Protect the Emotional Life of Our Spouse
The answer to sexual incompatibility is not to end the sexual relationship entirely (see my article on Sexless Marriage and the Sacrament). Intimacy has a needed and eternal function in marriage beyond procreation.
President Joseph F. Smith said “The lawful association of the sexes is ordained of God, not only as the sole means of race perpetuation, but for the development of the higher faculties and nobler traits of human nature, which the love inspired companionship of man and woman alone can insure.” (1917,739)[i]
Forcing celibacy on our spouses or avoiding sex in order to avoid the challenges that go with it is not only detrimental to the health of the marriage but it is also a ‘secret sexual sin’ of omission by being silent about it and hoping it will go away or your spouse will eventually give up.
And on the other hand, coercion[ii] is a ‘secret sexual sin’ as well – ie. emotionally manipulating one’s spouse into sexual acts they don’t want to do through guilt or anger. How would this be a “secret sexual sin”. Coercion is abuse. It’s emotional abuse, but still abuse. If your spouse feels coerced into a sexual act that is repulsive to them, that’s sexual abuse.
However, most men communicate love through their sexuality. They also obtain much needed emotional intimacy through sex. This can also be true for many women. Denying a spouse this intimate form of connection and bonding is also a form of sexual abuse and can be a form of unrighteous dominion. [iii] Both are not bonding and marital edifying attributes that will ensure an eternally happy marriage.
Not repenting for it and then lying about it in a temple recommend interview makes it a “secret sexual sin.” We’re all human. We make mistakes as we learn in the laboratory of marriage. This is a sin easily remedied by repenting and striving to be more Christlike in our interaction with our spouse – on both sides.
If our spouse is reluctant to engage sexually with us, what are the reasons? There can be a multitude of reasons. Reasons anywhere from physical problems to just needing to feel like what they say or think matters. Can we talk about them openly, or would some professional assistance be helpful?
Both spouses will sometimes go out of their comfort zones in order to expand intimacy – it’s a growth process, which is sometimes painful even in the best of relationships, but that is what marriage is for. It’s to get us our of our comfort zones. It’s purpose is to stretch us and help us to grow.
Men and women connect differently, and in ways they are not familiar with. It’s an awkward and deliberate process that takes a lot of loving negotiation and communication in order to be successful in a long-term relationship.
Michele Weiner Davis, marriage and family therapist and author of “The Sex Starved Marriage” said:
“A good sexual relationship is a two-person job. If your spouse has put effort into being more sexual, you’ve been doing something to promote and inspire him or her. You’ve got to keep doing it.Relationship problem solving requires a trial-and-error mind-set. You try something and then you watch your spouse’s reaction carefully. If you get a positive reaction, you know you’re on the right track and you keep going.If you get nothing, you might try once more. But if your spouse reacts negatively, quit it. It’s as simple as that: you do more of what works and less of what doesn’t work. If more people understood this philosophy, I’d be out of business.”[iv]
[i] Smith, Joseph Fielding, Unchastity the Dominant Evil of the Age, Improvement Era, June 1917, 739
[ii] Kimball, Spencer W., The Miracle of Forgiveness, Bookcraft, UT, 1969, 73-74
[iii] Doctrine and Covenants 121:36-44
[iv] Weiner-David, Michele, The Sex Starved Marriage, Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, NY, 2003,136-137