Don't understand abstinence threads


#1

What is with all of the abstinence threads lately? It seems there are a lot of people advocating extended abstinence as being good for a marriage. Those of us who say that sex is good and important in marriage are accused of not having self control or placing undue importance on it.

Here are positions that I have stated or have agreed with that have been attacked:

-More sex might actually be good for your marriage.

-You should go out of your way, even sacrifice, to make sure you and your spouse are having physical intimacy.

-Sex is a distinguishing physical mark of married love which separates it from other types of love. (Notice I said "distinguishing", not that sex is the only or most important mark of marital love).

-Extended abstinence while practicing NFP might put negative stress on a marriage.

There is more, but I think this is a good start. When people defend prolonged abstinence it seems to me to be with a holier-than-thou type attitude- "I can control my appetities, why can't you?"

This seems to me to "angelism". Here is a passage from Christopher West that sums up my thinking:

The human body is not "crude matter" housing our true "luminous" selves! This is the heresy of "dualism" which introduces a false split in the human being between body and soul. In the authentic Christian view of things, the human being is an incarnate spirit or a spiritualized body.

As the Catechism says, "The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body: that is, it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body." Furthermore, "spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature" (CCC, n. 365).

John Paul II insisted that the "body can never be reduced to mere matter: it is a spiritualized body, just as man’s spirit is so closely united to the body that he can be described as an embodied spirit" (Letter to Families, 19).

It is only because of original sin that we experience a rupture within us between the physical and the spiritual. Lacking the reintegration of spirit and flesh to which we are called in Christ, we inevitably lean towards one side of the divide or the other, towards "angelism" or "animalism." One promotes a "spiritual" life at the expense of the body and the other a "carnal" life to the neglect of the spirit.

Angelism views the human person as a spirit merely housed or even imprisoned in the body. Since the "real person" is something purely spiritual, angelism not only considers the body external to the person, it tends to view the body as an obstacle to spiritual fulfillment. The angelistic moral code is rigorism; it tends towards prudishness and a fearful repression of bodily feelings and desires. Many Christians throughout history have fallen prey to this distortion. Even today people make the calamitous mistake of considering this "holiness."

christopherwest.com/page.asp?ContentID=43


#2

[quote="Inthemountains, post:1, topic:239084"]
What is with all of the abstinence threads lately? It seems there are a lot of people advocating extended abstinence as being good for a marriage. Those of us who say that sex is good and important in marriage are accused of not having self control or placing undue importance on it.

Here are positions that I have stated or have agreed with that have been attacked:

-More sex might actually be good for your marriage.

-You should go out of your way, even sacrifice, to make sure you and your spouse are having physical intimacy.

-Sex is a distinguishing physical mark of married love which separates it from other types of love. (Notice I said "distinguishing", not that sex is the only or most important mark of marital love).43

[/quote]

their POV is just as valid as yours, it is a subjective thing, to be discerned by the couple together in light of their own individual circumstances at the time, in the guidance of the Church as mother. Why anyone feels compelled to either criticize what another couple has decided in that context is a mystery. So is the reason they feel compelled to share here, but that is another topic.

Bottom line, yes there are times, it is just a matter of nature and the way things are on the planet earth, when individuals and couples simply cannot have sex. If a married couple does not realize going in that it might come up in the future they are ill-prepared for the demands of marriage. Remember better or worse, in sickness and in health? those vows are there for a reason.


#3

[quote="puzzleannie, post:2, topic:239084"]
their POV is just as valid as yours, it is a subjective thing,.

[/quote]

I'm not sure this is a completely subjective matter. Wouldn't that be like saying that whether or not to receive the Eucharist is a subjective matter? Of course some people receive daily and others less frequently. Same with sex. It is important. It matters. We might not always feel like it, but our marital relationships benefit.


#4

I know I posted about extended abstinence recently, and I didn’t realize there were other threads on this topic. I’m sorry if I offended, as that wasn’t my intention. My thoughts are as follows:

  • If you can do NFP well, and it strengthens your marriage, then AWESOME! :thumbsup: That really is a wonderful blessing.

