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Sex and the Married Woman

By Cheryl Dickow

My first job after college graduation was as a “Training Specialist” at a large corporation. I taught computer software classes. It was the mid-80’s and I had all sorts of plans for life. I had just delivered my first son and my sister was his caregiver during my long days at work. I loved my job, I loved my new baby, and I loved my husband. Although the plan was to essentially have it all, I can’t say it was as much my own personal goals as simply the general goals of women my age. Many of us weren’t consciously choosing this life; rather, we were swept along in the tides of liberation. I suppose many of my generation probably felt obligated to at least make a nominal grab at the brass ring, after all, our predecessors had done an awful lot of bra-burning and picketing to make our life better. Right?

So, when a page from a 50’s woman’s magazine made its way around the office, and then was posted in the break room for all of us to see, we chuckled -- as required -- and poked fun at the list of “Wifely Duties” as laid out in the one page copy.

I can remember that day as if it were yesterday because there was something deep down inside of me that stirred in response to that 50’s woman’s magazine. And the stirring wasn’t anger or resentment but a sort of envy. “Hmmm,” I pondered, “what would that life be like?” Her obligations may have appeared a bit different than mine but had to be just as demanding and I would imagine just as fulfilling and frustrating as well. To this day I believe that most of the young women who ridiculed that picture had to have some sort of recognition that “wifely duties” weren’t all bad things. In fact, I’m sure that every woman who laughed at the idea has her own list of “husbandly duties” and wouldn’t think twice of adding to it.

No matter what age they live in, women will always have certain obligations if they have been called to the vocation of marriage. Some obligations will be embraced while others will be considered necessary but unpleasant. This attitude towards these “duties” is certainly affected by the culture, as witnessed from the magazine page all the way through today’s Hollywood messages. Cleaning bathrooms is probably at the top of the “necessary but unpleasant” list, should a woman be asked to make such an inventory. Sadly, however, what may very well compete for one of the top spots of this imaginary “necessary-but-unpleasant” list of wifely duties happens to be sexual relations with her husband.

I will admit right here and now that I’m not big on statistics. It seems that just about anyone can find at least one study done by some particular group or another that will support an argument being put forth. So, I am positive there are studies that will show that many women have stopped having sexual relations with their husband after 15 years of marriage while others will say some enjoy an active sex life well into their 50th year of marriage. But let’s face it, many of us know of someone – and that someone might be you -- for whom marital sex has become a “chore” or is no longer part of the marriage. Or, it may occur once a month or every other month. I know many such women, all with varying reasons, for whom sex is non-existent or barely existent within their marriage.

But is this good for the woman? The marriage? What does this say to the husband? The Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2332 states:

Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.

In regards to the sexual nature of the married man and woman there is a bond that forms, and continues to develop, that will be unlike any other bond that this same man and woman would be able to form with any other person. To deny the development of this bond is to deny a unique communion of these two people who will otherwise never be able to know such a bond on earth. In other words, the physical intimacy of their union is such that nothing else will ever be like it or will ever produce the same results – whether this means children or an intimacy experienced that is holy and from God.

JPII taught very clearly on the “gift of self” and when a woman understands that gift of self has many dimensions, she will also see that one of those dimensions is the physical way in which she can give herself to her husband. A husband, then, also has obligations as the “receiver” of this gift. Jewish law teaches that a man who pleases his wife is doing a mitzvah – a good deed. This teaching is many thousands of years old and clearly based upon the understanding that God created the martial union for the pleasure of both husband and wife but also in the ways in which it elevates them as pro-creators with God. ...

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1 - 10 of 11 Comments

  1. Hmmm
    2 years ago

    First off, I enjoyed reading this article, so thank you for this.
    It's important to remember that God is the binding force and centrality of a Catholic marriage and that the goal of both husband and wife is holiness. From personal experience, talking to Catholic friends of both genders and observations, young Catholic men are pressured into repressing their sexuality (save it for marriage), which leads them to the assumption that once they are married, it can run wild. Women are so bombarded with external references to them as unhealthy sexual objects that their desire to be loved is unfulfilled. When you put these elements together in a marriage, it can cause a rift, which seems to be picked up in this article. A word that I haven't seen used, and surprised at that, is communication! The man and woman have a responsibility to their marriage and God to communicate; without this, the goal of holiness and Heaven is practically unattainable. Men despise begging for sex and women despise being objectified. If they communicated with each other in an honest manner, they are saving themselves from many misunderstandings, and enabling themselves to have a much more enjoyable time in the marital bed. Another word that I would've like to seen used is sacrifice. There are times where your wife will not be in the mood or your husband desires your intimacy (or vice versa) in which case, sacrifices have to be made, bothways! Sex is a beautiful thing. God made it, He knows! It takes two and if husband and wife communicate and make sacrifices, their marital intimacy escalates.

  2. carise
    3 years ago

    Finally! Something about sex and the fact that it is good in a marriage! There's tons of protestant sites/blogs specifically about sex in marriage and there are none that are Catholic! It's nice to at least find an article on it.

  3. GKelly
    5 years ago

    Wow. This raises many questions for me re: the author and angle of the article. Pro-marriage, pro-women? Not sure, though I do see the underlying subtle point I believe was intended. Nonetheless, I was insulted.

