How to know if sex is unitive?

How are we to determine if it’s unitive?

Also, if spouses are having sex, how is one to know that the other isn’t simply lusting? Can sex be unitive and lusting?

If it is a truly marital act (non-contraceptive, mutually agreeable, loving) then it is unitive. Even married folks can/will struggle with the vice of lust on occasion, to varying degrees. The presence of a lustful motive does not negate the unitive aspect of the marital act. Interior holiness can take a lifetime of struggle, but the marital act is still a holy one.

Germaine Grisez has written a wonderful work of theology called “The Way of Our Lord Jesus” and he has sections specifically devoted to married couples, including explaining what exactly qualifies as a marital act and how to keep the marriage bed holy for real-life married couples seeking to be pleasing to the Lord while enjoying the joys of marriage. I found his work to be very informative and reassuring. You can read it online for free.

I would think married couples should lust after each other?:confused:

all without ABC of course.:thumbsup:

Mommamaree said it well. :thumbsup:

We hope a married couple is sexually attracted to each other. But not lusting in the sinful sense. :wink:

As for whether one or the other is simply lusting, that’s more an interior sin like selfishness, greed, pride, etc., so it’s not really up to one spouse to judge whether the other is committing the sin of lust or not. There may or may not be outward signs, but nothing definitive. Except for a few gifted saints, we cannot read each other’s hearts or minds.

LOL. No. :slight_smile:

Lusting is not the same thing as sexual attraction. Sexual attraction and sexual desire is very good and a vital component of a healthy sexual relationship between spouses. Lusting is the desire to use someone else for one’s own pleasure, whether or not that person consents. It is still quite possible to struggle with lust, even as we experience legitimate and holy sexual attraction and desire for our spouses. So, being self-aware of our thoughts and intentions can help us to embrace healthy desire and to reject lustful thoughts or intentions.

Also, working with one’s spouse to help each other achieve fulfillment in the marital embrace is a good thing, too. I mention that only in case someone reading this thread might worry that any intention to enjoy sex and achieve climax is lustful. It is not, but sometimes, scrupulous folks can get that mixed up. I know I certainly had such questions when I converted to Catholicism.

I think it’s intent. Simply put, lust is desiring pleasure, unitive is desiring closeness. Both occur, but what’s foremost. I tend to co-equate the unitive nature of sex with being more attentive to my wife than to myself, but that’s probably an oversimplification.

I have heard and/or read that-or similar-ideas a number of times but still can’t wrap my head around it. Perhaps you could define what you mean by “loving”? That might help me get there.

I know that unitive is something more than or different than “feelings,” but I still have a very hard time thinking that every “truly marital act” is unitive. I am especially thinking of those situations where one or both of the couple engage in the act when they do not want to do so but go ahead because the timing may be critical for potential conception.

In most marriages the couple have different sex drives. And even among couples who are usually in sync there are going to be real life things that cause a lowering of desire on occasion such as illness or exhaustion or even an ongoing health problem. So, one of the couple will desire sex and the other may not. Yet the one who doesn’t feel desire at the moment can decide to have sex to allow their spouse physical and mental release. It’s a loving and giving act, don’t you think?

Same thing with a couple having sex in order to conceive even though they aren’t really in the mood. In that case, the couple are lovingly giving themselves to each other in hopes of making a new life.

Spouses lovingly giving themselves to each other is unitive.

To the highlighted blue section, that situation is still unitive. There are many times where one or both spouses may not be really motivated personally to engage in the marital act, but for the good of their marriage and for love of their spouses (and possibly for the love of the child that they might conceive), they decide to do so anyway. It is not necessary to be swept up in passion during lovemaking in order for it to be unitive.

To your first question, by “loving”, I simply meant engaging in sexual intercourse in such a way where the husband prepares his wife for penetration, a wife helps her husband to achieve readiness, both spouses offering whatever foreplay or affection makes the other feel safe and comfortable and loved, not doing anything that makes the other feel cheap or demeaned or used or hurt. What qualifies as “loving” for one couple might not be appealing to other couples (like say a couple that doesn’t really like kissing all that much), so it would be impossible to create a list or mental picture of objectively loving interactions. Each couple must find that for themselves.

And you are right: unitive doesn’t really have to do with feelings. Feelings come and go, but unitive is a quality of the act itself. If the husband and wife are freely giving themselves to each other, are not contracepting, are treating each other with consideration for the needs and vulnerabilities of their bodies, then the act is unitive.

Anyway, I am no expert. I just have really enjoyed my reading about the teachings of the Catholic Church since I began my conversion. It is a truly human and beautiful way of approaching sexual relations. I learned a lot at the Catholic Education Resource Center online. It has pages and pages of great articles about this topic.

