marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Friday, December 30, 2011

To My Unmarried LDS Readers



When you’re writing a blog, the last thing you should do is tell people to stay away. Whatever you do, don’t read what I’ve written. Very counter-productive to success in the blogosphere.

But I do. I tell members who are currently single (yes, even if they’ve been married or sexually active before) to stay away from this, or any other blog like this, that deals in matters of a sexual nature.

Why? What’s wrong with single members of the Church learning about sex and how to create a great marriage, you say? That’s what you teach, isn’t it?

Yes, I teach about sex. I teach married members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints about sex. That is who I am writing to, and the only people who should be reading this blog.

What you’re about to read in this article is what I teach to single people, who I believe should not spend their time learning or watching or reading about sex, and are breaking the law of chastity by doing so.

The world says exactly the opposite. You need the experience now, so you don’t look like a fool on your wedding night. You need to “try out” your partner, otherwise how can you possibly know if you’re compatible?

You can’t know. Furthermore, sexual knowledge before you marry may actually work against you on both a physical and spiritual level. Breaking the law of chastity can hurt you in ways you may not feel until many years later, whether you’ve repented or not. Repentance doesn’t remove all consequences.

The Temple

It’s no secret that people try to break into the temples all the time, sometimes simply because the door is guarded. I had a conversation once with a security guard at my local temple, and was told about fake recommends, imperious demands, and backdoor attempts to videotape or otherwise record the ceremonies.

Obviously some of these have been successful, as the many books from former members, websites describing the ceremonies, and even national TV shows have shown these very sacred ordinances to many people who would otherwise never have seen them.

They have succeeded…and they have also failed as well.

They have succeeded in showing the outward ordinances, but it’s not the outward ordinances I’m after when I go to the temple. It’s the inward growth, the revelations from heaven, the strength and enrichment that comes from worthy participation in those ordinances, that worthy members receive…members who have paid the price for entry.

Those who try to take what they have not earned get only the superficial outward appearance, which is dross and dust compared with what they could have had. Knowledge, growth, and the peace that comes from the Spirit cannot be stolen from the Lord. It’s impossible to do so. If you are not sealed to each other and earned the right to be sealed for eternity, you will never know what it is to reach that level of joy. There simply are no fake IDs in the eternities.

Learning About Sex

Likewise with marriage and sex. Granted, it’s a very compelling topic. We are sexual beings, and sex sells, and we are inundated with sex in our culture, which is one reason why so many indulge before marriage, even in a church that teaches and encourages chastity.

Those of you who are single and reading this blog are trying to storm the temple doors, and it will not work. You will learn a lot of theory, you may learn some technique. A successful marriage takes a lot more than theory, and technique alone will not bring you joy, or even a great sex life.

Only Way to Learn It is to Do It

The only way you’re going to experience sex the way it was meant to be is within the laboratory of marriage.

The lessons of marriage cannot be learned by living together, hooking up, friends with benefits, or in any other way other than the way He has sanctioned. It may seem on the outside that you are “married’, but in reality your results are very different.

When you try to learn about sex outside of marriage, sex loses its special nature. It stops being something holy or sacred and becomes an ordinary bodily function. We stop being children of God and become animals in need of relief, or bags of chemicals. Even something as simple as reading my articles when you’re single can begin this downward slide.

If You’re Single…

If you’re single and reading this, obviously you’re very concerned about creating a successful marriage and having a satisfying sex life. This is a righteous desire, but this desire has to be fulfilled in a righteous way in order to receive the full benefit. You may get part of what sex in marriage has to offer if you try to do it another way, but you won’t get the fullness. It is the gift that goes unwrapped.

Nor is that gift without risk. There is no way to predict whether or not the person you marry will be compatible with you. Not I, nor any other person on earth, can give you a list of steps that will guarantee marital happiness.

The person you marry will change after you marry them. They will revert to the person they always were after the intoxication of infatuation chemicals clears out of your system. It can take anywhere from nine months to four years for this to happen.[i] Hopefully at that point, that person is still a good person who will work with you to create a successful marriage. This is not always the case.

There will come a point in every marriage where we turn and look at our spouse, and think, “There’s been a terrible mistake. I should never have married this person.”

This is when marriage truly begins, and there is no better preparation for that moment than the daily ins and outs of living the gospel…the unglamorous work of prayer, the scripture study, the mundane daily service to others, gaining confidence in your relationship with God and with yourself…the small daily work of becoming a Christ-like person.

This should be the focus of those who are single.

Once you’re married, your focus will then properly expand to include the sexual and emotional care and pleasing of that particular person you’re married to, and your fun and pleasant practice (as well as the harder development stuff) will take all eternity to perfect.

If it turns out that you married badly and must end it, the daily ins and outs of living the gospel will provide you with protection in sorrow, and help you find another whom you can be married to happily. Mere sexual knowledge will not protect you in the same way.

So relax. Sex will always be there. Don’t try to experience or plan it before you’re married…you can’t anyway. Each marriage’s sex life is as unique as the individuals who commit to it. All that sex outside of marriage prepares you for is…enjoying sex outside of marriage and being an unfit marriage partner.

Repentance is always available for everyone to get them back on the path. Enter marriage with as few predetermined notions as you can, and learn together.  If you think misinformation is right (most of what I learned about sex on television and the Internet was totally wrong) and can’t break away from previous learning, great suffering can follow.

So farewell, dear single readers. I look forward to hearing from you again when you’re married, and ready to apply these sacred principles to the rites and privileges you’ve earned and are ready to exercise.


