From the Family Foundations archives
Isn’t this totally a fun topic?! Thank you so much, dear fall of Adam, for wreaking havoc on our sexuality!
In all seriousness — and I do mean, in all seriousness — it has taken me nearly 20 years to appreciate the blessing and gift of our marital covenant. And I don’t just mean appreciate in the “generically grateful” sense; I mean wholly appreciating it in the same way as my husband does.
Put clearly, dear reader, I enjoy sex.
(Is it awkward to say that? I feel like it’s awkward!)
And yet — and yet — I know without a doubt that we’re meant to enjoy it. Why? In short, it’s God’s will that we do. When I think about the release of hormones attached to this act, the love of my husband that grows exponentially each time, our seven children, i.e. the beautiful fruits of our love…I know without a doubt that sexuality is a gift.
But it’s taken considerable work to get me to this point. Twenty years’ worth of work! First, and perhaps hardest of all, I had to take an enormous step back from what our culture promotes as a healthy sexuality. Ours is not a Cosmopolitan marriage, where the focus is all on “driving him mad” or “talking dirty.”
Instead, I focus on him — on us. This is a very important tip: focus. It is without a doubt the hardest part of being able to enjoy sex, but we are both so much happier (if you know what I mean, wink, wink) if I can be fully present to the physical act of our union.
Second, I’ve had to forgive myself for the mistakes of my past. It’s a simple equation, really, but one the world keeps getting wrong. Premarital sex: bad. Procreative, married love: very, very good. Unmarried couples, do yourself an enormous favor and abstain from sex until you’ve tied the knot. It’s heavy baggage that can come forward into your marriage in ways you can’t anticipate, which can take lots of healing.
My third suggestion is to shoot for having sex at least once a day. Ha! Caught your attention, didn’t I? Okay, every other day then. Responsible parenthood can at times call for some periodic abstinence, but when you do have a green light, use it! Our minds are hard-wired to be habitual, and in this case, daily practice makes things much better. My friend says that married sex is like a fine wine: the more time you give it, the better it gets.
Fourth, find a time that works for you (the wife); you can usually count on your husband to be ready and willing any time. For my husband and me, that’s often the mornings or afternoons — not the evenings, when I’m drained. Finding a good time has been crucial to our frequent intimacy.
Above all, dear beautiful wife, please put having sex at the very top of your list, and please don’t relegate this relationship to the mundane to-dos of the day! I tried that once. It didn’t work. My husband knew he was being relegated and my apathy nearly broke our marriage. My openness, however, saved our family.
For that reason, and all the others listed above, I am a staunch defender of frequent sex. Truly, if you don’t have health-related impediments, open your heart to your spouse and see where it takes you.
Easier said than done? Probably, so I asked my go-to guru Sarah for some practical tips. Sarah is a Catholic kindred spirit and has one of the most beautiful marital relationships I know. Here is her advice on kindling a fire in the bedroom.
- Pray for the grace to want to give yourself to your spouse. It doesn’t come naturally sometimes. Pray before/during/after that God will bless this act, and he will. He will! Your mind will be freed of its burdens, and your heart of the sexual ties that are holding you back.
- Know that more often than not, if the idea is not tempting, after a very short while the momentum will carry you with it. You don’t have to feel 100 percent on board to get started.
- Try to identify if there is tension in other areas that makes it hard for you to forgive and be warmly open to your spouse’s advances. Say the words of forgiveness is only a beginning. It takes time and the stumbling blocks are often subtle.
- The grace of the sacrament is no accident. In the same way that some people turn away from confession despite the wide arms of God’s mercy calling us back, we can turn away from the grace that’s offered in our marital covenant. This sacrament is for your personal sanctification, for your marriage and for your family. That’s a pretty ripe plum for the enemy of our souls.
- If you struggle with what Christopher West calls “angelism,” and unhealthy sense of what purity means and an aversion to the sacrament, it’s not from God. He wants you to enjoy this sacrament with the same depth of joy that you take in Holy Communion.
The bottom line, my friend? Adam and Eve didn’t mean to screw up. They did, though, and it’s our job to restore the garden.
— Margaret Berns is the founder of Minnesota Mom, a popular Catholic blog that deals with the ups and downs of family life.