But for some of us, NFP can actually cause strain in marriage, as it has in mine. I don’t know about others practicing extended abstinence, ( I need to search these boards to find these threads.) but for us the decision was more out of practicality and because NFP was putting a strain on our marriage and on my own spiritual well-being. Look at previous posts I’ve made in these forums. You will see that this is not a saintly decision,

I’m sorry if others have given you a hard time about using NFP, as this is a church-sanctioned way to space children and to use in marriage. At the same time extended abstinence is also an option within the Catholic Church, and some couples may find this works well for them too.


#5

It might make more sense to you if you substitute the word “abstinence” with “cowbell”. You can always use more cowbell.

What youse guys marriage needs is more cowbell.

Sounds to me like youse guys are fighting because ya don’t have enough cowbell

If NFP isn’t working you can always try more cowbell

Cowbell makes the heart grow fonder.

The secular world doesn’t appreciate the importance of cowbell in a marriage


#6

[quote="Inthemountains, post:1, topic:239084"]
What is with all of the abstinence threads lately? It seems there are a lot of people advocating extended abstinence as being good for a marriage. Those of us who say that sex is good and important in marriage are accused of not having self control or placing undue importance on it.

Here are positions that I have stated or have agreed with that have been attacked:

-More sex might actually be good for your marriage.

-You should go out of your way, even sacrifice, to make sure you and your spouse are having physical intimacy.

-Sex is a distinguishing physical mark of married love which separates it from other types of love. (Notice I said "distinguishing", not that sex is the only or most important mark of marital love).

-Extended abstinence while practicing NFP might put negative stress on a marriage.

There is more, but I think this is a good start. When people defend prolonged abstinence it seems to me to be with a holier-than-thou type attitude- "I can control my appetities, why can't you?"

This seems to me to "angelism". Here is a passage from Christopher West that sums up my thinking:

The human body is not "crude matter" housing our true "luminous" selves! This is the heresy of "dualism" which introduces a false split in the human being between body and soul. In the authentic Christian view of things, the human being is an incarnate spirit or a spiritualized body.

As the Catechism says, "The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body: that is, it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body." Furthermore, "spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature" (CCC, n. 365).

John Paul II insisted that the "body can never be reduced to mere matter: it is a spiritualized body, just as man’s spirit is so closely united to the body that he can be described as an embodied spirit" (Letter to Families, 19).

It is only because of original sin that we experience a rupture within us between the physical and the spiritual. Lacking the reintegration of spirit and flesh to which we are called in Christ, we inevitably lean towards one side of the divide or the other, towards "angelism" or "animalism." One promotes a "spiritual" life at the expense of the body and the other a "carnal" life to the neglect of the spirit.

Angelism views the human person as a spirit merely housed or even imprisoned in the body. Since the "real person" is something purely spiritual, angelism not only considers the body external to the person, it tends to view the body as an obstacle to spiritual fulfillment. The angelistic moral code is rigorism; it tends towards prudishness and a fearful repression of bodily feelings and desires. Many Christians throughout history have fallen prey to this distortion. Even today people make the calamitous mistake of considering this "holiness."

christopherwest.com/page.asp?ContentID=43

[/quote]

I think a lot of the people that espouse the "extended marital abstinence isn't that big of a deal" viewpoint are either
1. Trying to be contrary just to get a rise out of sincere posters.
2. Not having very good sex.
3. Have a serious marital problem that makes them not desire to have sex with their spouse.
4. Are single.

I have the viewpoint that extended abstinence is bad for marriage. Sexual intimacy/bed sharing is the one thing that distinguishes a marriage from, say, a dating relationship or even a friendship or roommate arrangement. When spouses withhold this very important act from one another, it can only end in hurt feelings, anger, frustration and will act as a wedge between the couple - resulting in their relationship becoming, at best, a "friendship" and at worst extremely adversarial. Show me a couple who doesn't have regular sex, and I will show you a weak marriage.

