Waited till marriage - still waiting?


#1

When DH and I married we were completely sexually inexperienced, and very much in love. DH's education was pretty much a combination of Catholic do's and don't's, combined with whatever pornography he'd watched when he was struggling with that temptation. His understanding that failing to achieve procreative intercourse would constitute a mortal sin made him very anxious and caused a lot of sexual problems when we first married. I should point out that he realizes that UNINTENTIONAL failure wouldn't count as a mortal sin in terms of confession or his soul, but he is bothered by the idea that any such act in itself has the character of mortal sin, and is therefore horrific. We were planning on starting a family when we married, but it hasn't been possible. I feel like DH is trapped in a cycle of anxiety, insecurity, and guilt, and that Confession has made this worse, not better.

My initial approach was to be supportive and keep trying, but eventually I realized that this was becoming a stressful burden for me too. Priests have all been completely unhelpful (it almost seems as though they are worried about getting sued if they respond to questions about sex with anything other than "your sins are forgiven, go in peace"). I am a convert and I've had a hard time adjusting to Catholicism. I have become angry with the Church throughout this experience since I feel that perfectionism in conservative Catholic culture has both contributed to this problem, and made it hard to get help.

When DH saw a therapist, he recommended lots of relaxing non-sexual intimacy (i.e., cuddling) to reduce performance anxiety. But now it seems that DH is afraid to try anything else, and he's confessed that he's more turned on by the idea of non-procreative and kinky sex, even though he still believes these are mortally sinful. He seems really worried that he feels this way because he used to watch porn, so that he's somehow tainted or dirty, and that I'm too normal and well-adjusted for him. I don't think that's true; I think that thinking of procreative intercourse in terms of success and failure has made it a turn-off, whereas other activities don't clearly define failure or success, which makes them seem safe.

It's been years now and I don't really know where to go from here. Therapists don't seem to understand the Catholic dimension, and priests don't want to talk about the sexual dimension. The funny thing is that I don't really disagree with the Church's teachings; I just feel completely abandoned by the Church. I feel that DH would be fine if he had just never worried about any of this in the first place, or if he hadn't been trying so hard to follow all the rules. I've read in psychology journals that it's not uncommon for learning curves to initiate just this kind of vicious cycle in religious traditions that make a big a deal about requiring sex to be exclusively procreative, but I wouldn't know if anyone else I know has gone through this. Has anyone's marriage made it through this? What can I do?


#2

Sounds like you both should try some therapy together (rather than just your husband alone). Have you tried this?


#3

Have either of you ever studied the Theology of the Body?

Christopher West- Naked Without Shame


#4

Yes - it didn’t seem very helpful at the time. It feels like we’ve talked about everything before, and talk therapy is just going in circles, if that makes any sense. It’s something that could be tried again though. Thanks for suggesting it!


#5

Yes. We both read JPII’s books and also some Dietrich Von Hildebrand as marriage preparation, and we know Christopher West’s ministry.


#6

You might try the Pastoral Solutions Institute. They do phone counseling and can help deal with sexual issues from a catholic perspective.

www.exceptionalmarriages.com


#7

I am very sorry to hear of your problem. I hesitate to ask, but I think that it's important to know also if your husband has ever had any same sex attractions. While I would never presume that every time this sort of thing happens it is because the man may have homosexual attraction, I think that it is SO unusual for a man to marry someone that he is presumably attracted to and not have sex with her that the question should probably be considered.


#8

Have you read “Good News About Sex and Marriage” by Christopher West? It’s a great book.

Sex is supposed to be an awesome experience. If you’re being open to life and completing the act appropriately, the rest is up to your particular likes (as long as you’re not demeaning each other). West’s book is helpful because it’s in a question/answer format – so if you’re not sure if certain acts are acceptable, you can find out pretty simply.

Best wishes!


#9

[quote="Blacksword, post:7, topic:231465"]
I am very sorry to hear of your problem. I hesitate to ask, but I think that it's important to know also if your husband has ever had any same sex attractions. While I would never presume that every time this sort of thing happens it is because the man may have homosexual attraction, I think that it is SO unusual for a man to marry someone that he is presumably attracted to and not have sex with her that the question should probably be considered.

[/quote]

DH really doesn't seem to have any SSA at all. I'm confident that he's attracted to women. It's hard to remember that he's attracted to me, but objectively I know that he is. Our chemistry was ridiculously good before all of this complicated things. And to be clear, we do try (I am very afraid of letting too much time pass without trying, because I don't want to just adjust), it's always just a matter of finishing early or not being able to finish (it's not physiological though). Sorry for the explanation but I feel like my TLDR OP was unclear!


#10

I think the porn has messed things up. He at least feels guilty because of this, and recognizes that it's not helping things. But guilt isn't conducive to a great sex life! :o

Your husband has at least a couple of things confused - the requirement to be open to life does not mean that he is on the line to make a baby whenever you have relations. It just means there shouldn't be any impediments to God giving you a baby.

