marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Best Possible Sex - Gender Divisiveness

In case you missed them each is a link to the other Best Possible Sex articles: ContentionProfane EroticaAnger; Unkind Words or Actions; Lack of Appreciation; Past Regrets; Infidelity; Lack of Intimacy; Loss of the Spirit; Jealousy.

Prevalent beliefs in the world

My wife had a new member of the Church approach her online last week with a bit of a faith crisis.

Among other things, this person said:

…a friend said mormon men are domineering and abusive so I better not marry a member of the church

That women are viewed as property "sigh,…”

A Smaller Indication of a Larger Issue

This young woman is not alone in her concerns; neither are LDS men the only targets.

The world at times seems to want to separate along battle lines, one of which is a gender line. One camp blames many problems of society and history on men and determines that women are the more reasonable thinkers and leaders, while the other side accuses women of legal over correction, manipulation, and marginalizing the value of men; that women are not to be trusted and can be lived without.

Why is this happening?

It’s not my purpose here to tell people what to believe politically on controversial topics, or that they should believe the same as I do. However, I do want people to be aware that they have beliefs, and that they should know what those beliefs are. These beliefs may not necessarily reflect our professed religious beliefs.

Sometimes these beliefs hide – beliefs that are programmed into us by our society, media, or educational system – and these hidden beliefs can create a ‘mist of darkness’[i] in our thinking and influence our actions and reactions to others.

Can these cultural gender beliefs interfere with the possibility of having the best possible sex in marriage?

Marriage and Gender Beliefs in Conflict

“There may be times when we have been hurt, when we are tired, and when our lives seem dark and cold. There may be times when we cannot see any light on the horizon, and we may feel like giving up. If we are willing to believe, if we desire to believe, if we choose to believe, then the Savior’s teachings and example will show us the pathway forward. ~ L. Whitney Clayton”[ii]

All human beings believe in something, but what will that something be?[iii]

If we don’t deliberately choose to see life through a gospel lens, the world will create the lens we look through, and our experiences through that lens will reinforce whatever beliefs we already have.

If we believe that men regularly oppress women without consequence in all sorts of large and small ways, and that women should lead the way in all aspects of society, then our experiences through that lens tend to reinforce that belief. 

If we surround ourselves with people who hold that same belief, there will be ‘proof’ as well as peer reinforcement, and we are convinced we see the ‘truth’. The truth is, such people have grown gynocentric, or female-superior.[iv]

However, what about others who hold very different beliefs? Are they wrong, or are they right?

What if we claim society is making an oppressive overcorrection of men? That boys and men are experiencing reverse discrimination because of the influence of radical feminism? 

If we hold this belief (those of the MGTOW or ‘men-going-their-own-way’ movement are on the extreme side of this), we will likewise see ‘proof’ of untrustworthy women everywhere, and if we surround ourselves with like-minded peers, there’s a good chance that belief will be regularly reinforced and supported as the ‘truth’. Such androcentric (male-superior) ideas are not gospel-based either.

Everyone chooses beliefs, purposefully or by default, and again, I am not here to debate the merits or drawbacks of either side. However, I can say without hesitation that a MGTOW man and a radically feminist woman, if they somehow end up married to each other, are unlikely to have very good sex.

Beliefs Can Bring Couples Together or Drive a Wedge Between Them 
“My dear brothers and sisters, there are hidden wedges in the lives of many whom we know—yes, perhaps in our own families…. ~ Thomas S. Monson”[v]
When our beliefs are not in line with gospel doctrine, there can be enmity and defensiveness in our marriage. There may be conflict and contention over tiny points. It’s harder to forgive and trust one another, and we may be tempted to ‘keep score’ of our grievances. If we insist that our way of seeing things is always the right way, we can find ourselves suffering from a condition called ‘emotional fusion’ in our marriage. [vi]

When we have emotional fusion, we can’t get close to each other. There’s always something in the way, and it’s the other person’s fault, not ours. The very word ‘enmity’ means ‘to push apart’. Eventually, we can’t talk about anything without contention, and intimacy gets lost. People who are deeply fused can feel as if the only answer is to escape the relationship entirely, but this is no real solution.[vii]
Worldly laws regarding interactions of the sexes get drawn tighter and tighter each year, out of fear of manipulation or abuse. If we follow this same worldly pattern in our marriages, we run the risk of choking intimacy to death. This is the Adversary’s plan, to drive men and women apart and make them miserable.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The Lord never intended this for His children.

God’s Perception of Gender Differences 
“And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.”[viii]
So how does the Lord feel about men and women’s differences?[ix]

He celebrates this difference. He made us different with a purpose. He made us for each other, and we can’t be saved without each other. I believe this is most strongly expressed in the Proclamation to the World on the Family.[x]

He didn’t make us different or establish gender roles in his church and kingdom so one would be superior to the other, but so that we could complement each other and use our strengths and the strengths of others to accomplish His eternal purposes.[xi] One day, there will be no politics. There will be no factions, courtrooms, corporate ladders, paychecks, or temporal laws. There will only be the Lord’s order, government and process of doing things.

If the roles established in the Proclamation accomplish His purposes, then it is up to us to evaluate often how we stand against that ideal.

It might be difficult, or even feel dangerous, to let go of the world’s ideas. It might leave us feeling vulnerable and afraid, not knowing how the other sex will respond.[xii]

However, there are blessings for relying on the Lord, instead of relying on man. One very great blessing for respecting, supporting and honoring each other’s respective gender differences and roles is a development of trust. Trust enables us to drop our guard and express vulnerability and openness with our spouse. This type of trust and vulnerability creates the type of intimacy that make the best possible sex a reality.

