marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reader Question: Sexual Fantasies in Marriage

WARNING: This post contains a topic of a sacred sexual nature and is intended for married couples only. Reader discretion is advised.

 Coach Sam,

I have to first say THANK YOU for opening up this important discussion about intimacy in LDS marriage! I have had serious questions about mine and my husband’s relations, and until now, I felt like I had no where to turn for answers.

My husband and I have been married for several years. We have a wonderful marriage. He is very kind and good to me and I feel lucky to still feel completely in love with him and him with me. We discovered very early on in our marriage that I really enjoy sex and am able to orgasm IF we use scenarios/fantasies. 

He starts off touching me and talking about a scenario "we're both at a party and meet up in a back room...." or "what if we were videotaping..." These scenarios get pretty steamy (obviously we are in the moment) and we use language that we wouldn't use in normal everyday life. We do make sure that the scenarios are also just between the two of other people involved or things.

The problem? Lately, I am feeling really guilty and questioning if I am worthy to enter the temple. I get confused when I hear the brethren talk about lust as a complete sin or when I am asked if I am chaste. To be honest, I feel very "lustful" when I am intimate with my husband and I definitely don't feel chaste. I feel sexual.

My husband and I have talked about my feelings and he thinks we are just fine in the way we do things. We tried a few times to make love without the scenarios but I did not enjoy it.
These guilty feelings have made me not want to be intimate as much. I haven't been to the temple for 3 months and when I went the last time I asked my husband if we could abstain for a week prior so that I wouldn't feel so guilty there. 

I feel like this is affecting my marriage. I want to continue to be intimate and have fun in my marriage, but I want to make sure we're clean also. I wonder if these scenarios are a form of porn. 

I asked a trusted friend about all this and she thought that if I was feeling so guilty then there must be something wrong. That may sound true, but I am a guilt prone person. I was raised in a home of perfection, I had some rebellious teen years, and spent 2 years in a bishop's office because I had a hard time forgiving myself the more I realized what I had done. I think this resulted in a "sex doesn't belong with the gospel" perspective.

I would so appreciate your insight. 



Dear Baffled,

Thank you for reading and thank you for your question. You’re not alone. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of newly temple-wed couples who ask these same questions.  “Okay, I’m married in the Temple…now what is the “Law of Chastity” for me?”

The short answer is that you’re not sinning in any degree by engaging in the mental and physical sexual activity you described. The truth of the matter is, Heavenly Father wants you to do those things with your husband!

I believe It is pleasing to him that you fantasize about your husband sexually and that you are using your sexuality as a tool to bond with your husband.[i]

That being said, I don’t want to encourage you to ignore your feelings. Feelings are one of the ways the Spirit communicates with us.

if you feel bad about a particular sexual practice, it doesn’t necessarily mean “don’t do it”. It could mean “don’t do it right now”. You may need to discontinue until you’ve learned more about what you’re feeling disturbed about.

What you have described in your letter could be a phenomenon that Laura M Brotherson  calls “the Good Girl Syndrome.”[ii]  Growing up LDS, you were perhaps taught that “before marriage, good girls don't”.

 Because that was not usually followed up with “in marriage, good girls DO,” sometimes young people tend to subconsciously get hung up on the “don’t” even after marriage. (In case you don’t already know, Laura Brotherson is an LDS licensed marriage and family therapist, and author of “And They Were Not Ashamed”. It’s an excellent book that I highly recommend.)

Our parents and church leaders (in their human frailty) may assume that, as soon as the children are married, a switch in the brain will flip over and they’ll automatically make the sexual mindset transition with no other outward instruction or figure it out on their own.   This unfortunately is a common Mormon myth.

 Some newlyweds are able to figure it out on their own, but many don’t. I do however believe our current generation of  leaders are getting better at reinforcing that sex in marriage is righteous in all its wonderful forms of expression.

Sex in marriage is the very definition of what is holy, pure and sacred.[iii] If you only express your sexuality with your husband, sex becomes a powerful glue that helps bond you both emotionally for eternity.

