A Letter That Made My Year to Begin a New Year

by | Jan 4, 2021 | Uncategorized | 28 comments

Encouragement Letter to Begin New Year
Merchandise is Here!

Happy 2021, everyone!

Well, we made it through 2020, and 2021 stretches ahead. And it’s going to be awesome. (It has to be!).

Our book The Great Sex Rescue releases March 2 (you can pre-order it now!). Keith and I are writing The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex–which is due at the publisher the same day the Great Sex Rescue launches! We’re going to be developing tools for counselors to screen for sexual issues in marriage, and so much more.

I’m excited.

And even though it’s a big job, we feel like it’s important.

I know that I’m usually the face of Bare Marriage, and I’m mostly the one you see. Rebecca, of course, pops up in podcasts, but we really are a team behind the scenes. Tammy keeps me sane by dealing with all my details and by just talking to me when I need to vent. Rebecca and Joanna and I FaceTime constantly throughout the day, bouncing ideas off each other; talking about new stats Joanna has found in the data from the surveys we’ve done (we just closed our men’s survey last week; fascinating stuff!); planning posts.

I wish Joanna could be on the podcast more so you could see her, but she literally lives in the Canadian arctic, and her internet’s not always reliable. But we may try soon!

Here we were, with Joanna’s two girls and Rebecca with my grandson, the week before Joanna and her family moved to the Great White North.

The Great Sex Rescue authors before Joanna moved up to the Arctic!

And then, of course, there’s Keith, whose schedule is even busier right now as he’s trying to cram editing a book into seeing patients during COVID (which is really tricky).

All that to say that we are really a team, and we do strategize and pray and think together about what we’re doing and how to make the greatest difference.

Last week, in one of the last posts of 2020, I was talking about how you have to scatter stones, you have to tear down the bad stuff, before you can build up healthy stuff.

In the next few weeks we’ll be tearing down some very unhealthy teachings, so that we can build on Jesus-centered principles instead.

After I wrote that post on scattering stones, I received so many amazing emails and comments, and I can’t tell you how encouraging they were to all of us. 

I want to leave you with a longer one, that summarizes so much, and which literally brought tears to all of our eyes. I read it out loud to Joanna, and couldn’t get through it without choking up.

I thought this was a fitting post to start the new year, because it summarizes everything we’re trying to do!

It was written by someone who has followed this blog almost since its inception, and whom I’ve actually met in real life at a speaking event (that was cool!).



Today, yet again, your post nailed it. All these messages you talk about – the obligation sex, unconditional respect and the husband always having the final decision, staying in the marriage no matter what, if you don’t have sex whenever he wants, he’ll turn to porn and it’s your fault – these are all beliefs deeply ingrained in both my husband and me.

Your Love & Respect posts kicked off a huge deconstructing process for me. Wowzers, it’s been quite the ride.

I can look back at our marriage and see how these beliefs were slowly killing me and killing our marriage, no matter how much “healthy” I added. Because in spite of me learning healthy things, I was still building on that broken foundation!! I’ve always been taught that a wife should essentially sit down and shut up, yet no matter how well I did that, our marriage only got worse. I was originally baffled by why L&R didn’t work for us, because I truly have a “good-hearted” husband — yet when you started those posts I realized how deeply steeped in patriarchal beliefs he was. He said he wants me to have a voice – but he’s been taught all his life that my voice doesn’t actually matter, so that’s how he was actually operating. And I believed the same things. It was killing our marriage.

The more you scatter stones and tell us how harmful those stones were, the more I deconstruct, the more my amazing counsellor (who tells me many of the same things you teach!) points out the insanity of the beliefs I was building my marriage on, the healthier our marriage gets. It is ROUGH going. It’s like slogging uphill through a swamp of mud, with a million mosquitoes swarming you, while your partner tries to haul you back to where “normal” used to be.

But there is LIFE and hope in this direction, with you and my counsellor to teach me. My depression is lifting. My sex drive can outpace my husband’s now. I am more confident. I have better things to teach my daughter. Once in a while my husband will admit that this route is better than our old patterns. I am more alive. These things you teach – they match with what Jesus taught, and this brings LIFE! They match with how He lived. They match with how He treated women. They do not match fundamental conservative Christian beliefs of oppression.

I feel like when I got married, I was given this box of beliefs, all beautifully wrapped up in books like Created to be His Helpmeet (boy that one was bad! My HUSBAND told me to burn it or he would!!), Sheet Music, Love & Respect, For Men [and women] Only, Every Man’s Battle) and was told that if I followed these beliefs, my marriage would be amazing. So I jumped in and threw myself 100% into believing and following them.

