This post is for Entropy at Just Between Us, who asks:
There are a few rules to being open to life. How do I manage these sexual “restrictions”? Sure I could lay down the law and then I might not be married anymore or at least not happily so. It is easier for me to implement these things than him, one, because I’m a woman and view sex differently, positively, but differently from a man, two, simply because I believe it’s true, and here I am asking him to buy into something he just doesn’t. He’s not a jerk, he’s just not Catholic. And this is not what he signed up for.
I don’t want to get too personal in this quite public format (and maybe I’ve already crossed that line) but I do need advice
SuperHusband is not Catholic, and despite his general superness, this particular issue was not an easy one for us. Here are a few thoughts — kind of tossed out of the top of my head, but these are the big things that mattered for me:
First of all, You should know that the church recognizes the reality of your situation.
13. Special difficulties are presented by cases of cooperation in the sin of a spouse who voluntarily renders the unitive act infecund. In the first place, it is necessary to distinguish cooperation in the proper sense, from violence or unjust imposition on the part of one of the spouses, which the other spouse in fact cannot resist.46, 561).] This cooperation can be licit when the three following conditions are jointly met:
1. when the action of the cooperating spouse is not already illicit in itself;47
2. when proportionally grave reasons exist for cooperating in the sin of the other spouse;
3. when one is seeking to help the other spouse to desist from such conduct (patiently, with prayer, charity and dialogue; although not necessarily in that moment, nor on every single occasion).
Translation: If your spouse puts on a condom, and you’ve told him you think it’s wrong, and you weren’t going <<wink wink “honey whatever you do don’t put on a condom” wink wink>> but rather he knows that you genuinely do believe this is wrong (and perhaps you’ve even given him the reasons), so long as *your end* of the act is moral, you may be okay.
Now if he’s good with abstaining, abstain.
–> And remember, take this one night at time. If he’s willing to abstain tonight, that’s good. Just go with it. (Unless you are definitely in the infertile time, in which case you should seduce him like a crazed vixen. Did I say that out loud? Anyway, he won’t mind.)
But if you have a really serious reason (such as saving your marriage) for cooperating with the act despite his immoral decision, it may be licit. Which is to say: “not a mortal sin”.
That said, there’s a serious responsibility on you to do everything you can to make it so that he can do the right thing. Which means learning NFP like nobody’s business. And yeah, just ignore that chirpy voice from the NFP Establishment saying “your husband should be involved in charting blah blah blah”. Hello, no, unless your husband has a thing for mucus, he’s not going to help you chart. The measure of a man is not his eagergness to write down a temperature recording.
–> Do note that once you understand NFP, contraception gets a little laughable. Because it comes to your attention that 100% of condom failures occur during the fertile period. So if you are serious about avoiding pregnancy, DO NOT HAVE INTERCOURSE WHEN YOU KNOW YOU ARE FERTILE. Which you can know, thanks to NFP. I don’t care what he’s wearing, that’s the only time of month babies are made.
(I should add: Babies are just lovely. If you want to conceive, you can use NFP to help him know exactly when his condom is most likely to fail. But then, if wants to conceive, he should take that thing off.)
You also have to really learn the why’s of your faith. Because it just is not going to last very long any other way. He should be challenging it. Catholicism is nuts — my goodness, the Incarnation, the Resurrection — who can blame the man for doubting?
But that process of him testing the faith, and you putting in the work to really know the reasons for your beliefs, is going to transform your life. He may or may not end up catholic (SuperHusband is a really Super Non-Catholic), but he will understand more over time, and that will be a help. And you will be firmer and more mature in your faith, which will help make all this much more clear.
Finally, here’s something to know about contrition:
When you walk into that confessional because, once again, you have totally blown it, all you need is the resolution not to sin again. Yes, you need to really mean it. But you do not need to know how you are going to carry it out. You do not need to be convinced this is something you can somehow magically muster the ability to resist for the indefinite future.
Yes yes, you should develop a plan to avoid sin if you can. Yes, many sins can eliminated by sheer hard work. But when your occasion of sin is your own husband, you can neither avoid nor eliminate. (And you should not want to!)
–> The part of your situation that involves your husband, that part is God’s job.
So when you make that resolution to amend your life, it is okay to remind the Lord that you will be needing some assistance. And that you will do everything in your power to avoid the sin, and are simply going to trust Him that He will do what is required on His end.
So that’s confession.
And then if you find yourself back there again, because you screwed up (so to speak) again, please note: There is a reason they keep regular hours for this sacrament, and they’ve been doing it a whole lot longer than your or I ever became Catholic. We aren’t the first members of the church who actually need a Savior.
Take heart. There is hope.