Saturday, 6 September 2014

Spreadsheets and Bedsheets

Not long ago, the Internet was abuzz with the story of a man who kept track for a month of all the times he attempted to initiate sex with his wife and what the results were.  He recorded if he they had sex and what his wife's response was if they didn't.  Out of 27 attempts they had sex 3 times.  He sent the spreadsheet to her to make a point about his dissatisfaction with their sexual relationship.  His wife took offense over this and posted the spreadsheet online expecting a wave
of sympathy for having to put up with a husband who would do such a thing.

Comments from the Internet were all over the place.  Some posters taking the view that if she doesn't want to, she doesn't have to and he just has to deal with it.  Others saying that she obligated herself towards him by choosing to marry him and it was wrong of her to not follow through.  Some denouncing what the husband did as immature, others the wife for being frigid.  In general it appeared to me that people were more sympathetic towards the husband (although not always approving of his tactics) which makes sense as most couples do have sex more than 3 times a month.

Obviously we do not know the full story of this couple but it raises some worthwhile questions.  Is there an obligation for a spouse to be intimate with their partner, and if so, how often?  Is it wrong for a spouse to express dissatisfaction with how frequently they are intimate?  How do you resolve situations of this nature?

This is related to the question: 'Is having sex a a need or a want', and like most questions that come up about sexual relationships, this is not a simple yes or no question.  If we look at Paul's counsel in 1 Cor 7:2-5, he refers to rejecting intimacy with one's spouse as defrauding them.

We can also look at what Elder Richard G. Scott said in the Priesthood session of the April 2000 General Conference:
When we were created, Father in Heaven put in our body the capacity to stir powerful emotions. Within the covenant of marriage, when properly used in ways acceptable to both and to the Lord, those emotions open the doors for children to come to earth. Such sacred expressions of love are an essential part of the covenant of marriage.
However it would be wrong to take that as meaning that every single time one spouse desires sexual intimacy that the other is obligated to comply no matter what.  Elder Scott went on to say:
There are times, brethren, when you need to restrain those feelings. There are times when you need to allow their full expression. Let the Lord guide you in ways that will enrich your marriage.
And likewise Paul's counsel included that couples could refrain for a short time by mutual consent for righteous purposes.

The difference between defrauding one's spouse of intimacy and righteous restraint lies in the reason.  Are we obligated to be kind, charitable, considerate of our spouse's feelings and needs, and willing to serve our spouse in love to the best of our ability?  As people who have covenanted to follow Christ we are, so we can't then justify rejecting a spouse if that rejection is based on selfishly putting our own desires above the stewardship we have towards our spouse.  If however something like illness, exhaustion, other obligations that leave no time for sex, or serious unresolved relationship problems are what is preventing us from going ahead with it then restraint is appropriate.

While one couple may have sex every day, or nearly every day, and another couple may rarely have sex, as long as both spouses are happy and feel their needs are at least adequately met there is no problem.  It is rare for both spouses to need the same frequency of sexual intimacy their partner does to feel sexually fulfilled so finding a point where both are happy and fulfilled can take some effort.

The tricky thing is that neither spouse should feel pressured to perform sexually or pressured to repress their desires either.  Those desires are from God as Elder Scott (and others) have indicated.  While they do need to be temporarily restrained sometimes and controlled, they should not be repressed and eliminated.

If a spouse feels pressured to be intimate, some introspection is called for.  Pressure requires resistance, so if one feels pressured, where is the resistance coming from?  What perceived consequence is being avoided?  Is the resistance the result of some idea about sex or marriage that is incorrect, or some selfish impulse, or is it a situation like the ones mentioned above where restraint is the right choice?  If you know where the resistance is coming from, you can know if you should drop that resistance or not.

Communication is an important tool to prevent misunderstanding and hurt feelings.  Responding to a spouse with a flat 'No' when they try to initiate intimacy is far more likely to wound than a gentle explanation of what obstacles stand in the way of saying 'Yes'.  Even if those obstacles are not things that can be resolved that day it helps to prevent feelings of personal rejection.

