Saturday, October 21, 2017

Dismaying Story #148: Sleeping Together Without Sex

Dear Andrew,

My boyfriend and I have been seeing each other for over a year now. Because we live in different towns and I don't have a car, early on in our relationship I started spending the night at his house on weekends. Both of us have decided to wait until marriage to have sex, though for different reasons, but we really enjoy the intimacy this set-up brings about, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I grew up in a conservative Christian family and believe that sex before marriage is wrong. It took some hard thinking on my part to determine if I was going to be alright with spending the night, but after careful evaluation, I realized that I trusted each of us and the benefits far outweighed everything. I asked for advice from some friends and from my sister, all of whom I thought would understand the situation, but in the end it was a very personal decision, and I stand by it. It was (and is) the right decision for our relationship.

However, there are a few people in our lives who do not (or would not, if they knew) understand the situation. He has several friends and family who know that I spend the night, and because of this, they assume we're having sex. Now, I can understand why in today's culture he doesn't want to correct this mis-assumption, but at the same time I don't want people to think that I condone premarital sex. I haven't asked him to tell these people the truth, but I would like to in some instances, like his father, with whom he is very close (and is also quite conservative). Also, my mother, who would certainly disapprove, does not know about this arrangement. Up until this summer, she lived out of state, and so it hasn't been an issue, but now that she lives half an hour from my house, I fear that the issue will come up. (If/when it does, the discussion will certainly end with, "but I'm 28, mother, I can make my own decisions, and it's my life!") I know she will not understand, and I don't want to negatively impact her opinion of him or of our relationship, especially since we've been talking marriage. So, I am careful when I talk to her. I think this situation makes my boyfriend uncomfortable and he would like me to "come clean" with her, but I can't see how that would be beneficial. In this case, it really is "what she doesn't know won't hurt her."

How can we resolve this situation? Certainly, what goes on behind closed doors is private and it really is no one else's business, but family seems to think that rule doesn't apply to them. I know we can't please all of the people all of the time, but I'm looking for a solution that will honor our decision and not make too many waves.

Signed, Sleeping Comfortably

[Excerpt from: Minutes of the Cupid Expeditionary Force (CEF) Case Status Meeting -- October 2017]

Mother Nature: And who do you have in the "almost ready to boil over" category?

Cupid #163: [consults notes] Let's see, I've been working with a couple of 18-year-olds who've been parking in a mini-van by the lake for the last few weekends. They're getting awfully close.

MN: [Smiles, makes large check mark on her clipboard with an obvious flourish] Excellent work! At this rate we'll have more babies on the way in no time.

163: And then there's Case Number, um [clears throat, mumbles] 413 dash 28 stroke B.

[Titters from the other Cupids in attendance]

MN: You mean . . .

163: [Nods, looks down at the table in obvious embarrassment]

MN: Last month you said they were sleeping together.

163: Yes but--

MN: Are you sure your Nookometer is working properly?

163: [Looks up and nods vigorously] I thought of that so I had the lab guys check it.

MN: And you're not using stale arrows?

163: Are you kidding? I even stopped by the armory and picked up a batch of Extra Strength. I've got those two looking like pin cushions most nights.

MN: [Blinks in astonishment] Well ... keep working on it.

[Excerpt ends]

Dear Sleeping,

As you can tell from the above, I think your instincts are right on the money; two adults who regularly sleep together are usually assumed to be doing more than just sleeping. This is because Mother Nature does her absolute best to get us to have sex. Most people realize that given time and repeated opportunities, her urges tend to win out.

I love that you seem so content about what your sleeping arrangement means for you. It was initially at the edge of your comfort zone but you worked through that. Your letter gives me the sense you are confident this is the right thing for your relationship. This confidence falters, though, when you start worrying about what others think of you and your boyfriend. You are not content to merely be doing the right thing; you'd like your friends and family to perceive you as doing so and to validate your behavior. You are afraid there will be conflict.

Your letter mentions two potential solutions -- hiding the fact (from your mother) that you are sleeping together and explaining to people that you are not having sex. Neither idea seems particularly viable to me.

Your boyfriend is right. You should be honest with your Mom and tell her what is going on. She will eventually find out (mothers always do) and then you will have two problems to work through. Not only were you sleeping with your boyfriend, but you were also dishonest with her and didn't trust her enough to tell her the truth. I wouldn't be surprised if the latter issue ends up being far more hurtful and difficult to resolve. If you do get married, you don't want that one hanging over your head. She should find out from you, and sooner rather than later. Honesty really is the best policy.

So far you have avoided this conversation because you fear her disapproval. Is it possible you are underestimating her? She may be conservative but I bet she is also intelligent and aware. She knows you are 28 and in a serious relationship. She might be a little upset at first and say you are making a poor decision, but it's possible that will be the extent of it. If you have a reasonably strong relationship with her, this bump in the road likely will have no lasting effect.

Besides, we all must learn to have strength in our own convictions. You can't go through life trying to please everyone else because that simply isn't always possible. If you truly believe you are acting properly, then you must learn not to tear yourself up over the possibility that others may disagree.

