Question about sex within a marriage


#1

I'm having a bit of a tough problem and I'm wondering if anyone can offer me some guidance or point me in the direction of some good literature to help me out here...

My husband and I have been married for almost 4 years now, with two wonderful children. We're practicing NFP and are right now avoiding pregnancy. My husband really doesn't want baby #3 at this time, and he's been using condoms during the times when I'm at my most fertile. I've told him that I don't want to use them, and that I would rather abstain, but that I'm not going to withhold sex from him. It's my understanding that for me, this is morally acceptable as long as I've clearly told him that it's not my desire to contracept.

He's been asking me why, just after or just before sex, it's acceptable for him to manually stimulate me to orgasm, but it's not ok for me to to the same for him. I understand that morally, a man should only orgasm inside his wife's vagina. I don't know how to explain that to him in terms that he has been able to understand, however. When I tell him that I don't want to manually or orally stimulate him to orgasm outside of sex, he says that I'm being selfish; that I'm withholding something from him that he gives to me freely. He says that for him it's a very intimate thing, that it creates in him a desire to give himself fully to me in sex... and that women can orgasm multiple times during one sex act, so it's selfish of me to deny him the same thing. It's really causing a problem for us. We argue about it all the time, because I truly feel that if I were to do that (stimulate to orgasm outside of my vagina), it wouldn't be fully respectful of him or to me. I've said it to him in those words, but he still doesn't understand why I would withhold this from him but agree to have sex with him even when he's using a condom. Both acts are removing the potential to create new life, so why would I object to one, and "go along" with another? As I said, I haven't really been able to explain it fully to him so that he understands it. He feels like I should go along with this, because withholding it from him is continuing to lead to fights. I feel really torn about it. He feels that I'm just trying to be overly righteous and rub it in his face... he feels like he's not ready to accept that part of Church teaching on what is acceptable for sex within a marriage, and that I should not be "jumping ahead" of him and force things on him that he's not ready to accept. I don't want to push him away by always trying to do what's right; I'm no saint and I have plenty of other things that I could choose to improve on. He feels like I'm just unwilling to give in; like it's a childish tantrum of me having to get my way. He feels like he's always the one to give in on matters like this. There is some truth to that, because I'm usually the one who is doing research into faith questions and bringing them to the table. I'm the type of person that once I find out something is wrong, I have a really hard time engaging in that behavior, because I feel guilty about doing something wrong. If I know that something is wrong and truly agree with it, it's hardly fair for him to ask me to take a step back and engage in that activity, but I understand his frustration at always having to change for me just because I'm ready to. So if I am ready to accept this teaching and he's very much against it, is really in the best interest of our marriage for me to hold my ground and fight every night about it? We're both getting very little sleep because of fighting about this issue. He feels that as long as this act remains between him and me, and as long as we do it out of love for each other, that it's acceptable. I disagree, on the grounds that the act itself is a selfish act, and therefore can not be used in a loving or respectful way.

I welcome any constructive comments or advice that any of you has. Hopefully this hasn't been too graphic/way too much information for you; I'm just really trying to understand this and understand how to explain it.


#2

Catholic teaching does require ejaculate in the vagina for the sex act to be "properly ordered", but it doesn't specify how much. so maybe you can use your imagination and comprimise with him....


#3

*It is hard when a couple isn’t on the same page with this. I was there not too long ago with my husband. My husband and I earlier in our marriage, up until just a few years ago, did things that were out of accordance with Catholic teaching. What helped my husband (I was like you, the one to bring the change to the marriage bed) was to read Catholic books on the subject. Love & Responsibility by Pope JP2 was very helpful for us both, and Theology of the Body, plus I read a lot of information right off of here for him. I think that for your husband to accept these teachings, he might need an objective source to help him understand. Reading a book together will help you as you won’t appear like ‘‘the bad guy.’’ He is shooting the messenger, you didn’t make this stuff up. :smiley: So…hang in there, and pray a lot for your husband’s understanding. Between prayer and reading together, the frustration and disappointment will dissipate over time, and hopefully, you’ll both get on the same page. This should help him also with condom use, and why the Church teaches this to be sinful. (any artificial contraception is sinful)

I will pray hard for you both, too. :hug1:*


#4

Well, it's true that at the right time, the "happy ending" must occur inside the wife. Within reason, how you get there is your own business.

