PODCAST: What Guys Can Do If They’ve Messed Up Their Sex Lives

by | Feb 24, 2022 | Podcasts | 63 comments

Podcast: When Men Have Messed Up Their Sex Lives
Merchandise is Here!

It’s the last Thursday of the month, so we’re talking to men today!

Although, of course, women will enjoy this podcast too! But we’ve looking specifically at helping guys realize when there’s some repair work to do in their marriages.

We’ve spent the last two podcasts with some basic sex ed teaching on the sexual response cycle and contraception. We want to help you get this right from the start. 

But what if you didn’t? What if you messed up? And how do you talk to your kids about that, too?

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 New book coming soon!
3:45 ‘What if I started my marriage off poorly?’
7:30 Reader letters
14:45 You cannot equate these two needs
24:40 The difference growing up outside the church
31:15 Research: Sex Frequency in marriage
39:20 Interview with Carl Thomas: How to talk to kids about sexuality
1:00:10 Keith’s final thoughts + Encouragement

Main Segment: Why Guys Often Don’t Realize They’ve Messed Up

Because our church culture teaches guys that they need sex the way newborn babies need to be fed in the middle of the night or the way an invalid needs water brought to them, men often don’t realize that they are being the selfish ones. They’re taught this is an absolute need they have, a life and death need, and so if she doesn’t want sex, that must mean she’s being selfish. 

Here’s a letter that a guy recently sent me after our podcast on how guys should consider a wife’s needs postpartum

You say you think sex should be about both people. But that is NOT what you teach. You teach that women’s needs outranks men’s needs at:

4)after childbirth
6)or pretty much anytime there is an issue

Which when you add this up can easily get to 50% of the first 15-20 years of marriage. Now if your 50/50 the other 50% of the marriage it ends up being more like 75/25 if things are well and there are no issues. Issues can tilt it even more.

Why do you think so many are telling you it’s misandry? Why should everyone listen to you when you say it is misogynistic but you don’t have to listen to them? Your teaching almost at every turn considers the intentions, motives and spiritual life of women a positive light and men in a negative light.

I’m a happily married man. My wife thinks your every bit as evil as I do. This isn’t personal. I just believe your ruining tens of thousands Christian marriages in just the first generation and a multiple in the second generation.”

(Normally I correct the spelling and grammar mistakes but I left these ones in for fun).

Keith and I explain why, yes, her needs should take precedence on the honeymoon, and her period, and postpartum, and menopause, because she’s the one who is in discomfort and pain. This really shouldn’t be rocket science.

But then we share stories from other men with similar attitudes, and talk about how that starts a chain of events in many marriages that can wreck her libido and wreck sex. So we tackle what men can do when their attitudes have sent their sex lives in a downward spiral.

We cover this at length in The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, too, and that book launches March 15! Honestly, I believe that THIS is the sex book that men need. Please pre-order, tell your pastor, tell your counselors, let them know that this resource is out there and that it’s healthy!

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

How Do You Talk To Your Son (or Daughter) about Porn–or Sex?

Carl Thomas from XXXChurch joined me. He took it over last year and has changed direction, and I love his approach (he finds Every Man’s Battle harmful as well). He’s recently written a book called When Shame Gets Real, and I read an early copy and endorsed it. One section I really liked was the open and frank way he described talking with your son about masturbation or  your own past porn use. I asked him on the podcast to help coach parents through this. 

When Shame Gets Real

We all know what it’s like to look into the mirror only to feel overwhelmed with regret and shame. For some, it’s a daily occurrence. But for those who’ve compromised their sexual integrity, it’s an ongoing reality.

In this book you’ll find a refreshingly blunt and candid conversation about sex, porn, and masturbation, that pulls no punches and reveals a clear path to freedom from sexual shame and sexually addictive behavior.

