Top 10 Marriage and Sex Red Flags You Must Never Ignore

by | Sep 28, 2021 | Marriage | 33 comments

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Marriage red flags–all of us have marriage issues, but how do you know if an issue crosses the line into dangerously weird territory?

I receive many emails from women in crisis, and since we’re talking about doing marriage on hard mode all month, I thought I’d share 10 marriage and sex red flags that really shouldn’t be ignored.

Often we don’t realize when something is off, because we’re new at this whole marriage thing, and most of us don’t share personal and intimate details with our friends. So how can you know if something that worries you is actually a red flag for something quite serious?

I first ran this post a few years ago, but I’ve updated it because it’s such an important one. 

What is a Sex or Marriage Red Flag?


A sex or marriage red flag relates to a situation which will not get better by you being nicer, by you being more understanding, by you trying to talk it through with him, or by you being more patient.

This is something which is a serious issue that will likely require a third party, like a licensed counselor, to help you through.

If you ignore it, your marriage will only get worse, and your husband will only fall deeper and deeper into sin or more and more away from God and your family (depending on what the issue is).

In this post, I’m not talking about abuse–though this, too, will not get better on its own, and is a huge red flag. If abuse is your issue, please see:

Today, then, I want to talk more about sexual red flags in marriage.

These problems represent an issue that your husband has–not something that you have caused, and so you cannot make it better. You can, however, make it more likely that he will get the help he needs by taking it seriously. And that is the most loving thing you can do.

Are you PeaceKEEPING or PeaceMAKING?

There’s a huge difference between the two. And if you don’t get it right–you’ll never be able to feel truly intimate in your marriage.

There’s a better way!

My heart aches for women in these situations, because they often are so taken back with surprise that their husbands are acting this way, and they truly don’t know what to do. I’m sorry that some of these seem so extreme, but I’ve had multiple emails about each of these types of situations, and I know that there are women dealing with these things. So let’s get it all out in the open today!

Here are 10 Sex and Marriage Red Flags that shouldn’t be ignored:

1. If your husband says he enjoys sex, but he never or rarely wants to make love–Red Flag!

Men, in general, have a higher sex drive than women do. That doesn’t mean that if you have a higher sex drive than your husband that there is necessarily something wrong with him.

But if your husband never wants to make love (say, less than once a month), even if he says he enjoys it, then that is a red flag. Even if his sex drive is lower than yours, he should want to make love at least sometimes. Here’s a more in-depth series on what to do if your husband doesn’t want sex–and when this really is a red flag.

This could be a sign of psychological issues, pornography issues, ultra low testosterone, or, in some cases, even a different sexual orientation.

2. If your husband considers lack of sex to be a spiritual virtue–Red Flag!

One wife of a busy, hardworking pastor sent this in:

About two months ago I was really feeling the abandonment and disconnect from my husband due to the demands of ministry. I was reading your blog and saw a comment where a woman stated that she never lets her and husband go more than two nights in a row without making love. I thought: how genius! Maybe this will help us stay connected even with his crazy schedule. This went on for a few weeks, then all of a sudden he started refusing. He would leave me laying in bed naked and alone. Again, confused and rejected, I voiced my concerns. He said, we’ve had sex more this month than we’ve had our whole marriage. He proceeded to tell me that our marriage is not based on sex but God. And he felt like I was trying to fill a void of rejection by having sex all the time instead of letting God heal me.

This marriage was already distant because this husband (and father!) was spending most of his time and energy away from the family. When the wife tried to bridge the gap with sex, he told her that she should rely on God instead (presumably like he does).

We do need to rely on God, but we also were created for intimacy with our spouses. When someone consistently rejects sex, while also rejecting an emotional relationship with their spouse, they are likely running from intimacy in general. In this man’s case, he may be lacking intimacy with God, too, thinking that activity for God is the equivalent of intimacy with God. It’s not.

He likely needs a counselor to sit down with him and talk through his priorities–and also a counselor who can walk him through why he’s running from intimacy and believes that self-sufficiency is the highest good. This attitude will make him an ineffective father and husband, but it will also ultimately make him an ineffective pastor.