    I read through the gentleman's reply. I hear you, though I pray divorce is not the solution (hear me out). Once the overwhelming fatigue from motherhood, the body changes from hormones and childbirth, and then the poor body image from weight gain really settles in, being in the mood is very difficult no matter what. However, as others mentioned, finding other ways to get the mood started is an essential role for the husband (but yes, it takes two to tango). It's the getting started that can be an issue for a wife/mother. Being overweight or having other health or body image issues can really make sex seem unappealing. Still, allowing
    a marriage to become sexless is not "loving" toward the other, not considerate, and really not fair. The sexual consideration goes both directions, absolutely. Maybe this is what the author wanted to say but then somehow took a detour? And amen to those who brought up some other food for thought on why a woman might be turned off and the "duty" of a husband.

    And, that lawn analysis was completely insulting. House chores are not on the same plane as intimacy.

  4. sts
    5 years ago

    Same goes for emotional intimacy. If he/she is not getting it at home, he/she will try to get it someplace else. Hopefully, he and she in each marriage will BOTH want to be aware and satisfy each others needs, regardless of what they may be.

  5. carriedaway
    5 years ago

    Maybe I'm interpreting this wrong, but if not having sex with husband causes him to have an affair, then what about before marriage- how did he control himself then (I guess because once you start it's harder to stop :S ).

    Also, I agree that husband has a duty to help put the wife in the mood. If women are to respect the guy's needs he is to love the woman by helping her be emotionally available for sex.

  6. Rick Barbano
    5 years ago

    Are you sure you read this article? I mean, did you really READ it? Its not not about a " chore " or " duty " on one persons behalf, its about equal responsibility to the marriage. A sexless marriage is a useless marriage and any marriage with a compulsive partner demanding sex at all times then someone has a problem. Unfortunately my wife has vocalized many times that sex is not important to the marriage and hypothesized " what if she could no longer have sex" ? Then what kind of sex can you no longer have? And she doesn't have it that tough. I do the laundry, clean the kids rooms, strip beds, clean dishes, vacuum carpets, wipe down hand prints, dust window sills,tv's,tables, work a fulltime job, do the yards, maintain the vehicles, play with the kids, do homework with them, bathe the kids, keep the finances, maintenance on the house. So there is NO WAY she could be too tired to have sex for the sake of sustaining the marital bond as well as meeting your partners level of ecstasy with other forms of sex. My point is when the sex stops, why should I care about her identity any more? If she chooses to sleep on the couch, divided from me and the bed and in full view of the children, then the marriage has failed. My male co-workers are wondering where these women are that have husbands that are not " in the mood ". We just don't understand why a man can't be in the mood. If it is an ailment, well then it works both sides of the fence.
    I've lost contact with my wife. There is no interaction even on a civil level even with day to day responsibilities and the animosity, defensiveness has divided us even further.
    I can understand how a marriage can fail either sexless or infidelity. Myself only having sex twice in the last 18 months has left me with a very low opinion of my wife. Divorce is not a question of if it happens, but " when ".


  7. D
    6 years ago

    If he doesn't get it at home he'll get it someplace else.

  8. The Mrs
    6 years ago

    My own husband would disagree with the notion that sex should sometimes be a duty for a woman. If I am not in the mood, the last thing he wants is an effort on my part to give him gratification at the expense of my own. The last thing he wants is for me to associate our lovemaking with a chore. He is far more interested in finding out what exactly is on my mind, and correcting the problem so that I can relax and get into a more intimate frame of mind, so to speak. It could be that I am too physically exhausted from cleaning the house, taking care of the kids, and so on. Rather than mope around or spend 45 minutes begging, he'll try to come home early the next day to help out around the house, or just to give me some time to talk, or drop the kids off at our parent's so we can just spend some time alone having an adult conversation. He would never, ever use the possibility of adultery (in his heart or otherwise) as a scare tactic to get me to perform my "duty". In fact, we believe that the moment something as sacred and loving as sex becomes a "duty", then it defeats the purpose and cheapens it. One could just as easily argue that sex workers are doing their employment "duties", and are not really "in the mood" as well. The minute I'm turning this most intimate act into a duty, with the same level of interest as a sex worker, what does that say about how I respect my husband, or even my marriage for that matter?

    I realize for many women, the threat of adultery is a very real possibility. I realize that doing one's "duty" becomes a habit all too often, and in many cases I've seen female friends turn their intimate lives into little more than a "duty", with all the enjoyment left out of it. If you keep turning an act of love into a chore, how long before loving your husband in other ways is also done with false enthusiasm and a sense of obligation rather than genuine love and affection? I've seen it happen among some friends over the years. One co-worker crying at her desk because she "had to have sex" with her husband the night before. In fact, her husband made her perform this duty almost daily, regardless of what time of the month it was, how she felt, if she was in physical pain, and so on. Where is the line between doing one's duty and marital rape, exactly? And her marriage didn't start off this way. She, like many women, would admit that from time to time, she was too stressed or simply not in the mood. Her husband's response was to get mad, and negotiate a "dutiful" response from her. Over time, this "duty" became an expectation whenever he felt like having some physical gratification. The more she performed this "duty", the less she respected her husband. At present, their marriage is (what appears to me, at least) an arrangement of selfishness and broken hearts, with no respect for one another, let alone themselves.
    I hope the day never comes where making love to my husband is on the same level as cleaning the toilet! He deserves better than that. And so do I.

  9. joy
    6 years ago

    i totally agree with Zee. lame argument. sorry women don't really have the little blue pill to help make sure they can "perform their duty." plus, statistics show that most women have it harder reaching orgasm, while some never experience it at all. If that were the case with a couple, wouldn't it then explain the lack of interest in sex from the wife. And if it truly is a duty on both sides, then you failed to also tell men in this article that they have a DUTY to help their wife enjoy the act more.

  10. msg
    6 years ago

    I thought the article was spot on. God wants us to be happy in our blessed union and being happy takes work from both wife and husband.

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