If the frequency of sexual encounters is not meeting the needs of one spouse (as in the case of 'Spreadsheet Guy', they need to communicate that without making anybody feel accused or attacked.  It is often true that a spouse who refuses intimacy frequently also overestimates how often they have sex, so sometimes some factual historical data is useful, but in this case it was presented vindictively.  Even when presented in kind way, there is always a chance that a conversation of this nature could become very tense, and if so it would be good to follow the advice in How to Fight with your spouse (and why you should).

In a nutshell, the obligation is not really to have sex, or to meet some target for how often sexual intimacy takes place.  The obligation we have as people trying to be Christ-like is to be loving, generous and kind towards our spouse. If the situation is such that one spouse desires intimacy but it would be a negative experience for the other spouse, that kindness is manifested by that spouse exercising temporary restraint on their desires and both working to overcome the obstacles quickly.  If there are no such obstacles, then kindness is shown by the other spouse willingly and happily doing what they can to meet their spouse's needs.

I feel safe saying that the spreadsheet couple were not acting in that way.  Hopefully they have both taken a closer look at what each of them is doing and made some positive changes.  Ask yourself however what your spouse's spreadsheet would look like if they kept track the same way, and what could you do to make it a record to be proud of.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

How to fight with your spouse (and why you should)

One of the mistakes I made early on in my marriage was that I didn't fight enough with my wife. By fight I do not mean raised voices and cruel things being said in anger.  Believe it or not we have never, ever had that kind of fight.  And I'm not talking about disagreements like where a picture should be hung or what color to paint a room.  I'm talking about those emotionally charged moments that start with one of you angering or hurting the feelings of the other. 

I would bottle those feelings up to avoid a potential fight.  I didn't trust myself to keep it from turning contentious, and as we know, contention is of the devil.  I saw those kind of fights as a sign of a bad relationship and I though I was doing our marriage a favor by avoiding conflict.  I told myself that she didn't mean it, so just ignore it and don't turn it into something that could potentially escalate to the point where we say things we would regret later.

Contention and fighting in anger is not a good thing, but at the same time a conflict avoided is a conflict unresolved.  Most of the time my wife upset me without ever realizing that she did it.  I denied her the chance to learn where my sore spots were, what was going on in my head.  I never gave her a chance to correct any misunderstanding I had about her motives or to adjust my expectations to something more realistic.  The times that I did talk about it, it was long after the fact and while I may have said how it made me feel, she still never saw the evidence that it did bother me that much so the words didn't sink in much.

Things just got bottled up and festered slowly until it got to a point where adding up all these offenses left me unsure if my wife really loved me.  At some point point avoiding conflict became motivated by the fear that if push came to shove, I might find out she really did mean to hurt me, or just didn't care. 

Conflicts will come up in any marriage, but they must be addressed, not avoided.  While it's true they can be addressed in very unhealthy and unproductive ways (even destructive ways) they can also be addressed in ways that strengthen a relationship and create greater intimacy.

It was a bit scary when I decided I wasn't going to avoid potential conflicts any longer.  It was a leap of faith to trust myself enough to express strong negative emotions without losing control, but I did it well enough.  Since then we have had several tense discussions charged with emotion but thankfully we both were able to stay civil.  Those discussions have been huge steps forward in our relationship and we both know each other now better than we ever did. It seemed I also had some things to learn about how to not hurt or offend her as well.  Imagine that!

While initially this change lead to a several conflicts at first, the frequency of those conflicts rapidly dropped off as we came to know each other better.  The same mistakes were not being made over and over again, or at least not as often.  We found a different kind of intimacy where you had to strip your soul naked and admit to your insecurities, jealousies, fears, and point out the past wounds that are not fully healed and need to be left alone or treated with love. 