God bless.

Dear one in my opinion those are the MOST unitive kinds of sexual acts, although our culture would have us see them as meaningless and shallow because the culture has things turned upside-down.

How more unified for a person to put aside their own feelings, to think “I am not in the mood right now, but out of love for my spouse and wanting to invite God to bring new life into the world I will engage in this loving union with my spouse anyway.” This is a most lovely and powerfully beautiful thing to do! This is the putting aside of self, this is the giving of self and the openness to God’s plan and His will! Engaging in acts like this are what really unify a couple. I can tell you with all honesty it is in giving of ourselves in love that we really bind ourselves to one another and to God and that is true Unity. God bless.

Good thoughts that are well expressed. I think that even though I know better, I keep falling into the idea that unitive = feels like it is unitive right at that moment for both when that clearly is not the meaning of unitive in this context.

Scrupulosity is my middle name. LOL! But seriously thanks. I’ve been single my whole life and have only had sex with 1 girl who was my girlfriend when I was 18 and haven’t had sex since so for a 39 year old, I am not that great when it comes to subjects like this. Guess this part of life wasn’t meant for me.:o

No. Lust is the *inordinate *craving for, or indulgence of, carnal pleasure. Normal desire for sexual pleasure with your spouse is not lust.

The conjugal sex is really unitive when the three dimensions of the unity are. These dimensions are linked to the human nature, what means the constitutive elements of the human beings: body, soul and heart with all corollaries. The physical and carnal union, per se, the physical joys of the union of bodies, the sensible and spiritual joys of the union of bodies, the affective joys of the union of bodies are signs of this unitive aspect. All should be mutual, reciprocal, bilateral, equal and equitable. Each one should be an active agent and a passive agent. *The donation and the reception of persons (body, soul and heart) for the conjugal union, not for the conjugal fusion (merger).
The sexual cooperation, in the human manner, is very essential: work together (to do, to give, to take, to donate, to offer, to receive, to be active, to be passive, to act, to react, to sacrifice, to please, to satisfy, to be sensual, to be erotic, to prepare, to kiss, to touch, to massage, to lick, to suck, to caresse, to stimulate, to open, to be open, to enter, to penetrate, to be penetrated, to say yes, to move, to talk, to discuss, to see, to watch, to stare, to hear, to listen, to feel, to like, to love, to honor, to respect, to ask, to question, to answer, to respond, to understand, to orgasm, to climax, to rest, to be present, to be romantic, to be lovable, to be tender…etc.

The term “unitive” refers to the joining of a man and a woman in natural intercourse. So, for example, homosexual acts cannot be unitive, even if there is love between two individuals and some type of physical/sexual union. Therefore, not all types of sexual joining are unitive.

A married couple using contraception have the unitive meaning, but not the procreative meaning; contraception thwarts the procreative meaning. An unmarried couple engaging in natural intercourse open to life have the unitive and procreative meanings, but not the marital meaning.

Lust is disordered desire for, or inordinate enjoyment of, sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes. A sexual act can be unitive and still include the sin of lust.

Here is a list of quotes from Church teaching [PDF file] that may help clarify the unitive and procreative meanings.

*Each member of couple has to respect the contractual obligations of means in favor of the other. *The husband donates / offers his body to his wife and the wife receives the body of her husband; the wife donates / offers her body to her husband and the husband receives the body of his wife. *There are donation and reception coming from the wife and donation and reception coming from the husband.
The modus operandi of the marital act has to respect the natural moral order invented by God (the natural laws of the human nature). This conjugal sexual union is the union of female sexuality with the male sexuality, or vice versa, has to be done in the sexual alterity and the sexual complementarity, in the body, in the soul and in the heart. The conjugal sexual union is, in the same time, carnal (the human body), sensible / spiritual (the human soul) and affective (the human heart). The unity has to be material coming from the body and also has to be immaterial because coming from the soul and the heart: each human being is composed of immaterial elements (soul and heart and co) and of one material element (body and co). The metaphysics of the human nature, the epistemology of humanities, the epistemology of sexology, the epistemology of medecine, the epistemology of biology, the epistemology of psychology, the epistemology of spirituality, the teleology of the body, the Noble and True Personalism, the Natural Goodness, the Catholic Charity, the good mix between the materiality and the immateriality are very important. *The Song of Songs has to be read. Each member of couple has to please to the other and has to satisfy the other in respecting the natural moral order of the marital act. *

The marital act is a donation and a gift coming from God, is a conjugal prayer and a conjugal liturgy, is a conjugal donation and a conjugal gift for each one, but also a right, an obligation and a duty. Each member of couple has to try to be the best conjugal lover (the soul-mate, the love, the best friend, the Sweetheart, the Beloved, the Helper… and co) for the other, in respecting the natural moral order of the marital act. Each member of couple has to try to do what the other expects:** the rights of the other to give and to receive. ** Unity of body, of soul and of heart has to be researched.

