I taught computer software classes. I had just delivered my first son and my sister was his caregiver during my long days at work. I loved my job, I loved my new baby, and I loved my husband. I suppose many of my generation probably felt obligated to at least make a nominal grab at the brass ring, after all, our predecessors had done an awful lot of bra-burning and picketing to make our life better.
No matter what age they live in, women will always have certain obligations if they have been called to the vocation of marriage. Some obligations will be embraced while others will be considered necessary but unpleasant. It seems that just about anyone can find at least one study done by some particular group or another that will support an argument being put forth.
So, I am positive there are studies that will show that many women have stopped having sexual relations with their husband after 15 years of marriage while others will say some enjoy an active sex life well into their 50th year of marriage. Or, it may occur once a month or every other month. I know many such women, all with varying reasons, for whom sex is non-existent or barely existent within their marriage.
But is this good for the woman? What does this say to the husband? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.
In regards to the sexual nature of the married man and woman there is a bond that forms, and continues to develop, that will be unlike any other bond that this same man and woman would be able to form with any other person.
To deny the development of this bond is to deny a unique communion of these two people who will otherwise never be able to know such a bond on earth. In other words, the physical intimacy of their union is such that nothing else will ever be like it or will ever produce the same results — whether this means children or an intimacy experienced that is holy and from God.
Jewish law teaches that a man who pleases his wife is doing a mitzvah — a good deed. This teaching is many thousands of years old and clearly based upon the understanding that God created the martial union for the pleasure of both husband and wife but also in the ways in which it elevates them as pro-creators with God.
The rules and regulations of sexual intimacy between a Jewish husband and wife are many and are meant for their mutual benefit. Of those laws there are specific ones in regards to what is not acceptable.
This includes exploitation, rape, incest, coercion, or subjugation of another person. Sex within a marriage is considered sacred. Jewish teaching says that it is a sin not to enjoy sexual intimacy within marriage. While this does not give a man freedom to place blame on a woman for his infidelity, it does make it necessary for a woman to take responsibility for her decisions regarding withholding sex in a marriage. The sexual revolution screamed for women to take control of their bodies, to no longer be tied to one man, to have control over their sexual reproduction.
When a woman responded to the sexual revolution with an attitude that her body was specifically hers to give or keep, all else became secondary. Emasculation began in full. What could another week hurt? By the third week the husband no longer cares about the lawn.
The wife could hire someone to cut it but the husband would be furious and she is left seeing her husband in a less than stellar light. This continues and then begins to affect additional aspects of how each views the other.
Is it ridiculous to expect the husband to cut the lawn? But this brings us back to the point where there has to be a common understanding that the union of a husband and a wife is a gift from God.
Both ought to come to a place in their marriage where they see this union as a way for them to grow and develop together. Whether they are in the middle of child-bearing years or at a time when the union itself offers an intimacy that can only be had within that union, a married couple should see their sexual relationship as holy and sacred. It is not right for a woman to expect faithfulness from her husband and yet stack everything against his being able to be faithful.
It also is not right for a husband to always expect his wife to be intimate as her emotional and physical make-up is different than his and requires different stimulus, so to speak. I know a woman who, for physical reasons, began abstaining from relations with her husband.
The reasons were legitimate, her ailments real. But as time wore on, and the reasons for abstaining from a sexual relationship began to wane, the physical intimacy did not get re-established. He loved her tremendously, but his physical needs were just as real as her ailments and as time went on, and he could see that she was not going to make an effort towards the intimacy they once had — even if it would be different because of time and circumstances — and he began to question her love for him.
His final, painful conclusion was that she no longer loved him and their marriage ultimately ended. But once things began to change, there needed to be a renewed interest in their physical love for one another. Two very real Catholic teachings on marriage are important to understand when discussing a sexual relationship for husband and wife. This involves the day-to-day responsibilities that require patience, perseverance, and commitment to the union and the family unit.
In addition, to achieve this goal, both husband and wife must be interested in the faith development of the other and not only support and encourage it but never become a hindrance to it. The second is to recognize what we read in Matthew 5: In other words, a wife should be cautious and not put her husband in a position where he will surely have committed adultery in his heart, break the sixth commandment, and then fall into mortal sin.
The great Jewish sage, Maimonides wrote: No prohibition in all the Torah is as difficult to keep as that of forbidden unions and illicit sexual relations. The knowledge that the physical intimacy that can exist between a husband and a wife is also something that can exist as an urge outside of that union has always been recognized.
But just as it is recognized, it is expected to be controlled. Catholicism has long taught the virtue of self-control and it is completely reasonable for a wife to expect that virtue to be practiced by her husband. However, she should not put him in a position that the virtue becomes impossible to attain.
In the end, both a husband and a wife have duties or obligations to one another. The good Lord has made one of those obligations physical and sacred. It is meant for their mutual pleasure and continued growth as man and wife. It can be used as one part of an earthly journey where the ultimate destination is heaven or it can be misused and become a instrument of control or sorrow.
For each to fully embrace the gift of physical love, both husband and wife are obligated to fulfill their duties with love, honor, and respect. Cheryl Dickow is the author of several books including Our Jewish Roots. Her company is www. And please share your thoughts on this article by submitting your comments below.
Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic publisher, author, columnist, and speaker. To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, contact her by email link below or call her at She is the author of the exciting new book Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman's Guide which focuses on the joy found in connecting with our past. Our Jewish Roots, along with other excellent Catholic books, is available through her website link below.