on trying and failing and trying again to stay committed to yourself
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Happy Monday! Before we get to this week’s story, let me tell you a quick one about finding the humor in random situations.
I’m a huge ripped jeans fan. They’re pretty much a classic part of my wardrobe and most of my jeans faithfully have a nice, big ‘ol rip at the knees.
I was walking the lake yesterday with a new friend when an older woman, probably in her 60s, stopped me.
“Excuse me, young lady, do you happen to have a dog?” She asked.
“No, I don’t…why?” I replied.
“I asked because your pants have holes in them and I thought your dog might have chewed them up.”
GIRL! I was shook! Stunned! And she had the audacity to continue!
“Honey, you know, when I was younger, even if we just had a little hole in our pants my granny would run up with a sewing needle ready to fix it because she said holes in our pants looked raggedy.”
All I could really do was laugh. My friend laughed. We all laughed. Even though I was roasted (completely unprovoked 😒), in times like this, finding the humor in little everyday moments is what will ground us, keep us going, and keep us connected. I could’ve went on defense, and maybe even roasted her back (I highly considered this), but honestly it was funny and in some strange way, that moment where we all got to connect around humor brightened my day.
“It’s all in good fun. I just wanted to make you laugh, we could all do with more laughter these days,” she said.
I couldn’t agree more.
EIC of Carefree Mag
Celibate and Surrounded by Sex
by Sherelle Stephens
A simple word that weighs heavy.
When mentioned, it’s usually followed up with questions like why? For how long? Is everything off limits? And the common assumption: you must be single if you’re celibate. This isn’t necessarily true. How you do it or why you choose to do it is totally up to you.
My journey with celibacy began while in an already sexual relationship – twice!
The thought first came into my mind in January 2018. I was in a toxic long-distance relationship (we lived 4 hours apart). I’d been working on my relationship with God more, and that month, He instructed me to start practicing celibacy.
So I did. I began researching celibacy online, reading stories from men and women to learn more, and build the courage to tell my partner. Initially, he seemed accepting and agreed with very few words. I was relieved.
A day or two later he realized I was serious and lashed out at me, accusing me of cheating and being deceptive towards him since this idea seemed to come “out of nowhere.” I was hurt and confused. I didn’t understand how me wanting to try celibacy meant I was cheating.
I was in a tough place. Spiritually, I wanted to be obedient and go through with it. I prayed about it. God revealed to me that if my partner couldn’t be understanding then I should count it as a blessing.
We didn’t speak for a few days, and I began to settle into the thought that my choice to be celibate would mean losing someone I cared deeply for. Next thing you know, I receive a text from him saying that he was sorry for lashing out and that he was willing to try it—only if we could come into agreement that no sex also meant he would no longer support me financially (I was in a career transition then, but thank God for savings!). Naïve as I was, I readily agreed because it meant I didn’t have to let him go.
That first part of my journey taught me that being celibate while in a relationship can only work if both people are on the same page. When you’ve already had sex, it can be even harder to get on that page. This is when you really get to know the person you’re with. However, regardless of what was just plainly revealed to me, I wasn’t ready to give up on the relationship, so I settled. Eventually we did have sex and shortly after I decided to leave the relationship.
After that experience, I pushed the idea to the side. I ended up not engaging in sex much that year anyway due to the breakup.
Celibacy didn’t come back up for me until 2020.
Until then, sex was very taboo for me. I guess in a way it always was. Now that I’d consciously confronted it, there was no way I could comfortably go back to being dismissive about my feelings toward it—though I did try.
I’d suffer the consequences spiritually, emotionally, and mentally while in a situation that may have led to sex. I’ve literally run out of establishments with the quickness more than once because of those spiritual convictions. Just know there are men out there who hate me because of this and, no, I am not sorry! The only sorry I am is that I was ever naïve enough to put myself in those situations to begin with.
I needed to confront my spiritual battle with sex. Deep within I knew God still wanted me to be celibate, but my faith was not as strong. I turned to crystals and tantric yoga practices. Trying all I could to release this blocked “sacral chakra.” I really thought I was making progress, I even tried incorporating these practices into sex, but ultimately It wasn’t enough. I surrendered and became depressed as I detached from everyone—ironically right at the height of quarantine.
