START YOUR ENGINES PODCAST: Men and Emotions Aren’t Polar Opposites

by | Nov 25, 2020 | Podcasts | 14 comments

Men and Emotions: They're Not Polar Opposites

Men can, and should, be emotional.

And in today’s podcast aimed more at guys (though women can listen, too), we’re summarizing a lot of what we’ve said about emotional maturity and men in the last month.

So listen in!

Timestamp for Podcast:

1:40 Interview with Andrew J Bauman on Emotional Maturity in Men
27:40 Keith and Sheila discuss a RQ on a seemingly selfish husband
32:20 What Your Spouse Wants SHOULD Matter
35:30 Pay Attention To What Your Spouse is Saying
37:40 Can you connect helpful gestures with sex?
42:15 MEN! We need your help on this survey!

Main Segment: Why do Christian resources assume men won’t be emotional? With Andrew J. Bauman

First, my apologies that the sound in this segment isn’t the greatest. Zoom didn’t record well, and I’m looking into getting new software to record interviews, so I may hold off on interviews for a while again. I like doing them, but it’s always the sound that has bothered me.

Anyway, Andrew is an awesome author, talking about emotional health and focusing on men’s emotionally healthy sexuality. I love his blog posts at his site, but what he does during most of his time is run some counseling centers. His wife Christy is also the author of a book I’ve been raving about lately, Theology of the Womb.

In this segment, I was reading Andrew some of the quotes about men and emotions from our post on Monday, and asking him to respond. He then commented on a sermon from Emerson Eggerichs about how it’s honorable that men use stonewalling to avoid talking about issues. And finally, we talked about what to do if your spouse really needs counseling but refuses to go.

Reader Question: My Husband Doesn’t Help When I Ask Him

Keith jumped on for our reader question segment when we tackled this:

My husband has this thing where, if he feels that he wouldn’t ask for help in a certain situation, he refuses to help someone else.

For example – he’d rearranged the fridge to put some milk in and the turkey that was in there started leaking blood onto the lower shelf after he’d closed the door. When I opened the fridge later while making dinner, I found it in a big puddle, soaking into the egg cartons and generally making a disgusting mess.

I started to clean and, as he walked by, asked him to help. He popped the turkey into a bag and started to walk away. I asked if he’d stay and help with the rest of the cleanup and he said no and kept walking.

Then came the fight. Once I’d sopped up the worst of it, I came and asked him why he wouldn’t help. “It’s not a two-person job” was his main reason. He said he’d rather do it himself than help – and he eventually did.

I tried to get him to understand that it’s about being a team. About knowing he’ll be there if I ask for help. “You didn’t NEED help” was his reply. When I say that it makes it easier and faster, he just says the same thing. If I say he’s being selfish, he says “you’re being selfish to ask me to stop what I’m doing and help.”

This has come up in other areas. If I ask for help making the bed (it’s even larger than a king-size so I find it a struggle to get the too-small bottom sheet on) he’ll say no if he’s not in a good mood and, if I persist, will huffily go do it by himself to prove it’s not a two-person job.

 It’s not that he thinks I don’t do enough around here. He says I’m too driven. But sometimes I Just. Want. Help. I find it so hurtful when I ask and he assesses the situation and decides that it’s not worth his time. That I shouldn’t even bother him with these things. That I’m… I’m not even sure? Being selfish? “Just wanting emotional support” as he says?

It seems so obvious to me that, if your spouse asks for help with something like that, you chip in. His attitude feels so alienating and I never know if I can trust that his response won’t be dismissive or hurtful.

Generally, he’s a good man, but he has these small things that leave me feeling bruised and distant. We’re struggling with our sex life and he doesn’t get it when I say that I need to feel connected to him in all the other ways to want to connect with him sexually. He gets it in theory, but he’ll point out some things he’s done right and that it hasn’t magically made me want sex more. Sometimes he’ll even try to be a little more helpful when he wants sex. But then something like this will pop up and sour the flavour. And that sourness doesn’t all wash away with the next sweet thing he does. Using the making-the-bed example, sometimes he’ll quietly go and do it all by himself as a nice gesture since he knows I hate doing it. It’s very sweet.

