A healthy sex life has many benefits that you hear a lot about, but abstinence can have its own benefits, too.
Sexuality is not just physical. It is also psychological, and consensual. At a time of abstinence, you may feel in command of your sexuality and not that you are simply succumbing to sex because you’re "supposed to."
Abstinence can also be a breather from relationships and a time of connecting with yourself. Sex is just one part of a relationship; abstinence can serve as a time of avoiding throwing yourself into the relational fray when other parts of your life aren’t right.
“Abstinence also can be very helpful for people who use sex as a way to mask feelings (just like they might use drugs or alcohol or food),” says Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist and professor at California State University.
“Sex can be very distracting — and actually deflect you from other issues, whether you’re in a relationship or not, that may be better addressed directly.”
Some make the argument that abstinence can be an important part of a spiritual journey — a sort of mindful awareness of body that empowers you, Durvasula adds. This better prepares you to be more ready to have a healthy relationship that has depth.
“Age matters,” Durvasula says. “Teens often initiate intercourse for the wrong reasons and this can impact narratives about sexuality. We live in a hyper-sexualized society — and a little abstinence can go a long way in developing a healthy adult attitude about sexuality.”
Safety matters too. Having sex just to have sex may not always be healthy. Sexually transmitted diseases and infections can be permanent commitments in the worst possible way.
Abstinence also is the best contraceptive you can use.
Being celibate allows you to date and socialize without the pressures of “negotiating” sex, and you can know a person loves you for who you are.
If you choose abstinence, you won't be alone because it’s becoming more popular. A survey by the The Family Education Trust found that about 85 percent of kids under age 16 have not had sex. Meanwhile, the number of college students in America who say they are virgins has doubled in recent years.
Conversely, if you want to have sex but your sex life isn’t at the level you want it to be, a stint of abstinence may be just what you need.
"Some people abstain from all sexual touch, while others only forgo partnered activity or intercourse," says Jessica O'Reilly, a Toronto-based sexologist, in Canadian Living.
O'Reilly says her clients have reported a number of advantages after abstaining from sex, including "a greater appreciation for physical as opposed to only sexual pleasure. They learned to enjoy the sensations of touch to promote intimacy and connection, exclusive of sexual pleasure."
O’Reilly adds that many of her female clients who choose abstinence learn more about their bodies, which she says is particularly important for women who have never had an orgasm through intercourse.
Once these women learn sexual pleasure by themselves, they become more aware of their own desires and responses "without the added pressures and expectations of partnered sex," says O'Reilly, and they are more likely to achieve orgasm during partnered sex.
Janet O’Dell, RN