READER POST: I sat in the Bride’s Room, listening to the temple matron, feeling very aware of my first pair of silky garments beneath my temple gown. The bottoms felt baggy, but the top fit well, except for a seam that cut right across my breasts. It felt a strange, having a bra on over the garment top, especially with that misplaced seam. I focused harder, trying to feel the spirit of what was happening. The temple matron quickly taught how to launder garments and told us when and when not to wear them. “Of course,” she said, “you’ll remove them for intercourse, but replace them right afterwards and always wear them overnight.”
I did a double take. What did she just say?
Before marriage, I had thought a lot about falling asleep naked in my husband’s arms, or at least wearing very little. Nothing could be sexier to me than a shirtless man in my sheets, ready to soothe away the doldrums or stresses of the day. To roll over any time at night and feel his bare chest or strong back seemed so exciting, comforting, loving, and intimate. And the thought of having him kiss my bare shoulders before sleep? Now that was the beginning of a good Mormon girl’s ecstasy.
Although my parents always wore their garments, I’d never thought about whether they had to wear them in bed. They just did.
As the temple matron spoke, I realized I would need to conform to these temple standards. No wearing of pretty little nightgowns all night long for me.
It’s a little thing, really, I told myself. It’s hard to question instruction under social pressure in the temple. I can sacrifice to commit to the Lord.
What’s supposed to be understood is that endowed women shouldn’t just have free rein about what they wear to sleep; we must wear garments. We conform to the church’s standards, not to the world. Our standards are much better than the world’s standards.
I’ve been perfect in garment wearing for 20 years, only removing them for sex, swimming, showering, and exercise. I’ve even judged other women for exercising without wearing their garments, self-righteously thinking, “She doesn’t need to wear that to exercise! Quit looking for excuses to remove garments!” Then I’d pat myself on the back because I was a faithful garment wearer.
So at night my pajamas cover my garments. My garment top is completely tucked in to the bottom to provide relief from the itchy garment waistband which digs and irritates. It’s hard for my husband to get to my body through the layers of clothes; sometimes at night, it’s just not worth the effort to touch each other, skin to skin. This remains a depressing realization.
I’m supposed to feel good, worthy, and obedient because I wear garments as instructed. But that’s not what I feel.
What I feel is less intimacy in our marriage.
My husband’s first comment upon seeing me in my garments for the first time was, “You look just like my mother.”
They say most women have different sex drives than men–that biologically, it takes most of us longer to desire sex. For me, it’s even harder to desire sex if I don’t like how I feel or look in garments, or how my spouse looks in garments. Yes, they represent covenants made, and yes, I love that we both covenanted to keep the law of chastity and to keep the commandments; but ironically, it has made my husband less appealing to me physically. I just don’t get turned on by garment snuggles.
My husband, on the other hand, is often unaffected by what I am wearing. And there’s another part of the problem. “It works for me, therefore it should work for you.”
If I don’t have my garments on, my husband assumes we’re having sex. He has been conditioned that my naked body is a sexual object and grants automatic permission to have sex. (Which is great sometimes!) It’s the sex he craves, but I need the intimacy first if I’m to even think about having sex. And often I don’t want sex at night. I’m tired and crave—need—longer physical contact than quick sex allows.
But if I don’t wear them at night or don’t put them back on after sex, my husband becomes concerned. There’s an implication in our religion of not being worthy, or of willfully rebelling, by not wearing them.
The temple interview statement about garments reinforces the expectation that they be worn both day and night:
“It is expected that members will wear the garment both night and day according to covenants made in the temple. Members should not adjust the garment or wear it contrary to instructions in order to accommodate different styles of clothing, even when such clothing may be generally accepted. The garment should not be removed, either entirely or partially, to work in the yard or for other activities that can reasonably be done with the garment worn properly beneath the clothing.”
I am bothered by the strict wording “day and night.” In the temple, I was instructed to wear the garment “throughout my life,” and the temple interview question should reflect that sentiment without addendum. “Do you strive to wear the temple garment?” is a sufficient question on its own and promotes a healthier relationship with both spouse and Heavenly Father.
Many church members choose to adhere strictly to the statement rather than examine its outcome, and that’s why I think the statement needs to change–so people don’t feel unworthy for sleeping as most married people do. I think the statement focuses on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. It is Pharisee-like, not Christ-like.
Wanting to focus physically on my husband at night in no way diminishes my spirituality or devotion to God. I don’t want to feel like a sexual object anymore, taking garments off for sex and putting them right back on again as if nothing happened. Intimacy is important, and both partners should feel satisfied. I do not believe Heavenly Father rejects my desire to be intimate with my husband in the way that resonates with me.
~~Bio: Anne is a woman for whom the church has worked nearly perfectly for 35 years; she met all the milestones at just the right time and in just the right order. After a call to serve as a Relief Society President, she noticed the ways many women’s needs were often unmet. Too many women felt forced to walk alone with their feelings, afraid to share opinions with the very women who should be their support. She now seeks to truly bear one another’s burdens better. She is a nurse by profession and loves having her thinking challenged by other women’s experiences.
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