How Can Men Fix Their Sex Lives if They’ve Gone Downhill?

by | Feb 28, 2022 | Libido, Uncategorized | 116 comments

What if a guy knows he’s gone down a bad path with his sex life–but he doesn’t know how to get back?

Like many of you probably did, I spent much of the weekend watching the invasion of Ukraine by Russia unfold on social media. There were some heartwarming and inspirational moments with the bravery of ordinary Ukrainians. There were some funny moments with people the world over letting Russia know how they feel.

And then there were the very sad moments–seeing the utter destruction for no good reason; the residential buildings hit; the fires and environmental disasters; and of course the loss of life.

I think the image that sticks with me the most, though, is some of the faces of the bewildered Russian soldiers who were captured, many of them no older than 20.

These poor kids–for that is what they are–had no idea why they were there. They didn’t want to fight Ukrainians. They were told they’d be welcomed. And they didn’t know what to do.

The video of one in particular being allowed to call his mom was just very touching.

Sometimes we get caught up in destruction that is not of our own making.

Those soldiers didn’t declare war on Ukraine. They were trapped in a situation that others had set in place.

Something very similar is going on with a lot of couples and their sex lives. 

Things are not going well. Things may even be destructive. But at the same time, everyone’s kind of bewildered. We don’t know how we got here. And we have no idea how to get out. We started this conversation on last week’s podcast about the negative messages that men may have believed, and i want to continue it today.

The two big ways that sex lives can go downhill without you meaning to hurt anyone

Let me say: sometimes sex can deteriorate because one person is deliberately entitled and selfish. Or maybe he (and I’ll talk about mostly men here since I want to talk about how men can fix this) has a pornified style of relating and has treated her like an object. These scenarios are very real and very painful, but that’s not what I want to deal with today.

I want to talk about the other common scenario that leads to that look that the 19-year-old Russian boy had of bewilderment and defeat: sometimes you can just be following orders, doing what you’re told to do, and it ends very, very badly. And that can happen in two ways:

  • He believes the messages about sex that the evangelical church has taught about his need for sex and his entitlement to sex
  • She believes the messages about sex that the evangelical church has taught about her obligation to give him sex–and he inadvertently reinforces them

In The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex we explain how both of these scenarios can happen, and we spend chapters 5 and 6 and chapters 12-14 helping men navigate them. There’s much to say–but I’ll focus on just a few thoughts today.

The key thing I want you to notice about what sends them down the wrong path is that one of them (or even both of them) might actually believe what they’ve been taught. And you know what? It’s not wrong to believe what you’ve been taught. It’s natural. It’s good even. You read books to help you be a good wife or a good husband. You want to learn what a God-honouring marriage looks like.

But unfortunately, as we showed in The Great Sex Rescue, most of our evangelical resources about sex and marriage are filled with harmful messages about sex. And if those messages are internalized–ideas like she is obligated to give him sex when he wants it, or she has to have sex to stop him from watching porn–that will have negative effects on their sex life.

What happens when he believes these messages?

 

Sex may start out great! They both may be enjoying themselves, and sex may seem fun.

But as time goes on, and sex becomes less frequent because of regular life, he starts to feel angry. She’s not giving him what he needs and what he’s entitled to, and so now he can’t function (the books say a variety of things, like he can’t feel loved; he can’t be motivated at work; he can’t resist porn; he can’t resist lusting). She seems to deliberately be trying to make life difficult for him by withholding what is so easy for her to give.

She senses all of what he’s feeling, and starts to build up great resentment towards him and towards sex. She feels like he is just using her and doesn’t really care about her, and feels distinctly unloved.

Another common scenario is that sex never really started out that great–for her that is. They never figured out her orgasm piece, or sex may even have hurt. But he didn’t realize that this was his responsibility to figure out, or that this was even that important. He’d been told that what she needed was emotional connection, and she didn’t really care about sex. So he continues to want sex frequently, even though it does nothing for her, solidifying in her mind that she is not a sexual being and that sex is an imposition.

What happens when she believes these messages?

 

Sex becomes a very stressful thing from the start. She counts the days and makes sure they never go more than 72 hours without sex. If he asks her if she wants to tonight, she always says yes, because she doesn’t want to let him down (after all, Gary Thomas in Married Sex says that “no” can cause him to feel rejected at the very core of his identity). He often thinks it’s amazing that they’re getting sex so often (or else he just tries to keep up with her even though he doesn’t even want sex every 72 hours!).

They may or may not ever figure out her orgasm piece, but even if they do, it starts happening less frequently because she starts to worry about whether or not he’s going to want it tonight. She may even find herself going to be early, before she wants to, to try to head off any advances. She starts pushing him away earlier in the day,  hoping he won’t proposition her tonight. Sex feels like a big obligation that is all about him, and she starts to resent him for it.

In both cases, sex has become a huge obligation to her that is all about him–even if he never intended that to happen. 

The only way out of this is to stop sex being an obligation for her.

She has to know that she is free to say no with no negative repercussions. That means:

He has to not see a rejection of sex as a rejection of himself.

Gary Thomas portrayed this attitude as normal in his book Married Sex, as he quotes a man saying:

“Being sexually desired means I’m accepted and appreciated and that someone wants me. The way my brain works, if my wife doesn’t want me sexually, then she doesn’t want me period—and that makes me feel alone and rejected. It affects my identity.”

Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta

Married Sex

Look, obviously being rejected is not a nice experience. But this should not affect your identity if it happens occasionally. If sex is someone’s identity, that is not because of their brain. That is more often because they have not learned to express and feel real intimacy apart from sex, which is likely the root of the problem in the first place.

If he could learn to experience true intimacy outside the bedroom, then sex could be the culmination of that intimacy, rather than a replacement for intimacy. His entire identity (and his ability to do well at work, and to do well at life) cannot rest on whether or not she has sex with him one night. If it does, then he should likely see a licensed counselor.

This does not mean that sex is not important; but a healthy marriage is a precursor to a healthy sex life, and those who feel great intimacy outside the bedroom are far more likely to be satisfied with their lives inside the bedroom. Sex should not be where all of our emotional needs are met, and even though this is what they both have been taught, this is not actually a sign of psychological health, but is rather a sign that something is wrong. 

Again, sex can bring you together, can help you bond, can lower stress levels, can leave you feeling blissful. But if it’s your identity, then there is a misplaced emphasis that will distort the relationship.

They both have to let go of the idea that his need for sex outweighs any of her needs.

In the church, we’ve been told that his need for sex outweighs her need for healing postpartum, or for rest, or for just about anything else. She’s been told that sex should be a sacrifice, like feeding your newborn in the middle of the night (again, from Married Sex).

Kevin Leman in Sheet Music told her that to be obedient, she had to have sex no matter what every 48-72 hours for the rest of her life, even if she felt forced.

If she cannot truly say no, she will never be able to say yes. 

Her libido will ultimately plummet, and her sexual response will disappear. And sexual pain may even be her story.

Specific Steps to Let Go of the Obligation Sex Message

Just a few ideas of how to reset the dynamic with sex. See if any resonate, and talk to your spouse about what would make them feel safest (and you don’t need to use all of these!):

  1. Prove to her that she can say no whenever she wants with no consequences–even if you’re in the middle of intercourse. We talked with so many women who finally became orgasmic after they started saying no when they genuinely didn’t want to.
  2. Take a sex fast for a few weeks, or even a few months, where you just build your emotional connection.
  3. Take a sex fast from HIS orgasm, but not necessarily from hers. If sex has been entirely about his orgasm for years, take a few weeks or months when it’s just about hers, so you figure out how her body works.
  4. Decide that for the next month or two, she will NEVER initiate. That way she doesn’t  have to feel like she’s counting the days or wondering if he wants something.
  5. Talk about what freedom looks like to her–how can he act if she says no to show that he’s okay?

For a much more in-depth look at how to work these out, please see The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, or my post 5 ways to get rid of the obligation sex message.

The All New Guides to Great Sex!

Launch March 15!

Imagine building a great sex life–from the ground up!

What would it look like to build a picture of sex that was MUTUAL, INTIMATE, and PLEASURABLE FOR BOTH–with no harmful messages?

Welcome to the The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and the ALL NEW Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex.

Pre-Order Now! (Helps us out a ton)

And if you email your receipt, we’ll send you a special pre-order BONUS

The evangelical church has set us up to feel bewildered five years after we were married. We did what we thought we were supposed to do, but it didn’t lead to intimacy. It led to obligation and resentment.

But you can rebuild! Often it just takes some honest conversations, some honest apologies, and that first step towards honouring everyone’s feelings.


We wrote The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex so that guys getting married wouldn’t find themselves in this situation anymore.

We wanted guys to get married without the entitlement mindset, and to know how to act as soon as they were married to counteract any negative messages she’s had, too. We show him, from the beginning, how to make sure he’s not inadvertently reinforcing any bad messages, but is instead being her hero in the bedroom.

And I wrote The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex to help her start well, without all this obligation too!

My prayer is that couples will get these books before they’re married and avoid all these problems (just imagine what that would be like!), or that couples can get them early in their marriages to fix things before they deteriorate. And they’re available for pre-order too!

There’s so much bad teaching in the evangelical church about sex, but we can do better. Will you make these two books your go-to books for wedding showers? That’s my dream, but I need your help to make it a reality! So pre-order them now for a couple you know who is getting married soon. Together, we can undo the damage–and prevent so much more damage from happening.

What do you think? Have you seen this dynamic play out? Let’s talk in the comments!

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

Related Posts

Adults Need Bedtimes Too!

Adults need bedtimes, too. Seriously. I have talked to thousands of couples over the last few...

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

Related Posts

Adults Need Bedtimes Too!

Adults need bedtimes, too. Seriously. I have talked to thousands of couples over the last few years at marriage conferences and at events, and I keep hearing stories about how "we never talk", or "we never do anything together", or even, "our sex life is almost...

Do We Understand the Power of a Responsive Libido?

Just because you have a responsive libido doesn't mean you don't have a libido! I make this point repeatedly in our revamped Boost Your Libido course that launches next Monday, but I really want to drive this home today: Just because you don't have what we call a...

Comments

We welcome your comments and want this to be a place for healthy discussion. Comments that are rude, profane, or abusive will not be allowed. Comments that are unrelated to the current post may be deleted. Comments above 300 words in length are let through at the moderator’s discretion and may be shortened to the first 300 words or deleted. By commenting you are agreeing to the terms outlined in our comment and privacy policy, which you can read in full here!

116 Comments

  1. Red

    As one of these guys, thank you for all you are doing.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You’re so welcome. I really want to change this for the next generation! We were just all taught such harmful stuff.

      Reply
  2. Jim

    Sheila,
    I do agree that there are harmful messages that have been promoted in the church and culture in general.

    My concern is that your recommendations are going to be relying on the husband to be making all of the sacrifices without asking anything of the wife. Specifically, no sex for weeks or months. Could that inadvertently lead to a sexless marriage?

    Also, if sex is an important part of the man’s (or woman’s) identity, asking him to give it up for a possibly indeterminate length of time would be a hard sell. That would be like asking a pack a day cigarette smoker to give up cigarettes cold turkey.

    Reply
    • Marisa

      Re your last paragraph, yes it could be a hard sell. That is why we have the spirit of Christ. We can do all things through him. We can make sacrifices for our spouse for the greater good and with Christ’s help be successful. We ask women to sacrifice their bodily autonomy all of the time and men can’t give up sex for a short temporary period? What happens when wife gets cancer? What if she’s on pelvic bed rest for months in pregnancy? What if she’s had surgery and cannot have intercourse for 2 months?

      Reply
    • Anon4now

      I see your point that it IS a tough sell in some cases. I’ve been through this as the wife looking for a way to say “no” when I need to without bruising my husband’s ego. That it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s wrong to ask a person to make sacrifices for the relationship when their behavior or attitudes may have been inadvertently contributing to the problem. Or even if they didn’t really contribute but their spouse is hurting and needs compassion and forbearance.

