Asha Praver

Letters from Asha

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ask Asha: In Marriage, Is Celibacy or Sex More Appropriate?

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

I find that as I transcend higher with Kriya, I have lost interest in sex. Initially I was able to tolerate moderation, but, as I continue to climb higher and feel closer to God, sex has become meaningless to me and my interest and drive gone. I do not miss it, but my wife, like most people who are not on the path, needs sex as a sustaining part of marriage. I have no drive to even oblige her any more. All else is perfect with marriage & family. But how can I sustain my marriage in this regard?

Robert
from USA

Answer

Dear Robert:

You are fortunate to be moving away from the need for sex, but you are still a married man. Even among devotees, where there is a shared understanding, this could create great difficulties. Since your wife is not a devotee, she has no context at all for what you are imposing on the marriage. And no desire to give up what is to her a perfectly appropriate expectation: to have sex with her own husband.

Even though there are many reasons why celibacy is spiritually beneficial, it is not spiritually beneficial to be too self-centered in this matter.

Swamiji once said to me that sex is one of the biggest problems in devotee marriages. And he didn’t mean overindulgence. What he was talking about is exactly what you are describing here.

“One or the other in the marriage,” Swamiji explained, “loses interest in sex, or decides to be celibate, and the other doesn’t feel the same way. The sexually interested partner is no longer perceived as a loving mate, but has now become a temptress, a threat to one’s spiritual well being. Naturally, the rejected partner feels demeaned, and everything spirals downward from there.”

A devotee once said to Swamiji, “It would be very easy for me to be celibate but my spouse doesn’t feel that way at all. What should I do?”

Swamiji answered with a quote from the Bible (unfortunately, I don’t know where exactly the quote comes from). The sense of it was, “Thou shalt not demean thy spouse.”

In a committed, monogamous marriage, each partner is completely dependent on the other to fulfill his or her sexual need. This is a position of great vulnerability and is why, among other reasons, sex is such an intimate experience.

If one partner decides he no longer has responsibility in this matter, the other is placed in an impossible position.

Sex is one of the strongest drives a human being experiences. It can’t just be turned off.

I recall reading an account of prisoners in a concentration camp. The writer himself was amazed to report that even though they were on the brink of death by starvation, they were still filled with sexual longing.

One concern about the stance you have taken is simply practical: Sexual frustration in a woman can cause a whole host of other problems. If you continue to feel you don’t want to “oblige her any more,” as you put it, you could find your “perfect” marriage and family falling to pieces.

Furthermore, your wife could easily turn against the spiritual path altogether. That would be unfortunate, not only for the harmony of your home, and your ability to continue with your practices, but also for her spiritual well-being.

Instead of seeing the spiritual path as something attractive that has made her husband more kind, loving, and sensitive, it has caused him to reject her. It could take her a long time to overcome the fear and aversion she may feel toward the spiritual path.

These are not good outcomes. You have to weigh the potential catastrophe to yourself, your wife, and your children, against the satisfaction you are finding from celibacy.

Sex doesn’t have to be about you and your desire. That is an immature way to look at it. It can be instead an act of selfless love and care for your wife — the mother of your children, the keeper of your home, the companion of your life.

Spiritually speaking, selflessness in this matter is just as important as celibacy, perhaps more so. Be moderate, be creative, be uplifted, but also be attentive to her reality and to her needs. Let your love making be an offering to Divine Mother and you will find there will be little or no spiritual loss to you, but, in fact, a spiritual gain.

In divine friendship,
Nayaswami Asha

[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]

4 comments:

Premdas said...

Thank you Asha. I can tell you that this will help many of our student devotees and spiritual seekers. Explained very well with practical spiritual understanding for all "sides" of the issue. Blessings, Premdas

Rachel said...

Wow, Asha. This is the best, most grounded, practical, and yet sattwic and uplifting address of this question I have ever heard. Thank you for making these insights available.

Priti Issar said...

Every nuance so sensitively addressed!

Sylvie said...

This was just perfect! Truly a Godsend! I have been pondering that same subject lately, being in a relationship with someone who is not on the same spiritual path as I am, and also finding less and less interest for sexual interaction. Your answer very clearly confirmed to me what I have slowly been figuring out, that making a little honest and loving effort in the 'sex department" is what is asked of me, and in that way honor my boyfriend's humaneness, his needs, at this stage in life. God has blessed me with so much through him, and if I am to keep on receiving those blessings then I ought to play my part too, fully. This is a subject that is not enough talked about. Too often the "sex issue" is ignored, repressed, denied, and we know that is highly detrimental.

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