PODCAST: Finding Your Own Path as a Couple

by | Nov 11, 2021 | Podcasts | 25 comments

Merchandise is Here!

We’ve got two different segments on today’s podcast, both regarding what it means to make your own way as a couple:

  • Another look at how to read science–and what it SHOULDN’T be used for
  • and a visit with Stephanie and Dan Holmes, the hosts of the Neurodivergent Christian Marriages podcast!

Keith and I start with another look at how people can use science incorrectly, and then we tackle a question I get asked a lot: how do we handle marriage when one spouse is on the autism spectrum? Or when a spouse has ADD or another diagnosis?

Listen in!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Timeline of the Podcast

1:00 Do you have to have sex with your husband all the time to prevent prostate cancer?
8:40 But are men and women super different?
17:45 Interview with NeuroDiverse Christian Marriages Podcast hosts
24:30 What you need to know before marriage with a neurodivergent partner
28:50 Unique challenges in marriage
31:30 Expectations to readjust
43:00 Sex within neurodivegent marriages
1:00:00 Encouragement!

Segment #1: How Can You Tell if Someone is Using Science Incorrectly?

We dealt with this reader question:

What do you do when someone brings up Obligation Sex as a necessity for men’s health? There is an article (which is quoting a study from Harvard researchers) that was brought to my attention as the necessity for obligation sex…that men frequently
having sex is a necessity for men’s health. I was a bit taken aback and didn’t know how to respond. What are your thoughts?

Keith and I talked about the problems with using a scientific study in a way that it wasn’t originally intended–and also some important questions to ask about that study.

We then revisited the podcast that Connor and Rebecca did a while ago about the neuroscience around men’s and women’s brains, because Gary Thomas is pushing back, saying that he knows a neuroscientist who disagrees with the meta-analysis. We again look at how this isn’t a proper way to handle scientific research.

I’m in favour of more science and more research. But we also have to understand its uses, and we need to understand how to read it. I hope we can all get more educated in this, so that we stop using science to prove our own viewpoint, and start using it to inform what we believe.

The Neurodivergent Christian Marriage Hosts Join Us!

Stephanie and Dan Holmes then joined the podcast to talk about neurodivergence and marriage. Dan is on the autism spectrum, and this causes unique challenges for marriage. Stephanie is a counselor who specializes in neurodivergent marriages, and she’s hoping to raise awareness so that others can do this work–since counseling that helps couples not on the spectrum needs to be adjusted for those who are on the spectrum.

I know I have had so many people write to me with issues, and Stephanie would be happy to address some of those things in future blog posts, so if you have specific questions, leave them in the comments!

We talked about the different types of neurodivergent marriages; how expectations can collide with reality; how to adjust communication; how sex can be affected; and more.

Rebecca and I also joined them on their podcast a while ago–you can listen in to that here!

Dan, a pastor, and Stephanie, an LPC, met through their youth group at their home church in Charlotte, NC. After dating and courtship, they married on December 17, 1994. If ever opposites have attracted, Dan and Stephanie have worked in their marriage to leverage these differences into complementary skillsets to complete each other through their weaknesses and celebrate each other’s strengths, and hope to help other NeuroDiverse couples and families do the same.

Dan and Stephanie have two adult children, and their journey into NeuroDiversity began with navigating the diagnosis of their children to include Asperger’s Syndrome, Anxiety, ADHD, Sensory Integration Issues, and Pervasive Developmental Disorders, NOS. Through this early marriage and parenting experience, they experienced challenges and trials which put a strain on their marriage and family.

Through the parenting journey, they discovered their own NeuroDiversity, and through faith and hard work navigate the ups and downs of NeuroDiverse marriage striving to bring glory to God in their marriage, modeling emotionally and spiritually healthy marriage, and equipping and training NeuroDiverse couples to be educated and equipped for a more effective and connected covenant marriage.

