How Do You Feel about Giving “Sexual Favors” While Postpartum/on Your Period?

by | Sep 15, 2021 | Uncategorized | 111 comments

Giving Sexual Favors Postpartum
Merchandise is Here!

We’ve talked before about how telling pregnant/postpartum women they should give “hand jobs” to their husbands is just icky and wrong. 

It was something we felt really strongly about, and we wanted to include in The Great Sex Rescue, but it didn’t really fit with any particular bad teaching that we had measured. So we created a separate chapter and called it “Just Be Nice” and said, “this advice doesn’t qualify as kind.”

We found other things that fit in there as well, and a chapter was born.

Here’s part of what we said in The Great Sex Rescue:

Great Sex Rescue

From The Great Sex Rescue

One such topic is whether or not wives “owe” their husbands sexual release during inconvenient times, like when she’s on her period or in the postpartum phase. Sheet Music, for instance, says, “The most difficult time for this man [who was tempted by porn] was during his wife’s period, because she was unavailable to him sexually. After about ten years, she finally realized that pleasing her husband with oral sex or a simple ‘hand job’ did wonders to help her husband through that difficult time.”

Leman elaborates on this advice later with,

There are times for whatever reason that a wife may choose to make use of what younger men affectionately refer to as “hand jobs.” A woman with heavy periods that last six or seven days, or who has just gotten through a pregnancy, or perhaps is simply not feeling her best, may genuinely feel that sex is more than she can handle. But with a minimum of effort, she can help her husband who feels like he’s about ready to climb the walls because it’s been so long.

Let’s think this through. Is it kind for a man to ask for a hand job when his wife is unwell? How unwell does she have to be before it’s not kind anymore? How crampy does she have to be for her physical well-being to take precedence over sexual expectations? Do we really believe that the kindness that flows from the Holy Spirit working in our lives would ask an exhausted, torn apart post-partum woman for a hand job?…

Some women have periods that cause cramping, fainting, pain, nausea, and more. Leman’s portrayal of this as a difficult time for the husband, ignoring the far more difficult physical symptoms many wives deal with, is highly problematic. Men, if your wife is feeling unwell or just plain icky, your emphasis should not be that she needs to “help her husband through that difficult time.” Just be kind. Telling a woman who is cramping and whose genitals are engorged in a way that makes touching them feel very off-putting that she should give him a hand job shows no consideration for her experience and is very unkind. Rather, be Christ to your wife and recognize that this is a difficult time for her.

I’ve talked about this on a bunch of podcasts as well–it’s just icky.

But there’s a little twist in the story that I want to get your opinion on.

i’ve read something else recently that gave the same scenario–he has sexual tension but intercourse is off the table because she’s postpartum or having a heavy period. So she gives him a “hand job” (there is no indication that this is reciprocated at all, so it is one-sided).

But it also portrays her as getting physically aroused. 

I have no doubt that giving “sexual favours”, for lack of a better term–bringing your spouse to orgasm in a way other than intercourse–can be arousing. In fact, we’ll be talking about this a little bit next month for the Sexual Confidence series. Seeing the effect you can have on your spouse can be a big boost to your confidence and can make one feel powerful! And especially if abuse is in your past, sometimes taking the reins can help someone feel more in control, and that can be a good thing.

But a very different dynamic than “he has sexual tension and she’s postpartum.”

So I’d love to know–would you find giving hand jobs during the postpartum phase or when you’re having a really heavy period arousing? (and I know some women will! That’s awesome. I just want to see how common it is).

I asked on Facebook and Twitter as well, and some really interesting and heated conversations started.

I’d really love it if marriage/sex books just simply stopped talking about the postpartum phase.

Seriously, just shut up about it.

Why do we even need to talk about it?

When she is postpartum, there should be 0 expectations on her sexually. The main need in the marriage is not for his sexual release.

Besides, a dad who is fully involved and invested will likely be almost as exhausted as the mom! And our need for sleep does come before our need for sex. If mom is absolutely exhausted, but the husband is very sexually frustrated, it could be a sign that he should be doing more with the baby to lighten her load, and take some of that exhaustion on him! 

BUT, on the other hand, some women do have bursts of hormones that make them really sexual. And women who feel hot and bothered can likely figure out something to do without a book needing to tell them to do it, because after all–she did get pregnant in the first place. She knows how this works. And she can likely figure out sexual favors too.

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.

The only reason to talk about postpartum sex is to convince women who don’t want to do it to do it.

Nothing needs to be said to the women who DO want to do something–except maybe that you should wait for the doctor’s all clear to attempt intercourse; that many women aren’t ready even at the 6 week mark; that postpartum pain affects over 30% of women; and that you have to resume things slowly.

So I just don’t see why this is in books at all. Seriously, if you want to do it, go for it! But by talking about it so much in all these books, we set up the expectation that she WILL do it. And quite frankly, that’s a problem. And then to assume that this will actually be AROUSING for her? That’s just weird.

I hope one day this is a conversation we can stop having. But in the meantime, I’d love to know what you think! Why do so many books talk about this? What do you think would be the best way to talk about it?

And, of course, would you find giving a hand job while you’re postpartum arousing FOR YOU? Let me know!

Can We Please Stop Telling Wives to Give Sexual Favors Postpartum
Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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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111 Comments

  1. No name for this one

    Nope. Though I found sexual release greatly on my mind. I wanted him fully and had a hard time waiting for my body to heal.
    I think it was primarily because I’m higher libido and we were going to have our weekly. Instead i ended up being induced and starving all day! It was hard to get it out of my mind!
    I would have laughed at him, if he had suggested it. Because I was garunteed to be way more interested than him. But that’s hard work and boring…..at least for me.

    Reply
  2. M

    Any sexual encounters I had with my husband soon after the births of our children were very intimate. We kinda came together in amazement and exhaustion and gratitude for each other, for our baby, for God’s goodness to us. The encounter wasn’t an obligation or duty or intended for one person’s release …
    It was quite beautiful and very helpful for both of us. This should never be an obligation or duty during this extremely difficult time physically and emotionally for a woman . It’s hard to articulate how hard the postpartum time truly is.

    Reply
    • A.

      After 13 years of marriage and 5 births I can say that I have not once found it arousing to me. Not once – and I did it many times for his sexual pleasure and release. Honestly I felt like I had no choice – either take care of him or live with an utter grouch until I did.

      Reply
      • Krista

        Arousing? Not in the least. Not a single time. It’s an act of selfless love me. I don’t enjoy it- even when I’m not postpartum or on my period.

        Reply
      • Too old to Change

        I agree. Somehow I learned that his needs superseded mine. Most of our sex was simply an obligation.

        Reply
  3. Ylva

    I have enjoyed giving favors at some times – when I initiated it. Never did I enjoy it when it was requested. Instead, that made me feel like a prostitute and violated.

    And I think it’s as simple as that.

    Reply
    • Lori

      Yes! I feel the same way. 🙂

      Reply
    • Victoria

      I so felt the same

      Reply
    • Suze

      I felt/feel the same way, it’s a terrible feeling.

      Reply
  4. L

    I appreciate the overall thrust here, as someone who hasn’t yet gotten married or had kids but has listened to people close to me on this topic.

    I do object a little bit to this sentence — “And if he is thinking about sex, it means he’s not doing enough with the baby anyway!” — because I think it goes too far in the other direction of potentially shaming men for natural desires.

