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WhenRenewingOurConjugalVows wrote:

Hi, guys —

I'm trying to confirm the homework I've done related to our marital situation is correct.

My wife of ten years has a medical issue that originally prevented us from consummating our marriage (Vaginismus). After several months of physical therapy using a electronic bio-feedback monitor she was able to train her body not to tense up and allow us to have intercourse, although not without pain. She was diagnosed with another condition (Vulvar Vestibulitis) that is the cause of the pain on contact with the vestibule (entrance) of the vagina. I've read it estimated that 10% of women may have issues like this but have read very little from a Catholic viewpoint.

As background information, sexual activity is enjoyable for both of us, it is just penetration that is painful for her. There is no easy cure. We have seen several specialists. Tried therapies ranging from steroid creams, numbing creams, physical therapy, surgery to remove a layer of skin at the vestibule (Vestibulectomy), anti-depressants as a nerve blocking regime to stop the pain signals and nothing has worked out. This has been a stress on our marriage to say the least.

We are both active, practicing Catholics. We did not know the condition existed until our wedding night. We were disappointed that we weren't able to fulfill what sounds so beautiful in the theology of the body.

From what I've read in the papal document known (from its opening words) "Cum frequenter" — "When he often" (Pope Sixtus V in 1587) basically says we shouldn't have been married if unable to consummate the marriage, and I could have had an annulment ... (No thanks.)

"Humanae vitae" says that I can't have an orgasm that doesn't deposit the ejaculate in the vagina. We've thought through what the minimum requirement would be to meet this definition but, to be honest, the mechanics are tricky to keep this at the bare minimum, as even the contact with the semen causes pain. Breaking the act down into such a mechanical view of what is allowed takes away from enjoying the moment together and somewhat ruins what it could be for the two of us. That being said...we do always try to meet that minimum requirement and usually more, thus causing her more pain, thus slowing the momentum (causing your spouse pain and making her pain last longer isn't the best turn on.)

I am from Canada and "the Winnipeg Statement" does seem to give me more reasons to question what is right, as in good conscience, I do have a problem causing my spouse pain for my gratification; not that I would want to turn to the Winnipeg statement for answers.

Thus far this issue hasn't prevented us from creating our five wonderful children, and we'd be open to more in the future. Everything I'm reading on Humanae vitae stresses how the procreative aspect isn't to be artificially frustrated or artificially encouraged, but little on the unitive aspect being frustrated through a situation like ours.

My wife is willing to endure pain in order to renew our marriage vows, but doing so is:

  • more and more causing me to question if it is right, and
  • more and more causing her to not look forward to renewing our vows.

The easy answer would be to live a celibate life ... but I didn't sign up for that; my wife didn't either, and I can't see it working if I am to live in the same house as the object of my affection.

Maybe I'm too easily swayed by relativism.

  • Is it OK to cause one spouse pain in order to please the other, even if the pain receiver is willing?

My wife claims it is easier to be the one feeling the pain than the one causing it.

Any advice or suggested reading would be appreciated.


  { When renewing our marriage vows is it OK to cause one spouse pain in order to please the other? }

Mike replied:

Dear WhenRenewing —

I would suggestion you check out this web site.

NaProTechnology has helped many, many couples who are haven't difficulty conceiving.

A Major Breakthrough In Monitoring and Maintaining a Woman's Reproductive and Gynecological Health

I will keep you and your family in my prayers.


Mary Ann replied:

Dear WhenRenewing —

I am sorry for the serious stresses you have had to deal with. Many people have serious problems in marriage. One lives with problems creatively and generously, within the bounds of morality. God has challenged you, and you have found ways to deal with it but are not satisfied because it is "mechanical" and because, of course, there is still pain. (I am wondering if the pain disappears with complete coitus?)

A little less spontaneity is a small price to pay for being able to be intimate with each other at all.

  • Suppose she were paralyzed from the waist down?
  • Suppose you had prostate cancer?

Enjoy what you have now, within God's will, and stop worrying and focusing so much on this or that particular. I think the pain itself might lesson without the focus and fear. The failure of all treatments indicate that there may also be a psychological factor involved, so be sure and see a good counselor.

Mary Ann

WhenRenewing replied:

Thanks for the advice guys!

We've been to a Napro doctor. Most secular counseling and doctors [have/will] advise us to
"try other things". That's the problem.

Thanks for the advice to enjoy what we have now, and I do.

I'm just not sure it is moral to cause the pain for my "enjoyment".


Mary Ann replied:

Both of you ought not think of it as "causing pain for my enjoyment."

It is a question of God-intended marital union, a right and duty that aids the sacrament in fulfilling its grace-giving purpose.

Mary Ann

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