In April of 2020, I met someone while taking a walk in my neighborhood. Things moved fast. We were “dating backward” as I called it due to quarantine. It didn’t take us long to become sexually active and develop a bond with one another. He was a man of strong faith. Shortly after sex, he expressed his beliefs to me and told me he recently broke his celibacy commitment after 16 strong months. He told me he knew that if we were to continue dating we would have to both re-commit. I’m sure you can imagine my astonishment.
On June 1st, we began our commitment—six weeks into our relationship.
Dealing with sexual tension while in a new relationship—whew chile! It was tough. I still wasn’t as strong in my faith as before. I would tell him constantly, “you’re stronger than me right now.”
Having the same goal as your partner is vital, but we realized it’s also important for each person to understand why they’re committing individually. We created a shared note to help us along in our journey. We each wrote out our reasons for practicing celibacy. Later, after a slip up, we revisited the note and laid down some ground rules. By that time, we were becoming aware of what could lead to a slip up; things such as dancing too sexually or placing our hands in hot areas.
The quarantine romance ended abruptly by the end of summer. We had a “fall-out” (pun very much intended).
As the world slowly opened back up, so did my workplaces. At that time, I worked as a cocktail waitress at a casino, a bartender at a night lounge, and a bottle girl for a female bartending company. All of these places were very lust-filled environments and part of my job description was to sell the idea of sex. I’m talking mini-skirts, booty shorts, fishnets, thigh-high boots, stockings, socks, corsets, crop tops, and leotards.
Regardless, I was now three months into my celibacy journey and I was determined to continue it.
I started reading The Wait by Devon Franklin and Megan Good, and it encouraged me. I also went into a deep period of fasting to help strengthen my faith. During and after my fast I felt very much like a fish out of water at work. Especially at the bars. Everything was sexed up and here I was trying to live my best sans-sex life. Much like before, there was a clear divide between who I was and what I allowed around me. There was a war going on and I was crossing enemy lines. The attacks were inevitable.
I caved by the end of the year. Someone I met the previous year came to my job. We never dated but we had an obvious attraction towards each other. We hung out after my shift, I was tipsy, and the next thing you know all the pent-up frustration was released. I felt guilty, but also a bit relieved. I thought ok, I can just do it with him and I’ll be fine since we have great sexual chemistry—wrong! When I was sobe, I was feeling a little uneasy about it so I brought it up. Call it a coincidence, God, or what have you, but somehow it came up in conversation that I was the third girl whose celibacy he’d broken. That was the warning I needed to stop me in my tracks. I quickly realized what I thought I wanted was just an attack.
That experience made me realize that I needed to re-center with God and my commitment—again. It has not been an easy journey. When you decide to choose the road less traveled you will be questioned, pressured, and tested from every direction, especially while working in lustful environments. Even when you’re not looking for it, it will find you. More attacks came, each different than the last, but I was able to dodge them by recognizing the common factors: a previous connection, alcohol, or both.
It’s now been almost two years since I made that June 1st commitment to celibacy. I’ve since left behind many people, places, and things in my life. I am now one year chaste and the strongest I’ve been in my journey. This has been the most peaceful time in my life. I’ve gained clarity, discernment, healing, and honor.
Some key things I’ve learned while practicing celibacy:
If you’re in a relationship and want to try celibacy, you must both be on the same page. Each person has to want it for themselves and know why they are doing it. Set boundaries together.
If you’re single, be strong and guarded because you will be attacked in the most unexpected ways. Again, set boundaries for yourself.
In either case, you must remain connected to your reason. For me, this was my faith, for you it may be something else. Whatever or whoever it is make sure you check in regularly to remain strong.
DON’T GIVE UP! If you fall, no need to start over some other time. Identify your blind spots, forgive yourself, and keep going. You’ll get stronger trust me.
Don’t track the time. Unless you have a set goal, it’s best not to focus on how long but rather the choice to stay committed. After the third month, you’ll likely stop keeping track anyway.
If you’re pondering whether or not this may be a good practice for you to try, check out this article that describes reasons for choosing celibacy and its benefits.
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Sherelle Stephens is a publicist and brand strategist by day and a personal fitness trainer by evening. When she’s not developing market strategy or training with clients, she’s writing think pieces for her cultural website The Culture Brew which centers on societal issues, economics, and unearthing the rich history of the diasporic Blacks community. She loves to bring people together through the art of storytelling in its many variations including interpretive dance. You can follow her on Instagram @She.Is.Relle or Twitter @PrittyShe for updates.