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Looking for input from the forum from both men & women (over the age of 18 and preferably married or been married). Little background, my wife and I are members and have been involved with a marriage seminar for the last 15 years, so we are well versed in dealing with marriage and relationship issues. Our Bishop has approached us about teaching a marriage class that is outside the normal information the church has released (Strengthening Marriage, Strengthening Marriage & Family). He is wanting us to put together a class that teaches real tools and information that help couples with communication, conflict resolution, forgiveness, sex & intimacy etc. Class has started and going very well but we are needing some unbiased LDS input. One of the things we want to discuss in class is sex & intimacy. We have some ideas but want to see if were on track. From an LDS standpoint, what questions would you want answered or information would you want to learn about with your spouse in this class regarding sex & intimacy to improve your relationship?

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Sounds like a lot of fun.

Re: resources "outside" of the official publications.

Laura Brotherson's books are a favorite recommendation. I find her writings mostly favoring the "low drive wife high drive husband scenario" (perhaps that will change when she gets her third book out that is supposed to be about sex from a (stereotypical) man's point of view.

One of the first books I picked up was Dr. Harley's Mom's Needs Dad's needs, and that was a game changer for me. In part because the second "need" he addressed was sexual fulfillment. His was the first book I had picked up that addressed sex as a need.

Michelle Wiener Davis's two books take a look at the difficulties around "sex starved" marriages -- one book generic and book specifically addressing the "sex starved wife". If your marriage seminars have not challenged some of the sexual stereotypes, then I would strongly recommend some of these types of resources that will allow your class to discuss how much of these stereotypes are "true".

I have often been challenged by David Schnarch's concepts -- differentiation, emotional fusion, growth (including sexual growth), and so on.

If you want something that has already been through an LDS filter, the Oakland Stake has a course at their website loveunparalleled.com I see the Dr. Schnarch's influence in this one, if you want a way to bring Dr. Schnarch's principles into the discussion without directly using Dr. Schnarch's materials.

Of course, some of these are secular, but I find that I have learned the most by mixing secular and Christian and LDS sources.

Re: what questions would I want answered? (full disclosure, most of these reflect my own journey through years of a sexless marriage).

Is sex a need, or a want? Is it necessary for a good marriage or not? Is sex the icing on the cake, or something (like the egg) more fundamental to the cake?

A question that came up on this forum a few months ago -- how does God and/or the Church feel about celibate marriages?

How will you "tiptoe" around the question of sexless marriages? US data that I have seen (as a lay person who is not qualified to independently verify the data) suggests 20% of marriages are "sexless" (having sex fewer than 10 times per year). If you have 100 couples in your ward, there could easily be 10 to 20 who are struggling with this specific problem. I use "tiptoe" deliberately, because there are so many ways to handle this indelicately. If you are too soft on the refusers, you will not help those who wish for more. If you are too hard on the refusers, you will overlook some of the very real difficulties around being in that position. In either case, if you talk too much along the gender stereotype lines, you could easily offend a wife in your class who wishes her husband would step up to the plate more often or further shame a husband who feels inadequate.

What are the skills and attitudes etc. that go into negotiating sexual differences? This would seem an ideal part to discuss Pres. Hunter's statement about avoiding "domineering or unworthy" behavior and that "tenderness and respect - never selfishness" should guide our behavior in the marriage bed. Almost always, I see this discussion focusing on "the sexually adventurous spouse needs to reign it in". How do these kinds of statements apply to the sexually reticent spouse?

Selfishness is bound to come up somewhere in a class on marriage. Exactly what do we mean by selfishness? After years in a sexless marriage, I have reached a point where I cannot see my sexual desires as anything but a selfish imposition. How do we see selfishness in relation to sexuality? I am reminded of a section of one of Dr. Gottman's books "How a little selfishness is good for you marriage" (I started a thread for this a few years ago on this forum, if you want to search it out).

