.

    I LOVE your stance on the sex issue - it may be old fashioned to some, but I think when you take it out of the equation, you can focus first and foremost on the emotional/spiritual connection with someone (which is kind of the bread and butter of the relationship - the thing that cements the foundation of any healthy relationship). Also I think when you realise you are compatible with someone enough to marry you can then consciously not carnally choose to bond together with someone sexually and it means so much more.

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  4. Spot on! My husband and I waited til we were married to have sex, and it's something I'm thankful for literally every day. It wasn't easy- we dated for 5 years (ouch!) But it was really worth the wait- not just physically, but emotionally as well.

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  5. I loved this post. I just wonder about people who don't get married. Are they supposed to live sexless lives? I know that I shouldn't be thinking negatively (ie: never getting married) but it does happen. Not just to people who are negative or not wanting it - sometimes marriage just doesn't happen for those of us who think positively of it, those of us who are smart, kind hearted, generous etc... some very good people in this world don't get to have that experience so I'm curious if your opinion is that they shouldn't have sex with partners that they have an attraction to, like a lot, but not necessarily have a marriage connection with. Others get married well into their 40s. Again, should they wait until their sexual prime is gone before they have sex? It's a lot to ask. In saying this, I did read katie's post that she and her husband waited for 5 years and have to say that I'm impressed beyond belief! GOOD FOR YOU!

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    1. I think it's beautiful that many people wait for marriage, but it's not realistic in today's world where people are marrying later and later. I have heard both sides of the coin on it, and I think it's pretty unbelievable, actually, ridiculous, to ask two adults to wait until 28, 29, 30, 31 to experience physical intimacy.


      I'm tired of Mormon mommy bloggers (NOT Mara- you are wonderful!) toting around this ideal proudly when they waited until, oh, until 20 to have sex. That's easy. Show me an adult man who is 32 and hasn't had sex or an adult woman in her thirties. A completely different story than early twenties.

      Choosing when with whom to have sex is a very personal choice and one that I do not believe deserves judgment by others. Sex is a bonding act for certain, and one of (perhaps THE greatest) gift from God.

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    2. My step-father was 45 when he married my mom. He waited. His twin brother is 65 he has waited also and continues to wait. It is not impossible, it has just become an expectation or accepted way of doing things in our culture that makes it feel impossible.

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    3. Anon, thank you for your reply. I agree that it's a personal choice and works differently for each person. When I was growing up it was always what I wanted (to wait for my wedding night) but the older I got the less fair it seemed & less realistic. I still have a lot less experience than those in my age group and can only see it happening when I'm in love or heading in that direction. I can't see myself having sex just for the act of it. That being said, I can't judge those who do either.

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    4. Laurenkri, thank you. I think it's great that your step/father & his twin waited/continue to wait if that is what is right for them & in their hearts. Of course it's possible. I just question whether it's fair to people who don't want to wait. To miss their sexual prime years just because they didn't get married. I loved someone and was intimate with them and it was still meaningful even though it didn't have the title of marriage. I've also been in love with someone & wasn't intimate and if I'm being completely honest, I wish I had experienced our relationship on that level. It didn't help me "get over" him any easier than the person I was intimate with just because we didn't have sex. Please also know there was nothing wrong with these men. They were wonderful. It was just the wrong time or location or other life changing events that happened. I simply think each experience is valid and shouldn't be judged whether it's to wait or not to wait.

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    5. hi anon- call me anon, too.

      my husband was 40 and i was 28. we both waited. we're pretty attractive people. well socialized. had plenty of dating relationships each in our past.

      not everyone is doing it. :)

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  6. I love how you worded everything! Beautiful and true to the point!

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  7. My husband and I are meeting with a divorce lawyer in two days. I have peace about our decision, yet I feel like my heart has been ripped from my body, my brain is spinning, and my body is just beaten up and broken. In the midst of this dark, lonely time, reading this post was quite eye-opening. We became engaged in a whole mix of emotions and mess at the age of 19 and now have been married for 7 years.

    Self-worth and Sex. Ugh.

    Thank you for the eye-opening share and for the sincere honesty that always exudes from your posts. I know that the next several months are going to be excruciating, but I look forward to coming away from this pain that our disconnections have brought. My own addiction to this codependent love that we have cultivated has grown stronger and stronger and I'm in desperate need of this time of detox.

    Thank you for your posts. Look forward each morning to new insights and the chance to smile a bit.

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    1. you posted this over a year ago - how are you doing now?

      i am new to blogging but am where you were a year ago.

      i feel lost and lonely.

      but happy

      Delete
  8. Actually, I was wondering what you would make of my current situation. I love my boyfriend, but I do have that feeling in my gut--

    I have been with my boyfriend for almost 2 years. We dated for a year and half before moving in together. We have only lived together for 3 months and some change. The hard part is, I'm starting to think I made a mistake.

