“Marriage is a sexual sacrament with its fullest expression in sexual intercourse.” These are the words of an octogenarian couple as they explained to the Pope why working to actively maintain intimacy is the key to their happy and long marriage. Research backs up the notion that a quality sex life is integral to keeping a happy marriage in later years of life.
“Sex is the glue that keeps a marriage together.”
That was one of the few things my mom told me directly about sex. My dad, on the other hand, openly referenced the joys of sex — “like two star systems colliding in outer space,” he once told me — but the message was the same: sex is an essential part of marriage. The sharing of this idea ran in the family: His mom, my grandmother, once announced that sex with my grandfather kept getting better, right into their eighties.Elderly people having sex? Elderly people having better sex than me? As a teenager, I found the idea mildly disgusting, not to mention insulting, and yet it was oddly reassuring. It countered the endless stream of sexless marriages and steamy affairs in pop culture ephemera. Marriage didn’t necessarily mean the death of sex, but no sex certainly meant the death of marriage, I concluded.
I was reminded of this upon reading news that an octogenarian couple, married for 55 years, had spoken before the Pope and his prelates this week about what makes a marriage last. Their secret was, you guessed it, s-e-x. ”The little things we did for each other, the telephone calls and love notes, the way we planned our day around each other and the things we shared were outward expressions of our longing to be intimate with each other,” they said. “Gradually we came to see that the only feature that distinguishes our sacramental relationship from that of any other good Christ-centered relationship is sexual intimacy, and that marriage is a sexual sacrament with its fullest expression in sexual intercourse.” As the Associated Press put it, “The audience of celibate men was a bit taken aback.” But of course! Who likes to hear about the great things they’re missing out on?
I may not agree about sacraments and Christ, but sex as the key to a happy marriage? Now that’s a god I believe in. Granted, I was primed by my family to believe. But I’ve also found proof in my young marriage: sex is the single most important barometer of how we’re doing as a couple. When we’re getting busy frequently, we are more tender, loving, generous and appreciative of each other. We touch more. Our texts and Gchats throughout the day are littered with emoji hearts and animated smooches. It’s like we’ve never before been in love before or nursed a broken heart. We are obsessed and enamored. It feels magical and transcendent. I even find myself saying hippie shit (see: that last sentence), along the lines of my dad’s “star systems colliding in outer space.”
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