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? You are building an ‘eternal’ unit. When we have sex with someone we’re not married to or involve others in our sex (whether through porn or creating fantasies in our mind about ourselves and another person when we have sex with our spouse), it loses its sacred potential.   It becomes something ordinary, unholy, not special anymore. This is what I believe the Brethren were trying to teach us with the law of chastity.

Consider this statement from “For The Strength of Youth.”
“ Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between husband and wife. God has commanded that sexual intimacy be reserved for marriage.

In the gospel context, the term “lust” is referring to sexual thoughts and sexual actions towards someone we are not married to. It means you have sexual desire that wants to be satisfied. God put those feelings of desire in us on purpose. We are chaste when we keep those sexual feelings within the bounds of marriage, towards our spouse.

Just because we are married doesn’t mean we’re not going to be attracted to other people from time to time. If you haven’t felt it already, you will eventually. Don’t be afraid of your feelings; communicate those feelings openly with your spouse, and with the Lord, and repent when you find yourself entertaining those thoughts. The Lord will not hold you unworthy for the stray thought if you continue to repent and strive to always do your best. Entertaining such feelings for someone other than your spouse is lust, and will make you feel unworthy.

Jeffrey R. Holland said,
…, let me make it clear that attractions alone, troublesome as they may be, do not make one unworthy. The First Presidency has stated, “There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in… immoral… behavior.” 2 If you do not act on temptations, you have not transgressed.

The failure to see that distinction sometimes leads to despair. I ache for those who do not understand that every blessing offered by God is available to anyone who obeys the laws upon which those blessings are predicated (see D&C 130:20–21). No one who lives the gospel should despair. Hope and peace come from the Comforter, and the answer to despair is to invite the Holy Ghost into our lives.”[iv]

If it helps you to make the separation between what is worthy or unworthy, you could add to your vocabulary the term “desire” for your husband.  When you have those same thoughts, feelings, and actions for your husband as you would when you "lust" after someone you are not married to, you are “desiring your husband”, which is a perfectly righteous and worthy feeling.

The sharing of sexual fantasies and role-playing your sexual fantasies with your husband – as you described – do not make you unworthy to enter the temple. They are a healthy and mature expression of sexuality[v] that shows you have good communication and cooperation between the both of you. For more insight on this (from an LDS perspective), I invite you to also listen to Laura M Brotherson's podcast on sharing fantasies with your spouse. Click [HERE]

The physical love you show each other will radiate out into your family. It will create a sense of peace in your children, and set a very good example for them to follow as they fall in love and marry themselves someday.

It’s refraining from such sexual activity that would actually make you unworthy –  it’s my belief (which is supported by modern-day doctrine) that those who deny their spouses intimacy on a regular basis are committing a sin of omission. [vi]

Isn’t that exciting!?  Doing sexual things with your husband (and keeping them private between the two of you) sanctifies you and makes you and your husband more worthy to enter the temple the MORE you do it. I hope we all would want to keep the marriage covenants made together over the altar.

The adversary would have you think the opposite. He knows that if he can make you feel unworthy for having sex with your husband and get you to stop, he can destroy an eternal family. If he can keep you away from the temple by convincing you that having sex with your husband makes you unworthy to go, he’s won yet another victory.

I’ve seen such things needlessly happen to many good people, both in and out of the Church. The results can be truly tragic, and affect multiple generations of people… all because sex in marriage was too ticklish a topic to talk about other than to say ‘stay away’.  The “stay away while you’re single” message should also be taught with “in marriage, it can be truly terrific!”

Talk with your husband about sex. Learn all you can about sex together. There are appropriate sources for learning.

I hope this all makes sense. Please let me know if it does not answer or raises more questions.

For more clarification and to see what the prophets and apostles say on this subject, I invite you to read a couple articles that I have written. You are also welcome to read them all – they are free to read at my blog:

Sexless Marriage and theSacrament talks more about how God commands us to have sex in marriage and how it purifies our spirit by doing so.