    I had been in my current living situation (sharing a house with roomie friends from college) for over a year and wanted a change. He was graduating from law school (had been supported by his parents all the way through law school) and needed to find a more affordable living situation since he was going to get cut off (at age 26) after taking the Bar Exam. At the time, finding separate living situations and negotiating the back-and-forth for another year seemed ridiculous. I had concerns about moving in with someone starting out on his own for the first time, rather late in life, and without a job lined up. I did, really. But somehow they took a backseat to our actually finding a place and putting our stuff in it together.

    If it helps, I'm 27 and have been financially independent from my parents for a LONG time, so I am truly having trouble understanding what he's going through. I also think, shamefully, that he is really freaking spoiled. But I look around at the home we've spent weeks building together, and it would be heartbreaking to tear it apart.

    Now I find myself living with a man who is driving me bananas, has no idea how to budget, and no current income. We're less than halfway through our lease and I'm wishing we hadn't moved in together. We don't have sex, bicker a lot, and in general it just feels like we've lost our connection. Yes, we have talked about this! I am even seeing a counselor about this. I still think that maybe, the relationship is over, and the only things stopping us from breaking up are plans for the upcoming holidays with each others families and this signed lease. Help?

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    Replies
    1. Hi,

      I am not an expert in any of this and you should most certainly listen to what Mara and Danny have to say about this, rather than me. But I wonder if the "problem" isn't more of the change HE is going through in his life. I mean, being on your own financially can be tricky to lots of people, living together as a couple for the first time too. Maybe it's just a matter of adjusting, of him learning to deal with finances and real life issues and realizing that the "spoiled life" he had before is over, mourn it and grow up and deal with the new reality (job searching, living in low or no income!), and not getting depressed with all these tough situations. Rare are the people who get it all right from the beginning, specially if they haven't had any practice before.

      I am not saying that you shouldn't listen to your gut, I am just wondering if his incapacity to deal with all the new issues as you wished he could or would, or in the time you wished, isn't the real problem . Do you think he will never learn how to deal with these things? Is he trying? Does he know that this is a problem? (Not because you are complaining but because he senses he should be doing more?)Is he willing to? What kind of connection you had before? Does precarity and difficulties vanish all the good you had before? Does this mean that your relationship was ok or good only when he had a position (as a student) and income (from his parents)? And where do you find yourself in all this (besides going bananas)? Where do you stand? You've been his financial support, I guess, but does he look at you as an exemple(of independency and as a professional)? Do you help him out if he asks for help? Do you trust his capacity of finding his path on his own? Can he count on you for emotional support? Can he talk about his frustrations without you judging him? Do you remember that there is an economical crisis and it's really tough to find a job, specially if you don't have lots of working experience?

      Of course, you don't have to answer. I am guessing that you are doing all you can, but these are some of the questions that I had asked myself in a quite similar situation a long time ago. And I was surprised to find out how conditional my love was for him and how non supportive I was, despite my paying the bills. It took us a lot of hurt before connecting again and being a team instead of me complaining about his limits and faults. It took me a long time to start looking at my own and how my attitudes weren't helping him.

      But if you feel like this is really not the person you should be with (in the long run and not only in the difficult beggining of his actual adult life), it really doesn't matter how lovely your home now is, it's not worth you staying there. You can build up a lovely home alone or with a friend or with a new boyfriend.In my humble opinion. No matter how much love and beauty are in these things, they are just things and love and beauty will follow you wherever you go.

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    2. Thank you for this thoughtful reply. I guess the biggest issue with this is that he's shutting me out. He feels ashamed and stressed by his current situation and avoids bringing it up in conversation, and is obviously irritated and shuts down quickly when I try to broach the subject. I wish he would ask me for help, but he doesn't.

      I do find myself having trouble trusting him, with having faith in him, in his ability to change and grow. I know that it's a rough job market out there, and in our town, overrun with lawyers, there is no need for more people in his profession. He is hypersensitive about the problems we've been having and has asked me for "more time."

      You hit the nail on the head with these questions--What kind of connection you had before? Does precarity and difficulties vanish all the good you had before?--these are my biggest fears and I feel like I can't answer these questions, though they might be the most important.

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    3. My biggest question would be....what was your relationship like before you moved in together? Did you have that gut feeling like you do now? In my experience and in talking to many friends, it is usually quite stressful when you move in with a boyfriend/spouse for the first time. While you have been together for awhile, you haven't been living together. You probably both have different expectations of what it would be like and should be like. I moved in with my now husband after we had been dating for almost a year. We knew we wanted to get married (but were in college and wanted to wait) but it was still a difficult transition.

      In my opinion, if you felt good about the relationship before you moved in together, give it some time. Keep working on it and talking about it. If you were having doubts before moving in, then maybe it is time to move on. Definitely don't get married until you have some of these issues worked out because it won't get better.

