PODCAST: What Do You Do When Something’s Bugging You in Marriage?

by | Jan 23, 2020 | Resolving Conflict | 42 comments

Speaking up in marriage when something's bugging you

Something’s wrong in your marriage. So what do you do about it?

This month I’m running my iron sharpens iron series, about how marriage is supposed to make you better people. But it can’t do that if we don’t speak up when things are wrong! So today on the podcast I’m continuing my discussion about how to confront your spouse if something’s bugging you.

So first, please listen to the podcast! Then I’ll have more links and extras below.

But First–Focus on the Family Issues a Statement About Me

Before we got into the main segment, I spent about two minutes of the podcast on this.

Focus on the Family has issued a statement about me and Love & Respect. In it, they spread factually inaccurate information about me–information that they KNOW is untrue. They also double down on Love & Respect, saying that it is a “biblically sound and empowering message for wives.” (Again, I still don’t understand how anyone could possibly say that a book which states that the purpose of sex is for a husband’s physical release, and never once mentions a woman’s pleasure, is “biblically sound and empowering for women”, let alone all the other things I critiqued it for. But we won’t rehash that now.

How do you confront your spouse when something’s wrong?

I elaborated on my post from last week on how it’s not a sin to confront your spouse–even though we often hear messages that make it sound like it is!

  • You can’t change others; you can only change yourself
  • You shouldn’t have expectations in marriage
  • If you meet your spouse’s needs first, they’ll meet yours
  • Husbands, sacrifice for your wives
  • Wives, submit to your husbands
  • Wives, don’t show your husband disrespect

All of those things are partially right, but we need the whole picture, which is always centred around these two things:

  • God wants us to look more and more like Jesus (Romans 8:29)
  • Seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)

So listen in to the podcast to get a fuller view of what these things mean!

And here are the posts that I referred to:

Iron Sharpens Iron Posts

Other Posts Mentioned




Reader Question: A Pretty Ridiculous Scenario–“How do I give it to God?”

A woman wrote in with a heartbreaking story from her marriage.


Several years ago my husband lost his job. When that happened he sort of went off the deep end. Drinking, staying out to all hours, refusing to find work. I was working 1 full time job and 3 part-time jobs just trying to pay the bills. Of course we had arguments and the typical issues. In the process of all this I was diagnosed with a significant illness. I was told there was nothing wrong with me I just needed to get off my lazy &-+ and go back to work. I was so sick, I couldn’t walk 4 foot without falling! He didn’t care! He finally found a job and refused to put me on his insurance. I couldn’t find insurance because of my medical issues. I went a year and a half without medical care. Then he started calling and texting a “friend” he works with. I found out who she was. I let it ride, then a year and a half ago I see a different number on the phone bill, hours and hours of phone time and up to 50 texts per day. I find out who it is. Then he is visiting with our adult daughter and asks her how to tell me he has found someone special. I corner him up, he swears it’s over, well it came up again then again just this December. He had never ended it. He claims now it is over. My problem is, if it was me and it was a person I worked with, he would have made me quit my job and wouldn’t let me out of his sight. He is still working with her, he still says they are friends. I have turned it all over to God, but my issue is how do I trust him again?

The issue here is not how can she turn it over to God; it’s that God does not want us enabling sin, and He does not expect to put up with this kind of behaviour. So it’s time for a pep talk (and listen in! You’re worth it!). Also, this is not a gendered issue, as I said on the podcast. Many women treat their husbands like this, too. And it isn’t okay.

Reader Question: My Husband won’t let me have a different opinion than his

What if expressing a differing opinion causes a fight? A woman writes after reading last week’s post:


My husband has been what could be seen as verbally abusive throughout our marriage, but not often, and with much decreasing regularity. He was recently having thoughts of “how do I even know God is real”, and asked me if I think that the spiritual atmosphere could influence you. I told him I think it’s a possibility, but I also think that the enemy knows his weakness.  He said something else in favour of what he thinks and I had another reason to substantiate my point of view, and he flipped out, started fighting with me in front of the kids, saying that I always think I’m right (I do struggle with that, but I thought we were having a conversation, I really wasn’t inferring he was wrong). I said that I was just having a conversation with him and that I can never have an opinion that differs from his, and then I was accused of turning everything around to make it his fault. 