3. If your husband has never been able to “complete the deed”, especially if he’s young–Red Flag!

I remember one woman who wrote me who married when she and her husband were quite naive and ignorant about how sex worked. She told me that she didn’t think she had ever had sex, and didn’t understand how it even happened.

After more questions, it turned out that her husband had never had an erection.

Young men should have no problem maintaining an erection. If he is unable to with you, then he has either major sexual issues, major psychological issues, or major physical issues (very unlikely in a younger person). Or, alternatively, he may have trained himself through masturbation to only respond to direct stimulation, as in this case:

My son-in-law has been unable to fully complete sexually. After a year and a half of marriage, during which they’ve never managed to “finish”, my daughter came to find out that he does masturbate quite a bit, and had looked at porn a lot. So my daughter has blocked the internet sites that she can and he is very limited to the time he is on the computer. He has been attending an accountability class at a Church that they are attending. He tried going without masturbating for 30 days and he thought things might have seemed better, but didn’t last long.  Oh, I know he was abused as a little boy by his older brother. Inappropriate touching and sodomy that she knows of. He doesn’t want to talk about that.

He asked and asked about seeing a urologist. Basically, my daughter came away thinking because there doesn’t seem to be a problem. He can ejaculate, therefore the urologists says everything is working fine. Could he have masturbated so long that he doesn’t get the same feeling inside her?

Masturbation could definitely be contributing to the problem–but so, likely, is the abuse that he won’t talk about it. Insisting that he go for counseling and getting trauma therapy likely is even more important than a recovery group (though that can help too).  And you can retrain yourself to be aroused by a person, but it takes a while.

That brings us to this one:

4. If your husband chooses masturbation over intercourse–Red Flag!

I’ve had several women saying that they have been going for months without sex–but then one woman walked in on her husband masturbating in the shower. He says he does it every day, and suggests she does it, too, she they don’t have to be bothered with sex.

Solo masturbation is selfish and steals intimacy. If someone chooses masturbation over sex consistently, they likely have withdrawn in other ways and have stunted their emotional development, because they’re becoming self focused rather than relationship focused.

I speak more about masturbation in marriage here.

The next three sex red flags are quite common today, and often result from an addiction to pornography:

5. If your husband refuses to share passwords, let you see his phone, or let you on his computer–Red Flag!

A marriage should have complete trust and openness. If he is adamant that his phone and computer are private, that is practically a guarantee that he is doing something he should not do. If you ask him, he may end up attacking you: “don’t you trust me? Are you that insecure?”

I have never known a marriage where a husband or wife refuses access to their phones who isn’t also either texting inappropriately or watching porn. Never.

If he refuses to let you see things, that’s a definite sign there’s something wrong. One more tip: If you do find something on his phone or computer, take a screen shot or a picture with your phone, so that it can’t be denied later. Then insist on talking with a counselor about it.

Find freedom from porn!

Your marriage, and your thought life, do not need to be held captive to pornography.

There is freedom. 

Beat porn–together!

6. If your husband is not interested in pleasing you, and seems almost disconnected during sex–Red Flag!

If your husband becomes almost a robot in bed, closing his eyes and refusing to talk to you, then he’s disconnecting, perhaps because he can’t become aroused without picturing something else–or someone else–in his head. If he were to talk to you, it would break the fantasy. If sex is impersonal, there’s something wrong.

Note: this may not be a huge sin issue. If a guy grew up masturbating to porn, but doesn’t watch porn anymore, he could simply be having a hard time getting aroused now because he’s trained his sexual response wrong (that’s one of the side effects of porn!). It doesn’t mean he’s watching porn now (though he could be). Talk to him about it and try to work through it together, though an accountability group or counselor may be necessary.

7. If your husband seems to only enjoy sex if you are in discomfort, pain, or inconvenienced–Red Flag!

So much of pornography is focused on dominating or using someone. As I’ve said repeatedly in our Bare Marriage podcast, sex and pornography are not substitutes for one another: they are polar opposites. Sex is an intimate knowing and sharing between two people; porn is a one-sided using of another for your own gratification. And sometimes that involves needing to emotionally distance yourself in order to become aroused.