**Edited to add - I don't think 4-7 days of abstention per month qualifies as "extended abstinence." I'm talking about people who have sex like, once a month or even less often.


#7

I’ve experienced extended periods of abstinence and periods of very frequent sex in my marriage. Our marriage is better in every way when we are having more sex. It strengthens us, and has proven to be both unitive and procreative. Far, FAR more unitive than simply sitting in the same room watching TV or going out to dinner or even talking to eachother about our hopes and dreams and plans and scemes and faith. Those are all well and good, but even routine, mechanical sex is better than any of them.


#8
  1. Never really placed that much importance on sex to begin with. :cool:

#9

There are many things that married couples can do to be close and unified that do not require sex. My wife and I both enjoyed the loving nature of sex. The closeness and tenderness that it spawned. We also love dearly our two children God graced us with. We have mutually come to the decision to abstain from sexual relations as we do not trust NFP or in our ability to practice it responsibly. We do not take pride in this decision or look down upon or envy those who enjoy a healthy sex life. It was a decision that we weighed the pro's and con's of and are content with. I don't see how anyone could make this situation out to be holier than thou. It shouldn't matter either way. Both ways are upholding Gods wishes and that's what matters.


#10

Alright, I've now seen the extended abstinence threads, and I didn't notice a holier-than-thou attitude among those saying they practice EA. Maybe I'm not looking at the same threads. :shrug:

I think it's just as judgmental to say that a couple practicing EA must have a bad marriage or not enjoy sex as it is to say that a couple practicing NFP is selfish and not godly. EA has strengthened our marriage because NFP was a point of argument and contention. My husband and I finally had a conversation that we either needed to use condoms or practice abstinence. We chose abstinence because condoms are against Catholic teaching, and never really an option.

The Church, in her wisdom, has said that BOTH NFP or EA are ways to live out your marriage, that a couple is blessed by practicing NFP or by practicing abstinence. This anti-EA attitude seems completely foreign to older forms of Catholic tradition.

Personally, I came here seeking support for our decision to practice EA because it is so contrary to the ways of the world and so misunderstood, apparently even misunderstood among Catholics.

I can't understand how NFP can strengthen marriage, because I haven't seen that personally. I believe it must, because the Church and various Catholic families have said it does. I still don't understand it. I suppose many can't understand how EA can strengthen marriage, but it does. The Church says it does, and I can tell you it has strengthened my marriage.


#11

I feel like some day we’re going to end up in a situation very similar to yours.

I agree it shouldn’t matter either way. Though we do enjoy the closeness, neither my husband or I have particularly strong sex drives. We never have. I’ve never envied those who had more sex than us and I’ve never really felt “superior” to those who prefer to have sex more often…but to be honest I *have *felt relief knowing that if one of us were to become impotent or I develop a complication that would make pregnancy very dangerous we’d probably be okay.

I don’t advocate extended abstinence (especially when it’s not necessary) because every couple is different. All I can do is speak for myself. “Extended abstinence” just happens for us. All of a sudden one of us looks at the chart and notices we haven’t had sex in 2 months. It doesn’t mean we never show affection for each other. I just think, as a couple, we don’t respond to each other physically as much as we do mentally. I really *really *enjoy pillow talk regardless of whether there is sex involved or not. I also really enjoy long car rides. I enjoy any opportunity to talk nonstop for hours.

DH has yet to complain about anything. He’s usually the one who initiates sex anyway.


#12

[quote="Brav3N3wWorld, post:10, topic:239084"]

The Church, in her wisdom, has said that BOTH NFP or EA are ways to live out your marriage.

[/quote]

Would you please share references on extended abstinence? The idea that this would actually be good for a marriage is perplexing to me. It seems like if it is necessary due to physical inability, illness, etc., that it should be accepted as a cross and you live it out as part of your marriage vows. But if it is at all possible to maintain your physical intimacy, I would think that would be the better and advisable option. That being said, I'm willing to be enlightened if you would kindly provide references.