Things Mentioned in This Podcast:

When Men Have Messed up their Sex Lives Podcast

How do you think male entitlement has affected marriages? How can men bridge the gap if they’ve messed up? And what do you think of Carl’s take on how to talk to your kids? Let’s discuss 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

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

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Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. A2bbethany

    I remember reading that comment when he originally made it. And being confused by his math, until I realized that he equated: women having an equally important voice with men having no voice. Never occurring to him, that husband’s might actually have learned to prioritize her well-being(and she his). And that leading to a healthier quality, to the sex life.

    • Nathan

      He didn’t express it very elegantly, but his conclusions about Sheila’s model seem to be this…

      Sometimes the needs of the wife take priority and sometimes the needs of the husband and wife are equal. If you average that out, then the woman overall takes precedence.

      I’m not sure that this is what Sheila means, but in a marriage taken as a whole, sometimes the needs of the wife come first, sometimes the needs of the husband come first, and most of the time the needs are equal, so that overall it’s equally balanced, it just may not be equally balanced in all areas at all times.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        As we say in the podcast, though, the issue is that he’s equating needs that aren’t equal, and so his equation is off anyway. Plus he doesn’t really understand what sex is!

  2. Jo R

    Maybe it just boils down to men not seeing women as actual human beings, as fellow bearers of the image of God.

    After all, the whole “help meet” thing would, AFAIK, have meant something quite different to native English speakers in 1611 than it does in 2022. Regardless, since a “helper” IS NOW seen as a subordinate, lesser position to the one being helped, then is it really surprising that women’s needs are so often considered secondary at best and imaginary at worst?

    Maybe men should remember that it was Adam who was unable to be alone, ***even though God Himself was with him.***

    So which sex is it that really needs an ***actual*** relationship, as opposed to, I dunno, just expecting sex on demand?

    (I wonder what the stats are on life expectancy after a spouse’s death for men versus women. In other words, does a widow typically live longer than a widower, when both remain unmarried? IIRC, recent studies show divorced women are content to not remarry compared to divorced men, but that may well reflect the same issues of men not being great at being husbands. Why would such women jump out of the frying pan just to land in the fire?)

    • Anon

      This part about widows/widowers makes me laugh…. My grandpa had a girlfriend after my grandma died (he was 70’s), but she REFUSED to get married again. At the time, I was young and only married a few yrs, so I couldn’t imagine why she wouldn’t marry my grandpa. …fast forward to a few yrs ago, talking to my great-aunt (late 70’s?), and she told me that she loved my great uncle…but no way was she getting married again just to take care of a man! And now I know why grandpa’s gf was content just being someone who went out to dinner and talked on the phone! Cause esp that generation…the men just “needed” someone to take care of them…and if they just dated, then she got the companionship without ALL THE WORK!!! Lolol!

      • A2bbethany

        My dad’s best friend is doing that. His wife died of cancer while they were both in their upper 50s(not sure but they’d had a 25th anniversary party, so had been married for at least 30yrs)

        He’s dated several women for long periods, for companionship. But from what I’ve heard, has little to no interest in ever remarrying. He just enjoys companionship and spends time with his grandkids. And the women are always about his age and sometimes single mom’s, divorced or widowed. And it’s a different kind of dating! Personally I like that being an option, because remarrying late in life…..I don’t know if I would.

    • Laura

      I’ve been divorced almost 20 years (I was 26 at the time of my divorce) and haven’t remarried. Several women in my family have been widowed for many years, but I attribute that to the fact that they deeply loved their husbands so much that they could not imagine marrying anyone else.

      As for my case, my first marriage was abusive and left me so traumatized for years that I was afraid of getting hurt again. However, I found that being single has given me a lot of opportunities that I don’t think I would have if I was married.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That’s likely very true, Laura! And that’s even biblical–often we can do bigger things when we’re single.

    • Jim

      My grandma pasted 5 years ago. She and my grandpa were married for 60 years. He took her death hard and has never given any indication of wanting to date anyone. She was his one and only.

  3. Anon

    Lol, I find it rather hilarious that God created women to be able to have multiple orgasms…when men (usually) only get one at a time.