    We can be respectful of women’s needs and not blame or shame men for the wishes they have at the same time. Either party might not feel in the mood or feel very much in the mood, and not always in sync, and I think it’s a huge adjustment to have a new baby in the house, to not have energy for that but wonder when you will again, etc. Even a woman who doesn’t feel like having sex might be concerned even without the help of books at her changes in desire, and it is understandable for either member of the couple to even grieve some of the before vs. after reality. I don’t think it’s realistic or helpful to say the guy shouldn’t be even thinking about sex or he’s not doing enough.

    He can/should lovingly not act on that and put her needs for space and recovery first as a high priority, but to not even wish or think seems like a hyperbolic example that maybe went a little too far to make a point.

    I do absolutely agree with normalizing all the facets of post-partum changes and think it’s helpful for singles, both male and female, to get our expectations around this topic set up for success well before marriage or kids.

    Reply
    • Miranda Mac

      I’ll personally think Sheila was spot on. When I was postpartum, my husband was so exhausted from doing all the cooking, diaper changes, and overall care for me and our son (apart from breastfeeding) while I recovered from birth, that there was no room for him to think about anything apart from the sweet release of sleep…

      Reply
  5. Laura

    This conversation is all so gross to me. “Obligation sex” doesn’t feel like a strong enough word. I was his sex slave and he would come begging for hand jobs and blow jobs when I was exhausted or sick and he felt like looking at porn. So in effect he was saying, “You’re my porn replacement [methadone]. If you don’t do this and I look at porn, it’s then you’re fault that I ‘had to.'” He obviously had a pornified style of relating and sex was never about actual intimacy.

    I hope someday I can view sex in all its forms as good and intimate, but after basically being a sex slave for years (including pressure to do things like finish him in my mouth, swallow afterward, etc), sex with a man’s body sounds absolutely horrible.

    And to be honest, every time I read, “If she feels like or, she can offer,” I hear bigger “duty” bells ringing in my head. Because I had it drilled into me that if I WASN’T “feeling like it” (i.e. initiating, regardless of whether I actually felt like it), I was failing as a wife and sex partner

    Reply
    • The Other Laura

      Laura,

      From one Laura to the other, your story is similar to mine. I was married to a sexually abusive man for 2.5 years and hated oral sex or hand jobs with a passion. To me, that was obligation sex (at the time, I didn’t even call it that) and when I was on my period, it was expected of me to give him “something” because he thought he would just die if he didn’t have some kind of sex in a week’s time. I refused to let him ejaculate in my mouth and thankfully he did not do that to me. Other than that, if I ever remarry, oral sex or hand jobs is the last thing I want.

      Readers, I’d like your opinions and thoughts on this: Does oral sex or hand jobs HAVE to be part of your sex life?

      Reply
      • Sue C

        To me yes oral and hand jobs have to be part of sex. If you were to remarry would you tell your fiancé your position on both, before you get married, whether or not he is experienced?

        Reply
      • E

        Those do not need to be part of your sexual life at all. My husband gets oral sex a few times a year, but he doesn’t ask. He appreciates it.

        Reply
      • M

        Absolutely not. They do not HAVE to. As soon as things have to be done it feels so not intimate. The mindset and language around must with sex is not helpful to me at all.

        Reply
      • Jenni

        No, we don’t need to do sexual acts that are painful or physically uncomfortable, or emotionally uncomfortable. We can commit to exploring what we’re comfortable with, but if we continue to find it a problem, it’s not an intimate loving joining to do those specific acts. Instead find things we both enjoy.

        Reply
      • Meredith

        To answer your question Laura, absolutely not, oral sex and hand jobs do not have to be part of your sex life. Nothing has to be part of your sex life that you do not want to be.

        I have a small mouth opening and a sensitive gag reflex. I only very occasionally give oral to my husband, I have never done it more than a minute or two (with frequent breaks) and I will never ever finish him that way. Just the thought makes me want to gag!

        Reply
      • A2bbethany

        No they don’t. But since you already know your feelings on it, you should tell him before he commits. Just like anything else.
        I know that it’s not a must for a sexually active couple, because we barely dabble ourselves. I have a gag reflex and am just not too comfortable with it. He’s never been pushy about either of them ever! He is too focused on my comfort to do that.

        Reply
      • Marie

        No, they don’t have to be. For what it’s worth in Catholic teaching, sexual acts must end “PIV” as we say, so any hand jobs/oral sex is as foreplay and never as an act unto itself. And never required.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Just for clarification–it’s okay if SHE reaches orgasm an other way, right, just he can’t?

          Reply
      • Marie

        Sheila — yes! It is highly encouraged to try whatever works, with consent/that is desired, to help a woman achieve orgasm. The man is expected to orgasm while PIV. happy to clarify, there are a lot of misunderstandings regarding Catholic teaching of sexuality. 🙂

        Reply
      • AJ

        I think that focusing on or discussing which specific activities should or should not be included in a marriage relationship is not productive and seems to only create obligations and expectations. If you are in a good relationship with a good hearted husband you will want to please him in whatever way he desires but he will not expect or ask you to do anything you do not find enjoyable. He will also make pleasing you (in whatever way you desire) his highest priority. I can’t speak for all men, but if you are asking if all men enjoy hand jobs and oral sex, as man I can say that I believe the answer is most likely YES and YES!

        Reply
      • Tory

        @the other Laura: to answer your question, yes oral sex is a huge part of my sex life, both giving and receiving, and I would never have it any other way. I don’t think I’ve ever done a hand job to completion just because there are so many better ways 🙃 and my husband will frequently give me a hand job if I don’t climax during intercourse. If it’s not your thing and you don’t want to do it, that’s ok too— but I would urge you to be upfront about that with a potential serious partner because it is something most people expect to experience with their spouse. Again, nothing wrong with you if it isn’t for you! (Although you might find yourself more open to trying it again with a wonderful intimate partner. You said your former husband was abusive in bed- no wonder you didn’t like it!)

        Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I hear you. I’m so sorry that you went through that. That’s just awful. Just know that you are not alone. So many women have been hurt by this too. I do think the conversation is changing, and I hope you keep healing!

      Reply
    • Suze

      I know how you feel, I too have felt like a sex slave for almost two decades, and only in the last few years begun to realize how negatively this has impacted my feelings of self worth. I’ve gone to great lengths to meet my husband’s sexual wants and needs, very frequently at my own expense, and yet he is often still unsatisfied with me. Then when I try to get my own needs met at times, and to reach some kind of compromise, no matter how respectfully I approach it he says he feels rejected and judged. We argue for hours and yet no positive changes are made, and I’m yet again made to feel guilty for not fulfilling him sexually. It’s been almost too much for me to take sometimes and although I do feel some kind of comfort in knowing I’m not alone in this it also makes me incredibly sad to hear other women’s stories.

      Reply
  6. Laura

    No, it would not be arousing for me. I would feel used.

    Reply
  7. Anon

    This gets me every time – the first time I read something along the lines of ‘It’s so hard for a husband when a wife is bleeding post partum or from a heavy period and she’s feeling terrible…’ I was expecting it to end something like ‘…because it upsets him to see her suffer’. And then it finishes with ‘…because he gets sexually frustrated’ ! ARGGGGHHHH!!!!

    In my younger days, I suffered from agonizing periods due to a severe hormone imbalance – the first couple of days, I was basically hanging over a bucket throwing up in between blacking out from the pain – oh, and I needed to change a nighttime towel every 2-3 hours because I was bleeding so heavily. I was single then, but if I’d been married, I wouldn’t have even wanted my husband in the same room as me when I was feeling that bad, never mind having him demanding a ‘simple hand job’.