Why your husband is adamant about oral sex to completion is something to be explored. That's a motif frequently seen in porn. It's also a solitary act, if you really look at it. And, quite frankly, he's being totally selfish to create fights over not getting this. He should let it go.

About the condoms - that's playing with fire. Using them only when the woman is fertile is just begging for it to fail. And there's the point about it being illicit...


#5

[quote="PaulinVA, post:4, topic:181799"]
Well, it's true that at the right time, the "happy ending" must occur inside the wife. Within reason, how you get there is your own business.

Why your husband is adamant about oral sex to completion is something to be explored. That's a motif frequently seen in porn. It's also a solitary act, if you really look at it. And, quite frankly, he's being totally selfish to create fights over not getting this. He should let it go.

About the condoms - that's playing with fire. Using them only when the woman is fertile is just begging for it to fail. And there's the point about it being illicit...

[/quote]

It's not just a motif seen in porn, it's a motif common in our secular culture. ''Anything goes'' kind of thing...and I think that the OP's husband probably thinks that because he's married, ''anything'' should go...as long as he is doing it with his wife. This was a common feeling my husband had when we first went through this ''change'' (for the better) in our marriage. Just my two cents.


#6

About a year ago, we both read Christopher West’s book Good News About Sex and Marriage. We borrowed it from a friend, and we both really enjoyed reading it and discussing it. The problem is that now, we both have completely different understandings about what “the point” was. I think he missed the point, he thinks I missed it. He feels like it’s a good thing to work towards over a lifetime, but he’s not ready to commit to it now. As he puts it, he has other more important things that he needs to improve on, like spending time with our kids. (He used to be a real workaholic; he really had no interest in raising the kids until about 6 months ago, but that’s another topic entirely.) He feels like he’s got to put so much energy into other things that it’s unfair of me to expect him to accept this… I want to be supportive of the changes he’s making, and encourage him. At the moment, he feels I’m asking too much of him and not supporting him and accepting his weaknesses. So I’m torn, I want him to feel supported, but I don’t feel like I should be doing something morally wrong just to keep him happy for the moment.


#7

[quote="Eowyn86, post:6, topic:181799"]
About a year ago, we both read Christopher West's book Good News About Sex and Marriage. We borrowed it from a friend, and we both really enjoyed reading it and discussing it. The problem is that now, we both have completely different understandings about what "the point" was. I think he missed the point, he thinks I missed it. He feels like it's a good thing to work towards over a lifetime, but he's not ready to commit to it now. As he puts it, he has other more important things that he needs to improve on, like spending time with our kids. (He used to be a real workaholic; he really had no interest in raising the kids until about 6 months ago, but that's another topic entirely.) He feels like he's got to put so much energy into other things that it's unfair of me to expect him to accept this... I want to be supportive of the changes he's making, and encourage him. At the moment, he feels I'm asking too much of him and not supporting him and accepting his weaknesses. So I'm torn, I want him to feel supported, but I don't feel like I should be doing something morally wrong just to keep him happy for the moment.

[/quote]

How about setting up a meeting with a spiritual advisor or priest? I think I understand what he is saying here. I don't think that fighting with your husband is advisable...but, at the same time, you don't want to commit sin to keep him happy. I was there!! I know this feeling very well. There were times of strife between my husband and me, but then one day...bam....he got it. We follow NFP...and that helped things considerably. I am not sure to what degree a wife is to follow her husband, if he is doing something spritually sinful. (like how culpable are you, if you are trying to avoid argument, and you are not WILLING, etc) I would seek the counsel of a priest, if not with your husband, then on your own. I will keep you both in my prayers...If you ever want to pm me to chat, I will listen. :o


#8

I'd like to point out that you are not using NFP to avoid pregnancy. If you are engaging in intercourse using contraceptives (even though passive on your part) during the fertile time, you have abandoned NFP and are using what is called FAM (fertility awareness method). NFP is based on abstaining during the fertile period. Contraceptives can alter your fertile signs, so be aware of that.

Every NFP method that you can learn will tell you that if you engage in intercourse during your fertile phase you are engaging in *achieving *behavior.