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  9. Someone just showed this to me and I thought it was insightful. Have you heard of Shel Silverstein's The Missing Piece meets the Big O? I feel like it relates.

    http://youtu.be/MCmZ2jrQooE

    - Amy

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  10. I agree with your thoughts about sex up to a certain point, but I think it's potentially destructive to marriage to wait until after marriage to have sex. I certainly believe in dating for some period without sex, because it can confuse things as you explained. I generally have waited until I've felt like I loved the person and until we've dated long enough to establish intimacy and trust and to have had every other sexual experience together. I'm all for waiting some time until having sex...3 months, 6 months, whatever feels right.

    But waiting until marriage to have sex is just as ridiculous as waiting until marriage to address finances, having children, religious beliefs, and all of the other big deal-breakers in a relationship. Lots of divorces happen because people don't address huge issues before they get married. Sex is one of those. It's one of the top 5 conflict points in marriages and a big aspect of what leads people to divorce.

    Just like you shouldn't get married without thoroughly diving into each other's finances or agreeing on whether you want kids and how you'd raise them (and all the other big issues that contribute to divorce), you shouldn't get married without establishing that you're sexually compatible. This is serious. I know people who waited until marriage to have sex and then they learned things that ended up causing a divorce -- massive differences in sex drives that the parties weren't willing to work on overcoming, sexual dysfunction that made intercourse a challenge or impossible, lack of sexual chemistry once intercourse was involved, etc. Wait until you are in love and comfortable with the other person. Don't led sex confuse you and give an illusion of love or connection. But once you're in a happy, healthy, long-term relationship with someone, enjoy your bodies and enjoy sex and use that as one of the many prisms with which to evaluate whether you should be together forever.

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    1. I like the idea of waiting until marriage to have sex. However I totally agree with the person before about how it could lead to trouble. I think you MUST have sexual chemistry with a person.. and I also think you can completely love them.. but what if that night comes in the bedroom on the wedding night and you hate it!! I had a ex who was a horrible kisser... and I really think that played a role in our relationship ending. Yes I loved him, but I did not love his kissing... and I deserve to be kissed right!!! There was no "helping" him because he thought he was good! :-/ There was PLENTY of other issues but it really was in the back of my mind... do I never want to be kissed again how "C" kissed me?!? And go figure, "C" and I have lived together for almost 3 years now! He is my best friend and I love him.

      Thank you Mara! Wonderful post to think about today :-)

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    2. Bravo. What a brave comment. I completely agree.

      Waiting is lovely, and it works for many, but not for all. I also think it can be dangerous because in many communities, like the LDS, it pushes people to marry so very young for let's face it... sexual standards!

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    3. I think it is an unfair overgeneralization to say that LDS beliefs push those individuals to get married young. Maybe those idividuals who find themselves focusing on sex do get married for the wrong reason, getting married to have sex, but many, and I would say most, LDS individuals get married young because of their beliefs in family and their roles in this life. You imply that LDS individuals are sexually deprived and would do anything (even get married) just to "get some". There are some people actually act on things other than their sex drives. Also, marriages don't end because sex didn't work out for them. It might play a part, but there is always more to it than that, and often times sex is just a symptom of the real problem.

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    4. If you think this is an unfair over generalization then you probably don't live in Utah. I live in Salt Lake City (and in Utah my whole life) and have seen many LDS friends wait to have sex before getting married. Yes, it has worked out for a few of them, but the majority have sadly ended in divorce at a tragically young age. Then they feel ostracized by the very community that encouraged them to marry soon after returning from an LDS mission. When my own brother came home from an LDS mission his bishop told him to look for a woman to marry and start a family with ASAP. Mara, you have some very valid points and I do appreciate that sex can be toxic in a bad relationship, but it can also be one of the best experiences in the world with the right person even if you aren't married.

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    5. To "AnonymousOctober 23, 2012 10:43 PM":

      I would argue that it is still an unfair overgeneralization. I am very familiar with Utah, love it, but would not live there. "Utah Mormons" are a minortiy when compared to the LDS population worldwide. There is a 'mormon culture' there (and in many other places in America, but not so strong as there) that many mistake for 'Mormon Doctrine'. Don't confuse the two. Many of these individuals are doing just that. It's not doctrine to marry as soon as you can. It is foolish to marry the first person you have feelings for as soon as you can (I too have known many to do this, & their marriages too have fallen apart). To them I would say, give courtship lots of time, do your research.

      But the reason those marriages did not work out was not because they refrained from sex before marriage. To say that without premarital sex, your marriage has a high probability of failure is a complete falacy. Just like Mara is trying to show on this blog, no matter what the situation, you can CHOOSE how to react to a situation. Like I said before, marriages do not end because the sex is only 'so so', nonexistent, uncomfortable, or not the fireworks you see on movies. It is only a symptom of the real problem, be it selfishness on the part of one, the other, or both, insecurities, lack of communication, etc. Whatever the issue, if both individuals truly want the relationship to work, then open communication occurs, guards are let down, both become vulnerable to each other, and differences can be worked out, even if they are sexual differences. Practice makes perfect;)