I'm glad it never devolved into an unhealthy conflict and I think we managed to do that by sticking as best we could to some basic rules:

1.  Stay on topic.
D&C 121:43 says to reprove with sharpness, that doesn't mean with cutting remarks, it means with clarity and focus.  Don't muddy the waters by dragging in other issues, stay focused on the one problem at hand.

2.  Don't delay the discussion any more than you have to.
Generally these conflicts are best had in private, not in public and certainly not in front of the kids.  Often that means there will need to be a delay between the event and the discussion about it, but that delay should not be longer than it has to be.

The more time passes, the less serious the complaint will be taken and the less impact it will have on future behavior.  Sometimes that little delay is not a bad thing, giving you a chance to gather you thoughts and evaluate how best to state your case.

3.  Don't accuse, use feel statements instead.
Joseph Smith said: "If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you (History of the Church, 4:445)"  Accusations are by nature adversarial and prompt people to become defensive, dig in and resist change by justifying themselves.  Accusations put you and your spouse on opposite sides where one has the win and the other has to lose.  When that happens, the marriage loses either way.

It is more effective to use a feel statement instead.  A feel statement is a statement of cause and effect.  Their behavior is the cause, your emotions are the effect.  'When you do this, I feel that' goes over much better than 'You are so...'  It allows you to communicate the same information, but without putting your spouse on the defensive, in fact you open the door for them to explain their own motives and thoughts, or to modify their behavior without feeling coerced.  It also keeps you both on the same team, working toward mutual understanding and reconciliation together. 

4.  Don't justify or blame shift
Offering an apology or making a change when it is called for can be a hard thing.  Sometimes we try to avoid doing that by seeking to justify our actions.  It's the same as telling somebody that they are wrong to feel what they feel, but you don't get to decide how somebody else does or should feel about something.  Sometimes know we were wrong but we want to explain why we thought we were doing the right thing, but that is an explanation that should wait until after the apology has been made so it is not mistake for an attempt to avoid an apology.

Blame shifting is another tactic designed to avoid apologizing and changing.  With blame shifting the offender casts their offending actions as being the fault of the person they should be apologizing to, or they cast their actions as virtuous and claim their spouse only sees them as wrong because of some flaw in them.  An example of this would be the spouse who is bothered at how often their efforts to be intimate are met with rejection and winds up having the blame shifted onto them by being called carnal and sex-obsessed.

5.  No name calling, threats or insults
If you can't express love for your spouse in the middle of a conflict, you are doing it wrong.  If you do include expressions of your love for you spouse in your conflict, the fight will not scar your relationship.

No matter how much you think it is justified, no matter how much you want to lash back, don't ever insult your spouse, call them unkind names, or make threats, especially threats about divorcing or cheating on them.  Words cut deeper than any blade, you can't unsay them, and no matter how much you apologize for it after, the fact remains that those words came into your head and came out your mouth and that can plant a very bad kind of seed in your spouses mind.  Don't say anything you don't want them to really take to heart and believe. (See also: Let us oft speak kind words...)

6.  Don't attribute motives, listen to your spouse.
Like Steven R Covey said, seek to understand before you seek to be understood.  Sometimes we assume we know why somebody did something.  Sometimes the entire conflict hinges on that assumption, and often that assumption is either wrong or incomplete.  Feel statements are way to draw out from our spouse what their motives and thinking were but you have to listen, you have to give them a fair chance to explain themselves, not just rant at them and storm off.

Give your spouse the benefit of a doubt, listen to their side and try to see their perspective, not just try and force them to see things your way.  Somewhere along the way one or both of you will learn something about each other that will help avoid similar conflicts in the future.

7.  Apologize sincerely
Don't apologize insincerely, but do apologize.  Even when you think what you did was perfectly right and justified there are likely still things you can apologize for.  If you actions had unintended outcomes you regret (like offending your spouse), apologize for those.  If the conflict could have been avoided by communicating better earlier on, you can apologize for that. 

