EMOTIONAL MATURITY SERIES: Do Christian Resources Promote Emotional Immaturity (especially in men)?

by | Nov 23, 2020 | Uncategorized | 53 comments

Christian Men Are Not Unemotional
Merchandise is Here!

Christian books ask far more of women than they do of men.

We learned that pretty quickly when we read the top 15 bestselling Christian sex & marriage books for our upcoming book The Great Sex Rescue. But what they’re really doing is assuming that men can never be emotionally mature.

We’re in the middle of our emotional maturity series, and we’ve talked about what emotional maturity is; how God language can enable emotional immaturity; what to do if a spouse is stonewalling; and more. Today I want to run some quotes that we’ve got tucked away in a huge file from when we were reviewing books that show that evangelical authors have assumed that men cannot and will not get in touch with their emotions, and so the women will have to do that work for them.

And before I even get into this, I want to stress one important thing: women are not more innately mature than men, or more emotionally mature than men. Women are not better than men.

Yet so many books portray men as strong physically and very stoic, but completely out of touch emotionally, and needing women to fix things for them. This, I believe, contributes to men having a hard time talking about feelings and interacting with their wives on an emotional level, as we talked about in last week’s podcast.

If you expect that men can’t be emotional and can’t handle emotions, then it’s not too far a leap to say that this is the way that God made them, and that it’s actually manly to be unable to process emotions. And that, my friends, is a big problem.

When we were reading these books, we were mostly looking for what they said about sex, so we didn’t take a lot of notes on what they said about emotions. But here are just a few excerpts that we found illuminating:

Men Are Not Expected to Grow Up or Mature:

Think about how often you hear men referred to as “just boys at heart”, or “boys will be boys.” And yet women are rarely told that we can sin, be immature, or do stupid things because we’re just little girls at heart.


Men are just boys grown tall, and this man’s failure had shaken his manhood and accentuated the boy that lurks in the heart of every man.

Act of Marriage, p. 30

“Sometimes we men do act like little boys. I’m not saying that’s good or admirable, but that’s the way we are. You’re married to a real man, not an ideal stoic–and if he is denied sexual fulfillment, it will affect him in more ways than a woman could possibly understand.”

Sheet Music, p. 17

Men Don’t Need Romance or Affection

So many books talk like only women need romance and affection, while only men need sex. The idea that a man won’t want affection or could take or leave affection is quite widespread in books (and I know I used to say similar things, too! It’s actually not true). But what do you think is the effect on boys being told their whole lives that real men don’t want or need affection? They’ll end up taking all their needs for affection and channeling them into sex.

A woman never loses the need to be romanced, whereas a man doesn’t even possess that need. His emotions are near the surface and easily ignited; hers are deep and burn slowly.

Act of Marriage, p. 43

[H]is need for romantic love is either nonexistent or minimal. But he is married to a creature with an extraordinary need for romance.

Act of Marriage, p. 43

Sex for him and affection for you is a two-way street. Just as he should minister to your spirit to have access to your body, so, too, you should minister to his body if you want to gain access to his spirit.

Love & Respect, p. 250

Have you ever wondered why guys push so hard against the sexual boundaries when dating? It’s not because they are godless pigs; it’s because they’re longing to express their hearts in their own innate language of love.

Every Heart Restored, p. 63

Men Don’t Really Need to Talk or Communicate

And not just that–they’re not capable of talking or communicating unless they first get sex. You can’t expect a man to talk with you if you don’t have sex with him.

Again, this says that men aren’t emotional beings at heart, and it discourages men from learning to communicate well.

We see this in so many books–in His Needs, Her Needs, sex is the first thing that the husband can’t do without, whereas affection (and really communication and having a relationship) are the first things that the wife can’t do without. Love & Respect similarly says that closeness (which includes talking and being emotionally connected) are things that she needs, but sexuality is what he needs. All the elements of feeling emotionally connected are considered feminine. All that he needs from her is friendship, but not necessarily sharing feelings or connecting emotionally (only spending time together).

This is such a common theme it’s hard to know what to quote, because for most books it would mean quoting whole chapters. But here are just two:

Husbands, particularly, can come under satanic attack when deprived of sexual release. Wives might be able to better understand this if they think about how they would feel if their husbands didn’t want to talk or listen to them.

Love & Respect, p. 252

Lack of sex is as emotionally serious to him as, say, his sudden silence would be to you, were he simply to stop communicating with you. It is just as wounding to him, just as much a legitimate grievance–and just as dangerous to your marriage.