We shared an anecdote like this that raised major red flags to us in The Great Sex Rescue:

Great Sex Rescue

From The Great Sex Rescue

If you only become aroused when someone else is in distress or discomfort, that is a problem. One woman wrote to us with concerning sexual dynamics in her marriage:

There will be times when I initiate and my husband says no, which I am okay with. But then he will want to a few minutes later. Today I had to go to work and knew I would be leaving in a half an hour. I offered for us to have a quickie before I had to go. He said he was okay. Then right before I had to leave, he asked if we could go into the bedroom. I got frustrated but didn’t want to deny him, which of course killed the mood for him and he got frustrated. At night, when I initiate, he often says no. Then as soon as I fall asleep, he wakes me up and says he is horny, or I wake up and find him having sex with me on top of me.

As we explained in chapter 10, waking someone up for sex without their consent is sexual assault. But looking at the other things she described, we see even more red flags. She initiates when it is a good time for her, but if it’s a good time for her, he’s turned off. He only wants intercourse when it’s inconvenient for her. It sounds like, for this man, power has become an aphrodisiac. When you operate under a kingdom of power, rather than under the kingdom of God (as Jesus contrasts in Matt. 20:25–28), then power over the other becomes the gateway to arousal and sexual response. When you operate instead under a kingdom where love and sacrifice reign, then love becomes the gateway into sex.

If your husband is operating with a power sexual response cycle rather than a love one, that’s a problem.

8. If your husband is not interested in intercourse, but only wants other sexual acts–Red Flag!

Porn depicts sexual acts that are more degrading, and thus often more “photograph worthy”, than simply making love. Add that to a porn habit which is self-focused with masturbation, and many men are not interested in actual sex because it requires mutuality. If your husband prefers other sexual acts (or consistently “degrading” things) to intercourse, he likely has a problem with porn.

Note: if your husband simply wants some variation in bed, there’s nothing wrong with that! But if a man only wants oral sex–red flag!

Finally, the last two red flags represent a man with a seriously disturbed sexuality, which really does need a counselor (and unfortunately I’ve had several of these types, too):

9. If your husband has to role play himself or get you to role play to become aroused–Red Flag!

If he has to pretend to be very young, or that you are very young–or any variation on this sort of thing–that’s a danger sign. If he has to pretend to be a different gender, that’s a warning sign. Many couples like to role play; but if the role play is necessary to his arousal, then there is something at work that really does need to be dealt with.

10. If your husband wears strange clothing in private–Red Flag!

One reader wrote in with this story:

I have a friend who basically walks on eggshells whenever her husband is around, so as not to disrupt his delicate moods. Yet then he expects her to want to have sex more! She does not keep sex from him, she tries her best even though her emotional needs aren’t being met, yet SHE is the one who has to initiate if they do have sex. Any time she tries to talk to him about their marriage, he ends up crying, and so she never really says exactly what she feels because she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. Lately he’s done some weird things, such as he got a thong and began wearing it to bed. No explanation, no asking her what she thought about it. She asked him why and he said “I thought you might like it.” She told him it was a big turn-off for her, yet a month later he ordered 3 more on-line.

I can imagine how bewildered this wife is. She’s trying to have a good marriage, to be good to him, to be sexually available–but he’s crying, moody, rejecting her, and now wearing lingerie!

If a man starts wearing odd clothing, especially in bed, this is a sign of a serious psychological issue that needs to be dealt with.

Note: I am not saying thongs are weird or wrong. But in this scenario, there definitely seems to be something else going on, and it’s associated with clothing.

BONUS Tip: If he won’t accept your no–Red Flag!

I guess this one’s really #11, but it needs a spot all on its own, because it’s so important.

When we did our focus groups for The Great Sex Rescue, we were amazed by how many women told us stories of sexual assault in marriage which they didn’t understand was sexual assault. If she wasn’t kicking and screaming, then it wasn’t rape, right? Or maybe she was kicking and screaming, but they were married, so rape wasn’t possible, right?

Chapter 10 in The Great Sex Rescue shows how too often our evangelical advice about sex has ignored issues of sexual abuse, and even enabled coercion. Remember this one simple test:

If you do not feel as if you can safely say no, then you can’t freely say yes, either. 

For more help:

I’m sorry to talk about such distasteful things today.