 Am I crazy to still feel guarded and unsure, knowing how he might react if I ask for help with it another night? There are other small areas too where I feel he’s being selfish and that, as a result, I can’t trust him. It’s very hard to want sex with someone you don’t
feel you can trust in the little things.

The big thing we talked about here is that if your spouse says something is an issue, it’s an issue.

It doesn’t mean you have to agree on your spouse’s solution. But when your spouse repeatedly brings up the same thing, and you repeatedly shut them down, you’re not winning anything. They have an issue and they need to feel heard. Your spouse will never feel close to you and feel like a team if you constantly dismiss them when they say they feel hurt. What matters to your spouse should matter to you, as I talked about in our post about what it’s okay to expect of your spouse. 

And sex can’t be transactional, either! Keith and I talked about how if you do things for your spouse in order to get sex, you end up changing the very nature of sex, and it can end up being a total turn off. Do things because you’re on the same team and you’re a decent person. Sex flows out of a culmination of a loving relationship, and if that foundation isn’t there, sex isn’t going to be something that’s an exciting proposition. 

What Does Research Say?

We’re also starting a segment on what research says, but rather than sharing a study with you this week, we wanted to ask you to participate in one! We’re conducting a survey of men’s marital and sexual satisfaction. It takes about 10 minutes to complete, and we would love to have any married guy take it! You can find it right here. 

We need your voice in our men's survey!

Other Things Mentioned in this Podcast

What do you think? Have you ever wanted to go to counseling but your spouse won’t go? Have you ever had an issue that your spouse just won’t engage with? 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. Anon