[i] Webber, Rebecca. “Are You With the Right Mate?”. Psychology Today. Feb 2012. pg. 56

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Good lovemaking tip

Recently, Ellen DeGeneres made fun of a couple who had saved their virginity and their first kiss for when they got married. Yes it sucked, but whose first time doesn't - besides, they have all eternity to perfect it. Right? 
For you husbands: for many women, when they think of sex, they think of kissing. While learning to improve your skills in bed, be sure to make kissing one of them. Here is a video clip from Howcast with some good tips. how to kiss passionately

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Can Gaming Affect Your Sex Life? A Reader Question


Coach Sam,

I wondered if you might have some insight or possibly an older posting (or a plan of a future posting) of how gaming affects a couples’ relationship as well as their sex life? This seems to be an argument that I just can't seem to find a conclusion to in my own life.

Does my husband deserve "down time" - yes he does. But it seems that gaming creates a spirit of contention in our home. It doesn't improve him as a person, it doesn't help him to "cleave" to me or our family or inspire him to exercise his priesthood and be the patriarch of our home. In short I feel it has no place in a home that is striving to improve and live within the teachings of the Gospel. 

…The offending games have been removed from our home but I feel such pressure to let them back in. Like I am not a good wife for denying him something that he claims is a stress reliever for him.

Also, it seems unfair that He expected to disconnect from all of us so often. As the Mom I don't feel that I am allowed to do that or would I necessarily want to. Also I would never let a hobby keep me from my family or bring something into our home that caused so much contention and took me (mentally and emotionally) away from my responsibilities to my family or spouse.

All of this in turn affects our sex life but not in the way you'd think. It seems that the gaming fulfilled something in his brain so he had a diminished libido. So not only was he tuning out it seemed somehow these games were somehow flipping a switch in his brain where he didn't want/need sex.

I guess I am asking for scriptural or doctrinal guidance about how to proceed. Do I allow this back into my home or do I stand my ground? I want everybody to be happy but I know I won't be if he is gaming and he seems to feel downtrodden by these "unreasonable" demands I am making on him.

Any advice or help pointing me in the right direction would be much appreciated!

Sincerely,
Game Widow


 Dear Game Widow,

Thank you for reading! I’m glad my blog has been helpful to you.

I empathize with your situation, as I know a lot of families are struggling with this very thing. I myself have a son whose video-game playing I monitor closely.

Your objections to gaming are certainly shared by many people, but I must say that I would not declare that all video-games have no redeeming qualities.

There are some activities that should be completely removed from LDS households, such as playing poker card games, and even some games that are "M"-rated. Earlier modern-day prophets have objected to playing poker cards because of their close proximity to gambling and its time-wasting nature:

“Card playing is an excessive pleasure; it is intoxicating and, therefore, in the nature of a vice. It is generally the companion of the cigarette and the wine glass, and the latter lead to the poolroom and gambling hall…

But cards do not stand alone in their enticement to evil. Any game that ultimately leads to questionable society, because it is the chief pleasure of such society, should be excluded from the home. There are innocent games enough to satisfy the required pleasures of the home without encouraging card playing…

Again, all amusements become pernicious when pursued excessively.”[i]

Unlike playing cards, video games can have some limited wholesome uses. They have been shown to develop hand/eye coordination, logic skills and have been effective in training for many careers. They are relaxing and provide diversion after a long day of working for those who enjoy them. It can be a way for a father or mother to spend some bonding time with children when they are uncomfortable with other activities.

Where a person has to take care with video-games is in its time-wasting and obsessive qualities, as well as those that are of an immoral nature and invite the wrong spirit into the home.   

The games of today are made in a very realistic fashion, and the primitive portion of the brain can have great difficulty in determining between this realistic fantasy and reality. The thinking/logical part of the brain will usually give in to the primitive brain’s way of thinking because (when stimulated) it releases chemicals into the body that make us feel good. The primitive brain controls our reward system.

 A person may find a clearer sense of success in destroying monsters and going from level to level than he or she is able to find in his actual life - where he may feel that most people are disappointed in what he’s able to do.

Video-games can trigger releases of dopamine and oxytocin in the brain, which can lead to pleasurable relaxing sensations and drive a person prone to addictions to an overuse of whatever is creating these sensations. Video-game addiction may not be an official diagnosis, but the pain from neglect that family and friends suffer is very real. As you’ve already seen, this sometimes has an effect on a couple’s sex life, since dopamine and oxytocin is also released during sex, and are responsible for the feeling we feel after orgasm.

You mention in your letter that the games are ‘bringing in a spirit of contention’, but I’m unclear on how this is taking place.
  • Is your husband getting angry when you or the children interrupt him? 
  • Are the both of you arguing about his video game use, or if you feel the content is inappropriate? 
  • Are you feeling angry about being neglected, or feeling a sense of jealousy that he is relaxing while you are still busy with home and children, with no time to rest yourself?
 Depending on your answer, I might suggest different courses of action.

Because men’s brains are designed to compartmentalize more than women’s are, they will seek out activities that allow them to focus in a safe non-judgmental environment or allow them to not think of anything at all. This may be irritating to a woman because for most, they can’t imagine why anyone would want to think about “nothing.” But, for men, this is very restful.

 This is naturally because a woman’s brain is designed to be a constant flow of information – fluidly connected to all parts of the brain; flowing out into relationships with others. Men tend to contract inward and prefer to focus on one thing at a time. One kind of wiring isn’t better or worse than the other – just different, and meant to help them excel in their different God-given roles, with assistance from each other.[ii]

You can’t change him. Only he can do that. You’re not his mother, and your husband is a grown man capable of reason and judgment. Banning all video-games from the house will naturally make him feel resentful and view you as trying to control him. 