Condoms are not very effective, and couple that with using them during your most fertile time-- that to me is a recipe for disaster for a couple intent on avoiding pregnancy.

Also, engaging in intercourse with a contracepting spouse should be done only under the guidance of your priest. This is not a carte blanche situation, but rather one that should be undertaken with spiritual direction.

What I'm not clear on is why you and he are unwilling to fully embrace NFP and abstain during the fertile period (which is the most effective way in which to avoid pregnancy).

Can you expound upon that?


#9

[quote="1ke, post:8, topic:181799"]
I'd like to point out that you are not using NFP to avoid pregnancy. If you are engaging in intercourse using contraceptives (even though passive on your part) during the fertile time, you have abandoned NFP and are using what is called FAM (fertility awareness method). NFP is based on abstaining during the fertile period. Contraceptives can alter your fertile signs, so be aware of that.

Every NFP method that you can learn will tell you that if you engage in intercourse during your fertile phase you are engaging in *achieving *behavior.

Condoms are not very effective, and couple that with using them during your most fertile time-- that to me is a recipe for disaster for a couple intent on avoiding pregnancy.

Also, engaging in intercourse with a contracepting spouse should be done only under the guidance of your priest. This is not a carte blanche situation, but rather one that should be undertaken with spiritual direction.

What I'm not clear on is why you and he are unwilling to fully embrace NFP and abstain during the fertile period (which is the most effective way in which to avoid pregnancy).

Can you expound upon that?

[/quote]

I don't abstain during the fertile period because my husband will throw a fit if I make him abstain during those times. He constantly asks for oral sex (like a substitute), which I'm definitely not wanting to use as a substitute for sex. When I tell him I'm not ok with it, he gets angry that I would completely keep myself from him. If I can't have sex with him, he thinks I should give whatever else I can, in other words just do oral sex. And then another argument ensues, we're up till 4am arguing, and we still have our normal responsibilities the next day, like kids and a job. Once the argument starts, there's really no stopping him. If I give in, he's angry that I'm just giving in to him to make him stop arguing, rather than just loving him and engaging in oral sex out of love. If I hold my ground, he's angry that I won't compromise. If I try to leave the room or suggest we table the issue until we're both not half asleep and cranky, he says that I'm just taking the easy way out and not solving the problem. Once, I was so tired that I actually fell asleep during a lull in the argument, only to be woken up again 15 minutes later so that he could continue to tell me how selfish I'm being for falling asleep. So, the way I feel, I can allow him to contracept, argue every night for 7-10days straight, have sex and eventually end up pregnant again anyways, or engage in oral sex with him. Not a great set of alternatives there, so it leaves me frustrated as well.


#10

[quote="Eowyn86, post:9, topic:181799"]
I don't abstain during the fertile period because my husband will throw a fit if I make him abstain during those times. He constantly asks for oral sex (like a substitute), which I'm definitely not wanting to use as a substitute for sex. When I tell him I'm not ok with it, he gets angry that I would completely keep myself from him. If I can't have sex with him, he thinks I should give whatever else I can, in other words just do oral sex. And then another argument ensues, we're up till 4am arguing, and we still have our normal responsibilities the next day, like kids and a job. Once the argument starts, there's really no stopping him. If I give in, he's angry that I'm just giving in to him to make him stop arguing, rather than just loving him and engaging in oral sex out of love. If I hold my ground, he's angry that I won't compromise. If I try to leave the room or suggest we table the issue until we're both not half asleep and cranky, he says that I'm just taking the easy way out and not solving the problem. Once, I was so tired that I actually fell asleep during a lull in the argument, only to be woken up again 15 minutes later so that he could continue to tell me how selfish I'm being for falling asleep. So, the way I feel, I can allow him to contracept, argue every night for 7-10days straight, have sex and eventually end up pregnant again anyways, or engage in oral sex with him. Not a great set of alternatives there, so it leaves me frustrated as well.

[/quote]

Your husband has some serious problems, and it's not sex. This is abusive behavior.


#11

Are you both Catholic? Did you discuss sexuality before marriage and Church teaching? I'm not following why this is an issue in your marriage now. Did he not agree with Church teaching beforehand? Did you know this? Or, have you recently become aware of or embracing of Church teaching?