For Women Only, p. 92

The insinuation here is that men don’t actually need to communicate or feel emotionally close with their wives. They could take or leave talking–what they can’t take or leave is sex. But as we’ve talked at length about before, talking and sex are not equivalent. To say that a man can take or leave emotional connection is a huge problem.


Men Sin Simply Because That’s How God Made Them

The majority of books that talk about men’s problem with lust phraise it in terms of “that’s just part of being a man.”

Again, imagine what this does to boys as they grow up in the Christian community. They’ll hear: “Real men lust. Real men struggle with porn. If I lust, I really can’t help it, because that’s the way God made me. That’s part of being a man.”

And if men can’t help but lust, then who is responsible for keeping men pure from lust? Women, of course! They have to be super modest and they have to have a lot of sex with their husbands, because their husbands can’t stop this on their own. So women were made to be mediating forces on these men who would sin if weren’t for women.

Remember, our habits [our lusts] are rooted in our maleness. We understand them. Women don’t.

Every Man's Battle, p. 116

Even apart from our stopping short of God’s standards, we find another reason for the prevalence of sexual sin among men. We got there naturally–simply by being male.

Every Man's Battle, p. 61

Our male eyes give us the ability to sin just about any time we want.

Every Heart Restored, p. 49

Then, to top it all off, women are told that our job is to keep men feeling good about themselves.

I’m all for affirming and supporting your husband (as I talked about last week), but it goes further than that. So many Christian resources tell us that it’s our job to bolster his ego, as if it’s vitally important that he feels good about himself.

But that’s never supposed to be our job in the Christian life. Our job is to point people to Jesus. Our job is to encourage and to spur one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:26)! It is not to tell someone they are wonderful no matter what. We’re supposed to be iron sharpening iron.

Too often, this is couched in language of “respect” and “submission”

Because women are supposed to make men feel good about themselves, it also becomes very important that we never criticize, or to do so may be labeled disrespectful.

(For more on the problems with unconditional respect, and an incident in Love & Respect where she is labeled disrespectful for simply have a legitimate grievance, see my post on Why Unconditional Respect Can’t Work).

What is the cumulative effect of all of this on our emotional maturity?

Men are told that they are not emotional beings. In fact, REAL men are sexual, not emotional. And they’re told that they don’t need affection and they don’t need conversation or connection. So what do men do with their legitimate, God-given needs for these things? Often they all get channelled into sex instead because that’s “safe”. That’s “manly”.

And then women are similarly made to stay immature because we’re told that we must have no boundaries.

First of all, we’re told that we’re responsible for things that we are not responsible for. Because men can’t help but lust; because young men can’t help but push past sexual boundaries; women have to be the gatekeepers and stop men from sinning. We need to stay vigilant to make sure we don’t go too far before we’re married (so we’re responsible for his sin and ours), and we must dress modestly to ensure that men don’t sin.


(By the way, I’m not against women dressing with respect. It’s just that the modesty message must be completely divorced from the lust message. As soon as you say, “men are responsible for lust, but women must also dress modestly,” then you don’t really mean that men are responsible for lust. You’re giving a caveat. So by all means, we can talk about what clothes are good to wear. But this should never, ever be about preventing lust. And I’ve got another way of talking about modesty and the stumbling block idea here).

But then second, we’re told that not only are we responsible for the things that are actually men’s responsibility; we’re told that we can’t verbalize and communicate things that ARE our responsibility. So if we have negative feelings or issues, we should think twice and perhaps not say it at all, because to express discontent may be being disrespectful. Again, a perfect example of this is the wet towel incident in Love & Respect. She was simply asking for something eminently reasonable, but she was labeled disrespectful anyway.

Just because men, in general, may not be as in touch with their emotions does not mean that this is God-given.

Yes, we know that men are less emotionally mature than women (although it’s not as stark and bleak as many of these books make it sound. it’s a marginal difference, not a huge, gaping chasm). And just because men may say they don’t need emotional connection does not mean that they don’t.

These books have looked at what men say, and then pronounced that this is the way God must have made it! But we live in a fallen world with fallen relationships. Just as women need to get more in touch with the sexuality that God made in us, so men need to get more in touch with their emotions. We’re created for intimacy on all levels, and to say that women were created for it one way and men another does such a disservice, and leads to very unhealthy relationships.

Women can also be emotionally immature, by the way. It’s just that Christian literature tends to point women towards more responsibility, not less, while pointing men towards less responsibility, rather than more. If you are reading a Christian book that asks far more of women than it does of men, you need to ask, “Is this an emotionally healthy book? Does this encourage emotional maturity?”

And then we need to start rejecting those that don’t. We simply must change the conversation in the evangelical community so that our books and resources point to more emotional health, not less.

