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My Husband & I Were Celibate For The 2 Years We Dated - Here's How We Did It

Sex

Prayer. And lots of it.


It's safe to say that's what helped my now-husband and I not have sex for the more than two years that we dated.

The decision to be celibate was an easy one to make at first. It was one of those situations where we knew we'd be husband and wife one day, even though we never really said it out loud. Of course, that made it even more difficult to wait because, what would the harm be in having sex with someone who you knew you were going to marry anyway?

In those extremely difficult moments, I always had to come back to being intentional about our celibacy. It was a vow that I made and knew I would regret if I didn't keep it. In part, it was a promise to God because I felt like I had disappointed Him enough in all of my failed situationships and I wanted to make a change. This was also a personal promise because I had finally discovered my value and wanted to fully know myself before I gave away this invaluable part of me to someone else.

But trust me, even with those promises, it got challenging.

We Set Boundaries

Clearly, we were attracted to one another. If not, we would have kept friendzoning each other like we did for the first 2+ years we knew each other. But once we crossed over into a serious relationship, and realized just how much we wanted to act on that attraction (and make up for lost time), we knew we had to set a few limits.

For starters, it wasn't anything unusual for him to spend the night when we first started dating. It was actually expected. Especially if neither of us had to work the next day. We found out the hard way that that was just asking for a night and morning of passion. So, him not staying the night anymore was the first boundary that we set. After that, I noticed that when he did leave or drop me off after a date night, he stopped prolonging the goodbyes.

Before I knew it, he was either at the door with his coat on ready to leave my apartment after a TV night, or wouldn't even come inside when he dropped me off. At first, I was in my feelings and was extra offended. But I was late to the party and realized these were more of his efforts to make sure we didn't cross that infamous line.

I Went With My Gut

Because let's be honest, if anyone was going to cross that line, it could have been us. Yes, we probably sound like very responsible people setting boundaries and whatnot. But to be real, there were times where I just knew we were going to end up doing it, like, in the heat of moment think, It's about to go down.

But that's where I'm convinced the prayers came into play. There were moments that going to a certain level honestly just did not feel right. It wasn't like a stomachache or anything like that, just this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was doing something wrong and something that I would regret. It became so strong, I didn't have a choice but to listen to it.

We Were True To Ourselves

I think another reason we were able to stay celibate during our dating phase was because it's what we wanted. Anyone who knows us knows that we grew up in church and were taught that sex was this thing you were supposed to steer clear of at all costs. But if we made that decision for our parents, or even to keep up appearances, I can't honestly say that we would have been successful. It all came down to what we felt was best for our relationship.

When we did get married, we didn't even put it out there that we had abstained from sex. Partly because we just made it by the hairs of our chinny chin chin. But also, because we just never really felt a need to have this major announcement. It's not even that we were embarrassed. I mean, these days celibacy seems to be the new trend. It just means that it was a decision that we felt good with within ourselves and didn't feel we needed to tell the world at the moment.

This doesn't mean that couples who do have sex before marriage are bad, or couples who are more open about their celibacy are doing it (or not doing it) the wrong way. In fact, some of those couples were an inspiration to me during my times of weakness. It was just about what was right for us. Now that we've been married for almost a year, it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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