Growing up in my household, it is hard to believe sex and intimacy were topics we did not openly discuss. Looking at my mom now, I know I can talk to her about anything. But this was not the case for me when I first started learning about the “birds and the bees”, and as I got older, I would sit and nod when my friends talked about sex and pretend to know what I was talking about so I didn’t seem like the odd one out.
As a child of divorce, growing up I did not have role models to look up to in my house that had a healthy sexual relationships. Both of my parents remarried before I was 10, but there were some instances in elementary school that I now realize where my sexual naivety was shown. Some of it did have to do with divorce, but the most prominent reason that I grew up knowing different norms from my friends is because my father is an immigrant from Pakistan, and my mom is 1st generation. Both of them grew up in very strict households as well – no sex before marriage or even kissing for that matter.
I distinctly remember when I was nine years old, and someone referred to a teacher by the name of “Miss” instead of “Mrs.” My teacher had a child in my grade, so my response to that was, “Her name is Mrs., not Miss, she has a kid and you can’t have kids before you are married. That is disgusting”. I had to write a letter to the teacher apologizing for what I had said, and both of my parents had to come in, too. I had hurt her feelings because her parents were not married when they had her. My parents did not kiss in front of me with their significant others until they were married. They didn’t sleep in the same bed, and they weren’t affectionate with each other around me until they were remarried.
Growing up, I learned (whether it be consciously or subconsciously) that intimacy was not acceptable until you were married. I went into high school knowing people had sex, but thinking they were wrong and it was gross. I knew a healthy love – I just didn’t know having sexual feelings for someone at such a young age was normal.
As I got into my first serious relationship, I felt myself holding onto my virginity and other intimate aspects of a relationship, not because I wanted to, but because I felt dirty having sex or participating in sexual acts.
I wish my mom had told me that intimacy was normal at any time of your relationship, not exclusively reserved for marriage.
After I started having sex and when my relationship became more serious, my mom and I started having those conversations. Being able to talk to someone who has been through high school and relationships before was validating.
Talking to your kids about intimacy and showing them that it is okay is validating.
Thinking back, I know my parents were trying to “protect” me from their divorce and ease me into their new relationships, but I wish they had shown me it is OK to be affectionate with your partner before marriage. I wish they my mom had felt comfortable showing that part of her relationship in front of me. She grew up within a society where any type of affection or intimacy between partners was reserved for behind closed doors – and that is what she modeled for me. Now, things have shifted – and she is comfortable showing affection and talking with me about intimacy, sex and relationships and it has not only made our relationship stronger but also my own relationship.