And that will only happen when we focus less on gender, and focus more on wholeness in Christ.


Christian Men Are Not Unemotional: Christian Resources Should Not Perpetuate Emotional Immaturity

What do you think? Have you found that Christian resources present a stereotype? If so, what should we do about it?

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of 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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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

    Totally agree. I read so many the “good Christian” marriage books trying to fix my marriage. Attended the book studies at church and also the adult Sunday school classes with these video series also. Same message all the time- give him more sex and you will get more connection. Problem was that it never worked. Husband would be more kind and not as pouty for a while, but he never accepted my feedback about anything on an emotional or relational level. He couldn’t- that’s a sign of emotional maturity and he still doesn’t have it.
    He told me early in our marriage that he didn’t have emotions and he didn’t like to be around negative emotions. So if I was feeling sad or angry or grief-stricken, I would need to find a friend or family member to talk to about that. And I actually accepted it. I can count on one hand the number of times that he has even given me a hug when I was sad. Most times, he would leave the room. I kept trying to learn the “respectful” way of sharing my feelings and I was met with being accused of disrespect for being anything but unhappy around him.
    The message of those books and series is so damaging. I’m grateful to know the truth today. It really does set us free.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry that he was that emotionally cut off. And I’m even more sorry that resources that should have helped you instead heaped the blame for it on you for not respecting enough or giving enough sex. That’s not the way it should be. I really hope we can start to do better!

  2. Laurel B

    Thank you, Sheila! These are words that need to be said. I’m here to testify that emotionally healthy men do exist, men that are concerned about their wives as whole persons and not just bodies. My dad and brothers are like this, my husband is as well.
    While we were dating, my husband never pushed our boundaries and always treated me with the utmost care and respect. I felt treasured and valued.
    Since we’re married, he’s continued to honor me as a whole person by checking in with me routinely to see if there’s anything on my heart that I want to talk about (and of course, I can bring things up whenever I want to). He is not sex-driven, although we have a very happy sex life. He is very considerate of me in this area and always wants to make sure I’m enjoying it as well.
    He is confident and strong, very masculine and an “outdoorsy” man. I say that because I suppose an onlooker could write him off as a manly man who is only in touch with his “masculine” side. But no – he’s also emotionally mature & caring.
    He has an alive personal relationship with Jesus, and I am convinced that is what makes the difference in his life. The Bible commands men to love their wives as Christ loves the church, and he takes that seriously and studies Christ to learn how to love me.
    I believe the secret to true emotionally healthy masculinity is a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not impossible to defeat lust, show up emotionally, and show respect to the women in your life. We should expect nothing less from Christian men. Not that they have it in themselves to be this way – none of us do. When we are filled with the Spirit of God, we have the same Power available to us that raised Jesus to life. It is a slap in God’s face for a Christian to say that he is unable to live above sin because of his gender. This is what Jesus DIED for. How dare those writers say that was not enough?
    I’m getting all upset and starting to preach now, so I’ll sign off. 😆Thanks for calling out these wrong ideas!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You go preach, girl! I totally agree. I don’t understand why more men don’t stand up and say, “these messages are so condescending towards MEN.” It’s truly awful!
      And I’m with you. I’m surrounded by emotionally healthy men who definitely CAN talk about emotions!

  3. Phil

    I have to say that I was a bit disturbed by some of the quotes in the post. I happen to be a very emotional being. It has been said: I wear it on my sleeve. I am easily read. I have been working on putting together some thoughts on this topic because it is kind of a big topic for me. Why? I have shared here and many other places: God speaks to me through my emotions. What you say? YES and he talks to everyone through their emotions! I put on a search and I have proof! The Fruit of the Spirit is : love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Lets look at the word joy. Have you ever experienced joy? Of course we all have right? Plain and simple Joy is an emotion! Joy is one of Gods gifts to us. It is clear to me that God made us ALL for emotions. My biggest struggle in my life has been anger. I have failed miserably with this emotion my entire life. I desperately seek to resolve my emotional immaturity in this area. Ive been fighting it since I was about 7/8 years old. I just cant seem to overcome it. That being said often I believe we associate the word emotion as a negative word. Yes – maybe we struggle with some emotions. Just like with everything else we must learn to apply the way God speaks to us in our everyday lives and make a change. Whether that be sex, respect, work, family etc. I believe joy is God’s intended goal for us and we must work for it. Joy is a choice!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear you, Phil. I’ve always found that you’re quite able to engage emotionally–at least in the comments! I know anger can be very difficult for many. I hope to do more on that in December!

