3 Reasons Christian Teaching to Women Makes Direct Communication Sound Like a Sin

by | Aug 10, 2021 | Connecting | 50 comments

3 Reasons Women Are Told it's unsubmissive to communicate directly
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Do gendered teachings in the church make direct communication harder?

We’re in the middle of our series on direct communication–why direct communication is hard; what direct communication looks like; why direct communication feels mean, but isn’t.

Today and tomorrow I’d like to look at specific teachings in the church that can make direct communication more difficult, especially when that teaching is gendered, and we’ll start with women.

But not all teaching that makes direct communication difficult is gendered, like this first one:

1. “Be content in every circumstance” makes direct communication hard.

Christians are taught that one of the highest virtues is learning to be content no matter what you’re living through. We often hear the apostle Paul quoted with passages like this:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength….

Philippians 4:11-13

We’re supposed to be able to live with anything that life brings us.

But whether we can live with something is not a good metric for whether we should live with it. Paul was not talking about being content with mediocre or bad relationships that could be improved with a little bit of effort; he was talking about learning to be content when he had no control over his own circumstances. He wasn’t telling us to put up with things that are preventable; he was saying don’t obsess over things that you can’t do anything about.

Nevertheless, we’ve often used this teaching to tell women (and men) that they have no right to be upset about anything. This teaching is especially focused on marriage, where the goal is on keeping the marriage together rather than building intimacy in that marriage.

In this teaching, our legitimate feelings are seen as threats to the relationship, and so the antidote is to be grateful for what you have, rather than focused on what you don’t have. To express your desire for things to change, then, means that you’re not content and you’re somehow not being Christian.

2. “Let go and let God” tells women not to communicate directly

Now we turn to some teachings that women especially are given. Here’s how I explain the “Duck Principle” in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage:

From 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage

I’ve heard it explained at women’s retreats and on marriage and mom blogs, and it goes something like this:

Pat Answer: If you’re upset at your spouse, state your opinion, but then “duck” and get out of the way, so that God can be the one to smack your husband, not you.

I can remember one conference where we were handed little paper ducks to put in our Bibles, to remind us that it was not our job to point out any error in our husbands; it was only God’s job. We were to “pray and get out of the way.”

Leslie had really mastered that Duck thing. She was just like a little mallard, looking peaceful on the outside, while under the surface her legs were paddling frantically as she waited to see what would happen. After all, she’d ducked. So now God should smack her husband!

But let’s look at it another way. If God’s truth is timeless—and I believe it is—then we would expect that the things God wants also lead to better and healthier relationships. So if the healthiest thing were simply to “duck” and not express disagreement, then research should show that the best marriages are those in which there’s little or no fighting. Actually, research shows the opposite. When Ernest Harburg of the University of Michigan looked into what makes a healthy marriage, he and his colleagues discovered that couples who express their anger live longer than couples who suppress it.

The healthiest couples are not those where the wife states her position once and then ducks—or worse, never states her position in the first place. No, the happiest couples are those who wrestle through issues and don’t back down until they rebuild intimacy and trust and closeness. In fact, conflict resolution contributes to healthier individuals in general, since people who suppress conflict actually die earlier. So peacemaking isn’t just good for your marriage; it’s good for your heart too!

The book Power of a Praying Wife is full of this type of principle–just leave it to God. Trust in the Lord. Don’t take matters into your own hands. (Download our healthy sexuality rubric from The Great Sex Rescue to see how Power of a Praying Wife scored!)

To actually try to address something in your marriage, then, would be seen as a lack of faith in God. You aren’t supposed to be the one to fix things–God is! If you try to step in, then you’re not exercising faith.

I think this one is especially given to women because women are seen to be always trying to be in control. We have a hard time trusting God. We’re control freaks. We’re trying to “usurp” authority. And so we’re told to calm down and trust instead.

3. “You must never undermine his masculinity and his leadership” means she can’t communicate directly without being in sin

By far the most damaging and common message that hurts direct communication, though, is this one: If a woman asks for something directly, she is trying to lead and is undermining his role and his masculinity. Instead, she must be submissive.

This one is so ingrained that I’m having a hard time figuring out which quotes to use as examples, because there are so many, and the more I looked for them the more enraged I got. But here are just a few.