      The comparison to nicotine addiction seems telling to me. If a person feels that way about sex, that would be a big problem, no? And while chemical dependencies are often treated by gradually reducing the use the substance, I’m not sure how you could ethically “treat” an “addiction” to unhealthy sex that way. “I’ve been having one sided sex with my partner every 72 hours for x years, so I’ll cut back to every 96 hours for the next month, then we’ll space it out to me only using them once a week.” Umm, nope. If someone has been instrumentalizing their spouse and they realize that, shouldn’t they WANT to go “cold turkey?”

      I realize I’m probably reading too much into your analogy and maybe you also see where it breaks down. I’m not intending to pick on you but I do think that reasoning might get people really stuck.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      She’s been giving sex for years without getting any in return (because, organism gap!) and you’re worried that he’s sacrificing too much without her sacrificing anything in return. Think about that a minute, please. When you’re ready to do years and years of martial sacrifice with no obligational return from your spouse, then you will have become a safe man.
      TLDR: She’s already sacrificed. Man up.

      Reply
    • Marisa

      My point with my earlier comment is that in marriage sex may need to be off the table in many other circumstances and it’s quite normal and expected. It’s part of life. Sex important but it cannot be the most important thing such that one is a slave to it. Wisdom is also knowing what we need to prioritize in different seasons of life.

      Reply
    • Anna

      By all means, keep doing things the way you’ve been taught. And as I told my husband early yesterday morning, 35 years of having lots of sex that I didn’t want can build a mountain of resentment from which I sit as I genuinely contemplate pulling the trigger on divorce. And you know what he’ll be afterwards? Sexless.

      Of course, he will then be free to search the earth for some amazing sex goddess who will want to meet him boink for boink. I wish him luck.

      But hey, he got plenty of sex there for a long time, so THAT’S a fulfilling legacy.

      Reply
      • Anna

        And there’s gonna be some people that will freak out at what I say next, but in order to work one last time on our marriage, and see if there’s ANY empathy in his soul for me at all, not only are the two of us entering a sex fast, but I’ve asked my husband to please ask permission before he kisses me. For a while. I don’t know how long. I am desperate to feel some bodily autonomy.

        Reply
        • Erica

          Anna, I’m so sorry you are going through this. I reached a point in my marriage where my husband wasn’t allowed to touch me at all (no hugs, no hand-holding) without permission. It was the thing that finally made him SEE that I was serious that things would change or my next step would be out the door.

          In my case, my husband respected my request but we also have an amazing marriage counselor who had been walking us through the process and he was able to confirm that what I was asking for was not a punishment, but exactly what you said – a need to re-establish my bodily autonomy.

          That was a year ago. It’s been a brutal year but we are making progress. I hope your husband is able to hear your heart and humble himself in your situation.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I’m so glad things are getting better, Erica! And, yes, sometimes women do need to reclaim that autonomy, because the choice has been taken from them. And that is not healthy for anyone.

    • Jo R

      Let’s imagine your wife grew up within walking distance of a public park with tennis courts. All it takes to play tennis is a racket and a can of balls. At the age of eight, she starts playing. She eventually becomes so good that she not only makes her high school team; she actually letters and wins the district. In college she continues to play recreationally, and while she doesn’t have time to be on the official team, she does play in the intramural and has a lot of success.

      She meets you, you fall in love, you get married. You’re vaguely aware of her tennis history and ability, but you’ve never even picked up a racket in your whole life. You’ve moved to Florida and live quite close to a public park with tennis courts. She suggests Saturday mornings of tennis. You’re not sure, because you’re afraid you might not be able to keep up with her.

      How do you want her to act when you seem hesitant? Do you want her to teach you the basics patiently? Or do you want her to get mad and complain incessantly that you can’t even hit a simple forehand in bounds?

      Let’s suppose that she is patient, and the two of you spend a year of Saturday mornings on the courts. You finally can reliably hit serves, forehand and backhand ground shots, and even occasionally a volley. How do you think she should have been playing for that year? Should she be shoving her ability down your throat, whipping you 6–0 every week? Or do you think she should dial her own game back to your level?

      That’s the situation way too many women, and especially Christian women, find themselves in with sex in marriage. She’s never “picked up a racket,” and too often, the husband is unwilling to dial down his game to her level.

      If you think him having to meet her level is too much of a sacrifice, then I guess “do unto others” and “consider others as more important than yourself” really don’t apply in the closest relationship any of us will ever have.

      Reply
      • Jim

        Thank you ladies for all of your responses.

        I do agree that it is important that husbands and wives work together to improve their sex lives and some sacrifices may be in order.

        My concern is that the sacrifices suggested appear to be overly drastic and one-sided. But, I have noticed that seems to be par for the course.

        After all, men are called to ‘love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave his life up for her.’

        Reply
        • Anon4now

          Idk, I’d kind of expect a post that’s called “how can guys fix their sex lives” to be specifically talking to men more than to women, right?

          Tbh I don’t see most of the things on the list as that hard. He doesn’t have to do all of them right, it’s suggestions. Shouldn’t 1 and 5 just be parts of a normal healthy relationship? And wouldn’t making a short term sacrifice (2-4) that could really help his partner be worth it? Like, if you know shes been hurt in this area then some extra consideration for her could go along way. I honestly don’t know if I’m reading it that way only because I’m female. As a woman I think it would feel so good to be offered any one of those things, I’m curious what makes them seem drastic from a guys point of view? I’m not trying to be a pain I genuinely don’t get it.

          Reply
          • exwifeofasexaddict

            What makes it so hard from a man’s point of view is that male sexual entitlement is a given in every area of life, and has been for so long that they don’t even realize they are entitled, and oftentimes, women don’t realize it either. They have been told that their penis is the most important thing in the marriage. They have been told that they must be satisfied or the world will end. They won’t be able to succeed in their work or their faith or leading their families and they will probably have no choice but to watch porn, though they should feel very ashamed about that. They don’t even realize that they are treating their wife like a prostitute, that bodily autonomy and consent are things, that their wife might have different wishes or desires for sex. So they feel like they are being punished when a wife puts on the brakes and starts asking for her needs to be honored and her voice heard.

          • Anonymous

            Amen!!! Exactly right. This is what I was talking about by saying, “internalized misogyny”.

        • Anonymous

          Jim,
          Having lived through this in the last year, I can tell you what the sacrifice will be for your wife.

          As you follow the above steps and start becoming more trustworthy…

          Your wife will:
          Have to learn to trust you at a more intimate level.
          She will have to develop her own voice and learn how to say no.
          She will have to see (repeatedly) that you accept her no, the first time (building more trust).
          She will have to let herself go and focus on herself and her body, so that she can get aroused.
          She will have to teach you what feels good to her, to find her voice and trust that you will listen and take instruction.
          She will waiver and beg you to just get it over with so she doesn’t have to open up and be so intimate. She will need you to say no, that you’re not going to “finish” before her because you love her.
          She will have to do very difficult emotional labor to undo years and years of bad teaching and bad habits (of letting you have your way, unchallenged). She will have to teach you about emotional labor and internalized misogyny (happening in both of you).

          She will make the greater sacrifice and it will feel extremely selfish to her and she will beg you to let her stop trying.

          All you have to do is learn to not be a jerk. Not trying to be mean, but for real, that’s the gist of it.

          Got any questions?

          Reply
        • Jo R

          So you’re equating delayed orgasm with a huge sacrifice? What does that say to your wife who suffers discomfort, pain, and fear of potential death in every pregnancy and childbirth? Does her very unegalitarian bodily sacrifice during those times count for nothing?

          Not wanting to put yourself on the back burner for six weeks or six months or a year to help your wife learn to enjoy seems the epitome of penny wise and pound foolish. “Hmm, I can hold back on my desire to orgasm so that I can help her learn to orgasm herself, which will more than likely lead to five decades of great sex” compared with “I want my orgasm when I want it, and you just have to play catch up for the rest of our lives, dear.”

          Here’s a hard sell: “Darling, you know I love you and want to marry you. But I have to say, if you have problems with sex, you’ll have to fix them on your own because I will do nothing to help you. Of course, you will still have to do your duty and make sure I orgasm as frequently as I want, but don’t expect me to lift a finger to help you in that way.”

          Reply
        • Marisa

          Jim,
          How you as a man see these sacrifices depends on your lens. If your goal is to simply get sex and use another person, then it makes sense if these sacrifices seem one sided, drastic and unreasonable. If your goal is intimacy and oneness with your spouse, then you understand some hard sacrifices may be in order to achieve a sex life that is satisfying and enjoyable for you both.

          But as I already stated, in marriage there will be times sex isn’t possible there are events in life that may lead to this. Marriage is the most intimate relationship you will have with another human being. Should that relationship not be treated with excruciating care and love? We do not know what life will bring us. We strive for the high calling; we should not be wading in the fleshly calling. Men can and do live just fine without sex when it is called for.

          Reply
    • Anon

      As a woman who used to not like sex because I felt obligated to ‘provide’ it for my husband, and sex was all about him and not me; from a wife’s perspective, sexless marriages tend to result from a wife being unhappy, insecure, irrelevant and generally not ‘feeling one’ with her husband in other areas of life. If a man has issues he needs to work on, the fact he is working on those issues to better himself will likely mean a huge deal to his wife and will draw her closer to him emotionally. Therefore they are less likely to experience a sexless marriage in the long run.

      If a man (or woman) identifies themselves by what they want (for example, sex, or food, or a desired lifestyle) they are setting themselves up for failure and this is inappropriate. Identity should be determined by values, not desires. Desires may or may not be fulfilled based on external factors outside of an individual’s control; values can always be fulfilled if the individual chooses to fulfil them. If someone identifies themselves by their desire for sex, then they definitely have something to work on, because they’re headed to unhealthy places. Say a man identifies himself by his sexual desires and he never gets married? Or he loses his wife? He’s in a really bad place. Now we’re in the realm of extramarital sex, pornography or even sexual crime, if the desire is strong enough and unchecked. If a man or woman defines themselves by their sexual appetite, they definitely have some personal development to do, and they need to do this for themselves, by themselves. They need to want to change. Just like a smoker needs to ‘want’ to change, and an alcoholic needs to ‘want’ to change, so does someone who has an unhealthy identity. It is not the responsibility of their spouse to direct that change. So yes, abstinence from sex will be a hard sell, but when the individual is ready, they’ll go through with it because they understand the consequences of not going through with it. And if they never ‘buy into’ the need to change, their life might be changed for them by their spouse walking out.

      Reply
      • exwifeofasexaddict

        An important distinction between this and other types of addiction, is that a wife is a person. When an addict weans themselves off of alcohol or tobacco, the substance is not hurt by the person’s use or non-use of it. But a wife is not an inanimate object and is very much hurt by being used by an addict. She has the right to set her own boundaries for her safety.

        Reply
    • We Did It

      Last year, for some reason I don’t understand, my husband thought I’d communicated to him that we were never going to have sexual intercourse again.

      I was sound asleep and completely unaware of this conversation and he didn’t bring it up for clarification for almost two months! Once he did, we cleared that up quickly and he learned it’s important to have difficult conversations.

      Anyway, he’s always been a man who tightly intertwined sex and intimacy. In fact, he would’ve considered them one and the same. He spent much of his adulthood believing that sex meant he was loved, desirable, accepted.

      So, this consideration that his life was going to be sexless was a huge deal for him. Lots of self reflection.

      His conclusion, as a grown a$$ man and no longer a child? He accepted that fate and was willing to live that because he loves me deeply – because our life and marriage mean more to him than only sexual intercourse. He realised the intimacy was a bigger deal to him than the act of sex.

      Thankfully, he finally broached the conversation and now he has intimacy AND sex!

      My point? I don’t know anymore. Just, we found ourselves in the situation you described and it didn’t break us. In fact, it evolved us into something even better.

      Also, I don’t think Shelia is suggesting a long time fast. I think, Shelia is suggesting a reset. And, I think when men make sure the woman is enjoying the sex, too, that it leads to BOTH really enjoying the sex.

      Reply
    • Cynthia

      We got a really big snowfall in January, and my car started to get stuck. You know the first rule of getting unstuck from a snowbank? Go in a different direction and don’t spin your wheels in the same spot, because you’ll just dig yourself in deeper.