And as far as the porn...well...it can be a real problem. The tendency to make arousal into a solo affair, with a movie playing in front of his eyes...is very twisted and causes so many problems. Many men function physically just fine, but since they are fantasizing even while making love to a real woman (their wife), it doesn't feel right to the woman, as if their husband isn't really even present. Or the husband will want the wife to act out some of the scenes he has seen, unnatural and strange sex acts. Porn also escalates - what aroused a man when he started looking at it will be less arousing and he will start looking at weirder and more kinky acts. Just like a drug.

Does your husband still look at porn?

I would urge you to find a Catholic counselor, or a priest who WILL talk about the theology of the body. At least they can clear up the mistaken idea that you and your husband are sinning if you do NOT make a baby!


#11

I hesitate to ask this, and don't want to derail the thread, but what do you mean by "strange and unnatural sex acts"? I will confess to having viewed decidedly illicit material in my past, but it's my understanding that as long as the end of the act is open to life, and we are talking about a married husband and wife, the union would be beyond any reproach. Didn't a Bishop in California say some decades ago something like "I don't care if they hang from the chandelier just as long as it ends the right way"?

I mean we're not talking about bringing animals or other people into the equation...I'm just confused by that statement though I generally agree with what you wrote...maybe I am not being imaginative enough here...lol, never mind, you probably couldn't even describe what you might have meant without being too graphic anyway!


#12

Juliane: No, DH does not still look at porn, though I don’t know whether he really feels “free” of it, if that makes sense.

Blacksword: It’s kind of not a derailment, since if things don’t “end the right way,” then “hanging from the chandelier” is all that ever happened. And then the guilt issue comes in!


#13

Well, I don't know how to get him to let go of it, but I don't see a way forward if he can't let the guilt go. Guilt should not be part of a loving, sexually intimate marriage. There is absolutely no reason for him to feel guilt about anything. If he confessed his sins of pornography before and has repented, there is now no condemnation...Guilt is a pretty effective passion killer though. Sex in marriage should be fun, free, and joyous....maybe he's so wrapped up in performance anxiety that he's missing that? I will pray for you.


#14

[quote="Blacksword, post:13, topic:231465"]
Well, I don't know how to get him to let go of it, but I don't see a way forward if he can't let the guilt go. Guilt should not be part of a loving, sexually intimate marriage. There is absolutely no reason for him to feel guilt about anything. If he confessed his sins of pornography before and has repented, there is now no condemnation...Guilt is a pretty effective passion killer though. Sex in marriage should be fun, free, and joyous....maybe he's so wrapped up in performance anxiety that he's missing that? I will pray for you.

[/quote]

Thank you. It seems crazy after years to think that this will change, but it also seems really dumb and unnecessary that it's gone on like this so long. I was really upset about this today. I only seem to come to these forums when I'm at the end of my rope. I really want things to change. Thank you for your prayers!


#15

[quote="girl, post:1, topic:231465"]

It's been years now and I don't really know where to go from here.

[/quote]

This sentence is really the crux of the matter. There is something going on, or your husband would be able to overcome this problem. I can see a few months, maybe 6 mos to one year maximum, but years? and no children either?

You say it's not physiological? Are you sure? I think your husband has problems...I am sorry to be blunt, but it stands out that this has gone on for years with no resolution. As Blacksword mentioned, it is not normal or usual for a man to not have sex with a woman he is very attracted to.


#16

Have either of you spent any time praying in adoration? He may find peace and be able to sort out his feeling best during this quiet prayer time.

From what I am understanding, and maybe I read it wrong, if you 2 make love and you don’t become pregnant then he is viewing that as a sin? That is just simple biology. You can’t expect to get pregnant everytime. Does that also mean that making love during the 9mths you are pregnant would be sinful? God wants us to be together and to share ourselves fully with our spouses. The church only requires that you be “open” to life during marital relations unless you have a serious reason to use NFP.

Have you tried being the one to initiate?


#17

Also...google for Christian Counselling in your area. They are skilled and licensed counsellor who "get" the Catholic principles. Where I am there is a Non Profit called Safe Harbour Christian Counselling. I know they work in many states, so maybe check that out. Also, the confessional is not the place to discuss this with your Priest. The 2 of you together need to schedule a meeting with your Priest to discuss this matter in detail where you will have 1hour or more of his undivided attention.


#18

I hate to say this but it sounds to me like as much as right now it is a sex-thing because it is affecting the sex-thing - it also seems to be a scrupulosity thing. Maybe this is something that he needs to bring up with a therapist and start dealing with in other areas of his life and then work into the sex and he may find that easier and less intimidating.


#19

It is completely insensitive and maybe not the best choice, but if one of my male friends told me he was having these problems I would be very quick to remind him that sex is part of the marriage obligation and he is committing a far worse act by not trying than trying and failing.


closed #20

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