In Love & Respect, the only place where Emerson Eggerichs specifically tells women how to handle a husband who is in sin and hurting the family is in this anecdote in Appendix E, on how to deal with a workaholic husband:

Third, to influence him directly, respectfully say, “Your son (daughter, children) needs you at home more. You have a unique influence on him. In certain areas, nobody matters to him as much as you do. It may not appear that way to you, but your positive presence has the power to mold him. I know you are swamped and have little time, but I also know that you want to give him that part of you that no one else can give to him. Thanks.”

After delivering your “we need you at home more” message, don’t repeat it for anywhere from ten to twenty days. Then mention it again, quietly and positively with the general tone of “just a positive reminder because of your importance.” …

Have confidence in God’s Word. Quietness shouts to a husband.

Emerson Eggerichs

Love & Respect, p. 316

Now, let’s compare that to the 6 markers of direct communication we talked about last week:

List of Elements of Direct Communication

Notice how in this example that Eggerichs gives, she never actually asks for anything. She merely makes observations, but then leaves it to him to decide what he is going to do with those observations. She does not share any of her own feelings about the situation. She does not tell him what she needs from him. And then, at the end, she says “thanks”, though it’s not clear what exactly she is thanking him for. Existing? Listening? Considering what she has said?

Then, she is supposed to be quiet and say nothing. This goes against every single one of our principles for direct communication.

Men reading this, please understand the weight of this: Women are told our whole lives that to actually ask you for what we want is a sin. 

Women are told that before we communicate anything to men, we must make sure that we do so in a way that honors his masculinity and that shows respect–which, in the words of Emerson Eggerichs, means remembering that:

  1. he is in hierarchy over us; 
  2. he has authority over us;
  3. we must value his insight over our own.

So basically, we’re not allowed to correct a man. And if we can’t correct him, then how are we supposed to ask directly when we want something to change?

Answer: we’re not. Because that would be a sin.

And that’s why women are supposed to talk in circles, like that example from Eggerichs.

Many of you reacted in incredulity to the John Piper quote from Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood that I put in Friday’s post–about when an “executive” who is lost asks a “housewife” for directions, she must be careful not to be “direct and personal”, since that would compromise both his masculinity and her femininity. (Presumably she should say something like, “I find that when I’m trying to find the freeway, I turn left at the third set of lights, go for a mile, and then follow the sign.”)

But Piper is not the only one who tells women they must not give directions to men. Shaunti Feldhahn, in For Women Only, talks about how men’s need to feel respected extends to needing to feel like you think they’re competent. So even if they’re clearly doing something wrong, and it’s inconveniencing you, you must not speak up about it:


The next time your husband stubbornly drives in circles, ask yourself which is more important: being on time to the party or his feeling trusted? No contest.

Shaunti Feldhahn

For Women Only,

To even ask him to get you to the party on time would be considered showing a lack of respect and a lack of trust. She must instead say nothing at all (because, as the book points out earlier in the chapter, the male ego is the most fragile thing on the planet, and we must treat it with care).

And the advice starts even younger.

In For Young Women Only, Feldhahn’s book for teen girls (we’ve talked about the problematic way it handles date rape before), she repeats the quote to girls that males have fragile egos, and tells them that boys need to feel respected, and that you believe that they are competent and capable. She explains that when boys get angry, it’s a good sign they’re feeling disrespected. She says it’s fine to ask for you what you want, but you must always couch it in telling them you believe in them, that you are grateful for them, and that you respect them. And this is true even if you’ve just working on a group project together.

If you have superior knowledge than them, you must not share that with them, or they will feel disrespected. So you should not tell them how to get something done, but must instead show that you respect their abilities. (Again, this is all girls to all boys; not even girls in dating relationships).

At one point she gives an example of how a girl impacted a boy without disrespecting him, referring to the movie A Walk to Remember: 

At the beginning of the story, after Landon has made an immature, costly decision, it just takes one look from Jamie to shame him and challenge him to change. At the end, when Landon makes a selfless decision, the look on Jamie’s face says how proud she is of him. She challenges him and makes him feel he can conquer his demons and become the man he was intended to be.

Shaunti Feldhahn

For Young Women Only,

Feldhahn shows how all the ways that girls naturally talk can sound disrespectful. But her example of real respect? Simply a look. We don’t even need to say anything. We hold great power just through a look.

No direct communication here.

Mama Bear Apologetics offers similar warnings to young girls:

“Talk to little girls about how they might one day be surrounded by men who are bigger and stronger than they are. How might they stand up for themselves and be strong without emasculating the men around them?”