Reconciliation is the same thing as repentance.  It is about repairing a relationship harmed by wrongdoing.  Make sure you are both clear on what it was that should be apologized for, why it was wrong, and how it can be avoided in the future.  Make sure they know you do regret it, ask their forgiveness, make it up to them as best you can, and commit to not making that mistake again. (See also: A better way to say sorry)

8.  Show your love for each other and don't dredge it up again.
D&C 121:43  also says to show an increase of love after a conflict 'lest he esteem thee to be his enemy'.  When the storm is over, reaffirm your love for each other to clear the air.  Make up sex is the absolute best way to sooth over both bruised hearts.  Apology and forgiveness create deep emotional intimacy, and increased emotional intimacy easily translates into increased passion.  After that, don't dredge it up again.  God doesn't do that with us, we should follow His example.

I wish I could say that my wife and I have been perfect at following all those rules but of course we haven't been.   But we've followed them well enough to know their value and to know that avoiding conflicts rather than resolving them results in avoiding truly becoming one with each other and with God.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Is having sex a need or a want?

I've blogged previously about the importance of the sexual relationship in marriage, but I steered away from using the word 'need' in that post.  Today I'm going to address that.

'Need' is a very strong word, and it is also a very over used word in our society.  People say they need a big TV, or a better car or some other thing when really it is not a need.  It may improve their quality of life to have it, it may ease some burden or concern to have it, but it is not a need. 

When discussing if something is a need or not, there has to be a context linking it to a specific result.  You need a certain amount of vitamin C in your diet to avoid getting scurvy, but that candy bar at the grocery store checkout is not something you need to live (in fact you might need to avoid it to prolong your life).  Medicine can be something you need to live, or to reduce pain, or to cure something minor.

The difference between what a person sees as a need or a want lies in the priority they give to the outcome they expect from it, and how many alternatives they have for achieving that same result.  A huge TV is not a need when it is only intended for recreational purposes, especially if you can either make do with the smaller set you have or entertain yourself in some other way. There is no big negative consequence to doing without so it should be seen as a want.  But if that TV is required for use as a presentation tool that your business must use to be competitive then it can be a need.

So is sex a need to have a happy and lasing marriage?  The answer is not as simple as yes or no.

When you were dating did you ever ask somebody to dance with you, or invite them out on a date and been turned down flat?  Have you ever got the 'can we just be friends' speech from somebody that you thought loved you as much as you loved them?  Did you get a Dear John letter on your mission?  I think all of us has at some point felt the painful sting of being rejected by somebody we had feelings for.  It wasn't fun, was it.

How healthy would a marriage be if it was common for one spouse to make the other feel that way time after time, week after week, year after year?  Could a marriage filled with rejection be the source of joy and happiness that God intends it to be? Of course not.

Have you ever had a friend that was constantly imposing on your life, inconsiderate of your feelings and expecting you to cater to them without taking into account how their demands impacted your life?  A marriage that has that in it isn't doing as well as it should either.

Not every person gets the same thing out of having sex, and the same person doesn't get the same thing out of it each time either.  Having sex can give a person a great deal of pleasure, emotionally bond them to their partner, heal the little hurts that a couple unintentionally inflict on each other, renew the commitment to the relationship, create a new life, and provide a number of health benefits as well.  But under other circumstances it has the potential to cause physical pain, leave a person feeling used, ashamed or guilty, or create resentment, anger and hostility.  A spouse who's desire is met with 'duty sex' can feel as hurt after as if they were rejected.

There are biological, emotional and even spiritual forces that combine to create a sex drive in each person.  It is stronger in some and weaker in others.  Sometimes it is repressed or ignored, but it is there and there is a need to have sex to satisfy those urges.   However, getting sex may not achieve everything somebody wants or expects since it is a mutual activity.  What having sex will acomplish will depend on what each of you bring to the encounter.  Rather then focus on merely having sex (which leads somebody to only look inward to their own desires) the objective needs to be having a mutually fulfilling sexual relationship.