Already way longer than this should be. I have posed some of these and other questions in other discussions on this site, if you want to coax the search engine here to find some of my other posts and threads.

Edited by MrShorty

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Is this a class for church?

It strikes me that having group discussion about sex in church would be...

Well...let's just say I would not attend such a class with my wife...where other men's wives in the ward were in the same room, etc...as we talked about...Kamasutra-esque things.

That sounds decidedly uncomfortable.

Edited by The Folk Prophet

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We will not be getting into the how to's of sex in class, all couples attending already have kids. It would seem they have that part figured out and would be a waste of class time.  ;.) This is more about dealing with a sexless marriage, or maybe how to come to an agreement on frequency with a spouse or discuss better intimacy with their spouse. Class instruction & discussion for example would be how to work through discussing these topics with their spouse in general.  It's left up to the couples to discuss the details of how to and what goes. The couples attending seem to really like this format, we hold a class once a month for the last five months.

The reason I mentioned unbiased input is I suspect no one on this forum is attending the class.

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In my opinion...

If it is not about honoring God and keeping commandments and serving a spouse within the acts of intimacy... it doesn't belong in Church.

For example:

How often should a couple have sex?  As often as one is serving their spouse.
      But but... he wants daily, I want monthly... Service is not about what you want.  Service is about what you can do for another.

That kind of stuff.

That said... what are questions on sex & intimacy... I only have one.  What does my spouse want?  And no, @Bootcamper it's not something you can answer.  ;)

 

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I'm not here to debate whether a discussion of this nature belongs in church, I know this can be argued both ways.

What I am asking for though is questions regarding sex & intimacy and you brought up a great one. "What does my spouse want?" We find many couples have communication issues and as basic of a question as that is, most times it's not being asked of their spouse. Which I tend to lean towards being part of the issue of a sexless marriage because their needs are not getting met the way they want them fulfilled, in turn not being communicated. It just ends up being routine. This seems to get compounded when a couple is approaching or reached being empty nesters. Especially if a couple hasn't somewhat mastered the communication aspect and spending quality time together before reaching this stage of life.

Thanks Anatess2!

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15 minutes ago, Bootcamper said:

I'm not here to debate whether a discussion of this nature belongs in church, I know this can be argued both ways.

What I am asking for though is questions regarding sex & intimacy and you brought up a great one. "What does my spouse want?" We find many couples have communication issues and as basic of a question as that is, most times it's not being asked of their spouse. Which I tend to lean towards being part of the issue of a sexless marriage because their needs are not getting met the way they want them fulfilled, in turn not being communicated. It just ends up being routine. This seems to get compounded when a couple is approaching or reached being empty nesters. Especially if a couple hasn't somewhat mastered the communication aspect and spending quality time together before reaching this stage of life.

Thanks Anatess2!

I'm not debating whether a discussion of this nature belongs in church.  I'm simply stating that if the discussion does not revolve around honoring God, keeping commandments, and serving one's spouse, topics of intimacy doesn't belong in church.  I'm saying this because people may ask questions such as - what's your opinion on the use of Kama Sutra - if you can't answer that with anything that revolves around honoring God, keeping commandments, and serving one's spouse, then it's better not to answer that at Church.  Send them to mormonhub for answers instead.  Hah! :)

There's a reason we are counseled not to discuss topics outside of church teachings at church - like, the details of the polygamous marriages of Joseph Smith... they don't serve the purpose of honoring God, keeping commandments, and fellowship with/spiritual upliftment of the Saints.

Do you see what I'm saying?

Anyway, we had a marriage class in our ward.  One class failed because it became a "curiosity" and a discussion on intimate details of specific couples in the class with a sprinkling of marital infighting in-between.  It became like something you would see on a secular marriage counseling session.  This is not the purpose of the class and it brought the spirits of the class down such that after a short while only 1 couple was left while everybody else abandoned the class.