Hillary Morgan Ferrer

Mama Bear Apologetics

Even when we’re trying to be strong, we have to be sure we’re not emasculating men. Our first thoughts, when communicating with men, have to be about supporting his masculinity rather than sharing our feelings or dealing with an issue.

When we’re trying to communicate, we have to do so in a way that does not make them feel disrespected; undermine their authority; imply that we may know more than they do; imply that they may not be as good at something as they think. We have to make them feel competent, capable, better than us, and in charge BEFORE we think about expressing anything.

Can you see how that hinders direct communication and works directly against healthy relationships? And undermines truth?

Women, you are allowed to have feelings and you are allowed to express them.

It is not disrespectful to ask for what you want and need.

It is not a lack of trust in God.

It is not a desire to be in control.

It is not an unsubmissive spirit (let alone a Jezebel spirit).

It is not unfeminine.

It is not selfish.

It is not disrespectful.

It is, in fact, being Christlike, because you are walking in Truth and you are making peace.

You’re allowed to stop listening to people who tell you that expressing your own thoughts and feelings is somehow wrong. When they tell you that, they are also telling you that they are not safe people, and you are allowed to disregard them.

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And men–next time you hear women being told not to speak up or else men will feel disrespected, please speak up and say, “hey, men aren’t actually that fragile, and that’s so disrespectful to men to imply that we are!”

Christian Women Are Told it's a Sin to Communicate Directly with a Man

Have any of these three teachings affected you when you try to communicate in marriage? Have you ever second guessed yourself because you don’t want to be unsubmissive? Let’s talk in the comments!

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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. ELF

    I love that you bring out that the very people pushing the “respect” message are actually the most disrespectful to men by implying that every man is less capable and mature than my 5 year old.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly! Why aren’t more men appalled by this? I know my husband is.

    • Lisa M

      Exactly! Emerson Eggerichs comes across as very immature, as does Stormie Omartian’s husband. I have no way of knowing if they are incredibly immature or not but, wow, these books sure read that way.

      Both my husband and I have grown so much from direct communication in our marriage and from healthy boundaries. I cannot even imagine where we would be if we tried to implement this “tiptoe around the tulips” method. Do we speak respectfully to each other? Yes, that’s always the goal. But we call a spade a spade. We are each other’s best friend. I wouldn’t sit back and watch any other friend behave selfishly without speaking plainly and I wouldn’t want any friend to withhold truth from me, either.

  2. Trish

    Man, I’m so glad I hadn’t heard this stuff in college or so many of my group projects would have never gotten done. And how many study groups did I lead? The guys benefited from my knowledge. And I didn’t mind them knowing it.

    I know I need to improve communication in my marriage, though.

  3. Chris

    I have not read Love & Respect. However, reading between the lines here, all Emerson is saying in the story about the work-aholic is simply “wives, don’t nag”. Now, a lot of women don’t know how to not nag so he chose to use a unit of time to further clarify his point. He also mentions communication through silence working better for a lot of men. I am one of them. So I get it. I get what he is saying. Now to a lot of women this is highly ridiculous. “How can you communicate through silence? It must be through extreme quantities of excess verbiage that goes on forever and repeats itself frequently.” Verbal communication wipes me out. It really does. I just want to take a nap after a verbal conversation. Its draining.

    • Tricia

      I took to heart the “never nag your husband” advice. It was horrible for the first while of marriage. I would let my husband know something and then not nag. It didn’t happen. Then, deadline come and gone, he might say, “why didn’t you tell me?”
      Oh, I did. Back when I got the paint you asked for.
      “I dont even remember that.”
      I just don’t want to nag, though.

      Now, if I tell him something I sometimes ask, “Do you want me to remind you? How often?”

      No need for the passive aggressive stuff. Just say what is needed and then be done. This came about after I quit reading books about how to have a good marriage, and started discussing stuff with my husband. Doesn’t have to be long.
      “Do you want to be reminded?”
      “How do I know when?”
      I dont know…ask me maybe?
      And done.

      Way better than that verbal word vomit about “how important you are to the kids”
      “Hey, any chance you can be around a little more? The kids and I miss you.”
      Things are crazy at work. Might not happen in the next few weeks.
      “Oh, that stinks. Any chance for improvement, or ideas for how to prioritize family time now?”
      Let’s get to December and if things aren’t better we can address it then.
      “Sounds doable.”

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Chris, it is not a matter of not nagging. In the example he gave, she never even asked for what she wanted. She merely made observations.

