to the body that belongs to lauren nicole: a love letter.

to the body that belongs to lauren nicole: i do call this a love letter, and it is one of love. the problem is, i’m not even at the place where i can tell you why i love you so much yet. i have too much to say i’m sorry for. so, as love requires, an apology.

* * *

dear you,

i need to apologize.

if you were a friend, you would have left this relationship long ago. and honestly? i would have understood. i never say my thanks, i never say i love you, and every gift i’ve given you was just because i wanted to make me to look better. not because i cared about you. i’ve been so unforgivably selfish.

if you were a lover, even the truest of the true, you would have given up on me. i can’t remember the last time i valued you for who you are. on my bad days – and there have been lots of them, you know – i assaulted you. i told you how disappointed i was in you. i listed all the things i hated about you. i made sure to hide you from certain people, because i was embarrassed to be seen with you. i judged you. i stood in front of the mirror and made sure you knew exactly why i hated you so much. and on my good days? our good days? i was content to tell you i wished that i had better – but that you would have to do for now.

now that i think about it, i’ve never treated anyone worse than i have you.

now that i think about it, i’m sorry doesn’t seem to cut it. but i’m going to try. i’m going to finally say everything i should have said long ago.

i’m sorry.

* * *

i’m sorry i’ve treated you like a burden, instead of a gift.

i’m sorry i’ve verbalized every single flaw, instead of finding joy in all of your perfection.

i’m sorry i’ve compared you to every woman i’ve seen, instead of making sure you knew you were loved.

i’m sorry for never thinking you were good enough.

i’m sorry for not defending you to others, and talking shit about you to my closest friends.

i’m sorry for hushing what you’ve wanted, and silencing every valuable thing you’ve wanted me to know.

i’m sorry that i made you an enemy, instead of an ally.

but most of all, i’m sorry that it’s taken me twenty four years to realize that we’re stuck together forever. twenty four years to ever realized i need to say i’m sorry.

* * *

maybe i need to apologize to each tiny piece of you. you’re so intricate and delicate, you know? i know. i know you so well. and i know every tiny piece has been so badly hurt by me.

i’m sorry, feet, for hiding you. it’s been embarrassing how you turn purple sometimes. the kids used to make fun of you, and it hurt my feelings.

i’m sorry, legs, for always telling you that you’re the only thing i’ve got going for me. that’s a lot of weight to carry, and i know i’m setting us up for failure.

i’m sorry, butt, for all the jokes that my parents made about you, and that i accepted them as the truth. i did learn to like you for the last couple years, but this year, it’s been really difficult again. i twist and try to see you in the mirror every day, and i’m sorry for wishing that one morning you’d just be less.

i’m sorry, tummy, for comparing you to photoshop every single day. it’s just so hard, you know? maybe you don’t. it really gets me down every morning. but i promise, i’m trying. i try to remember that one day, you’ll make a baby in there, all by yourself. that’s so beautiful. i’m trying to remember it.

i’m sorry, breasts, for all the things i’ve thought about you, that i won’t repeat again.

i’m sorry, back, for wishing you were better so that i could show you off in those sexy dresses.

i’m sorry, arms, for never getting all those beautiful tattoos i wanted years ago because i thought you were fat, and didn’t want to draw extra attention to you.

i’m sorry, lips, for spending so much money on lip gloss with chemicals that would change you. my husband tells me now that he thinks you’re perfect, and i promise to agree from now on. you really are.

i’m sorry, nose, for despising you since i was so little. i read once that every single woman hates her nose, and it must really suck to be you. i’m really going to work on it.

i’m sorry, eyes, for wishing you were brown my entire life. i don’t know where i got the idea that women with brown eyes are prettier, but you’re so beautiful. i want to let you be that.

* * *

dear everything. i’m so sorry that i have never been grateful.

you’ve done every single thing i’ve ever asked of you – except that one awful 10 mile hike – and i’ve never once said thank you. i only looked at you with disdain and asked why you couldn’t have looked better doing it.

and so, dear everything. dear body. dear self. dear cells that are more countless than the stars in the sky, who give flesh and bone to my soul, i love you.

even now, while i’m sad, while i sit here judging you, hating you, being disappointed by you – know that i’ve finally realized it isn’t you. it’s me.

and i promise to begin to change that.

promise. cross my heart, hope to die.

because we will one day, together, and i want to have lived having loved you. 

* * *

note: more ‘love letter to my body’ pieces can be found at the sheloves syncroblog project..

5 Top Reasons I Love Men.

I wanted to title this post, “5 Top Reasons I Need My Husband” – but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. These are the 3 highly sensitive camps I would have offended in but seven words:

1. The “rah rah women” crowd
2. The “yeah we get it, you’re married now please stop talking about it” crowd
3. The “I thought you said we were complete without a man” crowd

I would just like to admit right here that I am both highly sensitive and also actively participate in all three crowds.

I do realize that I’ve been writing about marriage lately in the same way that babies hijack a woman’s life and cause all her friends to only speak with her when they’re prepared to handle a conversation about “the poops! They were so small and dry.” (This is an actual line from Sunday’s conversation, and those words actually came out of the husband’s mouth. In reference, I might add, to SOMEONE ELSE’S baby. Not even his.)

This all kind of really sucks for me because I’m now stuck between rock and a hard place. I can either talk about how awesome marriage is, and make single people feel bad. OR, I can talk about how terrible marriage is, and make single people feel better. All I can really do is say,“rest assured, marriage is both awesome and terrible. Just like your single life.”

I also wasn’t prepared to be in this place, because my marriage was highly unexpected. (Yes. So very unexpected. I had fully embraced the barely-married-by-30 plan.)

Anyway, a lot of people seem to get very confused whenever I post pro-men things, because it seems to imply that I’m being anti-women. Like I’m betraying my own kind by cheering for the enemy. But holy crap! How did men get to be the enemy!

I know when. When he left your mother. When he left you. When Hollywood started building every single movie, show and poster off of “women are so capable and men just can’t even pour their own milk into a bowl of cereal so har har har let’s all laugh at him trying to feed himself without a woman to hold the spoon!”

This makes me super sad. And really angry. And kinda depressed. So, I’m going to write 5 Top Reasons I Love/Need Men/My Husband. Because I think men are awesome, and the better they are, the better we are, and the faster we can get onto having a great life together and stop beating the shit out of one another with the “who’s the asshole/who’s the crazy bitch!” game.