It seems like extended abstinence should be reserved for extreme situations.


#13

[quote="Inthemountains, post:12, topic:239084"]
Would you please share references on extended abstinence? The idea that this would actually be good for a marriage is perplexing to me. It seems like if it is necessary due to physical inability, illness, etc., that it should be accepted as a cross and you live it out as part of your marriage vows. But if it is at all possible to maintain your physical intimacy, I would think that would be the better and advisable option. That being said, I'm willing to be enlightened if you would kindly provide references.

It seems like extended abstinence should be reserved for extreme situations.

[/quote]

For those couples who respond really well to sex, sure it seems obvious that it should be for extreme circumstances.

For people who respond really well to things other than sex, it seems just as obvious that EA is very possible option in a marriage.

It all depends on you, the individual couple, and how you choose to live you marriage.

I personally am wondering what your opinion is regarding a marriage like mine where the couple is happy and the sex is fine but it was never vital. We're still practically giggling newlyweds. There is no real reason other that "not being wired for it" that we should be THIS okay with having long dry spells.


#14

[quote="Kit15, post:13, topic:239084"]

I personally am wondering what your opinion is regarding a marriage like mine where the couple is happy and the sex is fine but it was never vital. We're still practically giggling newlyweds. There is no real reason other that "not being wired for it" that we should be THIS okay with having long dry spells.

[/quote]

I'm not entirely sure what my opinion is. What comes to mind is the Eucharist. As a Catholic, there are actually other ways I feel much closer to Jesus... prayer and reading the bible, in particular. Sometimes I wonder why I don't have a wonderful, emotional reaction to receiving the Eucharist. It is Jesus after all! Even though I don't feel it, I accept by faith that I am receiving graces from it. Perhaps that is how sex is for some couples. Maybe it doesn't move mountains, but you are receiving graces from it and you should make the effort to prioritize it in your marriage.


#15

But sex is not a Sacrament. Marriage is the Sacrament...and sex is not the only way you can receive graces in a marriage. It's not the only way a man and a woman show love for each other.


#16

I don’t see a problem if both husband and wife willingly agree. But there are several threads where the wife or husband (usually the wife) wants abstinence and the other is pressured to go along with it. That seems like it would cause major problems in the marriage and is unfair to the person forced to give up sex.

I personally would not agree to EA. Sex is the one positive thing in my marriage.


#17

[quote="Kit15, post:15, topic:239084"]
But sex is not a Sacrament. Marriage is the Sacrament...and sex is not the only way you can receive graces in a marriage.

[/quote]

But sex is the physical sign of marriage. It is a requirement of marriage (except in a Josephite (sp?) marriage). I agree that you can receive graces in other ways in a marriage. My analogy is imperfect, but I think generally it holds. I feel close to Jesus even without the Eucharist. Does that mean it isn't important in my relationship with Him?

I would still like references showing that extended abstinence is taught as being spiritually beneficial in a marriage. (I am not talking about situations where intimacy is not physically possible).


#18

Sorry, I’m not buying into the idea that anyone’s husband is “fine” with going two+ months without sex. I can understand a postpartum, exhausted mom not initiating sex for two months, but not a healthy man under the age of 70. Men are not typically biologically wired for sex to be “meh.” My husband would be pacing like a caged lion if I denied him for two straight months - and he is a VERY kind and understanding guy!


#19

When it comes down to taking a chance and having another child with CF or abstaining or falling into Mortal Sin by having sex outside of a procreative union, you can bet I’m " Just Fine" with long term abstinence. Believe me!


#20

Whelp…I can’t deny or satisfy him if he doesn’t ask. I can’t “make it better” if he doesn’t offer a suggestion. I can’t figure out “what’s wrong” if he’s always in a good mood. :shrug:

Men are not typically biologically wired for sex to be “meh.”

Bingo! My husband is very much aware he’s not “typical”. Good thing his wife isn’t so normal either or else we’d really have a problem on our hands.


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