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Sexuality in Marriage « The Foundation of John Paul II Institute of Marital Infertility Treatment

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Sexuality in Marriage


By Doctor Maciej Barczentewicz.

When thinking about marriage, about one’s life, everyone wants to be happy. We have a great need to be loved – a woman wants to be noticed, adored, appreciated, loved by her husband; a man needs someone close who will respect and admire him. We search for happiness in intimacy, in sexual life, each one of us in their own way. We search for fulfillment. We have good intentions, good objectives – but why do we so often not reach the expected goal? Is marriage anachronic today? Are “civil partnerships” and “trial relationships” a solution? The mindset seems to be that so far it is good, but as soon as it unbearable to be with each other, it means goodbye. Seeing the marriages of their parents, young people often go in the same direction. You do not want to risk, especially when you know that the sacrament of marriage is for life, so why enter into a relationship with anyone?
It is a fact that it is not humanly possible to be with each other to the end, in health and in sickness, in affluence and in poverty, in youth and in old age, with children, and with in-laws, with every actual problem of the every-day life – because every one of us is first of all an egotist – and no matter how hard you try, there will always come a situation which will be too much to take, when you will finally say that you have had enough of it all.
Marriage according to the human idea, limited to our own possibilities does not come to fulfillment anywhere in the world, neither in the East nor in the West, not in the North or in the South. Marriage is in a state of deep crisis in Europe, in America and in Russia. Through their polygamy, Muslims cause practically only greater divisions, as well as hatred and jealousy among the wives and children from different mothers, which later transforms into massive aggression in their societies. Pagan, primeval and traditional cultures, such as those in Africa and Asia offer various kinds of tribal-ancestral behavior, often connected with the exchange of sexual partners within the framework of a ritual, which, among others, has lead to the enormous spread of AIDS in Africa. The neo-pagans of the western world are ready for any type of concession, willing to accept relationships of two women or two men, and even call three partners or other forms of cohabitation a family, and think of it as a chance for a happy life.
Why then does the Church offer us Marriage? Why does the Church encourage, provided there are no legal impediments, entering into the Sacrament, why does it encourage even those who have been together for years and so far the Sacrament did not seem necessary to them? It is not only because when we live in debauchery or cohabit, we risk our salvation, but because the Christian Marriage (Family) is something completely different from what we know from our every-day experience.
First of all, it is a calling. The Bible says that every man is called by the Lord to a specific life: „Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you” (Jr 1:5). It is our task to, with the help of God’s grace, discern this calling: either to marriage, monastic life or to living in the world for Christ in celibacy. One can say: either marriage or virginity. For a man and a woman. And what you think about it or what you desire is not the most important thing. What is most important is what God foresaw for you as the best way of life. Does God want you to be married? And does He want you to marry this man or this woman?
Marriage is a covenant not only between two people, but also with the One who is strong, with the One who wants and can guide us from death to life, from slavery to freedom, from hatred to love, to the Love in the dimension of the Cross, the Love that He has given us in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the image of the Love and Unity such as the Holy Trinity experiences. The Holy Father John Paul II often compared the family to the image of the Holy Trinity. This is the image of God on Earth. This is the presence of the Risen Jesus Christ among us, the light and the salt for this world, the direction for those who do not see any meaning in their lives, who suffer in senselessness, in addictions, in unhealthy human relations, in hatred and in revenge. This is the leaven or the yeast of the new Creation, of the new Reality, of the new Life. So how did it happen that so many of the marriages entered into in the Church do not see any help from the Lord and suffer just like the non-believers?
If one compares the Sacrament to water, then depending on the vessel with which we come to the well, we will either be able to drink from it or not. If you come to it with a bucket, you will be happy, if you came with a cup, it will not last for long, if you come with a strainer, then you will only get splattered. And the spouses constantly need fresh water, fresh help, sustaining them in their hardships because life is a serious reality, where there are specific problems, deficiencies, difficulties, challenges and dangers. Clearly, a Christian’s whole life has to be sustained through participation in the sacraments: the Eucharist, Penance, without which we are helpless. But also Marriage is a sacrament which needs to be constantly experienced and renewed. We experience Marriage as a sacrament, a visible sign, not only during the wedding ceremony, before a priest in the parish Church or in a beautiful Cathedral, with a white dress, flowers and in a wonderful setting. We experience Marriage as a sacrament in each marital act, in the love and unity expressed also in the dimension of the body, in being one body.
