Interior Integration for Catholics

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Dr. Peter discusses how sexual intimacy is often the trickiest and most difficult part of Catholic marriage, and how deeper underlying issues can surface in the sexual relationship and undermine both sexual satisfaction and the marriage bond -- and what to do about it.

Show Notes

IIC 67:  Catholic and UnCatholic Sex in Catholic Marriages
Saturday, May 8, 2021
10:27 AM
  1. The Windup – our common ground, a quick summary of where we are today
    1. Let's get down to it.  

    1. Most of us Catholic married folk have deep desires within us for authentic, loving, joyful, intimate sexual sharing with our spouses
    1. We want to be loving our spouses, we want to make love to our spouses in ways that are healthy, ordered, and holy.
    1. We want to know our spouses and be known, to accept our spouses and be accepted, to be loved and to love.
    1. And at least intellectually, we know that God  wants that for us too.  

  5. The Hurdle:  The shared problem
    1. Or at least, we all had those desires in the past.  Maybe we've given up on them.  Maybe we're discouraged, disheartened. So many Catholic spouses are.  It's common and it's tragic.  But it makes sense to me.  Why?
    1. Because Sexuality is usually the trickiest and most difficult part of the marriage relationship. Let me say that again.  
    2. We want  deep, loving, joyful, intimate sexual sharing with our spouses
    3. But often there's pressure, shame, guilt, anger, conflict, tension, frustration, disagreement, disharmony, sullenness, withdrawal, disconnection, feelings of helplessness, avoidance, resignation and dozens of other painful experiences.  
    4. We are wounded in a lot of different ways, and those attachment wound, those integrity wounds impact how Catholic spouses related to each other sexually.  
    5. Sex is the most sensitive barometer
    6. God wants Catholic couples not to just have sex -- animals can and do copulate
      1. but ordered, healthy sexual intimacy.  

    7. Stakes are high.  Our Lady of Fatima on Sexual Sins  Jacinta later revealed that according to Our Lady, “The sins which cause most souls to go to hell are the sins of the flesh,” or sins against chastity.
    8. For many Catholic spouses, the sexual situation can seem impossible
      1. 28% of Catholic marriages end in divorce, and it's probably safe to say that the sexual intimacy isn't great in those relationships
      1. Many, many others suffer from significant problems and issues in the sexual relationship.  

      1. There is no other area of Catholic life so fraught with complexity, nuance, so sensitive to disorder and dysfunction in the married life.  Why?
      1. Because sex is so often wrenched out of context
        1. Procreation
        1. Union, the bond of the spouses
        1. Catholic spouses often look to their sexual relationship to solve problems that do not originate there.  
          1. Misuse of sexuality in the service of trying to get deeper needs met -- attachment needs and integrity needs.  Episode 62

    11. But you know what?  There are solutions.  There are ways out, even for spouses who are really jaded, really disheartened and discouraged.  And we are going to talk about those ways out, the promise of solutions.  We're going to talk about the Good News of Catholic sexual married life today.
      1. All things, all things work together for good for those who love the Lord.  Romans 8:28.  All things.  No exceptions.  All things, St. Paul tells us, there is no asterisk or footnote that excludes your particular sexual situation.  All things.  
        1. The caveat -- for those who love the Lord.  That means childlike trust, great confidence.  

      1. So many Catholic couples could have such a better life of sexual intimacy.  That is so possible, even though it may not seem believable, because of a history of disappointment, false starts, and discouragement.
        1. If you feel like you're Charlie Brown and I'm Lucy, holding a football for you, about to yank it away when you try one more time… I get that.  Stay with me, listen a while longer, and see if you find some new ideas, new ways of looking at things.  I know it may be that you've been married 20, 30 years or more -- but some and see what I have to say.  

