I started by mentioning how I thought it would be impossible to decide between RCism and Orthodoxy by simply examining the history and theology and coming to a rational decision. I was perhaps expecting pastoral advice here, such as I've received from Fr. Gregory Jensen on this blog, but what I got was a lesson in and hearty endorsement of the Orthodox version of church history. Not a problem at all, as far as I am concerned. I learned quite a bit. Part of this involved a discussion of Augustine as the source of so much legalism and casuistry in the West, as well as the serious issues surrounding Augustine's view of sex.
Huh? I've heard a lot about this, but never read anything that I can remember. Off to Google. After a couple of clicks, found my way to the Jollyblogger and this terrific post where he quotes from a post by Anthony Bradley:
I grew up in a black church and in the black church no subject in all of creation is off limits to speak about from the pulpit, including sexuality in marriage. I've recently heard a black pastor teach about the benefits of men pursuing their wives with love, passion, and service and the good, natural consequence of him loving her well: really good sex.I don't know the answer to that. I suspect there is a cultural aspect to it; some cultures are more openly affectionate, whether verbally or physically, than others, and true WASP culture isn't usually that way.
I have a friend who used to pastor an all black church and now pastors a church of mostly conservative white evangelicals. We recently discussed pastoral challenges and differences between the cultures and he admitted that most of the couples in his church now don't have sex much at all. And I said that was also true for many of my white friends as well (esp. if they married girls that grew up in conservative homes). We were both like, "huh, what's up with that?"
We sat in shock talking about the things we hear from our white brothers like "yeah we only have sex a few times a month (two or three tops)." Or we both heard this one from different men "yeah, we haven't had sex in six months." The number of married guys I know confused and frustrated about the fact that their wives just don't seem to be interested in sex much has blew us both away.
However, when a man says his wife isn't interested in sex, I can't help but suspect cluelessness lurking somewhere. I'm an inveterate advice-giver, so here's mine. Your mileage may vary, opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the management, professional driver on closed track, etc.
* Get the television out of the bedroom. In fact, remove it from every room in the house where meaningful conversation might possibly occur. That might mean you end up with one small TV in the laundry room, to watch while you do the ironing. Do you think I'm joking? Do you want a loving marriage?
* Get lots of sleep. At a minimum, go to bed on time - early - right after the kids. Both of you. Always. One of the sexiest, dearest things a man can do is let a tired woman sleep. If you're raising children, she needs a tremendous amount of sleep. Take the kids to the park and let her nap.
* Keep the non-sexual affection-to-sex ratio at about 80:20. Beware of the "if he's touching me, it must mean he wants sex" pattern. Make it about her. Touch her lovingly, savour her body, gaze into her eyes - cherish her.
* Establish a weekly date night. Let nothing interfere except illness - then reschedule.
* Be helpful. Cheerful. Uncomplaining.
* Don't pooh-pooh marriage counseling. It's OK to use it before you're ready to separate. Really. Cheaper and easier than divorce. I promise. You're probably a less-than-stellar communicator, or you wouldn't be in this predicament. You'll pay someone to coach your golf game, or help you lift weights; why not pay someone to teach you how to romance your wife?
* Don't wait for someone else to strike up an email emotional affair with your spouse; get there first. Keep the "did you get the milk" email and chat to the necessary minimum. You need to have the kind of email exchanges that you would have with someone who listens, and loves, and cares, and is all about you. Be that kind of person for your spouse. Set aside ten minutes on your lunch hour to call or chat or email "how are things going?" Really listen to the reply. If you think you know the fix to the problem, keep your mouth shut unless you're specifically asked for help. Be sympathetic.
* If you ever indulge in sarcasm, hostility, or the kind of remark which is followed by "just kidding," stop doing that immediately. Forever. Just quit cold. If you want great sex, you need a great love. Needling someone is not loving.
* Be on the lookout for things you like, admire, appreciate, adore, etc. about your dear one, and tell them and anyone else who'll listen. Praise your spouse to your children.
* Look your spouse in the eye and let yourself feel love for them. Say "I love you," quietly, then kiss them gently and non-sexually. Let them respond as they will. Repeat as often as you can get away with.
* Figure out what you really need and want. A man may focus on sex as being what he needs, when what he really wants is to be held and focused on and touched with love and cared for generally. If what I just wrote doesn't make sense, go track down someone who can help you figure it out.
* Pray very humbly, for yourself and for your spouse. Prayer always works ... not necessarily to fix the situation - sometimes it can't be fixed - but to change your attitude and perceptions, so that you can discern what to do. Ask for wisdom. Act in love. Trust God. What I wrote above may or may not be true for you. But this is true: God knows and cares and wants what's best for you.