I’m not perfect by a long shot. but when he gets like that he really puts me down and really hurts me. What bothers me, is that he apologized for the way he spoke to me, but not for what he said. I still feel that if I disagreed with him that the same thing would happen. I’m becoming distant, because frankly being on my own at the moment is better than being shouted at. I know that it’s not wrong to confront him, I just honestly don’t have the energy for it!

For this one, I gave some simple advice: speak up at the time, and make it about expressing differing opinions, don’t double down on the actual thing you’re discussing. Listen in and see what you think!

So that’s it for this week’s podcast. Next week Keith and I will be doing our “Start Your Engines” podcast geared more towards men, talking about what to do if your wife withholds sex for significant periods of time.

Have any opinions on that one? Or any answers to these reader questions? Or even any encouragement about Focus on the Family’s statement? Chime in in the comments!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Recovering from abuse

    The reader who asked “My Husband won’t let me have a different opinion than his” is being gaslit. That’s classic emotionally abusive behavior. Documentation, boundaries, and a safety plan.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It very well could be. I just want to caution that it isn’t always. I know that I can veer on that side of things, too. Keith just had to call me out on it. What’s disturbing here is that it’s accompanied by yelling. However, in her longer letter to me she did explain how they had gotten help, so I do think she has good people around her.
      This is one of the problems with the online world; what can be okay in one marriage may actually be a sign of something downright dangerous in others.
      So I would recommend a multi-stage approach:
      1. Use the methods I’ve mentioned in the podcast (unless to do so could provoke some major harm).
      2. If your spouse doesn’t respond well, or verbal abuse or other abuse continues, seek out a licensed counselor who is knowledgeable about trauma. (or if you aren’t able to use these methods because of the harm).
      One of the ways that we can tell whether or not we’re in a truly dangerous situation is whether or not a spouse responds to proper boundaries. If you set up boundaries, and your spouse does not respond appropriately, then there may be something really wrong and you likely need some help.
      In many cases, though, firm boundaries, done with love, do change the dynamic and ultimately the behaviour changes as well.

  2. Lindsey

    Fuming at that response to you. 😡
    FOTF has some nerve. They are attempting to do damage control without conceding that they were wrong. How slimy!
    Why do people in “leadership” positions refuse to be humble and take “extreme ownership” of the problems to which they have directly or indirectly contributed? Don’t they know it makes them look weaker when they don’t? Poor, politically-minded, grasping-for-power FOTF…they’ve just cost themselves the credibility that they were trying to hold on too.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I wonder that, too, Lindsey. It just seems like they’ve opened themselves up to a publicity nightmare. If they had handled this correctly, none of this would have blown up as it did. Also, I’M the primary one sharing their statement (as are my supporters). I wonder what that says about who that statement actually paints in a bad light? I don’t think it’s me. 🙂

      • Lisa M

        FOTF has sunk to a new low. I’m disgusted by their behavior. Lying! Seriously? All they had to post was that they stand by their support of Eggerich’s work and at least they’d be honest.
        Focus on the Family– your choices in this situation disgust me.
        Great podcast, Shelia.

    • AspenP

      SLIMY is the perfect word for that Focus on the Family response! Unbelievable!! I noticed that they didn’t link any of the blog posts they’re referring to. Thankfully God is in control and NOT Focus on the Family. You are on the side of truth and justice Sheila and I hope that the Lord richly blesses you for it.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Thank you, Aspen!

  3. Nathan

    Very disappointed in FOTF response. They’re incorrect when they say that the central message of L&R is that “husbands have a fundamental need”. It’s message is in fact that husbands (and all their actions) are ENTITLED to UNCONDITIONAL respect no matter what they do.
    If something is bugging me (or Mrs. Nathan) in the marriage, we speak up about it, although I myself am more hesitant to say things than she is.

  4. Blessed Wife

    Pretty lame, FOTF! Y’all sound like politicians, not ministers. I hope you understand that for the scathing indictment it is!
    I, as a woman in a Southern Baptist church who grew up getting FOTF literature in monthly church bulletins, am taking note. I’m checking now to find out whether our church still subscribes to FOTF literature or uses it in marriage counseling. If we do, I hope to present this case to them. Our new pastor is VERY anxious that our church be a safe support and protector for all kinds of abuse victims, and I think he may find this interesting and informative.
    If we do, I’m going to suggest we scrap it and use other materials.

