you see then the moral schizophrenia that comes from pretending
we are one, sharing the physical symbols and physical
intimacy of our union, but then fleeing, retreating, severing
all such other aspects--and symbols--of what was meant
to be a total obligation, only to unite again furtively
some other night?"
- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, BYU Devotional
on sexual intimacy, January 12, 1988 at the BYU Marriot
Repression and Depression in Mormon Marriages
understand the connection between sexual repression in LDS
marriages and depression, it is important to understand
the difference between sex and sexuality.
and sexuality are often thought of as the same thing, but
they are very different.
sex is the act itself. Sexuality however, is the
sexual aspect of life outside of the act of sex.
Married people need both to varying degrees, and no amount
of one will satisfy one's need for the other. The kicker
is that while we can service our own need for sex (to a
degree), sexuality must be shared with someone in
order for that need to be met.
need for sex is not met, we are naturally programmed to
make it an ever-increasing priority until we find a way
to meet that need. Whether it's masturbation or sex, the
need can be met rather easily.
is another matter entirely. Our need for sexuality cannot
be satisfied by one's self; it can only be met by sharing
sexuality with a partner. Of course not all of these activities
are for everyone, but a few examples of sexuality in a healthy
Taking a shower or bath together
A make-out session
Flirting with one another
Sexual touching and being sexually touched, when it's
not part of having sex
Giving each other massages while naked together
and enjoying a movie together with erotic themes or imagery
Talking about sex
Wearing clothing intended to sexually excite the spouse
Even non-sexual (but loving) affection is often an expression
of a couple's sexuality
need for sexuality is significant, often confused with the
need for sex, and often greater than the need for sex. But
in a typical Mormon marriage, there is far less
sexuality than the already insufficient sex.
more, the couple's sexuality will be based on the strictest
partner's concept of what the Lord expects them not to be
doing. Unfortunately, many of the things a healthy couple
would do to meet the need for sexuality are explicitly off-limits.
LDS woman explained:
to Destroy a Temple-Married Woman's Sex Life
Tell her she must wear unattractive long underwear "at
all times" thus avoid being naked with her husband.
Tell her that masturbation is wrong which eliminates a
great deal of foreplay opportunities and affectionate
Tell her that she may not use "lewd language"
during intimate relation with her husband. No
talking dirty, ever.
Insist that oral sex is
forbidden in marriage because it is "an unnatural,
Tell her that stimulation from any erotic written or visual
imagery is forbidden.
Remind her that she will be interviewed regularly, and
separately, by local church authorities and asked if she
has comitted sexual sin. She or her husband are also obligated
to inform on the other at any time in between officially-scheduled
worthiness interviews for disobedience.
Warn her that the Lord Himself is always watching her
and her spouse in the bedroom. Thus, they risk offending
The Spirit and losing eternal blessings just by doing
something privately intimate with each other.
If there's any wrongdoing discovered, there may be social
humiliations that range from not being allowed to participate
in family weddings to excommunication (at which time she
must describe her sexual transgressions in detail to an
all-male church council).
than that -- ENJOY!
the things that aren't constantly repeated as off-limits,
the church continually stresses that its members must remain
"clean and pure", which sets the stage that we
should all strive to not even think about sex. It's a belief
many members learn in their youth which they carry into
complete the suppression of one's sexuality, the church
requires that each member's naked body be covered with something
declared "holy" and "sacred" at all
times. The garments serve to constantly remind the wearer
and the partner of what is expected, and their profoundly
unsexual appearance helps eliminate the sexuality that would
otherwise naturally occur when in various stages of undress.
LDS marriages when even one partner subscribes to these
beliefs, there is an almost complete suppression of sexuality.The
results are devastating, because we don't deal with sexual
suppression in the same way we deal with the simple need
subconscious desperately seeks to fill this need for sexuality,
and there are a number of ways it can attempt to do this.
When the positive and constructive attempts fail, or if
the frustration grows too great, the subconscious resorts
to strategies that will tear down the relationship so that
a new one will be possible. It fosters resentment and discontent
with the partner, so that one can justify leaving or cheating.
