Should People Limit Marital Relations in Lent? Pastoral Advice

The Church does prescribe limiting intimate relationships during Lent, but we need to understand that there are at least two sides to every story. For those who cannot abstain completely, there may be a relaxation of the rules. It is important to remember that marriage is neither lust nor a passionate desire. The essence of a marriage is love. Abstinence in fasting should not undermine it in any way. If one of the spouses is unwilling or unable to limit intimacy, then it should not be limited. In this case, bodily fasting should be observed only by mutual agreement. If people are fasting for the first time, there is no need to make any categorical and decisive steps, because there is a risk of destroying their relationship.

I have seen many married couples whose relationships were significantly undermined by abstinence. In order to resist temptations, people move into different rooms, trying not to think about each other. They begin to limit their communication and face alienation. Just as dietary restrictions can be bad for a person’s health, misinterpreted abstinence can harm the happiness of a family.

However, with the right goal setting everything can be different. The beneficial sides of abstinence may be revealed to us in Lent. Spouses who observe bodily fasting constantly maintain mutual interest and miss each other more. Such couples often prove stronger. Unfortunately, overindulgence is a common problem of the modern world that does not spare the intimate spheres of family life. Couples quickly grow tired of each other, and experience a desire to either find another partner, or start some experiments in their own bed. Those who choose abstinence during the Lenten period do not have such problems. The same goes for food restrictions. For example, when we stop eating eggs, meat, fish and milk products, these simple foods seem delicious to us after Lent, even if prepared in the most unpretentious way.

By observing bodily fasting, we try to make the most sublime sides of our souls blossom with new life. Paraphrasing an old but very true proverb, a full stomach is deaf to prayer.  If a couple abstains bodily, they should pay more attention to mental and spiritual communication with each other. While temporarily removing intimate relationships from family life, it is important to find another language for expressing love. We need to pray together and try to show our tenderness to each other with a smile and pleasant words. Most importantly, we should do it outside of an erotic context. Trying to put the unique beauty of each other’s soul above the physical attractiveness is the goal to which the abstinence from marital intimacy leads.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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