Start Your Engines Podcast: How Do We Have a Pressure-Free Sex Life?

by | Apr 30, 2020 | Pornography | 23 comments

Podcast Pressure Free Sex Life

How does sex become pressure-free when you really do want it?

It’s the last Thursday of the month, which means our podcast today is directed at the guys (well, both can listen to all my podcasts, but in this last podcast I always aim more towards the guys, while making it relevant for all!). I know I have a lot of male readers, and I have a lot of male listeners, and Connor tells me the Start Your Engines editions get extra listens. So wow!

Today we had a smorgasbord of topics and voices, summing up the month on porn, but also talking about the dynamic of helping both feel freedom when it comes to sex, even when the guy may have the higher libido.

So first, listen in!

Reader Question: How Does “Duty Sex” Affect Us Emotionally?

A man writes in with this question:

My wife loves your podcast and gets excited whenever she hears something new to try. But once we get in the bedroom, she’s like a different person. She gets very scared and says that she doesn’t
know how to be intimate with me. I’ve tried telling her what I like, but she takes it as if she’s done something horribly wrong rather than a learning opportunity. She’ll make an exaggerated attempt to please me, which feels forced. I usually stop her and ask if she’s okay, which makes her scared that she might have done something wrong. Even when I’m trying to please her, it’s come to the point where she is terrified of me noticing she isn’t enjoying herself so she’ll try to fake her way through it hoping I don’t notice.

I know what turns her on, but it seems she can’t allow herself to get to that point anymore because of her worry of “messing up”. Sex has become something she fears. I only want for her to see that I care deeply about her and want to share in this important part of our marriage together, but I can’t seem to do that without her looking as if she’s being berated. Sex has become something where we both lie in bed terrified of touching each other.

Great question! I’m going to assume in answering it that he genuinely is a good guy and that there aren’t other issues he hasn’t mentioned going on here, and I’m also going to assume that the problem is not sexual trauma of some sort (and if that is the problem in your marriage, I highly recommend The Body Keeps the Score).

I tackled this question, and I focused on what our survey results told us about women feeling obligated to have sex. As soon as it’s an obligation, they can often freeze up. So I gave some tips on how to help her feel freer and less obligated.

I also mentioned these posts in the podcast, that may help:

Why men need to be involved in the fight against porn

My husband Keith and my son-in-law Connor both wrote posts about pornography this month for our pornography series, and they hopped on this segment to sum up some of the things that they learned.

Here are some of the important posts in that series:

"A groundbreaking look into what true, sacred biblical sexuality is intended to be. A must-read." - Rachael Denhollander

What if you're NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the messages that you've been taught have messed things up--and what if there's a way to escape these toxic teachings?

It's time for a Great Sex Rescue.

Great Sex Rescue

How Can You Make Sure Your Wife Doesn’t Feel Pressured or Coerced?

Connor and Rebecca finished the podcast elaborating on our big reader question–how do you make sure that your spouse doesn’t feel pressure? How can you make room for them to feel free?

I think what we all want is passionate sex, not only duty sex or even frequent sex. So how do we free people, especially women, to experience that?

So now it’s your turn–what do you think? How can we help sex feel passionate and not pressure-free? Let’s talk 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. Anonymous

    Keith and Connor – thank you, thank you, thank you. I was so especially touched about you considering on your own, with no one holding your hand or guilt tripping you, what it is like to be a woman in a pornified culture. It really is chilling. It’s hard not to be on the defensive all.the.time., and it seems like most men just don’t get it.
    I do not feel safe in any large group that includes men. I do not feel safe with male medical professionals. I do not feel safe giving most men access to my kids, and certainly not alone time, even within my family (dad and one grandpa are ok, other grandpa watches porn).
    And it’s such a tragic loss! I want to be a spiritual sister and mother to the men in my realm of influence. I want deep, meaningful friendships and relationships. I didn’t have brothers growing up and I always wanted one. I know there will always be sin and sexual abuse, but it is so widespread – how can I be biblically shrewd other than to shut men out and avoid them?
    Please guys, be safe for us to love!