You mentioned that you were feeling this as well. Completely removing video games against his will upsets the balance of your relationship, and is unlikely to lead to the desired end you’re seeking. Give him the chance to use his agency to make the change.

Perhaps you could approach him in a different manner. If you’re comfortable approaching him, you might talk with him about this. Let him know that you don’t want to take away something he takes genuine pleasure in, but there are certain activities that you need from him to feel like he’s paying attention to you and the children as well.

List specifically what those activities are. 
  • Do you want him to take out the trash every Wednesday after work? 
  • Are the both of you dating once a week for at least four hours? 
  • Do you want him to spend one-on-one time with each child each week for a certain period of time? 
  • Do you want time to have a planning session with him? 
  • Family Home Evening for an hour, two hours, whatever, on Monday nights? 
  • When and how often do you want to engage in intercourse, or what you would consider sex (kissing, cuddling, pillow talk, being naked together, etc)? 
  • Is he doing his home teaching? 
  • Going to church? 
  • Fulfilling a calling? 
  • Can he watch the kids for you at the end of the day while you take a nap?
 In turn, what does he need from you? 
  • Some quiet time to unwind? 
  • Some encouraging words? 
  • Food? 
  • The gift of a quickie on a busy day?
Your husband can’t read your mind, and you may have to discuss these things several times before it clicks for him. Your specificity may help him to have a feeling of success by creating concrete, realistic expectations for your satisfaction that he can meet.

Perhaps, if you help him gain success in helping you and your family be happy, he will find more pleasure in spending more time with you, and maybe find reduced need for fulfillment in virtual experiences. However, he has to be told what you want and he has to be told more than once. This is the nature of us men. Waiting for him to guess or “just figure it out” on his own will only lead to frustration – for both of you.

Once those needs have been met, then carve out some time for him to play his games, but ask if you can set up time limits on the amount of time he plays, and ask if he will limit himself to games that don’t contain mature elements. 

If he’s unable to keep to those limits, see if he will agree to counseling for addiction, since it’s possible that addiction might be the case. The talk “Things As They Really Are” by Elder Bednar – speaks to the youth, but addresses some valid aspects of gaming addiction you can apply to your situation.

If it turns out that he is addicted, chances are the therapist will tell him to remove the games. This is a good time for you to let a third-party be the ‘parent’. Again, you are not his parent, and he is not yours. You are his equal partner.  

When the problem is clearly addiction that has been verified by an outside professional, you have nothing to feel guilty about when it comes to setting limits, but work with him. The challenge is his to overcome, but set your boundaries and don’t enable him.  Seek the Lord’s help in prayer as well and let the Spirit guide you as to what steps you need to take.

Addictions like these come as a result of over-exertion of the dopamine-releasing glands. Like with any drug, over time we become desensitized and a greater portion of drugs must be used to get the same high. Again, like with drugs, treatment includes complete abandonment of the drug (along with time) to allow the body and brain to return to normal levels of stimulation. Expect occasional relapse to be part of his recovery.[iii]

In addition, I am concerned at your mention that you don’t feel that you can take time for yourself. Do you feel that the gospel doesn’t allow you to take time for yourself, or that you’re being a bad mother or wife for doing so? This is not a true belief, and is not supported anywhere in the gospel. If you don’t know what you need to be happy, experiment with your likes and dislikes, and incorporate what you enjoy into your life.

A recent talk from Elder Uchtdorf, called “Forget Me Not”, is an excellent talk for the sisters in this regard, especially the parts about not judging yourself harshly and making appropriate choices for your time. If you haven’t already read it, I hope you will take the time to do so.

I wish you both the happy balance you are seeking in your relationship.


[i] Smith, Joseph F., Gospel Doctrine, pgs. 330, 332, italics added

[ii] These physiological and psychological gender differences are outlined in the book Men, Women and Relationships by John Gray, Ph.D., specifically in Chapters 3 and 4, as well as Mark Gungor’s DVD Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage and the findings of Drs. Reuben and Raquel Gur and Dr. Sebastian Kraemer, Ph.D. in the documentary, Science of the Sexes (Oxford Scientific Films). See also The Family: A Proclamation to the World (www.lds.org) for statements on gender differences (paragraph 2) and individual responsibilities of men and women (paragraph 7).

[iii] McGowan, Kathleen, The New Quitter, Psychology Today, Aug 2010, pg 78

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More from the Marriage Bed

Hey Brothers and Sisters,

If you find what you are reading here helpful and would like to read more, be sure to check out my daily postings on Facebook.

It will give you some helpful tips for your marriage (including date night ideas, video clips and when I post my latest article) while you are waiting for me to finish researching and writing my next article.

Come see me at The LDS Marriage Bed

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sexual Dysfunction?

If your spouse has a lower sex drive than you, that doesn't necessarily mean that there is something wrong with them. You may just have a higher sex drive than they do and this is not uncommon or abnormal according to Dr. David Schnarch (author of Passionate Marriage)

If you are the one with the lower sex drive and it troubles you, you may want to take the following into consideration.

This slideshow from MedicineNet.com shows some possible causes of low libido or lack of interest in sex. Most female or male sexual dysfunction can be easily remedied as this slideshow will demonstrate.

Sex Drive Killers - By MedicineNet.Com

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Isn’t It Romantic…?