    My periods got a lot easier later on, but I’m still wiped out for 3-4 days – it takes all my effort just to get through what has to be done, so no, it wouldn’t be ‘minimal effort’. Maybe 3 out of 4 times I give my husband a hand job towards the end of the week. He NEVER puts any expectation on me – it’s something I want to do for him, and it brings me joy to see his pleasure, but I wouldn’t describe it as ‘arousing’. I sometimes wonder whether these guys have ever thought about asking women what they think before writing these books!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I honestly think the guys never asked. No woman would ever have written what he did, but we’ll talk about it specifically next month!

      Reply
  8. Emmy

    During late pregnancy, yes. And I would have liked if he had returned the favor. But post-partum, nope.

    I must add my husband never asked for such favors and very reluctantly accepted them. He does not “believe” in such things and is very scrupulous about anything else than “ordinary” sex.

    At least, he is consistent and I can’t blame him for putting me under pressure nor insisting for post-partum sex.

    Reply
    • Stefanie

      I don’t know how to answer this. Short answer: Sexual favors were not arousing to me even during normal times (not on period, not post partum). I don’t do them PERIOD anymore because after my husband’s betrayal I lost any sense of obligation to ever do anything I don’t want to ever again. That was 5 years ago.
      Long answer: When we first got married, I had a bad case of vaginismus where penetration was impossible. It took us 6 months before we could. I don’t like giving oral sex. It’s icky to me, and I wouldn’t have wanted it on the menu. However, because we had this unexpected problem, and The Art of Marriage said a man’s sense of self is hurt if he’s not having orgasms, I felt like I had to because penetration was impossible. So then after we were able to get intercourse on the table, oral became an expectation. We always included it in foreplay, although we would finish with intercourse. I never felt powerful or aroused, only icky and degraded, but I did it because he liked it and it was hard to take off the table once I had put it on the table.

      Interestingly, I didn’t mind intercourse during my period, because the blood acted as a lubricant and made penetration less painful.

      I can’t speak to postpartum sexual favors because my husband’s betrayal happened while I was pregnant with our first. So I had already taken it off the table by her birth. I will say with her pregnancy, I had hyperemesis gravidarum for the first 20 weeks so I wasn’t interested in anything besides laying on the couch and trying not to die, but towards the end of the pregnancy I got really horny, but my husband wasn’t interested in sex with my pregnant body, like he couldn’t even get hard, and then I discovered his porn addiction while I’m 7 months pregnant. But when I was horny, and before the discovery of his porn addiction, I wasn’t interested in giving oral sex. What I wanted was normal sex.

      Reply
  9. Meg

    With both of my postpartum periods I always craved that physical intimacy that we had before the baby was born. Even if it was just a back/body massage for me and extra attention for him. It helped me feel like I wasn’t just this milk making “Mombie”. Knowing him and I were still him and I even though our main focus was more now on this tiny human that needed me so much we’re very necessary and important to me. So in a way yes it is sexy and a turn on. Those terms don’t seem to cover the deeper connection that our postpartum moments were about.
    But it was never out of obligation or duty. And if it had been 100% it would have made me feel even more used up and icky.

    Reply
    • Alexandra

      Totally agree with you, Meg!

      Reply
  10. SLS

    I think there is a major connection between this “teaching” and the common “teaching” in the church regarding masturbation.

    Namely men are told in many churches that masturbation is a sin no matter the circumstances.

    So they feel trapped if they experience large amounts of sexual desire/tension and the wife is unable to engage sexually.

    They feel that asking their wives for sexual release during periods and post-partum is what they are supposed to be doing. After all that is what the Christian marriage books are telling them.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      This is a really good point too. I really need to think this one through, because some of what I’ve said in the past may not be the most helpful either on this. But I think you’re right–the two are very tied.

      Reply
      • Kay

        Yep, it’s one of the few areas that I keep hoping you will “come around,” Sheila (except no pun intended. Ha). Because honestly, being taught I was my husband’s **only** legitimate source of orgasm is what was so tremendously damaging to me. My husband never once asked for anything sexual during these times, but the teachings and books had me convinced that I had to provide him some kind of release every 3 days or so in order to be a good wife, no matter how terrible I felt. Part of me starting to stand up for my own needs now is that I need to know that he can go take care of it himself if I need to say no or stop because I am in pain. I have pushed through so much sexual pain because I thought his orgasm mattered more since I was the only one who could do it. No, I **need** him to be able to take care of it himself if he wants to so I that I can be able to say no without guilt.

        I do think that going six or more weeks is a long time for a high drive husband to have zero orgasms. Like… why? Why is that even necessary? So I now firmly believe that a husband can and *should* steward his own sexuality during this time so that there can be ZERO expectation on her on her to hurry up and have sex before she is ready. Communication is key.

        But I sure wish the books and authors would put masturbation back on the table so women can stop feeling the obligation in the first place. As long as the wife is the only legitimate source of her husband’s orgasms, there will be duty sex/favors.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yep, I think I need to listen and do some more surveys! I think this is a conversation worth having.

          Reply
      • Not for this one either

        Yeah there’s such thing as positive masturbation.
        Example: my body is used to patterns. If we don’t have sex within the usual 3 day window of every week, I can’t sleep! I get too horny to function and I don’t like turning this energy at my husband! Especially when he’s got work stuff going on. So I can tide myself over, but it not at all a replacement! My body’s needs for intimacy, only reset when we are together. Anything alone, is like a 24hr snooze button. At first I felt like it was a great big NoNo, but I’ve come to see it as a helpful option. And I don’t become a dramatic weepy creature anymore!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          (by the way, I love your screen name here. 🙂 )

          I think it would be great to do an in-depth survey/questionnaire from people who think it helps their marriage and hear from them. I think I need to listen.

          Reply
      • S

        Just wanted to add to the positive masturbation conversation; it can also be helpful to overcoming vaginismus.

        Reply
        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          Yes, it can–and can be an important tool for many women struggling with orgasm issues, as well, and we do discuss it quite a bit in our orgasm course (with options for people who personally feel uncomfortable or convicted against masturbation, as well!)

          Reply
      • TB

        I’m so glad to see conversation on this! When I was single and super into purity culture I would have said masturbation was a sin. But now having been married 10 years to my much higher sex drive husband, I’m very thankful he can “take care of himself” (and honestly I can occasionally take care of myself too- though I don’t often find the need.) I truly think a lot of issues could be resolved if men used the hands God gave them to get their release so they were a little less “crazy” and more clear minded.

        Reply
  11. SLS

    “And if he is thinking about sex, it means he’s not doing enough with the baby anyway!”

    Shelia, I think this was a cheap shot. Saying that just thinking about sex during the postpartum phase (i.e., not demanding anything, just feeling desire) means a man isn’t caring for his child enough is uncalled for and insulting.

    As you have pointed out most eloquently men desire emotional intimacy and that is connected with our sexuality.

    Husbands watching their wives become a mother can be a deeply emotionally bonding experience. There is no surprise that those feelings can deepen sexual attraction.

    Please don’t bash men for merely feeling desire at this time.

    Reply
    • Stefanie

      I thought the comment was spot on. It came from Connor anyway. (Listen to the podcast.) My husband is a very involved father, too. He would back up this comment. He was too tired to think about sex. Anytime the baby was sleeping, the first thing on his mind was catching up on his own sleep.

      Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      I did not make her to be too literal in that, more meaning that if you have the energy to demand sex from your exhausted wife, the workload is y not very equal.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You’re right, I shouldn’t have said it like that.

      I just have had many young dads say this to me recently–they were so exhausted with the baby that they needed sleep far more than sexual release. On a hierarchy of needs, sleep is before sex. I guess I’m just saying that if a wife is WAY more exhausted than her husband, and her husband wants sex, perhaps that’s also a sign of something bigger going on–that he isn’t as involved with the baby as he could be to lighten her load. Especially when she really isn’t supposed to be getting out and about for a bit because she has to stop the bleeding.

