Ever thought about telling your girlfriend that you don’t want to sleep with her anymore? It’s an awkward conversation at best. But, I’m here to tell you that it will improve your relationship. I’m sure you’ve pegged me as a nutcase, but I did it, and my relationship—already on good footing—improved.
When my current girlfriend and I began dating over two years ago, I was a secular ex-Catholic. But, in September I rejoined the Catholic Church; not for relationship reasons, but because I’d been missing and yearning for a spiritual connection again. Unfortunately for my girlfriend and I, the Church does not allow extramarital sex—more properly referred to as the sin of fornication. Fortunately, however, we’d been talking about it for some time—several discussions over the summer—so she accepted it, albeit a bit confused.
I bowed my head reluctantly to the demands of The Church on our relationship, and indeed in the early days there were slip ups. But they have become steadily fewer, and our relationship has become steadily stronger. At first I was surprised, but as I explored the doctrine, the relationship’s new strength made more sense.
Put simply, the Church believes everything was created for a purpose by God. This includes sex. In its proper context, sex is a joyful thing, which should and does bring pleasure. The Church says that place is inside marriage—which brings me to ask the question: why?
The Church views sex as designed to unite spouses and bring new life into the world. It is an act of total giving, one with not just physical ramifications—pleasure and exercise—but spiritual ones as well. These two aspects are intimately connected. Spouses cannot have children on their own; in the sexual act where there are no barriers, the joining of complementary sexes creates a single reproductive union, a true join between partners. For this join to occur there must be two factors: marriage and openness to life (contraception cannot be used). Without these two factors, the spiritual nature of the sexual union is severely damaged or even destroyed.
With the spiritual meaning out of the equation, sex is reduced to both partners using the other for physical pleasure. Indeed, the act of using contraceptives is an act of distrust (though it is not meant that way most of the time). It implies that there is a need for protection from the deeper consequences of sex, from the true union. My girlfriend and I felt this in its absence. When we quit fooling around, a tension drained out of the relationship. We were more comfortable with each other; there wasn’t a demand that we should bring each other physical pleasure frequently and often.
Without the pressure of pleasure, we could spend more time doing things we already did, like walking, talking, and playing board games. The relationship matured into one of deeper trust, freed of the false note of sex purely for gratification. My girlfriend has become less confused about my reasons too. She has noticed the deepening trust as well, and noted I am kinder to her now than when we were sleeping together.
This Valentine’s day I would advise couples who want a better relationship, and for those who sometimes feel pressure around sex, to consider not sleeping together. Rather than focusing on and planning around sexual pleasure, focus on your partner. Sex, because of its spiritual potential, has a way of both consuming and unbalancing a relationship. It can cause partners to focus, consciously or subconsciously, on the pleasure and not their loved one. Focus on who you love this Valentine’s day, and try leaving the sex out of the picture—your relationship will feel more relaxed and both partners will be happier for it.
Correction: Due to an editing error, the originally published article implied that the Bible advocates for protection from the deeper consequences of sex, when the author’s intent was to describe the use of contraceptives as an act of distrust that implied the need for protection from the deeper consequences of sex.