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Jake wrote:

Hi, guys —

My wife and I are both 40 and practice Natural Family Planning (NFP). We have 5 beautiful kids ranging in ages from 1 to 9. We are open to more children, but not immediately, because of finances and my wife's sanity. We are working hard to trust in God and get in the place where we can accept more of God's wonderful gifts.

In the meantime, we are finding it very difficult for my wife during the period of abstinence.
I guess we never realized that her desire for sex is, of course, highest during the time that we must abstain in order to avoid getting pregnant.

I am wondering if I can bring her to orgasm during this time, as long as I do not have an orgasm?

She does this for me many times during the non-fertile period when shes pretty confident she will not have an orgasm because she just isn't in the mood during that time.

I want to return the favor to her by allowing her to have orgasms during the time when she desires sex the most. I am perfectly fine not having orgasms during this time because my sexual desire is pretty much constant and it is good for me at anytime during the month. Waiting is sometimes hard but I actually find it purifying and helpful to our relationship.

I completely understand why it is not this way for her. For her, she can't have sex when she wants and when she can have sex, she just isn't that into it and most times cannot achieve orgasm. This drives a big wedge in the unitive aspect of sex and into our relationship. It seems very one-sided in the fact that the woman does all of the real sacrificing in NFP.

My rationale for doing this is that I am simply giving her a gift during the fertile days just like she gives me during the infertile days. This makes it absolutely unitive and not selfish, pleasure seeking on my part. She is not simply pleasure seeking because she desires to be close to me and give me pleasure which I do have during this as well.

My thinking is that if I am not having an orgasm then the procreative aspect is not a problem.
We are not open to procreation at this time of course but I have found that most priests and theologians agree that other acts of arousal during the fertile times are permissible so obviously it is OK to touch each other and arouse each other. It is obviously not OK for the man to orgasm outside the vagina because then I have frustrated the procreative process, but I can find very little evidence that the woman having an orgasm during this time does the same. If other acts of arousal which are not open to procreation are OK then it seems that the act of bringing my wife to orgasm would be OK too, again, as long as I do not. But I also understand that orgasm, even for her, is definitely a different thing than just arousing each other so I remain conflicted.

I know the Church does not have specifics written down on these situations so it seems like there is some area for interpretation here but ultimately I want to do what is right with regards to God's law and not rationalize this simply to please my wife.

That said, I don't know how I am going to get her to be OK with this in the long run if there is no answer to this cyclical sexual desire issue.

I guess prayer and leaving it in God's hands will be my answer there.

Thank you and God bless.


  { We practice NFP and I was wondering if this is acceptable within NFP guidelines? }

Mike replied:

Dear Jake,

Thanks for the question.

First, God bless you for raising such a wonderful family! Your practice of NFP shows you are striving to live a faithful Catholic life.

I'd like to be able to answer your question but it falls well outside the realm of Catholic apologetics or doctrine; it is more of a pastoral question based on you and your wife's unique situation.

Because we are not priests nor counselors, the best I can do is suggest:

  1. you talk to your spiritual director about the issue, assuming you and your wife have one, and
  2. contact the Couple to Couple League (CCL) to see if they have a question posting forum you can participate in. (If they don't, they probably should.)

Sorry, that's the best I can do.


Paul replied:

Dear Jake,

I concur with Mike that Couple to Couple League would be a great resource for these kinds of questions.

Having said that, I'll take a stab at it from what I understand about moral theology. Orgasm can never be intended outside of, or not in relation to, the marital act. What is meant by "in relation to" is a little tricky. For the male, orgasm must take place within the marital act itself (sexual intercourse). All other acts of male orgasm taking place elsewhere are either sodomy or masturbation; objectively both serious sins. Such acts can be utilized as foreplay, but cannot continue to male ejaculation.

The problem, as you presented it, relates to female orgasm, which is a bit more tricky. There seems to be consensus that bringing the female to orgasm after intercourse is morally legitimate, if she did not experience it during the embrace, but I have heard that "after" means right after, not days or weeks after. This is why I would hesitate in saying what you propose is morally justified. It seems more like masturbation than the completion of making love.

But do ask the CCL, and feel free to share their comments with us.



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