  4. Cynthia

    I know other posts deal with this in more detail, but my humble suggestion would be to frame sexual sin in terms of BEHAVIOR – not just lust (which can be seen as attraction or reaction that men can’t help), not just modesty (which can be about women being invisible), not just status (which becomes about what a woman did once, not what men and women do every day).
    Do we treat others with respect? Do we make sure that nothing is ever done without consent? Do we avoid coercing or exploiting anyone? Do we demonstrate love and commitment with intimacy? Do we care about our spouses’ feelings as well as our own? These are all things that we can control as adults.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Love that, Cynthia! And respect is really the key thing here. What we’re arguing in The Great Sex Rescue is that the way to combat lust is simply to respect women as whole people. When you try to “bounce your eyes” to avoid seeing, then you’re really treating women as body parts, which is the opposite of respect. So key!

  5. Kay

    I’m guessing this isn’t a conscious decision, of course, but I think it doesn’t feel safe to explore how these messages were wrong and toxic because that might open Pandora’s box: what else about the faith I was taught is toxic? So people keep perpetuating these self-fulfilling prophecies/myths and then saying that’s how God made men, instead of acknowledging that’s how the CHURCH keeps men immature and continues to excuse it.
    Honestly I think men have to believe they will benefit from emotional maturity before they will seek it. It is a lot of work to learn skills that you were actively kept from learning in the church because “that’s for girls/women.” In some ways we need men to take the lead here, because the fact of the matter is they aren’t likely to receive from women: “You need to grow up.” It probably has to come from other men.
    Sorry. Feeling super pessimistic about the church these days. I think it is possible to have a healthy spirituality, but for now, sometimes I think secular humanists/atheists aren’t entirely wrong when they say religion poisons everything. Healthy spiritually seems very difficult to find in the West right now. Thank you for calling the church to a higher standard. I appreciate you, Sheila.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear you, Kay. I’ve been in some dark places lately, too. I do feel encouraged because I think as we talk about this stuff people are actually quite willing to listen and eager to listen. But what frustrates me so much is how these books got published in the first place, and why pastors and megachurch leaders recommended them all so loudly. Did no one have discernment?
      What we’ve been realizing lately is that much of what is done in evangelical culture has little to do with Jesus. So instead of being frustrated and losing my faith because evangelical culture has so often done this so wrong, I just realize, “but God often isn’t in that, so it’s not fair to judge God because of that.” What I’m hoping, though, is that more and more people start realizing how toxic this is and start demanding change–or leaving for a healthier church. When we start doing that, we may start to see some progress. I don’t think the leaders will ever change, but if people stop buying those books, stop going to those studies, stop attending those churches, then the influence of those voices will shrink.
      But I hear you about being discouraged. It is discouraging. Jesus railed most against the religious leaders of His day, not against the Romans. Perhaps every generation has to do that all over again.

    • Lisa

      I think the institutions of religion poison everything. We do have an amazing church that will leave the 99 in safety to go after the 1 that is in danger. Our church does not protect itself, it protects people. But I’ll leave in a heartbeat if that ever changes.
      I haven’t considered myself evangelical for several years. I see value in so many different Christian traditions and I know that Protestants didn’t get it all correct by a long shot. There is grace for all of our errors and we are still called to keep seeing God, not man-made institutions.
      Leaving behind the man-made bits isn’t scary when you know where you are going, closer to God.

  6. Jo Mullins

    Sheila, thankfully I came upon your blog as a young adult BEFORE I could read most of these distorted Christian books! And I’m grateful to say that this stereotyping did not mold my husband’s maturity or perspective.
    Also, as the higher drive spouse, the idea that only the husband can get hit with spiritual warfare from a lack of sex simultaneously makes me want to laugh, cry, or shake some sense into someone. My husband and I are newlyweds who haven’t been able to have sex for half of our marriage now because of a health condition that started with a yeast infection for me. It hurts me, when our sexual intimacy is suffering—often times, more so than my husband. I can be the immature one when I’m wanting sex and we can’t have it! Emotionally, my husband has the maturity to initiate conversations about how he’s feeling; he encourages me to do the same; and he shows so much grace and patience in my moments of immaturity, while still challenging me.
    I will step off of my soapbox now lol, but I just wanted to say thank you for sharing and that I have living proof in my own marriage to back you up!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s awesome, Jo! (And I’m so sorry what you’re going through with pain and yeast infections, etc. That’s awful! Are you seeing someone for it?)

