Give up… limiting your expression of intimacy during periods of abstinence
This is probably the most difficult challenge for me to write because this has been the most difficult challenge for me to live.
Sex is a gift and a seal, an act freely given that affirms and renews the covenant of marriage. It was designed and ordained by God before original sin. It is good, life giving, and heck of a lotta fun. While sex is the defining feature of the marriage relationship, it can never take absolute precedence within a marriage. The reason is simple. Sexuality is but one aspect of our complex humanity, and within marriage, we are called to discover our spouse, the whole person (more on the rationale of abstinence here).
Periods of abstinence are everyone’s least favorite part of the NFP lifestyle. It is one of the most palpable times when we must deny ourselves and take up our cross, and it often feels unbearably heavy. Union of spouses is not confined to the bedroom, but applies to everything within the marriage. A hiatus on bedroom activities becomes an opportunity to discover other aspects of our spouse and grow in total unity.
Make no mistake, this kind of total intimacy is a learned discipline, but it can create an enriching cyclical interplay between what happens in and out the bedroom. Sex unites us in the most total and profound way as the seal of our sacrament which helps fuel a desire to grow in deeper love and knowledge of each other. Cultivating that deeper love and knowledge of each other in turn facilitates better sex.
One thing to note. Discovering other aspects of your spouse can naturally increase the desire for the one aspect that’s off the table for the time being. If that’s the case for you, be patient and know that is good. Take the pressure off. Developing that cycle of love and knowledge takes time, so it can be helpful in periods of abstinence to do things on your own instead of focusing intensely on each other.
But now the real question: how do we get all this started in a realistic way? I thought for this week’s challenge, I’d compile a short list of practical resources that have helped me, and may help you begin to figure out how to love and discover your spouse everywhere. Expanding our expression of intimacy is not a replacement for sex (there is no such thing), but rather a complement to and enhancer of it.
Week 6 Challenge Question:
Scan through these resources with your spouse. Choose one or two things to work on this week. Then scroll down to this week’s scripture and prayer and pray them together. Commit to praying this prayer together everyday this week.
I cannot recommend this video highly enough. I watched this before I was married, and it was invaluable information to help me learn about myself, understand others, and now my husband. The Four Personality types – choleric, sanguine, melancholic, and phlegmatic – are recast as countries: Control Fun, Perfect and Peace respectively, each with their own cultures and languages. (18 minutes)
Free quiz for couples, singles, kids and teens
Date Night Guide from Surprised by Marriage
includes specific pointers on how couples can connect
How to Make NFP Not Suck (So Much) from Taking Back the Terms
A practical guide to different languages of intimacy
Scripture and Prayer
“you have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes”
Song of Solomon 4:9
Lord, give me the graces I need to be loving, understanding, forgiving and romantic toward ________ (your spouse). Teach me the habit of praising ________ at least once everyday. Help me to love ________ as a part of myself, as you, Lord, have loved me.
10 Ways to Love
Listen without interrupting (Prov. 1:8)
Speak without accusing (James 1:19)
Give without sparing (Prov. 21:26)
Pray without ceasing (Col. 1:9)
Answer without arguing (Prov 17:1)
Share without pretending (Eph. 4:15)
Enjoy without complaint (Phil. 2:14)
Trust without wavering (Cor. 13:7)
Forgive without punishing (Col. 3:13)
Promise without forgetting (Prov. 13:12)
*Prayer and 10 Ways to Love from St. Rita Catholic Church, Alexandria, VA
Read this week’s Challenge Accepted from Cecelia