This leads us naturally to the questions, “What makes a good marriage?”
To begin with, a good sex adjustment is important. The physical union of husband and wife is of course what makes parenthood possible at all. But quite apart from this, the sex relationship is important for its own sake. It is the most deeply satisfying expression of the mutual love between man and woman. Moreover, in enabling them to express their love toward each other, it also cements their union. Two married people who have found that they can happily satisfy each other’s recurring sexual needs are bound together by a strong tie. There is between them a fund of warmth, of tenderness, of mutual gratitude. There is a free flow of affection which keeps their hearts and minds open to one another.
By contrast, two married people who are not meeting each other’s sexual needs are living inevitably in a state of tension. Beneath their shared life there is a continual undercurrent of frustration. This is liable to show itself in feelings of secret resentment that may break out into open hostility. It is liable also to drive either or both of them to desire, or actually seek, other outlets for their thwarted physical and emotional needs. No marriage can be said to be really secure if either partner is living in a state of fairly continuous sexual frustration. Beneath the surface of such a marriage there are explosive possibilities.
There can be no doubt as to which of these two situations creates the happier and healthier setting for the child. The function of sex in marriage is therefore not simply to create the child but also to generate, and constantly to renew, the love that sustains the child in an atmosphere of warm emotional security. To put it in another way, the creative love that makes husband and wife parents is not adequately expressed in one decisive act of sexual union; it needs repeated expression to go on maintaining the flow of mutual love which should continue to surround the child.
The achievement of sexual harmony comes easily to some couples. For others it comes only as the result of long and complex mutual adjustment. To reach that adjustment may require patience and persistence. It may require knowledge, too, for the art of successful love-making is skill that many have to learn. Some cannot achieve success without counseling help. What matters is that we should understand that the rewards of success, for parents and children alike, justify all the effort that may be required.
Sexual harmony is important, but it is not the sole goal in marriage. I have known couples who started marriage with what seemed to be a perfect sex relationship. But it deteriorated and finally broke down. Why? Because they neglected the other areas of their life together. Sexual maladjustment can set up tensions that will disrupt the fellowship of the marriage at its other level-emotional, aesthetic, spiritual. It is equally true that maladjustment at these other levels can destroy sex harmony.