Sister Linda S Reeves, second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency said in the last General Conference: 
One reason we are here on earth is to learn to manage the passions and feelings of our mortal bodies. These God-given feelings help us want to marry and have children. The intimate marriage relationship between a man and a woman that brings children into mortality is also meant to be a beautiful, loving experience that binds together two devoted hearts, unites both spirit and body, and brings a fulness of joy and happiness as we learn to put each other first. 
In a mutually satisfying sexual relationship each spouse willingly does their best to fulfill their partner's sexual needs, putting each other first.  This is not just a matter of how often the couple has sex, but how fulfilling those encounters are individually and collectively.  It may involve shedding negative attitudes about sex, overcoming inhibitions, trying new things, changing their priorities and deliberately planning  their life to allow for the time and energy needed to engage sexually with their spouse.  It also includes being patient, charitable, understanding, even forgiving during those times when their spouse is unable to meet their needs.

For some couples, a mutually fulfilling sexual relationship would mean frequent sexual intimacy they both enjoy, with neither spouse feeling deprived or feeling used.  Some couples may face long term obstacles such as disability, problems from advanced age, emotional trauma, mental illness, past sexual abuse, or chronic medical conditions which can all reduce the frequency of sexual intimacy to something less than ideal for one or both partners (or even prevent all physical intimacy), but they can still have a strong marriage if they each know that their companion is doing the best that they can for them under the circumstances.  Likewise with short term obstacles such as fatigue, absence, or being sick which every marriage will face time to time.

A lack of sexual fulfillment results in feeling rejected, neglected, taken for granted, unappreciated, and unloved.  These are poisonous to a marriage and over time such feelings can cancel out every non-sexual expression of love and affection.  It doesn't mean much to hear 'I love you' in the kitchen when they brush off their spouse's needs in the bedroom.

As President Spencer W. Kimball said:
If you study the divorces, as we have had to do in these past years, you will find there are one, two, three, four reasons. Generally sex is the first. They did not get along sexually. They may not say that in the court. They may not even tell that to their attorneys, but that is the reason.... (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.312)

It is not getting or having sex as often as you want that is important.  It is both of you giving and sharing joyful sexual intimacies with each other to get as close to mutual sexual fulfillment as possible.

Do you know what your spouse needs from you to feel sexually fulfilled?  Are you meeting their needs as best you can?  Are there ways you could change that would enable you to meet their needs even better?  Have you told your spouse what you need from them to feel fulfilled?  If not take some time to work on that.  You might also want to read Moving towards sexual fulfillment  Part 1 and Part 2

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The spice of married life...

A husband and wife's sexual life has a number of dimensions.  The frequency of sexual intimacy is one dimension that gets a lot of attention, and it is easy to make the mistake of thinking that if the frequency is too low to meet the needs of both partners, that is the only thing to work on.  Likewise if frequency is not an issue, other aspects of the relationship might get overlooked.

One such potential blind spot is variety.  As with the sex drive, the need for variety in a couple's intimate life is real, and can vary a great deal person to person.  Some people can be perfectly happy to have sex the same way over and over in a predictable but satisfying manner.  Others can hunger for a menu of options to combine creating range of pleasurable experiences.  It can even turn out that the spouse with the lower sex drive has the higher need for variety.

This need for variety by itself is not a bad thing, in fact I would say God built that into us the same as he built into us a desire for sexual fulfillment.  God did not create one kind of flower, one kind of tree, one kind of bird, and one kind of dog.  He did not give us one kind of food or one kind of weather either.  He created a world overflowing with variety and said:
Doctrine and Covenants 59:18
Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
Satan of course can twist anything to his purposes, and so he uses the desire for variety as a means of pulling people into the trap of pornography.  This excelent TED Talk video goes into detail on that and I recommend everybody watch it, even if pornography is not an issue in your marriage:

What the video doesn't cover is that this drive for variety can be harnessed for good within a marriage.  Certainly a variety of partners is off the table, but there are many areas where variety can be introduced

The most obvious place to start is with a variety of positions.  You don't have to be a double jointed acrobat to develop a list of a few different positions that work for you.  The three most common are missionary (man on top), cowgirl (woman on top) and 'doggie style' (woman hands and knees with the man entering from behind her).  From there you can branch out and try things like CAT, reverse cowgirl, having sex while standing up.  Not every new position you try will be workable for your body types, but half the fun is in trying.  Don't make a big deal out of it when something you try isn't right for the two of you, just have a laugh and learn from the experience.