His reaction is super disproportionate to the situation.

Is he selfish in other areas of the relationship-- the my way or the highway treatment and excessive arguing over other things?


#12

[quote="Eowyn86, post:9, topic:181799"]
I don't abstain during the fertile period because my husband will throw a fit if I make him abstain during those times. He constantly asks for oral sex (like a substitute), which I'm definitely not wanting to use as a substitute for sex. When I tell him I'm not ok with it, he gets angry that I would completely keep myself from him. If I can't have sex with him, he thinks I should give whatever else I can, in other words just do oral sex. And then another argument ensues, we're up till 4am arguing, and we still have our normal responsibilities the next day, like kids and a job. Once the argument starts, there's really no stopping him. If I give in, he's angry that I'm just giving in to him to make him stop arguing, rather than just loving him and engaging in oral sex out of love. If I hold my ground, he's angry that I won't compromise. If I try to leave the room or suggest we table the issue until we're both not half asleep and cranky, he says that I'm just taking the easy way out and not solving the problem. Once, I was so tired that I actually fell asleep during a lull in the argument, only to be woken up again 15 minutes later so that he could continue to tell me how selfish I'm being for falling asleep. So, the way I feel, I can allow him to contracept, argue every night for 7-10days straight, have sex and eventually end up pregnant again anyways, or engage in oral sex with him. Not a great set of alternatives there, so it leaves me frustrated as well.

[/quote]

I tend to agree with 1ke...this sounds like more than just a communication or understanding problem regarding the Catholic teachings of marital sex. Abstaining from sex for short periods now and again, shouldn't cause WW3. I think maybe couples counseling and seeking out a priest by private appt, would be a good start to making things better. I will keep you both in my prayers, as I've said. I think that he needs some help though in respect towards you--that could actually be part of the problem here. The Catholic teaching on sexuality takes into account BOTH partners...and actually teaches respect for one another's body. Just from the posts you give us to go on, it seems that he has a respect and control issue, and sex is just another way of that showing itself. (you said he used to be a workaholic, his behavior sounds like someone who has controlling tendencies)


#13

Your husband is puting you in a very bad situation. You are absolutely right in refusing to bring him to Orgasm outside of intercourse.The church is very clear on this. You can tell him that it is not you that the church forbids it and you are not going to Hell for something that is morally wrong.
Go on line and put in Oral Stimulation and the Catholic church. Scroll down to Notra Dame and there is a whole arcticle on what is and is not allowed. Make sure you put in Oral Stimulation not Oral Sex.
Like the O P said try and get him to go with you and talk to a priest. He needs to understand that he is asking you to commit sin when he asks you to do this.He needs to clearly understand that.
Oral Stimulation is allowed Oral Sex is not.
By the way it is the priests of Notra Dame that is giving that information.

Antrim


#14

All lot of people will post objections to the following, but here it is as food for thought:

Manual Stimulation Permitted; Wife May Climax, Husband May Not

“The acts by which spouses prepare each other for genital intercourse (foreplay)—so long as they are performed lovingly and not lustfully—are honorable and good. But stimulation of each other’s genitals to the point of climax apart from an act of normal intercourse is nothing other than mutual masturbation. There’s no gift of self, no marital communion taking place at all. Nor are such acts open to conception.

“An important point of clarification is needed. Since it’s the male orgasm that’s inherently linked with the possibility of new life, the husband must never intentionally ejaculate outside of his wife’s vagina (unintended ejaculation involves no moral fault). Since the female orgasm, however, isn’t necessarily linked to the possibility of conception, so long as it takes place within the overall context of an act of intercourse, it need not, in any absolute sense, be during actual penetration.