1. My husband keeps me grounded. No, he’s not emotionally dead inside. In fact, he’s the one who reminds me to process my own emotions. He’s also a witness to my daily life, and gives me a second objective perspective to what’s really going on. And he reminds me that hisemotions are just as important as mine – because we’re two very real, very human beings. Sharing life. Give them the benefit of the doubt and you’ll realize men are pretty great at having a solid grip on reality, and having emotional responses to it.

2. My husband is extremely helpful. It turns out my husband is fully capable of cooking all his own meals. I remember growing up as a child thinking that men sincerely were missing a special combination of cells that enabled them put together edible food. Max makes awesome breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. He’s just as equipped as I am in the kitchen, if not more. And he does the dishes. And cleans the house. And the car. And is really great at it.

3. My husband is not clothing-challenged. On top of having a fantastic sense of style, he helps ME shop. He appreciates an awesome article of clothing that I get excited about (and no I’m not just talking about lingerie, silly, I’m talking about boots and jackets and things) and it’s SO GREAT. I don’t have to get him dressed, I don’t have to help him match his pants to his shoes, and he isn’t “sloppy just cause he’s a man.” It bums me out that we beat the “girls go shopping while the men watch football!” stereotype to death and back. Sure, girl time and man time is priceless and needed – but men like to shop too, and we like to hang out with you on Sunday afternoons. I guess what I’m really trying to say here is that my husband is a genuine friend of mine.

4. My husband understands. I’m so tired of seeing a group of women laughing about something and a retarded-looking male in the background. Sure, my husband might not supernaturally “get” every single thought that skips through my brain, but good lord, I don’t telepathically “get” every thought he has either. I’m so used to explaining myself and signing off with, “but I get that you don’t understand,” and having him remind me that he does understand. Men have real feelings and have been through legitimate life experiences. Men have a past. And when any human being loves you a lot and spends the majority of their life with you, they really do begin to understand you – regardless of their gender.

5. My husband prioritizes my life. This is a weird thing to say, but I’m going with it. I’ve learned in 6 short months that men aren’t the ones that have to be dragged around by women who have prioritized their relationships above everything else, and are desperately trying to “get the men on board.” Men aren’t “just” concerned with their hobbies. Men seriously love us. It’s my husband that initiated marriage counseling, my husband who helped me set healthy boundaries with people in my life, and my husband who reminds me what my potential is and then helps me achieve it.

There we have it. Take my husband out of this blog post, and I just want to say that men are fully capable of being grounded, emotionally present, helpful, fun, understanding, caring, responsible and are good at being in relationships.And really, they’re needed.

(I also will be publishing a Part Two for this. Because I have at least 5 more reasons.)


A Conversation With Kate On Modesty & Lust

I’ve been writing and tweeting and Tumblr’ing a bit about modesty and how we dress as women, and I’m taking some pretty awesome heat for it! I’ve been really disheartened about it but today I realized that this is a really huge, on-going conversation that must always be present, and not simply a “let’s find what is Right with a capital R.” I had an amazing chat with a girl I will call Kate, and she is letting me publish it on my blog!
So, for all of you who have been confused by or disagreed with my tweets or posts about modesty, maybe give this a skim through and see if it clarifies a little bit for you. Much love to all, and please, let me just say again that I am trying to figure this out as best as I can, just like we all are. Thank you for the graciousness that you have shown me. <3

Kate: I know we have somewhat different views on modesty and I’m really just trying to understand where you based some of your views from. I do agree that a woman can not be responsible for a man’s sin, however, aren’t we not supposed to be stumbling blocks?

Me: Okay, so what’s super important to remember is that there are NO “rules” in all of this, regarding modesty & how we dress. So, what you wear can never “be a sin.” That’s nowhere in the Bible. There is no Biblical outline for types of clothing or square inches of skin that is right or wrong. That being said, how we dress is all subjective & our own responsibility, as it reflects our heart and our motives. It’s really this whole “what are the rules” that people get hung up on. If you tell someone there are no rules, then we get really uncomfortable and realize that we aren’t really “being righteous” or “sinning” by what we wear, and we can’t judge anyone else for it either. And it’s a natural human response. Trying to play a game without rules is really unnerving at first. Rules are way safer than just walking in freedom and love. Make sense so far?

Kate: Yes, I completely understand that.

Me: K. So if I say, “Dude its not a sin to eat cheesecake!” I’m not telling you to eat cheesecake for all 3 meals every day of the week. I’m just saying cheesecake isn’t inherently sinful. But if you’ve been told your WHOLE life to never eat cheesecake because “its a sin!!” then you’ll really freak out. And then you might think that my saying “cheesecake isn’t a sin” means = eat cheesecake all the time for all occasions! It’s a human nature fear-response to suddenly being told there is no black and white. We become personally responsible, and we lose our ability to judge others. So yeah, that can be scary.

Honestly, this is just straight up common sense. And common sense is what Paul was talking about in the Bible when he talks about not causing others to stumble. But unfortunately, we try to make everything in the Bible some sort of rule or command – which is WHY Jesus came – to say, “Hey. I’m fulfilling all the laws and commands by simply paying for all of your sins and giving you a new command: to love one another.” So, a Christian man (Paul) encouraging his friends to not be a stumbling block to one another, has turned into = “if you are involved somehow in someone’s sin then you are also responsible and this is a sin therefore NEVER DO ANYTHING that might POSSIBLY resemble sin because it’s selfish!” And that’s a consequence of choosing religion over Jesus. We turn principles and love into rules and commands. And we start trying to figure out if we’re guilty by association, too.

For example, lots of people use the alcoholic/beer analogy to talk about not being a stumbling block. If you’re going to a friend’s house who really struggles with drinking, you’re not gonna show up with a six pack. Now, even if you do, and that friend gets drunk, it’s not your fault ‘technically’ because everyone is ‘technically’ responsible for all their actions. But still, out of love, and since you know this person, it’d just be dumb to spend the night drinking in front of him. But we take that analogy and spin it to “we should never take a drink anywhere because someone might see us and stumble.” Which is just flat out ridiculous. So, as a result we have all these Christians having a beer with dinner behind closed doors terrified that someone else in their church will find out they drink and then “Stumble” as a result, or that they’ll get called out for doing something somewhere that could possible cause someone to stumble.