Type of sex
Vaginal intercourse is not the only option.  Giving each other oral sex or manual sex opens up the possibility of greater sexual intimacy at times when vaginal sex is not desirable or possible, and each spouse can provide that for the other.  'Outercourse'  is another option, or phone sex if the two of you are at a distance from each other. 

Both lingerie and sexy costumes add excitement and variety.  Wearing lingerie sends a message that you desire your spouse, and you hunger for sexual intimacy with them.  Costumes allow for playing out sexual fantasies with alternate reality versions of the two of you.  This harnesses the imagination to expand the realm of variety beyond the limits of reality.  It can even help overcome needless inhibitions. Role playing like that can be done without costumes too, but it does add something to it when you can dress the part.

While making love is a private act, it doesn't have to be limited to the master bedroom.  One anniversary we sent all the kids out to have sleepovers at their friend's homes.  For that weekend our home was our hotel suite and we enjoyed having the privacy of the bedroom extended to the entire house.  You can also get a real hotel room for just a night or for a weekend, find a secluded place to park after the sun goes down, take a blanket with you to a private beach,  or hike to your own Garden of Eden where either in the moonlight or the full light of day the two of you can become one.

There are a variety of ways to express affection (love notes, touches, public displays of affection, gifts...) or flirt (sexual touches, sexting, erotic desires whispered in their ear, 'bedroom eyes' from across the room...), and a number of different intimate activities ( taking intimate photos, massage, showering together...).  There is no such thing as an exhaustive list.

With just a little effort and forethought, even a couple that has been married a long time can find something new to try, or do something they haven't done in a long time.  Building up a good menu of intimate options will let variety become the spice of your marriage, and you'll love the flavor.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Adding another side to Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day is typically a rather one sided holiday where men are expected to pursue and woo the lady they love with flower's chocolates, cards, gifts, romantic dates etc. etc. etc.

That of course should not be the only day of the year that a husband gives his wife some special attention, but it is one that we men should make a point of observing.  Brushing it off as a 'Hallmark Holiday' isn't going to leave your wife feeling loved and appreciated.

I tend to look at Valentines Day as a challenge go the extra mile in expressing my affection and commitment to my wife.  I try to come up with something that surprises and delights her, and usually I succeed to at least some degree. There was that one year where things didn't go right at all and all I did was annoy her and it inadvertently led to a small act of arson that caused her some inconvenience, but mishaps aside, I love rising to the occasion.

The one-sided nature of Valentine's Day has prompted the (slightly tongue in cheek) creation of a male version: 'Steak and Blow Job Day'.  Promoters tout it as the day for women to give their man the two things they want.  It is observed every March 14th (one month after Valentine's Day), but don't expect Hallmark to carry any cards for it just yet.  Besides, men don't want cards, right?

Well, no actually, sometimes it is nice.  Whoever came up with the idea for that day was right that most husbands would find dining on a fine steak and some sexual intimacy with his wife a fine night indeed, but the shallow stereotype of that being the only thing a man wants or needs is something I find just a touch insulting too.

For a married couple Valentine's Day should be just as much 'I'm Yours' as it is 'Be Mine'.  And that goes for both spouses.  Affection needs to be a two way street, both sexual and non-sexual affection, and while each person has a dominant 'Love Language', that isn't an excuse to avoid all the others. 