      Reply
      • E

        As the mom I was ready usually before he was and nobody would say I wasn’t doing enough for the baby!! Just because someone thinks about it and is looking forward to that doesn’t mean they aren’t taking care of the baby.

        Reply
      • Natlyn

        I think it’s also important to note that postpartum isn’t just 6 weeks or 3 months. As someone who struggles with PPA, sex is really hard for me even at nearly 6 months postpartum. Also, my husband is carrying more of the load of home responsibilities since we both work and I’m beyond exhausted most evenings and have PPA episodes at times. Even still, he builds up a lot of sexual tension and needs a release (literally is in pain). He would also take sex over sleep any day. Meanwhile, I’m terrified of getting pregnant again, so sex is immensely hard for me to get into mentally, let alone enjoy. But I feel like he does so much for me, so I feel like a failure that I can’t help with that one little thing for him. We’ve spent time praying and crying and talking together, but don’t have a solution.

        Reply
    • AJ

      “And if he is thinking about sex, it means he’s not doing enough with the baby anyway!”. This sounds like ‘man bashing’ and shows an overall lack of understanding of how different the drive and desire is for sex for men vs. woman. I’m a man my 40’s and still would enjoy sex over sleep no matter how sleep deprived I am. I don’t have to consciously think about sex, it’s always on my mind. There is no amount of sleep deprivation or exhaustion that could cause me to lose interest in in having sex with my wife (if she’s interested and willing). I think most men would agree.

      Reply
  12. Jen

    I was really indoctrinated in the obligation sex message and even though I said no when I needed to, I felt horrible guilt and beat myself up. When I said yes to one sided favors, I felt like a whore. This damaged our relationship so much and created many, many hard feelings both ways: him feeling like he was missing out on something he should have ( but was not necessarily “owed”) and me hating him for the sexual pressure. Sex should be tender and giving, and because I am a sexual abuse/assault survivor, my husband should be extra protective of me. In general he was/is, but boy did those horrible messages do a number on us. We are in counseling now to resolve a number of issues, including the sexual health one. I have realized that my body and trauma instinct were telling me what I needed to do/not do in order to feel safe, but the Church was teaching me to ignore that in favor of my husband’s pleasure and ego. But, the truth has set me and my husband free. Thank you, Sheila, for letting Jesus use you to set the captives free.

    Reply
  13. Elissa

    About two weeks postpartum with my second, hubby and I were both feeling very in the mood for some loving. As someone else mentioned above, it was definitely extra intimate and bonding BECAUSE of everything we had been through with the new baby. I disagree that if a husband is thinking about sex that means he isn’t helping with the baby enough… you wouldn’t say that about the wife! In our case we both wanted to feel like adults again- like a husband and wife instead of just a new mom and dad. We both spent time thinking and talking about it beforehand (like what we would enjoy doing once we could catch a few moments alone…), and it was a nice mental break from thinking about the baby all the time. But obviously we could both enjoy it because it was mutual and un-coerced. I agree that if this is mentioned in marriage books at all it ought to be in the context of mutual options to bond/ increase intimacy during more difficult seasons of a marriage.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You’re right–you’re the second person to say that so I will go edit it and amend it. I will say that if the wife is completely exhausted and the husband wants sex, it could easily be a sign that he isn’t as involved with the baby as he should be and they should even the load, though.

      Reply
      • SLS

        Shelia,

        Thanks for editing that sentence. I appreciate your willingness to do so.

        Now if only we could get Focus on the Family and others to admit the flaws in books like Love & Respect and fix them.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          No problem! Like I tell people all the time, it’s seriously NOT A BIG DEAL to fix things. Why don’t people do it more often? No one thinks less of you when you fix something.

          Reply
  14. Jane Eyre

    I do not find one sided sex to be arousing. Maybe many other women do; good for them.

    I am very bothered that women usually fall on a broad spectrum; however, if enough women (not even a majority!) are in one place, “sex experts” try to make the rest of us feel broken for not being like those women.

    Let’s say 60% find it arousing and satisfying to give their husbands hand jobs. So what? 2 in 5 do not and that is the way God made them. That is they same percentage of men who are bald/ing by age 40. That is the same percentage of men shorter than 5’8. Is this a game you really want to play, husbands?

    Reply
  15. Mama to 2

    The day we got home the hospital I wanted to have sex. My life had just turned upside and I wanted something that was familiar and safe and for just one thing to not feel like it had changed. Sex was off the table so I gave him a hand job. And it was great for both of us! “Favors” were a good way to feel like husband and wife for the next couple months as my body healed.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I completely understand that. I’m glad you were able to experience that because you wanted it and it helped you!

      Reply
  16. Someone else at sea

    Mom to be here. Even being pregnant right now poses different issues. Between being tired and not feeling that great overall, my level of interest is super low. I’m still in my first trimester. (First pregnancy) Hubby mentioned a couple of times the first couple of week “sooo is sex completely off the table now?” To which I said “no not necessarily. I just don’t really feel all that great. But if I am feeling decent and am up for it, I’ll be the one to initiate. “ I think this set up a healthy boundary for communication that I intend to bring postpartum. I really don’t want him initiating most of the time, because it will very easily turn into obligation sex for me. Postpartum initiation from too is pretty much not happening until I give a green light. But we haven’t discussed that yet.

    Also I second another poster that said they hate when they get asked for BJers. Right there with you sister!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a good way to figure it out! Just let you initiate. Yep.

      Reply
      • Chris

        Having a rule about only one person can initiate does two very bad things: 1.) It erases his personhood; in converts him into a human vibrator that she can take out of the drawer when she has an itch she needs scratched. 2.) It is the fastest way for a marriage to become sexless; she tells him she will be the only one initiating. He says ok because he assumes she intends to actually initiate. To be fair, she means that when she says it. But after he stops initiating (as per her decree/their agreement) she starts feeling relieved that he is not asking for sex anymore and she starts thinking “I could get used to this!” Next thing you know years go by with no sex because there is always a reason why she cannot initiate sex.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          We’re not talking about forever though, Chris. We’re talking about when she is postpartum or on her period, so when she is going through very difficult physical things. The person going through the physical difficulty should not be guilted into something.

          As a long term thing, definitely that’s not a healthy dynamic. But postpartum or when not feeling well in pregnancy, her well-being does need to be the prime consideration.

          Reply
  17. LL

    Yes, it was arousing. But if I’m cramping or post-partum, the arousal is uncomfortable and painful. Believe me, I’m ready to go as soon as I’m healed! But if I don’t feel well, telling me to push past the pain of clotting and/or stitches towards arousal that increases my discomfort…? Plus- I want intimacy, too. To give it to him when my body CAN’T
    felt one-sided and made me feel used.

    Thankfully, these expectations didn’t come from my husband- it was from books. When he heard my offers physically hurt me, he questioned why I would even offer and said we can wait. <3

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Imagine what would happen if the books stopped printing stuff like this?!?

      Reply
      • LL

        Exactly. My husband recently had surgery. He is in pain, has a lifting restriction, and no stamina for at least 6 weeks. (Sound familiar? Haha!) Requesting “favors” from him has not been a consideration at all. Even as the higher drive spouse. Why? Because I know he is in pain. It’s that simple.

        (And a book telling him he should be “diligent and aware of fulfilling his marital duties” post surgery…? 😉 So why the obsession with instructing post-partum women so?)

