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