The exact same goes for how we treat modesty in the church. And this is a wildly dangerous metaphor – because a woman’s body is nothing like a beer. So, we start saying that the human body in and of itself leads to sexual sin, instead of correlating LUST with sexual sin. And we start saying things like “don’t wear a v-neck because it will make your brother stumble!” when in reality what we shouldn’t be doing is handing him a subscription of Playboy. And I don’t see girls in church doing that, so we’re pretty okay I think.

Kate: Yeah, I totally get that. I get that ultimately you’re responsible for yourself. But at the same time, using that same analogy, men as a whole struggle with physical things such as lust… so wouldn’t it not be in their best interest for the Christian sisters to wear things that would cause them to stumble?

Me: Okay so, as a generic statement, yeah I would agree with that. The problem is, what are you ACTUALLY saying when we say that? Let me say this: If I’m hanging out with guys from church at a church event, I’m probably not gonna wear the most revealing top in my closet, because that would just make me uncomfortable. It personally really annoys me when guys look at my boobs instead of my face. And for sure, if your neckline is revealing 75% of your breasts, a guy will look and see it and be drawn towards that. It’s interesting to note that this is just “usually true” not universally true. Really revealing tops make me stare at women sometimes, primarily because I was raised in an environment where I never saw a woman wearing anything but turtlenecks. I understand completely the “not being able to look away” phenomenon that happens sometimes. So yeah, there is an element of novelty that causes staring. But it’s really important to clarify that staring/a distraction is not equal to sin or lust. It’s when we start mentally and emotionally interacting with something that isn’t ours for the having, does it become a heart-problem. So, when I make the decision to not wear a deep v-neck to get coffee with a guy friend, it’s because I’d just flat out rather not have my boobs be a distraction to the human being that I’m trying to hold a conversation with.

Kate: Haha, having 34A’s, that’s never really been a problem for me…but continue.

Me: I absolutely encourage everyone to just flat out have common sense when they choose what they’re wearing. The problem is that we have a generation of people who WILDLY disagree on what “causes men to stumble.” And then when we disagree, we judge women – and judge them hard – for having a different understanding of what causes men to stumble. And this, exactly, is the whole entire problem with “rules.” I mean, my mom thinks me wearing skinny jeans causes men to stumble, for example. In highschool I was 5’7″ 110lbs and my mom made me wear size 10 jeans to hide my butt and legs because they are “distracting to men.” So obviously, you and I look at that and say, “Well your mom is just crazy, I can wear skinny jeans” – but for her, she GENUINELY believes I am sinning by thinking of myself before being considerate in front of other men (and women) and shamed me privately and publicly for, I felt, just existing. And THAT mindset/behavior is what I am trying to debunk. (It’s important to note that because of my mom’s intolerance of my body, I was convinced for years that all men saw in me was sex, so I didn’t know how to treat them as genuine people with real personalities. This is why we as women need to be REALLY careful what we’re teaching and how we’re teaching modesty.)

Kate: I do believe a lot of it amounts to common sense and a lot of it is personal preference. My sister is Muslim, wears hijab by choice, but she’s a huge advocate of men “lowering their gaze” which is a very common thing in Arab/Muslim culture which I haven’t really found anything similar to in America or Christianity. But its based on the idea that men are ultimately responsible for themselves so even if a girl is walking around the mall in just her bikini, it’s ultimately the guy’s fault if he sins because he can “lower his gaze”. So anyway, when I read some of the things you were saying regarding modesty I felt you were somewhat attacking people like my sister who do practice what some people would consider extreme forms of modesty. I totally get that’s not the case now… but when I was reading some of the things you were saying, it felt that way.

Me: fascinating.

Kate: Then, about two weeks ago I reread everything and started to rethink my thoughts on “modesty” and sex and just everything in general. I’ve always been ostracized in my church for the most part because I have tattoos and piercings. It’s not considered “modest”. So it really got me thinking on how judgmental I am towards what girls wear.

Me: Well, I’m really sorry you felt that I was attacking that idea. 🙁 I didn’t mean to imply that at all. Personally, I really respect women who dress modestly because they themselves choose to. (There’s a difference between a true personal conscious choice and a religiously instigated guilt-decision.) Look, if you value your body and really want to save your beautiful assets for one man, then PLEASE go and do so in peace. I can really admire that. Just know that because another woman is “flaunting what she’s got” or showing more skin than what you are personally comfortable with, does not mean she’s a slut or a terrible Christian or a participant in sexual sin. Half the world thinks I’m too modest and the other half thinks I’m scandalous. Modesty is entirely subjective, and this is what we keep forgetting.

And yep I’ve been realizing I’m super judgemental too. :\ I’m working on it. Ok, so here is an interesting question for you. Have you ever looked at a girl wearing something revealing (to any extent) and thought “dude she is suuuper sexy.” And then moved along with your day?

Kate: No, unfortunately, I’ve been trained to look at her and think “what a whore” and feel really sad for her the rest of the day.

Me: Ah. Well there we have it. That’s what I used to think too. 🙁 And when it’s that black and white, we can all agree that’s 100% judgement and not love, which is the OPPOSITE of what we’re asked to do by Jesus. And it’s also seeing her outward appearance, and not for who she is.

Okay so now, lets hypothetically say you’re at the stage where I’m at, where I see women sometimes and think “man shes really sexy” or “wow she’s beautiful” or “wow, she has a great body” and then move along. Thought ends.

Kate: I think the word “sexy” is what I’m struggling with.

Me: So, there is nothing inherently wrong or sinful with me observing how attractive I think another human being is. Women do it. Men do it. We both do it towards same sex and opposite sex, despite all sexual orientation. It’s strictly natural observation, without having ACTUAL sexual thoughts (IE. lust). I’m surprised to find how rare this is among people raised religiously, although it makes sense because we’ve been raised w/such fear of the human body and of sex.

Kate: I think that’s where it gets murky for me. I never thought it was possible to see things like that and not think lustful thoughts.

Me: RIGHT. Traditional Christianity has tied together the human body with lust, and ALL attractive people with sexual sin. I can look at a woman and acknowledge that shes really attractive or hot or sexy or WHATEVER word you want to call it, and move right along, and be totally fine. If anything, that’s a positive thing for me to be able to do. But LUST is thinking about her body for the next 5 or 30 mins (or the rest of the day) and fantasizing about her, and thinking about fucking her, etc etc. THAT. is what the problem is.