      If this is the level of communication in a marriage, it means no communication is actually happening. It’s a big red flag that something is wrong.

      Verbal communication doesn’t need to take half an hour or more. It could still be a few sentences. But those sentences should communicate what is actually going on–namely: “I feel lonely because you are working such long hours. I feel overwhelmed with the children. Can we please talk about how to make our schedules more doable for both of us, so that the kids also have more time with you?”


    • A


      We all have different ways of communicating, and it is important to learn about our spouses and other relationships effective ways of communicating. Can you define nagging? Some people consider gentle reminders as nagging, which is kind of the vibe I get from Eggerich.

    • Anonymous for this one

      @Chris, yeah, no one wants to endure verbal vomiting. And husbands do it, too.

      Finding out how to communicate with your spouse is important. My husband doesn’t retain much verbally. If it isn’t important to him, it bounces off. Plus, he has decades of tuning out women’s voices because the women in his family were/are verbally manipulative, naggy, and abusive. I struggle to not tune out his mom. Just being around her stresses me out. So, I have SOME compassion for him, BUT he needs to accept that I am not his mom or grandma or aunts and I don’t deserve the same treatment.

      Written reminders work best for us. A family calendar, a whiteboard list. He appreciates that.

      But, I have also learned that unless it is important to him, it doesn’t usually get done, and likely won’t. I’ve had to put my big girl britches on and do things myself. Our marriage is turning into two individuals who live in the same house and have sex. He wouldn’t care if he lived in squalor do long as he had a TV and comfy spot. I’m more HGTV. So, I have to tackle the fixing up. I went years without a kitchen sink. Years without a properly functioning toilet, a winter without hot water. I was left pregnant and with toddlers with no access to firewood without smashing it out of 2 feet of snow and ice and attempting to fix our temperamental wood furnace. Leaking roof. You name it. It doesn’t bother him until it does.

      So, I do as much as I can by myself and am looking at getting an empty nest career so I can spend my wages getting our house fixed.

      • Anonymous305

        Anonymous, so sad he put you through that ☹️☹️☹️‼️‼️ I can’t imagine going years without a sink, toilet, and winters without heat-at least not calmly. I imagine being explosively angry, and not knowing how to forgive. If I lacked those things for reasons beyond my husband’s control, I could see it as a struggle we share together, but to see him as the cause and still love him would be SUPER HARD. You are amazing for doing that!!

    • Anon

      Chris, it doesn’t have to be either ‘extreme quantities of excess verbiage that goes on forever and repeats itself frequently’ or ‘silence’. You can have a middle ground.

      I actually think his example of how the wife should ‘ask’ her husband to reduce his hours is incredibly verbose. It would be MUCH quicker and less wordy to make a direct request than put in all that waffle about being a ‘positive presence’ and ‘giving him something no one else can’.

      I would really love to know how ‘communication through silence’ works though – does your wife just sit there and THINK things at you and you somehow absorb her thoughts from the atmosphere? I have to say it wouldn’t work in our marriage. I could THINK something at my husband for hours with zero results… He’s very good at responding to a spoken, direct request though.

    • Lisa M

      I suggest you see if your library has it. He does not tell women not to nag, he tells them that Abby they do that makes their husband angry is disrespectful. His wife is not even allowed to tell him, “hang up your wet towel, when you leave a wet towel on the bed it gets all the bedding wet and makes a lot of work for me.” Eggerichs leaves wet towels on the bed. His wife has to go check the bed every time he takes a shower because for her to say ANYTHING about where he leaves wet towels is disrespectful.

      But, Eggerichs wrote that women need to learn how to take criticism. Even if her husband has a pot belly, if he tells her she needs to lose weight, she cannot point out that he is overweight, also, that’s disrespectful. She just had to listen to the criticism and lose weight. He wrote that he’s come to see that most women believe they are without sin.

      I couldn’t make that up if I tried. His opinion of women is that most women believe they are without sin. Having been in bible studies and small groups with women my whole life, nothing could be further from the truth. Eggerichs has something deeper going on.

      • Laura

        That is so true about Eggerichs. Why does he think it’s okay for a husband to tell his wife that she could stand to lose a few pounds, but if he’s got a pot belly, she should not be pointing that out to him? Sounds to me like he believes that men are not without sin, but it’s not alright for women to think they are without sin. I think he had a toxic agenda for writing this book.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Also, in context (and we talk about this in The Great Sex Rescue), he frames her gaining weight as worse than his porn or his alcoholism. It’s just disgusting.