 WARNING: This post contains a topic of a sacred sexual nature and is intended for married couples only. The information contained is sexually graphic in nature. Reader discretion is advised.
“For the time shall come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables…” – 2 Timothy 4:3-4
 I took my wife to a movie this weekend. It wasn’t a movie I would have chosen, but she wanted to see it, and I enjoy making her happy, so I took her.

It was a “chick flick” – not meant for men, but primarily for the enjoyment of women. Men may look at such films and roll their eyes and groan, and imagine explosions and death and mayhem where there is none, just to make it more tolerable to be there.

It was more than tolerable for me, in the sense that I love to study human behavior and wonder, “Why do they do that?” or “Why did the writer write that character that way?”

What I noticed about this particular film (as well as the many others I’ve had to watch in the name of bringing happiness to my wife) was that the heroine of the film was nurtured every second. She was cocooned in the love and concern of those around her. The hero was attentive to her every need. He protected her from every perceived slight and possible danger, even as she insisted that she didn't really need such protection.

Films that men enjoy are very different than women’s films. In a “guy” film, there are jobs to be done, a journey to take, challenges to overcome, lives to be saved and a woman’s heart to win. There are women who adore the hero, and express that adoration with their bodies as well as their words.

At the extreme end of the spectrum is pornography, which is often designed specifically to stroke this primal need in men, with women who enthusiastically throw themselves into sex with a man with the same desire as a man, often acting in ways that real women would never do…just as the romantic heroes in the chick flicks behave, think and act in ways a man in real life wouldn’t.

Why do the men in such films not act like men in reality? Or the women in men’s films? Where is the fulfillment that both sexes find in these stories?

I suggest that it stems, in large part, from each gender’s definition of intimacy.

His n’ Her Intimacy

Intimacy, in a woman’s mind, is not necessarily synonymous with sex. A woman who has been awakened to sex may admit that it feels good, that they like it, but it is not usually the central heart of what they crave.

Women crave intimacy, which to them means they want to be known for who they really are as a person. They want acknowledgement for the sacrifices that they make, large and small. They want to feel safe with the person they love.

They want to feel protected. They want to feel like they have a unique worth or value. This is usually what they mean when they say “I want to feel special.”

Ever wonder why women cling so closely to church, more so than men? They crave that relationship with their Heavenly Father. For them he is the ultimate protector…who sees into their very souls and loves them unconditionally, despite what they perceive as their faults. He sees something special in them as his daughter…and He watches out for their every need.

For them, when it feels like the rest of the world wants to destroy them, they look to him to protect and comfort them. I hear this over and over again when women talk about why their relationship with God is important to them. I see this being a very basic and primal need for women; to feel that level of “protected” and "adored".  A fictional example of this would be the story of Pride and Prejudice, when Mr. Darcy (a greater power who gives selflessly of himself to protect) swoops in to protect his sister’s honor and Elizabeth’s family’s honor because he loves them.

We as men usually don’t understand this, because we don’t feel that same need. In fact, it’s somewhat the opposite. We feel a primal need to be the provider, the protector and defender. We feel a primal need for women to desire us as we desire them and be turned on when we fix things for them or display our male prowess. Stories such as the James Bond films are classic examples of this desire to be clever and strong, and to protect and defend the innocent.We find it romantic when the girl swoons and falls in the hero's arms because of his masculinity, strength, skill and cleverness and wants sex with him based on these attributes alone.

Men’s relationship with God is reflected in this: We seek favor with God so he will help us better provide, defend and protect our wife and family. Even our priesthood is there to teach us how to best portray this role of provider and protector in the way God would do it.

Neither the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord

Neither paradigm of romance or values is wrong or a perversion of the other. They are just different and reflect the roles (biologically, spiritually and otherwise) each are designed to portray.

If we want to attract or arouse our spouse, each sex needs to understand and respect this subcultural difference.

We as men will find ourselves frustrated if we attempt to turn on our wife by behaving or displaying things to women that arouse us as men. Likewise, a wife will find it difficult to influence a man to be a protector and appreciator by behaving and displaying things that she finds attractive and romantic.

Expecting him to “just know” what she wants can lead to frustration as well. She needs to tell him, and probably two or three times. This is not selfishness. It is not selfish to let someone know what you want or need. It is selfish to keep this to yourself and allow your frustrations to build. He wants to romance and protect you and show you appreciation. He just may not know how or that you even want it because what you need to feel intimate is not a basic primal need or instinct in him.

A man who takes on this role in a woman’s life has the potential of becoming the extension of Heavenly Father in the life of his wife. While we don’t consider our relationship with God to be in any way sexual, that sense of feeling safe and protected in every sense allows her to relax and open herself up sexually. It is a great responsibility and stewardship for every husband to be that extension of who she sees as the Great Protector.When I say "protector" I don't just mean physically, but emotionally, mentally, sexually and spiritually as well.

A man who will find small and large ways to protect his wife, who will encourage her to express herself and give her the wings to fly without criticism, and who expresses his gratitude for her sacrifices (especially in the bedroom, where those sacrifices can often be difficult for her) will arouse a sense of gratitude and romance in his wife.

This is not necessarily the viewpoint of a man. A man wants to do things himself. He doesn’t want to be protected. He wants his manhood. Above all, he wants sex. A man of God will desire to be in favor with God, but he will also want sex.

Women who consider men ‘sick’ or ‘twisted’ or ‘perverted’ because they like sex are misunderstanding what is ‘romantic’ to men. Men are not women with a penis. It would be gender-centric to believe so.