Edited by anatess2

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Here's another question - How is intimacy nurtured when you find yourself separated from your spouse for a period of time?

I used to work in another city from our home and I would drive out on Monday and don't come home until Friday.... it was never a struggle for both my husband and I but my mother-in-law was crying when she found out I accepted that job.  She thought it was the end of our marriage for sure... my mom thought it was the end of our marriage too, but she's Catholic and so she never thought our marriage was valid anyway, so she was fine with it.  Anyway, we have a lot of military families in our ward so if this class was in our ward, it would be great for the class to cover this question.

Edited by anatess2

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54 minutes ago, anatess2 said:

Here's another question - How is intimacy nurtured when you find yourself separated from your spouse for a period of time?

Sexting?

Oh...we're not supposed to give answers. Just question.

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1 minute ago, The Folk Prophet said:

Sexting?

Oh...we're not supposed to give answers. Just question.

I've never understood the attraction of sexting. But then, I have never understood the attraction of talking dirty to your spouse, either. Seems like dragging your wedding album through the mud, except more vulgar and degrading.

But...there was the time my ten-year-old used my phone to text his mother, "Can I have a hot pocket?", and a little later, I parenthetically added, "And by a 'hot pocket', I mean sex." (Just for laughs. Remember, this was coming from my phone, and thus was showing up under my name.) Unfortunately, he saw what I had texted the next time he wanted to text her -- duh, of course he did, how stupid can I be? -- and just had to ask me why I texted that to her. Sister Vort wasn't too happy about that one.

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5 hours ago, Vort said:

I've never understood the attraction of sexting. But then, I have never understood the attraction of talking dirty to your spouse, either. Seems like dragging your wedding album through the mud, except more vulgar and degrading.

Which, I think, could bring up another question. Without getting into details, how does a couple decide what is "right" and "wrong" in the marriage bed? In particular, how does one know if one's discomfort with X is a genuine sense that X is morally wrong, or if one's discomfort with X is due to personal anxieties and discomforts. Using the example of sexting -- is it morally wrong, or is it merely a question of privacy and security (which certainly makes me anxious), or is it, as it seems for Vort, merely a lack of interest?

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On 6/9/2017 at 1:55 PM, Bootcamper said:

We will not be getting into the how to's of sex in class, all couples attending already have kids. It would seem they have that part figured out and would be a waste of class time.  ;.) This is more about dealing with a sexless marriage, or maybe how to come to an agreement on frequency with a spouse or discuss better intimacy with their spouse. Class instruction & discussion for example would be how to work through discussing these topics with their spouse in general.  It's left up to the couples to discuss the details of how to and what goes. The couples attending seem to really like this format, we hold a class once a month for the last five months.

If that is your motivation, I'd warn you to be prepared for either a very silent class or a very argumentative class.  You may have difficulty herding those cats.