      Same thing applies here. Let’s unpack the “afraid of sexless marriage” thing. Sheila is talking about a situation where the couple is already getting stuck. Whatever sex is happening is already not good, and she is not enjoying it and is feeling coerced (even if he didn’t intend it that way). Nobody, male or female, should want to continue to have sex with someone who feels that way. It can’t lead anywhere good. You need to back up and change direction, and take the risk that if someone can say no, they might say no. Because the alternative is fearing that your spouse wouldn’t have sex with you if they didn’t feel forced into it. That’s horrific for the person who feels coerced, but it can’t feel good for the other spouse either unless they are sadistic or without a conscience.

      Reply
    • Lisa M

      Jim, when you realize you’ve been hurting someone with you behavior, and you decide to stop hurting that person, you are not making a sacrifice. Full stop. Stop elevating your preferences to the level of sacrifice.

      If having sex is part of a person’s identity, there are many licensed therapists with extra training in sexual addictions. It is not the role of your spouse to feed your unhealthy and dangerous identity issues. If having sex in such a way that harms your spouse, which is what we’re discussing here, is a part of your identity, then you have a legitimate pathology and need VERY serious and intensive help from a highly trained professional.

      If being wealthy is part of a person’s identity, are others obligated to give him money when he has a bad financial year? Or should he grow up and deal with his unhealthy identity issue? A truly loving spouse will not enable bad ways of thinking.

      To use your analogy of a smoker, quitting cold turkey is hard and painful but benefits the person by stopping an incredibly harmful activity. People who chose to continue to smoke but decide not to smoke inside buildings are not making a sacrifice, they are simply refraining from an activity that is known to be harmful to others. It may mean they are uncomfortable at times and not always getting what they want– but it is NOT a sacrifice.

      Having sex with a person who doesn’t want to have sex with you hurts BOTH OF YOU whether you realize it or not. If you insist on continuing to live in that harmful mindset, at the least be like the smoker who always steps outside. Keep it to yourself; keep harming yourself if you wish, but leave other people out of it.

      If you decide you’re willing to learn about real intimacy, then there’s hope for you.

      Reply
    • Jonathan King

      With the current status quo when it comes to sex in Christian marriages, women are the most vulnerable, the ones most often harmed by their husbands. It stands to reason that it’s up to the husband to do whatever he can to correct and atone for his behavior. That’s not a sacrifice, that’s being a decent human being. There’s no way your sexual pleasure should be more important to you than another human being, especially the person to whom you’ve committed the rest of your life.

      Reply
    • Stefanie

      Jim,

      It shouldn’t be a hard sell. Couples are really hurting…like REALLY hurting. What if your wife told you 10 years into your marriage that she hasn’t had any orgasms that whole time? Basically, you’ve been an awful, selfish lover that whole time. And she only has sex with you because she HAS to, not because she wants to. Wouldn’t you want to fix that? Unless you’re into duty sex…the kind where she just lays there and makes a grocery list in her head while you enjoy yourself by using your wife as a masturbatory aid.

      Sheila is not making any of this up. This is the real life pain couples are dealing with. Count yourself lucky if you’ve managed to escape this.

      But speaking from personal experience, I was one of the women who “never said no.” That didn’t make my husband’s experience better. He could tell I wasn’t into it, and he didn’t like it, but he didn’t know what to do to fix it. So he stopped initiating because he was NOT into duty sex. So now that we’re talking about making sex mutual, he’s happy to work on my orgasm and put his own pleasure aside for the time being. Because he’d rather be a good lover than accept duty sex from his wife.

      Reply
      • Been there, done that

        What irks me about this scenario is that the wife went 10 years and it’s the man’s fault.

        No. It’s also the woman’s fault. Speak up. If “he didn’t know how to fix it”, talk to him about it. Explain how you’re feeling. Men really aren’t mind-readers, nor the best at communicating (shocking, I know). But I bet you anything, once you explain how you’re feeling, many men will want to change and will be receptive (and it will take time). They might be resentful at first.

        Sounds like you did and that is maybe where things started turning around.

        Reply
    • Rising Strong

      Sometimes, when someone has built a weak foundation either intentionally or inadvertently, the whole structure has to be demolished before it can be rebuilt on a sturdier foundation. This takes much time and commitment, but it is a reflection of the basic Law of Sowing and Reaping.

      When one builds a marriage on self-centered entitlement and demands, the only true way to have ANY chance of healthy restructuring to move forward in sustainable, God-honoring ways is from the ground up.

      Let the demolition begin, I say!!!!

      Reply
    • Angry

      “My concern is that your recommendations are going to be relying on the husband to be making all of the sacrifices without asking anything of the wife. Specifically, no sex for weeks or months.”

      Jim, I assure you that, by and large, women have surely been asked to make sacrifices on the altar of mainstream evangelical marriage teachings for DECADES. (I’ll leave out the many CENTURIES of misogyny in the Name of Jesus prior for the purpose of brevity.)

      I assure you that being awoken in the middle of the night repeatedly by her husband taking sex before she was fully awake to comprehend much less consent was a sacrifice for my beloved friend. This continued despite having four young children and her multiple requests that he not do this. (He was shocked when she finally said ENOUGH.)

      I assure you that having her husband sleep with his nurses, their neighbors, and random women he met at professional conferences while she stayed home caring for their young children for many years—and then having him expect her to carry on as usual even after she found out about his perpetual betrayal—was a terrible sacrifice for another beloved Christian sister-friend. (She didn’t believe divorce was an option that honored God, so she remained faithful, went to counseling, gave of herself more often…til he served her with divorce papers and then began bringing his “new love” to their church long before the divorce was final…in front of their young children, and without any church discipline.)

      I assure you that being called names and enduring false character accusations followed by endless days of silent treatment because she was exhausted and emotionally depleted was a painful sacrifice made by yet another Jesus-loving friend. (She wisened up and started having CRYSTAL CLEAR boundaries.)

      Shall I go on?

      So yeah…I see how it is SUCH an egregious ask to husbands like the above. Why can’t their wives just love them better and submit more?!

      Reply
    • Jenn

      Doesn’t our Christian belief ask men to forgo sex while single? In the OT, sex was forbidden two weeks a month, and for almost 7 weeks postpartum. It’s not unreasonable to ask men to abstain.

      Sheila DOES ask women to make sacrifices too. That’s just not the topic of this post. Also, Sheila is asking men here to make a short term sacrifice in order to stop the cycle of women sacrificing for decades.

      Women are sexual creatures too. Most of us want to have great sex lives.

      Reply
    • Kay

      I am angry about your comment, Jim. How is asking men to stop HARMING their wives a sacrifice? “I know you have decades of trauma you are trying to heal from, my dear, but please don’t ask me to make too many sacrifices on your journey toward healing. Or at the very least, don’t take too long. Be quick about healing, won’t you? Waiting is really inconvenient for me.”

      Um, what? She has been harmed for decades, but he can’t wait a few months to facilitate her healing? Yikes.

      If the marriage becomes sexless as a result of her healing, it means the marriage was deeply unhealthy to begin with. Sexlessness a **symptom** of the lack of safety in the marriage. The lack of safety is the root problem, not the lack of sex. Telling a woman she ought to have sex when she feels unsafe (because waiting is too hard on her husband) only exacerbates the lack of safety and further destroys the marriage.

      Asking men to stop having harmful sex should NOT be a difficult sacrifice. It is the bare minimum.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Exactly. Again, if you’re used to priority, then equality feels like sacrifice.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’d also say that saying, “hey, think about her orgasm for a few weeks and forego your own” is not a sacrifice if she’s literally been doing this FOR YEARS already. This is not hard.

          And we also found that men who thought this WAS hard ended up in sexless marriages eventually. Women can only do it for so long before they give up.

          Reply
  3. n

    guys aren’t being asked to rip their genitalia open in order to continue the family name, and get up the next day and keep everyone alive.

    i don’t think anything Sheila asked here, will lead to the guy being the only one who’s sacrificing.

    Reply
    • Jim

      I was referring to the list that Sheila listed. None of the items had anything to do with post partum birth, which is what you appear to be referring to.

      Straw man arguments do not help this discourse.

      What bothers me is that all of the responsibility and sacrifice is on the man. That does not seem equal or egalitarian.

      Reply
      • Guest

        “All of the responsibility and sacrifice is on the man.”

        I wonder if you missed the point where all the responsibility and sacrifice has been on the woman for the past 5 years. I say 5 because that’s the time frame Sheila mentioned in the post.

        For 5 years her needs and feelings haven’t mattered. She has felt pressure to perform. She has taken on the responsibility for keeping him from straying. Etc. For 5 years everything has been asked of her and nothing of him.

        A few weeks or months of no intercourse is being recommended as a way to create the equality you mentioned. If a man is struggling for those weeks or months it should lead to have compassion for his wife’s 5 year struggle.

        It gives the couple time to detox from toxic teachings, to heal and to learn how to reconnect so that when sex is on the table again its a positive mutual experience for man and woman.

        The idea that allowing someone to say no or taking sex off the table leading to a sexless marriage is one of the toxic beliefs Sheila’s addressing.

        A man committing to working with his wife to improve their relationship, address her needs and join her healing is not a man headed for a sexless marriage.

        And I would say that if his wife’s needs aren’t being addressed. If she feels pressured to do things — he’s already in a sexless marriage.

        Reply
      • Sarah O

        Hi Jim,

        I appreciate your comments and questions. These are very sensitive and painful topics for many, and it takes some courage to be honest. I think there are a lot of guys like you who are already on a restrictive diet for one reason or another, and it’s really hard to talk a hungry person into starting a fast. I think it’s ok to say that it’s hard.

        The reason that onus is placed on men has nothing to do with their biology, their maleness, or their individual choices. The reason is that the messaging from the evangelical church has been very gendered, and explicitly sets up a dynamic where sexual pleasure is provided as a entitlement to men at the expense of women. It’s not any individual man’s fault, but the only people who can change that dynamic are individual men. It’s NOT fair, especially for men who never bought or sold that message, but here we are. And the reality is that even men who never bought into this messaging sometimes get benefits from it that may go away as part of making it right.

        For marriages that have been impacted by these teachings, step one is to recognize that the wife has been giving gifts and/or sacrifices this whole time. How do you recognize that? By giving them value.

        What obligation/entitlements do is to disguise gifts and sacrifices. As an imperfect analogy – If I gave you $100 as a gift, you would presumably feel really great and thankful because I’m so fond of you and chose to generous to you. And maybe next time we go out, you grab the bill or bring along a gift to let me know that you appreciate me too.

        However, obligation and entitlement turn my gift into a tax or fee instead of a gift. Of course I gave you $100. You deserve it. It was already yours and I owed it to you. No one thanks anyone for paying taxes.

        Now let’s say I believed I was giving you a gift, but you felt that you were owed $100. Now we’ve both been robbed. I don’t receive thanks, and you don’t have those great feelings about being cared for and appreciated. And maybe now every time we get together, there’s an expectation that I pay, or bring a gift, and you never do. Likely we will spend less time together, because my feelings are hurt and eventually I can’t afford it.

        And then one day you wake up and realize what’s going on. How would you go about restoring our relationship? There is absolutely value in saying “wow I’ve been really thick and ungrateful. From now on I’m going to contribute a fair share.” but what about the five years I’ve been paying for everything to the point that it’s hurt my finances? How are you going to SHOW me that those gifts have value to you now, even if they didn’t at the time?

        I hope this helps, I feel like you are really trying and also hurting a bit like the rest of us.

        Reply
        • exwifeofasexaddict

          Here, here!!!

          Reply
        • Angry

          This is such a gracious response. Thank you for such a compassionate offering.

          Reply
      • Angry

        Nor do arguments that continue to scapegoat women, lack compassion for the personhood of women, and otherwise damage the name of Jesus because of male power-over views toward women.

        Reply
      • Kay

        Sheila’s work demonstrates that the obligation sex message is literally traumatizing. We are asking you to stop traumatizing women, and your response is “Why do men have to make all the sacrifices? That’s so unfair!”

        I understand you don’t mean it that way, but please understand that this is how your comments are landing for the women on this page who have been harmed by this messaging.

