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Friday, April 6, 2018

Marital Intimacy is Worth the Risk

After Four Forced Abortions,
Ballerina Chooses Life!

by Susan Fox 

Oh she was lovely, the perfect ballerina. But her mother wanted her to stay that way.

So my dear young friend, danced and played and frolicked — with many men.

She got pregnant. Her mother forced her to have an abortion so that her perfect figure would not be marred.

She got pregnant again, and had another forced abortion.

She got pregnant again, and again. In all, she had four abortions, and then she slipped from her mother’s leash and married her dearly beloved Robert, a virgin. He adored her. He had lived a chaste life before marriage, waiting to meet her. When I knew her, we called her the one-armed bandit because she always had her baby daughter in one arm while her other arm was busy doing other things.

She loved her husband. I watched her straighten his tie with deep affection. But she was long past enjoying conjugal intimacy. She told me she was burned out sexually because of her promiscuous life before marriage. 

So she explained to me how they had relations. There are positions in sexual intercourse that are not uncomfortable, but which do not require the active participation of the female partner. The man is able to reach a climax, and his wife need not be involved in the conjugal act.

This story still makes me sad. Intimate relations that give pleasure to both married partners is a gift one spouse surrenders to the other. It is the gift of chastity. Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being, according to the Catholic Catechism. It’s worth fighting for. 

“Sexuality becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.” (CCC 2337) The Catholic Church is not talking about faking a response.

Jane was cheating Robert out of something important — her female passion responding to his masculine initiative. They were not using contraception. They were married, in love, and wanted children. But Jane had previously used men and been an object of use by men, and now she was left with no enthusiasm for sex.
Concerning Jane and Robert’s situation, Pope Saint John Paul II said “From the viewpoint of loving another person, from the position of
Pope Saint John Paul II
altruism, it must be required that the conjugal act should serve not merely to reach the climax of sexual arousal on one side, but happen in harmony, not at the other person’s expense, but with that person’s involvement.”

Strangely enough the Jewish founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, (1856-1939)  agreed with the Catholic Church on this one point: sexual intimacy should be altruistic. It should combine affection and desire, but a mature person will want, altruistically, the good of his or her partner. And that means both participate in the act. 

Sigmund Freud 
Freud and Pope Saint John Paul II said these things so that people like Jane and Robert would have a guideline on how to lead happy lives. St. Paul cared too, warning couples, “Do not torture your wife! Or your husband!” 

I'm joking. My marital chastity professor often speaks of historical figures who "tortured" their spouses by withholding sex because of scruples. The exact quote of St. Paul is this: “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.” (1Cor 7:3) I knew a priest who ran into a couple arguing about this issue in a restaurant. She wanted to stop having intimate relations so she could pursue her prayer life. The priest leaned over their table and told the wife she was wrong. 

Jane’s problem obviously stemmed from the poison in our culture . She rebelled against her
mother by engaging in relationships with multiple partners. Affectionate families are more likely to raise virgins. The poor little dancer did not receive love at home, only adoration for her outward appearance and her ability to perform. I think Robert could have and may have changed that little by little because he did love her. He didn't treat her as an object of use. He treated her as a beloved person,
with whom he intended to stay married exclusively until death. They were both open to new life. That is the Catholic definition of true marriage.

In his article on “Erotic Traps,” famous German sexologist Ulrich Clement  explains  that diminished desire in sexual intimacy is not a lack but a symptom. That’s true. We are talking about a pair of young newlyweds in which the bride does not enjoy sex because of her previous lack of chastity and multiple abortions. 

He also notes that partners fail to communicate about their differences in sexual desire to protect themselves against the risk of being hurt.  Did Jane tell Robert about her trick of not participating? It was something
Ulrich Clement 
she whispered to a female friend on the side. And would Robert, who never had sex before, know something was missing? Maybe with experience and maturity, he would recognise it. Men are thrilled by the noises their wives make when they are responsively involved in their lovemaking.