Now, over a decade down the road, I’m realizing they gave me a broken set of beliefs! No wonder my marriage is worse!! Because whatever health I tried to add, the cracks and holes underneath were so big they were swallowing me up!! Every time I finish a counselling session, I’m so mad at how I was literally SET UP TO FAIL by these. I was told they were the key to success but they were actually the opposite. YOU and my counsellor are literally THE ONLY voices I know of who are actively scattering these stones and then teaching a better foundation.

So all this to say – your work is valuable. Your voice is valuable. Without it, I would still be caught and stuck and sinking even deeper. Because of you, our marriage has a chance. Because of you, I have better things to teach my daughters for marriage. Because of your stone scattering now, I will have a stronger foundation to add all your healthy teaching to.

So please don’t stop scattering stones. We need you. Women like me need you.

There’s a little sticker on my floor, and it’s put there so every time I sweep over it, I remember to pray for you and your team. For wisdom, for safety, for protection over your own marriages and families, and for courage and strength to keep going, keep fighting, keep teaching. You are doing God’s work. You are bringing His light and His hope to countless marriages like mine. We need you.

Long Time Reader

Are we setting up couples to fail?

That sticker bit was what made me a sobbing mess, but the part that really stands out is how many of our bestsellers may inadvertently be setting couples up to fail.

That’s what we found in our surveys, and we’ll be sharing those numbers with you in the next few weeks. We’ll be showing how some of the specific teachings in these books, about lust, about porn, about men’s sex drives, about women’s lack of sex drives-, and so much more, has set up couples to fail.

And we’ll show that if you’re having issues, you’re not crazy. You’re not broken. It’s likely not even your fault! You were often just given faulty information that changed how you saw yourself, your spouse, sex, and even God for the worse. So let’s throw that stuff out and come back to what’s true and healthy.

The Great Sex Rescue

Launches March 2!

What if YOU’RE not the problem with your sex life?

What if the things that you’ve been taught have messed things up–and what if there’s a way to escape these messages?

Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.

You’ll feel: Validated. Seen. Heard.

You’ll have a roadmap to escape the lies.

Plus it’s a super fun read!

Because you deserve real freedom and intimacy.

That’s what we want to do in 2021! I’m a little (a lot) overwhelmed, but I’m excited for this journey!

(And thank you again to everyone who sent in letters and emails and comments like this one. We saved each one!).

Happy start to 2021, everyone!

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. Goldie locks

    This long time reader took the words out of my mouth. I am so thankful for your work. I am currently in the muck mess that wrong belief in marriage made. My husband still thinks the patriarchal way was much better. He can’t get over it. It’s been 2 years of me trying to rip up the foundation and rebuilding it but he is fighting every inch of the way. It’s so hard. I don’t know how to save it anymore. It’s like we both need to realize that there was a problem. So listening and reading your content really helps me and I pray one day He will finally gets it. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    • Bonnie

      Hats off with a big sweep Sheila and Team. (Love the “sticker on the floor” idea). 😉
      A lot of issues discussed are a lot about boundaries. Concept of boundaries correct but harder to put into practice. Sheila’s and Team ministry helps to be very specific re this and so should good professional counselling. Bonnie

  2. Judy

    I could have written that letter nearly word for word. I need to place a sticker on my floor.

  3. Jenn

    “ I truly have a “good-hearted” husband — yet when you started those posts I realized how deeply steeped in patriarchal beliefs he was. He said he wants me to have a voice – but he’s been taught all his life that my voice doesn’t actually matter, so that’s how he was actually operating. And I believed the same things. It was killing our marriage.”
    I wonder how many couples this is true for? I used to believe it was true for me. But I’ve come to learn that I don’t truly have a good hearted husband, I was just blind to how much he didn’t respect me or consider my input because I was taught that he was supposed to be the head.

    • Wifeofasexaddict

      I was thinking this too. Mine was actually an addict, and that prohibited him from being a good man.

  4. Rachel

    I love her words and completely agree. I’m praying for you and your team too!
    One thing I’m pondering I would love your thoughts on Sheila… how are so many “Christians” who write these books SO off track. How have we gotten here?? How and why has God allowed this? Why is this so widespread??
    I think at the heart of it (and so much wrong thinking) is pride. We already “know” what God says so we don’t have to seek his heart with humility. But it is SCARY and discouraging how far off our brothers and sisters are on these things. How are we following the same God??