So, once people understand WHAT lust actually is, it becomes much more understandable that the way a woman dresses is pretty much unrelated to how a man thinks of her, and how a man chooses to allow his thoughts to continue or end immediately.

Kate: I think that’s what I really didn’t understand. What I have ingrained in my head is that lust is that 1-2 second thought when you see a woman. It doesn’t even have to be a full second. But seeing her and thinking she’s sexy, you’ve already committed a sin.

Me: yeah :\ A lot of people think the exact same thing. And yeah, that is totally not true.

Kate: That’s why I really struggle with the word sexy. Not so much anymore but in the beginning, I used to cringe at how freely you used it, ha.

Me: I mean just sit on that thought for awhile and think about how ridiculous it really is.

Kate: Oh I totally get it’s ridiculous. Trust me, ha. I just don’t have anyone that I can openly say it’s ridiculous to. In my church women would say things like, “you’re really pretty” and my natural thought would be to smile and say “thank you” but then I realized it wasn’t a good thing, they weren’t meaning it in a good way. I even had one of our leaders tell me that I’m going to struggle with my beauty because men aren’t going to be able to “handle it”. That pretty much devastated me and that was the last time I went to church. And I spent months after that thinking there was something wrong with me. I never wore makeup until a few week ago because I thought that would just make things worse/harder for men.

Me: oh myyyyyy goddddddd

Kate: I don’t know how to de-program my brain basically.

Me: Yeah :\ Well, it takes time. Don’t be afraid of trying. You don’t have to be scared of anything. Give yourself time and the freedom to sit down and write down on a piece of paper what you believe, or what you used to. And write out why, and what you believe, and what you want to believe. Look, here’s the deal. God made you. And he made you a woman. So he inherently made you beautiful. God doesn’t make things a certain way without a purpose. So you know that you are beautiful for a very specific reason, and that it’s a GOOD, good thing. Never feel like you have to hide your beauty because it’s a “bad” thing.

And whenever you’re unsure of what you believe, or what’s right and wrong, just remove yourself from trying to figure it out and try to focus on getting to learn more of who God is. Because who God IS, helps us understand what he MEANS.

Kate: Ah, yes. Thank you.

Me: joy, love, worth, value, encouragement, freedom, life. Those things are from God, and of God. Shame, guilt, hiding, dark, secrets, fear. Those are not..

Modesty, Lust, And Emotional Rape.

The slow thud of pounding bass through my bedroom walls shook me half-awake. I kept my face in my pillow and wondered why it was necessary for music this loud to be played in our family’s home at 7am on Saturday mornings. I pulled my comforter back over my head, and drifted off to sleep for all of two minutes before the fire alarm went off.

Breakfast was ready. And that fire alarm dug it’s nails into my soul.

15 years old. I stumbled into the kitchen, rubbing my eyes and brushing hair out of my face.

“Back upstairs, Lauren.” My mom stood at the stove, waving her spatula at me.


“UPSTAIRS. You know you can’t wear that around your brothers.”

I shook myself fully awake and glanced down to figure out what she was talking about. Sweatpants and a cami. I guess you could tell my breasts were developing. A little late, I might add.

“Mom, I just woke up.”

“You can’t wear things like that around your dad and your brothers. It isn’t appropriate. You’re distracting them. Shame on you.”

A sickness crept up in my stomach and I felt it in my skin. I pushed memories out of my mind.

Memories like the week after I turned 13, and I shyly put my balled up, polka dotted underwear in my mother’s hand because I was too embarrassed to speak the words, “I started my period.” She wanted to show Dad, and I was paralyzed. I stood in an aching stillness, cold feet on the kitchen tile floor, while my little girl mind shifted and groaned and made way for a developing normal that felt like being forced to stand naked in front of a man. Memories like my dad reading my diary against my will. Memories like finding naked women on the computer. Memories like hiding. Pretending. Keeping quiet. Shaking. Hush all these things.

Three years later and the boy I loved broke up with me. I thought it was for a girl that would do more with him.

Six months after that, I kissed a boy. I told him he was my second kiss, thinking that it would be something special to him – and I never saw him again. I found out a week later he’d kissed me on dare from his friends. They had seen my picture, I was super hot, and they didn’t think he could “get me.”

Harassed on the street by a man who wanted me to model nude for him. “I had to.” I was too beautiful, I owed it to him.

Being banned from an organization because I wore a shirt too clingy and was making the boys stumble.

A man I viewed as a father figure coming on to me, shattering one of the only safe places I had left.

A co-worker trying to tape me when I didn’t know it.

A first date who got violent when I refused to sleep with him after he bought me dinner.

A lifetime of awkward visits to the pool in one piece swimsuits and shorts so that I wouldn’t be responsible for causing men to sin when they looked at me.

A close friend’s father asking me, begging me, pressuring me, cornering me to watch a movie with him in bed.

Debilitating self-consciousness for years because I was constantly made fun of for how “homeschooler” I dressed.

Men who have put their hands in places I wasn’t strong enough to protect.

Four times my life has ended, and I’ve created a new one out of nothing on the opposite side of the country. And in every life, they find me. These men who take and do not give. These women who shame me into believing it is my fault. The church’s endless list of standards that declares my body is at the core of what is wrong with society. These people who wrap their own sins in guilt and shame and lunge them at my heart, commanding me to carry their weight for them. Hiding. Pretending. Keeping quiet. Hush these things.

All my stories? The ones I brace my spirit to share, and the ones I don’t have enough courage yet to tell? My stories are no different than the average woman. Every woman I know has experienced these things. Every girl I’ve spoken to is wearing thin from the men in her life who have taken and not given. And all these women march forward in brokenness with a church who blames our injured hearts on our own precious bodies. To inflict pain and then blame the injured for the violence does permanent damage to a heart.

For 24 years my suffocating modesty doctrine has kept me from wearing outfits that I love, has dictated the way I dress, and has now brought me to the morning where I stand in front of my closet as a married woman, realizing that I have nothing sexy to wear for night out with my husband.

24 years of hiding so that I won’t be blamed for men fantasizing about me has brought me to my husband wrapping his arms around me, telling me how beautiful and sexy he thinks I am, and that he hates seeing me hide in my clothes because I’m too afraid to wear what makes me feel beautiful.