        Reply
  18. Anonymous

    I typically found myself aroused and had a hard time waiting to be intimate with my husband again after the baby. That deep emotional connection you feel after going through a birth together made me want him so much! It helped that he was an amazingly caring birth partner and he put no pressure on me. Anything that happened postpartum was tender and spontaneous. I agree this stuff should be left out of marriage books. Seriously, this is a conversation that should be had between a woman, her husband and her doctor. Why do these guys think they are qualified to speak into it?

    After our last baby, probably because I’m older, I struggled more with dryness related to breastfeeding. We had to take it really slow and use a lot of lube every time. I am high drive so it was worth it to me to push through the discomfort, but I found hubby was approaching me less often and it was hurting my feelings. When I asked him about it (freaking out that he was either watching porn or was losing attraction for me, thanks Christian marriage baggage) he simply said he didn’t want to hurt me, and we were both so tired.

    I finally got to understand this from the other side when my husband had his vasectomy. The poor guy was so swollen, sore and a little traumatized by the whole ordeal. Like I said, I am high drive, so I had some frustration while I waited for him to heal. But my goodness, I never would have DREAMED of touching him, let alone ask for favors, when he was in pain like that. I would have felt like a monster. Of course his needs came first during that time! And it finally hit home for me just how atrocious this “Christian” advice is. What could be more un-Christ like than demanding your own satisfaction from someone who is hurting?

    Reply
  19. MB

    Oral and hand jobs are tiring for me. To the poster who asked if it’s possible to never have sex that way – yes it’s possible. We have done it about 5 times in 8 years and never very successfully. I think we would both be content to never do it again. What is much more mutual for both of us is PIV sex. I usually have a couple lighter days during my period and we make sure to have it then. For some reason my libido goes up during that time of the month so it is good for both of us! Thankfully he doesn’t mind a little bit of mess. We just shower before / after and we’re good. Showering together can increase intimacy too 😉

    Reply
  20. Melissa

    It’s always driven me crazy when books focus on how difficult the post-partum period is for men. Like, my body just GREW A HUMAN and PUSHED OUT THE HUMAN and is now FEEDING THE HUMAN but please, tell me more about how difficult it is for the man. *eyeroll*

    Reply
  21. Amy

    Nope. Nope. Nope. Just no. And I’m so over hearing that it’s hard for him when I’m on my period, crampy and exhausted.

    Reply
  22. Anon too

    Husband never even hinted that he would like “something” during my period or postpartum . This was his prime time to use porn. I was too dumb to realize it at the time.

    Reply
  23. Hannah

    I wonder if traditional reticence about bodily functions means many men had / have no idea about the impact of periods or the postpartum phase on women? Or how it varies between women. So these authors just have no awareness of how difficult these times are for women, and would have been too embarrassed to ask. Particularly if their own wives didn’t have serious symptoms. As TLHV have highlighted, they wouldn’t look at research either. I know, for example, that Edith Schaeffer hid the reality of labour from Francis Schaeffer, and for a long time men never saw women giving birth. And so marriage authors wrote terrible things, because they had no understanding of female experience. Just a hypothesis / question !

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I wonder if that plays a role, too! Think about how teen girls are told to never, ever talk about their cramps and to soldier on as if nothing is abnormal. Definitely.

      Reply
  24. Chris

    This comment is in response to Sheila’s reply to my comment above but there was no “Reply” button after it so I am responding here:
    Sheila, I understand that you are talking about the post-partum/period type of situations where sex is off the table for obvious reasons. However, there is real concern amongst a lot of men that the temporary will become permanent. Our society is full of marriages that go sexless after the babies come. Men are acutely aware of this and are frightened that it will happen to their marriages too. And their concern is well founded. The wives meanwhile are academically aware of it. But a lot of them, in fact I would venture to say most of them, are not able to get back in the saddle so to speak, after all the temporary medical concerns have long since resolved themselves.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So all the men need to do is talk to their wives about it, and say, “hey, how about in the postpartum period you initiate, because I don’t want to put any undue stress on you. You need to recover. And then let’s re-evaluate later.”

      I understand men are scared.

      But she just delivered a human out of her body and she is torn and bloody. Right now, the priority is on her getting better.

      Reply
      • Chris

        Sheila, that’s exactly what I did. I told her i would wait until she was ready. She said she would let me know. Ten years later, still waiting.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’m very sorry, Chris. But obviously I’m saying once the postpartum period is over (which is seriously just 6-8 weeks) then it’s different. That’s where communication has to come in. I am sorry for your loneliness. Truly.

          Reply
      • Richard

        I love your stuff Sheila but I’m surprised by this advice from you. Obligatory/coerced/or guilt filled sex is always horrendous in a marriage. The goal should be open communication to know each other more deeply and intimately.

        When you state that one partner should be the sole initiator of sexual activity for a time, it breaks down that communication. Why not state that if a husband desires physical closeness that it is fine to communicate that to their wife and be absolutely understanding and loving if the answer is no? Attempting to initiate is in no way equal to “guilting” someone into intimacy. Instead, this thread implies that a man should not even mention it during these times – if if he does it indicate that he is not doing enough with the baby! I think this is wrong.

        You have been so right about calling out authors who regardless of their intentions paint a picture that misrepresents the truth about sex. I hope you are not making the same mistake with this post.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Because she’s postpartum, Richard. She just delivered a human being. She is bleeding and torn. If he asks her, she WILL feel pressure. it is wrong to pressure someone for that when she is bleeding and torn.

          Now, once she has recovered, of course! But postpartum–that is her time to heal. Most cultures in the world give her that time entirely. She is surrounded by only women.

          Even in the Bible she isn’t to be approached sexually! It is only in modern times, especially in the evangelical church, that we start talking about his sexual needs while she is postpartum. When she’s healed–of course things are different!

          Imagine you just had testicular surgery and were in an incredible amount of pain, and you were bleeding profusely from your penis, and you were exhausted, and you had hemorrhoids and so were on major laxatives, and you couldn’t use toilet paper but had to quirt bottles on your genitals, and you were leaking out of your nipples.

          And your wife said, “Hey, I’m really frustrated; could you take care of me?”

          Do you think that’s appropriate?

          Reply
  25. S

    My husband has his issues, but one thing he is good at is wanting safety for me and our kids. I tore horribly in both labors, but the second time was the worst. I don’t know how many months (or years) it took for me to heal (as it’s all rather a blur now), but we tried intercourse at 4 months. It was excruciatingly painful for me. Not to mention my anxiety and un-arousal. It was all for him, one sided. He pulled out, seeing it was still too painful for me, but honestly I wonder if he would have if I hadn’t told him it was too much and had just suffered through the pain (which I did at times). I grew up with the belief that sex is mainly for men and I had to fill that need as his wife to keep him from lust. Combine that with his porn addiction (unaware to me at that time), made him into a selfish, one sided lover, and I was brought up to know nothing about my sexual bodily functions, so It took me 10 years of marriage to embrace my own sexuality and start to truly orgasm (when I was fed up, I started masterbating to figure myself out). Looking back, I feel so bad for that young wife who knew no better, that sex was for her too and a GOOD thing for her to want, and that it should be mutual and intimate. I was trying not to deprive my husband our entire marriage, but truthfully I was the one deprived and taken advantage of. My husband, as you can imagine, due to porn can’t connect with me, nor knew how to pleasure a women correctly. It’s not that he didn’t try to please me, but what he tried didn’t work out, so after a while he stopped trying, so did I and it became all about his quick release. Ugh. I can’t write it all down, there is too much. But he and I both agree that after 11 years of marriage, we were a mistake. I should have followed my gut and not married a pornaholic. I never felt comfortable around nor connected to him. And HE shouldn’t have ever married having that addiction. But mainly for our kids we are trying to work this out, although I’ve wanted out for a long time. Without knowing about his addiction to porn, I still felt the effects of it and have been very lonely for true intimacy.