  4. Erin

    When I’ve gone to well meaning friends in the past and talked about my frustrations, there is always an answer I get that “our husbands were never meant to complete us”, and that we just need to trust God more to meet the needs that aren’t being met by our husbands. While yes, this is based on some truth, this line of thinking also keeps women silent and quiet and they never feel like they should speak up for things that they need.

  5. Dee

    As I read this article I can hear joke after joke from countless sermons, speakers, and marriage conferences. The jokes have different stories but the punch line is pretty much the same women are confusing enigmas and men wish the would just tell them what they really want. Once again we (women) are getting mixed signals from our leaders and teachers. “Your husband wants you to communicate more clearly. He can’t read minds. But,…if you are too direct or accidentally reveal too much of your intelligence your husband may feel disrespected and get angry. Maybe you should just drop subtle hints.”

    It really feels like we can’t win.

  6. Laura

    Reason #3 “You must never undermine his masculinity and his leadership” means she can’t communicate directly without being in sin sounds like a lesson taught in Manipulation 101. I don’t know how a woman giving her man “the look” (exactly what look?) can be effective.

    It sounds like a whole lot of work to try to get what you want without undermining his masculinity and his leadership (not actually biblical, more cultural for patriarchal society). Instead of being so concerned about his fragile ego (which I don’t think the majority of men have), why not communicate to him the way you do with a friend? If he gets a bit upset, so be it. I’m sure these Christian authors and Bible study teachers think it’s okay for husbands to be direct with their wives. In Love & Respect, Eggerichs gave the example of a husband telling his wife she needs to lose weight. I cannot remember the page number. He believed it was perfectly acceptable for a husband to tell his wife to lose weight, but she was not allowed to confront him on his drinking or porn use. She also couldn’t point out to her husband that he needed to lose weight. I experienced this in my first marriage. My husband constantly criticized and belittled me, then told me that he was only telling me this for my own good. Yet, if I suggested something to him, that was not okay. This is verbal abuse.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very much so, Laura.

      What gets me is that this is all so emotionally unhealthy, and obviously so. Like I can’t imagine being more emotionally unhealthy if I tried. Shouldn’t that be a red flag that perhaps our materials are off somehow? When it’s just obviously not in line with proper emotionally healthy behavior and emotionally healthy communication? I think this is why Christians often can’t recognize red flags–because we’re told that things that are fundamentally unhealthy are actually of Jesus–when they’re not.

  7. ML

    I’m flabbergasted at how men are portrayed as such fragile, insecure beings that the wife needs to coddle and build up all the time. If I was a guy, I would be so ticked to be described this way.
    I also know that I received a lot of this same teaching over the years at marriage conferences and the like. I have a hard time being direct with anybody because I hate confrontation and to rock the boat, but I’m also tired of playing the games.
    Say what you mean and mean what you say, and it can all be done in a kind and loving manner. I will definitely be working on this.
    Thank you Sheila & team for all you do!

    • Lisa M

      One saying I used to hear a lot is, “pray hard and then duck!” Meaning that if your husband is in persistent sin, like substance abuse, infidelity, chronic laziness, you pray fervently and look out because God will smite him and knock him back into place.

      I think we all know plenty of examples of a wife spending decades with a husband who persisted in sinful behavior and the wife just hoped God would do something while she stayed silent.

  8. Jo

    If a husband is unwilling to “accept influence,” in the Gottman phrasing, then as soon as his wife starts talking about a need she has or a favor she’d like, then to him she’ll sound like the teachers on the old Peanuts comic TV shows: “Mwah-mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah.”

    As for all the exhortations and warnings against wives nagging their husbands, where are all the exhortations and warnings against husbands being lazy, forgetful, uninterested liars? If a husband agrees or volunteers to do something but then never does it, whether through laziness, busyness, forgetfulness, or simply trying to keep the peace when he was asked or volunteered, then doesn’t that make him a liar? If said husband would keep his word, his wife would never have to bring up the issue again, would she? So why is all the responsibility for the husband’s utter lack of follow-through put on the wife keeping her mouth shut rather than her husband doing what he said he’d do?