    12. I am clinical psychologist Peter Malinoski, your host and guide
      1. This is episode 67 of the weekly podcast Interior Integration for Catholics
      1. And it is titled: Catholic and UnCatholic Sex in Catholic Marriages
      1. Thank you for being here with me
      1. Interior Integration for Catholics is part of our online outreach Souls and Hearts at
        1. Which is all about your human formation, all about shoring up your natural foundation for a solid Catholic spiritual life
        1. We are doing a whole series of episodes on Sexuality in Catholic Marriages

      1. We are using the image of a Catholic canopied marriage bed.
      1. And today, we are focusing on the the Fitted Sheet, the top sheet and the blankets
        1. Fitted Sheet -- Eros, the sexual attraction, the intensity of sexual passion, the actual physical, sexual contact
        1. Top Sheet -- Communication between the Catholic spouses
        1. Blankets -- Heartfelt warmth and affection, the emotional connection.  

  7. The Vision  -- The inspiring option, the way over the problem
    1. Four Major point -- Four central concepts.  
      1. The human and spiritual formation of the spouse influence the quality of their sexual experience. 
      2. Sex always happens in a relational context
      3. The relational context influences the quality of the sexual experience between the spouses
      4. Sexual intimacy is a great good, but there are time when it may not be best.  
      5. Repeat the four points.  

    1. The human and spiritual formation of the spouse influence the quality of their sexual experience.  
      1. Human formation of the husband and wife are two of the four legs of the bed.  
      2. Focusing in here again on interior integration -- how integrated are we in the sexual sphere
        1. That sexual integration is going to depend on our human formation -- and on all the aspect represented in the Catholic canopied marriage bed check out Episode 58.  

        1. Another leg of the bed is understanding ourselves and our spouse from an Internal Family Systems perspective, which I think is so helpful.  

      3. As living human being, we have a unity -- each human person is one
        1. But also each human person has parts.
        1. within each person are separate collections thoughts, emotions, attitudes, impulses, desires, abilities, interests, relational styles, body sensations, and worldviews that are not just transient emotional states, but rather constitute discrete “parts,” subpersonalities or distinct modes of operating within the person’s larger internal system -- they seem like selves within us. 

        1. Each part within us can phenomenologically seem like its own little person, with its own particular range of emotion, style of expression, abilities, desires views of the world. 
          1. Modes of operating
          2. Subpersonalities
          3. Orchestra model
          4. Focus is on integration.  

        1. Get forced into extreme roles -- attachment injuries and relational traumas
        1. And each part has a different position or attitude about sexuality and sexual intimacy.  
        2. When they are disconnected from the core self, each part has an agenda, each part is trying to pursue some perceived good for the whole self.  
      6. Parts -- embody the voices.  
        1. Unintegrated parts always get what they don't want.  
      7. Deep assumptions held by different parts of a somewhat scrupulous young married Catholic woman
        1. High Moralizing Critical Part -- 
          1. God doesn't really want us to have sex. 
          2. Sex is dirty, bad --  
          3. So I shouldn't enjoy it. 
          4. Plus, we should be punished for the fooling around we did before we were married.  

        1. Dependent Part 
          1. I need have sexual relations with my husband so that he won't abandon me emotionally because I can't bear it when he is cold and distant.  

        1. Intellectual Part:  
          1. Christopher West in his TOB books discusses how beautiful Catholic Sexuality is, so there has to be beauty and goodness in it somewhere and so we can't just refuse to have sexual intimacy.    

        1. Approval seeking part
          1. I should be enjoying sex more than I do
          1. To make my husband happier with me so that he is kinder to me and more likely to meet my needs.  

      8. In the next episode, episode 68,  I will get into stories of Catholic married couples and how their parts interact to illustrate how complex all this can be.  
  8. Sexual acts always happens in a relational context
    1. Wait a minute, Dr. Peter.  Example of masturbation
      1. "Solosexuals"
      1. Command to "Love your neighbor as yourself."
      1. Parts have very different attitudes about masturbation.  

