Duties of Marriage?

The following statement was made recently in a thread and it seems to me that the viewpoint may be a skewed version of Catholic teaching. Am I wrong? Is this statement totally accurate?

“Abstaining has to be a mutual decision. If you insist on abstaining, but he does not and it leads him to masturbate then it is a problem for both of you. When we marry we give our spouse exclusive right to our bodies. If they justly ask for the marital embrace and we refuse for unjust reasons then we bear some culpability for any resulting sin. Even if he were not to commit a sin if you were to refuse, it is still problematic to refuse the marital embrace as it is one of the rights and duties of marriage. This can get tricky as far as what is “just” vs “unjust”, but you cannot chose perpetual continence unilaterally.”

Is there an obligation to ones spouse regarding marital relations? Yes. Can there be sin for refusing marital relations (even if the other Person does not actually fall into sexual sin)? Yes.

Can there be just reasons where that can be postponed etc. Yes. But normally yes it is to be a mutual decision.

See St. Paul’s Letter

1 Cor. 7: 1-6

In general yes. The marital debt is serious and obligatory.

However it is not absolute.

I suggest the document Vademecum for Confessors which addresses the marital embrace in the context of a contracepting spouse. And of course in the case of separation due to abuse, infidelity, and similar church law encourages forgiveness and resumption of conjugal living but allows for separation while the bond remains.

Suppose a spouse persistently and obstinately refuses the marital embrace and I mean for a really long time, like well over a year. However, suppose the refusal is related to childhood sexual wounds and they refuse to deal with them in anyway. I mean, no counseling, no talking to pastor, nothing. What is the moral obligation of the refused spouse in this case?

To be always faithful to their spouse and loving them and help them as they can as their spouse (they might seek out good sound Catholic counselors like what is recommended by Catholic Answers: catholictherapists.com/)

There are of course also limits to the various obligations --and even some exceptions (like the person is drunk or insane or has committed adultery etc)

And there can be mutually agreed upon postponements (aside from a near occasion of mortal sin or say use of NFP without the needed reasons). One spouse may feel rather tired…

Also if one say looks at the older works one finds too it noted that while it is a grave obligation it can admit of parvity of matter (meaning there can be venial sin too involved…perhaps an example could be if it is briefly postponed and no near occasion for mortal sin is present…but discuss this with ones confessor perhaps…)

Interestingly one such author (Prummer OP) notes -it is when the person asks “reasonably and seriously”…

And he notes that the request is not considered “serious” if made in the form of a desire rather than a definite will…

see 1 Cor 7:3 for the Scripture

One may even mutually agree to abstain say for Prayer (as per St. Paul).


Generally, you’re responsible for your spouse’s sexual fulfillment. Denying sexual intimacy indefinitely and without good reason is wrong.

But that doesn’t mean that the spouses are sex slaves to one another. It’s perfectly reasonable for one to say, “I’m not really feeling it tonight, honey.” Now if they said, “I’m not really feeling it tonight, and I won’t be for the next six months.” then that’s a problem.

If such is* mutually* agreed upon…

It is also perfectly reasonable for the spouse to set aside such without saying anything to their spouse and focus on their self gift to them that they gave when they married…etc Such is a path of virtue even.

I’m having a hard time imagining a spouse having sex knowing that their spouse is disinterested. Unless you’re viewing your spouse entirely as a sex object for your pleasure, that seems like it would kill the mood pretty quickly.

Sure a spouse can do this, but I think Catholics go down a slippery slope when we talk about the whole “mutual agreement” thing in this manner. A loving spouse should be able to accept that their spouse may not always be “in the mood” and frankly, if they can’t (especially for a night…not months on end), then they are likely abusive.

Happens all the time I would think in marriages. Some spouses have lower desire in this area. Just part of life and reality.

We are discussing the obligation. And I would add to the path to greater perfection as well.

No that would be missing the point and not what is being discussed.

"Mutual consent’ sounds as though one spouse has a veto power over the other’s “no.” I’m sure there are many cases in which one spouse says “Eh, I’m not particularly in the mood, but sure.” That’s different than one spouse saying “I’m not in the mood tonight” and the other saying, “I don’t care, I insist.” That’s abusive.

I don’t see how. It seems to me that a partner who insists on sex they know the other doesn’t want is disregarding their spouse’s needs and wants and viewing them entirely as a means to their own pleasure.


AND a loving spouse should be set aside their “lack of mood” for the other…

and perhaps even without letting on they were not “in the mood”.

I agree, as long as the demands of the one in the mood aren’t unreasonable, i.e they want to have sex multiple times a day every day.

But if the one spouse DOES say, “I’m really not in the mood tonight, so it’s a no.” then the other spouse has to respect that.

Yeah, this can be done sometimes, but you hear stories of couples where (often the man) wants the frequency to be every day or even multiple times a day. This can be an unreasonable expectation.

We are discussing the obligation…and too I added the virtue.

They have married each other and now are to live that marriage - the right…or to put it differently the gift has already been given…when they married. They are just living it out.

I have set out various aspects in the posts above.

Yes there can be “unreasonable” requests…that are well unreasonable.

See my first posts.

So to be clear, do you think the obligation of marriage implies an obligation to engage in sex anytime the other spouse demands it, absent a serious medical reason not to?

Like, if a husband expected his wife to have sex with him 10 times a day, is she obligated to do so out of a spirit of love and charity? Or is the onus on him to rein in his sexual appetites to a reasonable level, out of love and charity?

Yes there can be “unreasonable” requests…that are well unreasonable.

See my first posts.

As to the second part - it is not about so much of a “has to” accept that -for such lack of mood - and such does not remove the obligation of the spouse here necessarily. Though of course their spouse can accept this of course. But as I noted above…some persons simply have rather lower desires in this area and such “not being in the mood” can be rather common. And as I noted it can be good and of virtue to overcome oneself for the other (this goes both ways of course.)

Yes of course we are talking about a marriage here - they are to respect each others desires and if one is rather tired or something - and be understanding.

Though of course there can be still some reasons that the spouse* should * continue their seeking of the marital act.

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