I know that this is not what the vast majority of you deal with. But what scares me when I see some of these emails is that the wives don’t seem to realize how serious many of these red flags are, because it’s their “normal”. So I want to say, loudly and clearly, these things are NOT normal. They ARE red flags. And you really, really do need to get help, for the sake of his own spiritual and emotional health, and that of your relationship.

If you want to see what normal sex is, and what God created sex to be, our book The Great Sex Rescue explains it all, and it may help you put words to what you instinctively feel is wrong.

The Great Sex Rescue

Changing the conversation about sex & marriage in the evangelical church.

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.

My sympathy for any of you who are walking through this.

Please know that God is big enough to get you through–and your husband is never so messed up that God cannot redeem him and redeem your marriage. He may not choose to do so–we all have free will to reject God’s help, and some people won’t change. But God can do amazing things when we let Him, and I pray that this will be evident in your marriages!

10 Marriage Red Flags that you can't ignore: If you notice these things in your sex life, do something about it. They're dangerous, they're not normal, and you simply must confront your husband.

Is there a red flag that I missed? What would be #11? Or do you think one of these is not that big a deal? 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. Anon

    “But what scares me when I see some of these emails is that the wives don’t seem to realize how serious many of these things are, because it’s their “normal”. ”

    I think this is true regarding all relationships between men & women – we have become so conditioned as women to dealing with inappropriate/wrong behaviour from men that we often don’t see it as ‘wrong’ any more. I found it very eye opening when #MeToo was a hot topic in the media over here a few years back. I had a number of conversations with friends who mentioned how surprised they were at the number of women claiming to have been sexually assaulted, because they said they had never experienced anything of the kind. In EACH case, when questioned further, they described experiencing things that clearly were sexual assault…they just hadn’t registered it as such because ‘that’s how men are’ and ‘putting up with that is part of being a woman’.

    If you don’t see being groped by a work colleague or being forcibly kissed by a guy in your youth group as wrong for example, then you have zero chance of recognising wrong behaviour in marriage either.

  2. AspenP

    I was the eye-closer! It was a trauma-related response for me from previously being date raped by a past boyfriend a decade before, but it showed up in our marriage. I struggled to connect as a newlywed. There seemed to be safety with my eyes closed. It took a few years of healing more before I could keep my eyes open. It was something I didn’t anticipate since I had received so much healing, but I hadn’t been sexually-active before or after the rapes until I married my husband.

    • M

      I also had a problem with this one-
      (number 5) -I’ve seen a guy harass his girlfriend constantly about having access to her phone. He demanded she should trust him. It felt really off. It seemed really controlling. There could be legitimate reasons you don’t want someone else going through your phone or mail or drawers or purse. I really don’t want my husband doing that and I don’t want to do that to him. But I also get what you are saying….
      It’s like teenagers (maybe) where you respect privacy but if there’s a concern for safety you would go through things to keep them or others safe? I don’t know….

      • Anon

        I don’t think this is talking about giving access to your phone while you are dating – I would never have expected that from my husband before we were married, and I would have been concerned if he’d demanded access to mine. But there’s a big difference between not handing your private information over to someone you are dating and getting defensive when your spouse asks to borrow your computer or phone.

        I’d think it was weird if my husband were to start randomly scrolling through my phone or hunting through my drawer space, but I wouldn’t get defensive if he asked to borrow my phone or look for something specific. I think that’s the difference.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, perhaps I worded it wrong. I just often will pick up my husband’s phone if mine is dead to search for something on Safari. But some spouses won’t give their spouse their password so they can’t even do that. I find that a red flag.

        I’m not talking about searching through someone’s phone, but just simply being able to use it. Keith uses my phone too if it’s closer than his if he has to look something up. That just seems normal to me.

      • M

        That makes sense. This couple did get married and he continued to hound her. I guess this just reminded me of this dysfunctional couple. I agree though …we use each other’s phone when convenient, and if it’s not Christmas time it’s perfectly normal to go in someone’s stuff to look for something. I guess when a person acts weird or controlling on either end it can be a red flag. Thanks for your feedback:)

      • E

        Yes, I agree. I have an app on my phone with all my therapist messages that I wouldn’t want anyone going through. The fact that it is passcode protected allows me to be more open with my therapist. I also have a journaling app that I use that I wouldn’t want anyone reading. Neither of these things is doing anything wrong or inappropriate.