    While all the women reading this post are thinking, “Yay! It’s about time someone said this out loud,” too many men are going to read it simply as a woman’s jibber-jabber. After all, men are in charge, there’s been no Scripture quoted in favor of the content, so men can yet again feel quite comfortable ignoring a mere woman’s opinions, ideas, thoughts, and statements. Quoting secular researchers can similarly be dismissed out of hand, since by definition they start with a bias against the Bible. Men can always fall back on “But I’m doing it according to Scripture!” Scripture twisted all out of context? Who cares!! It can be assumed to say what men want it to say, and since men in the shape of pastors, elder boards, and “servant leader” husbands are the final arbiters, claiming to be the ones in absolute charge, then hey presto! Look who doesn’t have to do any work to improve themselves.


    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Rebecca actually addressed the nagging question in the podcast we recorded this morning. It’s coming out on Thursday. Yes, we see nagging as a female problem, without recognizing that the reason that she is often “nagging” is because he promised to do something she needs done and has yet to do it. So what is she supposed to do? (I have a partial solution to that in last year’s post about nagging and mental load).

      • Lisa M

        Nagging is a sign that a person has been treated disrespectfully.

        If I ask my husband to do something and he says, “sure, I’ll do that today,” and it’s still not done a week later, it is ok for me to say, “hey hon, you said you’d get that job done, what’s going on?” If he responds with, “oh, I forgot, I’ll do it today,” and another week goes by, it is not out of the realm of normal for me to be frustrated. It is disrespectful to say you’ll do something and then not do it.

        We had big talk a few years back and he admitted that he would agree to do the job without making it a priority even though his words indicated he did. I pointed out that he was lying, then. I told him if he’s not going to do it, say so. The talk involved him admitting that he doesn’t think it’s fair that I have to do everything but he doesn’t want to take on unpleasant jobs, either. Nor does he think it’s fair for me to do all the unpleasant jobs while he takes the easy ones. I told him it’s time to acknowledge that we are both the adults in the home. I’m the mom, yes, but he’s the dad. Time to just get it done.

        Things are so much better now. He was infantilizing himself with his behavior. He has so much more self respect, now.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That’s awesome, Lisa! I do want to do a longer post about nagging later in this series. What you’re saying is pretty much exactly what Rebecca keeps talking about that she wants me to put in the post!

  9. NM

    I think I’m going to ask my husband to read this one! I’ve been trying to explain how much this teaching messed me up but it’s been tough to articulate. Thanks for stating it so well!

  10. Bethanie

    Okay, just recently diving into your content. Halfway through GSR.
    Mind blown.
    I fit perfectly in ALL of the harmful teachings that have been taught for years.

    This one is hard for me to even wrap my head around…
    My issue is, my husband is legitimately super fragile. I think he has diagnosable self-esteem issues, high functioning anxiety and some anger issues.
    Speaking directly and clearly to him almost always becomes a fight.
    I have been reading and praying through “The power of a praying wife” and it has been helpful and encouraging. I have seen God use it in our lives.
    It is clearly re-enforcing this same idea… Let go and let God.

    I desperately want to get to a point where BOTH of us speak directly and clearly to each other. With respect and kindness, but also not keeping silent just to spare each others feelings…
    Getting to the point together has proven to be a challenge.
    Any direction on how to get to that same place together. When I go there on my own he goes even more silent and dark in his own mind.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Bethanie, that’s so tough! Is he in counseling with a licensed counselor at all? Or have you read the book How We Love about attachment issues?

  11. Anonymous305

    Of course, I wish that men would be outraged, but some aren’t because they don’t want to listen to women ☹️☹️☹️. It’s harder to identify wrong messages when they are mixed with right ones like, “he can’t read your mind, but don’t tell him what to do” and it goes both ways. “God made you the authority, but she has sensitive feelings.”

    Allegedly, the reason the church is so focused on building the male ego is that feminism emasculated men, and now the church is trying to undo all the damage that feminism did to men, both in how it teaches masculinity to men’s groups and how it teaches wives to respect their masculinity.

    Interestingly, when I listen to John Elderidge, I relate to some of both the “masculine” and “feminine” traits, so what does the church think of me now? 🤔🤔🤔

    I love that the Bible mentions that Deborah had a husband with no other details about him. It’s like God knew that people would assume that only single women can lead without that information, I do wonder whether he was annoyed that he wasn’t the leader or whether he admired her, but apparently, God didn’t want us to know.

    Related to #3, I wondered if God would be angry if I spoke up or angry if I didn’t because speaking up is unsubmissive, but not speaking up is failure to take responsibility for fixing the marriage. I didn’t know which one would make God more angry, but I eventually came to believe that trust means trusting God for guidance on when to speak and when to be silent. I’m sure you’re going to say that God isn’t angry, but doesn’t the church portray that he is?

