If you are having trouble in your relationship with your spouse in the bedroom, start here….
Many times Catholic couples who are following the Church’s teaching on sex think that all they have to do is not use contraception and they are doing what they should do. Then when difficulties and conflicts come along, they don’t know why. There is more to having a healthy sexual relationship than simply NOT using chemical or physical barriers when having sex. Yes, those things are certainly a huge detriment to having a great sexual relationship, but there is more work to be done! We always need to be working to better understand the needs of our spouse, and of ourselves. Here are some tips for you to consider and discuss with your spouse.
- Husbands and wives have different priorities when it comes to sex. Husbands and wives generally approach sex from different perspectives. Women, in general, need to feel loved, beautiful, and safe, emotionally, and physically, and then they can move to the bedroom. But men are the opposite. Men don’t necessarily have to feel emotionally connected beforehand, but it’s the sex that brings that connection. So men have sex and then they feel loved! Neither of these two perspectives is right or wrong. For both men and women, sex is the means for motivating you to connect. All that foreplay and after-play, all those conversations that happen before and after and around sex are an end, just as the sexual act is an end in itself. You need both for a balanced relationship and this is God’s design! Men and women complement each other. So when both men and women’s needs are met, the couple can have a fully intimate experience.
- Recognize there is a Desire Discrepancy. There’s usually a natural discrepancy of desire between the spouses, which means that whoever has the greatest desire for connection is in a more vulnerable position. When it comes to sexual activity, husbands may find themselves in a weaker position because in general, the man has a greater desire for sex. When he proposes sexual activity to his wife, she has the power. In the same way, wives usually have a greater desire for emotional intimacy and are therefore vulnerable when they are seeking connection with their husbands. In this situation, men have the power. But no matter who has the greater desire, it is important that we learn to greet those desires with great sensitivity.
- Be aware of the temptation to weaponize your “power” over your spouse. The Desire Discrepancy is important to recognize because it is easy for one spouse to greet those desires from the other, not with sensitivity, but with power. Sometimes without realizing it, spouses can weaponize the power they have. Weaponization occurs when wives communicate to their husbands, “Well, you’re not getting any tonight,” or husbands communicate to their wives that their feelings are irrelevant, or they refuse to speak to them. These attitudes treat the other spouse like some kind of subordinate. What is the solution? Joyful availability.
- Practice Joyful Availability. We had five children in seven years. There were many, many, many times when I just didn’t feel up for anything other than going right to sleep. But after many honest conversations with Mike, I learned to say, “I’m not really feeling like it right now, but if you can convince me!” And when I needed a shoulder to cry on, instead of just rolling his eyes and telling me I was being too emotional, Mike learned to listen deeply, to empathize and listen. Honoring the desires of the others, and not dismissing them as irrelevant is the way to be joyfully available. And if your spouse doesn’t react the way you would like them to, don’t begin to believe the lies in your head that they don’t love you.
- Have the conversations and bring it into the light. If there are things going on that make you feel rejected or rebuffed or not being loved and respected, you need to have the conversation. It can’t stay in the dark, because that’s when it can be twisted in your mind. It can drive a wedge between you or it can make you approach sex with a bad or unhealthy perspective. Each of you needs to not feel like you’re begging for sex or begging for love. Both husband and wife need to be given dignity and respect and feel emotionally safe and loved. That is required for both to make the complete gift of self.
Men and women did not create sex. GOD created sex. So don’t you think that God knows best how to do this? How to get the most pleasure out of sex, how to incorporate sex into your marriage? Within our physical relationship, we don’t have a license to act however we choose. We need to make sure that we are doing what corresponds to God’s will because we have a Father who loves us. He wants us to have a fulfilling, satisfying, unifying, life-giving sexual relationship in marriage. So whatever God tells us through the Church, whatever God tells us about sex, we are going to believe, because we believe we have a Father Who loves us, Who wants us to make love to our spouse.