Dan and Stephanie founded the International Association of NeuroDiverse Christian Marriages, LLC to first and foremost bring hope, help, and possible healing to NeuroDiverse Christian Marriages. Their ministry also includes educating and equipping helping professionals, clinicians, and ministers into effective coaching and counseling strategies by first understanding and accepting the complexities of NeuroDiverse Christian Marriages.

Stephanie and Dan Holmes

Neurodiverse Christian Marriages

Become a part of the movement

Join 40,00 others and let's change the evangelical conversation about sex

Things Mentioned in This Podcast:

Finding Your Own Path as a Couple
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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  1. Andrea

    Haven’t listened yet, but “Gary Thomas is pushing back, saying that he knows a neuroscientist who disagrees with the meta-analysis” just encapsulates what Mark Noll dubbed “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” a couple of decades ago. I mean, he knows a scientist…??? Can you imagine using that as an actual argument?! This is why the world laughs at us. I know something about this because I can compare attending a Christian college and a secular university graduate program. I don’t have to tell you which group has more intellectual integrity.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, Andrea, exactly. This is why the world laughs at us.

      Let’s see: A meta-analysis is done by a HUGE research team, often with a large government grant so they can use a ton of grad students as well as professors. Often it’s done across several institutions. So you have multiple academic departments in this field working on it.

      Usually, while doing the meta-analysis, the research is also presented at a conference, even before it is published, so that feedback can be received and worked into the research.

      Then it’s submitted to a journal, where a team of OTHER neuroscientists go over it with a fine tooth comb to make sure that it was done correctly. They usually suggest revisions.

      Then those revisions are done, it’s resubmitted, and it’s published.

      So how many neuroscientists have worked on it at this point?

      To say, “I know one who disagrees” really is irrelevant. Unless you are a neuroscientist, you are not qualified to have any opinion on who is right. So as someone who is not trained, we have to go with the current consensus–which is the meta-analysis. It can be critiqued, and critiques can appear in peer-reviewed journals, and the research will continue. But you can’t just dismiss it because you know one scientist who didn’t even work on it.

      When people have worked in academia this is often better understood.

      • Andrea

        Now that I’ve listened, yes, “the veneer of science.” And I gotta feel a little bad for Keith the MD trying to reason about science with Gary the English major 🙂

        Can you imagine if scientists reacted to criticism of their work with the kind of personal attacks Christians will lob? I’m thinking of Aimee Byrd and Beth Allison Barr (so excited about her coming on the podcast next week!), and trying to imagine a scientist going after another scientist’s spouse over a professional disagreement. Women like Beth who have one foot in the church and one foot in academia can verify what I said in my first comment about intellectual integrity (and also just basic human decency).

  2. Codec

    Are men and women different? Yes.

    Are we so different that we can not understand or appreciate each other? No.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very well put!

      One of the things I said in The Great Sex Rescue was that books keep telling women that men have needs that women can never, ever understand. Ever.

      Then women assume that whatever they are going through, men must have it far worse. And so women are taught to disregard our own needs.

      It’s wrong. We can understand each other. We are not aliens. Let’s just talk about healthy principles for loving and giving to one another, rather than setting up entitlement and obligation.

      • Codec


        I mean think about it. If men are taught that women cant understand them then it makes sense that approaching a woman would be awkward. It makes sense why people put unnecessary fences in their minds and hearts.

          • Codec

            I find the idea that men and women can not be friends repulsive.

            Also, about the whole “visual nature” thing. Not only is it not true, but it is too simple. After all someone can look nice and have the personality of someone you would imagine as being the inspiration for Linda Rondstandt’ song ” You’re no good”

            I find it interesting that in the podcast that the geust speaker brought up that folks use books like Every mans battle to justify their porn use. I say interesting instead of shocking for a couple reasons.

            1. I think Anteburem would be horrified to see such a mentality. For all of the problems in the book I want to think he is trying in a misguided wsy to help people.
            2. It is not a hard mentality to understand.
            3. The same mentality could eadily apply to both men and women.
            4. It belies great pain.

