Monday, March 19, 2007

A response to Peter Fournier, part 2: "The urge is too strong!"

Going further into Peter's essay:

Doing that [loving your wife in sickness and in health] requires that you, the man, are able to love her, and love her truly, according to that promise, while abstaining. You have to say no to sexual intercourse, even when she wants it desperately, if you have, as a couple, decided to delay or indefinitely postpone another pregnancy.

This can be a challenge, especially when she wants to take a risk. It is of course a challenge when you want her in a sexual way and the timing is not right -- you have to learn not to pressure or pout. You have to learn to abstain in good cheer.

Oh but I can't do that! The urge is too strong!

Actually, I have been abstaining in good cheer. I haven't refused to take out the garbage or to change the baby's diaper. I'm at home nearly every evening. I don't sulk, I don't snipe at her, and I don't pressure her in the least. She has made her decision, and I respect it.

As for the urge, the urge is there, but I'm well trained in how to resist it. As I said in my initial post, we were both virgins on our wedding night, and we've never strayed. While some young men have the attitude that any woman is potentially sexually available to them -- an attitude that must be hard to shake when they finally get married -- I was inculcated with the idea that no woman was sexually available to me, except, some day when I'd be married, my wife. Assuming that there were 2,000,000,000 adult women in the world, even as a married man I still wouldn't be allowed to have sex with 1,999,999,999 of them. Adding one more (my wife) to that enormous number is not a major adjustment.

This was reinforced in church youth group and the campus Christian ministry. My closest friends were Christians, and they at least professed to live according to that precept. (If they didn't, they weren't bragging about it.) The girls I went on dates with were all chaste Christians, too, belonging to the same fellowships, and they lived by the same standard.

So I'm very comfortable with the idea that the women I work with, the women in Sunday School class at church, the women in my civic club, the women I am around for one reason or another, are nevertheless off limits, even if I am attracted to them and they are (improbably) attracted to me. Accordingly I maintain physical and emotional boundaries with these women. I don't flirt with them, I don't spend time alone with them, I don't confide in them, I don't fantasize about them, I don't get touchy-feely with them, and I steer clear of any emotional entanglements with them.

Therefore, it's not a stretch to treat as off-limits the woman I work most closely with and spend the most time around -- my wife. In fact it's easier in many ways, because while I see my coworkers only when they're wearing their public faces and attitudes, I see my wife not just at her best, but also when she's tired and cranky and not very pleasant to be around. (And of course she sees me when I'm least attractive, too.)

Indeed, abstaining only gets easier over time, as memories of the pleasures of sex fade, and we grow accustomed to not think of each other in a sexual way.

So the strength of the urge is not a problem, but I don't think my ability to control my urges communicates love to my wife. I think she reads it as indifference.

I also find myself applying the same boundaries to her that I have used since high school to avoid getting entangled inappropriately with other women. Sensual touching, passionate kisses, flirting, deep emotional sharing -- these hardly ever happen now, because (just as with a high school date) they would lead somewhere we can't go right now.

And to be crystal clear -- I do not think this is a good path we are on. I do not think it is a good thing for a husband and wife to lose their sexual attraction for each other.

I think the only thing that would communicate to her that I am devoted to her in a romantic way would be for me to get the vasectomy so that we can be sexually available to each other without a significant risk of pregnancy and the resulting medical risks she would face.


Anonymous said...

I think what he's trying to say is that you should fool around, but not have sex. Because then you'll have intimacy. And where you say you can't be at all sexual because of where it would lead, that's where you're supposed to be strong and exercise restraint and self-control, and not let it lead there. -- anonymous1

Contraskeptic said...

I don't think that's right, anonymous1. Peter is a Catholic, and I'm pretty sure he would regard fooling around without intercourse as just another form of onanism. But he can speak for himself.

Anonymous said...

Well, maybe not fool around, but you're saying you can't even spend time alone and confide in her, because it will lead to intercourse? I think he wants you to be strong enough to do those things without it leading to intercourse. -- a1

Contraskeptic said...

I am capable of spending time alone with a woman or confiding in a woman without it leading inexorably to intercourse. It's just that with other women it's prudent to avoid some behavior that isn't in itself wrong in order to stay well on the safe side of the line.

I'm not saying that I consciously or unconsciously treat my wife exactly how I treat other women -- we do spend time alone together and confide in each other -- but I am saying that I see a tendency for us to regard each other far more as co-workers than as lovers.