        Reply
  4. Anon4now

    This has been a struggle for my husband and I as I realized (partly thru your work and partly thru going to therapy for stuff that *seemed* unrelated) that a lot of the anxiety I had around sex and the struggles I had w orgasm were because I felt stuck, like I could not say no unless I was sick or something. When I set the boundary that I would not say yes unless I really meant it it helped me so much but it felt confusing and unfair to him. he said “but i never tried to pressure you so why would you think that?” And “why should I have to pay if I didn’t cause it?” And that’s sort of true but he wants me to enjoy it and I know I can’t if I have to force myself to get turned on whether I want to or not. He kind of understood after I explained some of the things I learned but he still kind of thinks it’s me trying to control him. We are working thru it bit by bit but it is so hard, esp when you learn as a woman that you shld not have boundaries.

    Reply
  5. Jen

    “[…] they have not learned to express and feel real intimacy apart from sex, which is likely the root of the problem in the first place.” Spot on. My husband is recovering from emotional anorexia, and this was him. I couldn’t figure out why I was starting to hate sex (and, honestly, him), but it’s because emotional anorexia in relationships cause emotional neglect and, sometimes, abuse.

    The simplest form of this is when culture teaches boys to suppress their emotions (except for anger/aggression and sexual feelings). They then have very few tools for connecting to women who were taught to feel the full spectrum of emotions, though we women are often then derided for being “emotional.” The other end of the spectrum is boys who have been taught this and who additionally suffer abuse. That’s going to deepen the anorexia.

    So, releasing our boys from this horrible cycle is a way to help future generations. Emotional intelligence could really help our kids.

    You guys are making such a difference for those of us who are already decades in, and I will absolutely be giving these books as gifts. There is freedom in truth.

    Reply
  6. Intimacy Obtained

    There’s something about that fifth year that’s just especially difficult.

    Intimacy was at an all-time low for us that year. There was sex, but not with intimacy. That left us vulnerable to sin we didn’t ever consider would happen. I found intimacy with a friend of ours and that led to an affair. When that came to light, he admitted he’d been hiring prostitutes for sexual favors. Sex was intimacy for him.

    We were able to save our marriage from that, learned to regain and maintain intimacy and our marriage came out stronger.

    25 years later, post-hysterectomy, we couldn’t have sex for 12 weeks. (No orgasm for six, no intercourse for six more.) Intimacy had never been higher than during that time. He didn’t pull away, feel unloved, feel rejected, nor seek pleasure elsewhere. He was amazing and it brought us to an even deeper level of intimacy – without sex.

    When we read GSR, it really highlighted how broken we were – him from porn-view and i from church teaching – when we were first married and how we grew out of it over the years and how we’ve come to a good, healthy place.

    Reply
  7. Jo R

    I guess I’m a little wicked this Monday, because I’m finding it deliciously ironic that a man might be objecting to performing out of a sense of obligation some duty sexual activity to bring his wife to orgasm while his own orgasm is not a priority, or even on the table.

    Here’s some advice: Enjoy the emotional closeness you’ll feel as you watch her greatly enjoy something you’re being denied.

    Reply
  8. Nessie

    Just a personal observation on obligation- when I was trying to get pregnant years ago (more than a year of dedicated trying), the first few months it was fun, hopeful, exciting, etc. As the months went on, my husband would be less excited by the experience. He went along with it but it was clear he knew we were doing it on those specific days for the purpose of conception. In less than a year, and with only a few days a month of that (we had intercourse plenty of other days, too, we both just knew those days wouldn’t end in pregnancy so he simply enjoyed it), he was gaining disinterest and feeling used.

    What many of us are talking about here is years of this… yes, sometimes it is fun, wanted by us… but the more times it happens for a “purpose” (to “prevent” porn, keep him from getting grumpy/mean, get pregnant, etc.) the more we feel used.

    A few drops of water harms little; a constant drip eventually wears away the receiving surface. What is so scary about taking some time to properly stop the drip and repair the eroded surface so that it works well in the future? And how much better to maintain the faucet from the start or repair it as soon as a leak is noticed so it causes far less damage?

    Reply
  9. Anon4now

    Much as I also appreciate the irony and your sense of snarkasm, I would also point out that we don’t know exactly what the man commenting was reacting to. Unless I’m mixing him up with someone else, he is the same guy who disclosed on a previous thread that he struggles with anxiety and OCD, and finds Sheila’s ideas sometimes trigger his symptoms. I think it might be good to be gentle with a person who is (apparently) honestly working through things, even with maybe his deck being more stacked against him than the average.

    Reply
    • Anon4now

      This was supposed to be a reply to jo r, oops

      Reply
    • Jim

      Thank you for your kind words, Anon4now.

      What gets me upset is when I see so many women here cheering and making fun of men who are struggling to understand, but want to have a great and mutually fulfilling marriages with men. The mental gymnastics that one would need to do to have this makes sense is beyond me.

      I try to participate here to give men a voice, since this seems to be a majority female centered arena and to try and give some balance. I do not have any daughters (but my wife and I are expecting our 4th kid later this year and we don’t know the sex yet, so who knows) but we have 3 sons. I want to teach our boys to be loving husbands and fathers but I am often given the impression that, because they are boys, that they are abusers in training.

      That sickens me because I refuse to believe that they would willingly do this. I do not see little monsters when I look into my boys faces (well, not the kind that are often talked about here).

      Given what I have seen, I believe that it might be advisable to encourage them to be like Paul and remain single. That saddens me because I would love to be a grandparent someday but if that is what is required to keep them from potentially abusing or neglecting their future wives, that seems to be the best option. I am seeing this among some of my male friends that have sworn off marriage because they believed that it is not worth it given that men are often blamed when marriages become difficult or break up.

      I keep thinking that I am helping but it seems that I am becoming a whipping boy for hurt and angry women who only want to punish men. Not those that abused them, but all men.

      Please understand that I love my wife, she is my life partner, my better half and my equal in all things. I thank God everyday for her because I know that my life would be darker without her. I hope that the ladies here would understand that when I try to ask for balance, because if my wife told me that I was abusing her or neglecting her, I would be devastated and would accept all of the things on this list if not more. However, for me, it would because I have so little self-worth that I would do anything to atone for my sins, possibly even accept abusive behavior. So please understand that I am speaking from my perspective and not to downplay what anyone else has experienced.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Please listen to this:
        https://open.spotify.com/episode/6wyb64eoZd4FKyYlNqQBNN?si=WCsPW2z6SOeYbpPk66Tp8g&utm_source=copy-link

        Honestly, we don’t want to punish men. We want them to recognize our autonomy. Some of the things that you’re saying still has a lot of internalized misogyny- as in- you have no idea it’s there and that it exists. I’m not blaming you for that, but trying to help you too recognize it.

        I couldn’t help my husband see it until he listened to this podcast and he’s in process of reading this book by Andrew Bauman. He came back to me and said that he now realizes he has to deal with and process his own trauma in order to heal. He has to confront the abuse in his past to stop abusing others. Also, he said that he never realized that using his feelings of worthlessness against me was abusing me as well. I had gotten to the point where I told him I recognized his value, but until he could recognize his own value, nothing I said was going to change that for him, so I wasn’t joining in anymore.

        I get the feeling you want us to validate you and to do your emotional labor for you, then pat you on the back and say, “Good job trying, Jim! Look at you, hanging out in the difficult spaces and trying to learn.”

        That’s just not our job. Look, I can be super sympathetic with the best of them. But I’ve also learned not to coddle men. It doesn’t help them grow and it’s not doing them any favors. If I were a man, talking to you as a man, you’d take it. But coming from a woman, we have to be softer, gentler, kinder. I say bull. No more.

        Do the hard work. Get in counseling. Confront your past trauma. We’ve done it. We’re better for it.

        Listen to Andrew Bauman and Patrick Weaver if you need male voices. Stop asking women to do your emotional labor.

        Reply
        • Jim

          Thank you for confirming what I have thought. Men are not welcome here, even if we want to learn.

          Enjoy your echo chamber.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Jim, that is simply not what she said. She merely said that you need to do the work of learning; it is not on us to do that for you. Your response here is very problematic.

          • Jim

            Sheila,
            What did I say that was wrong?

            How is this not an echo chamber and anti-man when most of the posts and podcasts are telling men how we have messed up?

            I have tried to ask for other perspectives and then am told that I have ‘internalized misogyny’ because I am a man that does not understand where the ladies are coming from.

            I am one of the few men who post on here and it is plain to me that I am not welcome since I give some push back and/or ask for clarification.

            I am sure that you all will be happier if I stopped commenting, and so, wish granted.

          • Cynthia

            When I see Keith or Connor here, or see how Rebecca totally adores little Alex, it is crystal clear that this is a family that doesn’t believe all boys are just budding abusers and is actually pushing back against that idea.

            Teach your children to treat others well, to always see their humanity and to respect them. Don’t teach them anything that would make them think they need to establish control over others. See the good on your kids and have faith that they have the ability to treat others well. That’s what you need to do in a nutshell, everything else is commentary.

          • exwifeofasexaddict

            Jim, look at Sheila’s facebook comments. There are men who comment who are not vilified. The ones who have done the hard work.

          • Jenn

            What you are doing is a behavior pattern called “DARVO.” It stands for “Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim & Offender.”

            You denied that you’d said anything problematic. You attacked us for challenging you. You made men who are getting all the sex/orgasms the want the primary victims, when the primary victims in Sheila’s post was the wives who’ve had unfulfilled sex lives. You made yourself the victim with your story about how maybe you should teach your sons to remain single—“sob, sob, I’ll sacrifice having grandkids.”

            No one is attacking you here. No one is saying “Jim is a bad man who is raising sons who will be abusers.” We are simply pointing out the flaws in your idea.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Thank you, Jenn. That’s an excellent breakdown of DARVO here!

          • Jo R

            Men who are willing to admit their errors, apologize to their wives (and daughters), and do the extremely hard work to grow and improve as mere human beings, let alone as CHRISTIANS, are more than welcome.

            But as Anonymous quite rightly pointed out, we can’t do the work for you. And if you’re just going to take your ball and go home, well, that’s pretty telling too.

          • Mara R

            Echo chamber?

            Sigh.

            If only you understood how much of an echo chamber the Evangelical Church has become.

            And the Echos are all men because women must be silent.

            The Echos are all men telling each other that they are the bosses and leaders and not responsible for their own sins.

            The Echos are all men telling women that their husband’s sins are not their husband’s sins, but rather the sins of women for not submitting enough, respecting enough, encouraging enough, having enough sex. IOW Women are held accountable for the sins of men. IOW Women are scapegoated for the sins of men.

            So many women have been hurt, beaten down, and traumatized by the Evangelical Men’s Echo Chamber Choir that they are fleeing to places that allow space for women’s voices and allows space for women to heal.

            Sorry if this Echo Chamber isn’t Echoing back to you what you want to hear. If it makes you mad, then I guess you are better off listening to the Evangelical Men’s Echo Chamber Choir.

            I actually only came back to thank Anonymous for the link to the podcast featuring Andrew Bauman. I’m halfway through it and was really enjoying this man’s unique perspective and voice.

            I wish, instead of having a knee-jerk reaction to her comment and countering with insults aimed to shut us up, that you would have received her gift. It is a good one even if you are feeling too attacked and insulted to realize it.

          • Jo R

            To quote Anonymous,

            Standing ovation!!!!
            👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏

      • Anon4now

        Thanks for your honesty. I wouldn’t begin to know how to respond to some of the things you’ve just brought up here if you were actually someone I knew in real life, not just a name on the internet. I’ll just point out that there seems to be a lot of really black and white thinking going on in this statement. I’d like to gently suggest that the conversation here may have more shades of gray than you’re appreciating, and that feeling the need to defend men as a group might be an unnecessary weight you’re taking on yourself.
        Peace!