        I have heard many stories of abusive people demanding access to their victims phones and ‘checking up on them’, and I feel as though that is a boundary violation. The way you have worded this point could enable an abuser to feel justified to violate those boundaries.

        It is a hard/tricky situation, as often going through someone’s phone is how porn addiction or infidelity is found.

      • Cynthia

        Glad I wasn’t the only one with this reaction.

        Even within a marriage, I feel there’s room for privacy. My husband and I both have professions where we sometimes get emails that we are required by law to keep confidential. I also had a reaction to the idea of taking screen shots as “evidence”. This isn’t a court case. There is no external jury here. There are only two people who need to decide if they want to improve their relationship or separate.

      • Anon

        Cynthia, I think one reason for taking a screenshot would be in situations where the partner is gaslighting you – if you have proof of something, it stops YOU from feeling like you are the crazy one, but it may also stop your partner trying to deny it.

        Another reason is if you have children and may need to prevent your partner having unsupervised access to them for their own safety if you split up. I had a friend who used screenshots & videos as evidence that her husband was not a safe person to be left in charge of his kids (no exaggeration, their lives would have been at risk) Instead, the ruling was that he was able to meet them in the presence of another independent adult, so they still had contact while being protected from harm.

      • Cynthia

        To build in my last comment – taking a screenshot can be appropriate for something that is genuinely court-evidence worthy. That would include anything illegal or dangerous, proof that someone is doing some financially shady stuff, etc. If things are at that point, there really isn’t much of a relationship to save.

        I see regular porn (ie not anything illegal) as being a bit different. That’s a personal and relationship issue. It is something to work through, not an allegation to bring to an outside party. It’s the same way that I don’t police my teens but focus more on open discussion. The lesson shouldn’t be “get better at being sneaky and you really can’t discuss this issue because they will hit the roof”.

  3. Laura

    Regarding number five, I would offer another perspective. Here’s what you said: “I have never known a marriage where a husband or wife refuses access to their phones who isn’t also either texting inappropriately or watching porn. Never.”

    As I was realizing how unsafe my marriage was, I eventually put a lock code on my phone. My (alcoholic, abusive, porn addict) husband was upset and regularly protested the lock code. He said he felt like I was shutting him out of my life and he wanted to know what I was talking to my friends about. (Meanwhile he put a lock on his own phone, but that’s a different story.) I did not capitulate. Having a lock on my phone gave me the safety net to privately call the local domestic violence shelter, to safely brainstorm with supportive friends, etc.

    I think that would be an important distinction to make, to avoid heaping more burdens on those who are suffering due to their spouse’s cruelty.

    • Emily B

      Thank you for this post! I am praying that women and men will find this post even before they get married and will be able to protect themselves and others with this knowledge.

    • Maria Bernadette

      I was just thinking about how putting a lock on phone could indicate lack of TRUST (sometimes warranted, like in your case, it sounds like.)

      There’s privacy, which everyone has a right to, even spouses. And secrecy. One is having the right to not share information that someone else is NOT owed. The other is refusing to share information they do have a right to.

      A person does not have an inherent right to know if their spouse played Tetris on the phone, called and talked to their mother, or looked up pie recipes. All of that is on a phone.

      But so is porn on a phone. And access to dating websites.

      If someone does not share their password, is it because they feel the need to protect their privacy from their spouse (as opposed to trusting spouse to respect their privacy, if spouse is trustworthy?) Or is it to hide something their spouse should know about?

      • Laura

        Yes! “A lack of trust” is the perfect way to say it. I didn’t trust him because he’d proven that he was untrustworthy. But I had a personal history of never looking up porn or extramarital relationships. And I was desperately trying to keep from drowning as I to navigated terrible circumstances. (I’m grateful for those who supported me as I got safe. I’ve been out for more than two years.)

    • Viva

      Thank you, Laura, for making that distinction. I thought the same thing, based on my experience, as I was reading Shiela’s post.