      1. Also, as a baptized Catholic, you are a member of the body of Christ, and all your actions impact the rest of the body, the rest of the members of the Church

    1. Example of pornography
      1. Clicks being counted, demand being noted, ads being sold
      1. Your time being used up.  

    1. Alienation from God and others. 

  9. The relational context influences the quality of the sexual experience
    1. That relational context strips away superficial ways of coping, exposes deeper vulnerabilities, issues.  

    1. We need to be working on the relational context
      1. The rest of the bed.  (Review)
      1. The sheet alone will not support us.  So many people hope that the sheet will support their weight, suspended in midair
        1. It's easier to hope that you can just find quick solutions

      1. We need the rest of the bed
        1. This is a harder and longer road, but it is much more sure
        1. The rock-solid floor in the bedroom is the Foundation -- The presence of God -- and an active belief in God's Providence
        1. Four legs -- now more in the natural realm
          1. Leg 1 -- the husband's commitment to his own interior integration, his own human formation, his psychological health, his emotional wellbeing -- removing the beam from his own eye
          1. Leg 2.  the wife's commitment to her own interior integration, her own human formation, her own psychological health, her own emotional wellbeing -- her taking on her own personal responsibility for her natural life
          1. Leg 3.  Attachment theory -- Attachment theory is really important because it addresses ways to really address the unmet psychological, relational, and emotional needs that we discussed in the last episode, episode 57 as The One Main Psychological Reason Why Catholic Marriages Fail.  

          1. Leg 4.  Internal Family Systems approaches -- really understanding how the human person is both a unity and a multiplicity -- like we have One God in Three Persons, each of us is also one, but with many parts.   

        1. The Frame  and the Box Spring -- this holds the whole bed together and it represents the firm commitment between the husband and the wife, the upholding of the marriage vows,  I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.  
          1. It's the charity.  Willing the highest good for one another

        1. The Mattress -- Empathetic attunement -- really knowing the spouse, really being able to enter into the phenomenological world of the spouse
        1. The pillows  empathy for the Spouse -- Five kinds -- Episode 65

    1. Many sexual problems have their roots in childhood.  
      1. Not really sexual problems per se -- relational problems, attachment problems, integrity issues
        1. That manifest themselves through sexual symptoms.  

      2. Main Psychological Reason Why Catholic Marriages Fail -- Episode 57, 
        1. Parts with unmet attachment needs.  Deep relational needs, often unconscious
        2. Old stuff gets activated by sex.  

    1. Some sexual problems have their roots in the relationship
      1. Unresolved tension about premarital sexual activity
      1. Issues around expectations
      1. Issues around boundaries
        1. Disagreements about what should happen and how in the marriage bed.  

      1. Issues around dignity

    1. Abstaining before marriage -> Now it's legal!  a deep sense of entitlement, setting up false expectations
      1. You are not entitled to great sex
        1. Where is that in Catholic teaching?
        1. According to the world, you are entitled to great sex.  

        1. That is a gift, not a right - 1998

      1. You're not entitled to "Sex your way."  Have it your way, Burger Kind 1974
      1. Expectation of everyone knowing the choreography
        1. In reality, this takes time to learn, there's a learning curve quick transfer

    1. Communication -- top sheet
      1. Five love languages Gary Chapman.  
        1. Words of affirmation
        2. Quality Time
        3. Acts of Service
        4. Gifts
        5. Physical Touch

      1. I can't breathe when you are on top of me. 

    1. Blankets -- the warmth, the relational affection.
      1. We need this to be complete

    1. Sex is so embodied
      1. The Body Keeps the Score -- Bessel van der Kolk
      1. Deep unmet relational needs, deep unmet integrity needs held in our bodies.  

      1. Things we are holding in our bodies, outside of awareness, can be activated by sex
        1. Marlboro men -- tough guys -- can regress -- don't need anything, anyone, but they need sex!

      1. Body changes
        1. Endocrinology -- so extreme
        1. Neurophysiology
        1. Huge impact of body processes
        1. All in relationship with another person.  

