Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

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spottedowl
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Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby spottedowl » Thu Nov 05, 2020 11:48 pm

Hello! Could I just quickly give Scarleteen in general two thumbs up and a big THANK YOU! :D The fact that this site exists and has lots of educational, nonjudgmental sex and relationship info is the best thing ever!
Going on to my question, some background first
I have always considered religion a big part of life. In the religion I am from, there is a cultural tradition of arranged marriage. While keeping everything safe, comfortable, and consensual, most of the women in my family (and all those I feel comfortable talking to about sex/relationships), have in their early twenties, allowed their families to pick who they are going to marry from a pool of interested men. They then dated for a short time (like a few weeks to a month) and then married happily. "No dating until you meet the boy you want to marry" was the rule.
Now I'm 21 and in college, and this is my relationship model. I have super supportive parents. But I've never dated, had any sort of sexual contact with a guy, or any romantic relationship. Now that I'm at the age where my relatives have gotten married, I'm experiencing pressure from parents to start dating by a certain age, get married at a certain age, even though I have no clue how to do that or if I even want to, because I've never actually been in a relationship before! Also, everything is cool until it is not, because the message has always been wait to date and have sex, because according to my family dating=sex happening=marriage soon, all the time. Other confusing notions about sexuality: girls flat out aren't sexual, I'm weird for wanting dating without marriage, "good girls" dress or act a certain way to avoid unwanted attention so shame on you for wanting to dress up in that top, or wear that eyeshadow. Or that there's so much emotional pain after a breakup, its not worth dating just to date someone and not get married. :roll: To make this even more confusing, some other members of my family want me to do whatever I want, just as long as I don't get married to "early". I just feel all this unwanted pressure since I'm not ready to do anything at all in real life but explore what I might want to do romantically or sexually using Scarleteen's resources. Some "friends" too, have judged me in the past by saying I should not be committed to this arranged marriage model and they would never let their parents choose their husband, and so this is oppressive (for me!) somehow. That doesn't even make sense to me. I don't feel like I can go to the women in my family, because some have the beliefs above.

I'm also experiencing a lack of pleasure, recently from (about 3 months ago) whenever I do something like masturbate, think about my sexual fantasies, or even read a romance novel, just because I feel all this guilt about staying "in limbo" between the two camps "marry young, have a long-term relationship in the security of your religion" vs "marry when you are older, possibly much older, but explore and date many people and have many different sexual experience". All this thinking about the different options makes it hard to enjoy right now! And the thing is, as I have discovered more about myself: I want multiple things. Casual sex and long-term relationships, oral and vaginal sex, that I have partners that respect me and my choices, that I can dress however I want so long as its not hurting others, room to explore all of this stuff, both real life, and all the sex fantasies, without being judged. It makes me giddy and happy sometimes that all of this is possible. Its what my parents have and what they want me to have. I don't think the pressure is intentional, I am 100% certain they just want to see me happy and safe romantically and sexually at the end of the day, but they have different viewpoints about how a relationship looks. How do I deal with this pressure and accept my feelings about sex and relationships? Sorry if this was a really long post.

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Re: Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby Siân » Fri Nov 06, 2020 6:25 am

It's so lovely to hear that people appreciate the work we do - thank you for such appreciative words :D

Wow that is a lot of conflicting messages to be dealing with! My first question when reading through this is what do YOU want? It sounds like you have some ideas, but aren't totally sure yet - and that's okay!

I want to do a bit of direct myth-busting of some of the points you made too:
- Girls flat out aren't sexual: FALSE. In a lot of cultures, including the dominant western culture women aren't really given permission to be sexual but that's a grounded in patriarchy, not biology. Feminists and sex educators have been arguing against this idea for decades but also, my personal experience and the experience of the women in my life tells me that this is a straight up lie. Different people are different amounts of sexual, but gender has very little to do with it.

- Dating isn't worth the pain of breaking up: FALSE. Breakups can suck. I know, I've had my heart broken a couple of times and you know what? Totally worth it. Dating is how we learn. We learn what we want, what we're looking for in a partner, what we want for ourselves. Sure, there is nothing wrong with dating with the hopes it will lead to marriage but it isn't the only way. Sometimes you can date someone you know you're not going to marry because it brings something you value into your life now, and you're willing to grieve it later.

- Dating = sex = marriage: FALSE. Some people date for a long time before having sex, because they like to know someone really well or be very committed before they have sex. Some people want to have sex without any possibility of marriage. Some people want to know that they are sexually compatible with someone before making major commitments. All different, all okay.

- Arranged marriage now, or dating loads of people now is a binary choice: FALSE! It's totally fine to just do some reading and thinking for a while and focus on other parts of your life and then do what feels good when it feels right - for you. You can have some casual relationships whilst keeping an eye out for something that makes you feel more serious. You can have multiple long term relationships with hook-ups in between. You can date multiple people at the same time or no-one at all. Honestly, we can make all the plans we like but the relationships we find are as much down to chance as anything else so you don't need to have it all planned out.

