catholic sex, frequency and Hawaii

Lately I’ve joined some NFP (natural family planning) groups on facebook.  They are full of lots of people in lots of different phases of their lives.  Some single people, some engaged.  Married people who are trying to conceive (of the “fertile Myrtle” variety and the having a tough time), married couples avoiding (within a time frame or indefinitely) and those who are “Trying to Whatever”.   Within your avoiding group you also have the “It’s easy to abstain!” and the “OH my gosh, can I just rip my spouses clothes off now please!” groups (and varying levels in between).

There’s a discussion going on now, and there’s a specific quote that has really hit me.  I’m going to leave it anonymous, of course (and changing a slight detail to make it less traceable).

When we are abstaining, sex goes in the same bucket as Hawaii. We’d like to go there again, it’d be good for our marriage, we MUCH prefer it over Michigan, but it’s not feasible RIGHT NOW so we tell each other “As soon as possible!” and don’t fret over it any more than we fret over our next trip to Hawaii.

There’s two big parts to this that I want to talk about.

First, I like the comparison of sex to something that is amazing and special, like a trip to Hawaii!  That’s how I try to look at every time we engage, not that it is a chore, or that it’s just whatever, but that I’m partaking of a sacrament, and that is a special thing.  However, going to Hawaii is not something that is feasible for many people.  It’s a “once in a lifetime” or “never gonna happen” kind of trip.  So to say that it’s something that you can just be like “Oh yeah, we know that’s coming up, I’m not going to worry because I know we’ll be going there again soon!” just doesn’t ring true to me.

Sex should kind of be like going to the grocery store.  You go at least once a week, and maybe more!  Sometimes you go for fun just to avoid the kids and buy chocolate.  Sometimes you go a bunch of times because you forgot ingredients for the special dinner you have planned.  One of the last times I was at Kroger, a man behind me said it was his third time there that day because his wife kept forgetting things that she needed!  That’s more what sex should be, something regular, something that you know is coming, and if you start running low on groceries, you make it a higher priority.  Or in the case of your marriage, if you start running low on intimacy, you know it’s coming!

Marriages suffer with lack of sex.  Intimacy is much easier with it.  Right now I’m in the post partum stage where we’re adjusting to three loud needy children and getting up all night and we just don’t have time to sit and talk and connect that way.  Of course, we’re also abstaining far more than I’d like to, and that’s why I’m feeling such a strain.  If we could connect quickly with sex, it’d make things a heck of a lot easier!

The second point is that I admire the strength of a couple who can just put sex out of their heads while needing to abstain.  Being able to do that is probably a blessing to them.  At the same time, I don’t know that it’s the most healthy thing.  We are supposed to desire our spouses!  Look at the Song of Songs!   It’s never a bad thing to want to have sex with our spouse.  So while the fortitude is admirable, I just want to point out that for those who can’t do that, it doesn’t mean that they are “sex crazed” or in some way too “worldly” (as was implied in this discussion on facebook).

So yes, I’d like my marriage to be more like going to the grocery store.  Or maybe like going to a really fancy grocery store.. special, fun, but regular and a normal part of our life.

(Of course, no analogy is perfect.  I’m clearly not trying to come up with a perfect one right now.  Also, there are exceptions to everything I wrote.  For example, in an abusive marriage, sex might cause more suffering, as is the case with marital rape.)

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