Johnny

Is Sex an Obligation Within a marriage?

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On a blog I found, a commenter who identified herself as a married woman shared this list of guidelines that she said she uses in her marriage:

 

"~Sex is never to be refused, not out of spite or anger or even headaches.
~Sex is never to be used as a bargaining chip.
~Sex will NOT be put after the kids or the dishes or the laundry. Sex is not merely a recreational activity. It is an integral part of marriage. Time will be made for it.
~Sex can be postponed for a short time in cases of illness or exhaustion by either parties if sex would legitimately not be as enjoyable but only after discussing the reasons together and talking about when the affected party will be available to enjoy sex again. (This is an important one and will not be abused.)
~Any postponement of sex for religious reasons (fasting and prayer) will be mutually agreed upon.
~All specific detailed discussions of sex stays between us. This is the most intimate act of marriage. Treat it with respect. The only exclusions would be for medical and possibly for religious reasons.
~We will communicate about sex. Libido waxes and wanes and the female anatomy/hormones change during her cycle. The wife needs to take good care of herself and know about her cycle. Her husband needs to be informed and genuinely will appreciate the information. Men’s libido though not as variable can also wax and wane and he needs to talk to his wife about how he feels, stay fit, and take possible medical steps to seek help if that is necessary for good health.
~Sexual activity in marriage is all good. In times of medically mandated abstinence for one party, other healthy activities will take place to relieve tension and promote good health.
~And most importantly, all of these rules will be tempered by love, understanding, and the humility that should be our constant companion as sinful people in need of forgiveness."

 

Thoughts?

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Whatever works for her, but if you don't have a chronic, incurable illness, you need to understand that your sex parameters cannot be applied to all people.

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I don't think anyone should have kids solely out of duty (seems like it'd be a pretty miserable life for the parents and kids both), but if someone wants to have kids, I don't think they should be guilt-ed out of it due to the high global population. The US population growth rate is at about replacement rate right now; it's not like we as a nation are suffering due to global population explosion. India, China, and other such nations are the ones that have really got the shit-end of that stick.

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Though, it is possible for women to experience pain from penetration even if they want sex, are fully aroused, etc. Conditions such as vulvodynia and vaginismus are more common than you might think (especially because it can be quite hard to get a proper diagnosis).

 

Yes, but that's a very small percentage of the population. If sex is painful, then something is medically wrong with a woman, and she needs to see a doctor. It's a prevalent myth that sex is supposed to be painful for a woman her first time, and often many subsequent times, and that is what I'm trying to prevent.

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On a blog I found, a commenter who identified herself as a married woman shared this list of guidelines that she said she uses in her marriage:

 

"~Sex is never to be refused, not out of spite or anger or even headaches.

~Sex is never to be used as a bargaining chip.

~Sex will NOT be put after the kids or the dishes or the laundry. Sex is not merely a recreational activity. It is an integral part of marriage. Time will be made for it.

~Sex can be postponed for a short time in cases of illness or exhaustion by either parties if sex would legitimately not be as enjoyable but only after discussing the reasons together and talking about when the affected party will be available to enjoy sex again. (This is an important one and will not be abused.)

~Any postponement of sex for religious reasons (fasting and prayer) will be mutually agreed upon.

~All specific detailed discussions of sex stays between us. This is the most intimate act of marriage. Treat it with respect. The only exclusions would be for medical and possibly for religious reasons.

~We will communicate about sex. Libido waxes and wanes and the female anatomy/hormones change during her cycle. The wife needs to take good care of herself and know about her cycle. Her husband needs to be informed and genuinely will appreciate the information. Men’s libido though not as variable can also wax and wane and he needs to talk to his wife about how he feels, stay fit, and take possible medical steps to seek help if that is necessary for good health.

~Sexual activity in marriage is all good. In times of medically mandated abstinence for one party, other healthy activities will take place to relieve tension and promote good health.

~And most importantly, all of these rules will be tempered by love, understanding, and the humility that should be our constant companion as sinful people in need of forgiveness."