It sounds like you've internalised a lot of that pressure and are now pressuring yourself to "decide" something. You are 21. I don't believe that anyone HAS to be settled by a certain age, but even if I did you still have so much time. One of the biggest things I notice speaking to young people is a sense of urgency to do everything, feel everything, have all the experiences now. But you have so much time, I promise. Go at your own pace. What do you say?

In terms of dealing with the pressure from family and friends, first you need to stop putting pressure on yourself, but then we can talk about how to discuss this (or not) with them - would that be helpful?

spottedowl
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Re: Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby spottedowl » Fri Nov 06, 2020 11:33 am

Hello! Thanks for pointing out and explaining the myths-that helped me. I don't really know what I want from a relationship yet. I definitely want to take it slow and enjoy college, friendships, work, the rest of my life, while I figure out relationships. Yes, do you have some strategies about how I could talk to my family about relationships? I have tried before, requesting advice, being mature and polite, and one of the following 3 things happens:
1. Just kind of refuse to talk about it, look embarrassed or nervous. So I drop the subject and bring it up again a few days later. Same response, or generic "ask your parents". Combine sometimes with number 2 on the second try for advice.
2. Get a little bit annoyed and start repeating some of the myths discussed before. If I talk to them a few days later, they get more annoyed and continue repeating the myths (sometimes getting more outlandish as time goes on) At that point the conversation is not going anywhere, so I stop.
3. Response that I can take my time and do whatever I want, so long as I am respectful of others. Sounds good, but when I try for info like "How do I ask someone on a date?" They refuse to talk, back to number 1 above.
How do I deal with these situations?
There's also a great resource for me, in family friends I have known since I was little. These friends of the family are 15-20 years older than me, experienced similar situations with family, and give really great, mature, non-judgmental advice. They are open to questions and encourage taking your time. Close friends say the advice helped them. Basically the kind of advice I would love to receive on relationships from my parents and family! My parents and family seem to think I should not go to them with "something so personal as a relationship", or "personal things should be kept in the family", even if we have known them for 40+ years, so they are like family but not directly related or "that its not my place to burden them with questions" making it hard to open up on this one subject of relationships. Any advice on how to overcome this family expectation and get more helpful advice as I need/want it?

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Re: Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby Sofi » Fri Nov 06, 2020 2:04 pm

Hi! Thank you for expanding on that, and it makes sense why you're frustrated with the lack of information and advice from your direct family. I can't help but to think about a course I took in college that dealt with arranged marriage and how it related to feminism. You're not alone! So many girls and women go through the same feelings of confliction about dating and marriage and sex. There are two TV shows I recommend checking out, both different but similar (and both super entertaining!) that I believe will be helpful in giving ideas on navigating this issue.

The first one is Indian Matchmaking, it's on Netflix and it's a reality show, most of the people are in the US so you get to watch other young (mostly mid 20s, but some late 20s) adults that live in the US whose parents expect an arranged marriage navigate the situation. Most of them have previously dated and even had sex, but by now are at an age their parents are not going to reprimend them for it, they just want them to marry a guy from the same culture and religion. The second one is Made in Heaven it is available on Amazon Prime. It's not a reality show, but it is incredibly well made, by South Asian feminists and touches on the topic of arranged marriage. Each episode shows a different wedding, all peculiar (for example, one episode is about a bride that has had premarital sex, and how her, her husband, and his family deal with it). It is based in India but in English.

I am of course also glad to give some more advice but since it wouldn't be first-hand advice, I thought maybe watching these could make you feel less anxious about the situation because you will see a lot of people deal with this and it is totally fine! Also that premarital dating and sex can coexist with arranged marriage after doing so. Many people do both, and not to say that it's easy because of family expectations, but if it's what YOU want, it'll be okay!

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Re: Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby Siân » Sun Nov 08, 2020 5:06 am

Hi spottedowl,

Sofi is right that the two can coexist. Right now though it sounds like you'd like to be able to have more frank conversations with some of your family members - is that right?

Honestly I think you're already on the right track here, identifying the people you CAN go to for good advice - your family friends.

The thing with these kinds of conversations is that they have to be a two-way street. You can't MAKE someone have the kinds of talk you'd like to have about sex and relationships, you can only give them opportunities - they have to do the rest. It sounds like you're giving these invitations to connect but being shut down or rebuffed. If you like, you can have one last go, saying something like I'd really like to be able to talk to you about dating and relationships but we seem to fall into this pattern every time - is there a way we can break out of that? Otherwise though, I think that the main advice I would give is to be choosy about who you turn to for advice.