[i] President Joseph F Smith, Eternal Marriage Student Manual, pg. 139
[ii] Brotherson, Laura M,  And They Were Not Ashamed
[iii] The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 311)
[iv] Elder Jeffry R. Holland,  Helping Those Who Struggle With Same Gender Attraction, Ensign, Oct. 2007
[v] Schnarch, Dr. David, Passionate Marriage, pg. 243-244, for his thoughts on the problems that occur when fantasizing about those other than your spouse.


P.A. said...

Well said, sexual desire and arousal for your spouse is not lust, it is GOOD and right and hopefully will continue throughout the marriage.

Strong Man said...

Good points. Sexuality IS chaste in marriage. NOT having sex when you're married would be violating the law of chastity. Having sex is obeying the first commandment given to man.

When I read concerns like this I'm again sad that our culture is so negative about sexuality that it produces such misguided information.

I've written about this on my blog, collected a list of pro-sex scriptures and prophetic statements.

Strong Man said...

One more thing. How can we change the mindset to feeling guilty if you have NOT had sex in the week prior to going to the temple? That's more along the mindset we should have.

Feeling guilty for having sex is sick, wrong, evil, and kills marriages.

MrShorty said...

One comment that stood out to me in Baffled's letter:

"...I don't feel chaste. I feel sexual."

These statements seem to illustrate how we tend to view this issue. Chaste is not sexual and sexual is not chaste. We treat the two topics as if they are in opposition to each other. I expect this is a natural conclusion because of the way we teach these topics to our YM/YW/YSA. I think we need to do a better job of teaching that, rather than being in opposition, chastity is, instead, the collection of laws/principles/commandments that govern sexuality. Done correctly, we will be able to see ourselves as sexual and chaste at the same time./i

LovelyLauren said...

One of the worst ways that church teachings can affect sexuality in marriages is making sexy into something dirty and wrong, but another, more subtle way is by making sex into something "sacred."

Sex is sacred, yes, but it should also be sexy and lusty and a little bit dirty and fun. I wish that message got out more often. Sex should be sexual, and as long as both partners are consenting, married, and comfortable with whatever is going on, whether it's fantasies or bondage or sex games, it's chaste too. You should never have to abstain from sex to go to the temple. If anything having sex should bring you closer to your spouse and make you MORE prepared to go to the temple because of the love and closeness it brings.

Tyler said...

The original post said, "and we use language that we wouldn't use in normal everyday life," which I read as meaning you use sexual language with your spouse, which is certainly no harm. My spouse was reading with me and pointed out that it may not be the sexual intimacy aspect that is troubling the author, but perhaps there is some use of offensive, vulgar, belittling, abusive, or other such language that does not build each other up in the exchange. It may not be the case, but I think we can all imagine an exchange where words might be spoken to a spouse that drive away love and affection. Whether these words were spoken in normal conversation or as a part of a role play, they could still have a negative affect. Hope they get to the heart of the issue and come closer as a result.

Strong Man said...

I've linked to this post in my recent post that extends CoachSam's arguments a bit further--that sexual arousal is a good, righteous, even spiritual thing.

Sex and the Holy Spirit--Friends or Enemies?

Lovely Lauren, in her comments above made some excellent points about being fun, creative, and exciting, but still used the word, "dirty." I wish we could completely eliminate words like "dirty" "naughty" and "bad" to describe married intimacy.

Anonymous said...

This is my single biggest area of confusion and concern relative to sexuality in an LDS Marriage. I really struggle understanding what kinds of fantasies are appropriate - if any. It seems like only location or situational ones would be OK, but any ones that involve anything else would seem wrong. The mind is the biggest sex organ and stimulating it with fantasies is a constant area of concern for my wife and I. We don't fantasies about other people, but situations online (i.e. on a beach walking hand and hand) isn't sexually stimulating for either of us in terms of fantasies.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the fact that you answer people's questions here. Would it be possible that you could write a post on temple garments and lingerie? When we go through the temple we are told to wear our garments at all times. There is confusion as to if it is appropriate to take them off to dawn lingerie.