      I mean, if I based my future relationship with my husband on our first night together.....well, I would be divorced too. I had issues of abuse as a child that crept into my psyche as I became physically intimate with my husband. I became scared of him and his desire to be sexually close to me because it brought back fears/feelings of my childhood that hadn't haunted me in years. If I had let that determine my future with him, it would have ended, and had I no faith in God, I would have blamed my religion and my way of life for this problem, my inexperience, my naivety. But I told my husband, I talked to him, he talked to me, we tried to sort out my confusion. He told me he loved me, he made a promise to me, he would not leave if our sexual encounters were few and far between. It would be hard for him, I knew it would. But he was willing to give it up mostly because of the promise he made to me & God. So I gave it up for him. I worked it out rationally in my mind realizing he was not the man who abused me so long ago, it was hard for me but I kept at it & practice makes perfect. I am incredibly pleased with our 'sex life' and I know he is too. It was a problem we worked through together, we chose our reactions with our spouse's needs at the forefront of our desires, and now that aspect of our relationship is simply amazing, and frequent, and truly a way we love to connect & share our love.

      Note: For those LDS that ostracize others who marriages don't work out fall prey to mormon culture, which is in no way supported by doctrine. People who truly want to follow Christ's example welcome all, no matter their situation in life with open arms and without judgement. I am sorry for those individuals who have felt ostracized, it shouldn't be that way, and know it isn't that way among all mormons. No one from the outside can judge what happened to them as a couple. They are not present at intimate moments, behind closed doors.

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    6. ALSO, Please know I am not bashing on Utah &Utah mormons, I really do think it is a great place, I love Salt Lake City & have spent many summers there growing up. But there is a high concentration of mormons, so a culture develops, and the culture becomes tradition, which many easily and mistakingly confuse for doctrine. Places where there are not so many members as Utah are refreshingly free of most of this culture. Best example, Brooklyn, Park Slope Ward, man I miss that place, one of the greatest examples to me of people who love....people in that ward come from every walk of life, and everyone just loves, supports, uplifts, and encourages.

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  11. I am 25 and I feel I am the only one of my friends who thinks about relationships in this way. It takes a lot of self worth to say no to some attention and love when you know it is from a man who would not be a long-term partner or the type of man I want to marry. I hear these sad stories about jerks and cheating BF's my peers put up with, and it makes me sick.

    I want to print this out and send it to every single young women I know.

    Thank you Mara! I would say your best post to date!

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  12. Great post Mara! Speaking from experience on both ends, it is sooo much better to wait to have sex till you get married! I waited with my first husband, however our year of dating had red flags all over it and my naive self still went and got married. And our sex life was anything but glamorous, meaning= there was never a real bond after being intimate. I think he's gay too! <-which could explain a lot. So 5 years later I get divorced and I meet this guy who I am soo so smitten with. Because of my lack of self worth, and not having a romantic sex life with my first husband I threw in the towel and felt I deserved to be really loved this time. Me and this guy dated 4 months, and were intimate during that time... it took me a year and a half to get over him because of the intimacy involved. Through this process I also found my self worth. I will never forget the night before we broke up. I was at work [I was a nanny] and I just felt awful inside and totally used. My boyfriend had stopped saying "I love you" a couple weeks prior...anyways, I found myself bawling in the bathroom...and promised myself that I would not sleep with anyone again till I got married. And that the next person I married would be my best friend! I kept that promise...and dated a couple more guys and then finally found the love of my life 4 years later. :) What's special about not being intimate before you're married means that you have to work on building a foundation, something that is lasting and full of substance. And when life throws you curve balls, you and your partner [i.e. teammate] handle those challenges sooo much smoother. Also, you will never question whether or not your partner really loves you.

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    1. To insinuate that people who have sex before marriage don't build a foundation of substance and that they somehow aren't prepared to handle the hard times once married is really bogus. Maturity and clarity go a very long way in every relationship and it sounds like if those practices had been in place in the first two relationships you mentioned they probably would have ended long before they became the devastating situations they were.

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    2. I agree with the Anon.

      I also understand that sex can get in the way sometimes, if you don't have maturity to deal with it and normally you don't have it for a while. As someone commented, there is inexperience too that counts and all the "fairy tales" we tell ourselves about how love should be, how great it would be to stay with only one person your whole life (find the right person right away and avoid all the heart breaks of searching...). Some of us are lucky enough to find them right away, most of us aren't.

      But there are many couples that have sex before marriage and have a great foundation and it's not only sex that are keeping them together, as it is not getting in the way of them thinking clear or being reasonable people or as a couple. Sex is a huge part of marriage and it can be a huge part of a non married couple life too. And I am not only talking about sexual pleasure and it's highs, I am talking about intimacy, the way a couple deal with each other's body, with their needs, with their differences, if there is selflessness in it or just self-satisfaction, if you trust each other, if you can openly talk or show what one like and what one can't stand, how do you deal with frustration or the moments when one want to make love all the time and the other doesn't. There is room for a lot of growth in the sexual experience and I am not talking about "the moves", I am talking about loving each other and yourself and growing as a couple.