  2. Lonnie

    Thanks so much for the podcast about pressure. I have always felt a ton of pressure around sex. I have a very quick trigger so to speak. Like less than 30 seconds. My wife can go forever with her pleasure and desires to. So we are mismatched physically. I feel so much pressure around this. I have no problem focusing on her with other parts of me and helping her have the long sessions of pleasure she wants and craves. But when it comes to me, it’s all over so fast. I feel a little left out of all the fun. And so heading in to sex I stress about not being done too soon and ruining the experience for my wife.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That is really tough, Lonnie. Have you seen a doctor about this? There are things that you can do about premature ejaculation. You can also try the stop-and-start technique, which can involve putting pressure in a certain way right when arousal is building, to train your body to go longer. I know this can be frustrating, but many guys have been able to learn to last longer!

      • Lonnie

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I appreciate your compassion.
        I have tried everything. Stop start. Delay spray. CBT. Covered. On and on. Everything. Nothing has helped. It’s honestly not so much about lasting longer anymore for me. It’s that I get so anxious about it that my pleasure isn’t fun for me. It’s either high anxiety or just a disappointment letdown. The goal now is just to try to help my wife achieve all the pleasure she’s capable of because Im not able to provide it. She wants to feel me keep going more than a few seconds. It’s a disappointment to her too and it’s not her fault. So we’re working on how to help her feel what she desires to feel. Anyway. Thanks for your podcast and website.

        • Josh

          I know how you feel. Look into two things that have helped me:
          1. Testosterone – cream or shot. This will help with PE
          2. If you are experiencing anxiety other areas of life, anti depressants will also help with PE
          Good luck.

  3. Michael

    I’m starting to reevaluate relationships,marriage, intimacy, and sex. It’s just a complete mess. Just look at the high number of wives who don’t care for sex and the high number of husbands frustrated with the lack of sex. Sex being one of the top contributors to divorce. No matter all the advice and counseling the problems still linger. It’s really sad. The statistics always seem to stay the same. Everything seems to point to men being the problem. I guess we are? AMens’ libido has been the bain of humanity since the dawn of time. Nothing really changes in the end. Most of us will not overcome the pressure, the anxiety, the frustration, the apathy, the constant discussions and arguments. Maybe it’s just not meant to be for the vast majority of us. It shouldn’t be this difficult or this much work to maintain intimacy with someone. Should it?

    • Lindsey

      I think that sex issues, like any other issues, are at their core a clashing of two people’s needs (which are normally WAY more complex than Just the issue at hand).
      Just like any other issues, each person in the marriage must analyze their needs and what is really motivating them to feel so strongly. Is it rejection? Abandonment? Control? What is the root, and when in their lives did that become an issue (it’s normally childhood).
      Everyone, even in great marriages, can benefit from that sort of self evaluation. Once we understand ourselves we can begin to communicate those deeper issues to our spouse. Often that brings them “onto our team” because we are owning the problem and sharing the origin of those issues – which normally have little to do with our spouse. Don’t get me wrong, it can be tough with sex because there are also physical needs involved…but often the reason why this ends marriages is much deeper.
      Marriage IS worth it, but it is hard sometimes. The solution is often self-awareness and genuine, vulnerable communication.

  4. Chris

    So to dig into something Rebecca said during her segment with Connor, what do you do with a spouse who never says “yes”? Or its been years since the last time you heard “yes”? Is it divorce?
    Also, there is a lot of talk on this blog about women growing up with bad messages about men and sex. But you all have also said most women get married looking forward to sex. Aren’t these two things contradictory? I mean, if the messages women grew up hearing were really so bad, wouldn’t none of them get married? Its just a question. I am not trying to play devils advocate.
    I agree that women should of course feel free to say no to sex. But I believe firmly that they have to own their no. And that if they say no for years on end, that there will be consequences for that no; namely divorce.

    • Anon

      I think that usually there is a reason to why a woman says no. And I think a couple has to work on dealing with that. The man needs to be patient and help his wife in any way he can to help her heal from whatever it was that made her say no.
      But if it is a consistent no I still don’t know if divorce is allowed.
      I have started to reconsider certain things about divorce after reading this and other blogs. I fully agree that divorce should happen when there is abuse or infidelity involved. But one phrase has stuck out for me and that’s the phrase that “God cares more about people than marriage”. Sheila mentions it often and thinking about what you are talking about, a consistent no that doesn’t change no matter what, isn’t that something that is hurting the spouse(man or woman)? Does the person has the right to divorce then without having to fee shame or guilt for doing so? Is it still a sin?
      And from comments made on this site about how the verses about God hating divorce are interpreted wrong and that God doesn’t really hate divorce has got me thinking.
      Btw I am not close to divorce or even considering I love my wife she is wonderful but it has got me thinking.
      I talked to a man who hadn’t had sex with his wife for 14 years. He said he didn’t divorce because that’s not what God wants and he csnt care about his own needs. I asked him why he didn’t divorce and that was his answer. It’s impressing that he decides to stay but I wonder is it worth it? Would he be as bad of a Christian as he thinks if he decide to divorce?
      I pray that when he gets to heaven that God has some special prize for him.

