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Patricia wrote:

Hi, guys —

My name is Patricia and I have written to you in the past. Thank you so much for the help.

  • I want to know, according to the Catholic Church, up to what point does a wife have to sexually satisfy her husband?
  • For example, if I am just simply tired, but maybe able to put forth an effort to satisfy him, even if I am not so much in the mood, is that part of my obligation?

According to the Bible, a wife has to satisfy her husband always, unless she wants to spend that time in prayer. Another excuse, of course, is if the wife is sick but other than that, there is no excuse.

  • What does the Church want from a devoted wife in her marriage?


  { According to the Church, up to what point does a wife have to sexually satisfy her husband? }

John replied:


I don't know that the Church has a specific formula, for lack of a better term for this situation.

Relations between a husband and wife are a part of a healthy marriage and indeed, within the context of a marriage, sex is a holy and sacramental activity, in that it consummates the covenant.

Sexual intercourse is part of a greater intercourse which takes place between husband and wife.
I am told by married couples that a good sex life:

  • starts in the morning when a couple talk over breakfast
  • give each other a kiss good-bye as one or both of them go off to work, and
  • builds throughout the day as they may call each other or greet each other in the evening.

Communication and interaction throughout the day is what sets the mood.

That said, there are many reasons or situations when one person, be it wife or husband, just does not want sex on a given night. While sometimes a spouse needs to make a sacrifice for the sake of the other, it should be the exception, not the norm.

Both spouses have responsibility to the other to fulfill each other in this regard, but, if the couple has a reasonably active sex life, then not being in the mood or being too tired is perfect justification for denying the other. The spouse who is being denied in this instance, is also part of the communication in marriage that determines how satisfying the couples sex life is.

Now if someone is consistently not in the mood or does not have a reasonable sex drive, then perhaps there are other problems. Perhaps the couple needs to work on communication, or there could be some physiological reasons as well. Sometimes it's a hormone thing, while other times medication taken for unrelated issues has a negative impact on both female and male sex drives.

At any rate, there is no formula that says a wife or husband must have sex X number of times per week.

John DiMascio

Fr. Francis replied:

Dear Patricia,

I am afraid that this "vision of marriage" that is operative in your question is terribly one-sided and does not speak of the mystery of mutual love and fidelity that is the "sacramentum" — the sign of marriage which signifies and makes present the mutual love of Christ, the Bridegroom, and His Bride, the Church.

Note that in the Genesis accounts of Creation, man and woman are equal. Genesis 1 speaks of the creation of man, created in the "divine image", "Male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27)  It is to both that God gives the command, "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it." (Genesis 1:28) In Genesis 2, after receiving the gift of woman, the man cries out:

"The one at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
This one shall be called 'woman'
for out of 'her man' this one has been taken." (Genesis 2:23)

This phrase "bone of my bones" means having the same strengths as I have. "Flesh of my flesh" means having the same weaknesses I have. In other words, "woman" is an equal, another 'self'.

The equality of man and woman in marriage is again taught and emphasized by Jesus in Mark 10. Notice there that there is an equal prohibition of man and woman to divorce their spouse — man and woman are thus equal within the covenant-bond of marriage.

In no way is woman the property of her husband, who, as if she were a slave or something, orders her to submit to his will and sexual needs and "have sex". In fact that would be all that was happening - "having sex". In a situation like that, there is only a shade or two of difference between "having sex" and "rape" - and yes, rape can take place within marriage.

Marriage is a covenant bond uniting man and woman in a human, exclusive, faithful and mutual giving of self to the other type of love that is open to the creation of new human life. Animals "have sex". Human beings, in the dignity of the image of God, body and soul, are intellectually free to "make love". Only human beings are capable of "making love". Only a man and a woman can [complete / fulfill] "making love". Man and woman are created equal and complementary so that they might freely give of themselves to each other in marriage. This mutual self-giving is marital love, and while lived 24/7, it is expressed or embodied in the "conjugal act" of "making love".

For a husband or a wife for that matter, to see the "other" primarily, or worse only, as a means to "getting pleasure", is to make the spouse an object, thus not respecting them in their person.
No person can be reduced to an "object". Each is a subject, another self, a "thou". The Lord Jesus' prohibition of lust in the Sermon on the Mount preserves this deep respect for the other, disallowing them from being an object and simply a means to pleasure. Thus your question about "satisfying" your husband hints (actually more than hints) at an attitude that misses the mark of the Gospel vision of marriage.

When Paul begins his teaching concerning the spousal love of Christ for His Bride, the Church, and how husband and wife, "married in the Lord" signify this love before he ever gets to the famous part about "wives submitting to husbands", he tells both, husband and wife, in fact everyone in the Church, to "submit [defer] to one another out of reverence for Christ". (Ephesians 5:21)
It is only in that context, that the submission of the wife to her husband, and the husband's loving his wife, as Christ loves the Church [Christ gave Himself totally to and for the Church: "This is My Body given for you..."], that marital love should be taught and mean anything. You can see now how marriage is Eucharistic - Eucharist centered.

Patricia, marriage in the Lord is about mutuality, cherishing, respect, fidelity and love. Those are the core visions of Holy Matrimony and the only foundation for their fruit — children.

Father Francis

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