For the last month, I’ve been suffering a daily barrage of comments and emails criticizing the way I dress. Questioning my character and my salvation. Challenging that I can’t have the influence on women that I want to have when I’m wearing an oversized v-neck shirt on a date with my new husband. Rebuking me for causing men to stumble. Telling me that all the good I am doing is being canceled out by the fact that I have a great pair of legs. That I’m selling myself short by being attractive.

Last night, I received this comment on my blog: “Maybe when you talk about pornography, you could refrain from wearing such low-cut shirts.”

The sickness crept back again. I crumbled. And I sat on my bedroom floor in the dark and cried. The ache was back.

The emptiness in my chest. The pain of having it all taken. The shame of being blamed. The desperate desire for someone to stand up and shout, “IT’S NOT HER FAULT.”

And He did. You know, He whispered, “It’s not your fault.” He whispered, “I made you for this. I made you for Me. I made you for him.” He told me I was beautiful. He told me I have nothing to hide. He told me He knows. That He will never take from me. That he knows every man that tried to take. He told me that it was never my fault.

And then my husband came and wrapped his arms around me and whispered all. the. same. things. in my ear.

My Jesus has proclaimed that he has given me life so that I can have life to the full.

My God says He looks at my heart and that He loves me sacrificially, and Paul begs of us to be perfect in this way that our Father is PERFECT. (Matthew 5:48, I Samuel 16:7, John 15:13, & Matthew 23:13-28)

Have you missed this? Have you missed what the God of the Universe has deemed as PERFECT?

Perfect is sacrificial love, not shifting blame for a selfishness that ravages through the souls of men, urging them to take take take.

Perfect is knowing we are all sons and daughters, made in the image of God, redeemed and restored and spotless before Him.

Perfect is looking at one another’s hearts, and knowing that the outward appearance shows NOTHING of their character, their value, their salvation.

Perfect is living in the freedom that Christ died for. Not under a higher, more impossible list of standards that is so impossibly human it could not have come from our Lover. (Isaiah 28:10)

Dear men: If you believe my neckline is causing to stumble, you have bought into the lie that women are the problem, NOT YOUR LUST.

Dear women: If you believe you are responsible for your fellow man’s sins, you have bought into the lie that YOU are the problem, NOT SIN.

Dear men and women: Our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

When you believe that your struggle is against a man or woman’s body instead of against the spirit of death, you have lost and will continue to lose.

I rebuke the spirit of lust, of rape, of prostitution, of religion, of addiction, and of immorality that continues to try to shackle the body my Maker designed and gave to me with it’s guilt.

I declare freedom, life, joy, purity, beauty and love over my body and my spirit.

Oh, by the way. If you are still following me by this summer, you will most likely see a photo of me at the beach in a bikini at some point.

And I will not be apologizing for it.

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Comments have been disabled for this post out of protection for my heart. <3


I Showed My Husband Pictures Of Naked Women, And I Didn’t Mind.

I had a weird thing happen, several weeks ago. And I keep thinking about it, so I wanted to open a discussion about it.

Yep, a discussion. Something I never do here on my blog. I prefer to tack up my crazy, open heart and peace out before I read any responses that sting just a little bit too much.

But I have a question for you, because I’m having trouble getting to the bottom of this thought.

To explain.

I was reading articles on Retronaut (one of my favorite websites) and found one of Sexual Album Covers from the 1950’s. I found the album titles hilarious, and slid my laptop around to show my husband.

I didn’t think twice about him seeing a page full of photos like the one above. The sick pang that runs through my gut when I see women in their lingerie in the sidebar of GQ wasn’t there. The hurt, the anger, the betrayal, the loneliness that we women feel when slinky, perfect, 24″ waist 36″ breasted women throw themselves in our men’s faces…I didn’t feel it.

And so I’ve been thinking about this.

Why did I not feel instantly thrust back into the “never sexy enough” category?

Why did I not feel like I had to compete with these semi or completely nude women, the way I feel when I see this week’s celebrity’s leaked nude photos?

Why could I feel like I could flip through a 1947 Playboy with my husband?

What is it that makes one woman beautiful and one woman a slutty threat?

Last week while running errands with my husband, we talked about how this generation has taken everything beautiful and tried to sexualize it. He told me how a woman with her hair up in a sundress will turn every man’s head, simply because we are women, and we are beautiful. Beauty is meant to be admired. I know what he’s talking about, too – because I’ve looked at women and admired their beauty. But for both me and my husband, just because a woman is beautiful, doesn’t mean we want to sleep with them. But we struggle to believe this now, as women, because feminine beauty barely exists anymore without the thick presence of sexual competition.

And in competition, one person wins, and everyone else loses.

The everyone else? It’s our husbands. Our boyfriends. Me. You. Our daughters. Our sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers. Every woman who is real. Even the woman on the billboard who looks at her photoshopped image and skips her dinner to work out, using her own fake image to motivate her further towards an unattainable, loveless, beauty-less sexuality.

Maybe when I look at curvaceous women in these 50’s advertisements, I see women who are sexy because they are beautiful. Beautiful because they are women with a womanly form.

Maybe I don’t get that sinking, broken feeling because when I look at those women I know that I am one. Instead of seeing a woman I can never be, I see myself as a woman who is part of the female race everywhere, inherently possessive of beauty and sexuality.

Maybe the fact that our men look at other women isn’t what’s really destroying us the most. Maybe it’s that our men are learning to compare us to a woman that doesn’t exist.
And maybe, deep down in our souls, we’ve known all along that other women aren’t our competition – but we sit helpless, having no one else to hate and blame for our loss, as we watch our beauty be stripped from us because we are unable to play by the new rules.

But I don’t know, still, really. What are your thoughts?

Oh and PS. If you want to leave a comment and tell me to stop being threatened by other women, or that my husband was lying to me and really does want to sleep with every beautiful woman, and that I’m just an insecure woman blogging about my problems, you can please leave and never come back to my blog again. Thank you for understanding, and for not being ridiculous.


Thoughts On Getting Used To Marriage – And Confessions On Not Seeing God.

Disclaimer: I adore my husband. I love that we are married. Marriage is incredible. But marriage is neither “just so amazing!” nor “always so terrible.” It is both. Life is life, and the ups and downs are ever present, regardless of our relationship status. This is my attempt to be honest about both.
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Last night, I shoved my feet into the boots I was married in. I don’t notice anymore that my socks don’t match. When you dig them out of a duffle bag for the 428th time, socks are socks and the color of the toe doesn’t matter much. I did notice that my socks were too thick for these boots, and I cursed them for it.