        Reply
      • Anonymous this time

        Jim, I have been watching your comments here for a while and have been contemplating responding to you and I guess now is the time. A little background first. I have an amazing marriage with a very healthy, active and mutually pleasurable sex life. My husband has never been abusive, has been completely selfless in every way and has always put my sexual pleasure above his own from the very beginning. Since I outpace him in orgasms 10 to 1, frequency is not a problem. In fact, I think sometimes he wishes I wasn’t so interested because I could easily have sex four or five times a week. He prefers quality over quantity, so we compromise to two or three times a week. Also, neither one of us were ever subjected to the toxic marriage teachings of the church. I stared coming to this site even though I didn’t really need marriage or sex advise because Sheila’s teachings always rang true to me and lined up with what we believed and practiced. Then Sheila was exposed to the toxic marriage teachings of the church and the entire tone of her blog changed. I have to admit, I didn’t like it. I am much more of a personal responsibility person. In my mind if someone is dumb enough to read that garbage, internalize and let it destroy their marriage, that is their problem. I didn’t like how the tone change made me feel and I really didn’t like sitting in those feelings. However, I came to realize that a lot of women weren’t raised in an empowering way like I was. They were taught that they had to believe and live what was taught to them in church and if they didn’t their very standing with God was at stake. I’ve always felt free to question any “authority” figure and dig the scripture for myself and listen to the Holy Spirit in my life. A lot of women needed that permission that I already had and that is what this sight has done. Not all men are abusers, my husband isn’t. It doesn’t sound like you are one either. However, I learned that I needed to sit in the yucky feelings that standing up against toxic marriage teachings was producing. I needed to put aside my own experience and just be willing to weep with those that weep. To support them and try and gain understanding into something I have not experienced. Please don’t throw away the opportunity to learn about the very real pain of women who are abused by their husbands just because you don’t like the way it makes you feel as a man. You should be outraged by their stories and feel a sense of empathy for what they have been through. You should want to stand up for them, not silence them. Then you should love your wife well and teach your sons to be good men that love their wives well. If the horror stories don’t apply to you, then don’t take the label onto yourself. These stories don’t reflect my husband but just because they don’t reflect my experience doesn’t mean they are an assault on my experience. I have to learn to sit in somebody else’s yuck and have empathy rather than just wishing it would go away because I don’t want to have to feel it with them. I hope that makes sense. So, I would just encourage to do what so many men have been doing and rather then be defensive on behalf of all men about something that doesn’t apply to you, become a warrior on behalf of the women to whom it does apply.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Thank you, Anonymous. I was oblivious to so much of this for so long too. But I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

          Reply
      • exwifeofasexaddict

        Jim, your comments don’t come through as trying to be the voice of men. (As if we need more of that. The voice of men has permeated everything for all of time.) You come across as pushing back, making sure men get their “fair share”, when really they have been getting far more than their fair share for forever.

        You sound like a nice man. You sound like a good husband. My son is a gentle young man, and if he chooses to get married one day, will be a good husband. In spite of his father’s example. I know men who are good and good to their wives. But the shit is so pervasive that I have had times where I have had to consciously tell myself, there are good men in the world. R is a good man. E is a good man. D is a good man. J is a good man. That doesn’t mean every man is an automatic abuser and every boy is an abuser in training. That’s not what this blog is about or what any of the commenters want to say. It’s possible to be a good man. But you have to be conscious.

        I think you would do yourself, your sons, and your wife the most good if you just listen. see if there’s anything you can learn. Realize that you have privilege simply by being male. It doesn’t mean you won’t struggle, but it makes your life easier in some ways. And it gives you greater responsibility. The good men I know have been willing to acknowledge that privilege and consciously set it aside to give room to women.

        Reply
    • Jo R

      You’ll notice I made my comment as a new thread, not as a response to anyone in particular, and that I used the generic phrase “a man” rather than a specific name, as many men read these posts.

      I can’t help it if other people get triggered by stuff they read here. No one is forcing them to be here. But the millions of women who have been victimized and just flat-out spiritually abused for literally millennia by this kind of teaching need support and healing. Because, let’s face it, we women have been getting triggered for a very long time, but we did not have the language, knowledge, and understanding to respond to what we felt very deeply in our hearts, minds, souls, and even bodies.

      The fact is, the idiocy of this teaching is highlighted by turning it around and giving it to men. Such, well, shock treatment might be enough to jar a couple of them out of their complacency and help them see what their mothers, wives, and daughters have been and are still being taught ***in church*** and by “Christian” books. (But I won’t be holding my breath, if that’s OK.)

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Standing ovation!!!!
        👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏

        Reply
  10. Nathan

    I believe that the reason that this thread is focusing mainly on the sacrifices that men have to make is because this thread is talking about marriages that, for years, have endured under the traditional evangelical view of sex (male patriarchy, men have a need that women don’t have and can’t understand, obligation sex, men’s sex needs always outweigh women’s needs (even medical)) and so on.

    In these cases, the wife has been sacrificing for years. To get back into balance, the husband is going to have to do the bulk of the sacrificing and heavy lifting to make up for all of that, even if the husband didn’t realize what was going on.

    There are likely other situations where both would need to sacrifice equally, or even where the wife would need to sacrifice more, but in this case, the type of marriage indicated tells us that the husband would need to sacrifice more in this particular area.

    But, just o balance things out, the list of “wifely sacrifices” above aren’t really sacrifices for the most part. Most of them are things that the wife needs to do for herself. These are good things and ought to be done, but many of them aren’t really sacrifices in that sense.

    Reply
    • exwifeofasexaddict

      I appreciate this comment.

      I have to say that while i agree “sacrifice” may not be the right word for what a wife in this situation will have to do. But it is A LOOOOOTTT of work. Maybe work is the right word.

      Reply
  11. Anonymous

    Sheila,

    I hope I’m not too late to get an answer from you today. My husband and I are trying to fix 10 years of one-sided sex. We discovered you back in the summer of 2021 and purchased the orgasm course in October 2021. No luck yet.

    Here’s my question: how long do we do item #3? We were doing it for a couple of months, but then I started feeling bad about depriving my husband for so long. So now we usually give it a good effort on me (but nothing yet), and then I let him finish with intercourse. This isn’t working, but I feel bad about not letting him finish. Sometimes I finish myself, but I need my husband to leave the room.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Anonymous! I think the bigger question is why can you only orgasm when he has left the room? Why can he not help you? and perhaps going back to square one and learning together how he can help you get aroused? Is he able and willing to do that?

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        He’s willing to help me, and he’s gotten so much better, and we get almost there, but we can’t tip me over the edge. Neither one of us knows what to do or what the block is.

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          Oh, and I don’t feel like it’s so much that I can’t orgasm in front of my husband, as much as that I can’t masturbate in front of an audience. And I’m not trying to make a habit out of it or anything, it’s just that when you get *almost* there, it’s torture to just leave it at that. But then also, my husband gets to finish, so why shouldn’t I?

          Reply
          • Not for this one

            Something I found helpful if I’m having a self orgasm with hubby present: give him a job! For example kissing me in a certain way, one that he would never otherwise. (And imagined up by me!) or lightly caressing my body in some way.

            It was a hurdle getting over the self-conscious feeling of masturbating with him in the room! The first few times, I actually did it while he slept next to me.

            Then I got comfortable with him doing something on an electronic quietly while I finished. Then I decided to try including him a little bit.
            Biggest thing was training my mind not to be distracted. But to instead fantasize him doing something pleasurable to me. Which lead to me discovering how to include him!
            I don’t know if that’s helpful or not.
            (I also made a rule of always orgasming if we have sex. So if our together time doesn’t quite do it, I’m not upset! I just keep going. And he’s fully supportive)

          • Anonymous

            Yes, thanks for helping me to problem solve. We are stuck and I’m looking for help. Can I ask you a question? How often do you finish yourself versus your husband bringing you to orgasm? Am I putting too much pressure on myself? I mean, the goal is for my husband to bring me to orgasm, but we’re having trouble. Is this a stopgap measure that will create problems reaching our goal? But maybe not worrying about it will create enough room to relax and then it’ll be easier for me to get there with my husband?

          • Not for this one again

            I’ve gotten a lot more relaxed about requiring an orgasm every single time. Because my body knows that if I’m suddenly feeling like I actually wanted one, I’ll get it!
            So it’s been seasonal for us.
            (Currently pregnant and he works a ton, so we haven’t been intimate in weeks. Things keep happening, so every few days I do it alone. So I can sleep…. because it becomes a physical discomfort. Especially with baby pushing down and engorging the area.)

            But it definitely takes time to get there. Our journey spanned about 3-4 years, and it was a bunch of Small transitions getting closer together each time. Ultimate intimacy foreplay game helped us, Because it was coming from an app we could both say no to, not each other’s imagination.
            I just tried to forget the big picture and focus on tiny goals.first always orgasming, to wanting to 80/20 always orgasm with him. As a higher drive wife, I will go solo before pushing him. Especially if he’s stressed, he’s not interested…while I become very interested.
            But to make sure I’m not selecing being alone, I also tell him, via an invitation.
            And we have an agreed timeline of trying to weekly, in a perfect world.

        • Anonymous

          And last random thought…the credit for him becoming a better lover goes to you, Sheila, so THANK YOU!

          Reply
        • Jenn

          Sometimes a woman getting to orgasm can be a two person job…in other words, you touch yourself and your husband touches you.

          Reply
  12. D

    I’ve been wanting to write to you for awhile. The great sex rescue was an amazing book. I read it twice, took notes, and trying to live it out. This posting was for me. I have deconstructed so much of what I was taught and believed. It will take time but I hope in time my wife can forgive me and find joy in sex the way God intended. Your work stopped an unhealthy cycle years long and now there can be healing and joy. I know you meet resistance. Please don’t give up your fight. You reached me. And now my boys will learn what we should all know about this area. I am so happy. Thank you. I continue to follow your work to keep focused on the truth.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, D, thank you for that comment! I’m truly humbled. Jesus’ favourite thing to do is transform. He loves to heal and change things for the better. I pray that this will be so true in your marriage! And thank you for changing the story for future generations too. That’s so encouraging!

      Reply
  13. Jane Eyre

    Great post, Sheila.

    Growing up, I read a lot of books about how rejection of sex = rejection of him as a husband. This would be true if she rejected him once – it doesn’t have to be consistent or habitual.

    What I never read is anyone ever suggesting that a man’s habitual and repeated rejection of his wife’s sexual needs could hurt her emotionally and sexually. If he sticks it in there, it’s supposed to be good enough for us. It’s not just a bizarre message about obligation sex: it’s a message about obligation-orgasms-for-him.

    Reply
  14. SL

    We’ve been married 14yrs. Sex was great from the beginning. Husband always made sure I arrived to orgasm first and was able to have multiples (95% of the time). I was taught from books given to me (both of us were raised in a conservative church) that I needed to give him release every 72hrs (he didn’t have this mindset and I didn’t know it) I didn’t mind since it was so pleasureful for me. He didn’t have a higher sex drive so I was always frustrated that there must be something wrong with me for him to not need it as often as I had been told. There was so much disappointment for me in other areas in out lives outside of the bedroom that sex became an addiction for me. It was only a physical connection for me and I became a sex addict. After having two kids with terrible post partum experiences, 1st, child – screaming baby, a ton of physical pain from nursing issues, becoming suicidal & 2nd child – tore right below my clit hood, and a traumatic stitching procedure that left me with a 5 inch hematoma between my vag/rectum wall…the physical side took a serious hit for me Husband was patient and waited 12wks and 9wks before we started having sex again. Looking back, I could have gone longer, but I was feeling very guilty of depriving him for so long. I started in having health issues. I hurt most days. I turned to porn as an escape from my reality. I’ve been walking in freedom from my porn addiction for 3yrs. I rarely orgasm (maybe 5% off the time) since the 2nd child (who is currently 5). He has tried so hard to pleasure me but I would just flatline. I’m learning that my mindset was just enduraning it to do my dues, and tried to get aroused (so he could be reassured that he was a good physical lover) but couldn’t. I bought great sex rescue a year ago and I started seeing how this obligation sex message destroyed our sex life. Granted we now see how much the emotional and spiritual connection is lacking since we don’t have the physical part working. I pre ordered the two new sex guides and devoured them. Asked my husband to read the men’s guide and to take a break from innercourse. This blog post was such a hug to me. I feel heard and valued. We are communicating now about the things outside of the bedroom that have been such a disappointment for me and what we can do to work on it. I’ve been working with a homeopathic doc for 2.5yrs. My depression has been healed and we’re still working on the gut issues that cause me so much pain. We both look forward to where our sex life goes with having a deeper intimacy with spiritual and emotional on board. This is a very condensed version of our journey…much more has played a hand in this. Thank you for continuing to speak out! I’ve been following your blog for 3yrs.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, SL, thank you for commenting! It’s so wonderful to hear your story (as difficult as it is), but I’m so glad that things are getting better and you’re working on it. I wish you all the best!