  7. Ylva

    I am surprised that these authors don’t realize how much this message of men being immature, yet having to be leaders is so contradicting. Yet women can’t be trusted with leadership, because they are too emotional?
    Men are cool, and level-headed, much better at focusing on the task at hand and telling a consistent story than women. That is what they say. (Yes, lol, a pastor told me women wouldn’t make good pastors because they are unable to stick to one topic during a sermon. Funny thing is I am a communications and linguistics specialist and had to teach my male collegues to do just that, which they btw really appreciated).
    But then they claim men will be distracted as soon as a woman is within a 10 km range, taken over by lust and the lack of their fathers being present or sth like that and will drool all over themselves and forget everything else.
    I am certainly not someone dismissing all arguments for male leadership, but the way they paint a man’s ideal character, it looks more like an argument for why men should not lead…

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’ve often wondered about that inconsistency myself, Ylva. It is quite striking.
      And I don’t understand why more men don’t see this as misandry?
      Although, to be honest, I think a lot of men DO see it that way. It’s just for some reason, evangelical leaders don’t. It’s just so weird to me!

  8. Jane Eyre

    Lots of thoughts on this.
    Sexual fulfillment is laughably easy for men; it can literally happen in their sleep. Perhaps men take “men:sex:: women:emotions” nonsense to an extreme and think that emotional connection comes that naturally to women.
    I think it’s important to understand emotional maturity and work on being emotionally mature. If you have emotionally immature people in your life, your life will be harder. You will be frayed and on edge. There’s a lot to be said for “you are the average of your five closest friends;” their issues will eventually rub off on you. Your spouse will be frustrated being around those people.
    And I say this as a woman: emotional maturity can be really hard for me. I’m a champ at suppressing emotions or just being crippled by them when I feel them (guess who was brought up to plaster on a smile?). This is hard on my husband and hard on our marriage. I try really hard to follow his lead in this area.
    Imagine how much harder this would be if we assumed that emotional expression is my baliwick.

  9. Andrea

    Women orgasm in their sleep too, there’s just no sticky liquid proof of it on the sheets the next morning 🙂 Also, young women get “morning wood” just like men do, but again, not as obvious, so we often miss it. But if you touch yourself down there first thing in the morning, you’ll notice you’re often wet and engorged.

  10. Ylva

    Just jumping in to say that women can have sexual dreams and orgasm in their sleep as well. A survey from the 80ies says 37 % of women reported experiencing that.
    But that is not the main point of your comment so I apologize for that. Just wanted to add that because it is often used to highlight differences between male and female sexuality but both genders are able to experience it. Not sure if I am allowed to link to the research paper but I can provide it if necessary.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Please do link to the research! 😀 We love any and all links to research because it helps us ensure that what we write is evidence-based. (And I imagine the research likely says that if 37% of women report experiencing it even though women don’t typically have obvious secretions when they climax the way men do, the rates may actually be comparable to men when you factor in women who simply sleep through their orgasms and don’t realize they happen? I expect that’s likely the case considering how many teen boys don’t realize they had a wet dream until the morning!)

  11. Kim

    I’m not in a long-term relationship right now, but historically I’ve been most attracted to men who are in touch with their emotions and show maturity in expressing them. It’s sad that lately I’ve felt like I have to look outside the church for romance, because inside the church, men are taught all these harmful things you wrote about.

  12. Kay

    Yes yes yes. Years ago, my husband had never helped around the house and I was trying to be a good Christian wife and shut up about it. He was “just a man,” after all. While frantically cleaning late one night before hosting a large gathering for his side of the family the next day (for which he did nothing to prepare) he interrupted me to have sex with him. Based on a women’s Bible study I was taking I actually thought, “ok, if I meet his need then he will suddenly help me with the rest of the party preparations. He hasn’t been helping because I’ve been busy and neglecting him, so who can blame him for acting like a child.” So we made love, he fell asleep, and I stayed awake the rest of the night cleaning and baking. How utterly stupid. Things certainly changed after that night. I started having higher standards for him. And guess what? He stopped acting like a selfish child because I no longer accepted it.

  13. Andrea

    Yiva, looks like we were typing the same thing at the exact same time 🙂 The Christian need to emphasize the differences between men and women reaches ridiculous proportions and hurts both genders. We both come out of the same tissue! This is true biologically (ovaries and testes develop out the same tissue, the clitoris literally grows into a penis on boy fetus) and it is true biblically (Eve comes out of Adam).

  14. Jane Eyre

    Andrea and Ylva, I have never had an orgasm, so thanks for letting me know I am defective!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Jane, I know this has been an ongoing problem, so I’m sorry for that. Have you ever had your hormone levels checked? I know you’re dealing with relationship issues, too, but often a sign of wacky hormones is if you never have sexual dreams or never experience any of this at night. If you honestly don’t get aroused, even in your sleep, that may be a sign that you have some hormonal issues which actually may be solvable.