If some of the myths above are deeply woven into someone's world-view, then any advice that they give will necessarily be based on the myths. If you don't buy into those views, then you need to seek out people who will give you advice that fits with YOUR values, and you don't need permission to do so. Does that make sense?

It sounds like you'd really like to be able to ask your parents for advice, so it might be hard to hear me saying that you can't change them. Perhaps given a bit more time they'll come around but it seems like trying to force it is only going to strain your relationship - what do you think?

spottedowl
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Re: Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby spottedowl » Fri Nov 13, 2020 9:37 pm

Hello Sian and Sofi,
Sorry, didn't see you had replied until now. It's true, I would really like to have more frank conversations about sex with my parents. Maybe you saw my response to Heather on the topic of "what do you need from your parents to talk about sex ed topics? I agree with your statement on how forcing people to discuss sex and relationships is going to strain our relationship, and that's the last thing I want to do. I did have "one last go" at it with my dad-last night in fact, and asked him for advice. That actually went great, and he is willing and not nervous about talking to me about sex and relationships! It also really helps that he wants me to do what is right for me, and does not believe the myths :D -he had a similar experience to many of my family friends growing up with my grandma, who has far more traditional beliefs.

It is a little awkward talking with my dad just because I'm so used to talking with my mom, but we will get over that with time, and I'm sure I'll get good advice from him-I have on other topics. I also think I will keep in touch with my family friends, just because it is less awkward to talk with them right now, and more diverse perspectives are a good thing. That group includes men and women, so if I miss talking to my mom or aunts about relationships, I could talk with family friends instead. Not exactly the same thing, but close. My aunt shares the same views as my dad so maybe if I ask again, she and I can talk about relationships. But if not, I have my dad and family friends. I agree with the fact that I don't have to seek permission to contact my family friends, and get good advice.

As for my mom-I think given time, she will come around. It will probably take awhile but ultimately she loves me and wants to see me happy, no matter how I choose to have relationships. I think the main reason that my dad was acting nervous about the topic was that my mom was around when it came up, and he didn't want anyone to get emotionally upset. Also, my dad and I haven't really talked about relationships much-maybe only 2-3 times, so I don't think he knew that I wanted to talk so badly. He does now, so that's great! With my mom, a few weeks ago I was able to watch "Indian Matchmaking" with her, and have always enjoyed documentaries like that one, and romantic comedies with her in general, so maybe I will just continue doing that. We often like to talk about the real people or characters and speculate on who they will date or end up with. I find I can get some indirect advice that way sometimes, the fact that we are talking about the characters or other people on screen lets me see some of her (much more open-minded) views about others, rather than the myths she expects me, as her daughter to follow. I have gotten better over the last few months at recognizing when she is going to tell me one of the myths and just kind of ignoring it. I ignore the myths with my grandma also, who is much more attached to the myths than my mom is.

All things considered this week was a success! I found out that I can talk to my dad about relationships and have access to my family friends. Thank you for all your help! :)

spottedowl
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Re: Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby spottedowl » Fri Nov 13, 2020 10:25 pm

Can I switch topics like this? I saw other people doing it on many other threads, so I assume it is okay. Quick question(s) about birth control. My doctor says I shouldn't take hormonal birth control because of medical issues, but that the copper IUD is fine, and any other nonhormonal birth control is fine. I'm not planning on getting anything anytime soon, but its good to know my options. I also don't anticipate parental pushback on this, they want me to have safer sex, when I have sex, on that point everyone agrees. Condoms (male) are going to be used for STI and pregnancy protection, as are dental dams when applicable, so everything below would be in addition to condoms and dams.

Leaning towards the copper IUD as an first choice. Do the heavier periods and spotting go down over time? I have heavy periods and bad cramps (doctor says everything is okay medically) but personally I don't think I could handle them being worse for 10 years of the copper IUD being inside my uterus.

My second choice would be the diaphragm with spermicide. Is there a spermicide that's not as irritating? I don't have sensitive skin but would like to avoid itching or irritation if I could, especially if something is going inside my vagina.

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Re: Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby Heather » Sat Nov 14, 2020 9:26 am

No problem.

If you already have heavy periods and cramps, a copper IUD is actually a very poor choice. I'm surprised if your doctor knew that they suggested it. It's also very, very hard right now to find a provider who even knows how to fit a diaphragm, and then equally challenging to get a prescription for one filled. That will hopefully change once the Caya diaphragm (a two-sizes fit all non-prescription version) eventually makes its way to our shelves, but until then, access to a diaphragm is tricky.

Can you fill me in about what medical/health issues are a conflict for you with other methods, including a Mirena IUD, which could instead *help* with your heavy and painful periods?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

spottedowl
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Re: Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby spottedowl » Sat Nov 14, 2020 9:15 pm

Hello Heather,
Yeah sure! Did not know about the diaphragm or copper IUD, makes sense now though.