It’s been 10 days off the road, 10 days in Hollywood, and 10 days in our first apartment. 133 days of being married.

My socks should match now, but in furnishing an empty apartment with our income, new socks are not on my priority list.

So, I fought about how much we should spend on a new dresser with my husband, standing in my wedding boots, on the corner of Sunset and Vine.

Just like we’d fought about everything else this week. Food, groceries, carpet cleaner, sex, the color of our clothes hangers, the brand of garlic salt, bath mats, cash vs credit, and parking.

We were late for church. We’d spent too much money. We told the girl with the dresser “maybe,” and then my phone died.

I told Max where to park. I picked where we sat. I mentally bitched at the announcement-giver and churches everywhere who ask you to “squish” down to seat people that walk in late. Our collective “squishing” just opened 247 seats for 4 people.

I recited all the lines in every song, thinking only about the days when single-me attended a church with enough room down front to go sing my heart out to songs I knew and loved. Thinking about how I used to go to church alone, sing alone, and disappear alone. I met God, and I met God every single Sunday. I loved it. I missed when my life was just me and God. My life. I could do what I wanted. I could make it an entire 24 hours without speaking to a soul.

And then I looked at the entire row of single girls in front of me.

I imagined what they were feeling when they sang. Praying to be able to pay their bills. Praying for boyfriends. Praying for husbands. Praying to not be alone. Waiting on God. Because that’s what we do when we’re single. We wait upon God. When we’re single, heartbreak is ever present, and that’s okay. Present in our past break-up, present in our single-ness, present in what we dread in the future. And we find God there, with us. It’s rich.

I wanted to join them.

I wanted to shout that I was confused. That being married isn’t a solution to The Great Ache. That love is beautiful but so broken, too. That broken and alone was easier than broken with another broken person.

But then God whispered: “Lauren, when you’re lonely, it has nothing to do with other people. It has to do with you and Me.

Lauren, when you’re lonely, it has to do with you and Me.

Lauren, when you’re angry, it has to do with you and Me.

Lauren, when you’re selfish, it has to do with you and Me.

Lauren, when you’re worried, it has to do with you and Me.

Lauren, when you’re bitter, it has to do with you and Me.

Lauren, when you’re jealous, it has to do with you and Me.

It has nothing to do with other people. It has only to do with our heart and His.

I slowly stood and followed my husband up to communion. I stood behind him in single file line, in the dark, like I was just another girl at church. Not his wife. I felt like he didn’t want to be there with me. I hoped he felt that. Because I was feeling it. And then he reached out his hand behind him and took mine, and my heart broke.

I wanted this. I asked for this. I prayed for this. I begged God for this. I am blessed. I am fed, clothed and sheltered. I am loved. I am recipient of the greatest gift in the universe. I have everything. I know this. What is wrong with me?

And so, I went to where the prayer team was, sat in a corner, and cried. Until someone offered to pray for me. If you have never poured out your hurt to someone you’ve never met, and had them pray with you – for you – over you – with you, you have missed out on what it means to have brothers and sisters in Christ. You have missed out on bearing one another’s burdens. Overcome your fear next Sunday and just do it.

“I have never left you. I have never forsaken you. I am not a God who punishes his children without reason. I am not a God who turns his back on you. I am not angry with you. I am not disappointed with you. I know where you are.”

I sobbed and asked God if I’d done the right thing. If everything was going to be okay. If I would feel Him again like I used to. If I would learn to be close to Him all over again, now that I’m married. If our bills would be paid. If this was Right. If this would be too hard for me, for us.

“Seriously, Lauren? I have stripped depression away from you. I have removed you from the place you didn’t want to be. I gave you a man that you love, who loves you. I gave you passion again. I gave you Good Women Project. I gave you a Story. I gave you new friends who know my Love. I let you travel across the country. I did miracles in front of you. I gave you the awe-commanding sunset behind your wedding on a cliff. I gave you Family. I gave you a new home. And tonight, I brought you to be with children who love me – and sat you at the feet of a woman who would pray over you until you Felt me again. – – – And you ask where I’ve been? If this is right? If I still love you?”

I saw Him again. I heard Him, where I should have heard him a dozen times before. We forget what he has done when we do not intentionally sit at his feet in our mess. We are blind, until we ask Him to let us see. I re-learned unconditional love.

We went home silently, and I held onto his hand for dear life. Remember your first love. I kissed him and I apologized. I made dinner, and I apologized more. I refused to let him help clean up. I sent him to bed to watch what he wanted to watch and found joy in doing the work so that he could play. Love. Not-about-me love. This is what happens when we see God. It is necessary to see Love in order to give love.

I could write a book on last night, and the perspective that God righted in my heart. On marriage and learning to confess everything. On knowing that really, really hard doesn’t mean really, really bad. On how it is not human nature to believe that someone is going to love you unconditionally, and that it isn’t human nature to love them back unconditionally.

But instead, I share my little story of Sunday. A reminder of the blessing we have in one another. Of seeking God until we find out He’s been there the whole time. And of being thankful for what we have, because it’s so much better than we know.

And to say thank you to my husband for letting me pick out the bath mat. That we still don’t have, because I’m unforgivably picky.

I love you. And I love that we are re-learning to love Him together..

My Life In Pictures + I Answer Your Questions On Sex, Dating, & Masturbation.

I feel like I owe someone (or many someones) out there an apology for not posting as much. I want to blame myself, but I’m going to blame Instagram, my new iPhone, and a new side-project for my brief absence. Oh, and just getting married. Turns out you don’t get as much alone time (I’m not even talking physically – I’m talking about mentally, haha) in your first couple months of marriage. BUT IT’S AWESOME. Most of the time. 🙂

Instagram can do a much better job telling you about my life for the last couple weeks, so I’m going to let it do the talking:

I’ve been trying oh-so-very hard to answer anonymous questions on AskLauren in a way that reflects not the rules and black and whites that we fall prey to, but rather the heart and character of God. If you’d like to read any of my answers to the latest questions, I’m glad to share them:

1. What does “submit” mean in marriage? Are men responsible for their wife’s sin like my college ministry leader said?

2. Is the birth control pill a form of abortion? What’s the best method of family planning?

3. Why do we get to control when we have kids instead of leaving it up to God?

4. Is it wrong for a Christian woman to masturbate?

5. Is it okay for Christian married couples to have anal sex?

6. What are good books of the Bible to read that deal with loneliness?

7. Where do we draw the line between expecting and praising men for their good behavior?

8. What are good books to read that deal with your value and worth as a woman? I keep comparing myself to other women and it’s so destructive.