      And that doesn't mean that if you are attentive to that, you won't be attentive to other issues, such as daily issues, the other's temper, your spiritual paths (if you have one), your long life goals, how you deal with trials, etc. It can all go along, as it should in any mature relationship.

      That doesn't mean that we should sleep with all the people we feel affectionate about or just because we've been seeing them for a while. But there is a middle path into it. Feeling the "highs" of being in love shouldn't be the only counselour on this issue neither.

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    3. Great points, Anon. And I couldn't agree more.

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    4. Well said Anon @ 1:57 AM! Mara's two topics go hand in hand. If someone has low self-worth they are much more likely to engage in a relationship where they accept any type of "love", good or bad. I think that someone who is more secure is likely to approach sex and a relationship with more careful consideration and more likely to be successful in the long run.

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  13. I love this! I've fallen into the trap of wanting to be in a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship. Thank you for the reminder.

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  14. I'd also like to throw another factor out there:

    3. Inexperience. Especially first time loves, watch out! I've wondered and wondered why I ever dated my first boyfriend. We had nothing in common. I had a pit in my stomach. He lied to me, etc. etc. But he was my first BF and I felt a big connection to him because of that. I thought I'd never find someone I connected with so well. HAAAA! But the first time you experience those conversations, those emotions, it is so real, you think it must be THE ONE. Maybe the second time as well? Anyway, luckily I'm Mormon, and didn't have sex with him, and luckily the pit in my stomach was strong enough to just about kill me, so we broke up. That was seriously so painful for me, but now I just think, "Good grief! What in the world did I ever see in him? A handsome face, yes. But nothing else." But I seriously thought there was more to it at the time. Thanks for this great post.

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  15. In my experience, the gut is not all-knowing. The gut is a voice of fear. Sometimes it's right. And sometimes it is freaking out because old emotional issues are coming up. I'm not saying your should ignore the gut. Definitely investigate it. Lean into it. Explore it. Addiction, abuse, vastly different life goals are red flags. Feeling "not sure" or scared about the future isn't a red flag. It's an opportunity to grow.

    In my opinion, there is some danger in absolutes. Life and love are complex. People are complex. Relationships are enormous vehicles for growth. The gut is imprecise and does not distinguish between real fear and imagined fear. Some people have a lot of trouble with anxiety; the gut goes crazy in all sorts of not-actually-dangerous situations.

    To use an example from Sex and the City, Carrie felt a lot of anxiety about her sweet, emotionally available boyfriend Aidan and was constantly drawn to the cheating, unavailable Mr Big. Yes, this is TV, but I'm sure we all know of similar real-life situations.

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    1. Thank you for saying this, Anonymous @ 8:48 PM. I completely agree, but couldn't have said it half as well. As someone who has grappled with anxiety since childhood, I can attest to the fact that the gut is imprecise. I truly appreciate this comment.

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    2. Very well stated. Especially " Definitely investigate it. Lean into it. Explore it. Addiction, abuse, vastly different life goals are red flags. Feeling "not sure" or scared about the future isn't a red flag. It's an opportunity to grow." One of the most inspiring things I've heard all week!

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  16. First I want to say I LOVE your blog! I'm really glad I found it!!!!
    I spent hours reading your "love stories"! Seriously it was like a novel for me!!!! I couldn't "put it down" haha

    I like a lot of what you said. I agree that a distinction should be made between loving someone and being in love with them.

    But I think an even third distinction might be made (if it all wasn't complicated enough)
    I'm not sure what to call it, but I think there might be a middle between the "in love" a person has for their spouse and the love they feel for someone they are close to.

    Maybe its the silly 20s I am still in (sad if I think I am silly now, what will I think later!!!!!???) but I think there is a possible middle ground.

    I think straight up plain ordinary love has lots of selfishness in it. I think being "in love" gets rid of most, if not all of, that selfishness. But I think there is also a middle ground of some selfish, some selfless.

    Not sure what it exactly is....but I think there is a middle ground.

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  17. Mara, I stumbled across your blog about a month ago and I think it is changing my life. I think this post was written FOR ME. Thank you so much for writing and sharing what you've been through and giving advice. I am so glad there are people out there like you. Can't wait to find my own Danny someday. :)

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  18. Oh does this hit so close to home for me. I was in one of the relationships you described for a year and a half, half of which I knew that he was not the one for me and it was a BAD idea. I ignored all of the red flags, verbal, and spiritual warnings because it was "convenient." Yes there were many times I was ashamed to be with him, and ashamed of myself, but I had a "boyfriend" and was "loved." Thanks to a loving Heavenly Father, I was lead to my wonderful husband today, who I know is truly a gift from a Heaven above. Having this experience is something that I look back on with gratitude for what it has taught me.