Sex IS romance and love to a man. It is intimacy. It is air and life.  A man who isn’t getting it even once in a while is probably having a hard time fully connecting to that feeling of love for his wife, no matter what other charitable acts she may do for him. He does all that he does for her to gain the deep, intimate sex he craves. If he puts all that effort into the relationship, and does not get sex out of it, resentment is very likely to set in.

“Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” – The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Women may never fully comprehend just how important the sexual aspect of life is to a man, because it often just isn’t as central a drive for the woman. Her sex drive and her sexual cycle are not the same. Not wrong…just different. Women are likewise not men with breasts and vaginas, no matter how much a man may desire that, or however much it may be portrayed that way in TV or movies. It would be gender-centric to believe so.

While the wife can’t and shouldn’t take the blame for the moral choices of her husband, the wife should also know and appreciate what a powerful tool she holds in her care – the sexual relationship – and how much good it can do in the lives of her family unit. Because she is often the spouse with lower sex drive, she is the one who holds control of the sexual relationship, and vise versa should the husband have the lower drive.The way the lower drive spouse wields this control will greatly influence the strength and vitality of the marriage.

A wife who will allow herself to rely on her husband for help (even when she may not need it), or who will appreciate the sacrifices he makes for her (a man who will help lift a woman’s physical burdens and listen without criticism is making a sacrifice), and who will take the time to learn about and develop her sexuality with him - will bring about a sense of deep love and appreciation from her husband.

We are different, but we can learn to understand and respect each other’s differences and values. Sacrifice for each other does bring forth the blessings of heaven. Taking the time to understand the man or woman you are married to, and giving them love the way they feel love, can bring down heaven’s choicest blessings and eternal unity.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Four Marriage Killers - Selfishness


I have been watching with great interest the discussion on these last few blogs, especially the discussion concerning the justification of masturbation in a sexless marriage. The link to some of that discussion is here:

I thought deeply on these comments. Some felt that I didn’t go far enough; that perhaps I should have told him that he should leave his wife under such circumstances.

Whether or not this reader should leave his wife, I couldn’t say. We do not have her side of the story, and my reply to him was based upon his side of the story.

I’m sure there are many others who may wonder why I didn’t suggest he leave her.
In large part, my main reason is the purpose of my blog today – the final of the four marriage killers: selfishness.

The Root of Most Marital Problems = Selfishness

President Spencer W. Kimball spoke at length of the marital bane that is selfishness. He said:

“In the process of learning what is right for you at any particular time, I have always found it helpful to use a basic measuring stick: Is it selfish? I have concluded that most of our sins are really sins of selfishness…”[1]

I have demonstrated before in other articles how marriage is a growth process. The act of getting sealed in the temple is only the first step for everyone to begin this progression process of growing together – of becoming “one” – an “eternal” unit. It does not happen the instant we make our vows, and it is not without difficulty. Yet the results of such a process (if we do not allow selfishness to seep in) will bring sweet rewards over time.

Selfish Reasons for Marriage Can Still Work

This is why marriage is not a decision to be made lightly. Those who marry for money, for fame, status, to spite another, lust, revenge or on the rebound, may be thwarting their personal progression before it even begins.

This is not to say that we have to have perfect reasons to marry – most often don’t and many have wonderful marriages. Those of us in the Church often marry at very young ages, compared to society as a whole. We may choose a partner for primarily superficial reasons in the beginning. Whether we choose wisely or not, the growth process can still occur, and progression can still happen – if we approach the process without selfishness:

“Did I pick the right person? This question inverts the starting and ending points. We do not pick our perfect match because we ourselves are not perfect. The universe hands us a flawless diamond – in the rough. Only if we are willing to polish off every part of ourselves that cannot join do we end up with a soul mate.”[2]

Differentiation and Emotional Fusion

This process is why God wants us to marry. It cannot begin until we marry…until we have committed ourselves by covenant for this process to begin. Trying to gain this growth in any other way (fornication, cohabitation, friends with benefits, same-sex ‘marriage’, pornography, adultery, etc.) is artificial and superficial at best…and again we always find selfishness at the root of it.

Dr. David Schnarch refers to this polishing process within marriage as “differentiation.”  It’s a new word for most people. In LDS terms, it means to use our free agency to become non-dependent on other people for our happiness, self-worth, self-esteem or self-respect.

The opposite state of differentiation is emotional fusion. Most people carry some form of this in their lives, especially when they’re newly married and the newlywed glow of love has worn off. Many people may even feel that emotional fusion is love, but it is not.

Those who lean toward emotional fusion base their ability to be happy (or their self-esteem or self-worth or their status in society) entirely or in part on how other people view them, speak about them or treat them.

We’ve all seen examples of fusion in many kinds of personal relationships, such as:
·        the spouse who insists on winning an argument
·        a wife who regularly asks if she looks fat and then doesn’t accept the compliment her husband gives her
·        the husband who gets into a rage when his dinner gets burned
·        the husband who thinks his wife is frigid because her sex drive isn’t as strong as his or rejects his wife because her sex drive is stronger than his and he feels his manhood is threatened
·        a parent who throws a fit and may even get violent if the children do not acknowledge their place as the head of the household, and they feel threatened that the children are showing disrespect.

Dr. David Schnarch said “…people who are emotionally fused are controlled by their connection. They have lost their ability to direct themselves and so get swept up in how people around them are feeling. There’s room for only one opinion, one position.”[3]

There is no room or place for win/win in such a relationship, only win/lose.