And what have we done of our sexuality? How do we experience this dimension which is so intimate, so important, so life-giving? What setting do we give to our intimacy? Who is the Guest in our marital bed? Is it the One who allows us to experience such dimension of unity as when the Earth and the Heavens unite? The Lover and the Beloved, the image of the nuptials of the Lord with His Chosen People from the Book of the Song of Songs in the Holy Bible. Has it ever come to your mind to pray before you enter this time of being together? Do you enter into the marital act being in sanctifying grace? And this is not about making some law stating that if you abide by these rules everything will be better and God will bless all your efforts. This is about searching for a personal relation with Jesus Christ, who is the Guarantor of the covenant between the spouses and who wants them to become a deep Unity, who wants them to experience happiness, to experience eternal life here on earth.
There are plenty of problems with sexuality. Marriage sexuality is very often damaged by selfishness, pornography, previous sexual experiences with another “partner,” masturbation. When talking as a doctor in my office with women and married couples, I hear of the consequences of these sins; they destroy the person who commits them, but also his or her spouse; they cause neurosis, depression, inability to have intercourse, or the opposite: inability to sexual abstinence. Many times I come across a situation when the woman treats intercourse as a necessary evil. She accepts it only on account of her husband, “so that he would not go to another woman.” It does not benefit her in any way. Sometimes this state is connected with disorders which can cause pain, very often with the fear of another pregnancy. Sometimes the wife does not show any interest in sex, she does not have time or need to think about it. In the beginning, before getting married, she agreed to intercourse as “a proof of love,” then came pregnancy and the wedding. The husband is often the person who wanted to take advantage of her and still does. When he is finished, he leaves her to herself. Even if he says that he loves her, the question comes to mind: does he just say that he loves me? He falls asleep or smokes a cigarette. When the child is born, it takes away her whole “life libido.” In this competition the husband is bound to lose. Every year the situation worsens. When the wife is taking care of the house, raises children and works on top of that, she is so tired that she simply has no energy for the “marital responsibilities.”
And the husband? He found out about masturbation from his friends. Then came the first experiences with pornography. There were conversations at school, then at work, with friends. Maybe he got to do “it” drunk at some party. You have to seize an opportunity. Practically everything we see around us “stimulates.” Ads, billboards, every movie has scenes with sexual innuendos. Why try to defend yourself from it? After all it is just pleasure. Who said that it is a sin? Priests? They watch the same television, watch the same movies. It is all normal. If anyone thinks differently, he must be a person full of complexes, neurotic, a prude and a hypocrite. Then comes infatuation, she is the one and only – but does she love me? She should prove it, I cannot take it anymore. We have to try somehow – maybe petting? Then finally the wedding. Now there will be no problems. But why does she have a headache when I want to “be with her”? And she is constantly unhappy, like a piece of wood. Is there anything that moves her? When she is pregnant she feels sick all the time, after giving birth – you can’t, she is menstruating – you can’t, she fell ill – you can’t. How can you deal with it – masturbation in a marriage? You cannot sleep at night, those R-rated movies. And why does she not want to watch them too?
As a solution to our fear of pregnancy, we invite contraceptives as a “guest” to our marital bed, or else we invite the contraceptive mentality, when, wanting to act according to the teaching of the Church, we use natural methods. You should have two children at most, the third one is a “mistake,” having more than four is very suspicious. From my own practice, I know that many couples still use coitus interruptus, then probably condoms and calendar-based methods. Ever more often young people start using hormonal contraceptives, some women who are in their 30s experiment with intrauterine devices (coils), older women often experienced abortion (possibly numerous times). What are the consequences? We are trapped in a cursed circle. We are not satisfied with our sexuality. Neither with our spouse nor with our self. Help does not seem to come from anywhere. We finally reach the conclusion that this is just the way it has got to be. Some marriages give up intercourse completely after several years. Some women go through it biting their teeth. The husband sometimes cannot stand it anymore and leaves her for another woman. Sometimes he decides to use the escort service. Then suddenly there is trichomoniasis or other sexually transmitted disease. We do not understand why our marriage has to go through such problems, why there is no unity, why we are strangers to one another, destroying and blaming each other. It is as if we were locked in a circle of death. The other person is an enemy to us.
Jesus Christ is the One who will help you overcome fear, hatred, sorrow and pain, and reach out to the husband (wife) with forgiveness. He will give you strength to start talking, He will allow you to accept yet another humiliation and be faithful even when you feel hurt and unloved. You can do this thanks to Jesus Christ who has bound himself with the both of you in the sacrament of marriage and who wants to build unity (He, and the wife, and the husband – the image of the Holy Trinity). He wants to serve you, to heal your wounds, to give you the Holy Spirit so that you could be dying for one another (when your husband destroys and disrespects you). Without this death there is no Resurrection, there is no Unity. Also for me, personally, it is still a reality which is impossible to obtain using only your strengths, but which is given as a free gift by Jesus Christ as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. If somebody treats faith only as a set of laws, telling him what he mustn’t and what he has to do, he is still a slave, while after all “Christ destined us for freedom.”