It’s interesting the way Clement begins his article: “Some people have often firm conceptions, such as the fact that sex must be or should be present in a relationship. But with these conceptions they are building traps, in which the desire is slowly misplaced.” Perhaps the trap in Jane’s relationship with Robert is that they did need a long chaste courtship before marriage. Sex was not immediately necessary. But given her past, it probably didn’t occur to her to insist on such a thing.

Clement is right. If the couple does not bring the underlying problem to the surface and talk about it, it will have lamentable effects in the erotic context. But it need not destroy the marriage especially if the couple had children and practiced Natural Family Planning earlier in their marriage.  NFP has a honeymoon effect.  

What if Jane and Robert later tried Natural Family Planning to postpone a pregnancy after the baby was weaned? This might
have helped their sexual relationship. Jane needed a period of romantic abstinence. She needed courtship without sex. She needed to know she was loved for herself. 

Using NFP, one must abstain for a few days from intercourse during the woman’s fertile period and then one can engage in marital intimacy the rest of the cycle. Practicing NFP requires mutual decision making and deeper communication. Robert might have finally found the key to open Jane’s heart to loving sexual intimacy.

“If the couple does not change their sexual behavior pattern, then they will continue having problems involving sexuality. With certain painful, but nevertheless trusted discontent, the couple remains in the foreseeable comfort zone of their relationship,” Clement wrote. 

Certainly this is true for many couples. Suddenly, the husband of one my friends quit having relations with her and wouldn’t tell her why. Communication in the marriage deteriorated. It appeared they were headed for a divorce, not by her choice.  When a spouse suddenly stops having conjugal relations without explanation these questions arise “Do you still love me? Are we still together?” Many times the problem is a medical one, and the spouse with difficulty is unable to speak about it.

Clement writes about a routine quality in everyday sexuality. Couples who use NFP rarely feel sex is a duty. His viewpoint is the  product of the sexual revolution, pornography, the deadening of hearts, the depersonalisation of conjugal life. 

It is the breaking of the "nuptial bond between man and life" as outlined by Gabriel Marcel in the Mystery of the Family. In short, modern man is bored. Marcel wrote in 1942 about human
beings losing a sense of reverence and awe for life itself because of the dissolution of the family through divorce, contraception, abortion, promiscuity, unchastity, treating man as a machine whose sexuality can be fixed with a pill. Chaste married relations without contraception, open to new life, are rich with joy. Throughout the years of a long relationship, a thousand ways to delight one another will occur to the couple. And only a few of those involve actual sexual intimacy.

Sexologists are not trained to take this perspective. They realise conjugal intimacy happens between persons, but it is not their starting point. Sexual ethics cannot be sexology, a view of man and woman that posits the problem exclusively from the point of view of “body and sex,” wrote Pope Saint John Paul II in Love and Responsibility. “The only fully true view is the one that proceeds from a thorough analysis of 

the fact that a woman and a man are persons, and that their love is a reciprocal relation of persons.” Sexology, focusing on biology, medicine and the efficient climax, can only provide a partial view of the matter.

Many fear that communication about a problem of this nature will risk the relationship, according to Clement. But isn’t the reward of a lifelong happy marriage worth the risk? 

“From nothing, nothing comes. Without investment there is no result,” Clement admonished. I think it is well worthwhile to continue intimate relations throughout the entire marriage barring illness or the rare case when the mutual decision is made to live celibate for the glory of God.

In old age, the NFP couple will already be habituated to voluntary abstinence, so the necessity of living without sex in the midst of illness will not be an undue stress on the marriage. However, if one wants to continue that side of the marriage, the couple must take action. 
“The longer a relationship lasts, the more is eroticism a matter of decision and of active organisation. While with young sex the desire precedes the sexual acting, the decision for desire proceeds with mature sex,” Clement wrote, explaining that marital intimacy needs to be invited into long-term relationships. 

Take the risk.


Clement, Ulrich. “Erotic Traps.” Psychology Heute Journal, (2006)

Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility. Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2013.

Marcel, Gabriel. The Mystery of the Family.