  5. Kristen

    Wow, I’m so glad that Focus on the Family took our concerns to heart last week.
    Or, at least, I wish that’s what I could say.
    I’m highly disappointed in them (not that they actually care). It’s interesting; I’m taking an Intro to Public Relations course this semester, and my professor says that one of the key ways organizations mess up in PR is the one-way communication model. In other words, they talk and they publish, but they fail to LISTEN to their public. And that failure has damaged, and sometimes even destroyed, many companies’ public image.
    Unlike Sheila, who has given them opportunity after opportunity to make things right—who has been willing to LISTEN to them—FOTF still persists in their absolute, wholehearted promotion of Love & Respect and lays all blame for this ordeal at Sheila’s doorstep, when much of this could have been avoided had they just LISTENED a year ago. I am so frustrated with this myself; I can only imagine how much more you and your crew are, Sheila.

    • Kristen

      I’d like to add that not only has FOTF failed by not listening to Sheila, but by not listening to their own public—their readers who are, arguably, supposed to be their flock, if I’m not mistaken. Listening to another’s point of view does not mean you automatically have to agree with the other person (although I agree with the men and women who say the book was harmful to their marriage, and I agree with Sheila that it should no longer be promoted). However, FAILURE to listen, or REFUSAL to listen, says, “I don’t care. I don’t care enough about you or your pain to listen to your concerns and thoughts, because I know where I stand, and I know what I think, and that’s all that matters.” Whether they realize it or not, whether they intend it or not, THAT is the message that FOTF is sending. We don’t care.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yep. Exactly!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s exactly it, Kristen. I really think that this will be a case that could be studied in PR courses or crisis management courses, because they’ve handled it so badly, and it’s about to blow up more (I’ll have a big announcement about some publicity about it tomorrow that took me by surprise). All they had to do was say, “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. This matters. We’ll look into it.” Even if they hadn’t actually looked into it, if they had sent me that kind of response, what could I have done? It was the fact that they doubled down and said, “we don’t care what you say” that made this blow up in their faces.

      • Kim P

        YES! To both of you ladies!

      • Kristen

        I don’t know if “looking forward to it” is the appropriate term, but I am definitely curious as to what this big announcement entails.
        Also, their immovable response just reminds me so much of my attempts at conversation and honesty with spiritual leaders as an adolescent. I’m a talker, and I always wanted to be able to open up and talk through my struggles and questions with pastors and other people I admired in my church. But without fail, if my mental or emotional state seemed to veer the slightest from what was considered biblical or Christlike, I was given a scripture reference and told I needed to get in line with the word, or give it to the Lord, or whatever other platitude someone felt like spouting. I’ve always said, though, that you don’t have to agree with me; but before you tell me why I’m wrong, can you at least attempt some understanding of where I’m coming from? Can you care, not just about my “witness,” my Christian image, but about me, as a person? This is another reason for my disillusionment with the church.
        Sorry for the ramble. I just know what it’s like to be hurting, then when you try to be honest with people who are supposed to care, they just brush you off with a scripture or two. That is a fraction of what FOTF has done to Sheila and married couples through their statement this week.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Let’s just say I’ve been interviewed, and we’ll see what comes of it.
          I know what you’re saying about not seeing you as a person. I’m sorry. Jesus always saw everyone He was talking to as whole people. He cared. I don’t know why those who claim to know Him seem so reticent to do this.

          • Kim P

            “All they had to do was say, “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. This matters. We’ll look into it.” Even if they hadn’t actually looked into it, if they had sent me that kind of response, what could I have done?”
            Key point for what’s coming!!!
            I keep thinking ab Gary Thomas’ humble response and subsequent action. I wonder what he will say ab all of this?
            Kristen, I really appreciate what you have to say here and on other posts. Your comments always stand out to me!

