Holiness and marital relations
25 January, 2012
I am a marriage and family therapist and a life coach working mainly with religious women. I have been getting the same question over and over again: when sleeping with my husband I have a hard time enjoying relations and being fulfilled when I need to have holy thoughts.
Can you please explain to me the issue of holy thoughts and marital relations? A rabbi's wife in the past once told me that when attempting to conceive she was trying to have holy thoughts, and it was difficult enjoying being intimate with her husband when she was thinking about tzadikim. We looked into it together and one rabbi explained that having holy thoughts when trying to conceive is about: loving her husband, wanting to make a family with him, trying to create a life….
Is it similar to that?
Yes, our approach to holiness during relations is much like that suggested by the rabbi you mention.
Holiness during relations is of the type which seeks to elevate our most physical activities, so that even when engaged in them, we are not purely animal. For example, we make blessings before and after eating, rather than just tearing into our food. The beracha on a food does not interfere with the pleasure we take in eating. Rather, it adds to the physical enjoyment the emotional and intellectual pleasure of awareness that G-d has granted it to us, that food is a gift.
But sexual relations can be more holy because we have an emotional and spiritual connection to our spouses, because our sexual pleasure is heightened when we give pleasure, because the act is reciprocal. In other words, what is holy about sexual relations is not the physical connection, or the extent or duration of pleasure, but that these physical elements are ultimately an expression of connection and love. To enhance the holiness of relations, the first step is not to worry about holiness, but to focus emotionally on each other. Every moment of pleasure granted or received that is recognized as an act of love specifically directed at each other is inherently a holy moment!
When a couple is attempting to conceive, there is also the holiness of human creative endeavor, of turning our drives towards a form of emulating God.
For further reading, please read the article by Rabbi Avraham Peretz Friedman that appears on our website. You can find further discussion in his book Marital Intimacy, which has our highest recommendation. (To obtain copies of Marital Intimacy, contact Compass Books / P.O.Box 3091 / Linden, NJ 07036.)
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