9. How do I turn down a guy, tell him to leave me alone, or tell him I’m not comfortable with his sexual flirting without hurting his feelings?

10. I’m stuck in a very strict church and I struggle to decide if I want to spend the rest of my life this way in church. I feel like I have the life I’m supposed to live, and the life I want to live. What should I do?

11. I want to date this guy exclusively, but he doesn’t want to commit to be my boyfriend. He wants to still see other women without feeling like he’s cheating. Advice?

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Massive exhale. So there you have it. If you’re on Instagram, please follow me!! I’m laurennicolelove. Max and I are leaving Portland right after Thanksgiving to drive down the west coast and spend a little bit more time in Los Angeles before heading back to Ohio to spend Christmas & New Years with his family (!!!). I’m so excited to be traveling again, and to be heading back to the hot hot heat. Also, the pictures on Instagram will be awesommmee.

Oh and one more thing. It’s been an intense month leading up the Good Women Project. We’ve been sharing stories on pornography and our experience with it as women: our own addictions, our significant other’s, and how it’s affecting our lives. Please come join us.


What I Wish I’d Known Before Watching Porn

In addition to this little blog here, I run Good Women Project. I don’t normally post much there and am primarily the editor, since I have been blessed with countless women who have incredible stories of their own to share. This month, however, we are talking about pornography. So, I decided to begin with a little bit of my own history with porn. To read the full post, click here. We will be talking about pornography from a women’s perspective for the rest of November. Join us.

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“Pornography is a charged subject, and it’s a word that rarely crosses the lips of most women. Yes, there are now breeds of the modern woman who watch, talk and joke about it regularly, but most of us still stay further away from speaking the word than we actually stay away from it.

When I was in high school, pornography was on the long list of “bad things” that I didn’t know much about – and unfortunately also on the list of things I had participated in. Nevermind why I was watching it, the how is the same for all of us: we stumbled upon it because of someone else. And none of us knew what to expect, or how to handle it.

Later in life, I caught myself remembering how I used to watch it for a few minutes here or there, and wondered strictly out of boredom if it would fill the big, empty space of loneliness in my late nights. There were no parents around to hide from anymore, and no one checking my Internet history. Pornography was easy, and I never exactly knew why it was bad, particularly since I wasn’t actually having sex. To me, it was just something dirty that you probably shouldn’t have anything to do with. But “probably shouldn’t” never stands up against loneliness and boredom.

I am not one with an addictive personality. Meaning, I binge, and then drop things quickly. I knew this about myself, and so I used this as an excuse for watching pornography. I’d watch it every night for a couple weeks, then not at all for a few weeks. Always off and on. Clearly I wasn’t addicted. Just like I smoked, and never became addicted to nicotine, and drank, but never became an alcoholic. I was just watching it, and could stop anytime I wanted. No damage done, because I was still in control.

Wrong. Nicotine still seared my lungs, and alcohol still did some decent damage to my liver and personal life. Just because we aren’t addicted, doesn’t mean it does no harm. Even while I wasn’t “addicted” to watching pornography, I always wanted more. It existed as a guaranteed time-filler and pleasure-bringer, and when you get an hour to yourself – that’s an easy default. An easy default activity that establishes a heavy precedence in what you do with your next bad night.

I wish that 10 years ago someone had educated me on pornography. What it is, what it does, and what it reaches in and destroys in the hearts, minds and bodies of men and women.

I wish that someone would have told me that researchers have proven it sabotages your sex life.

I wish someone would have explained how dopamine, the chemical that is released every time you experience pleasure, drives you to return to what provided that feeling before.

I wish someone would have told me that the kind of pornography you’re most turned on by is usually linked to a corresponding hurtful event in your life, further injuring your brokenness.”

To read the rest, please visit Good Women Project. > > >

If you aren’t already following GWP, please follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook to stay in touch!.

What Makes A Woman Good?

I wanted to introduce a little mini-blog I’ve started over on Tumblr. It’s not meant to be a secondary blog of mine, but rather a hub for the gems the pass in and out of my life.

Between running Good Women Project and writing here on my blog, I get to share and hear so many stories. Sometimes women ask questions, and sometimes I have the answers. And sometimes I just need to bookmark incredible things that I want to be shared with everyone.

And with that introduction, I’d love for you to bookmark or follow me if you’re on Tumblr.

Today I answered an anonymous question that I wanted to post here:

“Lauren – – I love reading the posts on your blog as well as The Good Women Project. I was wondering if you could touch on this term “good” in a little more detail. What does “good” mean for women who see themselves outside the landscape of purity? I’ve read some comments recently on posts that seem to see this word as isolating and judgmental – – for example, that somehow if they have had premarital sex they must not be “good women.” Any thoughts?”

Answer: Ooo my heart. A year and a half ago I was out behind a post-hardcore/metal venue with a dozen sweaty musicians praying over me as I stood in shock while my world imploded on me. It was one of those moments where time stops and you try to figure out how you ended up here. Needing this. In that moment, I realized that I no longer had any hope for being good. I no longer saw myself as good. And no one else did either. I had finally achieved what a sick part of me had always wanted – to be just like everyone else.

And I had lost all respect for myself.

I grew up as “the good girl.” And yes, you are right. The traditional definition of ‘good girl’ as defined by the church alludes primarily to her purity. Which I no longer had. When I lost ‘my purity’ (I’d argue can happen without physically having sex – but in a mental/emotional capacity), I still wanted to be the good girl, but I lost a lot of respect for myself. I also was having an inner battle: The kind of good that I had grown up being was not the kind of good I wanted to be. The old kind of good came from following the rules, and I failed. I needed a kind of good that came from love, that gave life and not death.

