Please read at your own discretion as this does include some details around sex within marriage.
Picture this: it’s your wedding night (ok, it’s actually a month after your wedding night because you’re using NFP and your cycle got super messed up from all the wedding stress). After all the anticipation, all the (im)patience, all the excitement, you finally get to have sex with your husband. And it doesn’t work. Like physically, your bodies aren’t letting it happen. You take a break and do some mood-killing research to find out if you licitly can use lube, literally praying that you can find good advice from Catholics without stumbling onto something pornographic.
It’s the next night. With your new knowledge that yes, you can use lube, you try again. And it is “meh.” You try to reassure yourself that everyone’s first time isn’t great, and hope that it will get better.
But you keep trying and it doesn’t get better. In fact, it’s often painful. You feel let down because you’re not enjoying something that people talk about like it’s this magical experience. You feel guilty for resenting your husband a little because he seems to be the only one getting anything out of it. You question how intoxicated strangers can have sex so easily while you and your sober husband are struggling to make it work. You start praying (more like begging God), that you can at least feel emotionally closer to your spouse.
You question how intoxicated strangers can have sex so easily while you and your sober husband are struggling to make it work.
Finally, sex gets enjoyable until you notice a disturbing trend. Every time you have sex a few days before your period, you’re getting violently sick to your stomach. Again, you turn to Google carefully crafting your search terms to find something that won’t scar you for life. The good news is that what you’re experiencing isn’t all that weird. The bad news is the only advice offered is to use condoms.
Oh, and on top of all of this, your phase 2 is long and you’re still TTA (trying to avoid).
And through this frustration, you do figure out ways to better communicate with your husband. You find ways to strategically word Google searches to answer those questions. You re-develop your understanding of chastity. You start to figure out how to make sex mutually enjoyable. But in the back of your mind, you can’t help but wonder if you’re missing something.
And ladies, I think we are missing something: honest conversations about sex.
I think we are missing something: honest conversations about sex.
I get it: our culture bombards us with sexual imagery, and the Church counters by promoting chastity. But in our fight for purity, we hide too much. We don’t give advice which either leaves women confused or forces them to trudge through internet filth to try and find answers to their probably very common questions. Though talking about sex should have limitations, protect the chastity of others, and respect the privacy of the couple, it shouldn’t be a completely taboo topic.
So what can we do to help transform the conversation about sex?
First, don’t be afraid to talk to your spouse about sex. Be honest about what makes you comfortable and uncomfortable. Admit when you feel like there is too much pressure. And be willing to laugh. Simcha Fisher says “if you can't laugh about sex, then you're doing it wrong...for the standard issue, mildly neurotic, moderately messed up, original sin-damaged, salvation-seeking, temptation-fighting, humility-seeking, minimally humorous human being, laughing about sex is the sign of good emotional and spiritual health.”
Second, talk to your partner about boundaries for conversations with others. Sex is between you, him, and God, and that relationship is key. Use your best judgment, but the best idea is to first talk to your spouse. Maybe your husband is ok with you talking to your bestie about how you’re struggling to get aroused, but he probably doesn’t want you crowdsourcing about his own issues.
Sex is between you, him, and God, and that relationship is key.
Third, use prudence for your state of life or the state of life of the person asking you for advice. While engaged couples should have access to information about sex, there are likely certain topics that aren’t appropriate prior to marriage. Our conversations shouldn’t lead someone else to experience lust. So I’m not saying you need to be handing out a step-by-step guide for how to have enjoyable intercourse. I’m saying it is possible to talk about sex without coming off like Cosmo, and we need to maintain the reverence this topic deserves.
Fourth, learn to be comfortable talking about sex. I don’t mean learn to be crass, I mean learn the biology and don’t be afraid of it - God designed it after all. Despite our very-sexualized society, we get really weirded out by the words “vagina” or “penis.” And if you really want to make people uncomfortable, bring up “cervical mucus.” While these aren’t great lunchtime chats, being able to talk about sex in a more technical manner will help you be more comfortable seeking advice if you need it. At the very least, you should be able to talk to your doctor about it.
Fifth, and finally, don’t be afraid to seek out information. There are some good books out there like The Good News about Sex and Marriage and Holy Sex. Find a trusted Catholic friend who will give you non-problematic advice. If there seems to be a medical hinderance, talk to your doctor.
Early in my marriage, a friend commented that I was talking about sex more, but I was very technical about it. It didn’t process with me much then because all of my conversations about sex were about timing due to NFP, nothing else.
I was convinced that it was entirely inappropriate to mention the other struggles. My husband and I were convinced we were enormous weirdos who were the only people on earth who couldn't figure out sex.
I was convinced that it was entirely inappropriate to mention the other struggles.
Fast-forward to the present where things have changed dramatically and are so much better.
I am fortunate to have a supportive husband who is a faithful Catholic. By talking about our struggles, laughing at the challenges, and openly talking about what God intended for sex, things have gotten a lot better.
Yes, sometimes things get awkward or sex is just “meh,” but because we’re communicating, we’re able to make adjustments, laugh it off, and not feel like there’s something wrong with us because every sexual encounter doesn’t cause fireworks.
My husband and I were talking to another married couple. My husband revealed that he had talked to my friend’s husband earlier in the day about his own struggles with sex earlier in our marriage. What could have been an incredibly awkward moment instead turned into an opportunity (ok, so it was still kind of awkward) to give the advice I needed all those years ago: use lube, don’t put too much pressure on yourselves, and most importantly, you aren’t you aren’t a freak of nature if sex doesn’t always come naturally at first.
This author would like to remain anonymous.