I have a 50% chance of having the Factor V Leiden gene (blood clotting disorder). I have never been tested, but my mom has the gene, dad does not. We know because mom had a blood clot (DVT) while on the pill with estrogen, before I was born.

The IUD confusion might be because I last talked about birth control with my pediatrician when I was 13. My periods weren't coming regularly yet, so there wasn't enough info to say whether they were heavy or not. A year after that they did start coming regularly, but I wasn't curious enough to ask again.

I would ask my general adult doctor about both birth control and referrals for a gyno, but he died suddenly a few months ago. :shock: I'm getting a new doctor this month, so I can ask them. Preferably a young adult friendly gyno.

spottedowl
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Re: Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby spottedowl » Sat Nov 14, 2020 9:32 pm

More about the Factor V Leiden-my mom has only one mutated copy of the gene, dad is normal, both have been tested. I just looked it up on Mayo Clinic, it says that one risk factor for blood clots is estrogen. If I recall correctly, aren't there minipills with just progesterone, or an IUD without estrogen?

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Re: Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby Siân » Sun Nov 15, 2020 5:09 am

Hi spottedowl,

I'm so pleased you have been able to talk to your dad for advice! And having a TV show or film to watch with your mum and create opportunities to talk about these things in a slightly less pressured way sounds great :)

So the hormonal IUD (Mirena, for example) doesn't contain estrogen and isn't thought to increase the risk of blood clots. Because it's right there in your uterus, the dosage of hormones in an IUD is much much lower than in any of the pills because it doesn't have to go all through your blood stream to your reproductive organs to work. And, like Heather said, a lot of people find it is really great for managing heavy or painful periods.

Progesterone-only minipills can still increase your risk of blood clots but are safer than the combined pill.

Of course, these are generalisations and I don't know a huge amount about your specific condition so definitely worth speaking to your doctor when you have one. We can also talk about feeling prepared for your first OBGYN appointment if that's something you'd find helpful.

spottedowl
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Re: Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby spottedowl » Mon Nov 16, 2020 8:42 pm

Hello Sian,
I didn't know that the hormonal IUD's don't contain estrogen. That's great news, since I won't have to worry about blood clots! :) I'll talk to my doctor when I see them about my specific condition and Mirena. Yes, can we please talk about feeling prepared for my first OBGYN appointment? I talked to my mom after her appointment (she said to just stay calm and relax and that its a bit uncomfortable but not much). I'm most concerned about the internal pelvic exam and pap smear. (I'm 21, so I'll probably need the pelvic exam). If we could walk through those two parts, I would appreciate it. How far up does the speculum go inside me/is it cold/does it move and pinch people? Is it only a Q-tip for the STI testing, or should I expect a blood draw too? Do they ever scrape tissue out and if so under what conditions?

I know about Scarleteen's reassurance policies, and I'm not looking for reassurance (I get that from my parents). But sometimes I don't know what to expect, and I don't want an uncomfortable experience with a speculum to stop me from going to the doctor as needed.

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Re: Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby Mo » Tue Nov 17, 2020 4:35 pm

If you haven't seen this article, it has a helpful walkthrough of a standard OBGYN appointment, including the pelvic exam: Your First Gynecologist Visit.
I know it can be intimidating to talk to a doctor about how you're feeling, but it can help to let them know at the beginning of the appointment that this is your first time, that you're nervous, and that you'd like to ask a few questions or have them explain what they're doing (whatever you'd find most helpful).
If your doctor is using a metal speculum, it may be cold; there are plastic speculums as well, and they don't tend to feel particularly warm or cold. Once the speculum is inserted, the doctor will rotate it slightly and then it will stay in the same position until they remove it. It isn't always comfortable but it shouldn't be actively pinching you! The way a doctor gets the sample for a pap test is by using a long, small swab that they will use on your cervix, but I wouldn't describe the feeling as scraping the way you'd scrape or scratch something with a fingernail; it can feel a little unusual but is generally not painful.
Whether or not you'll need a blood test for the STI screen depends on what tests your doctor has decided to run; some do require a blood test, but not all do. You can get more details on what tests different STIs require here: Testing, Testing.... In general your doctor will discuss your sexual history with you and determine what tests they think are necessary from that conversation.
Hopefully, all that info is helpful; do you have any other questions about the experience?

spottedowl
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Re: Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby spottedowl » Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:33 pm

Hello Mo,
That makes me feel more comfortable, thank you. I don’t have any more questions at the moment. I’ll read the articles you linked as well!
:)

Mo
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Re: Confused about Realtionships with my Religion

Unread postby Mo » Fri Nov 20, 2020 4:26 pm

I'm so glad that helped! We're here if you wind up having more questions in the future. :)


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