    I have a brother who has been on both sides of the "church standards" fence for several years now. He and is girlfriend (both 18) are expecting a baby in December. This has been a really hard trial for our family, as many times my brother has expressed his desire to be free from this girl, yet the choice to have sex has bound them, and now a child makes him even more stuck. Just a couple of days ago I learned that he has moved in with her (in her parents home). My heart is aching and as I sister I don't know what to do. How do you teach experience and knowledge from it? How do I love and support as a sister when I know how much heartache is still to come for the 2 of them?

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  19. I have a friend who got pregnant at 16, her boyfriend was 18 and they haven't been together for a longtime when it happenned. Even without the "church issue" - they weren't mormons, it was a huge crisis for the families and for them both. With the stress, they weren't sure they wanted to be together any longer. And then both sides of the family went on going about how much heartache they would have, how much problems, etc. And guess what? Something amazing happened: they didn't.

    They knew they would have to raise a child together, indifferent of their couple relation and they grew up with it, they comitted to the child. They did become great parents, great human beings and they even fell deeply in love with each other through it. But even if they haven't, they were totally comitted to raising the child correctly. She quit school for a while, he started College and found a job. Then she got back to her studies and later on did her College studies. They were really fine, despite all the worries, and dramas and possible problems that the families had announced they could have had. It wasn't always easy, but they did really well for many, many years. When their kid was 15, they decided to separate, a friendly separation moved by the fact that they started wanting really different and legitimate things from life and being together wasn't helping them, but restraining them. They are all really fine, the kid is not traumatized, they are all happy, still a great family even if the parents went on their own ways. I am telling you this, to let you know that there is not only one way of things working out.

    There are easier ways, but even the easier ways do not assure a happy ending. There are virgins who get married, then make love, then have children and still realize that they are not meant to be together. It happened to other friends of ours. And there are kids that come "before wanted" or in "less than optimal" situations and things turn out ok. You don't know what will happen and you can't control it. If this baby is on it's way, according to your faith, it's also because of God's will, isn't it? Kids are blessings, parenthood is one of the most important experiences of human existence. So, your family is receiving a blessing in an unexpected way. Maybe not the way the Church advises to, but it's still a baby, it's still a son/daughter of God coming your way to his/her own personnal mission in this world. And who knows what this baby is coming to teach all of you? Not only the young couple, but the whole family?

    Do you react with fear, bad feelings or with love? Do you react with complains and judgements or with trust in God and His path? Do you accept what is happening and learn to open up to it or do you have a hard time "accepting" it? What kind of energy are you putting into the whole situation? I am not saying that one should act like if it is ok to have a baby with someone you are not committed to and in a young age. But once it's done and they are having a baby, what good comes of keep going on and on about what cannot be changed anymore? And all the bad things that can happen? All this baby and his/her parent's need is support.

    Helping them realize how to make better options for this child now. Help them become the young adults that they will have to become faster. Accepting that they will make some other mistakes on the way and that's important, those mistakes will help them grow. Trusting the good qualities each of them have and the ones they will develop. Trusting that despite this unexpected happening, they are good persons, and they will become good parents. Maybe they won't be a couple for a long time, maybe they will. Who knows? But they are parents for a lifetime now and that is even more important. And God is love and forgiveness, so it's not up to His children to be condemning it all, no?





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    1. Thanks Anon, I think you bring up a lot of really great points, many of which I wouldn't disagree with. You describe well the process that anyone must go through in order to come through any challenging situation in the best way possible (be it an unplanned pregnancy, a divorce, infertility, infidelity, death, etc.). Anybody who chooses to walk the path you described, in the manner you described, should be commended for taking it upon themselves to make the best of life...all of it...whether it is planned or unplanned, whether it is "good" or "bad".

      Mara and I aren't offering judgement regarding those who decide not to wait until marriage. I'm not going to look down on someone because they didn't. It is possible to have an ideal, and also not look down on someone who doesn't feel like living it is for them.

      One friendly clarification: I personally don't think that all things that happen are necessarily God's will. My understanding of God's will is that we have the freedom to make all sorts of choices in this life, and that we must also face the natural consequences of those choices made by us and by others. When we are faced with a situation of our own making or someone else's making that can no longer be changed...it is then our duty to choose to respond in the best way possible - "do I react with fear, bad feelings, or love?"

      I chose love. It sounds like you do too. This choice is available to everyone in all circumstances of life.

      Thanks again for the thoughtful comment and good insights into how others and their families have turned challenges into a reason to grow and be grateful and to love.

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    2. Anonymous, I appreciate the points that you have brought up here. They definitely get their share of guilt and others feelings/ judgements. As a sister who lives so far away from him, I don't want to be naggy and judgemental. It's a hard balance to find, since I myself know what being a parent entails. As for now I have stayed out of it, and when I've talked to him, have only been supportive of what "he" wants, even though it feels that he still has no idea.

      None the less, I appreciate your words and will apply them to the situation. I do already love my nephew, and will be even more supportive now, because that is really what they need.

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  20. What an amazing post! This is the kind of information we should be passing on to teenagers. It's life changing stuff!