Individuality is Not Selfish by Itself

“Choose ye this day whom ye will serve; as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15

“It is not good for man to be alone…”

Each person holds within them two basic, God-given drives: the need to be their own person, and the need to be accepted and loved by a person or group.

Neither of these desires is selfish. Our individuality enables us to think, hold opinions, and learn. The desire for individuality enables us to care for ourselves and to take action on our faith. Individuality is a creative force.

Our desires to be part of a group enable us to form loving connections, families, and to achieve cohesiveness in a church or a community.

Emotional Fusion and the Four Marriage Killers

Emotional fusion is a connection as well – but a different kind. Emotional fusion is not love. It is an emotional connection that does not make room for another person’s ideas, ability to repent and be forgiven, or even breathing space. It requires mindless conformity. It is two people fighting to be heard and understood, but not willing to understand the other.

A fused person fears to reveal all of themselves to their spouse. They fear they will lose themselves, or be hurt beyond repair. They may feel their only other option is to pull away from the tremendous pull their spouse has on them. They may engage in silence or separation. Communication fails, and secrets begin to thrive, since neither spouse trusts the other with their real feelings.

Separation and silence may frighten the fused spouse (ex. “How am I supposed to live without you?”). When our spouse disagrees with us, a fight ensues. If one spouse declines the other’s sexual invitation, the fused spouse takes it very personally, and may harbor resentment that grows and festers.

A spouse who is emotionally fused is like a mirror. They look to their husband or wife or extended family or friends to tell them who they are. They may find it hard to be alone, simply because they have no one to reflect against. To them, change becomes something that is threatening. Change means that their self-esteem is at risk, and they can’t allow that.

Spencer W. Kimball tried to warn couples about the permeating consequences of selfishness and fusion in marriage. He said,

 “If the faults of two people are more nearly equal, if both of them have a beam-impaired vision that still gives no justification for a selfish, unforgiving attitude…The escapist never escapes. If two people, selfish and self-centered, and without the spirit of forgiveness, escape from each other, they cannot escape from themselves. The disease is not cured by the separation or the divorce, and it will most assuredly follow along in the wake of future marriages.”[4]

Emotional fusion is the manifestation of selfishness in a marriage. It must be addressed and corrected individually for a relationship to get on the right track toward progressing together as an eternal couple.

For this reason, it does no good to counsel people to arbitrarily end their relationship when it’s in trouble. Their lack of ability to differentiate will simply follow them to their next relationship…and the next…and the next. Emotional fusion and selfishness will stop an eternal marriage in its tracks every time.

Emotional Fusion in Our Sex Life

Problems in our sex life are often the first sign of emotional fusion. The act of lovemaking is such a close, intimate, sacred, powerful and self-exposing action that, if the process of emotional fusion is beginning, sex may feel smothering. The spouse may begin to feel they are losing their sense of identity or exposing themselves too much. Sex may get shut down entirely.

If one spouse expresses this fusion behavior, some may say that the solution is to stand up to our spouse – to lay down the law and tell them we won’t put up with this situation anymore. The spouse is broken, there is nothing we can do to change it, and the marriage should end.

Maybe it should….or maybe it shouldn’t. We could also ask ourselves, “What does my spouse need? What is my spouse trying to communicate?”

Before the Mote…Remove the Beam

I commonly hear “I can’t go on. I’m being overwhelmed. I’ve got to find myself and be my own person, and find a person who will appreciate me, or not betray me.”

This is emotional fusion. This is the face of selfishness that stabs at the heart of a marriage.

In contrast, a differentiated person (who proactively looks to compromise with a resistant spouse) might think, “I’ve done all I can. My life is right with God, and I know that this is the course He would have me pursue. I love my spouse, and I want to be with them eternally. I will do all I can to help heal our marriage, but if they don’t want that, then I will respect their decision. Their decision doesn’t make me a bad person or a failure.”

These are two totally different places to be…with two totally different results.

Two Strong Individuals Who Choose to Stay Together

“Marriage is not easy; it is not simple…Since nearly all of us have experienced divorce among our close friends or relatives, we have come to realize that divorce is not a cure for difficulty, but is merely an escape, and a weak one…Two people coming from different backgrounds soon learn after the ceremony is performed that a stark reality must be faced…”[5]

Differentiation – the process of becoming a strong and independent individual while maintaining a close relationship with another person – can be one of the hardest, yet most rewarding challenges any married person will ever undertake.

Building such a marriage is hard. It will hit you at every weak spot you have. You must reach out for the strength to accomplish such a feat, because it cannot be done alone. It may mean letting go of some very comfortable habits, beliefs or traditions that are selfish and not conducive to the health of the marriage as a whole.

So Why Bother if It’s So Hard?

 It is worth pursuing because the benefits are amazing and eternal. Sex between two differentiated people can only be experienced if you are a person who is not afraid to be held, not afraid or ashamed to express yourself sexually with your spouse and not threatened by your spouse’s sexuality.

It is also when you realize that sex is so much more than just bodies pressing together, penis in vagina and reaching the ultimate orgasm. It is about communication, truly being one spiritually and emotionally, and finding pleasure in helping the other feel satisfied with their lives.  Sex between couples who have mastered differentiation also gets better as you grow older.

Gordon B. Hinkley said:

“Why all of these broken homes? What happens to marriages that begin with sincere love and a desire to be loyal and faithful and true one to another?

There is no simple answer. I acknowledge that. But it appears to me that there are some obvious reasons that account for a very high percentage of these problems. I say this out of experience in dealing with such tragedies. I find selfishness to be the root cause of most of it.