    • Katydid

      That is an important distinction to make, but Sheila is still right that putting a lock on your phone (whether to hide porn from your spouse or to protect yourself from your spouse) is still a red flag. If you don’t feel safe enough to have your husband use your phone, even to just casually look something up, that is a red flag.

      The caveat is that having a locked phone isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the spouse needs it to protect themselves while they work through the red flags.

      It’s like the thong example. It isn’t necessarily wrong for a husband to wear a thong, but it can be a red flag because of the circumstances around it.

  4. Laura Ann

    “If you do not feel as if you can safely say no, then you can’t freely say yes, either. ”

    Definitely #11

    I feel that this one has a connection to #7 because of the example of the woman who woke up to her husband having sex with her in the middle of the night. She was not in a position where she could freely say yes or safely say no.

    Sadly, I was that woman. At the end of my 2.5 years of marital hell (that’s the most accurate word to describe my situation), my ex-husband would take advantage of me in the middle of the night. Sometimes, I’d wake up to it or I wouldn’t know about it until I woke up in the morning to find my panties pulled down to my knees. He didn’t penetrate me so I never thought it was rape, but it sure felt like it and I felt violated. I confronted him about his behavior and asked him to stop promising that I would be more willing to have sex while we were both awake. Nothing changed, so after a lot of prayer, I left.

    It’s been 19 years and to this day, I’m still afraid to have sex even though I want it with the right man (whom I have yet to meet).

  5. Jo R

    It seems pretty clear that the popular “Christian” marriage and sex books as well as the “Christian” pat answers to tough questions normalize a lot of these behaviors.

  6. Tera

    Except, pornography use IS an abuse issue!!!

  7. Rachael

    I’d would want a caveat for the flag: “If you do not feel as if you can safely say no, then you can’t freely say yes, either. ”

    There might be other reasons a woman doesn’t feel like she can say safely say no that don’t have to do with her husband. I felt like I couldn’t say no but it had nothing to with my wonderful husband. Rather, it was my own past abuse that made me feel that way.

    • Virginia

      Help I am going crazy with my husband and his master baiting issues in public

  8. Emmy

    I’d not give my husband access to my passwords, not for anything! Not because I’d be looking porn. I don’t. But I don’t want him to know I follow To Love, Honor and Vacuum or other similar sites. I don’t want him to know I often complain about his behavior. I don’t want him to know how much I disagree with him about so many issues.

    This is one of the very few places where I can speak my mind and I need it.

  9. Emmy

    I find number 2 quite interesting because I believe we are dealing with a variant of number 2 of some kind. I mean, considering it a special virtue to have as little foreplay as possible or spicing up as little as possible. Considering it a virtue to have sex regularly, yes, because we are told not to deprive each other, but to do only what’s strictly necessary. I call it Dutch Reformed sex.

    I’d not mind him wearing thongs instead!

    Having said this, I need to say he is not a bad person and does not watch porn and has never been unfaithful. He has had a very patriarchal, old fashioned upbringing which, I believe, has damaged him quite much. He does not see it that way, however. He believes I’m the problematic one because I’m not satisfied with the “ordinary”. It is not that he does not want me to enjoy sex, because he does. He just takes it for granted I do.

    • Rachael

      I know exactly how you feel! I love your “Dutch Reformed” sex, that’s my husband. I love him dearly but he just wants to do the same thing every time and thinks other kind of sex are “dirty”. I never thought before I was married that sex could be boring…