  5. Anon

    I had an experience with my wife recently that made me realize that she can fee pressured.
    She was going to take a shower and I mentioned I could join and insinuated that we could maybe have some sexy time.
    I saw how she felt insecure and didn’t want to answer. I told her that she can say ok. And she was relieved and went on. I felt really bad because this is the first time I have seen her like that.
    She says no to sex all the time. Our sex life isn’t dead but she is the one in control. I show I am available all the time but she is the one who decides and more times than I wish it’s no. I can’t do much so I was surprised. And it made me feel bad. I never want to pressure her so I wonder if I have done something to pressure her?
    Also I wonder if she feels pressure knowing a long time has passed since we have had sex. Some time ago I was very irritated and frustrated. I didn’t think about why until she said: “You are only irritated because we haven’t had sex” I hadn’t really thought about it.
    Yes I was frustrated because she had talked about sex but it didn’t happen but I hadn’t noticed that it was affecting my mood. But what do I do then? I am frustrated and life gets stressful. Is it me pressuring her when that frustration comes out even when I don’t mean too? At that point I was irritated with the kids. Not screaming or yelling but I felt overwhelmed and I guess the sexual frustration wasn’t helping.
    What do I do when that happens?
    I never want to pressure her but do I not do that by not mentioning sex?
    I used to not say anything and wait for her to want sex. Now I mention it more but I should maybe stop that. Or?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a really good question, Anon.
      I think talking to her is best. WHY is she so paralyzed if she feels as if you want sex? What is she afraid is going to happen if you’re frustrated? That’s actually an important question, because I know many women would say, “I’m afraid you’re going to feel like I don’t love you and you may leave me; I’m afraid you’re going to watch porn; I’m afraid you’re going to have an affair; I’m afraid you’re not going to want to be with me or feel close to me.” These are all messages that we have heard, over and over again.
      But if you can assure her you’re not going anywhere, and you do love her, she may feel less paralyzed when you do want sex. Because right now, even though she doesn’t want any of those things to happen, feeling like they might is supremely unsexy. And it makes it so that she can never spontaneously want sex on her own, because the pressure is always there. So ask her about those things and see how much that’s playing a part.

      • Anon

        I understand. It’s like me feel stressed to fulfill all her emotional needs because I’m afraid she will leave me for someone else.
        I will talk to her about this and make her feel safe because I don’t want her to feel pressure.

    • Chris

      Anon, if there is only one spouse having a say about sex in the marriage “she is in control” you have to stop that situation now. There is no consent there and thats not right. You need to back away and say “no” yourself. That way you have a vote. That will also give her time and space to decompress from whatever pressure she is feeling. She may never bounce back. Thats the only problem with you learning to say no.

      • Anon

        What’s the alternative? No sex? Well my friend I prefer to not have any power and get sex than have the power to say no and get no sex.
        You don’t bite the hand that gives you sex when it wants.

        • Chris

          “What’s the alternative? No sex?” Uh, Anon, thats the situation you are in now. Can’t get worse. Might as well have agency in the situation.