            I have to admit i never even conceived of vaginismus before learning about your stuff.

            I think lots of folks are confused and curious. They want to know why they have desires that are not good for them. They want to know why they can not work up the nerve. They want to know how it is that they can be surrounded by stimuli and yet feel more empty and numb than before.

  3. A2bbethany

    My brother got himself diagnosed with Asperger’s (i believe?) and ADHD. Afterwards he thought that a certain sister might’ve been Asperger’s too. The only thing is, having a diagnosis does squat if they won’t go to counseling for help.(the verbally abusive sister, in my opinion of years studying her, she’s very narcissistic. Not misunderstood, or confused about communication)

    Also, the only thing I could think about with that prostate cancer study is, my husband would rather have a higher risk than to do it that much! And I think I’d agree…. that’s just way to much for our preferences.

    And then it was interesting hearing the couple talk, because we’re both infj’s but he’s a stable person who is good at alot. My spin is a lot more neurotic and in my own world. He’s big picture and I’m details. But because of nurture, he’s very quiet and I’m a talker. (Big family vs. 1 sibling) a few things they mentioned rang a bell for us, but I don’t know that we’re neurodivergent. If we are….we both are, and just don’t really notice. (Which sounds unlikely?)

  4. Phil

    Haven’t made it through the entire podcast yet…I identify as Bipolar and I do not discount it. I like the discussion on being teachable. I have been struggling with anger all my life and I have been in counseling more specifically in the past multiple years with regard to my diagnosis of Bipolar. Recently I told my counselor I thought we were wasting our time. So I went a month or so without seeing him and during that time I had some Bipolar activity that I identified and staved off – and it was a realization that in fact I wasn’t wasting my time…and yes I am learning…but it has been so hard…and I try so damn hard to be better. I really do. I have been trying since I am like 7 or 8 and nothing seems to work. When you have this lack of control that takes over it is defeating. It is disappointing…it is saddening..it is depressive. My wife and I are going through a really rough time in our marriage. I don’t think we have fought this much since 2003. Ya know what? I can’t stand our situation but I look around and everything is really ok. Kids are doing so awesome and we have been cared for financially by GOD and everything is fine. Why the discord? I can say this…being bipolar certainly does not assist in the situation..but man I can only imagine how awful it would be if I hadn’t done all the hard work I have done. Often I feel as I have failed my wife and family with my behavior…but…somehow when I look at the facts – We are just fine. The works sucks and it is painful. The reward is in front of me. Recently I was talking to a good friend of mine – he has 8 kids..or something like that – I don’t really know lol….but every single one of them has rebelled. I look at my kids with such gratitude. I told them a story about my friends kid who built an XBOX hard drive to plug into his school given laptop and manually changed the IP address so it would appear as his chrome book on the home wifi. First I can’t imagine monitoring my kids on the wifi and second my kids where dumb founded that the kid spent so much time and effort deceiving and lying..they were all like Why didn’t they just ask if they could use the Xbox for X amount of time etc etc…oh I am rambling…ya know what? I just have gratitude and God is good. 🙂 I am making lemonade today..anybody with me? 🙂

  5. Mara R

    I like the title:
    “Finding your own path as a couple”

    But I’m sure such a title really rubs the Eggerichs of the world the wrong way.

    You can’t work out your own marriage with fear and trembling!
    You have to follow their advice because they know way better than you.

    But seriously, I do like the title.
    Even though such advice rarely works for someone married to a Narcissist. At least it didn’t work for me. The only path I needed to follow was the “get the hell out of Dodge” path.
    There was no compromise or meeting in the middle with the ex. It was his way or the highway. And if his way hurt me… then I was my fault, along with everything else. Gaslighting is a normal part of of life with a Narc.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very true. There is nothing you can do if one person isn’t willing to work on the relationship, and doesn’t honestly care about the other.