Valentine's is a much better day if it is not so one sided.  Men, make the effort to delight your spouse, even if she says it isn't a big deal to her, make it a big deal.  Ladies, give at least as good as you get.  If your husband has trouble opening up emotionally and acting in romantic ways, perhaps your setting an example will help him learn how and also help him feel safe trying. 

And for my darling wife, remember next month that I like my steak blue.  Rare is a tad overdone.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

When you just don't feel like it

Friday night is usually date night for my wife and I.  Usually we don't have sex at the end of the evening.  We'll cuddle and everything else, but not go so far as starting foreplay or having intercourse.  We find it better to save that for Saturday morning when we are both well rested.  I'm also pretty much at my sexual peak in the morning, and we avoid any outside commitments before noon so we have lots of time.  It is an ideal time for us to have sex and we take full advantage of it. 

Sometimes we have to modify our plans though.  Recently our ward had a temple trip for the Relief Society.  I volunteered to go as well to help with some sealings, so having sex Saturday morning was pretty much out of the question given the early hour we would have to get up to make it there in time.  Saturday's temple trip was 'date night', and Friday night was to take the place of our Saturday morning, except it didn't work out that way.

My wife is working on finishing her degree, and she had a large assignment due on the upcoming Wednesday that she had not yet started.  We could have gone for it, even if just a quickie, then she could spend the rest of her evening working on her assignment, but she felt anxious about not having started it, so she wanted to work on it first, then text me that she was ready for a sex break.  By 11:30pm I kind of figured that she wasn't going to be texting me, and so I headed to bed more than a little downcast over the lack of follow through from her.  She was still busy, and apologized for disappointing me.

Now sometimes we guys want to be intimate with our wife for the pure physical pleasure of it, and when that is how we feel and we are denied, it is annoying and frustrating.  There are other times we guys have a very, very deep, need for the kind of emotional connection with our wife that only comes from sexual intimacy.  In those cases, when we are denied it HURTS.  It hurts so bad we can quickly come to question if our wife really loves us much after all, if we are anywhere close to being as important to her as she is to us, and from there things can go even further downhill pretty fast.

That night I went to bed hurting.  My dreams that night were not pleasant, my mood that morning not the best.  Going to the temple helped a lot of course, and when we got back we soon had the 'Do Not Disturb' sign hanging on our bedroom doorknob.  All is well that ends well.

In thinking back over it though, it seems that this is something that happens now and then between us.  Sexual intimacy gets temporarily moved down the priority list for what seems like a decent reason, or an opportunity is put off to a later time with every intention of keeping that commitment, only to have it fall apart.  It dawned on me that perhaps it was not a coincidence that this seems to happen at the worst possible times emotionally.

We often hear it said that if we don't feel like praying, we should pray until that feeling goes away.  The scriptures teach that "the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray" (2Nephi 32:8).  What if the same principle applies to sex?  What if Satan (perhaps with some awareness of our emotional state), is quietly prompting one spouse to delay intimacy, and even helping make sure that the alternate plan fails as well?

That time you just don't feel like doing it, or want to push it down the priority list when really you don't have to, could be the critical moment that your spouse needs you more than ever to be there for them sexually.

I'll take my share of blame for what happened that weekend too.  I did not communicate to my wife how deeply I needed her.  I could have reached out to her at any time that night and let her know that I needed her to put all that homework aside for me for a short time, but I didn't.  And it was on purpose that I didn't.

Right from the start I felt a bit hurt, like I was coming in second place next to her homework, and I wanted her to soothe that by keeping her word without any reminder from me.  I wasn't so much testing her as I was giving her a chance to prove herself.  In hindsight, it wasn't fair of me to expect that from her and at the same time not tell her of my need.  Perhaps that was also inspired by the same source that moved her to delay things.

Either way, the final choice is up to us individually and we are accountable.  We can't blame Satan when things go wrong, but if we are aware of his tactics (and our own bad habits), we are better equipped to avoid the pitfalls.