Sister in Christ said...

Contra, You are right to discern that the distance sexually between you and your wife will eventually cause issues. Women do take it as indifference if you can abstain, instead of the way intended by the man as respect.

I know you are trying to decide what is the greater sin. But I just kinda got say one thing. Regardless of which denomination, sin is sin is sin. Murder,rape, lies, disobedience to parents are all EQUAL.

I know the Bible said staying away from your wife sexually is not GOOD, but it never said it was a sin. If it were, don't you think there would have been more mentions of the disciples visiting their homes where their wives were?

One last thing. God does not set you up to fail. I don't know where you got the idea that God will leave you with no way out other than sin. That is not of God, that is a man made or Devil made lie!

But then again, I am not catholic, I don't believe all bc methods are sin full. If you look at the heart of the Word, not just the actual words in the Bible, as Jesus tried to teach us. If you follow that sex that does not procreate children is a sin (ie birth control) than all forms are wrong, no mater how natural or not. God doesn't flex on his rules. He doesn't say don't lie, except to tell your wife she looks skinny when she isn't. He just says do not lie. He doesn't say do not murder, but the man that killed your kid is ok. NO. He doesn't waver, WE DO.

Jesus fulfilled all things because we couldn't do it on our own. I don't like bashing, but the Catholic side of the house and other stricter denominations place so much emphasis on what you DO to get into heaven, instead of focusing on the real deal. Salvation is not something we do or work at every day. Salvation is given and NOT taken. We work to be more Christ like, not because we HAVE to, but because our walk with God is TRANSFORMING us. Our works are not to showcase how Godly we are but to showcase how Awesome God is.

SO in saying all that, God can do anything, but if you limit yourself to living by mans standards of what form of bc is sin, instead of just living with what God gave you, you are going to stay in the stagnate place you are.

I would advise to get the vasectomy, not because I support your idea to not have more kids, but because the most important thing right now is to save the marriage that is splintering because you can't decide what is sin and what isn't. The Greatest thing is that God will love you even after that, He will still accept you into heaven, given you have accepted him as savior, and he will still work in your life if you let him. AND if he still wants you to have more kids... HE WILL GIVE THEM TO YOU. God is almighty, all sovereign and can do anything. He had a donkey talk to balaam so why not?

Melissa Garrett said...

I found your blog via the search term "how to convince a man to get a vasectomy." I read your initial entry in which you were assking for advice, as well as some of the responses.

While I am not a very religious person, my first response was Oh Puhleeze! While I commend you for being so brave as to divulge your personal and internal conflicts, I can certainly empathize with how your wife feels.

I am an extremely healthy 29-year-old mother to three children. Despite my health, however, I had horrendous pregnancies. Have you ever heard of Hyperemesis Gravidarum? It's extreme nausea and vomiting that leads to dehydration and malnourishment, which inevitably lands the pregnanct woman in the hospital. I suffered HG with two of my three pregnancies. My second pregnancy was only midly tolerable. I was then faced with high sugars and preterm labors (for all). Pregnancy has ALWAYS been a big deal for us, and the decision to have more than one child has not been made lightly.

Having a fourth would be detrimental to our marriage and finances. We can barely afford the three we have, and the strain of having a son with behavioral issues causes unending stress. I've been a mom since I was 21, and I am just now at the point where I can even think about starting a career. I'm working at home as a freelance writer, and even that is difficult, as I have a 25-month-old toddler underfoot all the time.

Birth control pills make me feel awful; they always have. I have been lucky to have had normal deliveries, so having a tubal would be a completely elective and major surgery as I never had a c-section which would make "going in there" less intrusive. We thought about other methods of birth control (IUD) but the risks sounded too great to me.

It took me a long time to convince my husband to get a vasectomy, and I am happy that he will on 08-31. It's quick and almost pain-free, plus sexual feeling and performance is not affected at all.

Believe me, I think it a FAR greater sin to have children whom you cannot adequately take care of and love (not talking about you, but people in general). I think it takes a very strong person to recognize his parenting limitations.

Obviously, your wife has recognized hers. I think it's terrible that you and your wife are abstaining from sex.

BC is not a sin. But that's my opinion. I love my children dearly, but I don't want TEN of them just because I believe God might punish me if I don't procreate to my fullest extent.

All those babies are just not good on a body anyway. That's just plain medical fact.

Good luck to you and your wife. I truly hope you can work this out.