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  21. This was a really fascinating post. It's particularly interesting to get the point of view of someone who has welcomed religion into her life. I personally find the rules, stories and minute details of religion a little unbelievable and constraining (though I am incredibly spiritual and definitely believe in a "God" or love force which has guided me to some pretty amazing things in my life). I also don't believe in sin or hell (hey, aren't we down here to make mistakes and learn?).

    One of the rules that never sat right with me was the "no sex before marriage" rule. Maybe it's because my mom always endorsed waiting and I had to rebel. Maybe it's just the time I grew up in (I'm 31 now). Or maybe it's because I know so many wonderful gay people who are truly in love and don't have the marriage option. But really I think that having sex and learning to distinguish it from love is (or can be at least) part of the journey of life. Also, I think it's a good idea to find out if you're sexually compatible before committing to someone for life (I'm just sayin'. Though I'm sure you really can tell a lot from the heavy petting you celibate girls engage in).

    When I was about 22, I fell head over heals for someone that didn't love me back. But we continued to sleep together for a long time, and it was excruciating. And the sex was definitely to blame for me being so blinded. I literally mistook sex for love. Yet, I never, ever, not for one minute, regret that relationship. In fact, it is singly one of the most life-changing experiences of my life. It helped me grow as a person. To rely on myself. To be okay with just myself. Most importantly it taught me what I did NOT want in a relationship. So when I met my current boyfriend (who I will probably marry), not only was I night and day different from myself in the previous relationship in the self-esteem department, I knew how to truly appreciate a man who cared for me, because I had loved one who hadn't for so long.

    If you want to wait to have sex until you're married, I totally support that. I think every person deep down knows what's best for herself/himself. What they can handle and what they can't. But I don't really believe in blanket rules. Sometimes we need to go through the pain to become stronger.

    PS: I'm loving how this blog just gets down to what's real. Great conversation on this post!

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  22. 8 months ago a couple of posts from this blog helped me make the decision to date a friend who was absolutely incredible and who had been interested in dating for, literally, years. I had my hesitations, but it was a good 8 months and I was lucky to be so loved by him. I loved him too.

    Today I read this post and it is just as helpful as those from 8 months ago, but in the opposite way. He broke-off our relationship recently. I still love him as a person and a friend. I also love the idea of him as a husband (he will be an amazing one). However I recognize now that most of the time we were together I had that gut feeling like we weren't the best love FOR EACH OTHER, no matter how much I wanted him to be. I loved being loved by him.

    The lesson for me is that in a specific scenario the same answer doesn't ring true at different times. That's ok though, because that is the best opportunity to learn.

    "All the mistakes I ever made in my life were when I wanted to say 'no', and said 'yes" -spoken by?

    Remember to trust yourself. Don't be afraid to say 'no'. But when you do say 'yes', make sure you learn something for the future.

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  23. My husband left because of an affair. There was no talking sense into his head. It was like he was on drugs! Everybody tried. His parents, friends, church leaders, even me. I wanted to save Our 12 year marriage. We also had two small children. It's true, Mara. Sex creates a powerful bond. Sex is something wonderful when shared within marriage, but it can definitely cause much heartache and trouble when experienced outside the bond of marriage. Our divorce was very painful for me and my children.

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    1. What a terrible thing to happen.

      I've done plenty of reading on why spouses cheat, and while sex is a component usually it is because that other person offers an emotional bond of connection the spouse (wrongly) thinks they can't get with their current husband/wife.

      It's not all about sex, and not all sex in marriage is beautiful, either.

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    2. True. I did not mean to convey the idea that sex is the only reason why spouses cheat or don't let go of a lover. It is simply one layer of the relationship. But a powerful one nevertheless. Neither did I mean to make the point that sex in marriage is always great. Each relationship is unique and sometimes very complex. So complex that 50% of all marriages end in divorce.

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  24. For those who might be curious why LDS people waitfor sexual intimacy until marriage, there was an address given by Jeffery R. Holland that illustrates it perfectly. It has nothing to do with deprivation, seeing how long you can hold out, etc, etc. To listen to him speak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5PBqxwlfHI
    and to read it: http://www.familylifeeducation.org/gilliland/procgroup/Souls.htm
    I think its a beautiful doctrine and truly creates a powerful bond between a man and woman when done within the bonds of matrimony. For those who want to know....