      • Billy

        Dear Emmy, Rachel and others with old fashion husbands who you are afraid to share these thoughts with,
        I am/was one of these husbands. I grew up with all the conservative upbringing. I always wanted to please my wife, but I struggled to accept instruction, especially in the bedroom, so I was not very good.
        I also suffered from the avoid lust at all costs disease that meant I was happy if I could reduce my sex drive. After over 20 years of marriage and a really strange year of covid lock down, my wife convinced me to try some new things and there was definitely more enjoyment for her. I was happy to please her more.
        However, a few months ago, she came to me and said she was not happy in our marriage. The same week, I found she was texting several men she had met in an online game. I got very anxious and started stalking her online activity. I found articles about emotional affairs increasing sexual drive and related the texting with the increased exploring we were doing, instead of understanding the increased sex drive that women often get in the late 40s before menopause.
        She saw that I was bothered by the texting, stopped and deleted it all. She wanted to free me from my anxiety about it, but in the process made it worse, because my anxiety now wondered what was she hiding. There were other things she was hiding (or just not sharing) not because they were wrong or sinful, but because she thought I would not approve.
        I so wish we could have shared our disagreements and talked through them one by one. Instead they all came at once and I could not separate them and I anxiously put them all together as the reason my wife was not happy and blamed her for being unhappy instead of focusing on the issues like neglect that she presented to me. I am trying to over come my anxiety and really trust her like I should and work on winning her back.
        I say all this to encourage open conversation instead of hiding or avoiding areas of disagreement. Don’t let the small walls grow into emotional distance and potentially huge misunderstandings.
        I pray that your spouses will have open minds, search the scriptures together and that these conversations will bring you closer.

  10. S

    It doesn’t help when you’re raised in the mindset that all men will lust, that men should lead women and forgive, forgive forgive!

    It’s taken me some time to realize that my husband date raped me multiple times. He knew I was saving myself for marriage. He would hear me say the word “no”. He didn’t care about my boundaries.

    He had a porn addiction. Porn was basically his sex ed as a teen. He never had the chance to learn real intimacy and emotion connection.

    I’ve been truly miserable in this marriage. I should have seen the red flags while we were dating.

    RED FLAGS before marriage.

    – He would go to porn when he was angry at me.

    – He would be irrationally angered and emotional.

    – He kept pushing my sexual boundaries by ignoring my words and manipulating me.

    At the time, I couldn’t see all of this for what it was.

    In marriage he didn’t understand my sexual needs (neither did I). It hurt and I couldn’t climax exactly. After awhile we both gave up on me and I ended up being used for his quick release by my discomfort. But giving birth twice helped me with the pain and in these last few years I’ve finally discovered my sexuality. (Yay!)

    I married him with a few misconceptions. I thought that he was done with porn and I had already “given” myself to him.

    Can we stop with that “losing your treasure” talk with girls, just please. I still believe that God wants us to wait for marriage, but a mistake can be a mistake. It’s better to leave a mistake in the past, than to bring it into a marriage. THAT wasn’t explained to me.

    As you can imagine, after 11 years I finally find out why he’s been turning me away when I want sex or a simple conversation. He never stopped using porn.

    I could really write a whole book flooded with my feelings over this. I did actually write out a more wordy, emotional filled comment, but decided to keep it more civil and to the point. Lol.

    RED FLAGS after marriage

    – He sometimes had trouble staying erect.

    -We had no connection

    – He was selfish in bed

    – He turned me away despite my efforts in desperation

    – He hardly ever wanted sex

    When he finally confessed, it wasn’t just about the porn, but also his love for me. He wasn’t expecting me to stay, he felt horrible about the whole thing. He’s tried to break this addiction on his own with no success. He was afraid that I’d leave him if I knew. He was going to tell me after he was free for a while, but that never came. He was a completely broken man. His addiction had been clouding his vision. It made him grumpy and tired all the time. He was so full of guilt that some days he couldn’t even look me in the eye. He regrets wasting so much time, he’s missed out on me and our kids. I saw a broken heart in him. I can’t trust him right now, but I’m watching his actions to see where this goes. I truly want our marriage restored. I’m giving God a chance to work. So I’m just in limbo right now, waiting, watching and healing. I’m still processing everything. It helps to write it down.

    His confession was about 3 months ago. To my knowledge he hasn’t gone back, and only once since then has he masturbated in the shower. But our sex life and connection has been much better than before. We are trying the 90 day sex fast now.

    Hoping I see real, permanent changes in him.

    • S

      Another thing. He actually told me what that other husband said… that I was thinking about sex too much, that marriage should be about God!

      I was asking for sex due to being deprived by him.