“Ideally, the wife’s orgasm would happen simultaneously with her husband’s. In fact, John Paul II, in his pre-papal reflections on the matter, exhorted husbands to learn how to control their own orgasms in order to bring their wives to climax with them. Doing so with altruistic motives, he said, was a husbandly virtue at the service of marital harmony. That being said, if the wife, despite their sincere efforts, was unable to climax during penetration, it may well be the loving thing for the husband to stimulate her to climax thereafter (if she so desired). In this case, such stimulation is not inherently masturbatory since it is within the context of a completed act of intercourse.” [Christopher West, *Good News About Sex and Marriage, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Servant Books, 2000), 90-91]

Oral Stimulation Permitted; Wife May Climax, Husband May Not

“There’s nothing in the Church’s vision of the body and sexual love that singles out the genitals as being objectively “unkissable” as part of a husband and wife’s intimate foreplay to intercourse. The term “oral sex,” however, most often refers to acts in which orgasm is sought and achieved apart from an act of intercourse. Indeed, many couples consider such behavior a desirable alternative to normal intercourse. And, yes, this is wrong, even for married couples—though the clarification made above regarding female orgasm is applicable here as well: Mutual climax (or at least climax during penetration) remains the ideal to strive for, but it’s not inherently wrong if the wife climaxes as a result of oral stimulation, so long as it’s within the context of a completed act of intercourse.” [Christopher West, *Good News About Sex and Marriage, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Servant Books, 2000), 92-93]

Nihil Obstat: Rev. Gerard Beigel, S.T.D.
Censor Librorum
Mr. Timothy J. McCarthy, J.C.L.
Vice Chancellor, Archdiocese of Denver

Imprimatur: Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Denver
April 27, 2004

About the Author

Christopher West is a research fellow and faculty member of the Theology of the Body Institute. He is also one of the most sought after speakers in the Church today, having delivered more than 1000 public lectures on 4 continents, in 9 countries, and in over 150 American cities. His books – Good News About Sex & Marriage, Theology of the Body Explained, and Theology of the Body for Beginners – have become Catholic best sellers.

Christopher has also lectured on a number of prestigious faculties, offering graduate and undergraduate courses at St John Vianney Seminary in Denver, the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, Australia, and Creighton University’s Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha. Hundreds of thousands have heard him on national radio programs and even more have seen him defending the faith on programs such as Scarborough Country, Fox and Friends, and At Large with Geraldo Rivera. Of all his titles, Christopher is most proud to call himself a devoted husband and father. He and his wife Wendy have four children and live in Lancaster County, PA.


#15

This is a huge red flashing problem. Get to a good solid Catholic marriage counselor FAST.


#16

[quote="1ke, post:11, topic:181799"]
Are you both Catholic? Did you discuss sexuality before marriage and Church teaching? I'm not following why this is an issue in your marriage now. Did he not agree with Church teaching beforehand? Did you know this? Or, have you recently become aware of or embracing of Church teaching?

His reaction is super disproportionate to the situation.

Is he selfish in other areas of the relationship-- the my way or the highway treatment and excessive arguing over other things?

[/quote]

Yes, we're both Catholic. When I was younger, I didn't have much guidance about sex. I was basically taught that sex between a husband a wife was ok, sex outside of marriage was not, so don't do it. My husband says that he had more guidance, but his parents basically told him that the Church's teachings were basically guidelines. Each couple had to decide as a couple what would work for them. It was after we had been married for a while that we started reading and looking into Church teachings. I was pretty quick to accept Church teachings. Once I find out that something is morally wrong, I have a hard time purposely doing it again. That being said, oral sex was never a large part of our sexual lives as a couple. There were a few times (less than five over the course of our marriage) when I told him that I would try it and let him know how I felt about it. So we'd try it, I wouldn't like it, and I would tell him so. At first he'd let it go easier, now he says it's just something that he's suppressed for so long that it's built up and it's really causing a problem for him. He does feel like as long as something sexual is done between a husband and his wife, anything is ok.

I would tend to agree that he's completely overreacting to the situation. He just says that he needs sex and only desires to be with me, so I shouldn't be withholding it from him. He should be able to bring his needs to me and have them be met.


#17

[quote="Eowyn86, post:16, topic:181799"]
There were a few times (less than five over the course of our marriage) when I told him that I would try it and let him know how I felt about it. So we'd try it, I wouldn't like it, and I would tell him so. At first he'd let it go easier, now he says it's just something that he's suppressed for so long that it's built up and it's really causing a problem for him. He does feel like as long as something sexual is done between a husband and his wife, anything is ok.

I would tend to agree that he's completely overreacting to the situation. He just says that he needs sex and only desires to be with me, so I shouldn't be withholding it from him. He should be able to bring his needs to me and have them be met.