    Reply
    • Suze

      I’m so sorry. I do understand some of those feelings and sometimes I’m not sure I can manage to cope with them anymore. Through our 18+ years of marriage and four kids together, I’ve wanted and still want so badly for my husband and I to have true intimacy. He has a long-standing relationship with porn that began well before we met, and he brought other issues into our relationship related to sexual abuse he suffered as a child that I didn’t know about until we had been married for 17 years. He doesn’t seem satisfied with me sexually and has outright told me this, and he is often trying to push boundaries and experiment, with me as his tool–at least, that is how it feels to me. I also feel that he isn’t really attracted to me even though he says he is, because our sex life revolves so much around his individual physical pleasure and emotional validation. There has never been a single time that he pleasured me sexually and didn’t also ask me to do the same immediately afterwards, and yet there have been countless times when I’ve pleasured him sexually with no reciprocation. I’m also guilt-tripped on the rare occasion I do decline sex or giving a BJ, or other things he’s asked of me on a daily or almost daily basis for all these years. The same guilt trip if I’m tired and let him know I’m going to sleep, even at the times when we had an infant that I would care for with little to no help from him. I feel very lonely and emotionally detached from him, and even betrayed.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, Suze, that’s so terrible. I’m so sorry. Have you seen a counselor about this? This sounds like it’s doing real damage to your soul and it isn’t okay.

        Reply
  26. Marcie

    If you get a chance, read Dr. Sears book “Becoming a Father”. I found his advice very real for the postpartum period. It is advice from his own life of learning to become a father himself which he says mostly happened after his 5th child was born. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it if you do get to read it.

    Reply
  27. The husband

    Looking forward to your future article: The place of either spouse masturbating when apart (say traveling) or when sex is off the table (as in this discussion). No porn addiction involved. How to navigate this topic as a Christian couple? Thanks for being able to ask it here!

    Reply
  28. Alexandra

    Personally, I gave my husband favors during the postpartum period, but I did so out of love and a desire to connect with him. I needed it. I think concern arises when the word, “should” enters the picture. I think you have the freedom to give favors, but I absolutely don’t believe that a wife should be coerced to give them, whether by her pastor, a book or blog author, or husband.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      YES! No one is saying don’t do it (at least I hope no one is saying that!). But it has to come from the right place, and should never be expected or demanded.

      Reply
  29. Libby

    My husband is super thoughtful and never pressures me, so maybe that plays into my perspective. I do find that giving hand jobs when my body isn’t up for intercourse to be arousing, or at the very least emotionally satisfying. I am currently in the third trimester with our third and I wish that I had a libido but it is totally shot and my body hates me after intercourse, so I have given my husband hand jobs a few times as a way to be active in the process. Even if I’m not physically aroused afterward due to hormones, it does help contribute to feeling emotionally close, so it’s something I see as being for both of us!

    Reply
  30. Mumof3

    Hey Sheila, I’ve been wondering for a while whether to bring up the “masturbation is a sin” thing as a reason why men are being so pushy of women. They really feel trapped into using their wives to get a non-sinful orgasm. I’m curious what non-Christian couples would think of a man pushing for a hand job postpartum?

    I have a few things to input. I’ve had three kids. After the second was born I had a late PPH and wanted to avoid orgasm for about four weeks because it felt risky. After the third was born I avoided it for weeks too. That was insanely hard for me as my body (down there) physically screams for sexual release after less than a week. During pregnancy, after pregnancy, while breastfeeding, always.

    I also wish you’d understand what it’s like for men who are desperate and be a bit gentler with them. It’s a horrible feeling for me, it’s physically intense, nothing to do with desire/attraction) I can be wanting to vomit at the thought of kissing etc.) and sleep deprivation makes the need stronger for me, not weaker.

    Anyway, After my second baby I remember my husband getting desperate for sexual release after about two weeks. He didn’t want to hurt me or push me but he felt caught between a rock and a hard place because he wasn’t comfortable releasing himself (he was very sensitive about it being sin- on our wedding day he didn’t know what an orgasm felt like). So I felt pushed and i didn’t want anything to do with sexual acts because I was trying hard not to get aroused and honestly giving something you want and not being able to have it is cruel.

    After our third baby we already had an agreement that this time my husband would take care of himself (he’d come around to that being okay between him and God) and the pressure was off me, I didn’t have a grumpy husband and it was just a million times better.

    While pregnant I had horrible morning sickness and awful aversions to my husband but I still wanted sexual release physically. I have a memory of pushing myself to finish him off with my hand one time and running to the sink to almost vomit because it was so awful for me. After that, this might sound crazy, I felt like I’d abused myself – sexually violated myself by forcing myself to do that for him out of trying to be a “good wife”. It really scarred me.

    I have more to say about masturbation in marriage, God has spoken to me about it etc. I won’t say too much now but I’m so glad you’re going to collect people’s thoughts. It’s important.

    Right now I’ll just say that sometimes sex alone feels wrong and is not loving/is loneliness/brokenness (God told me orgasm is holy and is for connection so masturbation is lacking rather than “sin” – it is not God’s ideal.) I think we should stop seeing it as a “dirty shameful sin” and just see it as lacking 🤷‍♀️

    Sometimes God says hey just go for it for the physical need. Sometimes he is fine with solo release here. I’ve done it sometimes with no conviction from Holy Spirit because of my goals and motivations and circumstances.

    I think if my husband is desperate (out of love) to send me into the next room to have an orgasm for x reason but we’re not doing that because “God doesn’t want us to”, something is just wrong. As long as we are loving each other and having sex frequently, why would God be so controlling and pushy about our bodies that he created for orgasm? Sometimes the logic dies.

    That will do for now 😅

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’ve had a number of people talk to me about that, and I really think this is worth me listening to and thinking on and especially asking a bunch of people about. Thanks for your thoughts!

      Reply
  31. H

    As someone who was married to a porn addict and sexually humiliating/abusive man the first time around, I can honestly say that I never thought I’d be able to not feel used when doing something like this ever again.
    I was so hurt, and felt so used and…when my ex-husband finally said he didn’t want me anymore after five long years, I began my healing journey.
    The next year, I ran into a lifelong friend who I’d lost touch with for the last 6-7 years. We reconnected, and are now very happily married.
    I cannot overstate the incredibly huge difference of being married to a man who truly loves you as a PERSON and best friend first.
    My husband is such a kind and nurturing person – we have yet to have children, but I know he wouldn’t ever ask for ‘favors’ if I was feeling poorly – he’d be taking care of me, which will never cease to humble me and just…well, I’ll certainly never take it for granted after my terrible first marriage!
    We communicate openly and honestly about our sexual relationship, and we are both relatively high drive. Doing things for him does arouse me, but perhaps it is because of how safe, healed, and cherished I feel now.

    However, we have a somewhat steady agreement that if one person isn’t feeling up to it for one reason or another, we do something else nice for each other instead – mutually. Maybe a back rub or brushing hair or a massage – something affectionate and relaxing. Or maybe if we’re really really tired we just cuddle. We find a way to connect, even if it’s just simple.

