HANDS OFF! Abstinence in Marriage (is as awful as it sounds)


Less than a year into our marriage, my husband and I discovered that my persistent stomach flu was, in fact, not the stomach flu at all.

Despite our best efforts to prevent pregnancy, it had happened. We were having a baby.

Somehow we had ended up in that .01% of the population for which traditional birth control (which I took on a very rigorous, “same time every day never missed one” type schedule) is an epic fail. We were terrified, but somehow we survived. We didn’t ruin our daughter (although for a time we had serious doubts regarding our competence). Once we realized we could totally handle this parenting thing, we decided to continue to grow our family. My husband and I both knew we wanted more children, and felt there was no time like the present.

Almost a decade has passed since that unexpected beginning, and we both feel we have reached the end. We have created wonderful brothers and sisters for our children. Our home has reached the point of comfortable without feeling too full. Our schedule is busy without being overwhelming, our children are quickly becoming more independent, and our family feels complete. Although I do get the occasional twinge of nostalgia when I see a tiny baby flashing a sweet little smile, or a toddler busily exploring the world around them, that is as far as I’d like to go.

Pregnancy was not easy for me. I was sick from conception to delivery. We experienced miscarriage, fertility struggles, and one horribly traumatic birth. The sleepless nights, dietary restrictions, and erratic infant schedules certainly took their toll. Life now is different. And different, as far as we are concerned, is wonderful.

As we found out all those years ago, no form of birth control is 100% effective.

There is always a chance, albeit a small one, that we will be burned again. And, at this point in our lives, that possibility is not something we’d like to entertain. For various reasons, both personal and medical, most common methods of pregnancy prevention are not an option for us. My husband does not make decisions regarding my body for me, and I will likewise not force him to do anything to his that he is not completely comfortable with.

So what do we do? Nothing. As in you keep away from me, and I’ll keep away from you.

What, no sex?! NO. SEX. Are we still attracted to each other? You bet. Are there other things we can do without risk of pregnancy? Sure, and we do. But sex, true sex, is different. And fun. And deeply missed. But, until I know for certain that a baby will not result from our actions (c’mon menopause!), abstinence is our answer.

I will admit we have taken the chance a few times, here and there. Because we are human. And because it’s just too difficult to say no sometimes. But the resulting anxiety makes me question the value of the pleasure. For days afterward, I question every twinge, every ache. Do my boobs feel fuller? Was that a cramp in my side or implantation? And why won’t my period start already?! With all the unavoidable stress I have in my daily life, I try to avoid piling on any more. And, as frustrating as it may prove to be at times, the stress of a possible pregnancy has a simple (if inconvenient) solution.

Someday, perhaps, we will discover something which affords us the pleasure without the fear. A new solution might found, some scientific advancement be made or DIY method which works without fail. Someday one of us may give a little, take one for the team, and do something with which we may not be comfortable at the moment.

But until that day comes, he stays on his side of the bed, and I stay on mine.

This post was written as part of a series, in which the CMB team got real, honest and personal about all things sex. We hope that you will be able to relate to some of what we write, maybe learn from it and hopefully laugh a little along the way!



  1. You refer to your pregnancy as a ‘risk’ or getting ‘burned’ but do you view your children that way? Of course not!! You said your life is different but it’s wonderful, so if you have another baby right now I know it will be the same. You should absolutely look into natural family planning, it will allow you and your husband to understand your fertility so you can have sex and avoid pregnancy if you must. Sex is an important part of marriage.

  2. We cannot do traditional birth control either. I have had miscarriages or children as a result as birth control failure. We do do NFP which means that for about a week each month there is absolutely no way. That being said I also stress even when I know it shouldn’t be possible so I can definitely empathize. If your husband and yourself have found ways that work, that’s all that matters. I would urge that you both discuss more permanent birth control for one or both of you.

  3. This is the strangest blog I’ve ever read! Pull out and use a condom! If your anxiety is that bad after you have sex Because of the fear of getting pregnant I truly don’t understand why you wouldn’t do something permanent. I guess if you’re fine with your situation then more power to you but is just strange that you wrote a blog and are counting down the days to menopause.

  4. I know this post is old, but I’m only commenting because it showed up in my feed and I also find it strange. Why didn’t the author use a combination of barrier methods and natural family planning? Using condoms and confirming that ovulation has already occurred in the cycle is highly effective. Also more permanent surgical methods are available for both men and women. If this is such a problem, why not go that route?


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