 

Thoughts?

Some of those seem reasonable, but others seem a bit extreme. I get migraine headaches; they are fairly debilitating, and the last thing I'd be up for at that time would be screwing. Same if I'd just had a fight with my partner and was still angry. Putting sex before your own kids, or engaging in intense negotiations every time one partner turns down sex, also strikes me as a bit weird. Most caring partners wouldn't want sex if it would be less than good for their spouse anyway, and unless you have a huge disparity in sex drives, the refusals and acceptances will balance out well enough without it needing to be a huge topic of discussion.

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Whatever works for her, but if you don't have a chronic, incurable illness, you need to understand that your sex parameters cannot be applied to all people.

 

I thought illness was included a legitimate reason for abstaining.

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Guys, we're not talking about death or population control. We're talking about SEX!!! That is a much more fascinating topic :P

 

I must admit that I feel uncomfortable when people refer to sex as a "duty" or say that they will never deny their spouse the right to their body.  Both of these statements makes sex sound like an obligation or that your partner's body is just a tool that you use to get off.  I'm sure that wasn't what was intended by the people who said these things but I do want to challenge the ideas that these phrases are connected to. 

 

Thank you for saying all of that, Shane. The attitude that you're "owed" sex from your spouse when you're married disturbs me greatly. While no one used that language, I'm not sure how else to interpret words like withholding, duty, and obligation.

 

I can assure you that I wasn't insinuating that a spouse's body is just an sexual outlet to use whenever we want. Nor was I implying that it is something you "owe" your spouse as if they are paying back a favor. I'll say it again that nothing in a marriage, sex or otherwise, ought to be obtained by force, coercion, manipulation, guilt etc. Everything should be given willingly out of love.

 

What I mean by "duty" is the promise to love your spouse and to fulfill their needs in good times and difficult times. I'm sure the both of you know as married people that loving your spouse isn't always easy, especially when you're angry at them. But you choose to love them anyways because you made that promise. 

 

 

One of the most powerful things of WTM is that is stands strong in the face of our sex-crazed culture.  It helps us to see that relationships are about so much more than sex.  It puts sex in its proper place.  It teaches us about self-denial and sacrifice. 

 

That is a good point. I don't think it makes us as waiters much different from non-waiters if we thought we could have a sex buffet whenever we wanted once we get married without regard to our spouse. What I would add however is that I think having sex can be an act of sacrifice just as refraining from it can be a sacrifice. Because in some cases, such as if your spouse is feeling a lack of physical intimacy, you may have sex to rekindle that intimacy even though you may not be particularly desiring it. Just as refraining from sex for a time can be a sacrifice when your spouse is ill, is recovering from having a baby or stressed. It really depends on the situation.

 

In most cases though, sex is like any other need in a marriage. I think out of sacrificial love, both people should make a reasonable effort to meet those needs to the best of their ability, even when we don't particularly feel like it. I could never imagine myself, for example, not giving my emotional support to my wife when she's upset just because I "didn't feel like it." I don't think it's should be any different when it comes to sex in normal circumstances.

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Some of those seem reasonable, but others seem a bit extreme. I get migraine headaches; they are fairly debilitating, and the last thing I'd be up for at that time would be screwing. Same if I'd just had a fight with my partner and was still angry. Putting sex before your own kids, or engaging in intense negotiations every time one partner turns down sex, also strikes me as a bit weird. Most caring partners wouldn't want sex if it would be less than good for their spouse anyway, and unless you have a huge disparity in sex drives, the refusals and acceptances will balance out well enough without it needing to be a huge topic of discussion.

 

I hear you about the migraines. Headaches can be severe, anyway, and when I've gotten the occasional migraine, I'd get a huge blind spot in my vision and could usually do nothing but go to sleep until it passed. Fortunately, those have only popped up every few years. I can feel for people who have them frequently.

 

Anyway, I certainly don't know that commenter's intentions, but I got the impression she was referring to "headaches" as in the headache excuse even when a headache isn't actually present or at least severe. Her meaning notwithstanding, I think any genuine illness is a valid reason to abstain.

