Natural Family Planning: Nature's Way - God's Way

16. About Biology, Desire and Loving

The myth that women are inclined to sexual congress only when they are fertile is in perfect accord with what in Marriage Encounter we term the world's Plan for sex. When spouses have become disenchanted with each other, when they find they have less and less in common, and when they opt to live a separate, uninvolved life-style, then sex between them becomes more a matter of satisfying a biological urge, one in which each uses the other for convenience, rather than a means of communicating the depth of longing to be totally given to each other, and a celebration of life-long unity.

In such a scheme of things, our Creator has provided that at least once a month at the peak of her fertility, a woman may be reminded by her physiology that she can be life-giving to her spouse, and also be the vehicle of the miracle of new life, carrier of viable cells of life from her husband, in the image of the fatherhood of God. At worst, it is a time when an unloved wife finds the husband's approach least repugnant. In the plan of God, it is a very poor alternative, that new life be generated in circumstances where father and mother are not continually life-giving to each other in the profoundest and most complete expression of love; where by contrast, due to indifference or downright hostility, life is conceived by intention if not in fact, in sin, giving a stark reality to the Biblical phrase, and perpetuating the condition of our Fall.

The mystery of a woman's sexual desire is that it is more closely bound to conditions of mutual affection than a man's is. A woman is capable of going without sexual activity for extended periods, but not without affection. Without affection she becomes emotionally impoverished and spiritually infertile, a condition which becomes increasingly visible with time (see Fr. M. Catarinich's statement in the Sept. 1979 issue of the Bulletin of the Natural Family Planning Council of Victoria.)

But when her husband honors and loves her, entering her feeling and making her sentiments his very own, then he has begun to make effective what was our Creator's plan from the beginning, that they should be no longer two, but one flesh. Then she in turn becomes a fecund river of living water for her husband, a continual source of life.

And with this spiritual fertility, her body too responds and her soul cleaves to her husband's soul.

His tenderness to her with physical signs and gestures, which accompany his verbal appreciation of what she has been to him, opens her heart to him and her body like a flower, replete with all the richness of a woman's spirit and her physical being. We would not believe it initially but our experience has time and again proved that the physical desire of a wife, when aroused from spiritual and emotional causes, results in a richness of her inner being, through characteristic reactions, far greater than any peak of the biological mucus symptom can foster.

Since this happy condition has been observed by us at increasingly diverse times of the cycle, we have no hesitation in stating categorically that a woman in love desires her husband always.

The second myth, that men are never satisfied, is another statement from the world's plan for sex, where relationship is at a discount. it is true that God has endowed man with a desire to be always sexually communicative; in fact, this is at the heart of our sacrament. It is equally true that in a loving way, a woman finds her fulfillment in being always sexually receptive to her husband.

This means that we are always responding to each other with the fulness of the being that we are as man and woman at a given time. It does not always mean intercourse, but it always respects our emotional and physical state, even our state of being married or engaged to be married. Who would say that we are not being intensely ardent and responsive to each other as man and woman as we prepare to be married?

In fact it is an impoverishment of our sexuality to think of sexual communication and receptivity only in terms of intercourse. Such an outlook is the greatest contributing factor to a growing lack of appreciation of each other as persons and spouses, the wonder of our being man and woman, and is at the root of a growing disillusionment and staleness in our sexual life.

In God's plan for our sexuality, we feet an increasingly urgent call to return to our first virginal encounter, as He first presented us to each other, pure and spotless and without wrinkle or blemish. It was a deeply sexual and a deeply virginal love which impelled us to say in our hearts as we chose one another forever, "This one, at last, is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" (Gn. 2,23).

