How Celibacy Strengthened My Marriage
Five years of abstaining might not have been perfect, but it built an unshakeable foundation
Eight years ago, the term “celibacy” wielded the same discomfort and embarrassment as an STD. However, when I moved from NY to L.A. in the summer of 2012, that sexless “disorder” crept its way into my life, nestling in boldly yet unnoticed like the fly on Mike Pence’s head at the VP debate.
At that point, nothing about my lifestyle reflected monogamy, let alone abstinence. As a young, single brother with a real job in L.A., the allure of Hollywood’s party scene had me out in these streets being a ho. Even though I grew up attending church, knew the Word, and had a sound value system, the let out at 1 OAK and the women I met were too strong of a temptation to resist.
I was “in the world,” as the church folk would say. Unbeknownst to me, God’s divine plan was unfolding in the cut — after three months of hedonism, a faint whisper to change my lifestyle eventually became a blaring megaphone. I could no longer ignore the messages that infiltrated every conversation, sermon, or quiet moment I experienced. God was up to something, and He wasn’t subtle with His instructions — I had to give up sex.
The recurring question from my friends who could not fathom why I would cockblock myself was, Bro, why are you doing this? To them, who I was trying to be didn’t match who I currently was.
Then began my humorous and imperfect five-year adventure with celibacy — a journey filled with close calls, absolute failure, and the painful realization that “blue balls” is not an urban myth. It’s real, and that shit hurts. Despite it all, celibacy was fundamental in testing my faith and exposing weaknesses. My dependency on women for validation and ego became shockingly clear. My warped habit of tallying women I slept with as a benchmark for self-worth illustrated that I needed to adjust these immature metrics of manhood. Could I make it through this time in the wilderness on my own? Without my faith and the support of an incredible woman — who’s now my wife — I would not have made it.
While not everyone’s journey with celibacy is anchored in faith, mine honestly had to be. Attempting to live in L.A. and have zero sex is like visiting Willy Wonka’s factory and not sampling any of the exquisite confections on display. I needed to anchor this unbelievable feat to something bigger than myself, and it required divine intervention. My journey took a few attempts.
The outcome: big fail
When I told my friends I was no longer having sex, they looked at me with the same distaste as if I said the Thanksgiving turkey wasn’t going to have gravy. The recurring question from my friends who could not fathom why I would cockblock myself was, Bro, why are you doing this? To them, who I was trying to be didn’t match who I currently was. From their lens, giving up sleeping with women in return for nothing made no damn sense, and that stung.
I let them know my inner thoughts in a moment of vulnerability — but was met with criticism and dismissal. Celibacy was hard enough, and their rebukes made me question my decision. Before I knew it, I was back in the streets, sinnin’ and winnin’. When I woke up a few days later with a woman asleep in my bed, guilt shook me to the core: I had made a promise to God that I couldn’t even keep for a month. My failures played on a loop and made me feel lower than I thought I ever would for something I celebrated my entire life. I needed a new game plan.
The outcome: failure (but a different kind)
After realizing the vise grip WAP had on me, desperate times called for desperate measures. I had to jettison this worldly behavior, so I deleted all my phone numbers and text messages. I even went as far as to tell some women my plans and was hit with a stank face and disbelief delivered à la Kevin Hart: “Celibacy? Really?” The few who respected my decision reassured me that if I needed them in a moment of weakness, they wouldn’t judge. Ruthless.
But all of that was the warm-up to the real test: pornography. If you just let out an audible sigh, then you know that feeling when God tells you to let everything go. It was a battle, but eventually, I removed PornHub from all of my devices. I found solace and accountability from the men’s ministry I joined. We all struggled with the same issues, and their encouragement kept me from lurking online late at night and helped me realize that I wasn’t in this fight alone. While I didn’t win every battle, I did win the war in breaking that addiction. I felt good, but I was not out of the woods yet. I had to face the boss at the end of the level of the game — meeting the woman who would become my wife.
The outcome: victory!
When I first met my wife, Lauren, on the lower level of Negril, a hotspot for the Black professional crowd in NYC, I was smitten. I walked right up to this tall, light-skinned, elegant, breathtaking woman with the confidence of 10 Morris Chestnuts. Somehow, my concoction of charm, Versace Blue Jeans cologne, and the Holy Spirit allowed our conversations to go beyond that night of dark ‘n stormy drinks and reggae.
No one-night stand followed our first date. Not even a kiss on the lips. My wife made it clear from the jump: If we were going to be intimate, marriage was the only option. It was my first relationship that started with the spiritual and not the physical. The first time she invited me over to her apartment for movie night, she put me on a twin-size air mattress — I’m 6 foot 1 inch, bro — in the living room. Even when I proposed, the hefty diamond I bought didn’t grant me access to the secret garden. Her self-discipline showed me that celibacy was a team sport and challenged me to redefine normal.
A relationship where sex is removed enables two people to really get to know each other. Our conversations over the next five years exposed our scars, triumphs, idiosyncrasies, and the fact God had made it abundantly clear that life without us together was stupid. Instead of stressin our relationship, celibacy preserved it. We both won in the end: The compounding blessing of physical and spiritual intimacy in our marriage today is as if “WAP” met the Holy Ghost. Now, three years in, that blessing will multiply as we prepare to welcome our first child on Thanksgiving.
Embarking upon the path of celibacy isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires a special soul to go against our natural cravings, especially in a world that hypersexualizes everyone. In my experience, making the unpopular choice yielded extraordinary results. Irrespective of your faith or body count, if you’ve chosen celibacy, don’t let anyone take you off track simply because they don’t understand your unique path. The road less traveled does make all the difference.