    It’s so disheartening to see how many people’s husbands treat them like their wives are responsible for keeping them from their porn addiction. I tried to keep my ex from it, but I realized near the end that I can never ever change another person, and if they don’t want to help themselves badly enough to heal and change *FOR* themselves, they won’t heal.
    A quote that circulates through my mind often when it comes to reflecting on all the lessons from my abusive first marriage is:
    “People do not change until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.”
    I can’t remember where I heard this – but my ex-husband truly didn’t care about me at all, and me being there at all made it easy for him to stay stuck in his poisonous ways… I’m endlessly thankful that God got me out.
    You never *ever* should feel like you owe your spouse anything sexual. I think that’s abusive and deeply unkind to request from anyone who’s feeling poorly.
    Mutual, enthusiastic consent should always be a continuous part of any sexual relationship!
    I wasn’t looking for a second marriage when I met my now-husband. I was just happy to be free – God has really and truly brought beauty for ashes in my life, and I pray for every woman in these sorts of situations to be able to see beauty for ashes in their lives, too. Sending so much love❤️

    Reply
  32. Pelvic rest

    I’m in a high risk pregnancy after loss and been under “pelvic rest” for the last several months now. I am not allowed to orgasm at all, so all sex is out right now for me. Sigh. My husband waited out a couple of those months entirely with me and finally asked if I’d be willing to manually stimulate him. We worked out that he would give me a back massage each time and then I would help him orgasm. That way we each get physical affection and care and it feels mutual. Don’t get me wrong, I am so impatient to be able to have “real sex” again together, but for now this is what we can do to connect and pleasure each other physically. We also don’t feel right about masturbation unless the spouse is involved. We’ve done his side of things a few different ways but this last time I felt inspired and offered oral to start (this is what we’re calling sexual favors, right?), and I did actually get quite aroused and we had to switch to a different way to avoid me getting too excited! I wasn’t expecting that. 🙂 Oral has always been on the table for me to offer when I feel like it, but he doesn’t ever push it or even ask specifically, really. I enjoy receiving oral stimulation as foreplay myself, so whenever I feel inspired I try to give it to him too. We both like getting it better than giving it, so it’s always an act of spontaneous love for us. Postpartum we are both usually too tired to be thinking about it much and we can usually mostly just both wait. Anyway, wanted to weigh in that it is possible to be aroused during sexual favors, but I think the key is to feel cared for and allowed to offer it as a gift rather than under obligation.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That sounds like a perfect description of something that’s healthy!

      Reply
  33. AJ

    On the subject of women being aroused by giving their husband a hand job or oral sex, my wife says nothing is more arousing than giving me oral sex and this is her favorite form of foreplay. She often has an orgasm(s) while performing oral sex on me when I haven’t even touched her. I find this a little annoying and wish she could better allow herself to be the center of attention and allow me to sometimes focus completely on her (she struggles with being the center of attention). I love her enthusiasm and like watching her becoming aroused while pleasing me, but I wish I were able to arouse her with me touching her. She almost always performs oral sex on me before we have intercourse bringing me just to the brink of orgasm. This arouses her so much that she is then very ready and able to really enjoy intercourse. We’ve had in depth discussions about why giving me oral sex is so arousing to her. She says it’s because giving me oral is action oriented which helps to keep her mind focused on sex and how good it is going to feel once I enter her Not allowing her mind to wonder in another directions. I know this may also sound crazy, but in the early days of our marriage I had a difficult time enjoying her giving me favors. I was very uncomfortable because I felt like she was only doing it because she thought it was what I wanted. It took several years before I finally realized her pleasing me was actually a mutually enjoyable and arousing experience for both of us.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      AJ, if this is what your wife enjoys, then go for it! That’s great that she’s “owning” it too. Many women find other things difficult because their mind wanders, so what she’s describing makes perfect sense.

      Reply
  34. AJ

    I think overall this post extrapolates on an idea and suggestion presented by Kevin Leman and tries to turn it into an obligation for the intent of generalizing men as unkind, uncaring and unloving villains who only want sexual favors. Indeed some me are this way but most aren’t. The text from Leman’s book says: There are times for whatever reason that a wife may CHOOSE to make use of what younger men affectionately refer to as “hand jobs.” Since when does a choice indicate and obligation or expectation? If a wife chooses to do something for her husband then she does it voluntarily because she desires to do so.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Elsewhere in the book he talks about a woman who realized that giving her husband a hand job during her period helped him not watch porn. So it’s a longer conversation than just that one section.

      But here’s the thing, AJ: A woman who WANTS to give a hand job postpartum doesn’t need a book telling her to do it. She just would! By bringing this up so much in books (and there’s a new one launching October 5 that actually portrays women postpartum or with heavy periods getting aroused giving hand jobs) it sets the expectation. If he asks for this, she WILL feel pressure. And the book is portraying good wives as doing this.

      No, the only discussion we should be having postpartum is telling the husband to wait. Any other discussion elevates his needs over hers when, at least for this time in their marriage, her needs honestly need to take pre-eminence.

      Reply
  35. ID

    After our first child was born I ‘jokingly’ told my husband that the dr. said the healing time was 6 months, not 6 weeks. 😀 I have found that a husband will NOT die if he doesn’t have sexual release, no matter the kind, for ANY length of time. There are different reasons and seasons and he can deal with it like the adult he is and surprise, surprise – the woman is also abstaining for whatever the reason might be. The husband does NOT need to turn to porn or self gratification either – seriously, he will NOT die! I know this because my husband has had to go for a length of time before and he is just patient and loving in the meantime. I also don’t mind giving a hand job or oral sex but have never felt obligated to do so. Sometime I prefer either of those over intercourse for whatever reason.

    Reply
  36. Tory

    I am very late to the discussion, but I have an alternative perspective: about 24 hours after my first baby was born, I, um… touched myself over my hospital-issued postpartum diaper until I orgasmed to make sure I still could 🙈 in the post partum phase with my four births, I always abstained from sex for at least 6-7 weeks, but it was important to me to still be intimate and sexual with my husband. I was a milk machine, I didn’t have time to do my hair or makeup, my postpartum body looked soft and different. But he made me feel like a woman and not just like a baby-feeding machine. Not to go into too much detail, but we would lay in bed together naked or nearly naked (I usually wore bra and panties) and we would snuggle and talk and yes, kiss and touch each other to orgasm. It was a no-pressure, non-penetrative way to connect. And it felt amazing! Ladies, orgasm helps with cramps 🙂 it was never one-sided. I don’t think wives should feel pressured to give their husbands hand jobs, but I do think wives and husbands should find ways to be intimate together and share pleasure even when sex is off the table. If a woman is torn up and bleeding, she may not want to do anything; but if her postpartum recovery is going well, why not try just laying together naked in each other’s arms and see where it goes, no pressure? You might get aroused even if you don’t expect to.

    Reply
  37. Charley

    I come here seeking knowledge, and I find the author using the word “icky” in the context of discussing a man’s sexual needs in a marital relationship, coming across as quite juvenile and insulting. And the reasons for some statistics just become clearer and clearer.

    Reply
    • Suze

      It’s only “icky” if it’s expected of a woman who is postpartum and in pain, which is what this article is about, because it is icky–it’s disrespectful, selfish and not healthy for a loving marriage.

      Reply
      • Charley

        Maybe she’d have rather had me go handle it myself while fantasizing about somebody else, because there’s no way I’d be fantasizing about a woman that doesn’t want to be present when I’m meeting my own needs. Now that I’m older, I wish my wife would ask me to give her favors when I’m otherwise not able or interested. A few minutes of touching or kissing or whatever? No problem. No big deal. And it would at least let me know she had thoughts of sex, and not just ways to spend money on stuff I don’t care much about. And when she doesn’t show any signs of having thought about sex, I stop bringing it up. I occupy myself with other interests. And at some point, she notices we haven’t been having sex, then it becomes important again, especially if I still feel like putting it off, which gets easier and easier over time. As a general rule, men and women view sex differently, and I can find her/their views as just as “icky” as any judgmental prude can view mine.