    This was interesting. I just have some questions and thoughts that I dont write to defend men but because I am confused.
    You say that men arent meant to sin sexually. And I totally agree with that but why is it that sex and porn are the most common things that men are drawn too?
    I can so relate to Andrews story because it sounds so much like my own. I always struggled with fear and insecurities because of my emotionally abusive dad. And early on I found a erotic book at home and I got hooked and have sadly been since then. It got worse when I became a teen. I remember hearing my dad screaming at my mom and I felt so guilty and so much shame because I had just masturbated. And I felt that it was all my fault but still I went back to it.
    And even after becoming saved it was still a struggle. And I wonder sometimes why? Why sex and porn if we arent overly sexual creatures? I didnt grow up reading the books you mention and my mom and dad never had the talk with me. I heard that sex before marriage was wrong(my parents are christians) but not much more. But I felt like a monster the first time I ejaculated. And that shame and guilt follows. I guess a lot of these men defend this because they have to sometimes deal with their own monstrosity(many are just plain evil and defend it abuse people sadly). Because I know I try to deal with it. The constant feeling that you are horrible is something that eats you up.
    My therapist (who sadly doesnt think porn is wrong but understands that it is hurting me) thinks that the shame and guilt is a huge problem. She has even said that I shouldnt read blogs like this becaue they usually just makes me feel worse when I feel that I cant reach the level of perfection I should. And I wonder if that happens with many men. Specially when you hear that it shouldnt be that difficult and we have the Holy Spirit and so on. And I do believe that but failing even when you have all that just makes it seem like you are even a worse person.
    LIke my therapist told me today when she said that I need to stand strong when temptation comes and I said that yes it is that easy but why cant I do it? and she then tells me that its not easy. That trying to minimize the enormous task it is only adds more shame because it just more and more builds up the idea that something is awfully wrong with me. Which I am still convinced about.
    I wonder sometimes if its like with some people that struggle with homosexuality and faith. They have felt so much shame about it but cant stop so they end up saying that God accepts it. I wonder if thats what has happen with mens view of porn and sex. Men in the church hasnt known how to deal with it and then have had to find a way to somehow excuse or accept it. BEcause if therer are so many men watching porn and not stopping, are all those men bad? Doesnt that just show that men are evil and women are just better. Some orthodox jews thinks that women are so spiritual that they dont need to be in the synagogue as much as men. They are already better and I wonder if there isnt some truth in it.
    My story hasnt ended as well as Andrews tough. My search to deal with the problems I had led me to a sexual relationship with my now wife, both wanted it. But I realize now that it wasnt based on love on my part. A regret I live with and try to deal with . It has sadly been through porn for a long time but I am trying to get better so that I at least can be a decent husband for her.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Hi, Anon. When we say men weren’t created to sin sexually, what we mean is that there IS freedom and sexual sin isn’t simply a birthright of being male. There are many gender differences in terms of destructive behaviours–women are far more likely to self-harm in high school and attempt suicide than their male counterparts, but we don’t say God made girls to be suicidal. Women also are around 2x as likely to experience some sort of anxiety disorder than their male counterparts are but, again, we don’t say that anxiety is “every woman’s battle” and we don’t tell women that are anxious, “Well, that’s just a part of being a woman.” Rather, we help them fix it and we say, “This doesn’t need to be your entire life. There is hope.” And then of course, there are eating disorders which range from 3 times to 9 times as likely for women to develop than men, depending on the criteria used to define an ED.
      I think your musings about the acceptance of pornography use are really insightful, and I think one of the big problems with dealing with the porn problem in churches is that it’s dealt with simply as a sin issue that we just have to muscle our way through to resist. But for many men porn use stems from sexual abuse in childhood, including being far too young when they were first exposed to pornography. If a man’s first exposure to sex was seeing a violent porn clip when he was were 10 years old, and that triggered a porn addiction because of curiosity and shame that led to diminished coping skills because porn became his only real way to handle stress for 8 years, that’s going to need a lot more to overcome than simply confessing and deciding to not do it again.
      Women are not more spiritual than men, our struggles are often just different. Because yes, this is more of a pull for men on average than it is for women. And there will be some men who have life-long struggles with it. But not all. And that’s missing in the conversation.
      But what else is missing is WHY men get hooked on porn to begin with. And a lot of times it’s stories like yours–emotional abuse, shame and embarrassment, a lack of education about healthy sexuality, a lack of open conversation. Imagine how your story may have been different if instead of yelling at you when they found out, you were able to have real open and honest dialogue about this where you weren’t shamed for having sexual curiosity but instead you were coached and helped to understand healthy sexual expression when you were 12, 13, 14. I guess my question is with all of these other factors in the equation, why is the immediate assumption that you got hooked on porn because you were male? Because reading your story it would make sense that if you were in a healthier environment it may not have happened to you. So the issue may not be maleness as much as abuse and dysfunctional dynamics that affect women and men differently. If you were a girl, perhaps you may have still had a porn problem. Perhaps you may have developed an eating disorder to cope with the feelings of worthlessness. Perhaps you would have attempted suicide. There’s no way of knowing. But the issue for many is not maleness: it’s trauma, frankly.
      I’m not a therapist clearly, but I just hope I can encourage you to have compassion for yourself, especially your younger self. You were a little boy, you were in an environment where you did not feel emotionally safe and did not have anyone teaching you about how God made sexuality to be more than a set of rules. Your adolescent brain was desperately seeking some way to cope and relieve stress and feelings of inadequacy, and pornography and erotica offered some comfort. Obviously that’s a maladaptive and unhealthy strategy, but I hope you can see yourself not just as a horrible sinner but forgive that confused, hurt little boy you were when this all started. Self-compassion can be a huge tool on the road to healing, no matter what the issue at hand is.

      • Anon

        What you say makes sense but as you say I think the problem is that it is treated only as a sin issue. The examples you talk about women(that are really serious, the increase in women suffering in this is crazy) arent seen as sin issues. They are often a consequence of a messed up world who treats women as objects. Its easier to see that women in that position need help.
        Porn is often seen as something else. As a deep seated issue with the person. The monster inside so to speak and as I said I think that many times the men in the church dont know how to deal with it and dont understand the why so at the same time as they want to say that its wrong they have to deal with their own shame and failure in this and then I guess it comes out like they are saying that we cant do anything about it. I belive some just use it as an excuse to continue to sin but (if I agree with your view that men arent worse than men a concept I still have a hard time accept from personal experience) I do think some genuinly want to quit. I know many of the books the blog mentions are bad but I have also heard many men who has read the book and overcome their sin and says that it really helped them. But maybe they overcome it in the wrong way?
        I do think as you say that the church must become more (dare I say it) therapeutic. The church need licensed therapist and more teaching about how we humans work on a pshycological level. Specially when it comes to porn. But sadly we dont. Instead the message is shame and guilt. To be honest, your answer was one of the first even on this blog where the message doesnt sound like all men are the worst. BUt i guess that my own shame filters what I read and just makes me feel worse. So the church need to introduce more pshycology at the same time as not losing the message that with Christ we can overcome everything. Because thats another risk that when we know the cause of the problem we just give up and blame it on our past. My therapist has called me out on that (even tough she wishes I would let go of the shame thing and just accept that its ok to watch porn every now and then) and has said that I need to take responsibility and decide what to do with instead of finding excuses. Something I think is an important part of maturing emotionally.
        Lastly I just want to say that my parents werent screaming because I had masturbated. My father was screaming at my mother because they had problems and my dad always screamed and was emotionally abusive. I sat in my room but I had learned that God punishes sin so I blamed myself for my parents marital problems and my fathers behaviour. Me masturbating had unleashed Gods anger. And thats tough to live with even to this day. My parents didnt believe in therapy and thought pshycology was bad because it could lead people astray from God. I dont know how common that is in churches but I think that can also make it difficult for men to find help. Many times we are refered to pastors who arent licensed therapists and then we dont receive the help we need.