  12. Avonlea

    I really appreciate what you’ve said. I grew up in the typical conservative church, and this is something I still struggle with today. I will say though, how do you talk to your husband directly while also being respectful? This may sound silly, but in the getting directions to the party example, what would be the best way to approach your husband in that situation? I struggle with either being way to harsh because I want my way and being way to indirect because of my concern for him. How do you find a middle ground that is healthy for each of you? Thanks for all your wonderful content. It’s literally changed my life and my marriage.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I would just simply say something like, “Hey, hon, I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to turn left here.” Would that work?

  13. Naomi

    I have so many thoughts 😁
    First of all, I am flabbergasted that an example from the MOVIE, A Walk to Remember, was used as an example of godly female behavior. Um, those are ACTORS. They were speaking from a SCRIPT. Cause and effect can NOT be taken from a fluffy romance movie. I’m sorry. That is just laughable. 🤦‍♀️

    Second, this series has been right on the money. I was just talking to my husband yesterday about how direct communication has been the #1 reason we thriving in marriage today. Having those difficult conversations about what we both like/don’t like, need/don’t need and complete transparency has been absolutely crucial for our relationship. The reason it took us 10+ years of marriage to start doing that was because we were raised on these bad ideas that you’re dissecting.
    Third, I am super curious where this man-made idea of “make sure we don’t emasculate men” is supported by scripture…the teachers using this idea have forgotten about how leadership in the Bible always looks like humble service and self-sacrifice. And nothing about that is gender specific.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Completely agree, Naomi! Well said. And i have no idea where it’s in the Bible either. Maybe it’s not? 🙂

      • Emmy

        It’s not.

  14. Sue

    Are you familiar with Laura Doyle and her Surrendered Wife book ? Not specifically Christian, her approach makes it sound like, just be thankful, be happy, respectful, do self care, and your husband will love and adore you. Just follow her 6 easy steps and have the marriage of your dreams.
    I would be curious to hear your take on her philosophy.


  15. Sarah R

    Sheila, this is brilliant. I’m just now realising how my indirect communication style is really unhelpful to my relationships, and I’m a single woman. Wishing I had known/realised this stuff earlier in life, as it could’ve prevented a few friendships from going south. I really think we should take communication from primary school upwards! This is such good stuff, thank you.

    • Sarah R

      *teach communication

  16. Emmy

    I just wonder why the quote “Be content in every circumstance” is so popular in books for women. The quote is not taken from a passage directed especially to women. Paul writes here to all Christians, men and women alike.

    I mean, it is very good advice. I believe it and try to apply it in my life. But should not authors like E. E. need to apply it also and teach their male readers to do the same? Instead, they tell that a man comes under satanic attack if he does not get sex often enough, and suffers greatly, if they do not receive enough respect and are not allowed to leave wet towels on the bed. Does E.E. and the like believe they not need to follow Paul’s advice and try to be content in every circumstance?

    Also, leaving all your burdens at God’s feet and let Him change things and people you cannot change, it is a good and beautiful Biblical advice given to us both by Paul and Peter. But Paul and Peter do not tell this especially to women but to all Christians, guys included. So why should only women need to let go and let God? Can’t guys not give their burdens to Jesus and trust God to change their spouses? Why should they have to do all the work themselves, by writing nasty manipulative books like L&R?

  17. Emmy

    Can this even be serious:

    “If you have superior knowledge than them [boys] , you must not share that with them, or they will feel disrespected. So you should not tell them how to get something done, but must instead show that you respect their abilities. (Again, this is all girls to all boys; not even girls in dating relationships).”

    Sheila, do you know what this reminds me of? A parody! A comedy by Molière. A male version of Hyacinth Bucket, in Keeping up Appearances, you know? Perhaps someone really should start writing one. Something for Katie, perhaps? I’m sure she would do it just brilliantly.

    Perhaps we have been taking this kind of teaching too seriously for too long. Perhaps it is time to see how ridiculous it really is.

  18. Maria Bernadette

    The Serenity Prayer comes to mind.

