Question: My name is Marianne. I am 21 years old. I have a very, very beautiful almost-6-year-old stepdaughter and an amazing, handsome baby boy who is 3.5 months old (who is sleeping on me as I write this). My husband is 25. He is what this email is about.

My husband doesn't believe in God, a fact I looked past because I love him. However, I have come to realize a few things: for one, because of him, I could not be married in a Church, I was married in a courthouse and it feels like a fake marriage. For two, all he ever wants from me is sex.

I pray about this frequently, but it seems like God doesn't have the answer, because my husband continues these things. As we only have one vehicle, which I can't drive due to the fact that it's a manual transmission, I don't get to church. This hurts my heart. However, he refuses to go with me and won't sit outside the church and wait.

I don't know what to do anymore. Whenever he asks me for anything I know it's going to be something disgusting and sexual, and after these encounters I hate myself. Please help me.

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Answer: We're so sorry to hear what you're going through. It looks like you're struggling with at least three separate problems.

First of all, you raise the question of whether you have a "fake marriage" since you were married in a courthouse to a man who doesn't believe in God. It's true that your marriage is not sacramental in the eyes of Church, but it is so easy to fix that! Catholics marry non-Catholics or even non-believers in church weddings very often. All you need to do is go through a little extra paperwork. There is a special ceremony called convalidation for couples who are already civilly married. We encourage you to look into that.

Second, you say that "all he ever wants from me is sex" and that he sometimes asks you to do things you find "disgusting." Men and women do have different sex drives, and when there's a newborn baby in the house, sex can be the last thing on a mother's mind! But God gave us married sexuality as a beautiful gift. There are very few sexual acts that the Church condemns as long as procreation is possible, that is, as long as the husband completes the act in a way that the sperm can meet the egg. There is absolutely no reason for you to hate yourself for what goes on in the bedroom!

This trouble you are having with your husband seems more like a problem with communication than with sexuality itself. If you are too tired from long days of taking care of your baby, tell your husband and ask him for patience. Maybe take a "raincheck" and put things off until the next evening. Make sure you fit in time for a nap, and enjoy the anticipation of waiting. If there are certain sexual acts that you find disgusting, tell your husband how they make you feel. Ask him to introduce you to things slowly -- you are still quite young.

Third, getting to Mass on Sundays any way you can will really help you. Maybe you could call the parish and see if there are mothers groups whose members could give you a ride. Or perhaps your husband or a neighbor could teach you how to drive stick shift. There are lots of videos on YouTube to help. Learning how to drive the family car would also really boost your sense of freedom and self-confidence. Remember that we can do all things with God's help!

You might want to take a look at the following resources:

1. Sacramentality and SexualityGood News About Sex & Marriage by Christopher West

2.  More on Sacramentality and Sexuality: Ch.1 & Ch. 7 of  The Four Keys to Everlasting Love

God bless you and your marriage!

Copyright 2017 Dr. Manuel and Karee Santos