 

I'm not sure I agree that "not in the mood" always is, however. If your father just died or something, then sure, you may not be in the mood (unless intimacy with one's spouse could actually help), but I think "not being in the mood" can be abused, and I can see how it might lead to arguments. A married friend told me once that his wife sometimes turned her head when he'd tried to kiss her and that that had led to a lot of arguments. 

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I can also think of another anecdote along these lines in which my cousin's first wife had complained about his always wanting sex whenever he saw her naked, in a towel, or just basically sexy looking or whatever. I was always amazed a woman would be upset by that. Isn't it kind of a compliment that you can turn your husband on so easily?

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Anyway, I certainly don't know that commenter's intentions, but I got the impression she was referring to "headaches" as in the headache excuse even when a headache isn't actually present or at least severe. Her meaning notwithstanding, I think any genuine illness is a valid reason to abstain.

 

I'm not sure I agree that "not in the mood" always is, however. If your father just died or something, then sure, you may not be in the mood (unless intimacy with one's spouse could actually help), but I think "not being in the mood" can be abused, and I can see how it might lead to arguments. A married friend told me once that his wife sometimes turned her head when he'd tried to kiss her and that that had led to a lot of arguments. 

 

Yeah sometimes those are just excuses when nothing is truly wrong. If there was a sudden influx of "headaches" I'd be all like, "You've been having quite a lot of headaches lately. Though I heard sex is a cure for them." lol. Though on a serious note, I think that would point to a deeper problem with the relationship.

 

 

I can also think of another anecdote along these lines in which my cousin's first wife had complained about his always wanting sex whenever he saw her naked, in a towel, or just basically sexy looking or whatever. I was always amazed a woman would be upset by that. Isn't it kind of a compliment that you can turn your husband on so easily?

 

I'm sure they'd find it a compliment in small doses. Though I can see how they'd get offended if it was all the time because they may feel they are only seen for their body and nothing else.

 

(I didn't know there was more to a woman than her body) I'M KIDDING! THAT WAS SEXIST :D :D :D

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I know that at times our culture's commodification of sex can seep into our belief in WTM.  We start thinking that once we get married we will have all the sex we want, whenever we want, and however we want. 

 

Wouldn't that mean the reverse is also true, though, that culture makes us think that we can refuse sex whenever we want, however we want, to whomever we want, even our spouses?

 

Not to be mocking (I promise, as you made other good points in your post, too), but how about this point of view for another perspective:

 

"We start thinking that once we get married we can refuse all the sex we want, whenever we want, and however we want.  We hold on and wait and white-knuckle it now because dammit we can refuse all the sex we can once we get married!  But having that kind of view is dangerous because it sets us up for failure.  You won't get to refuse all the sex you want once you get married (like you did when you were single)."

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I don't think our culture commodifies not wanting sex.  When you commodify something you want to sell as much of it as possible. 

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A culture that encourages a "me" attitude is also one that encourages selfishness, though, right?

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I thought illness was included a legitimate reason for abstaining.

 

It is a common, sexist trope that women exaggerate or lie about feeling unwell to get out of sex, which is implied by that woman's "headache" comment, that headaches aren't an excuse. When you have an invisible illness, like Crohn's, you receive a LOT of comments like "You don't look sick" or "You don't sound sick" or "You're just saying that to get out of XYZ."

 

It is quite refreshing on this thread that most people agree that illness is a reason not to have sex, but I also know that able-bodied people usually define illness as something obvious, like a fever or vomiting. I have 20+ years experience in having Crohn's Disease, so I can assure you that most people do not react well to me looking totally fine and saying my stomach hurts. I'm very blessed (in a weird way) that my MIL has ulcerative colitis, so my husband was already very familiar with what it's like to live with someone with a fucked-up digestive system.

 

I don't think anyone should make up an illness to get out sex, but I also think it's time to stop assuming women are doing that when they say they have a headache, etc.