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  25. Even though this post has enough comments, I am going to contribute my thoughts. I was LDS, and unmarried into my 30s. I did my best to do everything a righteous Mormon woman was supposed to do, including refraining from sex. The problem was that I craved it (being human) and since I could not have it, I spent much of my time dreaming about it, the rest of the time I spent feeling guilty and dirty for these "impure" thoughts.
    As I got older there were fewer and fewer Mormon guys to date, the further the possibility of sex became, the more I thought about it and ached for it. At the time I thought I was wicked.
    I had never dated outside the LDS community because I thought that any non-religious guy would expect me to put out by the second date. It was so liberating to find out how wrong that fear was.
    Almost a year into a relationship with a great guy, I decided to sleep with him. We were long term, but not engaged. I knew it could end, I knew if it ended I'd be devastated, more so if we'd made love than if we hadn't. I thought long and hard about this, and I decided that the possibility of a negative outcome wasn't a reason not to move forward. Having sex did feel like moving forward. He never pushed me, it was my decision. After all those years of celibacy, it wasn't always smooth sailing, but it became a great, fun, rewarding part of our relationship. I won't lie, there was some guilt for me, but something else very interesting happened; sex took it's rightful place in my life. I no longer obsessed about it, felt shame for wanting it, felt embarrassed by it, or any of those things. I developed a much healthier attitude towards sex once I was having it, even outside of marriage, than I had trying to abstain. It was a great, life affirming experience.
    I am glad I dealt with sex as a separate experience from marriage, for a lot of highly individual reasons. I am glad I looked at my emotions and needs and acted according to my own best judgement, rather than an "ideal". Whether there is something in my experience that someone else can relate to is for them to decide.

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  26. I relate to this post SO well! I dated a few different guys in my early twenties that were completely and totally not right for me. And looking back I can see my reasons for staying with them were entirely related to my lack of self-worth. No other guys had EVER wanted to be with me before! It was so flattering I ignored all the red flags. Neither relationship lasted very long (NO SURPRISE!). But they were important steps in my life--and really helped me come to understand my own value. Therefore...I don't really regret either relationship.

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  27. I agree with your post, it's so important to feel good about yourself before you enter into a relationship. I was very young when I got married the first time round and hadn't really matured for my age. He was about 9 years older than me and found it very easy to make me feel inferior. It took a long time to regain my sense of self worth and develop confidence in myself. I am now with a really lovely guy who encourages me in everything I do.

    I think if you just focus on yourself for a while and do something to make you feel good about yourself such as developing a skill, travelling, exercising regularly, and building a good circle of friends then you will be in a far better position to handle the rejection and hurt from a failed relationship without losing self worth.

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  28. I think you are exactly right! I was in one of these relationships for 2.5 years for pretty much exactly these reasons - most especially self worth. He made me feel like I was worthless and I allowed him to continue to says things to me that only made me feel worse. But I'm lucky that one day he did something so terrible it woke me up to how wrong it all was and GOT OUT! I only wish this post was written and I read it about 5 years ago :) but then I wouldn't know the things I do now and I know I wouldn't be as grateful for the husband I have now. This is definitely something I will tell teenagers for the rest of my life though!

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  29. Dont be so obsessed with marriage often marriage is not equal to love. Also dont boost unmarried people anxiety saying directly or indirectly that marriage is one of the most important things in life so if they dont have it they are not whole, they are defective I hear and see this arrogant sympathy and feeling of superiority "you will find someone else too" all the time. If you are married it doesnt mean that you are better than other people it just states your status in society. Also why dont you give the reasons why so many people suffer from addiction I tell you because this world is terrible and needs change but you insist on some pseudo scientific facts such as self-worth and others. There are so many things to improve in the world instead of getting into this battle of getting married. Suggestion: Why dont you rename your blog into getting married or improve your social status in the eyes of society. Your blog has nothing to do with love. You dont sympathize with others you just give your supervaluble royal advice. And these phrase how familiar "I liked to be loved but than I understood that I didnt love him". You are like princess that gets from everyone only attention, honour, praise, compliments and appriciation that value herself too high that everyone too should respect you but in fact you just show off that you are too successful and happy you dont care for others it seems clear from your articles. You just want others to know that you are not in that gutter like others but have a nice life and succeed in life. And even sometimes you can come out of your mansion and give these miserable people a couple of valuble advice.

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    1. Wow Anonymous, you seem pretty angry and annoyed. To each their opinion. If this blog and it's contents don't match your point of view, you're most welcome not to read it! I'm not sure how you came to them 'not caring for others' - and it seems to really annoy you that they aren't 'in the gutter'. I'm sure there's blogs where they complain about everything - but I'd prefer not to read those.

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    2. Obviously you have issues with hatred and anger. It' certainly not people like you who change the world or it's thinking. I hope spewing all your negativity onto someone/something positive made you feel better because it's really really apparent you have no life.

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  30. I really love this post. Even though I am not particularly religious, i do believe in not having sex before marriage. Your wording about sex is so clear I want to save this for my children to read!

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  31. In addressing your past love addiction, you wrote, "But it turns out that we had completely different lifestyles and goals (he was a very good person, but we just weren't even close to being a good match or being on the same desired path)."

    I'm still unclear on what factors we should look for in a healthy, functional relationship.

    I agree that low self worth and sex can combine to make you overlook the obvious deficits in a relationship. But what makes for an obvious deficit, and how can you know if someone is a good match or not? What kind of things really matter? I would love to read some ideas about this because it doesn't always feel like those are explicit (a relationship isn't always obviously destructive), so what should people look for?

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