        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          Yeah, I think you’re right and we need to change the conversation so that there is a clear understanding that for many, many men porn use stemmed from a serious hurt or an emotional vacuum in their childhood or adolescence.
          If we use the analogy of swimming a length of a pool, it’s perfectly valid and reasonable to say, “It’s not hard to swim a length of the pool.” But if a bunch of the men showed up to the pool wearing 17th century armor and never learning how to swim because they were spending their time learning to joust instead, swimming is going to feel like an impossible task. And what has happened is men have said, “Well swimming is impossible so this must just be men’s struggle.” They don’t ask, “What is in the way of me swimming and how can I overcome that?” They just try to muscle through a swim with the armor on, using the skills they have for jousting. And it’s a disaster.
          With porn, we say, “Men can live a life free from porn.” But that’s not going to happen until men also understand that for many people, the struggle with porn is made so much more difficult because of all this baggage, and because instead of learning healthy coping skills during adolescence, many young boys used porn so they lack the skills needed to cope with stress without the aid of sexually explicit materials as an escape.
          What I hope is that we can start changing the conversation so that removing that armor and learning new skills isn’t seen as excuses, but as a part of the healing process. Because that’s not blaming it on the past, that’s just recognizing reality and choosing to change your trajectory while shedding that which is holding you back!
          I also want to say, Anon, that your story really isn’t over. And if your therapist isn’t helping you, you can always consider searching for a therapist who understands pornography trauma and the negative effects of pornography (there are many out there, both Christian and secular!). But of course, I don’t know your whole story and if you’re getting good care that’s fantastic. 🙂
          But God really doesn’t work that way, where he punishes you for sins like that. I think God likely had a lot of compassion for the small, confused you back then. And understanding God’s compassion for us can make such a difference in how we see ourselves, our story, and our standing before God. Said a prayer for you today, I really do feel for your struggle.

    • BL

      Hello Anon,
      My husband is experiencing hope and freedom starting with Pure Desire and christian CSAT several months ago. I hope you can find some healing. Pure Desire Ministries has a lot of free podcasts and blog posts to get you started if you’re interested.

  2. Boone

    Anon, I had a good friend several years ago that I used to trade cattle with. He’s passed on now, God rest him, but he taught me a lot. Both about cattle and about life. He lived alone in a modest farm house in some old family land.
    One day when I was over at his place we had come inside to his little office to cool off and I noticed a mason jar about half full of sawdust on his old roll top desk. I asked him about it. He told me that it was a present from his AA sponsor. See, my buddy was a pretty bad alcoholic. He told me that it had cost him his wife and kids, his job and just about everything else except this farm. Whenever he got to moping about what he’d lost he’d look at that jar. It was sawdust. It had already been sawed. You can’t put it back on the board. All you can do is move on. He told me that sometimes it meant that you had to make it through the next five minutes or an hour or a day. He said he took life one day at a time and hadn’t had a drink in ten years. He said that as long as he can get through the next 24 hours then he was good.
    As far as I know he never had a drink the rest of his life. He did it one day at a time and that’s what you’ve got to do. One day at a time. Quit worrying about what can’t be fixed. Move on. I hope this helps.