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I can also think of another anecdote along these lines in which my cousin's first wife had complained about his always wanting sex whenever he saw her naked, in a towel, or just basically sexy looking or whatever. I was always amazed a woman would be upset by that. Isn't it kind of a compliment that you can turn your husband on so easily?

 

I love that my husband always finds me attractive. He even thinks I'm beautiful when I wake up first thing in the morning.

 

But if he wanted actual sex every time he saw me naked or wearing nice clothing, I would feel like a piece of meat. It's one thing to flirt with each other throughout the day, make innuendos about later. That's fun and exciting. :) But when I'm getting dressed so we can go out with our friends, or so we can meet his parents, I don't want to be propositioned for sex.

 

It can also be really frustrating if you're the partner with a lower libido and your partner requests it too often. It's easy for them to make you feel guilty for saying no, and it's also annoying if you never get the chance to initiate.

 

My husband and I are very fortunate to have comparable libidos, although his is higher. I like that we both initiate sex, even if I know that sometimes he's just waiting for me to initiate because he can tell we're both interested. I would be very upset if he started suggesting sex 2 or 3 times a day, which would have the extra effect of me wanting sex even less.

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A book I might recommend which deals with the difference of levels of desire in a relationship is "Intimacy & Desire: Awaken the Passion in Your Relationship" by David Schnarch.  All couples will face a difference in desire levels.  It may be the that you want sex two times per day and your partner wants it three times per day.  Or you may want it once per week and your partner wants it once every two weeks. 

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A book I might recommend which deals with the difference of levels of desire in a relationship is "Intimacy & Desire: Awaken the Passion in Your Relationship" by David Schnarch.  All couples will face a difference in desire levels.  It may be the that you want sex two times per day and your partner wants it three times per day.  Or you may want it once per week and your partner wants it once every two weeks. 

 

and talking about it is WAY better at making everybody feel loved/respected/'wanted' in the right ways... as opposed to the quiet frustrations of either wanting to have sex noticeably more than your partner or the quiet pressures and anxieties of noticing that your partner would like sex noticeably more than you do...

 

remember... there are affections and intimacies that can be constant and very affirming and loving that are not just about sex.

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But if he wanted actual sex every time he saw me naked or wearing nice clothing, I would feel like a piece of meat. It's one thing to flirt with each other throughout the day, make innuendos about later. That's fun and exciting. :) But when I'm getting dressed so we can go out with our friends, or so we can meet his parents, I don't want to be propositioned for sex.

 

Haha, yeah, but can you imagine a guy complaining about such things? It'd be like, "Why does my wife always to get for me every time I take a shower? I can't even work out or do yard work without her wanting my body! She treats me like a piece of meat! It's so frustrating!"

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Haha, yeah, but can you imagine a guy complaining about such things? It'd be like, "Why does my wife always to get for me every time I take a shower? I can't even work out or do yard work without her wanting my body! She treats me like a piece of meat! It's so frustrating!"

 

I don't know. Can you imagine living in a society where men spend their entire lives being objectified, portrayed like sex objects on TV, in films, in marketing? A society in which women start harassing men as soon as they hit puberty, even if those men are only 11 or 12? In a society like that, yeah, men might complain about their wives treating them like a piece of meat.

 

Context is everything.

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Okay, most people have covered it already, but I'll just chime in anyway :)

 

Catholic teaching identifies four "aspects" of the sexual act: it should be free, total, faithful and fruitful. So that would be total: you can't hold anything back from your spouse when you have sex; faithful: you can't have sex with anyone but your spouse, or fantasise that your spouse is someone else when you're having sex; fruitful: you can't engage in sexual acts that are inherently sterile, or actively sterilise sex.

 

So for "free", what that means is that the sexual act has to be freely engaged in by both spouses, and should not be treated as anything other than a free act.

 

In practical terms, you can't coerce your spouse into having sex. Marital rape an even more extreme version of that. Just because you know your spouse loves you doesn't mean you can demand sex from them whenever you want, regardless of the circumstances.