      I’m so sorry that you endured that. That is awful.

    • CMT

      You’ve got something there. People being free to find their own path, whether in marriage or spiritual growth more generally, seems to really bother a certain type of Christian “leader.” As though if everyone does not look, act and believe the same, someone must be doing it wrong. (Doubly so if your own path leads out of a destructive marriage/church/etc).

  6. Anonymous for this one

    Ok, I am 99.9% sure I am neuro-diverse, but after listening, I now think my husband might be autistic. So much made sense, resonated, and we’re aha moments. But, he’d never in a million years believe me or accept that if I told him and handed him a diagnosis. Not sure how to move forward, except with just understanding how he ticks better.

    American health care doesn’t cover this and we can’t afford to do our own digging.

  7. Anon for now

    I got a chuckle out of the “fighting about Friday night dinner” analogy. I’d be super surprised if my husband were on the spectrum but that is exactly how he is too. “That hasn’t been a problem for weeks/months/years, why are you still feeling x about it?” It makes for some… challenging conversations sometimes.

    Question for the Holmes: Do you have any resources for people who might be neuro divergent but not on the autism spectrum? I’m thinking specifically of ADD. I don’t have a full blown diagnosis (ie I’m not “bad” enough to need medication) but I do have a lot of the traits (time blindness, distractibility, difficulty finishing tasks, inability to get organized). That sometimes creates frustrations and mismatched expectations in my relationship.

    Sometimes I still feel guilty about not being as efficient or organized as other people, and when I perceive (rightly or wrongly) that my husband is criticizing me for that, it’s easy to spiral a little bit. Sometimes I just wish I could give him a ride along in my brain for a day so he could see how much is actually zooming around in there, even though it looks like “I’m just stalled out” on the outside!

    • Nessie

      Anon for now-

      my hubs self-diagnosed with ADD and his therapist agrees it is highly likely. He has greatly appreciated the book “Fast Minds: How to Thrive If You Have ADHD (Or Think You Might)” by Craig Surman and Tim Bilkey. I beleive it contains several suggestions for self-organizing, etc., that helped him (and others I know, too) deal with their particular challenges.

      For my part, reading the book “Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.: Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love Has Attention Deficit Disorder” by Gina Pera has helped me be more compassionate in understanding what he is going through, why I felt his actions were personally against me but weren’t, etc. Maybe your hubs can read that and gain better understanding about your side of things?

  8. Anonymous305

    When you mentioned science being used to coerce women, that reminded me that I heard a version of the obligation message that said men need sex to feel emotional connection because they don’t produce oxytocin without sex the way women do. I also heard, “he doesn’t want it, he wants you” used in the obligation message. Both versions felt confusing because I agreed with the reasons of emotional connection and “he wants you”, but I still wanted to run and hide from those messages. At the time, I thought my feelings were stupid for wanting to hide from something I agreed with, but now it makes sense. Any form of obligation means I don’t matter, so it makes sense to run and hide.

    Those messages are contradictory because real, sincere emotional connection can’t come from obligation, and neither can “he wants you” be true if your feelings don’t matter.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very true! For sex to be intimate, it has to mean that both people’s needs matter. Otherwise sex isn’t a deep knowing; it’s an erasure of one person. And that does make us want to run and hide!

    • CMT

      Anon agree with you 100%. However couched, obligation messages leave you with that nagging sense of fear, even if you don’t fully understand why.

      “men need sex to feel emotional connection because they don’t produce oxytocin without sex the way women do”

      What kind of horse puckey excuse for neuroscience is this?

      Your DOG gets an oxytocin rush from gazing into your eyes. All humans release oxytocin in their brains when they feel love and connection. With their friends, their kids, their partners, and yeah even their pets! Who is going around teaching that men don’t get oxytocin release without sex!? Whoever that is needs to stop talking about how brains work until they have educated their own a little better.