    “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

  19. Shannon

    I am the woman 20 years into a marriage with take-it-or-leave-it sex. We tried everything in the early years…never once could I produce an orgasm. I still have no clue what is supposed to “feel good” so how can I guide him? Of course I was going to rely on my husband to help me…he’s the only person I ever talked to about sex. I only had him as an example so, when he got aroused quickly and orgasmed just as quick, I thought I should too. I never faked it because I didn’t know what a real one was like. You can’t fake what you don’t know. Long story short…we tried everything and nothing worked. After much research and counseling, I have realized that sex and orgasms are not important. My husband works so hard and does so much for me outside the bedroom, the least I can do is ensure that he has wonderful sex. I’ve never been good at cooking but I’m really good giving him pleasure.

  20. Jan

    I agree with just about everything you have said here Sheila. However, there is one thing which has always baffled and dismayed me and has me wondering if I’m missing something. The research which states that it is good for a marriage and the health of the individuals if there are ‘fights’ and arguments. Both my husband and I are fairly easy going people who have been happily married for 31 years. We rarely argue or fight. We just don’t do it. Of course there are disagreements from time to time, but these are usually resolved without resentment or drama. Are we in a bad marriage or destined to die before our time? I don’t think so.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think if you are feeling connected, and if both of you feel as if you can share what’s on your heart, then it’s absolutely fine! The big question is: are we able to share our fears/insecurities/needs? For many people, these things are often sources of conflict, and so if you don’t have conflict, these things actually don’t get shared. But if you’re already communicating on those deepest levels, then don’t worry about it at all!

  21. Liz

    (Long time reader, first time poster.) anytime I hear this nonsense I think about how the church (the bride of Christ) is encouraged to communicate with her husband. Coming boldly before the throne of grace. Pray without ceasing. Making all requests known. Casting all cares upon him. Sure sounds like direct and frequent communication to me!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Such a great picture! Yes. That’s perfect.

  22. Stella

    I’m a newer reader to your blog and this post is what has tipped me over the edge to post: it is wild to me that my parents do this, but don’t preach it.
    My parents are direct communicators. They always make decisions together: my mom could literally only think of one time she “submitted” to my dad’s decision, and that’s because he felt convicted that God was calling our family in that direction, so she decided to trust God and her husband. And in the end, God ended up using it as a test for both of them and they ended up going in a different direction. Literally one time, and my parents have been married for 30 years.
    My parents don’t conform to gender stereotypes. My mom is a stay-at-home teacher because SHE HAS ALWAYS WANTED TO. Even before she got married. She’s not overtly feminine, and my dad’s not overtly masculine either (guess who has the bigger closet and spends more time on his hair). They assign tasks/roles based on who is better at them, regardless of gender. My mom really struggles with communicating directly. With everyone, not just my dad. She doesn’t like conflict or making people uncomfortable. It’s her personality. My dad actually feels more respected by her direct communication. They always approach things directly and strive for mutual agreement and understanding, by speaking as clearly as possible. It’s a priority in their relationship to talk about feelings and work through things together. Their relationship is mutual and works perfectly for them and their goals as a team.

    Yet when they’re at church, they recommend Love and Respect. They dislike “feminism” and believe in “biblical” man and womanhood. They talk a big game, but they don’t live that! I am so surprised by how my parents and grandparents unspokenly live a lot of the principles this blog talks, and seem to assume everyone with a brain does this, but encourage headship and conservatism. I think it’s because your principles WORK. And my parents wanted to have a successful happy marriage, and they learned that meant showing mutual respect and love, meaningfully and without bypassing each other’s desires.

    I wonder if my parents took the principles they learned from books like Love and Respect, put a dose of common sense on them, and assumed everyone read the book like that? It’s like they spoke out loud one thing and then went home and went, “Okay, honey, what do WE want? How can WE make each other happy?”

    I wish that I could just send them this blog, but besides not wanting to know or discuss my parent’s sex life, I think they would recoil at some of the “non-Christian, non-biblical” verbiage, along with a dose of, “But why are these women making it such a big deal? That’s not what people are actually saying right? Doesn’t everyone know that? ” Even though the statistics show that now, everyone very much doesn’t know that.

    I don’t know, as an unmarried young woman who is getting very discouraged at the culture of the evangelical church, this subconscious hypocrisy just makes me tired and wish I wasn’t dealing with this. I really don’t know how to move forward in lots of areas, and this is one of them.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I totally get it, Stella. Your parents sound like a great example of why this problem is so hard to solve: People often cling to the ideas and the theology that they DON’T practice, and just assume that everyone else is goodwilled, and can’t picture anything else.

      I know it’s tiring. I’m there with you!


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