It encourages feelings of sexuality that don't involve the
partner. Sometimes it creates or greatly amplifies aggression
and violent tendencies. It causes people to become oversensitive,
jealous, abusive, and pick fights. Some will seek drugs
(legal or illegal) to dull the pain or distract the mind.
of these responses are unintentional, but are part
of our programming to get us out of a relationship that
doesn't meet our needs. Often these emotions are felt concurrently
with a deep love, devotion, and commitment to one's spouse.
These conflicting emotions can be debilitating, and both
partners can be simultaneously feeling exactly the same
suppression of sexuality eventually interferes virtually
every aspect of life. Decreased motivation, inability
to concentrate, decreased success in job/life, broken marriages
and dysfunctional families, abuse, parents who are not attentive
enough to their children's needs (because their own are
not met), suicide, and more. Take a closer look at these
problems and you'll find someone who's suffering from a
severe depression they can't explain.
an example of how this might play out, consider a not-so-rare
scenario of a somewhat undersexed husband who loves his
wife, but also looks at pornography against his wife's wishes.
He is probably attracted to the fantasy of sexuality that
is offered by the porn, rather than lusting after the women
or actually wanting sex with them. He may actually be trying
desperately to fight the conscious or unconscious urge to
find a new mate, attempting to use pornography to keep that
urge from becoming irresistible. The wife, who has also
suppressed her own sexuality, will usually interpret this
in some personally demeaning way that justifies a deep feeling
of being wronged by her husband. She might see her husband's
behavior as tantamount to cheating, that she's "not
enough", that she "can't compete with those perfect
bodies". She will probably naturally settle into a
pattern of punishing her husband by further reducing sex
or sexuality. This forces him to hide his behavior from
his wife, further relying on porn or some other activity
to satisfy his needs, ultimately disassociating his wife
even further from his sexuality.
behavior of both the husband and wife is probably caused
by inadequate sexuality in their relationship,
but each is unknowingly engaging in behavior that leads
to a further decline in their marriage. Both will see themselves
as entirely justified in their actions, and could explain
to you how unfairly they are being treated by the other.
when the sexuality side is suppressed and undeveloped, over
time the sex side loses a certain amount of appeal along
with its ability to provide adequate physical satisfaction.
this isn't the dynamic in every situation, but these factors
are especially prevalent in Mormon marriages, and are probably
at the root of many problems that, at the surface, appear
fix to this problem is not simple. Getting the church out
of the bedroom is a healthy start. The couple needs to create
their own healthy intimacy and sensual space in their relationship.
From there, they should recognize that both have
unmet sexual needs apart from sex, and that those
needs are just as important as any other (or even more so).
Both need to learn to embrace and take joy in their own
and their partner's sexuality. In many cases, true happiness
can be achieved no other way.
is no quick fix because we are talking about changing life
long patterns and religious dogma. The longer the life and
marriage, the more engrained these patterns. Change requires
new thinking and acting, consistently and long enough to
change our neural structure. We are talking months at least,
and for most of the big changes, years of effort.
is hard enough for one person. For two to do it together
and stay in the same ball park is more difficult. Not impossible,
but more difficult. If they are both on similar pages, mutual
support can help. If not, the situation is really tough.
people with whom we most closely associate have a huge impact
on how much we can change. If we want to change in a particular
direction, the best way to do so is to surround ourselves
with people who are what we would like to become. This is
the case from physical condition to work ethic to intellectual
orientation to you-name-it. It works when we don't want
it to as well. The best predictor of changing religious
or political belief is a move from a close social group
that is dominated by a particular mind set to another group
with a different one.
can also aid sensuality. Still the chattering mind to find
out what you feel. Couples can try tantric sex - a combination
of meditation and sex. For example, if the objective of
an intimate encounter is to feel instead of moving inexorably
toward orgasm, the nature of the experience becomes more
sensual while still being sexual. This is an entire new
universe. This is not to suggest this as "the"
sexual way. Rather, it is another color on the sensual palate.
become more present - more aware of our bodies and how they
interact with the world - it is hard not to become more
aware of and sensitive too our intimate partners. Ironically,
in some cases the undistracted mind recoils in horror as
the enormity of our errors comes into focus. This is good,
since we can then make more conscious choices as to how
we will live the rest of our lives. However, for the most
part the stilled mind discovers surprising new depths in
taste, smell, physical sensation of all kinds. This helps
us to become more sensual and sexual, as well as enriching
life in countless other ways.
Sex in Marriage after Mormonism