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I tend to be very careful with this topic, since it is of a sensitive and delicate nature.  I think in something like this,, the Spirit may be guiding more toward a total intimacy, in the marriage approach.  Couples that have struggles or just simply may not always struggle, but have alot of other responsibilites to deal with, need to know that that doesn't lessen their love for one another.  Like Adam & Eve, a married couple is a team.  They are each other's help meet.  The temple teaches us that.  When we think of marital intimacy in the church, the words union and sacrament come to mind.  That helps us put into our minds the kind of holy, intimate, associations that are part of being a husband & wife.  In a class like this, I'm sure the importance of being prayerful and following the Spirit are essential, to help avoid any problems that could arise.  Unfortunately, we live in a world where there is so much distortion.  And I have been appalled, when even members of the church treat lightly, these sacred things.  Surely, no one wants to offend the spirit.  The world's ways of defining intimacy in marriage are not the proper, uplifting ways in which the Lord has defined it.  If couples avoid the movies of the world, the music of the world, etc, they will find a sweeter, unselfish spirit come into their home & hearts, as they focus more on the Gospel, and His Christ-like teachings.  How sacred is this gift, the Lord gave us.  We have an obligation to truly be kind to each other.  We have a responsibility to communicate and love as He does.  May I add my opinion, that Dr. Harley's book, although it has some good advice, may come across in some parts as not being as sensitive to this topic.  Since it is LDS-based, I suppose 'filtering" any material, will help bring the right perspective to class, so that class members can help keep it in the right spirit and lessen any kind of discomfort or inappropriateness.  One other book, that may be helpful too (though I'm sure some of it won't need to be used, it deals with the LDS perspective and goes through physical detail, as well as resolving problems and how intimacy may change through the years, is Between Husband & Wife  Gospel Perspective on Marital Intimacy  by Stephen E. Lamb, M.D. and Douglas E. Brinley, Ph.D.  I think that is good that there can be something to help couples.  I think people nowadays may not have as much training & instruction to know how to approach such a delicate subject and are looking for answers and may not understand how the Lord intended these things to be taught.  I agree that it is up to a couple to know how often, and what is appropriate should be within the bounds the Lord has set.  I know that The First Presidency, I think fairly recently, came out with a statement about one thing that is not appropriate, and it saddened me to think that any LDS person would even think that.  I think it is important to do what is natural, normal, and uplifting.  Sex is supposed to help bring fulfillment and a couple to feel more love for one another.I do believe we will be held accountable for our actions, words and thoughts and that we should be careful in what we talk about and help others by a clean, pure example.  I believe today, any discomfort can be simply from not being as sensitive, even during the day, in any comments or actions that are made, but as we seek the Spirit in all we do, we may find our love for our companion/eternal companion growing more and our children learning what pure, clean love is.  As we let our home and ourselves be a temple, where the Spirit may reside, we will never even dream nor desire to do anything unsavory.  We cannot find what is good, in something that is not.  But there is much we can learn and find that will enrich this part of the relationship, if we seek it.    I don't believe sex is a need, in the sense that food, water, and shelter are , but love is a need, and if we obey the Lord, we can enjoy a fulfilling marriage.  And that can mean a different thing for each couple.  As long as we do not tarnish it, we willl be blessed.  

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I think one problem is that, chances are, the few outspoken people in the class may ask questions like, "What is okay and what is not okay for us to be doing?".  Aside from the 'how often' question mentioned above, from my experience I would presume this will be the biggest question people may actually be seeking out.  I doubt it is a good idea to try and give answers to that question, especially in that particular setting.

I've mentioned this in another thread before, but a possible beneficial format for discussion would be to go through applicable points made in the Jeffrey R. Holland talk:  Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments.

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5 hours ago, person0 said:

 I doubt it is a good idea to try and give answers to that question, especially in that particular setting.

I think you are right that this is a bad idea -- If your idea of answering the question is to come up with a long list of sexual activities and (democratically or authoritatively or however) mark "heaven approved" or "not heaven approved" next to each. However, I think this question has a short simple "true" answer. The Church has consistently said something to the effect of, "if the person you are doing X with is your spouse and you are both agreeable (whatever "consent" look like in your marriage bed) to X, then we are not going to label it as sin." To the more outspoken, that may not be a satisfactory answer, but it is the only "true" answer I know to to give. If it comes up, I don't see why any other answer should be necessary or appropriate.

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1 hour ago, MrShorty said:

I think you are right that this is a bad idea -- If your idea of answering the question is to come up with a long list of sexual activities and (democratically or authoritatively or however) mark "heaven approved" or "not heaven approved" next to each. However, I think this question has a short simple "true" answer. The Church has consistently said something to the effect of, "if the person you are doing X with is your spouse and you are both agreeable (whatever "consent" look like in your marriage bed) to X, then we are not going to label it as sin." To the more outspoken, that may not be a satisfactory answer, but it is the only "true" answer I know to to give. If it comes up, I don't see why any other answer should be necessary or appropriate.

