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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