Permitted Marital Activities when Abstaining during Fertile Periods

Hello everyone, sensitive topic regarding licit marital “activities” during periods of abstinence during fertile periods.

Please note that this question is in the context of a valid marriage, and the assumption is that the husband and wife have no intention of reaching “completion” outside of natural intercourse.

This is a “how far is too far” from an objective moral standpoint.

Obviously hugging, playing board games, going for walks, or other activities that aren’t sensual in nature are permitted. My question pertains to unitive acts that are sensual in nature, but aren’t intended to immediately result in a “completed” marital act.

Obviously there is a second question of leading one another to a near occasion of sin, but please assume, for the sake of this conversation, that the spouses have adequate control to where such activities would not lend themselves to other, unrelated sexual sins.

I would also ask that replies be rooted in Church teaching, moral theology, etc., and not from personal opinion.

Another way to ask the question is: is there a line at which point foreplay ceases to be foreplay? For example, can a man and woman enjoy the heightened passion that can occur during fertile periods and use it as a means of enhancing foreplay over the course of one or more days in anticipation of the time when they are able to consummate the act ? If not days, what about hours (for example, starting in the morning before work, and then consummating that night)?

What’s the line? And why?

Your input is appreciated!

There was a recent thread on this if you use the search function.

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And if I recall the answers were all over the map from “almost anything goes as long as the man doesn’t complete” to “even the smallest chance the man might spill his seed outside is risking mortal sin and thus passionate kissing between spouses is forbidden outside of unitive relations”. These threads tend to cause more frustration and confusion than anything.

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:pensive: I’ve been searching for hours.

I would say that my primary questions relate to manual stimulation as well as brief intercourse without nearing completion.

Whether these acts are prudent in specific situations given risks of accidental completion or a risk of temptation for illicit sexual sins are outside the scope of this topic.

Brief intercourse without nearing completion is definitely illicit. That’s pretty black and white. Genital stimulation is not allowed outside of the marital act. That’s right in the Catechism.


Abstinence is abstinence. It takes self control - discipline - to be a disciple of Christ. That means abstinence. You are completely, 100% safe if you employ abstinence.


Never mind. Posted in error.

Sources please?

So what’s the line? Does anything that intentionally causes arousal that doesn’t lead to a completed sexual act constitute sin? So making out? What’s the line and why? What are your sources?

Maybe he wants to be part of the discussion and not just read others he doesn’t even know argue about it…

Again, the question of “too far to stop” is literally a relative one. If both spouses have adequate self control and know what will lead themselves and each other to a near occasion of sin (pornography, impure thoughts, etc.) and what won’t, assume that they’re taking those things into account.

My question pertains more with foreplay over the course of days.

It can take a LONG time, in certain circumstances, for a woman to become sexually interested and aroused to the point of enjoying intercourse. When a family is large and has young children, often spouses don’t have hours of uninterrupted time to “work up” to arousal. However, many advocate for the anticipation offered by abstaining in the moment that can be augmented by other unitive acts that don’t end in sexual consummation.

Does that make sense?

I’m really interested in teachings of moral theologians, Church Fathers, etc.

Or even a link to said discussion!

What if climax is not attainable? Is intercourse then forbidden?

No reply needed from me.

Perhaps it seems like I’m splitting hairs, but at what point is it foreplay and at what point are they completely separate and unrelated sexual acts?

Really?? You’re going to take that chance when you’re trying to avoid pregnancy???

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Not the point of the discussion, but since you’ve asked, trying to avoid can be a “scale” or a continuum for couples. There are days that have higher and lower probability, etc.

Have a blessed day.

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If you want to find where the line is several times in your marriage, we cant wait to hear what you name the child!

There is an article, posted on the USCCB website, seems to state that in certain circumstances AR isn’t impermissible and that sensual touching doesn’t qualify as masturbation as such in this context.

Unless I’m reading it wrong? Or if the author is a heretic?

I can’t post a link, but it can easily be found by google. It’s the International Review of Natural Family Planning 5th Anniversary Edition Volume V Number 4, Winter 1981. Article is by John F. Harvey.

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