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a great question, Rachel, and it’s one I’ve been pondering a lot. I honestly think it comes down to the issue that Jesus is addressing in Matthew 20:20-28. It’s about authority and power. Modern evangelical culture has largely become about who has authority, and wedded to that is the idea of gender roles. When women are devalued, everything goes awry. Absolutely everything. There is no way to build an emotionally healthy marriage if one person’s opinions or wants or needs are not seen as as important as the other person’s. And that’s what we’ve done. It’s at the heart of everything.
      We need to remember Jesus’ words, that He came not to be served, but to serve. The Gentiles try to exercise authority, but it isn’t to be so with us. We’re all supposed to serve. If we got back to that, I think we’d be far better off.

    • Anon

      I don’t know how it started, but I think the reason it is so widespread is because it goes back decades – generation after generation viewing women as ‘lesser’, ‘inferior’ and ‘more ungodly’ than men. Take a look at some of the commentaries that were popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s – in many cases, the Bible passages are twisted (and even have things ‘read into’ them) to put the blame for any wrong on women! For example, I came across one that blamed Dinah (Genesis 34) for her own rape AND the subsequent murders carried out by her brothers, on the basis that when verse 1 says she ‘went out to see the women of the land’, it REALLY was a euphemism for ‘went out to flaunt herself in front of the men of the land’…and the moral of the chapter was that women shouldn’t be conceited about their looks… So no wonder that after a few generations of that kind of teaching, the church has a very messed up view of women!!!

  5. Nathan

    > > How have we gotten here??
    Not sure if this is true or not, but I read somewhere once that the early church was run and led mostly by unmarried celibate men, who didn’t have a really good understanding of marriage and women. Combine this with the fact that women have nearly always been relegated to second class status, along with some early misinterpretations of verses like “submit” and “do not deny” and it’s a recipe for disaster.
    As for why God allowed this to happen, it’s hard to analyze God’s motives sometimes, but He usually just lets the world go its own way and rarely directly interferes. Hopefully, though, we’re slowly repairing the damage.

    • Bonnie

      Correct Nathan. It encourages me that men are looking seriously at these issues. The enemy of our souls is at the route. The evil one hates everything God loves and has specific ways of attacking each of the Lord’s domain. What is the ultimate coup de grace? The church. From physical and sexual abuse to misogyny. Look at some of the early church Father’s and even early bible commentators. They have viewed women as inferior based on O.T. Levitical law which is patriarchal in nature due to mankind’s limited understanding to some tough verses in in the epistles that are either poorly u understood or poorly interpreted. (Eg. of Sheila’s recent blog a out Ephesians 5 :33 THANKS SHEILA!!) I see none of that in Jesus.

  6. Hopeful

    My husband and I have been arguing so much about gender roles, what submission means, etc.
    He wonders “what has happened to me” and tells me “I’m the only one who believes this way”, and says that i definitely don’t get my knowledge from the bible , but by reading liberal blogs like this.
    We’ve been doing really well the last few years, so I think I felt safe to let him know some of my real opinions, only to find that his internal belief system against women still seems to be there.
    I put my name as “hopeful” when I started commenting on your blog years ago, but I’m feeling really
    hopeless right now.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m sorry! That is really tough. All I can say is keep speaking up for yourself when it’s important. You do matter. Keep searching the Scriptures for how Jesus treated women.
      And I’d also say that one thing we found in our survey was that most people believed that the husband should make the final decision, but very few actually acted this out. Many people believe certain things, but when it comes to how they actually act in marriage, they treat each other as equals and they honor and love each other, rather than demean one person.
      Even if he never agrees with what you’re reading, if he’s acting like you matter, that’s really the most important thing. If, on the other hand, he gets angry if you say what you’re thinking on an issue or if you disagree with a decision or if you think that your needs matter in sex and he doesn’t–then that’s when you have to start drawing boundaries, because you don’t have to put up with being treated like “less than”.

      • Dani

        This is so true and what I’m finding in a lot of cases. I was talking to a friend the other day and she said, “I know we disagree on this stuff and I do think men are the head and women should submit to them and my parents were the same and their marriage was great.” Then went on to say that even though her and her mother both state this theology there was never one example in her parents whole marriage where her Dad overruled her Mum. They made decisions together and loved and respected each other as does my friend and her husband. I flat out said to her that I think so often we say we believe this stuff because it’s the ‘right’ and ‘biblical’ thing to believe but we do not live like it’s true at all.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yep! We believe it but don’t act it out. Which means, how much do we really believe it?

    • Lois Eagles

      I’m so sorry you’re feeling hopeless. I understand the struggle so well!
      I recently read the book “fashioned to reign” by Kris V and it really blew my mind and opened my eyes to how God views women as precious and valued. It can’t change your marriage or your husband’s opinion but maybe it can help you be strong ❤️

  7. Nathan

    > > i definitely don’t get my knowledge from the bible , but by reading liberal blogs like this.
    An aside, since I don’t want to turn this into a political blog, but I’ve found that this site is neither liberal nor conservative, at least in the political sense.
    And, even if Sheila is completely wrong (I don’t think you are), she is at least trying to be as biblical as possible in her thoughts and discussions

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yeah, I really try not to get political! And I think people would actually be surprised at my real political views. 🙂 But that’s all I’m saying about that.