Hard Work + Gospel Beliefs = Greater Intimacy

In sex, as in any other activity, we can learn to work it out together, despite our differences. We can be gentle and forgiving with each other despite the constant temptation to force each other to our way of thinking. We can feel safe to respect each other. We can have faith in the Lord, and make the conscious choice to follow Him. To reach the best possible sex we can have, we must try.

There is nothing about this process where we will not struggle. Even good men and good women can have it rough at times.

It’s hard to learn about someone so different than ourselves, and to have the humility to accept that they might be right about things as well, and trust them.

It’s hard to stand up for our own viewpoint when we feel it’s critical to do so, when it would be easier to just agree and go along.

It’s hard to break old relationships that don’t suit our needs, and build new ones that do.

It’s hard to look for gratitude, and forgive when you feel so angry and misunderstood.

It’s hard to let your spouse fail sometimes, when they need space to fail and learn, especially when their failure affects us so directly.

Doesn’t the Savior also do that for us?

He is constantly waiting with arms outstretched to help us.

One of the purposes of marriage is it forces us to look at the worst parts of ourselves and to either correct them or let them destroy us. Every step we take forward to overcome those gender prejudices only brings us closer to the best possible sex with our spouse. The Atonement of Jesus Christ applies here too. You can ask God for understanding. Ask Him to help you forgive when you need help, and for patience with the process. In this respect, marriage helps us become more like Christ, and saviors to each other.

Is the best possible sex worth all this?
Buying into the idea that men and women don’t need each other is not conducive to intimacy. Trying to get the other gender to submit to our ideas and our ways of doing and thinking devalues both of us. God’s plan for marriage is a plan of developing selflessness and appreciation of each other’s strengths.

When we regard each other in the Lord’s way, intimacy only gets better and better as time goes on. So, what can we as a covenant couple do to get us on this sort of path instead of the dead-end path the world provides?

The following are some suggestions a couple can implement, perhaps as part of date nights with each other:

·         Read Doctrine and Covenants 121, with the idea that it applies equally to both men and women (while women do not hold priesthood office, they do have priesthood authority, especially when endowed and married.)

·         Consider our own gender beliefs, and whether we may think or feel that our spouse is somehow ‘unequal’ with us in any capacity. Then consider what the gospel has said about such things and see if our beliefs are in line with these.[xiii]

·         Consider the questions, “Where does our spouse contribute? Where do I contribute in the relationship? Where can each of us do better? How can I show more appreciation for what my spouse does?”

·         Discuss any fears you may have with your spouse, or anything that may keep you from having full trust in your spouse. How can those fears be overcome? Be careful not to lay blame in this process, but to instead look to yourself to provide answers. Blaming spouse for anything creates emotional fusion. Christ told us to ‘remove the mote in our own eye first’[xiv] – in other words, be proactive in finding solutions rather than pointing fingers.

·         Think about whether both of us are getting what we need in the relationship – and how those needs may be different. There’s no specific guideline that can be given in this respect, because every relationship is unique. What we can do is ask each other, “On a scale of 1-10, how am I doing as your husband/wife? What can I do this week to improve my score? If I got a 6, what can I do to become a 7, etc.? Can you identify anything specific that is affecting your emotional trust in me?”

These sorts of discussions will help to eliminate barriers between a husband and wife that prevent us from experiencing the type of trust and intimacy that enables the best possible sex.

[i] See 1 Nephi 12:17
[ii] Clayton, L. Whitney. Choose to Believe. April 2015 GC:

[iii] Morin, Amy. “3 Ways Your Childhood Shapes the Core Beliefs You Hold Onto”. Psychology Today. 4 Sep 2017:

[iv] This talk by Elder Bednar provides an excellent metaphor for how we become what we choose to ‘pickle’ ourselves in:

[v] Monson, Thomas S. Hidden Wedges. Apr 2002 GC:

[vi] Schnarch, David, Ph.D. Passionate Marriage. Henry Holt & Co. 1997. See page 47 for the discussion on the sexual crucible of marriage.
[vii] “Spouses who hope that divorce will resolve conflicts often find that it aggravates them, since the complexities that follow divorce—especially where there are children—generate new conflicts.” – Oaks, Dallin H. “Divorce”. April 2007 General Conference:

Also, “…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.” – Spencer W. Kimball in the Miracle of Forgiveness, pg. 270-271.

Also, see The Four Marriage Killers – Selfishness:

[viii] Book of Mormon, title page
[ix] For a great source on this question, the Eternal Marriage Student Manual has two sections entitled ‘Differences Inherent Between Men and Women’:

[x] “Nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord…” – 1 Corinthians 11:11
[xi] Proclamation to the World on the Family
[xii] “…there is one kind of latter-day destruction that has always sounded to me more personal than public, more individual than collective—a warning, perhaps more applicable inside the Church than outside it. The Savior warned that in the last days even those of the covenant, the very elect, could be deceived by the enemy of truth.1 If we think of this as a form of spiritual destruction, it may cast light on another latter-day prophecy. Think of the heart as the figurative center of our faith, the poetic location of our loyalties and our values; then consider Jesus’s declaration that in the last days “men’s hearts [shall fail] them.”
The encouraging thing, of course, is that our Father in Heaven knows all of these latter-day dangers, these troubles of the heart and soul, and has given counsel and protections regarding them.” – Holland, Jeffrey R. “Safety for the Soul”. October 2009 General Conference:
[xiii] See reference ix
[xiv] Matthew 7:5, JST

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