  6. Kim P

    Typical response: people twisted and misapplied, misread, misjudged, mischaracterized, missed the intent of the “biblically sound”message in this book. Well if it’s that easy to do (proof in comments, emails and the survey) then what you are saying, FOTF is that you are more comfortable dismissing thousands of people than taking the time to explore why. Oh well, thousands of people just used the book wrong; that’s on them, carry on. Really? I find that very irresponsible, lazy and arrogant. Sheila tried…. you are refusing to open your eyes, ears and hearts. A Christian marriage book should not be this confusing or easy to use and twist for nefarious purposes. Claims about the Bible along these lines is missing the point because the gospel message is clear and we all know who misapplied, mischaracterized, missed the intent when Jesus Himself spoke it then.
    FOTF, your statement rings hollow: missing the heart of the gospel, lacking in humility, and sounds like every other redundant insipid response to the cries of the oppressed and hurting. I still see NO sympathy or compassion after all of this dialogue (or lack thereof) specifically for the women you hear from daily “who have endured rejection and abuse even within the context of Christian marriage.” Where is the statement about how this grieves your heart? You have misrepresented Sheila, given your readers no links to follow for the specifics you raise, and have oversimplified the issue. You may think this settles the matter, but you will have underestimated the tide that is turning in evangelicalism and the church back to the pure gospel message of Jesus Christ. These kinds of responses lacking grace, humility and love from leaders and protectors of the flock are no longer working for us.
    Sorry Sheila…. I haven’t read the post yet, but I will after I calm down! 😉

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s perfectly fine, Kim! Agree with every word. And they truly don’t see the tsunami that is coming.

  7. Andrea

    This is no way meant to defend FOTF (I’ve had misgivings about them since I was a teenager, almost 30 years ago, and I finally feel validated), but they are being consistent with the message their book promotes: Sheila, a woman, is disrespecting men (the author of the book, the president of FOTF…) so they are not going to listen to her. Maybe you should have tried that approach of saying something veiled and gentle, then waiting for 3 weeks, lol.
    They are politicians, though, as someone already pointed out. If the tide turns sufficiently with all of Sheila’s readers to pose a threat to their finances, they will issue a fake apology. Have you noticed that’s how it works with all the pastors that have been accused of abuse? They ignore the women until someone leaks a story to the secular press and that’s when they do damage control. This was how it went with Bill Hybels of Willow Creek, the Southern Baptists in TX… I hate having to validate the secular world’s stereotype of Christians as hypocrites, but unfortunately, it’s the most effective way of forcing change in the church.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      And we’re going to hear from the secular press, too. The countdown is starting….

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Honestly, Andrea, if they offer a weaselly apology that doesn’t mean much, but they ALSO stop promoting Love & Respect, I’m all good with that. I just want people to know that Love & Respect isn’t safe. If Focus on the Family agrees, then that will signal to churches that they should stop doing the studies.

    • S

      That’s exactly what it looks like. It’s sad, but I’m glad this stuff is coming to light. These teachings have been so harmful to so many for too long.
      The foundation of my marriage were the L&R type of teachings. (Different books, I was married before L&R was published.) It wasn’t until I started looking for marriage help OUTSIDE of the church that things started to change for the better. (Sad, isn’t it?)
      When I followed the advice to “just submit, don’t argue back” from church, that didn’t get him to stop screaming at me for hours on end. So I followed secular advice and would leave the house when he acted like that. It got his attention more than just sitting there in tears, hours on on end, day after day, year after year. I hated feeling like an un-Christian wife but it sure beat the alternative.
      If FOTF and L&R had their way, I’d still be stuck getting screamed at many hours every week, being ripped apart emotionally. But hey, at least I’d be offering “unconditional respect,” right? They should be ashamed of themselves promoting this type of thing!

      • Maria

        It’s not Christian to tell any person that you must tolerate abuse. And that’s what some followers of Christ tell women to do. I’m glad that you found the resources that you needed.

  8. Trucker Dave

    FOTF’s statement smacks of “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts”. I have found a lot of their stuff over the years to be “one size fits all” and pretty useless. One can find more help, that actually works, on sites like yours. You have an excellent ministry plus, and this is important, a real heart for those you minister to. Keep the faith sister, Trucker Dave

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks so much, Dave!

  9. AspenP

    My husband and I have turned away from Focus on the Family (in part because of how they have treated you over Love & Respect—which you are totally right about, but also for other questionable books and content they have pushed lately).
    We have turned to connectedfamiles.org as a much more reliable source for parenting advice that feels more in line with the Holy Spirit.
    Byyyye FotF! 🖐

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, ConnectedFamilies is awesome! They’ve guest posted here I think three times now? I love their stuff. In line with child development, and connecting with a kids’ character, not just enforcing outward behaviour. It’s great! Their stuff totally lines up with what Rebecca wrote in her book Why I Didn’t Rebel, too. Rebecca and I had a chance to meet Jim at a conference, and we had a great talk all together.