  8. Maria

    The book you recommended, “Paul and Gender” by Westfall shows how these awful beliefs came to be so prevalent in the church. It also shows how very biblical the ideas on this blog are.
    This is a great read for anyone who wants to understand what Paul really said and meant. I want all my sons and daughters and their friends to read this.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Awesome, Maria! I bought it for Christmas for Rebecca but we haven’t read it yet. Excited to get into it!

  9. Kacey

    I think part of the problem is that comparatively few people know how to read and understand the Bible and learn about its context. People think they’ll be better Christians by embracing some particular teacher and their philosophy–but teachers who make a big name for themselves often have an angle or agenda to promote.
    I’m not trying to shift the blame away from false teachers–they will be held accountable for all the harm they’ve done. But I think people truly embracing the Word of God as their teacher is what will make a difference.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Context is so important! I totally agree. I think if we could get back to understanding the context, and looking at how Jesus actually acted (and how the early apostles did too), then we’d know that modern interpretations of gender roles don’t make sense. The apostles wouldn’t have written stuff about gender that they didn’t practice themselves. Their practice, as recorded in Scripture, should inform our interpretation of problematic verses. But instead they take these verses out of context and build whole doctrines around them, doctrines which the early church didn’t even follow!

    • EOF

      This is a good point, and something I hadn’t thought of. It reminds me of Paul condemning the Corinthians for bragging about following leaders rather than God (I Cor. 3:1-5).

  10. EOF

    Like many other commenters, I can so relate to the letter! My marriage has improved by leaps and bounds since we stopped going to church marriage seminars and reading “biblical” marriage books.
    One thing that always perplexed me was the fact that Jesus treated women so well (radically different from anyone else in his time) but then the letters in the new testament seemed to undo all of that and set women back to nothing. But after reading through posts here, I have to wonder how much of it is the translation of those verses, not to mention poor teachings. Too many people are interested in power, and unfortunately the Bible has been misused by numbers of those people.

  11. Nathan

    > > I have to wonder how much of it is the translation of those
    > > verses, not to mention poor teachings.
    I believe that these two are significant factors. Many times, a key word or two was mistranslated, or a concept oversimplified.

  12. Hannah

    First of all – thank you so much, Sheila, for “scattering the stones”!! It’s so encouraging to know I’m not alone in finding so many issues with these popular marriage books. I’m newly engaged and have been recommended so many of these books to prepare me for this life-long commitment.
    My step-mother recently stumbled across a book called “That Book for Wives” that she plans to recommend to her daughters. The premise is this: instead of trying to change their husbands, women should change their mindset toward their husbands so they don’t get angry about things they can’t control. In the Amazon description of the book, the author writes, “Is your husband frustrating and annoying? Do you wish he was more loving and considerate? And does he show absolutely no interest in learning how to change? In this easy to read, biblically-based book, Pastor Sally Poyzer shares how she spent the first few years of her marriage trying to fix her husband until God showed her that instead of trying to change him, she needed to change herself.”
    While I have not yet read the book myself, I’m already getting red flags from this description alone. Am I wrong for this? Is it a good idea to teach women to change their mindset so they no longer get upset about things their husbands do that are out of their control? I’d love to see a blog post or two about this book if it fits into your schedule in the next couple months.
    Thank you for all your hard work!

    • Anon

      I’ve just read a bit of this book via the ‘look inside’ function on Amazon. I think you’re right to see red flags. The book is broken down into four sections, Accept (not Correct), Respect (not Direct), Connect (not Neglect) and Have Sex (not Reject). Chapter headings include ‘He is different not wrong’, ‘He needs to be free to make mistakes’, ‘Correcting him is disrespectful’, ‘Forgive even if he doesn’t say sorry’ etc.
      The extract says that she realised ‘I have the power to transform my marriage by choosing to meet my husband’s needs’. And when she ‘gently suggests’ that he doesn’t mix white clothes with dark when putting a wash on, he just stops helping with the washing – which proves she was wrong to ‘correct’ him…sounds awfully like ‘Love and Respect’ under a different name!

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK. Seriously, why don’t people ask themselves if this stuff is emotionally healthy? How does that even make sense in two people who are supposed to be a team?

      • Anon

        My thought was that if a man is so immature that he can’t cope with someone suggesting a change in how he loads washing, he’s not mature enough for marriage!


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