  3. Bethany#2

    The above comments are why I’ll be willing to read any article on the blog and discuss it with someone.
    I believe that you have done an excellent job of balancing the near impossible to reconcile. Individual situations vs. the general stereotypical ones.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, Bethany! I actually turned this comment thread into Friday’s post. I thought it was so good.

  4. Estelle

    A comment re the reader’s question: Did the husband not realise that his wife was cleaning up the fridge while making dinner? She was trying to do TWO jobs at once, no wonder she wanted help especially as the mess was caused by him. I think her going away for a couple of weeks and leaving him to run the household might not be a bad idea.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Ha! Yes, often there is a big imbalance in what each person does around the household, and it certainly can lead to a lot of resentment.

  5. NoMore"Nice"Girl

    I was wondering if you knew of any resources for the spouses of emotionally immature / passive aggressive / avoidant people (I realize that’s a lot of problems at once, but they seem to go together a fair bit).
    There seem to be so few resources available, yet this is very difficult to live with without wondering if YOU’RE the crazy one. Keeping perspective and motivation day after day isn’t easy. They tell you you expect too much. That they’re “doing their best”. They feel like the victim of some cruel tyrant. And all you’re asking for is to connect and deal with problems like adults.
    A lot of marriage books/courses are aimed at couples where both partners are working to make the marriage better. But you need a whole different game plan when your spouse is passive aggressive and immature. One with very strict boundaries (a la the Boundaries in Marriage book – a very helpful read).
    This issue is the silent killer of marriages. The passive aggressive/immature spouse is often easy going and pleasant AS LONG AS NOTHING IS REQUIRED OF THEM. People outside the marriage think they’re so “nice”. When to try to explain it to someone whose spouse isn’t PA/immature, they’re mystified by why you’re making such a big deal out if it. “All spouses are difficult sometimes – you just need to talk it out,” they say, not understanding that a PA spouse will literally refuse to discuss things. They stonewall and get quickly more uncooperative the more you try to appeal to them. If you try to explain to others, people tell you to be grateful because “at least he isn’t doing “______” (insert obvious bad behaviour here). The sins of omission can be as damaging as the sins of commission but it’s very hard to convince others who haven’t experienced it.
    What do you do if you don’t have a degree in psychology to deal with your spouse’s manipulation? Are their counselors specifically trained in this? We’ve tried seeing counselors in the past, but my spouse sheds a few tears over their behaviour and the experiences in his childhood that caused it, everyone feels we’ve made progress… but then NOTHING CHANGES. The next time an issue comes up they stonewall, become rude and dismissive and say they’re just too “busy” or “tired” to deal with it right now. When I ask “ok, when is a good time to deal with this” they get angry and say they “can’t name a specific time”. If we could afford to pay to see a counselor every week for the rest of our lives, maybe that would help (they behave much better when someone else is watching), but we can’t. Plus, since they DO behave much better when someone else’s eye is on them, the counselor thinks “oh great – they’re cured” and sends us on our way with a cheery wave. And then my spouse spirals back down into their passive aggression and avoidance.
    I’ve decided I need to stand up and say “enough” but I expect it will bring a lot of escalated behaviour from my spouse and a lot of going against my own ingrained habits. I’ve been dealing with this the wrong way for a decade, doing what I thought would help. So, as I try to live differently, it would be so helpful to have a support group, Christian counsellor who knows all the tricks up my spouse’s sleeve or even a book that gives practical strategies (for someone who’s spouse is not at ALL interested in changing and all you can do is change the way YOU act).

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi NoMore “Nice” Girl! I want to take your whole comment and turn it into a post (and maybe I will!) because it’s so good.
      But let me say that I don’t think you can talk in a particular way that will help or work. All you can do is enforce really strong boundaries where you refuse to put up with it anymore. The only thing is–this WILL cause escalated behaviour. It certainly will. But it will also make things really clear. I’d get books like Boundaries and Changes That Heal and just work on changing how you react. but it is hard!

      • NoMore"Nice"Girl

        Thank you – those are both great books. It’s been many years since I’ve read “Changes that Heal” so perhaps I should give it a re-read. I guess I was just wishing for someone/something to help me feel like I’m not alone as I try to maintain clarity. A sort of “spouses of avoiders” anonymous, so to speak. If you ever do make a post I will eagerly listen/read!


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