  6. Doug Hoyle

    My wife and I have seem to overcome the pressure aspects of sex in the last couple of years and I really doubt if she even notices. She certainly wouldn’t describe it that way.
    All I had to do was surrender any and all thoughts of entitlement. I really hate that word, and the way it gets used here. I much prefer the word “expectations”, because I think it more accurately describes most people’s reality.
    I think there is a subtle, but very real difference.
    Am I entitled to sex from my wife because we are married, or is it just a reasonable expectation. Is expressing discontent when it isn’t happening coercive, or is it an honest response to disapointment. Is the answer to that relevant. Does the actual intent even matter, or is it only subject to the way it is recieved?
    The problem I have with the word entitlement in this context, is that if I truly believe I am entitled to something and it is witheld, then I can absolutely take it by force with a clear conscience. While tragically, that does happen in a very few marriages, it is far from the norm, and the vast majority would speak out against it. That by itself should change the narative. We are almost never talking about a sense of entitlement, but rather an expectation. From there, the discussion could and should be broken down into reasonable expectations vs. unreasonable expectations and everything in between.
    Personally. I have surrendered all expectations. I’m not sure I can make the claim it was deliberate. We each went thru a season of caring for her parents and the the loss of both hers and also my mother. In that season of about a year and a half it was right and reasonable to surrender expectations of her attention. Jer mind was elsewhere, and I understood. In the 2 years since, I went thru a period where my expectations were ressurected, but when unmet, it was easier to just let them go entirely.

  7. Nathan

    > > Also, there is a lot of talk on this blog about women growing
    > > up with bad messages about men and sex. But you all have
    > > also said most women get married looking forward to sex.
    > > Aren’t these two things contradictory?
    Perhaps they are, but consider this. We’re talking about feelings and emotions, not the laws of physics. People are more complicated in their heads than “x + 5 = 7, therefore x = 2”. We often have mixed feelings and desires about things.

  8. Anonymous for now

    It’s also not always the women who say no. Many wives are higher drive than their husbands. Sometimes there isn’t always a reason a spouse says no. No abuse etc. I have found sometimes it’s because they would rather put their energy into something else. Even when lovingly confronted, tried counseling, had lines in the sand drawn, you can’t make a spouse care who doesn’t. I have been there bought the t-shirt. In my case my spouse does not think sex is important. Not anywhere near the top of the list. It doesn’t matter if I do. I used to get really upset reading some posts trying to find a reason. However, now I just understand that some women and men say no because of trauma, because they feel pressured and because of the many other reasons Sheila writes beautifully about. But, sometimes a spouse just says no because they don’t have any interest and what you want or need doesn’t rank higher than what they want.

    • Doug Hoyle

      There used to be a thread on the old forum, titled “what’s more fun than you”.
      People described what priorities their spouse often put before sex.
      It was sort of tongue in cheek, but also heartbreaking, whether the responses were from men or women. Nothing says “You don’t matter” quite as much as coming in second place to Candy Crush, Facebook, or old sitcom re-runs.

  9. Jane Eyre

    Re: enthusiasm.
    I think married people go astray when they map their own experiences and desires onto the other person.
    Allegedly, men really like when their partners are enthusiastic, and it turns them on to see their wives really being into it. But for a woman, ESPECIALLY if she’s been in a “gatekeeping” position prior to marriage, a man’s enthusiasm can be a really scary thing. On a very visceral level, that enthusiasm means “I want and I want to move forward and I’m going to push your boundaries.”
    If you’re trying to make your wife comfortable and to turn her own, “I’m going to push your boundaries” is the exact opposite message you want to send – even though you, very rationally, think you’re projecting something quite different.
    (Side note: always having to be the gatekeeper is exhausting and will do a great job screwing you up in marriage, even if your husband never did that to you.)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I just finished writing up our gatekeeper section for The Great Sex Rescue. Very, very true! (It’s amazing how many christian resources teach women that boys will push their boundaries and can’t say no. It does normalize rape, too).

  10. Trucker Dave

    Then there is the unintended consequence of hearing “no” far too many times. You got to the point to where you just flipped the switch to “off”. Then by some miracle there’s suddenly interest shown. Great! Just what you dreamed of, but you’ve denied your needs for so long it’s impossible to perform. Talk about pressure! It takes a long time to get beyond this but it can be done

    • Chris

      Yup. This. This. A thousand times this. I think a lot of women buy into this lie in our culture that all men are always horny and raring to go. I think this leads to wives thinking “its ok for me to shut down when the kids are little because after all, he’s a guy right? He’s always horny right? He always will be right? Thats what i was taught by society and church right? “ so they figure in 10 years time when the kids aren’t so little all of a sudden they are interested again they can just reach over to hubby and hit the “on” switch again and everything will be like it was when they were newly weds. Meanwhile, hubby has put a lot of effort into shutting himself down and then wife panics when she can’t find that elusive / non existent “on” switch. Sheila, this is another consequence of the “every mans battle” teaching.


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