I am satisfied that a happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.”[6]

How to Differentiate? One Word…
What must we do to allow differentiation to begin and selfishness to be removed? We must work to discover the selfishness in our own heart, and allow charity to develop. Charity is the manifestation of differentiation, and the celestial opposite of selfishness.

By being sealed in the temple by priesthood authority, we seal ourselves to the Lord as a third party in our marriage. He will initiate the process of differentiation by encouraging us to build our relationship with him, and in turn will help us build our relationship with our spouse and others.[7]

Charity is having a love for others (for our spouse) that is just as strong as the love Christ has for us.

“Pray with all the energy of heart…”[8]

By grasping onto the Lord for help and allowing Him to purify us, we overcome the selfishness in our hearts, and we can develop a love for our spouse that is not possible without his help.

We can gain confidence in the Lord, and in our identity as his spirit child. With that strength and confidence, we can face the challenges in our intimate lives and work to grow together as two independent individuals that function together interdependently.

Differentiation is the process by which we allow the institution of marriage (and the tool of sexual intimacy in marriage) to root out selfishness; to become more like Christ. If you allow it, marriage will show you all your weaknesses, selfish desires and shortcomings.

Repentance and forgiveness (of our spouse and ourselves) are also tools the Lord has given us to get selfishness out of our lives.

Start where you are. Allow your spouse or other loved ones or even priesthood leaders or professionals to help you recognize when you are fusing, being selfish, or giving into weaknesses. We can repent, we can be forgiven and we can pray for charity.

We can also communicate to our spouse and listen to our spouse to help each other learn what they need to feel loved, appreciated, respected, sexy and intimately satisfied. Never assume your spouse “should just know.” No one is born knowing how to be a good spouse or lover. It must be learned.

We can put their needs above our own, and we can not pass judgment because their personal differences are different from our own.

 “And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail – but charity is the pure love of Christ…

Wherefore…pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him…that we may be purified even as he is pure…”

In the end, who wants to be married to a stranger or someone we don’t like for eternity? If we are to build a happy and loving relationship that will last forever, each person has the task of replacing their own selfishness with charity.


[1] Dr. Homer Ellsworth, “I Have a Question”, Ensign, Aug. 1979

[2] Prather, Hugh and Gail, “Notes to Each Other”, as quoted by Schnarch, David. “Passionate Marriage” pg. 51.
[4] Kimball, Spencer W. “The Miracle of Forgiveness”, pg. 270-271
[5] Kimball, Spencer W. “Marriage and Divorce”, 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year, as quoted in the Eternal Marriage Student Manual, p. 170
[6] Hinckley, Gordon B. “What God Hath Joined Together”. Ensign, May 1991, pg. 71-74
[7] Ephesians 5: 22-33
[8] Moroni 7:48

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Solo Masturbation: A "Sexual" Relationship?

A reader raised an interesting question:

Can solo masturbation be considered a "sexual" relation? Can a person have "sex" with themself?

 I was curious to hear what you had to say on this.

When presenting your arguments, please try to state them as fact and show your sources. Feel free to use scripture, church resources, scientific data, quotes from professionals...

I also ask that we be respectful in how we present our arguments. Attack the idea, not the person. Hateful words or angry rantings will not be accepted.  Think in terms of "help others to heal" "help others to know where to go."

I'm looking forward to your responses.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Response to Reader Comment - The Purpose of my Blog


Anonymous Aug 5 said... 

"Dear Sam,
Please be careful using the word "worthy". That is a Mormon culture word and carries with it the connotation that God finds some people of lesser worth than others. Being "worthy" is as relative as being "nice" or "smart".

Also, is it not possible that the reason this man may be feeling guilty about masturbation is that he has been conditioned by his culture countless times over many years that it is sinful and he is now "unworthy?"

I also respectfully disagree with your statement that "I didn't make that rule up...that's natural law. That's the Lord's rules". Please show me where in scripture or in modern day revelation that sexual behavior agreed upon by spouses and within the bounds the Lord has set (granted those bounds are fairly undefined)is separating. I'll wait... Absolutist statements that fabricate doctrine are a hallmark of Mormon culture that desperately needs to end for the health of its members and to institute a sorely needed change in the sexual education of its members.

Although I appreciate a forum for people to privately discuss sexuality without reprisal and in anonymity, I find it saddening that counsel given to young people to abstain from masturbation is considered legitimate and binding for a married couple who have come to an agreement as to what is acceptable between them. I tell my kids not to talk to strangers. I would hope however that as adults they would know when talking to strangers is not only appropriate but part of a healthy psyche and considered normal human behavior.

You're welcome to not post this comment. I have no intention of visiting your blog again. I would be interested however to see how your views soften and/or change as you both finish your studies, and begin to see the damage done to people by well intentioned but misinformed church leadership and cultural conditioning in your practice as a therapist. In your posts you come across as eager to reinforce dogma and less eager to truly advise what is healthiest for your readers. I suggest a quick surfing of Natasha's site "Mormon therapist" for thoughtful, insightful, and healing advice. Good luck to you in your journey to serve the members of the church!"

Dear Anonymous Aug 5,

Thank you for your comments. I'm sorry it took me so long to get back to you. Somehow your comment ended up in my spam folder, and I just recently found it, so I apologize for that.
As a matter of fact, I have visited Natasha’s “Mormon Therapist” site many time, and I also enjoy her articles and podcasts. She is very helpful and informative.