      Reply
  15. mocir

    I’ve been following this blog for several months after reading TGR twice through, an extremely impactful book for me. I especially appreciate the reactions and stories which are shared in the comments on this blog. There is a lot of pain expressed in these stories. It seems to me like suggestions for resolution to the pain and dysfunction come in two ways, first communicate with one’s spouse (which can be problematic if there is pain and mistrust), or seek professional therapy (which may be a challenge for various reasons, including financial). Are there any support/recovery groups for people on the journey out of toxic ideas and practices of marriage can share and encourage and uplift one another on the journey? In the past year, I’ve begun participating in various 12 step groups, and the focus there on doing the inner work, is changing me, and I believe is blessing my wife as well, as I take the focus off her and put it on myself and my issues. It would be really meaningful to participate in a support group to work on growing this healthy view of marriage, but I don’t even know where to look. Any suggestions?

    Reply
  16. Mara R

    This comment stream has slowed to nearly a full stop.

    May I now ask an honest question?

    If this question is inappropriate, moderators please delete it. But also please email me privately, an answer.

    Is Jim a legitimate commenter or just a troll trying to appear legitimate?

    Thank you and sorry in advance if this comment is a faux pas.
    I have my reasons for asking, though.

    Reply
    • Jim

      My intent was not to troll. I know that it would appear that way but I wanted to voice my concerns and give my perspective. I know that I did become defensive but I felt like I was being attacked. I did not mean to down play anyone else’s opinion or experience.

      I have now come to the conclusion that I need to step away and leave things be. Upon further reflection it is obvious that the best thing that I can do is leave.

      God Bless.

      Reply
      • Mara R

        If that is what you feel you need to do, then I suppose you should do it.

        One more question first, if you don’t mind.

        Did you ever get a chance to go to the podcast linked by Anonymous in a response to you?

        https://open.spotify.com/episode/6wyb64eoZd4FKyYlNqQBNN?si=WCsPW2z6SOeYbpPk66Tp8g&utm_source=copy-link&nd=1

        I went there myself and appreciated this man’s voice.
        Perhaps because he has a male perspective he might be easier for you to listen to and dialogue with?
        Maybe?

        Reply
        • Jim

          I did listen to the podcast.

          Sounds similar to what is often said here and what I have experienced fighting depression and anxiety disorder. It being a male voice over a female voice does not change the impact. Honestly, if you will only take feedback when it comes from someone whom you have common anatomy with is troubling. Ideas do not change if the person who speaks it does.

          Abuse has touched everyone to various degrees. Thankfully, my personal ‘abuses’ have not stemmed from anything greater than bullying that I experienced from ‘friends’ and classmates due to being overweight as a boy.
          However, I have found that the umbrella of what is considered abuse seems to be expanding to such an extent that the definition seems to now be ‘if I don’t like it, that’s abuse.’

          It is clear to me that many of the ladies on here have gone thru hell and I weep for you and I wish that you never went thru it. I pray that you will find healing but I know that the hurt will never truly good away.

          We all carry scars. I am a bit nerd so I think of the scene from the first The Lord of the Rings movie when Frodo is recovering from being attacked by the Ring Wraiths. Gandalf says to Lord Elron, ‘That wound will never fully heal. He will carry it the rest of his life.’

          Once again I apologize to anyone that took offense to what I said, that was not my intention and I wish you all the best.

          Reply
          • Mara R

            Jim: “However, I have found that the umbrella of what is considered abuse seems to be expanding to such an extent that the definition seems to now be ‘if I don’t like it, that’s abuse.'”

            I ran across something similar to this on Facebook. Someone was lamenting what she considered to be an overuse of the word “Narcissist” and basically said that she thought that this was becoming quite the catch phrase and a pendulum swinging to far in a bad direction and that this really couldn’t be as big a deal as people were making it into.

            She was more of an acquaintance than a close friend so I let it go. (Inside joke with my kids ‘someone is wrong on the internet again!’ I am better at letting people be wrong [IMO] than I used to.)

            I wanted to tell her my experience with 30 years of marriage to a man with symptoms on the Narcissism spectrum, but I didn’t. There is no way to get that point across in only a few sound byte/twitter/instagram words.

            You may not be at all interested in this subject. And that’s fine. I should really just leave you alone about it if you are still feeling battered and bruised.

            But if you are interested, you can catch a small glimpse of my very long history with observing Narcissistic pastors in action.

            http://frombitterwaterstosweet.blogspot.com/2021/08/narcissistic-pastors-2.html

            Go here or don’t. This is in no way intended to attack, but rather to reach some sort of understanding if you are feeling up to it.

          • Jim

            Thank you for sharing that blog post.

            The story reminded me of the senior pastor at my church growing up. He left the church when I was a teen but he was a ‘loud, fiery preacher’. My mom was friends with his wife so we got updates over the years.
            We found out a few years later that he was ‘led by God’ to divorce his wife of 30 some years and marry another women to ‘help him in his spiritual warfare’. He was an evangelical exorcist (I didn’t even know that was a thing) and he ‘needed’ this other women.

            People will use anything to justify or excuse their actions. This goes all the way back to the Garden. Using the Bible or religion in general is nothing new. Just look at some other religious leaders to see how they used their positions and authority to explain why they had ‘special’ dispensation to do whatever they wanted.

            If you are a leader in the Church, you are held to a higher standard. I have been a Sunday school teacher and a deacon so I take this seriously.

            “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” —James 3:1

            “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” —1 Timothy 4:16

            My previous comment about how the word abuse is being expanded is just one example on how people will use terms so much, often incorrectly, that it looses its power.

            It makes me think of the Princess Bride, ‘You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.’

          • Mara R

            Jim: “If you are a leader in the Church, you are held to a higher standard. I have been a Sunday school teacher and a deacon so I take this seriously.”

            I’m glad that you feel this way. I feel the same. However, Narcissists seek out positions of authority. This includes ministry.

            https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-top-10-most-common-jobs-of-people-with-Narcissistic-Personality-Disorder

            There are way too many of them in the pulpit and in positions such as yours. Definitely not calling you a Narc. But I think you know more of them than you could ever imagine. Because they are good at hiding to outsiders. But their families know and are compelled to keep up appearances for reasons I cannot get into here.

            How do I know? My ex was a pastor. He is now a backslidden alcoholic. And I know of several other situations that are on-going, Narc pastors in positions of authority, hiding behind a religious façade. No time to get into those stories either. But they are wretched stories for the women and children still dealing with that crap.

            Also, Male Narcs are very attracted to religious systems that are heavy on gender hierarchy. Again, this is something that would take too much time to fully explore in this already-going-to-be way-too-long comment.

            Jim: “My previous comment about how the word abuse is being expanded is just one example on how people will use terms so much, often incorrectly, that it looses its power.”

            A Narc who is called out suddenly for bad behavior very quickly becomes the “victim” and cries “abuse!” So, in a way I understand why you might say the above. Narcs definitely use the term incorrectly. Any kind of push back against their bad behavior could be construed as abuse.

            However, I can tell you from a personal experience, that part of coming out of the fog of a Narcissistic relationship is coming to terms with the truth. That yes, his rages, manipulation, blaming, lying, and gaslighting were all part of a web of abuse. He never hit me. But he has raged in my face and told me that he wanted to, no matter how hard I tried to not break the eggshells I was forced to walk on to try to keep the peace for the sake of my children.

            I could go on because, as you can see, I have a lot to say on this topic. But this has gotten too long.

            Instead, I suppose I should ask a question. How do YOU define abuse? Do you think what I described above falls under the category of abuse even though the ex never hit me?
            Can abuse be verbal, emotional, and/or spiritual?
            And, if so, where are the lines that separate actual abuse from just, say, bad or poor behavior?

            {please forgive any spelling and grammar errors. It’s late here and I’m tired.}

          • Jim

            Thank you for sharing Mara.

            There most definitely can be abuse mentally, emotionally and spiritually in addition to physically. I would say that how I was bullied as a child would count as that.

            In regards to what I would consider non-physical abuse would be behaviors that demeans a person using things like emotional outbursts, withholding emotional intimacy, demeaning statements and comments that make you question your own thought. There are obviously other examples but, as you said previously, it is hard to give an exhaustive list. At my church, everyone that works with kids are required to take a course every two years to learn the signs of abuse in children and what to do. We are taught about things like grooming behaviors from adults and odd children’s behavior, for instance. This could be applicable here as well.

            I think that the main components would be consistent behaviors that are motivated to tear down a person, compel compliance, and instill fear into that person.
            I would equate it to living with a drill sergeant whose intent is not to make you ready for the horrors of war, as drill instructors are supposed to do, but to make you compliant and fearful to question them.

            In regarding to Narcissists, I am aware that they can be hard to detect. They are often the best actors. Narcissists are drawn to power and influence so I would agree that we need to keep an eye on our leaders in and out of the church. My comment about words being over used is when, for instance, someone is called a Narcissist when they either don’t exhibit any of the markers or the accuser does not know what those markers are but is using it as an insult. As I said before, if words are just thrown around without being used properly, they loose their power.

            To me, when I am having a discussion in person or online, once the name calling begins, the discussion is over. That goes from a healthy, even heated, discussion to a fight where no one wins. I would not say that name calling is abuse unless it does not stop or is continued over a long period of time. We all say things that we wish that we could take back.

            Another factor of abuse is, when the behavior is identified that recompense is not offered and/or is not genuine. I know that I have yelled at my kids when I have gotten angry or scared. As soon as it happens I feel terrible, especially if it upsets them. I immediately go over to them, help them to calm down, explain why I did what I did and apologize if it was me loosing my temper and talk about what we both can do to do better.

            I do appreciate you dialoguing with me to help me to understand where you are coming from. I can feel the hurt that you suffered at the hands of your husband. If he was in front of me I would punch him in the face.
            I do not abide bullies, especially when they use God’s name in vain to hide their sins.

          • Mara R

            I’m glad your definition of abuse is as comprehensive as it is. When I told my ex that he was verbally abusing me, said that it wasn’t abuse, I just deserved to be yelled at.

            And in case you are wondering, we have been separated for over three years. But our divorce wasn’t final until a year ago February. Stupid Covid. With some distance I am able gain better perspective. I truly feel sorry for my ex. He doesn’t get how he sows bad seeds in the lives of others and reaps a bad harvest in his relationships. He has one daughter who won’t even speak to him. But he blames me for turning her and our other children against him. He is so NOT self-aware. He makes his own hell on earth, but it’s everyone else’s fault.

            I could discuss a few more of your points but right now I want to turn a corner and tell you another story.

            One of my co-workers has just recently lost her husband to Covid. They were a young couple with a five year old daughter. Watching her post things on Facebook has been heart breaking as she continues to grieve. One time she posted a meme and commented along with it that she “hated the world.”

            Some fellow I didn’t know wrote something in a comment beneath her meme. He told my co-worker that she didn’t mean that (about hating the world) among other insensitive things.

            His comment made me angry for a reason I will get to below. I wanted to respond to him with something very snarky. But my co-worker was grieving so bad that I knew this wasn’t the place to let him know what I thought.

            So, instead, I left my own comment. I told my co-worker something along the lines of this. She has the right to hate the world right now. What she is going through sucks. Death is heartless. There is nothing romantic or poetic about it. I hoped that she would eventually be able to love the world again because her daughter lives in it. But she definitely didn’t need to love the world today.

            She left me a comment expressing deep appreciation for my words and said that they were what she needed to hear. After being (however gently) chided for her words by that guy, it helped her to have someone else give her permission to have and feel her own emotions.

