From the Family Foundations archives
“Embrace the cross” is a phrase that will never find its way onto the cover of Cosmopolitan as a means of improving your sex life. And yet, I’ve found it is the one way that really works.
Some couples are dissatisfied with their sexual intimacy; this is evident in the many magazine covers that hock 101 ways to spice things up. But that is not the way that Jesus would recommend we become more intimate. He calls us to total self-gift. Jesus told us to pick up our cross and follow Him. This does not sound like fun to use, and it certainly doesn’t sound sexy, but picking up our own cross often has unexpected results.
Consider the times that you have denied yourself in order to help someone else. Many times I have heard it said, by people who spend time in volunteer work or activities that help others, “Oh, they give me much more than I give them.” It feels good to help people, especially if it is at your own expense.
Couples who practice NFP can have the same experience. NFP and responsible parenthood do require sacrifice, especially when abstinence is involved. It is not always easy to carry this cross. But the beauty of NFP is that one learns the tool of self-denial during abstinence.
I have had many people tell me that there is something different about my husband. Of course, I agree with this; that is why I married him. It’s like telling a new mother that her baby is beautiful; it is easy to agree with. Now I know there are many special things about my husband, but I also think I understand what it is that other people see when they look at him, especially when we are all together as a family.
They see that he is a real man. He sacrifices and puts others first. He loves. And while I also know that the seeds of this love were there when I married him, I believe that it has been our commitment to the practice of NFP that has watered and cultivated those seeds.
My husband and I sacrifice for each other, and also for the best interest of our family. There are times when we very much desire to come together in the marital embrace, but it might not be the best time to conceive another child, and so we wait. But that makes the next opportunity we do have so much sweeter.
And there is nothing more attractive to me, and I think to most women, than a man who is willing to sacrifice and deny himself for the sake of his wife. Think of all the fairy tales: what does the hero do? He slays the dragon, climbs the wall, he fights to the brink of death and counts his sufferings as nothing for the sake of the beloved.
This is what abstinence trains us to do. When you deny yourself, you are fighting the most menacing dragon; you are providing proof that you really mean it when you say “I love you.”
Many of us have tried almost all of the 101 other things to spice up our marriages, and nothing else has worked. Maybe it’s time to embrace the cross.
— Andrea lives in Lake Mills, Wisconsin, is a mom of seven and spends time reading Green Eggs and Ham and making Catholic jewelry for her Etsy store.