 

On the other hand, just as you can't force a spouse to have sex against their will, you shouldn't deny sex to your spouse against their will without serious reason. Illness has already been mentioned, which would be one good reason not to have sex. Since sex is meant to be an expression of love and a renewal of your wedding vows, every time you have sex you should be aiming for fulfilling your spouse's needs rather than your own, and having sex knowing your spouse couldn't possibly enjoy it would be wrong.

 

But there's an issue when one spouse uses sex as a bargaining tool. When it starts being a case of, "If you do this, then we'll have sex," or, "We're not having sex till you agree with me," for example, then again, it stops being free.

 

I think it's just a matter of being generous. If your spouse isn't up for sex, take their reasons seriously, and love and respect them enough to wait until some other time. If your spouse wants to have sex, and there's no serious reason why you shouldn't, then do it, even if you're not "in the mood", so to speak (but don't be like, "Oh, well if you want to, then fine, I'll have sex with you, even though don't." Just tell yourself, "I may not particularly desire sex right now, but the man/woman I love wants us to express our love, and I'm happy to do that with them.")

 

xxx

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In marriage? That's why people marry, right?

 

In real love? Nope.

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I don't know. Can you imagine living in a society where men spend their entire lives being objectified, portrayed like sex objects on TV, in films, in marketing? A society in which women start harassing men as soon as they hit puberty, even if those men are only 11 or 12? In a society like that, yeah, men might complain about their wives treating them like a piece of meat.

 

Context is everything.

 

So society gets to dictate how you feel about your husband's intentions?

 

And you're right. Context IS everything. We're talking about a marriage context here with someone who loves you and has pledged to take care of you for life.

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So society gets to dictate how you feel about your husband's intentions?

 

And you're right. Context IS everything. We're talking about a marriage context here with someone who loves you and has pledged to take care of you for life.

 

You set up a scenario where a husband is only thinking of his dick and not his wife, which is frankly a far cry from a marriage with "someone who loves you." So first Vince replied.

 

I'm sure they'd find it a compliment in small doses. Though I can see how they'd get offended if it was all the time because they may feel they are only seen for their body and nothing else.

(Emphasis mine)

 

I further explained that no, actually, being treated like a sex object is not a compliment, and I provided context from the firsthand perspective of a woman who is actually married, with a husband who thinks about more than sex. You can reread all of that upthread or linked here.

 

Instead of trying to listen and understand that women don't want to be treated like blow-up toys, especially not by their husbands, you completely dismissed my points and made a stupid joke which ignores the misogynistic reality of our society.

 

Exhibit A.

 

 

When I called you out on it, you reframed the scenario, remember the scenario YOU originally described that is obnoxious and dehumanizing to a woman, and tried to claim the context is within a loving marriage. Just a reminder, being hounded for sex every single time you're naked or even just changing your clothes or wearing something a little form-fitting is NOT an example of a loving marriage.

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Haha, yeah, but can you imagine a guy complaining about such things? It'd be like, "Why does my wife always to get for me every time I take a shower? I can't even work out or do yard work without her wanting my body! She treats me like a piece of meat! It's so frustrating!"

 

Men and women can be very different ;) My husband does not complain if "activities" get in the way of something getting done

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I think that some people might be underestimating how truly unpleasant the thought of sex can be if you're really not in the mood, even within a loving relationship. The best comparison I can come up with is eating. If I'm not hungry, but not really full either, then someone putting one of my favorite foods on a plate in front of me will likely put me in the mood to eat a bit. But if I'm really, truly stuffed (like say, after Thanksgiving or another big meal), then even if someone put my favorite food in the entire world in front of me, the idea of eating it would not be appealing at all. I might even want to try, but I ultimately know it wouldn't work out. No matter how much I love my partner and want to please him, eating a ton of food while I'm already stuffed would be super unpleasant; I'm sure he'd pick up on that, and the meal wouldn't be fun for him either. If that makes sense at all....

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