I suppose a lot of people may feel as you do…that the directive towards youth and single adults against masturbation in the Church should be restricted only to those who are single, just as we tell our young children to stay away from the stove when they’re little, but to fire it up when they’re older; that it should only be a matter of preparedness, and that this should be canonized as being good and right in marriage in all circumstances.

I believe it’s wise that the General Authorities of the Church do not say this, because we’re very unable to make such blanket statements that cover everyone when it comes to sex in marriage. There remain statements such as this one from modern-day prophets, and from other Christian leaders. I hope this quote will satisfy your desire for doctrine on this point:

“Even in marriage there can be some excesses and distortions. No amount of rationalization to the contrary can satisfy a disappointed Father in heaven. In this connection, we quote a paragraph from a popular evangelist, Billy Graham: ‘…The Bible makes plain that evil, when related to sex means not the use of something inherently corrupt but the misuse of something pure and good.” 

This quote is in an older version of the Eternal Marriage Handbook called “Achieving a Celestial Marriage” put out by the Church. It is unfortunately out of print, but part of the above quote is still available in the new Student Manual called “Eternal Marriage”. You may be able to find a copy in your ward library, or this quote may also be available from President Kimball’s Conference talk in May of 1974, at www.lds.org.

There are other quotes like this as well, that lead me to believe that we can’t just give a blanket “ok” or “not ok” to any sexual practice in marriage, even if both partners are all right with it. 

We know, for instance, that married couples should not engage in pornography under any circumstances, which is different from how the secular world counsels married couples. We are only now becoming aware of scientific evidence that demonstrates how pornography affects the brain at a very deep, fundamental level, and how it can create a dysfunction in our relationships with others.

I believe there are some circumstances where masturbation is appropriate as a tool in the marital intimacy repertoire, to help strengthen the bonds between a husband and wife. I do not find evidence that solo masturbation in secret in marriage has proven to improve marital bonding and provide complete sexual satisfaction. In fact, I find secret solo masturbation to be mostly a selfish and separating activity, which are two attributes that can potentially kill a marriage. John Gray touches on this in his book, "Mars and Venus in the Bedroom". Mark Gungor talks in great depth in his "Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage" DVD.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the reference you mentioned where I said the word ‘worthy’ in this article, so I’m not certain of the context in which you’re talking about the word. Perhaps you were referring to a different article I wrote...? If you do happen to come back (and you are certainly welcome to do so if you choose), you could point out to me what article you were referring to.

It is my belief that the dogma of the Church is true and correct, and will help my readers to have a better sex life and obtain a stronger, eternal marital relationship if they follow the commandments. I don’t know that any amount of secular education or experience will change my belief in the basic doctrines of the Church. 

I do know that misinformation about sex has damaged many in the Church, which is what I am working to correct. I have seen lots of this damage firsthand, and I myself have been a victim of this misinformation in the past. However, it was not the doctrines of the Church that was at fault, but the fallacies of individuals in the Church, teaching their cultural superstitions as truth.

I’m not interested in pandering to the secular world of the Gentiles (non-Mormons). There are many in the secular world who share some of our beliefs, or who are interested in learning about our beliefs. It would be a disservice to ourselves and to them to bend LDS doctrine to conform with the secular world. My goal is to do just the opposite - to show where secular teachings about sexuality and marriage harmonize with LDS doctrine.

The audience I’m writing for is one that has a belief in God the Father, in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, and in the truthfulness of the words of the living prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 

It is to that community that I write this blog…to provide a resource for obtaining correct principles and learning how to apply them in a married, sexual context that will bring the fulfillment that I feel God intended. 

I realize that not everyone will agree with me, and that’s fine. I find disagreement to be a good opportunity for me to review what I believe and decide whether or not my beliefs come from a gospel basis, or from a cultural myth. 

When I've studied whether or not the wrongness of masturbation in marriage is a gospel principle or whether it's a cultural myth, the answer is that it depends. Solo masturbation may not disqualify a married person from going to the temple, but in most cases, it does not serve the purposes of marriage progression and growth. Mutual masturbation is much more useful in that regard.

The definition of abnormal behavior in psychology refers to behavior that cripples your functionality in society. If masturbation keeps you from communicating clearly with your spouse, or causes resentment, or if porn is involved, or if you prefer masturbation to sexual relations with your spouse, this is when abnormal behavior begin. 

Occasional solo masturbation done in marriage with full knowledge, mutual consent of the spouse and good feelings about the exercise of it from both spouses does not fall under this abnormal definition, in my opinion. This is because you are expressing your sexuality as a couple and not as an individual.

"Nevertheless, neither is the man without the women, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 11:11-12)

I feel this idea is in keeping with this scriptural statement.

I am still in the midst of my studies, as you mentioned. I’ve been an active member of the Church for 40 years now, and spent the last twelve years as an educator in the Church in various capacities. I’ve been happily married to my wife for almost 20 years, and I have over 20 years of research (institutional and otherwise) in sociology, biology, anthropology, sexuality and marital relationships. This blog is where I share my findings, and I learn from all of my readers' experiences, and the couples I have coached as well.

I can’t claim to be a licensed professional…only a continuing student of sexology and sociology. I quote a lot of either professional resources or gospel authorities for this very reason – because I can claim very few institutional credentials myself at this point. 

I don't mind letting them be the experts - there are some amazing experts that we as LDS couples can learn from, both in and out of the Church. I think even after I get my Ph.D., I couldn't comfortably claim to know everything there is to know about the gospel and sexuality and life and the world. It would be presumptuous of me to say so. I hope I always stay a student.

Thank you for your good wishes. It will be interesting for both of us to see my progression over time in helping people’s marriages.