And we find that the fulness of our life with each other as man and woman increases rather than detracts from this ideal of virginal beauty. The wonder of a wife's selflessness, her disponibility, her reticence and sensitivity, her feminine care and motherly tenderness, her grace and the delicacy of her particular charm, are unfolded and revealed only under conditions of deep and growing respect daily evidenced by her husband. As he rejoices in the gift of her unique person, her lovely body, her eyes and her limbs turn to him as a flower to the sun. It is no longer a question of his ardor alone; her longing to taste every gesture of his love, her eagerness to experience the abandonment of herself in loving him, is astonishingly equal if not stronger.

Depending on time and place the fulfilling ardor of her love may find expression in various ways and degrees. But at all times we are fully aware of the joy it brings us, and of the promise of greater joy available freely to us at the next opportune moment. And to a husband the uniqueness of his wife's surrender, and her self-abandon in accepting the joy he alone can bring her is the continual evidence of her virginal gift to him, and the means by which she remains his ever-virgin bride.

It is this continuing evidence of her virginal surrender, at all phases of their live and love together, that comes so naturally to a loved woman, and especially her surrender at the peak of her sexual fulfillment, which irradiates their relationship, which constitutes the charm filling the being of this fortunate man, a fruit and a reward of his own selfless love. For this reason we assert that a man in love is always satisfied.

So it should be clear that our sexuality, when expressed in God's plan of love between spouses, is a virginal and sanctifying element of our character, Being completely given to the joy of our spouse and the strengthening of our unity, it is able to give us fulfillment at no matter what stage or depth of expression.

Namely, the joy we feel in suiting our gesture of love to the time and place, never thereby lacking in this life-giving closeness we need so much -whether this gesture is in a word of love, or a touch, or with an intimate caress-our joy is just as Complete, even if not as thoroughgoing, as that which we experience in intercourse. In other words, our sexuality has become completely joyful, and eternally fulfilling, because it has become continent.

The key to the joyful expression of our love, whether within fertile phase or outside it, is continence rather than abstinence. A man is being just as continent when he expresses tenderness for his wife in a crowded bus, or in a park, or yet again at home before their children, or when she is tired or ill, as he does during her fertile period: when respecting her physical and emotional integrity, he causes her (and himself) the greatest joy possible with no possibility of an unintended pregnancy.

The modes suitable to an individual couple to express their tenderness are as varied as two human beings joined into one can ever be. But it begins always with that deep rejoicing in each other's presence that two lovers always have. And with it the intimate modes of verbal and non-verbal expression, little attentions and services to each other that only lovers can render. We have essentially to get back to the days of our courtship to know how to conduct ourselves.

And so, for one couple it may be hand-holding and looking ardently into each other's eyes, seeing as it were our past present and future, summed up in the answering look of life4ong devotion. For another, it may be the touch of a gentle hand on a cheek, or on the nape of a slender neck, that conveys volumes. To others yet, it may be the insistent ardent caresses of each other's forms, clothed or unclothed. What matters is that we find the appropriate means to express completely and satisfyingly the ardor of our tender and grateful love.

Though we may hark back to days of our courtship to find modes of showing love which are appropriate to ourselves, yet we are a married couple and we have a much deeper and more tender intimacy. And as we become more confident and joyous in our continence, we may want to bestow many more intimate caresses.

What we formerly thought of as foreplay, some kind of a means to an end, now becomes the play of our constantly inventive, refreshing and continent love. Or even if we do nothing, but hold each other ardently, with the firmness of our virility and the softness of our femininity, we have already communicated to each other in a satisfying manner, the essence of who we are.

The foregoing will have indicated that continence and abstinence are two very dissimilar things. One is positive, the other somewhat negative; one joyous, the other somewhat sad. Continence believes in life and in love and in God's plan for our sexuality; abstinence may be somewhat hesitant if not suspicious.

But for all those who are willing to believe, continence will show that our loving during the fertile and infertile phases is not essentially different, but only in degree. In fact, continence allows us the free expression of our love in just the way we find most fulfilling to our inmost selves.

by Joseph and Arlette D'Sousa

Joseph and Arlette D'Sousa teach Natural Family Planning and conduct Marriage Encounter Sessions in India.

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