  15. Kay

    As much as publishing is a ministry for most of us in it, at the end of the day it is also a business. I’m guessing they feel like “don’t mess with the cash cow.”
    I am hoping some of this will change as we are having a bit of a “shift change” in publishing. The Good Ol’ [White] Boys Club is being slowly replaced by more diversity. I see a lot of the younger editors and agents pushing back on and refusing to acquire projects with toxic beliefs. That gives me hope.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I’m so excited to see so many of the titles coming out this year! So neat to see what may be on the horizon! (although I was dismayed that they reprinted Every Man’s Battle and gave it a twentieth anniversary edition).

  16. Ylva

    No, the study said 37% of women reported orgasms in their sleep. Which means 63% didn’t. So if you don’t, that’s perfectly fine.
    But it is a “normal” occurence for many women. Nobody has to have orgasms in their sleep. But in general, women as a gender are able to experience that. I didn’t say anything about you as an individual.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, but most women do experience some arousal in their sleep sometimes. If you never have sexy dreams even, and you don’t feel aroused during sexual activity, that often is a sign that you should talk with your doctor. 🙂

      • Robin

        Thank you for saying that! I thought there was something wrong with me, maybe I’m not a good enough Christian for having sex dreams.

  17. Angela Laverdi

    Sheila, to answer your question as to how those harmful books got published…. Because MEN published them,because they help MEN have power and stay in power OVER women. Religous leaders of ALL faiths LOVE power more than their faith. It’s a fact. And teachings that keep others below them in status and and strength are going to be taught by these leaders.

  18. Angela Laverdi

    OMG No Mullins!!! Me too! I feel like something is WRONG with me cause I want sex soooo badly. And yes, it can be a spiritual warfare for women too when physical needs are not met.

  19. AJ

    Jane Eyre, in your comment about sexual fulfillment being “laughably easy for men; it can even occur in their sleep”. It sounds like you are equating ejaculation with orgasm and equating orgasm with sexual fulfillment neither of which are true. Men can ejaculate without orgasm (i have had this occur before) and reaching orgasm during intercourse does not necessarily equal sexual fulfillment for a man. One sided sex where I feel like my wife is only doing it with me because she thinks I want (she’s not fully into it) is very unfulfilling. I think many men would tell you one of their greatest desire in having sex is for the emotional connection with his wife that come with mutual pleasure and being playful together. If us men were only about sexual pleasure we could easily achieve this through masturbation.

  20. Boone

    A few observations based upon 35+ years of practicing law and 60+ years of living.
    1. Neither men nor women have a monopoly on emotional immaturity or stupidity for that matter. I see it all the time and I see the worst of it. Neither sex is taught emotional maturity growing up. At church both are taught to just give your troubles to Jesus and everything will be just fine. To look elsewhere shows a lack of faith. Both grow up to be emotional train wrecks as a result.
    2. One of the church’s main jobs throughout history has been to control the congregation and make sure that they’re behaving themselves. Men are seen as sex fiends unable to control themselves. Women are charged with keeping them fed at home so they won’t eat out. This is supposed to solve the problem of extramarital affairs and single pregnancies. The emotional well being and/or happiness of those involved is secondary to the greater good. Fear is a great motivator until those motivated are no longer afraid.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So true! Absolutely agree on both points. That’s a great summary.
      And thanks for speaking out. I wish more men would–I honestly find the teaching in so many of these books so thoroughly demeaning to men. Women are not superior beings, and yet we are presented as the stabilizing force on men’s inherent sinfulness. It’s highly problematic on so many levels.
      And absolutely on the “lack of faith” in Jesus thing. We’re writing about that more tomorrow, actually.

  21. Andrea

    Jane, how do you know you’ve never had an orgasm if they happen while you’re sleeping? The only reason I know is because I woke up as a result of it (only a couple of times) and then read about it, which confirmed to me that was, indeed, what was happening. Try touching yourself down there in the morning to see if you’re wet and/or engorged. That would also be the right time to start exploring what feels good down there (circles and rubbing the the upper left quadrant of the clitoris in an up-down motion works for the majority of women). I don’t know what your relationship with your husband is like, but once you figure out what feels good, maybe he’ll be happy to take direction?