Ron can you reference a Magisterial source for this?
(ie homosexual acts cannot be unitive?)

I don’t think it can be easily disputed that gays in long term and stable relationships do appear to have a range of physical expressions of love (despite being disordered) which do seem to produce similar consequences to unitive acts of heterosexuals (who might practice contraception or be sterile).

Of course “homosexual acts” and homosexual coitus" are not exactly the same thing - so the latter (coupled with invincible ignorance over its disordered nature) may not be a “homosexual act” - so this physical expression could possibly be unitive in that case.

An unmarried couple engaging in natural intercourse open to life have the unitive and procreative meanings, but not the marital meaning.

Theologically I don’t think we talk about “marital meaning” alongside procreative and unitive meanings do we? We do talk about a “conjugal act” - which is sometimes just a euphemism for heterosexual sex. Sometimes it is a euphemism for sex between the married. Sometimes it is not clear which of the two is meant.

A sexual act can be unitive and still include the sin of lust.

That is an excellent observation though counter intuitive for most of us who would like to simplify unitive down to an act of pure self-giving or “bonding.”

I think you’re overthinking this.

The husband **gives **his own masculinity to his wife, the wife receives the masculinity of her husband, the wife gives her own femininity to her husband and the husband receives the femininity of his wife. Femininity is the female body, the female soul and the female heart; Masculinity is the male body, the male soul and the male heart. In the context of the marital act, the husband has to assume his sexed and sexual manhood and the wife has to assume her sexed and sexual womanhood. There is a donation of sexed bodies for making one flesh (body, soul and heart), in the human manner with the sexual cooperation. Each one has to work in respecting its own sexed nature. Each spouse has to be an active lover and a passive lover in favor of the other. The conjugal sexual rights and the conjugal sexual privileges on the body of the other (rights to the body, rights on the body, rights of the body) are very important for each one and for the couple. **The donation of bodies is not a loan of bodies, or a borrow of bodies. The contractual donation of bodies is a very deep thing. The wife has to make her job on the body of her husband and the husband has to make his job on the body of his wife.

The marital act is not a simple coitus. It is a divine invention wanted by God for the couple. *The Holy Erotism of the marital act is a right, a duty and an obligation. *
There are three moments with some different regimes of morality for each moment: the union of two types of sexuality with different types of mechanisms (sexed complementarity and sexed alterity).

*The husband has to to try to understand the sexuality of his wife, and the wife has to try to understand the sexuality of her husband: an obligation of means. *The sexed and sexual alterity and the sexed and sexual complementarity are essential. **Each spouse has to give its own body and its own sexed and sexual intimacy and each spouse has to receive them: donation and reception for reaching the true unity. **

All acts of sexual tenderness have to be mutual, reciprocal, bilateral, equal and equitable.

The wife has to try make happy her husband in the marital act, in the respect of the natural moral order of the dual humanity. She has to make happy her husband, an obligation of means, in respecting the natural moral law. About the conjugal act, she has to understand him, she has to help him, she has to please him, she has to satisfy him, she has to like him, she has to love him, she has to honor him, she has to act as a female lover, a female love, a female soul-mate, a best friend and a girl-friend in his favor, in the respect of the natural moral order of the dual humanity.

About the conjugal act, he has to understand her, he has to help her, he has to please her, he has to satisfy her, he has to like her, he has to love her, he has to honor her, he has to act as a lover, a love, a soul-mate, a best friend and a boy-friend in her favor, in the respect of the natural moral order of the dual humanity. The husband has to try to make happy his wife in the marital act, in the respect of the natural moral order of the dual humanity. He has to make happy his wife, an obligation of means, in respecting the natural moral law.

About the marital act, there are a mutual, reciprocal, bilateral, reasonable, equal and equitable donation of bodies, and a mutual, reciprocal, bilateral, reasonable, equal and equitable reception of bodies. **The conjugal submission about the sexual union is mutual, reciprocal, bilateral, reasonable, equal and equitable: not more and not less, that is the equality and equity between husband and wife concerning the right to the body, the right on the body, the right of the body, the conjugal sexual debt, the conjugal sexual obligation and the conjugal sexual duty. **In the couple, **the husband is not the Head of the conjugal sexuality. The doctrinal refusal and the practical refusal of the mutual, reciprocal, bilateral, equal, equitable and reciprocal submission about the union of bodies are morally wrong. **

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