      • Tory

        Sheila, do you want to know why I’m one of your biggest supporters? I found your blog years ago and thought it was awesome! However, since then you’ve definitely changed direction. You went from “here’s how to have a happy marriage and great sex” to “here are some teachings you may have heard, and this is why they are harmful”. You got a lot of pushback from other Christian bloggers, which I honestly don’t understand, but whatever. Anyway, here is why I think what you do is so great: I was married as a 21 year old Christian virgin to another 21 year old Christian virgin. We waited almost 5 years to have sex. Our sex life started out somewhat rough for me with considerable pain and little pleasure; but my husband was an amazing patient compassionate and conscientious lover and now almost 20 years later, we have great sex, I always orgasm (sometimes multiples!!) and I feel loved, valued, and cherished. The end. So what’s the problem? I read other women’s accounts that are pretty much the polar opposite of what I’ve described. This post of yours is exhibit A. All my life I’ve sort of assumed other Christian wives’ experiences mirrored mine. Ok it wasn’t perfect but we eventually figured it out! But no. I am horrified, appalled, and broken to read some of the accounts you detail and the comments on your posts. This is not ok! Women shouldn’t be believing that it is ok! Men are capable of being decent, conscientious, and considerate! I want all the women to experience the kind of intimacy that I’ve personally experienced. It’s out there! Thank you for being a voice for the women. Don’t listen to the haters. Keep on doing what you’re doing. Your ministry will bless the least of these. You’re so brave. I personally believe the greatest threat to humanity is ignorance— well, you are eliminating ignorance in at least several areas! Thanks for everything you do 🙂 sorry for my long rant

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Thank you so much, Tory! That means a lot. I wish all women had the kind of marriage I do, too, but I simply have to stand up for the women (and men) who don’t.

  11. Laura Ann

    After following this blog for several months, I am beyond grateful to see that I am not alone in my experiences. It just breaks my heart that a number of us women have experienced marital rape (sexual assault, however you want to define it) and I feel that one of the reasons we have put up with it is due to those harmful messages we have heard in church, women’s Bible studies, and evangelical books about marriage and sex (most of which are written by older men, men old enough to be my father or grandfather). Notice that when you read these books, do you ever see Jesus’ name mentioned? That’s a good way to examine if the book is really “Christian” or “Christ-centered.”

    Keep speaking out and continue to spread the message Sheila and team! You’ve been an inspiration to me.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Laura Ann! Here’s something interesting regarding mentioning Jesus: We’ve just looked through a bunch of books marketed to teenage girls, and one of them was Lies Young Women Believe. I looked it up, and the word “Satan” appears more than the word “Jesus”. What does that say about us>

  12. Jessica

    I really appreciate this article. One suggestion from my own experience is that many of these red flags can be HUGE indicators of sexual trauma in a man. Porn is emphasized here A LOT and is a huge issue for a lot of men, but sexual trauma may have a man doing a lot of these things too. And I’d love to see that stated more directly! 🙂

    My husband was unaware of his own abuse when we got married. And though he enjoyed sex, it could be extremely triggering to him and he struggled greatly (and still does at times) with dissociation during sex – which to me looked like he wasn’t being present with me. He’d also shut down (dissociate) right after leaving me confused and alone. He also refused sex a lot – again, because arousal often brings up trauma flooding, flashbacks, or massive feelings of shame. So, he would avoid some physical intimacy, NOT because he wanted to avoid me, but because he had no idea how to handle his trauma (or at first that there even was massive trauma). He struggled to focus on my pleasure because he felt used by my desires (I have a higher sex drive).

    He’s so brave and is weekly seeing a trauma informed therapist, and it’s made a huge difference. Our sex life may never be quite “normal” – and he may always struggle to stay present and engage, but I see him working at it so hard. And we’re learning to communicate so I know it’s it me, but he’s having a day where the trauma is extra big and he can’t go there. He was even able to pause in the middle of sex one day to let me know he was on the edge of a flashback, we communicated mid-stride, restablized him and both had a FANTASTIC time together after. I’m so proud of him.

    My one encouragement on this fantastic article is just a stronger even emphasis on the effects trauma has on male sexuality. You may have lumped trauma in with “psychological issues” but to me they are related and separate.

    Thank you so much for your work on this!

    • Any

      This is such an important comment. I was also wondering why sexual trauma and sexual orientation were not directly addressed. Thanks for sharing your story. What a brave human you are married to! I’m sure he’s lucky to have a loving, understanding wife!


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