  22. Nire

    I was taught in youth group that emotions were never to be trusted – it is like trying to tell time with a sundial and a flashlight. Not just the males, this was taught to everyone.
    Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul… we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind …. those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires … The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
    Emotions were unreasonable and unpredictable and best avoided altogether. Yes, if you weren’t a good Christian you might still have them, but you should try to put these things away. Jesus wept, but you shouldn’t; Jesus also walked on water. Logic and rationality, that was the ticket! “Spock” from Star Trek was held up as a Christian ideal (his race prized rationality and suppressed all emotion). THIS was what it meant to be a Christian, to take every thought captive, to conceal, don’t feel.
    I have been in church all my life and twice in the last four months our pastor has preached on emotions being a good thing and not a bad thing … which is the opposite message than the one I was first taught for decades.
    My wife has straight-up told me that my feelings don’t matter because I am a man. While I might disagree with her on principle, it is just one more voice telling me to keep it all corked up. If one is not allowed to practice, one should not be faulted for failing the game.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wow, Nire, what a great (but sad) comment. I’m so sorry that your church and youth group treated emotions like that growing up, but I’m not surprised. But how wonderful that you’re starting to hear positive messages about emotions! I’m sorry they’re not from your wife, though. That must be very difficult.
      And this sentence; “If one is not allowed to practice, one should not be faulted for failing the game.” Totally agree. We have to find ways to help people practice. As I said on the last podcast at the end, I do think the High-Low exercise, done daily, can be very illuminating and help people recognize emotions. Talking with your wife about what was the time she felt most in the groove today (and that you did) and then what was the time you both felt the most defeated. Then you’re each tracking what the other is feeling, and you also each have to identify what you are feeling. And it’s not related to marital conflict or anything; it’s just a way to emotionally catch up about your day. I find that great practice for people.

  23. Elsie

    Reading the excerpts from popular books is concerning. One theme I saw in several quotes is the idea that women can never understand men. It seems to me that this is basically being used as a trump card – if women can never understand men, then men have an easy excuse to dismiss whatever they say because “women can’t understand men.”
    The idea that men and women can never understand each other is problematic and causes unnecessary conflict. We can always seek to listen and understand one another better. Of course we should approach this with humility but these quotes seem like just an excuse to dismiss women and their perspectives.
    So glad to see these toxic ideas being called out. Hope we can move towards a healthy Christian understanding of emotions and sexuality for all men and women instead of relying on harmful gender stereotypes

  24. Laurel B

    Angela, your comments about religious leaders show that you have had some very difficult experiences in the past. I am so sad that you experienced this – I have had my share of similar hurtful experiences. However I do want to say that not ALL religious leaders are like that. I personally know pastors who are service-oriented, compassionate, and spiritually alive. They do not try to advance themselves or get rich from the church. It is so easy to become cynical about all of them, but there truly are pastors and churches that are spiritually alive, teaching the Gospel. Keep looking until you find a church like that!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I totally agree! And I also think that sometimes those pastors may be outside of your denomination. When you grow up hearing that only your denomination knows God, and then you find your denomination toxic, it’s easy to assume that that’s what God is like. Sometimes you have to get out of your bubble. Look for people who always talk about Jesus, not just “God” or “The Bible”. Look for people who honestly care about how you’re faring, not just what you believe. There are some great, healthy communities, but often they are smaller ones (not always, but often). And often we overlook them!

  25. Elissa

    Yes! This belief/assumption/ teaching drives me crazy! It took me being married for all of 24 hours to find out that my husband and I are pretty much opposites of the traditional stereotypes. He is much more emotional (though pretty immature at the beginning), wanting to talk through his feelings, while I was, and still am, the one who is harder to draw out emotionally, liking to hold my emotions close until I feel very safe.
    But I think it is really important to say that this is far from just a problem with the Church. In fact, I think it’s likely the church naturally and unquestioningly takes this stance because the whole of our western culture does. That is no excuse for the church to be taking its cues on healthy or normal marriage practices from popular culture! We should know better. My point it, think of how many popular sit-coms and commercials assume and even poke fun at the stereotypical marriage where the wife is hard working and responsible and the husband is a stupid overgrown man-child who couldn’t survive without her and doesn’t understand her at all. Our whole culture promotes the idea that men and women are on different and incompatible wavelength – “sexual” and “emotional” respectively – and that’s just the way it is. So yes, we can and should be working to see Christians adopt a healthy understanding of emotions, but until this view changes in our culture as a whole I don’t think we’re likely to get it out of the church altogether.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, completely agree, Elissa! It is everywhere. The only difference is that in the church we attribute it to God and say that this is the way He made it and this is the way it should be. So there’s a doctrinal element as well. But I agree–it’s everywhere!