  9. Jo R

    So once again the church conflates “he ejaculates” with “having sex.” And now with the force of science behind it! 🙄🙄🙄

    As to harmful outcomes of the obligation-sex message on women, well, it’s just women, so who really cares? 🙄🙄🙄

    In general advice given to “couples,” it’s painfully obvious that whatever issues, problems, or needs the MAN has, it’s up to the WOMAN to fix it, adapt to it, or even just put up with it, because “women just can’t understand X about men.” (The men aren’t really directed to work on themselves—if I were cynical, I might say “How convenient.”) OK, fine. Let’s adopt this thesis in the opposite direction. There are things believed to be generally true about women that “men will just never understand.” So. To all the male Christian authors, teachers, and pastors who think “women will never understand” and therefore women must adapt, where are your books, classes, and messages pounding on MEN about the things “men will never understand” so that MEN absolutely must do X, Y, or Z, even if they don’t want to, even if it negatively affects them, even if it kills their souls? (Of course, the women are directed to work on themselves to improve these issues.)

    In fact, I would say that the church and the “popular” books are teaching women to act like men or, more precisely, that wives must act the way husbands are called to act (in the heavily pounded-on Ephesians 5 passage): with wives sacrificing themselves, literally their entire selves, for their husbands.

    • CMT

      I’ve heard of that study before. It literally had not occurred to me before hearing this discussion that anyone would assume these guys were all having intercourse 21+ times a month, month in and month out for years. I mean, really??

  10. Anonymous

    Re neurodiversity, my son identifies himself as ND and I’m 99.99% my father is, too. With all this life experience, like Stephanie, I consider myself a ND “whisperer”. When Dan described his personality style as being more Rubik’s cube than grid, I was completely tracking, and also laughing out loud listening to Sheila’s reactions. I cannot count the times I’ve seen that look and heard the sort of stunned silence when my father or son talk. Talking with a Spock takes some getting used to. ;o)

    FWIW – My experience with NDs is they function by “rules” (e.g., Dan keeping in mind the marriage as its own “being” becomes an operating rule; whereas emotional ebb and flow cannot be reduced to a rule, making emotions unpredictable and “hard”.) That’s the rigidity Dan and Stephanie reference. My son revealed to me that, without intending it, the biggest coping strategy I gave him is that “there are no rules” (not meaning chaos or immorality, but that each thing has to be assessed and weighed on its own, in real time.)

    That’s where neuroplasticity comes in. Being “willing”. Unfortunately, being flexible can be a struggle for some NDs. Sadly, as Stephanie mentioned (and what TLHV keeps exposing) many Christian books are denying this flexibility of the brain, flexibility that was installed by God, is discussed in the Bible (“the renewing of your mind”) and is being proven by modern science. Indulging rigidity in any person breeds self centeredness (as Stephanie found in her early counseling years with neural typicals.) Endorsing rigidity to NDs and narcissists (as mentioned above), stunts the growth of the one and gives license to the other. If that person has both ND and narcissistic tendencies, these teachings create monsters (and victims, from the self centered tantrums and manipulation that ensue.)

    This is why I am so thankful for all the work of TLHV, being a modern day Galileo, using the tool of science to bring the Christian world in line with the natural laws of God’s creation.

    Many thanks to you, Sheila, your family, and your supporters for taking this on!!!

  11. Dean

    As a person with high-functioning autism, I am very grateful that you are visiting this subject, in depth and with grace.

    Sometimes, especially when I am tired, I misunderstand subtleties in the context or in the sentiment of something that is said. Usually it doesn’t matter, but in an intimate relationship it definitely can.

    My wife has learned to identify when I misunderstand the context or the sentiment of something that she says, and calmly explains it to me. One of the many perks of being married to a wonderful person, who also happens to be a psychologist!

  12. Amy

    When Keith started on pointing out the hypocrisy of the sin of masturbation vs marital rape I literally started clapping oh my goodness


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