    1. So much self-absorption
      1. Idolization of sex
        1. Traumatized via sex -- seek to be redeemed by sex.  
          1. But sex does not heal trauma wounds.  That is not it's role. 

        1. Sex as a symbol -- a parts wants to believe that we are solidly grounded
        1. Physical closeness implies real relational intimacy, connection.  
          1. Similar to tattoos PB

      1. Husbands essentially masturbating in sex with their wives
        1. So caught up in their own needs, their own parts taking over.  

        1. Animals have sex.  They don't "make love."  
          1. And when human merely have sex, we're acting worse than animals, because we could know better.  

      1. Idea of the "marital debt."
        1. Vows -- the gift of the body to each other.  By virtue of the marriage, wives and husbands possess each other's bodies.  In other words, you owe yourself to your spouse.    

        1. Sex as a gift of self
        1. Primary responsibility to your own well-being.  Sexual relations should never degrade or harm either of the spouses.  
          1. If that happens, both spouses are harmed.  One flesh.  

        1. Husbands as debt collectors --guys, is that how you want to be seen by your wives -- as Hector the marital debt collector?
          1. Boom, boom, boom 
            1. Creepy and weird -- where's the gift, where's the love?

          1. Wife is God's beloved daughter 
            1. Knew a man who demanded sex twice per day from his wife. 
              1. Didn't matter where she was.  No excuses. 
              2. Threat of masturbation

        1. The debt is a lot more than just sex -- it is our whole selves.  

        1. Eve -- from Adam's rib, not his skull, not his foot -- equally yoked.  

      1. Think of the anatomy -- woman allowing not just part of man, but all of the man inside her.  
        1. Symbolism
        2.  Intrusion
          1. Rape
          1.  “Rape is about power, not sex.”
            1. Understand the intention behind the statement -- more than sex.  

            1. Rape is always about sex
              1. Because it is expressed, manifested sexually.

    1. Is God present? -- He is, whether you want him to be or not.  
      1. The sacredness of sex
      2. Sacramental aspects of sex
      3. Furtive sex in a hidden zone

    1. Ways that sex can be un-Catholic
      1. The matter -- the act itself -- ordered, oriented to the bond of marriage, oriented to procreation?
        1. Is it really?  The foreplay card.
        1. Why does this thing bring me to orgasm -- why am I attracted to it.
          1. If we can't symbolize it in works, we're likely to enact

        1. Oral sex
        1. Anal sex

      1. The intention / motivation / orientation
        1. To get my needs met
        1. Sex will not resolve deep unmet attachment needs or deep unmet integrity needs (Episode 62)
          1. Just like food won't or drugs won't
          1. That's not what sex is for.

      1. Heartset, Mindset, Soulset
        1. Fantasies about another sexual partner  -- Christ's words: MT 5:28  But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
        1. Violations of dignity
        1. What a husband saw in a pornographic movie.  

  10. Sexual intimacy is a great good, but there are time when it may not be best.  
    1. Sometimes it's impossible
      1. Injuries, medical conditions
      1. 9 months pregnant, immediately post-partum.  

    3. Sometimes it's inadvisable
      1. Health reasons
      1. Trauma
      1. Body image issues
      1. Shame, grief, rage, abandonment issues, guilt.  

      1. Near occasion of sin  -- Fr. Tadeusz Dacjzer 
        1. on dispositions to receive sacraments
        2. On receiving sacraments unworthily

      1. Sexual compulsion, addictions
    7. Fasting from sexual intimacy
      1. Sometimes I recommend it
        1. Takes pressure off
        1. What intimacy remains without intercourse
        1. Gift of self

      1. Sex on a schedule
        1. Pros
          1. Predictable, expected

        1. Cons
          1. "servicing the spouse" 

    8. We need to learn continence.  Sex as a replacement for masturbation, preventative.  
    9. Integration
    10. Luke 20:34-36, there is no marriage and no sex in heaven.
      1. And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 

    11. Sexual problems as a gift.  
    12. Frigidity
      1. Can be the freeze response
      1. Fear 
        1. The reasons for the fear.  