CoachSam said...

Dear Anon June 19,

I agree. There needs to be some clarification in this area. There are some very pharisaical beliefs about how temple garments should be worn being spread around. My wife and I have been told some real doozies. Great idea! I'll get something put together.

Anonymous said...

Great! Thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

I like what's been said and I mostly agree with something, but I'd like to highlight one thing in your original answer. The spirit works through our feelings. Although we need to be careful of the "mormon guilt" often induced by not being perfect at everything we do, often the spirit teaches us with those feelings when there is something that isn't quite right.

In conjunction with what you said, I don't think it was having these "sexy" fantasies with your husband that was wrong, but perhaps something went a little too far that the spirit decided to tell you to clean up a bit. In contrast to another comment made above, I believe sex is a beautiful, powerful thing that brings us closer together (which you were experiencing with these fantasies), it isn't inherently "dirty" and "naughty." We can have these fantasies together and have fun with them without demeaning our personal character.

It appears the spirit may have been warning you about something and you didn't feel quite right about something. You tried changing by taking it out, and still didn't feel quite right. That's probably because you changed the wrong thing! Hope that helps...

Anonymous said...

My wife and I have been married 26 years, and have spent some time agonizing over things outside of the missionary position. Recently we found this blog and it has given us a new prespective, which we both are enjoying immensely. A little role play, or spending a night nude after making love has brought us so much closer together, we wonder how we ever made it 26 years in the first place.

Anonymous said...

So, I see the danger in fantasizing about other people.... real people who you know, or know of. This would clearly be a separating activity. My question is, what about sharing a mutual fantasy which involves situations with other people, but not real people.... just situations. Make any sense? Fantasizing about these situations in an abstract sense involving both of us as a shared fantasy is erotic for us... But, we have our questions about it.... Any thoughts Sam?

CoachSam said...

Dear Anon Dec 3,

The key here for me is ‘shared fantasy’. In my articles on the four marriage killers, keeping a fantasy from your spouse is a ‘secret’, and secrets tend to grow and become a separating factor, making it a marriage killer. Your spouse becomes someone who doesn’t truly know you.

If you can share a fantasy, and you both enjoy it (and be careful that you both are – if you sense any hesitation or resentment from your spouse, follow up on that), then this form of sacred erotica is not an issue. If you’re questioning the appropriateness of the fantasies you’ve chosen, this might be why. Talk with your spouse about how they feel, and allow them to speak freely, without prejudice or judgment.

If other people are random characters in your fantasy, but not in a sexual way, I don’t see a problem with that. The psychological hazard lies in getting into the habit of fantasizing about having sex with people with whom we’re not married. Whether the person is real or imaginary makes no difference to our subconscious mind, and it will respond the way we train it to respond. The ideal is to move away from thoughts of infidelity with others, and fantasize about fidelity with our spouse instead.

Some may ask, “What if we can’t tell if what we’re doing is wicked? What if it turns out that we’re both people who enjoy evil, and we’re just enabling each other?”

Take it to the scriptures – Paul talked about the fruits of the Spirit. (see Galatians 5:22)

Are you seeing the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ in your relationship? Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control? Would you agree that these feelings are good, rather than evil?

If we’re not offending the Spirit with what we’re doing, we’re not offending the Lord.

On the other hand, if
• our fantasizing is causing us to withdraw mentally, physically, or emotionally from our spouse,
• if we’re keeping quiet about our feelings out of anger or fear,
• if we’re harboring secrets we’re afraid will offend our spouse,
• if our desire for self-fulfillment is greater than our desire to serve and protect our spouse, or
• if we get to the point where fantasizing about others is necessary to achieve arousal and orgasm,

then I would recommend a course correction before these processes go too far.

There’s no need to beat ourselves up about it. In the process of learning what works and what doesn’t work sexually in marriage, there’s trial and error for every couple. Expect to make errors. We can only forgive ourselves and try something different until we discover what works.

Marriage and sex is a journey, not a destination.