        Reply
  38. Chelsea Smith

    Sheila, I love ya. I’ve been reading your blog for the better part of my 11 years of marriage. I’ve found so much of your advice helpful over the years. That said, I sure hope the women I know who have deprived their husbands of sex for years don’t read this one. I absolutely agree that in an ideal world women should never feel used in sex and in the real world abuse is always always wrong, but in a committed relationship in the real world sometimes we have to suck it up (no pun intended) and do things we don’t feel like doing. I’m sure you would agree based on the vast majority of what I’ve read in “9 thoughts that can change your marriage.” If I lived my marriage based off of my feelings I would have been divorced by now. I say this as a mom of three. My youngest is a year old so the postpartum stretch of my life is still very fresh. I say it as someone who has experienced postpartum depression. I say it as a woman who didn’t even know I was in labor with my first two because my periods are that bad. (Actually in my experience intercourse can help ease difficult periods. Though I realize intercourse is not an option postpartum.) If a woman has a loving husband who treats her with respect and she can’t be bothered to help him out when he needs it because it’s “icky” she needs to rethink why she got married in the first place. Now if a man is asking for sexual favors 5 minutes after their child is born, yes, he has issues, but it doesn’t really sound like that’s all that you’re talking about. There’s a good reason why the Bible tells us not to deprive one another, and yes I know that passage is talking to both men and women. There is also a good reason why Paul said that if people don’t have trouble controlling their sexual urges that they shouldn’t get married in the first place. I know women who have been sexually abused and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. Yes, husbands of these women should be even more understanding in all areas than the husbands of women who have not. I also know women who simply got married so that they could have babies, and these women are family members so I know them very well and am not making snap judgements, and yes these women are part of the church. Once these women are done with having children they kick their husbands out of bed. That is morally wrong , it is bad for families, it opens up the opportunity for temptation, and it is not God’s design. And yes these women have a general “sex is icky” attitude.(If a woman, or man for that matter, though it seems to be a much less common issue among men, thinks sex is “icky”she/he has no business getting married. I don’t care what their reasons are for thinking that. There are also men who deprive their wives, but it seems to be a more common theme in women. So having said all of that, I think this post greatly lacks clarity. I get it, you can’t win ‘em all. Most of the time you do really well at seeing both sides of the argument. Not this time.
    I have three daughters. I don’t ever want them to think that they’re too delicate to be the better person and make a small sacrifice for their husbands, which oral or manual stimulation allows them to do when intercourse is off the table. But maybe that’s just how my momma raised me. Probably this original author guy was out of line because he’s a man, and women really should be teaching other women. But that’s what women like you, and me on a much smaller scale , are supposed to be doing. So let’s pray for one another to make sure we do the beat job we can. And let’s do our best to not cater to anyone’s flesh with our words, man or woman.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Chelsea, I totally agree that kicking your husband out of bed once you’ve had kids is wrong. Absolutely.

      But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about temporary periods of time when she is feeling unwell and when she needs to be cared for–not the other way around.

      I’ve been very firm that sex is an important part of marriage. But if we want women to like sex, then we absolutely have to give them the ability to say no when it honestly shouldn’t be a burden to them. And the postpartum period should be sacred, I think, and the vast majority of women seem to agree.

      I think we need some nuance. Postpartum? She’s off limits. Period? It’s totally up to her (some women have terrible periods!). Even the Bible gave women a break during these times. Men couldn’t even touch them! And I think it’s okay for women to say, “Hey, I’m not feeling well, and that needs to matter too.”

      Reply
      • Charley

        “Period? It’s totally up to her…” Huh uh. With me, choose carefully the first time, because I’m not going to abide or not abide by some Bible verse she can choose to ignore.

        Reply
      • Chelsea

        Perhaps I am overly sensitive to this topic because in the beginning of my marriage my husband had a hard time asking for sex because he comes from a family where the mother believes that sex and really men in general are merely for the purpose of procreation. That’s actually how I found your blog. I felt unwanted and I was looking for answers. There are men ,as I believe you have pointed out before, who if they are outright told no, they will stop asking. Yes of course it is ok for a wife to say no if she really isn’t feeling well. It is also perfectly fine for a husband to ask even if she’s on her period, or she’s tired or whatever. It doesn’t in itself alone make him selfish or abusive. I doubt very seriously that you were trying to say that it does. But when we live in a world where views on sex are so very twisted on both ends of the spectrum it can sometimes make us sensitive to what people are saying. Especially after the crazy year and a half we’ve had that has been full of so many surprises when it comes to the people we know and what they really believe.
        I was taught not to say no to my husband other than when advised by my doctor not to, and I still like sex, a lot, probably more than he does. Everyone is different. Some women are never going to like sex no matter what and some women have been abused and need to be reminded that men are not God and they answer first to Him.

        Reply
  39. Anonymous

    I have a high libido and long, heavy periods and am usually eager for release halfway through my period. I usually initiate an intimate encounter about halfway through where we pleasure each other in some way not involving intercourse. However, because of our particular circumstances and past trauma, it’s important that I am the one that initiates any intercourse alternatives. It is really hurtful when I feel pressured to provide release outside of intercourse.
    We have multiple kids, and I always wanted to connect sexually before 6 weeks postpartum. We were creative, had fun, and grew in intimacy, but it was always very important that I didn’t feel pressured.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love that! That’s the way it should be when you’re otherwise out of commission!

      Reply
  40. S.

    I’m a bit late to this, but having looked through the comments, I was surprised at how few said yes.
    My answer is definitely yes! I love giving my husband sexual favors during those times. And when the postpartum hormones are all weird, seeing him orgasm is often the only thing (!) that gets me aroused.
    But even when there isn’t arousal, I still enjoy him.
    He’s never demanded it or acted like I owed him, which I’m sure makes a difference.

    Reply
  41. NS

    Just a comment- I felt that this post did not allow for a relationship where the husband is sacrificially giving over and above- and the wife wants to make him happy, and is aroused doing so.for my first, My husband got up every time our son woke up for the first 10 days after he was born, took 2.5 weeks off of work, and treated me like a princess in every way. I wanted to give him something in return- not because he asked or even indicated he was interested- but it also fulfilled me. I understand the expectation issue, but for me it was something special I could do for him, that no one else can. I felt that the post was too rigid.

    Reply
  42. CM

    I find the topic very relevant even if it feels really weird to imagine my husband asking anything when i’m unwell, let apart unwilling.

    Still I can’t really relate to the situation because as Catholics trying to live according to the Church’s teaching, we consider a sin to masturbate or give/receive sexual favours if there is no penetration. So during postpartum since penetration is not physically possible, we just hug (and sleep if we can !!). But we’re used to it. With natural family planning we can’t have intercourses as often as we’d like, for instance period sex is not even an option. Our first baby is born 2 month ago and although my libido came back 1 month after giving birth we need to wait until I have regular cycles back, so sometime after 6 months breastfeeding …
    Anyways, even in time where it’s biologically ok, if one of us doesn’t want sex, we just don’t do it. Period.

    So it’s a lot of abstinence but in a way it’s easier because we both know what we can and can’t. We’re in the same boat. So we have to be creative and find non sexual ways to express physical love, such as massages or always getting asleep in each other arms. It can be very frustrating sometimes but we are in a safe space to say it because boundaries are not up to us.
    I understand it can be awful to live if there is no real love or intimacy. But for us it’s really a freeing choice …

    By the way, thank you Sheila to say again and again that men are strong and responsible adults. I was raised in a family were everything is on the woman’s shoulders and it’s good to hear !

    Reply

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