Appropriate Expressions of Intimacy


During times when we are postponing pregnancy, is sexual foreplay okay if neither of us has an orgasm?
Our situation is that when I have a newborn and I am nursing, I have mucous that appears to be fertile every few days for up to six months. This is a real strain for my husband. I don’t have much of a libido when I am nursing, but it is really important to my husband’s sense of well-being that he feels I am attracted to him and that we have some degree of sexual intimacy. I’ve told him that I think intercourse without orgasms is going too far during that time, but have been willing to do other forms of foreplay. Afterwards, he is not overly frustrated, but instead seems satisfied that I am attracted to him and love him. He says sexual intimacy is important to our marriage, and he needs this sexual closeness even when we can’t go all the way.



Last Updated: December 13, 2014
Dear Rebecca,

Above all, it is important to keep in mind that the underlying principle of marital relations is both unitive and procreative in character. It is part of God’s design to gift married couples with sexual intercourse so that they might bring children into the world so that they live faithfully and fruitfully in this world and ultimately be united with God eternally in the world to come and so that the spouses, in their mutual surrender, may experience God’s love for them, and their love for each other, and consequently be more closely united in their marriage. In general, mutually pleasing acts which are part of a normal act of intercourse are permissible. Orgasm, male or female, is a component of sexual intercourse. It is inappropriate to seek orgasm apart from the act of intercourse. The principle of foreplay, it seems, is to aid the spouses in completing sexual intercourse. Thus, foreplay is something that also belongs to the marriage act and should not be separated from it.

Another way to look at evaluating the appropriateness of foreplay without intercourse would be to consider whether engaging in some form of sexual stimulation would be appropriate for one’s teen daughter and her boyfriend? Most parents would agree that it is not, and the reason why is that arousal activity is meant to prepare couples for intercourse, and if the intention is to abstain from intercourse, then logically one would also abstain from the acts which prepare for it.

As Sheila St. John stated in a response also posted on this site, embracing a fuller, deeper understanding of sexuality, frees us from a narrow focus on genital pleasure, as we come to see the multidimensional nature of our sexuality, and the many ways we have to express it. We are released to give freely and completely to each other in the act of intercourse, when appropriate, without distraction of scrupulous concerns if this or that behavior is legitimate, or debasing it with contraception. When not intending intercourse, freed from the narrow focus on genital expression, we unleash the many other dimensions of our sexuality. This enables us to take pleasure in all our sexual senses, delighting in gifting ourselves to our spouse in affectionate, tender expressions of our love. To do so, we must distinguish between arousal touch and affirming, or affectionate touch. By reserving arousal touch for when appropriate in intercourse, we are forced, if you will, to exercise our other, too oft underused, sexual muscles. We stretch ourselves to express our love and affection in affirming ways, using all our sexual senses—physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual. This is one of the true benefits of periodic abstinence, that it compels us to challenge ourselves to be generous and creative in our attention and affection, employing other methods of intimacy and union that are not genital. Examples can include cuddling, kissing, affirming touch (as opposed to arousing touch)—a good back rub comes to mind—cuddling on the couch watching a movie, falling asleep in each others arms, stroking our beloved’s hair or face, long walks and talks, enjoying things of beauty together, such as music or a sunset,and intimate sharing of thoughts and feelings.

We often have been conditioned to express our sexuality very one dimensionally. Retraining our sexual “appetite” to be multi-dimensional begins with re-orienting how we view it, and may require discipline, and practice. It can be a struggle to change established patterns of thinking and behavior, but a struggle that will yield many benefits, not least among them a spouse who feels treasured and appreciated on all levels.

Regarding the proper identification of your fertile days, I would recommend that you meet with your NFP instructor to make sure that you have the most accurate information.

Thank you for your question, and your desire to live marriage faithfully.


Fr. Blaise Berg

Answered By:

Fr. Blaise Berg, STD
Rev. Blaise Berg, STD, President and Treasurer of the CANFP Executive Board, is Assistant Professor of Dogmatics at St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park, CA. Fr. Berg earned a BA from the University of San Francisco, an MBA from California Polytechnic University, a Baccalaureate degree in Sacred Theology, S.T.B at the Pontifical Gregorian University Rome, a Licentiate Degree in Sacred Theology, S.T.L. from the JPII Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, Pontifical Lateran University, Rome. and a Doctoral Degree in Sacred Theology, S.T.D. from Pontifical Lateran University, Rome. He has served on the CANFP Board since 2003.

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