  10. Chris

    Sheila, you probably see me as an annoyance here, but I got your back.
    Can’t wait to see what happens with this “interview” you mentioned above!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You’re never an annoyance, Chris! 🙂

  11. KellyK

    I cannot wait for your announcement tomorrow! It HAS to be God’s doing that this is about to blow up even further for FOTF!
    Thank you for speaking out Sheila!

  12. Lindsey

    I read the statements to my husband (As well as you mentioning tomorrow’s publicity announcement) and his response was “Man! She just said that she was going to let it go. All they had to do was just leave it alone, but noo…now it’s going to blow up in their faces. *mocking tone* ‘oh we’ve been doing this for 40 years’, well Judaism was around for thousands of years – and they killed the Messiah! *mutters* dumb asses.”
    I’m just giggling so hard. I love my husband, and I love the marriage we are creating, and we owe a lot of that to you. Keep up the good work!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, Lindsey! And I am going to let it go ;). Like, I don’t plan to post on it anymore, though I will link to things on social media. But now other reporters are picking it up, so we’ll see what happens! (I sure do hope this pans out and I have something to share soon!).

      • Lindsey

        Looking forward to seeing what comes of it. Btw, my husband’s comment wasn’t implying that he was wanting to not hear about the situation from you, rather just that since you had already said you were going to drop it, it was dumb for them to NOW issue a statement after ignoring it for so long.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yep, I got that! 🙂 I think what was dumb was for them to lie in their statement. If they had said everything else exactly the same, but just hadn’t lied, my posts would not have gained the traction they did on social media, and reporters would not have seen it. When a big organization lies about a female blogger, people take notice.

  13. Bethany

    I’m posting about this, hoping my mom looks at it. She’s always hesitant to go against focus on the family, for similar reasons that you mentioned before all this. She is certain that FOTF wouldn’t recommend anything as toxic as that I’m making that book sound. She owns it and likes it still so we’ll see if they lose another follower.

  14. Maria

    So, I’ve noticed that you give sound relationship advice, stuff that tends to bear good fruit. Like speaking up when needed. And you add caveats, like not meant for cases of abuse. And, unlike FotF, you do not then go on use an abusive scenario as an example of when to apply the concept.
    FotF says that people tell them Love and Respect improved their marriage. Doesn’t mean that their ideas are good. Suppose a couple was basing their marriage on advice that was even worse than what you can find in that book. Switching to less bad ideas is not the same as switching to good ones. Both are an improvement, but in one case you are on safe ground now (good advice) and with the other way you are still on a crumbling precipice, just not as close to the edge.
    Not to mention, when a teaching enables abuse, this is what usually happens: abusive spouse claims to speak for both of them while silencing the victim. And abusers would definitely like a teaching that excuses (or worse, glorifies) their behavior.
    They needed to be called out. Thank you, Sheila.

  15. Kori Rhynalds

    I struggle as a wife to not make waves and simply keep the peace in our marriage. I thought this was what I was supposed to do. However watching my husbands behavior become increasingly more angry, hurtful in word and belittling has finally led me to the point where I know I have to stand up for myself. (He has never struck me or become physically abusive)
    It would break my heart to see my son (now 4) treat me or his future wife this way- or to see my daughter (now 2) be spoken to in this matter. Why have I let it go on so long?! The emotional hurt has been my own fault, but I am drawing •boundaries• now. No longer will I quietly take the yelling and belittling with a quiet spirit and then hide away to let my tears flow. No longer will I allow him to yell and slam things around in front of our children. I choose to take a stand- to call him to godliness and to be the women who encourages him to strive to be the man who God called him to be. Pray for me. This is an uncomfortable task, but I truly believe it needs to be done. Your podcast has been such an encouragement to me to expect more from my marriage and of myself as a wife and mother.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Kori, I’m so glad. I strongly recommend that you read the book Boundaries in Marriage, or How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong. And if it’s possible for you to see a licensed therapist, that would be great, too. And, please, if you ever feel like you’re in danger, or your kids are in danger, do seek help. But changing the dynamic and direction of your marriage NOW, when your kids are young, is so important. Good for you. May God be with you!


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