I also suggest you forget about telling people you are not having sex. First of all, as you said, it is none of their business. The conversation would make most people uncomfortable. Secondly, many people won't believe you anyway. They have no way to verify what you are saying and will think, "She doth protest too much." They will likely take this as confirmation of their suspicions.

Your mother is a possible exception. If you and she are close enough that you are comfortable discussing this sort of issue and she might believe you, then explaining the truth may help both of you feel better.

Finally, I bet this issue does not loom anywhere near as large in other people's minds as you think it does. In most cases when we worry about what others think of us, the truth is they're not thinking about us at all. They have their own lives to lead and (unfortunately) are busy worrying about what we think of them!

The "waves" you fear are likely to be tiny ripples at most. I say hold your head high, look your family members straight in the eye, and smile. They have no need to know about Cupid #163's frustrations.

All the best,


  1. Andrew, your advice is always right on target!

  2. Oh, my goodness, Andrew! You are so right when you said they will think she doeth protest too much. It is almost beyond belief that two adult, consenting humans can share a bed and not any hanky-panky. Don't tell anyone, but those middle of the night awakenings were some of the best sex we ever had. Either get married and moral or stay in your own town weekends. You don't have a car, but I bet he does and could find his way to your house if he had to. I think the reason people look upon this arrangement askance is that they, too, have been young once upon a time.

  3. great advice!

    You know, my husband and I were good friends before we 'became an item'. He slept MANY nights over at my house and in MY bed-we never had sex, altho he tried!...people just assumed we were 'doing it' even tho at the time we were just friends...sometimes people like to jump to conclusions.

  4. That was sound advice, Doc. In fact, I'd throw a solid "Nobody cares" at many of your letter-writers. It would do them some good. Or send them spiralling into depression.

    Either way.

  5. wow..did u come up with all that on your own? very impressive..

    thanks for stopping by today, i hope to see you again, and I will be back, I am always in need of advice..thats for damn sure:)

  6. ok, i should of read your profile first..I see you hold a PHD...I see why you have such good advice..Kudos to you sir.

  7. I must say I like how she sticks to her convictions, firm undaunting in her beliefs of no premarital sex.
    THAT would be harder than telling her mother that truth and be proud of what she is doing and not afraid.
    People will think what they want, if you tell them the truth or not.
    Great advice Andrew

  8. My bet - Mother will flip. My other bet - if you keep sleeping with him then one night you will find only him and no inhabitions...

    No PHD over here so you are free to ignore my two cents.

  9. Hum. I'm also waiting for marriage but I wouldn't dare sleep in the same bed. I can hardly imagine it to be possible for more than a few times without giving in. My advice would be to stop. If you play with fire, either you'll get burned eventually. Maybe not, but then I would tend to even doubt your attraction to him!
    Do tell your mother about it. I'm sure you wouldn't want her to hear it from someone else, who assumes more is going on- the fact that you hid it from her will just confirm whatever that person will tell her, in her mind.

  10. Anonymous1:02 AM

    I had a similar situation without the long term-ness. I lived at home (I'd moved back home from California and my then boyfriend asked me to marry him and we were going to be married in 6 months, so I didn't try to find my own place) and I didn't come home one night. My mom went crazy (she is a conservative, fundamentalist Christian) and it informed her opinion of my husband - even though nothing happened and the only reason I stayed over is that I fell asleep (we both had night jobs[I had a part time day job as well] and tried to see each other after work). We were both committed to no sex before marriage. My mom not only got mad, but she told me that soon, I would see that my husband was no good, even if it took 10 years, because no guy who respected a girl would let her stay over. If her mom is like mine, she will be upset anyway. Telling her first will not make it better. Here's hoping she has a much more understanding mother than mine!

  11. Anonymous12:48 AM

    Sleeping here. I was waiting to see what kind of comments I got before making any decisions, especially since all of my friends and my sister that know agree that it would NOT be helpful to tell my mother, only hurtful. I neglected to mention the reason why she would freak out is not just the she is conservative, but that she is a conservative (though I wouldn't say fundamentalist) Christian. She wouldn't let my sister's fiance sleep on the floor in her bedroom the week before their wedding.

    I can see where some people would say that we're playing with fire, but the truth is that I made this decision 15 years ago, and it's based on religious beliefs, and I'm absolutely not going against that. In fact, when we were recently re-affirming this decision with each other, I pointed out that if we did have sex before marriage, I was certain that it would destroy our relationship, or at least my emotional health. I'm not saying that it's not a struggle, but I can confidently say that I'm not actually tempted to "go all the way." And I'm very much attracted to him, so it's not chemistry; it's just that my convictions are, indeed, that strong. (And my boyfriend refuses to do anything before marriage that could result in pregnancy, so... we're pretty set.)

    We don't drink or do other things that might cause us to lose our inhibitions. We play it fairly safe (ex: clothing stays on). And, most importantly, we believe in "keeping our eye on the prize" - what a special gift to give to each other on our wedding night!

    I hadn't thought of my mom finding out from someone else, mostly because anyone who knows understands what her reaction will probably be. I don't want to hurt her, but again, I just don't think she'll understand, and I don't want it affecting her opinion of my boyfriend and our relationship.

    I guess all that to say... I'm still undecided as to what to do.