            If you can’t guess, the reason I was angry with this man’s comment was because he had the gall to tell a grieving young widow how she felt rather than take her word for it. He invalidated or minimized her feelings. I’m sure he meant it as comfort. But his comfort was clumsy and uninformed.

            With some distance, I was able to have a bit of empathy on the poor guy. My co-worker is one of the sweetest people on the planet. She is so patient and gentle with the youth-in-crisis we serve at our agency. And it scared that guy to see the ferocity of her emotions. They were way outside the box he had her in and way outside his comfort zone.

            In our culture it is wrong for boys to cry and for girls to show anger.

            In our culture, it is fairly acceptable for men to tell women how they need to be, how they need to act, and what they are allowed to feel.

            That poor guy felt somehow that he could be the emotion police or the feelings gate keeper for my co-worker because her emotions made him uncomfortable.

            He was not trauma-informed. No one at my agency would have dared to say such an insensitive and selfish thing to her while she was going through this. We are all trained in the area of trauma and understand the vital importance of letting people have and deal with their emotions.

            If a guy in our culture can say this to an obviously grieving widow, how much easier is it for people to say this to women suffering from emotional abuse where there is no physical or outward evidence?

            The reason I said all of this is to say this. Healing from years of abuse is an ugly and messy business. It involves a lot of anger. I know. I’ve lived it.

            And because I’ve walked this journey to healing, I honor it and consider it sacred.

            This place, this blog has a lot of people on a journey to healing. They are in varying places along the way.

            Some of them are farther along than I am.

            Some are just getting started. For them, the anger is just beginning to be let loose. And for them, being chided for whether or not words are being used correctly is simply not helpful.

            Jim, to me it is far more important to make sure there are safe places of healing for those that need it than to get into disagreements concerning word definitions and usages.

            To me, it is more important to sound the alarm concerning wolves in sheep’s clothing than to worry over whether the lambs and ewes are bleating the right way to make the rams lives more comfortable.

            I hope this is making sense to you. And I really, really hope that you can hear my heartfelt plea without feeling attacked.

            A lot of this is the result of our culture both in the church and outside the church. It’s a culture we have to overcome for the sake of the broken and vulnerable.

            Healing the brokenhearted and binding up their wounds is sacred work. But again, it is very messy. The insensitive and unaware who tread this field will step in “it” time and again, and feel the wrath of the grieving heart as it is triggered, and wonder what the heck just happened.

            https://themindsjournal.com/the-toxic-person-will-tell-you-to-suck-it-up/

          • Jo R

            Thank you, Mara, for this. It helped me tremendously.

          • Mara R

            Hi, Jo. I see you.

            Incidentally, I happen to be in the book of Job right now. As I go through, I’m noting how Job’s comforters tried to gaslight Job and tear down his character.

            But you know something that has always stuck out to me. It is how Job’s wife is maligned by people reading this story.

            But you will note, that at the end of the book of Job, when he made sacrifices for his friends, there was no mention of his wife needing Job to do this for her. That might be partly because she knew Job. She lived with him. She saw his day to day integrity and never questioned or tore down his character.

            It might also be because God knows that we are but dust and could see the despair and brokenness in her own heart. After all, she was also grieving her children. Then she turned around to see how the devil smote Job with illness.

            Not being as close to God as her husband, it may have looked like God was not a great and just God like he believed. Instead of being the righteous God of the universe, he was a second rate, vindictive, minor deity on a vendetta against Job for little to no reason. It must have looked like certain death and judgement on them both. And the agony of bearing up under it all was too much for her. So she said, “Curse God, and die.”

            Job reprimanded her, but nowhere do we see that God was mad at her. He knows that we are but dust (Ps 103:13) and He is near to the broken hearted (Ps 34:18)

            I am glad that you are holding onto Scripture as you walk this road of healing. There is a lot more in it concerning abuse, oppression, and justice that teacher obsessed with gender hierarchy will ever understand.

            May you be blessed and find peace in your journey.

          • Mara R

            Hello, Jim.

            You haven’t responded.

            1.) It could be because your weekends are way too busy to comment thoughtfully to the kind of conversation that we have been having.

            2.) But it could also be because I took that corner way too sharply for you. If so, I promise you, I didn’t mean to give you whiplash. I didn’t mean to accuse, attack, or otherwise make you feel disrespected. If I have done that, I do apologize. Sometimes I can be overwhelming when trying to lay out the reasons for my desire to help the broken hearted.

            3.)There could also be a third reason. Perhaps you feel betrayed because I (and the moderators) have not been protecting you from Jo R.’s anger and the anger of other women who have come in here out of the storm.

            Obviously, I’m just guessing here. It could be a fourth option that my mind simply can’t conceive.

            If it is for reason number three, I get why you could feel this way. And If I have the strength and time, I may address that in a later comment.

            For now, I want to revisit the guy who told my co-worker that she didn’t mean it when she said that she hated the world.

            Let me assure you, I am really glad that I didn’t go with a knee-jerk reaction comment against him. I’m glad I commented to my friend something that was helpful for her that he could see and maybe learn from. I am sure that guy only meant to comfort her in the only way he knew how. Just because it pricked a sore spot in my heart, that does not justify me unloading both barrels on him for such a small mistake or lack of understanding.

            I simply brought the story up as an example of how our culture is okay with pushing back on the strong emotions of women.

            Little bits like that comment on Facebook are not that big of deal.

            However, there are big bits and big name preachers/teachers/theologians who are doing way, way worse than that guy on Facebook. They have doctrines that are iron boxes to put women in that are grotesque.

            I’m not talking about backwoods preachers or some crackpot in the Louisiana swamps. I’m talking about university presidents, best selling Christian book writers featured on Christianity Today. And CT giving them 5 star reviews.

            https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/may-web-only/john-piper-providence-doctrine-reformed-tradition.html

            Here is a video of this guy answering a question concerning abuse. It is just under 4 minutes long.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OkUPc2NLrM

            I wrote a post about a part of what he said in this video called, Men Defining Sweet for Women. I was angry when I wrote this post. But not at your. I am still very frustrated with this man’s stance on women. But I’m even more frustrated with the Evangelical Machine that promotes this man with complete disregard for how damaging his teachings are. A lot of women, including myself, feel betrayed by Christianity Today and all the others that give credibility to this man.

            http://frombitterwaterstosweet.blogspot.com/2011/02/men-defining-sweet-for-women.html

          • Jim

            Mara,

            My weekends are usually nuts especially now with Spring time and my sons’ sports activities. I have weekends set aside for God and Family and I try to put a lot of time and thought into my comments instead of shooting from the hip. Some of my previous comments came from knee-jerk reactions and were based entirely in emotions instead of thinking it through.

            And regarding Jo, I don’t think a nuclear bomb shelter would be adequate protection if you are in her crosshairs and I understand that she been through a lot and has every right to be angry. I pray that she and others like her find the healing and renewal that they need.

            Regarding your post, I did watch the clip of John Piper and the blog article. I went down the rabbit hole a bit and John Piper and similar thought leaders are getting some pushback from various corners but not to the extent that they are being kicked out of popular Christian publications. However, them getting pushback is at least change going in the right direction.

            From what I saw of the article regarding his new book, I don’t see anything that I would find objectionable but it is a summary of a book so it is not going to go in depth with what is written and there aren’t that many reviews on Amazon. I think I might get the Audible version of it since I have some extra credits to burn to see what he has to say. Sometimes the best way to refute an argument is to listen to how they present it. Sheila has shown that by reading books like Love and Respect in order to refute them.

            I do agree with John Piper on some issues like men having a responsibility to protect women due to physical differences. Men are on average physically stronger than women. That is a role that I take on as a husband and father to protect my family. I think that his response to the question of abuse was not entirely correct but he seemed to be trying to give a blanket statement for a question without a lot of context. He said at least twice that the question did not give enough information in order to give a comprehensive answer.

            I do agree with him that if abuse is happening that the church should be a safe place for the abused to go and that the abuser should be held to account by the church. As many have pointed out here, the church has been failing at that role for many. He at least does admit that if physical abuse is happening that the abused should get to safety.

            He also talked about how submission is supposed to be in deference to Jesus and to the husband as long as the husband is leading in a way that is Biblical and honoring to God. That is an important distinction that is often overlooked and is going down the right path that submission is ultimately to God, not to the husband if the husband is counter to God. I did see your counter to how he advised women to express their refusal to the husband who wants her to act in a sinful way. The only reason I can see responding in that way is to not make the situation worse, like a hostage negotiator not wanting to anger the hostage taker. I do agree with you that it did not go far enough.

            I don’t agree with him about the differences between physical over emotional abuse, and he did not even mention spiritual. Even ‘dealing with it for a season’ as he put it would be too much for most to bear, nor should they.

            In all of this, there have always been differences of opinion in the Church on a variety of issues. Look at Paul’s letters, they are all praising and rebuking behavior and teachings of the Church. No church is going to be perfect. It is important to call out bad teaching when we see it by referencing back to Scripture and aligning as much as we can with the source of our collective faith.

          • Mara R

            Just as an aside, Piper’s book at the above link might be okay, even helpful to some. I don’t know.

            My problem with them promoting it is that they don’t give a warning label concerning his involvement with other, more shady things, like the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

            Promoting his book without such a warning label might lead people down the road to his less than graceful teachings on gender.

            In case you didn’t know, Piper is one of the leaders of a movement that is referred to as New Calvinism. People are pretty divided by this. Some think it’s the greatest thing, Calvin being the best man to have walked the earth since Jesus and the Apostles. Others think the opposite. Then there is everyone else in between.

            Here are my musings on Piper and New Calvinism back in 2012. They may be way off. But it was my best effort to try to understand what appeared to be his Cold-Heartedness. It is less angry than the last link I gave you. Oh, and the comments under it are way more thoughtful than under the last link to my blog I gave you.

            http://frombitterwaterstosweet.blogspot.com/2012/03/piper-guilty-of-christian-vulcanism.html

          • Jim

            Mara,

            The Vulcanism (as in Mr. Spock from Star Trek, not the Roman god of the Forge) that you mentioned seems to flow into the vein of Stoicism, using logic and reason to control emotions. I often identified with Mr. Spock because I watched Star Trek with my dad. It was one of the few things that we did together. This actually goes nicely into part of the latest blog post 3.6.2022 that talks about the differences between being in control and letting go.

            Growing up, I was constantly told to control myself and my emotions. I have struggled with anger most of my life and I have worked to control myself to the point that I have come off as cold and detached. The reason for it was that I was afraid of loosing control and that people had hurt me so much that I wanted to avoid people to keep from being hurt again. I was bullied for being overweight and nerdy throughout my primary school years. I was naïve and often taken advantage of by my classmates.

            This is a constant with boys and men. We are told that we need to always be in control because we need to be tough or else your are a wimp. And our wider culture is not helping when it is reinforcing that men need to always be in control or they will become little more than an animal. Men need to be in control because women will not be attracted to them if they are emotional. It is more acceptable for women to be emotional than men.

            If you see a man cry, there is something wrong with him.

          • Jo R

            It must be nice to have “only” been bullied by children who hopefully didn’t know any better.

            Now imagine that instead of being bullied as a child, you spent thirty-five years as a grown-up being bullied by other grown-ups who tell you that being bullied is God’s will for you, that you cannot expect to ever not be bullied, and that your only proper response to being bullied is to be even nicer to the bullies.

            You can never expect things to improve, because being bullied is just your lot in life as determined by God Himself. Imagine what that does to your sense of self, what it does to your ideas about God, how it affects the way you live moment by moment.

            Please spend just SIXTY SECONDS deeply imagining that scenario. I’ll wait…

            When I find out that men I trusted over the last THREE-PLUS DECADES—pastors, Sunday school teachers, and, before them, the translators I relied on as I read my Bible—LIED by passing off their conveniently self-aggrandizing “males are superior, females are inferior” slop as GOD’S ETERNAL TRUTH, yeah, you’re darn right I’m going to be angry.