I absolutely agree with you.  However, there are some things where that answer doesn't apply, but unfortunately even members of the church fail to realize it.  For example, I once counseled a couple that viewing pornography was not an acceptable practice even for married couples behind closed doors for multiple reasons.  The people participating in the acts on screen are in violation of the laws of chastity on multiple counts, and viewership is not only outside the realm of the holy nature of a couples intimacy, but is supportive of the creation of said material.  The couple who received this information from me, never returned to church, even though I never asked them if they participated in those things.

As much as it is true that couples must determine together what is comfortable to them, sadly, many mistake that as complete free reign.  Pornography is huge problem among members of the Church.  I can attest that in my ward it is affecting many men and women alike.  I'm sure pornography would come up in the class anyway, but that reason alone is why I relate with reservation the position you noted, and almost always follow up with clarification.

I think as couples focus more on the true nature of intimacy, and the spiritual growth that can come with it, they then will be prepared develop habits that will be in keeping of the spirit of the law, and will be better protected from sensory temptations that do not fulfill the unity of sexual intimacy.

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Good counter-example. I am having trouble organizing my thoughts in response, so here they are in a kind of jumble:

1) There probably needs to be a caveat added to my original formulation that says that a couple cannot democratically declare something "not sin" that God has clearly declared "sin". People have long had a tendency to rationalize sin with all kinds of reasons and excuses. Certainly the cautions and warnings about "calling evil good" apply to this process.

2) Is porn use the only example, or are there other examples out there? Specific to porn use, Church leadership has been fairly insistent over the years and decades that porn use is sin. Most of that rhetoric seems to focus on individual use, but there have been a few that have specifically addressed couples' use. If the Church's rhetoric around porn use has not convinced them that porn use is always sin, what more could I (speaking as a hypothetical instructor for a hypothetical "sex in marriage" class) say to convince them? In the spirit of "teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves" what more should I say?

3) There is a discernment step in here somewhere. Can I discern God's opinion of X? Can I discern the Church's opinion of X? Are these necessarily the same? With porn use, the Church's opinion seems pretty clear. Other activities can be less clear. Jewels8 mentioned a certain First Presidency letter (there has only been one addressing a specific sexual practice that I am aware of by Pres. Kimball and his Presidency in the early '80s) speaking against one specific sexual activity. This letter explicitly states this this opposition as the First Presidency's opinion. Is the First Presidency's opinion enough to declare something universally sinful? Are we as members obligated to agree with the opinions of the First Presidency? Considering that the Church issued a "not-quite-retraction-don't-ask-don't-tell policy" letter months after this one, what does that suggest?

4) Does this lead to a form of moral relativism? Sometimes I see this kind of discussion leading to "X is a sin for some couples and not others." or "We have decided that X is a sin for us, but it may not be for others". I am not fond of this kind of thinking, but it does crop up sometimes.

5) Rather than seeing this kind of approach as giving a couple "free reign", I prefer to think of it as giving a couple the opportunity to claim their own moral authority in this area. What I see in the Church's "hands off" approach is an opportunity for couples, rather than asking for a list of heaven approved activities, to create their own list. Yes, there is the very real risk that some couples will rationalize sin or make choices very different from what you or I or Church leadership would make, but couples can claim the right to make those choices, learn from mistakes, change their mind, wrestle with discernment issues, and so on. If embraced, I think it should be an excellent opportunity for spiritual and sexual growth as individuals and as couples.

In a nutshell, I would probably agree to some kind of caveat that a couple cannot, simply because they both agree to something sinful, make it not-sinful. The responsibility still rests solely on the couple's shoulders to study and discern what is sin and not sin in their own marriage bed

With that caveat and clarification, what do you think?

(I don't know how much of that I would want to try to discuss in a classroom type setting. It was difficult enough to make the ideas coherent in my head and then write them out here. Trying to organize that for a class seems too daunting.)

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