[/quote]

Based on this-- I think HE needs counseling.

Before this was ever a moral issue, you declined to do this because YOU dislike it and yet he keeps insisting you do something distasteful to you because HE "needs sex."

UH, I don't think so.

He's got some major problems. Your desire to follow Christ has merely brought them front and center. They have been there all along.


#18

wow... i find that a very demanding, insensitive attitude. "being with" your husband or wife and sex aren't always the same thing. when men begin to confuse companionship and emotional imtimacy with what they feel are their sexual "rights", that's a good sign they're getting off-track and confused about what matters in a marriage.

counseling would be a good idea.... for your marriage, sex life, and especially for him. prayers for both of you, too. God bless you guys, and guide you to a compassionate, realistic and orthodox counselor.


#19

I'm a relatively new Catholic but I have the perspective of a former protestant pastor who counseled many married couples. I am certainly no expert on Church teaching, and in fact recently posted my own question about sexual norms in marriage. However, I notice that your husband's thinking (based on your description of it) sounds very much like the protestant version of sexual morality in marriage - a fairly selfish version of it no doubt, but the morality/theology of it is basically protestant. I don't know if this makes any difference at all to you, but it is one of the bigger practical distinctions between devout protestants and devout Catholics - i.e. "the rules of the bedroom". I have come to believe that the protestant reformation was almost as much a product of the secular "enlightenment" that was occurring more or less at the same time, and therefore much of protestant moral theology is based on an interpretation of scripture that is based on a secular mindset. Without getting too technical, I think it's not just our society, but the vast majority of protestant churches, and probably a good number of American Catholics that promote the idea that "sex in marriage is ok" (meaning anything and everything that spouses decide they like) and moreover that sex is a basic human need. Protestants add to that passages in scripture like 1 Co 7 which admonishes husbands and wives not to withhold from one another and to "fulfill their duty" to each other. Unfortunately most protestants believe in private interpretation of scripture and have to try to make sense of all this on their own, and since the Bible is not a detailed user manual of moral life, this results in a tendency to basically "make stuff up".

I think some here are a little quick to judge your husband and say he just needs to accept the Church's teachings and deal with it. I assume he is not a bad man or else you wouldn't have married him (at least I hope so). It sounds like he doesn't fully understand - perhaps willfully, i.e. on purpose - the Church's teaching about sex (which is not hard to find), though he admits he needs to. I think the idea of sex as a "need" is distorted by society (and many Christians as I said above), but is not totally illegitimate. Though the teaching of the Church about oral sex apart from intercourse for example is pretty clear, I'm sure the Church also acknowledges 1 Co 7, which suggests that a purpose of sex in marriage is to satisfy the desire (if not need) of the spouses - in fact in this context spouses are commanded to satisfy each others desires (of course this scripture must be understood in the greater context of Church teaching on the subject, so it's not a trump card that any spouse can pull out and say, "you have to satisfy me").

Anyway, in the end I agree more or less with the moral content of most of these other responses, but in some cases I disagree with the practical implementation of it regarding your husband. Start by assuming he's a good man who loves you and wants to have a good marriage. Give him the benefit of the doubt and try to meet him where he is as much as you can. Pray the rosary for him (in my marriage this has been perhaps the most effective remedy for our various troubles) daily - asking the intercession of the Blessed Mother for your marriage and your husband specifically. Also, I suggest trying to talk to him about it sometime other than late at night - bring it up after dinner or during the day if you can. If you show him that it's important to you and that you really want to work this out and have a holy and happy sex life, I suspect he will appreciate that and may be willing to hear you out (especially if he hadn't expected to do anything sexual right then anyway).

May God bless you and your marriage.


#20

[quote="Eowyn86, post:16, topic:181799"]
At first he'd let it go easier, now he says it's just something that he's suppressed for so long that it's built up and it's really causing a problem for him. He does feel like as long as something sexual is done between a husband and his wife, anything is ok.

[/quote]

Unless one of the spouses doesn't want to do it, for whatever reason. If it's an "icky" reason, that's valid. If it's a moral reason, that's valid, too.

He seems to have forgotten you in all of this.


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