            If you think that finding out that so much of what I’ve been taught at church is flat-out false should result in my merely shrugging my shoulders, blowing it off, and acting like it never happened, well, then you are a much better person than I am. I guess I have no business grieving the lost DECADES of my life, my marriage, and my mental health, because now I’m being un-Christian, unforgiving, and untrusting. I should just snap out of it. I should simply get over it instantly. I should just paste a fake smile on my face—oh, wait, that’s exactly what I’ve done for the aforementioned three decades as I tried my best to live according to those lies.

            I haven’t been reading the Bible, because how can I tell which bits are mistranslated, where men put their thumbs on the scale to benefit themselves over women? How can I pray? My conception of God is completely screwed up. God, according to those lying men, made me second class IN THE CHURCH, IN GOD’S OWN FAMILY. 🙄🙄🙄

            Whose voice do I trust to tell me the truth? At least COVID allowed me to detox from the lies I had no idea I was getting week in, week out. And I’m in no hurry to get back to church, because I doubt there’s one in our semi-rural area that doesn’t preach the lies wholeheartedly.

            So, I find myself here, where I can socialize and fellowship, at least to some degree, with at least some people who understand where I’ve been and what I’ve been through, and who offer me TLC instead of platitudes.

          • Jim

            Jo,

            I am not down playing what you have gone through. I was sharing what I have gone through, so I can empathize on some level what is being expressed.

            I’m sorry for the damage that the church has done to you. That is not what Jesus taught us.

            May I suggest looking at study Bibles that have the original languages? They often give additional context to the text. I have looked at Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible and it gives additional information about archeology and cultural context.

            I hope and pray that God will make Himself known to you so that you can begin to reclaim the relationship that you were kept from.

          • Mara R

            Jo, I’m trying to think of other places, along with this place, that you can go to, to fellowship and socialize that I trust.

            One I can think of immediately, you may already know about because Sheila has mentioned her before.

            https://margmowczko.com/margs-articles/

            Very Egal.

          • Mara R

            I want to draw your attention to one particular post by Marg. It is concerning the book, Valiant or Virtuous that specifically addresses gender biases in Bible translations. It’s by Suzanne McCarthy a Bible language scholar.
            Suzanne has passed away some time back. This is a huge loss to the Body of Christ. She was interested in accurately translating and even pushed back against some people that were trying to swing too far the other way. I used to visit her blog all the time. I really miss her and her wisdom.

            https://margmowczko.com/valiant-or-virtuous-suzanne-mccarthy/

          • Jo R

            Thanks, Mara! Yes, I’ve read quite a bit of Marg’s site, and I actually bought and read McCarthy’s book, along with Beth Barr’s Making of Biblical Womanhood and Cynthia Westfall’s Paul and Gender.

            All very good, very eye opening, and, in their way, infuriating. In a good way! 😉😉😉

            I’ve read quite a bit of your site too. 😊😊😊

            Thanks for your calm encouragement, which has helped me lots. Hugs to you!

          • Mara R

            Jo R, It looks like you are ahead of me. I have Suzanne’s book but haven’t finished it. I don’t even have the other two books though I am well aware of them.

            To Jo and Jim, I was going to link the Wartburg Watch for Jo, but it seems that she would already know about it.

            Jim, do you know about it? If not, you should go there.
            Sheila’s blog is rather specified. But the Wartburg Watch has a broader overview and a lot more male commenters.

            Jo and Jim, whatever else can be said on the things we have talked about, one thing I wish is for the church to stop being a place of hurting already. I want the church to be a place of healing. But so many churches fall so very short.

            I have linked this Lord of the Rings video to my blog before. It is called “The Houses of Healing”. It was not included in the theatrical cut but was included in the extended version. It opens on a field after battle with many dead and wounded (kind of like all the women and some men hurt and destroyed by bad teaching). But it ends up in The Houses of Healing with the soon-to-be-king bringing life to a woman dead from the battle. This moment is a better picture of Jesus than anything EE or his type could ever come up with. I struggle with the fact that the world displays hope, healing, and compassion better that much of the church. As Sheila always says, “We can do better.”

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8KnwKxJSIY

      • Jo R

        You ask for equal sacrifice in a situation where women (and men) have been subjected to church leaders and “Christian” authors who put the almighty penis at the center of marriage to such an extent that in the twenty-first century, a male “Christian” author can say that women don’t have sexual needs AND NOT BE CALLED OUT ON THAT LIE BY THE CHURCH. The irony, of course, is that a penis is far the inferior to a clitoris, which can have multiple orgasms, one after the other, for minutes on end while the poor penis is almost always one and done.

        The pendulum has been pegged to the men’s side for all of human history, and now that women are being freed from “teachings” that make them prostitutes in their own homes, allowing a hair’s breadth of daylight between the peg and the pendulum, you seem to think men are being treated unfairly. Well, if they are, they have a lot of ground to cover to make up for the real abuse they’ve doled out to women. Maybe not you personally. But when multiple women in this thread try to share analogies to help you understand what they’ve been through, when they share story after story of how they’ve erased themselves to serve their husbands, you decide the best thing you can do is “step away and leave things be.” You’re concerned that “the sacrifices suggested appear to be overly drastic and one-sided” when in reality it’s WOMEN who have been doing the overly drastic and one-sided sacrifice for literally millennia. And that one-sided sacrifice has been forced IN THE CHURCH, where Paul said “there is no male and female in Christ” and “a husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife” (which, to steal a phrase from a commenter on another post, does not consist of “pleasureless penetration”).

        You decry that women here are “cheering and making fun of men who are struggling to understand,” and yet you keep saying that the best thing you can do is leave. Well, it’s hard to see how you might gain any understanding and be part of the solution if you aren’t willing to truly grapple with and take into your own soul the pain that so many women here have described, the pain that countless others who don’t comment are also dealing with, along with the pain of countless more women who don’t even yet know or understand that they’ve been suffering at the very least spiritual and emotional abuse. And yes, I’ll use the word “abuse,” because the church is supposed to be bringing healing and abundance of life, and what Christian women too often get, as the podcast yesterday said, is a damaged relationship with Jesus, if not Jesus actually taken away from them.

        Job’s three friends did a great job those first seven days, because they sat in silence with him and saw how intense Job’s suffering was. Perhaps you could stay here and listen in silence so that you also can see how intense women’s suffering has been and still is.

        Reply
        • Jim

          Jo,

          I was planning on writing a longer post but I don’t think that you, and many of the ladies that are angry with me, would accept anything that I would say.

          With that being said, I may continue to follow but I will reframe from commenting since my thoughts do not seem to be welcome.

          I pray that you, and all of the ladies here, find healing and that positive changes continue to be made.

          Reply
          • Been there, done that

            I find that many of the posts on this site are good and useful.

            But I agree with you, Jim. The comments are an echo chamber and despite the vast amount of hurt, are not welcoming to any counterpoint, especially from a man.

            There a reason most people commenting are women.

          • Mara R

            I have to disagree with you.

            Your term “Echo Chamber” is offensive and an insult.

            Because of rampant abuse and misuse of Scripture in the Evangelical church, the personhood of women have been drastically reduced and, in some cases, erased.
            Their voices have been stripped from them.

            Many Churches are not safe places for women to find their voices. Too many men in those churches have decided that it is their job to be the tone police, word police, or judges of female emotions.

            Yes, there is a reason it’s mostly women commenting. But it is a far more complex situation than your shallow assessment.

            When churches become safe places for women, there will no longer be a need for places like this, for women to unstick their voices. Until then, places like this are necessary hospitals for the souls of emotionally, sexually, and spiritually battered women

            Call it an Echo Chamber all you like. But know that doing so is flippant and not at all helpful to the crises going on in the lives of so many.

          • Jo R

            Jinx, buy me a Coke! 😁😁😁

          • Jo R

            Women are taught to be silent in church, in their homes, and even in bed with their husbands (unless they are expressing praise of his prowess, even if in reality he is causing her pain through ignorance, clumsiness, and other deficiencies).

            Where exactly, then, are women allowed to speak? This is one small place on the vast internet where women can learn that no, they are not crazy but are being gaslit by society, the church, and their own families, including their husbands. Should women continue to submit to the twisting of reality and the trauma arising therefrom, just to appease, what? A portion of men (and not a few women) who don’t like, or want, the truth to come out?

            So yeah, here is one place where women can comment freely, and choose to do so, despite the ongoing objections of those who wish women would just shut up already.

          • Jo R

            What’s ACTUALLY not welcome in churches and in homes are the opinions, thoughts, and ideas of women, when said opinions, thoughts, and ideas contradict men.

  17. Rising Strong

    Quite late to the commentary, I realize, but it seems worth posting nonetheless.

    As I thought about the false and oppressive teachings about marriage and sex that Sheila and her team work tirelessly to combat, the Spirit gave me a word picture. Here goes:

    As Christians, we agree that Jesus should be the very air we breathe. We are each connected to Him by our own personal “air hose.” Men and women alike are offered full, free access to His abundantly grace-ridden air when we decide to connect to Him through the Gospel.

    But teachings—particularly those about marriage and sex—that reduce women and elevate men are like huge, heavy cement blocks being placed on a woman’s air hose. Over time, the woman connected to Jesus via the blocked air hose cannot breathe Him in any longer, not His pure flowing air, anyway. She is left gasping.

    One day, when enough false teachings have encumbered her air hose and she has simultaneously run her hardest to follow all the rules in order to “better love and connect to Jesus,” she finds herself LIFELESS. She literally cannot go another step or take another breath because nothing is flowing into her air hose. It has become fully compromised by cement block teachings, yet she doesn’t understand what has happened. She doesn’t yet see the cement blocks. They have become her norm.

    All she knows is that she has worked so hard to please her husband (ie—“the lord”) in every. possible. way. Why doesn’t she feel free? What’s more, why does she feel as though she continually fails in her marriage?

    Somehow, she learns about TGSR and its healthy, balanced, research-based, God-honoring teachings, and slowly but surely, she feels Jesus-air filling her lungs again. She has missed this air so very much. Life begins running through her entire body little by little as she ponders, reflects, and begins to realize what has happened.

    She now notices and realizes she needs to work hard to remove the enormously heavy cement blocks, but when she tries to do so, she is called “disobedient,” “selfish,” “disrespectful,” “unsubmissive,” and worse by prominent Christian leaders, authors, and teachers. People who say they love Jesus just keep replacing the cement blocks she works so hard to remove from her air hose, and they toss on a few (thousand) more for good measure.

    When she tells them to stop because these teachings are sucking the very air from her body, they tell her she is asking too much, that she is swinging the pendulum too far, that she can’t possibly love Jesus AND believe this “heresy.” Allowing cement blocks on your air hose is “respecting and serving your husband,” and besides, suffering for Jesus is part of the Christian life.

    When she screams in desperation—because she is dying from the inside out—she is called “untrusting,” “faithless,” and even “angry.” If she legitimately becomes angry—and she should given the reality of the oppression sitting on her air hose—she is called a “feminist who has no place for Jesus in her belief system.”

    Essentially, she gets beaten down and her air hose is again compromised simply because she is REMOVING CEMENT BLOCKS SO THAT SHE CAN BREATHE MORE FREELY.

    Here’s the truth:

    Women have God-ordained access to the Gospel and are called to apply it to everything in our lives, including to our marriages. We are recipients—heirs— of the gift of breathing the free-flowing grace-air of Christ in our individual lives AND in our marriages.

    When those around us attempt to put cement blocks on our air hoses, they are interfering with God’s Gospel work in women’s lives.

    From this vantage point, if a husband has contributed to robbing his wife of air for any length of time, I daresay him giving up sex long enough to let his wife “refill her lungs” is a minute offering, at the barest minimum.

    If fasting temporarily from sex enables his wife to receive the unadulterated love and grace of Christ in her life, then how could any truly loving husband even consider NOT doing it?

    Reply
    • Mara R

      I agree. That is a great word picture.

      Those who have not been subjected to “Cement Block on the Air Hose” Doctrines [CBAHD] cannot possibly understand the daily pain and despair it brings

      Those who have not been subject to CBAHD cannot possibly understand the bottled up rage that develops over time (sometimes decades in the making) at this deep injustice.

      It has been quite the uphill battle trying to get people to see the evil of CBAHD and gravity of this whole situation.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.