I was somewhere between a girl and a woman, and I knew for a fact I was no longer a girl, but I could in no way call myself a good woman. And I had no idea what even defined a good woman. I just knew I wasn’t it. But it’s interesting that even Jesus stood up against a man who asked Him how to be good. Jesus said, “Why do you call me good?! No one is good, only God alone.” (Luke 18:19)

“Good” is not a condition that is defined or un-defined by your past, your history, your church attendance, your appearance, or even your current sex life. I have learned that “good” is the position of your heart towards Jesus and your future, and in turn is the actual condition of your heart. We can live life with or without Jesus, and apart from him, we have no hope of ever being good – because He himself is our Righteousness. (II Corinthians 5:21)

”Good” is a woman who admits that she cannot be good on her own, so she pursues Jesus, because through him her life is redeemed and she finds life and love. ”Good” is choosing to believe you have value because Jesus said you do. “Good” is having hope in your future again because God makes all things new, and gives every minute, intricate detail of your past a purpose again. “Good” is learning to start over again and hold God’s hand while you walk and strive to understand the purpose of his commands while you obey them with his help.

In that moment behind the venue, I desperately wanted to be a good woman.

And in all humility, a year and a half later, I can say that I am. Not because I no longer make mistakes, but because I’ve given the whole of my heart and life over to Jesus again. Not because I am the poster child for a Perfect Woman or Perfect Wife, but because I have dug my heels in and allowed God to define my value, my worth and my future. And I’ve fought to keep the position of my heart turned towards Jesus and my future.

I am good again because I’ve started trying again, and trying with the right Person.

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I Don’t Have To Be A Slut To Be Sexually Confident

I have a little confession to make. While I’ve been submersed in the topic of sex and dating over at Good Woman Project and here on my blog, I’ve forgotten the world of sex as I knew it a year ago.

I understand that this month I’ve spent most of my time discussing sex with:

1) my husband, who used to be addicted to porn, and now talks on how damaging porn is;
2) Ally Spotts and her fiance Darrell, two awesomely attractive and super cool Jesus-lovers who write about sex and dating;
3) my 20-something friend Haley who is outrageously gifted in the relationship-advice/purpose-of-sex department;
4) young Christian girls in bible studies; and
4) sifting through countless stories from women on how casual sex broke them.

I am blessed to be a part of a movement of men and women who are willing and excited to talk openly on sex the right way. A movement that is unafraid to say, “the traditional church hasn’t handled it as well as it should,” and also “the world hasn’t handled it well at all.”

But this week, I’ve read some articles that have shocked me out of my sexy-just-married-lingerie and honestly, made me a little bit angry that I’d forgotten WHY I started talking about sex in the first place.

Women are giving up on being the good woman they’ve been striving towards, because they’ve stopped believing the good men are out there.

Translated: Women are embracing sex before marriage because they’ve stopped believing there are men who will wait for them.

No, seriously. It’s true. It’s why I gave in to sex, and it’s why I slept with men I didn’t even pretend to love. I developed an, “I deserve this, because everyone else is doing it” attitude. The men that cheated on me, left me for other women, left pornography open on their laptops, or simply dated women that slept around angered me into my own “I don’t care” behavior. Men were proving to me that sex was the most important part of life, and I should be living that way too. Sex first, questions after. I stopped believing I could find a man who could prove that he meant it when he said I was beautiful and would stick around forever. If men were going to have sex any way they wanted it, when they wanted it, I was going to have it too, damn it.

Sex has become a selfish thing, and the current “me” has become more important than the future “we.” This is why sex outside of marriage is self destructive.

And what I’ve been reading this week is re-confirming that this is why women are still embracing and manifesting their sexuality in all the wrong ways.

AskMen and So Feminine did polls this year on promiscuity. The AskMen survey that revealed 70% of men find women promiscuous between 5 and 10 partners, while the So Feminine survey reveals 55% of women find men promiscuous somewhere between their 20th and 50th partner. Only 15% of women find men with 10 sexual partners promiscuous.

Marrie Lobel “sort of” reviewed these polls in her “Promiscuous Women” post in a rant about her self-admitted out of control yet perfectly acceptable sex life, and said: “It’s this perception of what makes a ‘good’ woman that keeps women from being equal to men. It’s in women’s nature to want to be accepted and thought of as worthy and good. This survey, I’m afraid, will not only set a precedent for what men think a good woman should be, but box women into living life according to what others dictate as appropriate. Well, fuck society. If I am considered a wanton woman because I have slept around with more men than another man is comfortable with, then it is his loss.”

Classy, Marrie. However, you do present a problem that demands at least a hypothetical solution.

Apparently, women still aren’t equal in your eyes. Not because of our civil rights or because we now make up 52% of the workforce, but because we are attempting to have as much sex as we want outside of marriage and men are thinking less of us for it.

Hypothetical solution? Women need to be averaging as many sexual partners as men, and men need to GTF over it.

The problem with this solution is actually hinted at in your own words: “Men express their desire to be with a sexually confident woman, but find her promiscuous at 5 partners.”

Marrie, I’m going to tell you a little secret.

“Sexually confident” stems from one of two things. Either from a woman who is insecure in her identity and therefore overcompensates in her sexuality to find confidence somewhere, OR is confident in her identity, in which case it carries over into her sexuality. And men know this.

Men are attracted to confident women. Men are attracted to a woman’s sexuality. But good men are not looking for insecure women who find their identity in their sexuality.

Marrie, I’m going to give you some words of advice, woman to woman:

Don’t read the polls to determine how you should be finding your identity and living out your sex life.

Don’t decide whether or not you’ll find a good man based on a statistical study.

Don’t make sex about yourself just because you haven’t found a man who makes it about your loving commitment to one another.

Don’t get angry that men still desire women who are confident enough to share her sexuality with one man that deserves it.

Don’t play the numbers game with your heart just because a poll shows you the world is playing a numbers game with their body.

Don’t stop believing that there is a man out there who will protect your identity before he participates in your sexuality.

And please, for the sake of all relationships everywhere, please don’t believe the lie that you must be sexually promiscuous in order to be sexually confident.

I’d like to end with words from an anonymous good man who commented on Marrie’s post:
“To me, anyone that has had many casual sexual encounters has a high likelyhood of having damaged their ability to respect sex as part of a committed relationship. I very deeply tie sex and love together, and frankly I don’t believe someone that has used sex for casual pleasure can feel the same as I do on the subject. I would gladly give up “wild, kinky, crazy” sex to be with someone that feels as I do. Unfortunately, there just aren’t many women left that haven’t ridden the merry-go-round of casual sex, which means I either suck it up and settle for less than I want, or go without a committed relationship.”

PS. Can I just re-phrase “sex out of marriage” as “sex without committed, unconditional love” once and for all, please? Maybe then we’d realize that we’re not breaking a rule someone else set, we’re actually harming ourselves.