  26. Emmy

    “Women never loose the need for being romanced…”
    Well, I did. Or perhaps I learned through the years that I did not have that need. What is it, anyway, to be “romanced”? I’m not unemotional or cold, but I’d prefer a helping hand or a fair deal to “being romanced” any time.
    What is it, being romanced? Flowers? Chocolates? Camdle light dinner? A deep look in the eyes? Someone mumbling tender words with a soft voice? These are all fine but can’t replace being taken care for, or someone willing to share the load ov every day life, or simply being treated fair and right.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly. This idea that all women is chocolates and flowers is so weird. We need something real–like a real relationship! And, sure, many of us like the chocolates, too, but many of us don’t. It’s not like women are all one way.

  27. Sarah

    “You’re married to a real man, not an ideal stoic” – wow, that says a lot that the author of Sheet Music apparently thought women’s ideal husband is a stoic. You make so many good points in this article that it’s impossible to touch on them all, Sheila, but thank you for being a voice of sanity. I think the fact that many men have been taught that emotions are ‘girly’ is a big contributor to the parlous state of male mental health right now. Two of my brothers have experienced significant mental health problems, and they sort of exploded into huge problems because they kept it all bottled up and didn’t talk about it. I did the same with my own MH struggles so it’s not exclusive to men, but I at least went to the school nurse and was honest with my parents about my depression and panic attacks – my brothers just kinda dropped out of life for a while when their struggles grew unendurable and the rest of us had to rally round and support. The Psalms and much of the Bible in general is full of men having real, honest emotions – we need to get rid of the negative stereotypes around male emotion being bandied about in the church.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, Sarah! I appreciate that. My husband’s writing for his post on Monday about the problems of considering being emotional as being “feminine.” It’s a huge problem that does so much damage!

  28. Madeline H

    I agree with this article! As a woman it’s so frustrating how generalized women and men are. My husband and I noticed this when we tried reading Love and Respect. My husband has said between the two of us, I’m the “Vulcan”. I’m an ENTP married to an ENFP. Our needs are far more complex than these books would lead us to believe, and it’s a breath of fresh air to see these articles that understand this. Thank you, Sheila!

  29. Raphael

    The authors of these books write a lot about the allegedly dire consequences when a married man doesn’t get his “sexual fulfillment” regularly.
    Dramatic phrases like “Satanic attack”, “emotionally serious”, “wounding”.
    And they simultaneously expect single people to abstain.
    I wonder how they resolve that cognitive dissonance. I don’t see them telling unmarried people to have sex regularly to keep Satan away. Quite the opposite in fact…

  30. Lesley

    It’s amazing how the “Beauty and the Beast” myth permeates the church. All of this feeds into this cultural myth that it is women’s responsibility to fix broken men. If women are just beautiful enough, just pure enough, just loving enough, etc., then men will transform from beasts into princes. We need to stop teaching girls and women this ridiculous myth. The church has even turned the story of Esther into a Disney-style “Beauty and the Beast” story and it’s not that at all. I think too many Christian women buy into this myth and end up choosing terrible marriage partners because of this myth. It would seem to me biblically that the church should be last place to be selling this mess. If I had a daughter, I would never let her watch that movie or hear this garbage in a church. The message is toxic.

  31. Kelly

    This message is so damaging. I believed for years that his sexual needs were “more” real and more important than my emotional and spiritual needs, and if I just followed all these “rules,” he would find time and energy for my needs. But I think all it did was keep him from ever growing in these other ways and keep me weighted down with all the mental and emotional labor of our family to the point of killing any sexual desire I had because I am exhausted and lonely.

  32. Anon

    I do wonder if some of these writers have ever actually READ the Bible. Because it is packed full of examples of men who were in touch with their emotions – how many times do you read of the prophets weeping over the sins of the people? And what about David dancing with joy before the Ark of the Covenant? And Ezra 3, where there is a real mix of people shouting for joy and weeping at the rebuilding of the temple.
    It also had a fair number of examples of women who were strong & courageous and who didn’t need to sit around acting like pretty princesses waiting for men to rescue them – check out Esther, who risked her life to save her people, Deborah and Abigail just for starters (referring back to yesterday, just imagine what would have happened if, instead of taking action herself, Abigail had ‘gently and respectfully’ suggested that Nabal might like to change his mind and then sat around for 30 days hoping that he would!)
    It makes me angry to hear men dismissed as immature little boys when I know so many who live out lives of Godly, spirit-filled maturity. And don’t get me started on the idea that guys push sexual boundaries because they want to communicate in their love language – that is just sick. My husband never ONCE pushed boundaries when we were dating.


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