    14. We should make the effort for the sexual intimacy.  
    15. Sex does not have to be perfect to be good
      1. Perfectionism can get in the way
      1. There is some skill in this.  

    17. Men withdrawing
      1. Extremely painful for wives.  
        1. Especially if there is porn, masturbation or affairs. 

  11. Mistakes in getting over sexual issues
    1. Avoiding, ignoring
    1. Not communicating
    1. Not working on your own human formation
    1. Not working on your own spiritual formation
    1. Not setting appropriate boundaries to protect self and spouse from harm
    1. Giving up
    1. Spiritual Bypassing -- this is my cross
      1. Spiritual Bypassing "tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks."  John Welwood
      1. Allowing your spouse to exploit you is not your cross.  
      2. Near occasion of sin

  18. What helps
    1. Tailored solutions -- specific guidance for your situation
      1.  Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, 1878  All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.  Great diversity in how marriages can be miserable sexually.  

      1. We listened to the podcast and read a Greg Popcak book and it didn't get better!

    1. Safety
    1. Security
      1. Vulnerability 

      1. Heavy Armor is often evident
        1. Makes sense, with how spouse are uniquely positioned to hurt each other.  

    1. Humor
    1. Communication -- first
    1. Relational Warmth -- first
    1. Bringing another person in.  

    1. Look at each other.  Look at each other.  

    1. Listen to each other.  

    1. Books.  I don't like any books on this topic for general recommendations -- one size fits all.  
      1. Manager parts really like books -- figure it out on my own, in the realm of ideas, concepts, abstractions.  Doesn't work.  
      2. Many are heavy on the spirituality, the theology, the philosophy
      3. Light on actual real-world, in the trenches experience
      4. None of them are Catholic and really get how we have parts -- the model of the human person. 

  23. Bottom line:  Better sexual intimacy depends on better everything else in the relationship.   
  24. Pilgrimage
    1. Human formation
      1. We all need help
      1. We all need structure
      1. We all need support.  

    1. Relaunch discussion.  
      1. Get on the waiting list --  more than 100 on the waiting list so far.  
      2. Join with your spouse
      3. Mark your calendars  Tuesday, May 25 from 7:30 to 8:45 PM meeting about the RCC reopening, Q&A.  -- that meeting will be on our landing page -- register for it.  We will be getting that link out to our waiting list members -- with a lot more information by May 18.  Landing Page --  
        1. Initial Measure Kit -- gathering several different questionnaires that will be in the IMK so that each person will be able to make their own individualized plan for human formation. After we receive the IMK there will be a 15min phone or zoom conversation about your personal plan. 
        2. Individualized Human Formation Plan
        3. Companions:  are pairs (men with other men and women with other women) who briefly check in daily with each other to offer encouragement and accountability in their daily human formation practices. 
        4. Companies are a group of eight RCC members who will meet weekly to support each other on this journey. 

    1. Second Wednesday Zoom Meeting Wednesday May 12 7:30 PM to 8:45 PM -Time - that one is all about the changes in the community, real updates.  

    1. Conversation hours Tuesday and Thursday May 11, 13, 18, 20, 25, 27 -- 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM Eastern time -- 317.567.9594.  

What is Interior Integration for Catholics?

In the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast, together, we seek fundamental transformation in our lives through human formation, via Internal Family Systems approaches grounded in a Catholic worldview. Join us as we sail through uncharted waters, seizing the opportunities for psychological and spiritual growth and increasing resilience in the natural and spiritual realms. With a clear takeaway message and one action in each weekly episode, you can move from dreading what is happening to you to rising above it. Join us on Mondays for new episodes. You can also check out the Resilient Catholics Community which grew up around this podcast at