  4. Nathan

    > > the issue is that he’s equating needs that aren’t equal,

    That’s a good point, also you note that precedence usually happens when there’s discomfort, pain, injury, etc., not just an emotional desire

    • Jo R

      Yeah, and menstruation and postpartum are 24/7 discomfort if not outright pain for days and even months, as opposed to the quickly resolved discomfort men have if they don’t ejaculate for a couple of days.

      The example of a wife expecting her husband to perform sexually when he’s been kicked in the nuts by a cow is really good! Now, guys, imagine getting kicked every half hour or so for three or five or seven days to mimic menstruation, or for three or four months to mimic postpartum. Is the prospect of sex still appealing in those circumstances?

  5. Anon

    I wish men would realize that if they weren’t being so durn selfish…they’d prolly get what they wanted! If they start the marriage by putting their wives pleasure and needs before their own…I can almost guarantee that their wives will want sex!

    Meet your wife’s non sexual (and sexual!) needs…and you will be exhausted and satisfied and happy!

    • Jim

      I think that it is important to point out the ‘prolly’ or probably in your statement. Just because a man is selfless in the marriage relationship does not inherently mean that the wife will respond with passionate, mutually fulfilling sex.

      This sounds like a form of the obligation sex message. Maybe better to call it the ‘will work for sex’ message.

      ‘Guys, if you do all of these things, your wife will want to have sex with you!’

      Ladies, if you knew that your husband was doing things with the goal of getting sex from you, would you respond in the way that he wants? I would be surprised if you did because this would be another form of coercion.

      The motives are important.

      • Katie


        I don’t think they mean to literally vacuum for the sex you want. I truly don’t think that would do it for any woman. I think it just means, be helpful where you can. Offer to load the dishwasher & wipe the kids dried toothpaste from the sink if you see it. My husband does all of this & you might too, but I know so many men who literally do nothing. They come home & disappear to hang out with friends or play video games, then wonder why their wife doesn’t want to have sex once it’s bed time. We want to feel like a priority to our husbands.

        My husband makes me feel like a priority by flirting around the house(in sexual & no sexual ways), making sexual innuendos, playing with my hair while he scrolls his phone at night…Anything that reminds me that he still sees me as his wife & not just his children’s mother is a turn on.

        • Jim

          I have seen other men that don’t do anything around the house. We have a fairly even split, I often take our two older boys (we have 3 sons and another on the way) to their activities while my wife is at home with our youngest. Since she is pregnant, she is not able to do as much so I am taking on more like cooking most of the meals and prepping lunches for our school aged sons.

          We have talked about those men who don’t support their wives and families. I have tried to talk to them but they are often of the more ‘traditional’ mindset that they need time to disengage from working and I can understand their perspective. However, they often take too much time to wind down from work. I usually jump directly in since there is no barrier between work and home due to working from home.

          Our decompressing time (we both work full-time) is after the kids are in bed and sometimes its just vegetating or reading a book. Sometimes sex is part of it, usually if we can’t sleep, but she is often too tired from the day and I just need to be patient.

  6. Laura

    I haven’t watched the podcast yet, but the commenter reminds me of how men and women tend to interpret “bad sex.” For women, “bad sex” often means “sex that was painful or left me in pain afterwards.” For men, it’s often “my orgasm wasn’t as great as I’d hoped for.” THOSE issues are in completely different universes. And yeah, I hope that sex being *comfortable* for the spouses (both spouses) is prioritized FAR above either spouse “having stronger or more orgasms” (as is generally the thought when we “prioritize men”).

    I escaped an abusive marriage myself, where sex was weaponized against me, where I was used as a porn replacement, where I was raped, and where I was regularly told that the method to fix our marriage and sex life was to have more sex. I’m angry. I’m angry that women’s voices keep being silenced. I have hope that things are changing. But I’m angry.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly! The difference between what we mean by bad sex shows that we’re equating things that really shouldn’t be equated.

    • Andrea

      Yes, I remember that research by Sara McClelland. I highly recommend her Intimate Justice project.

  7. exwifeofasexaddict

    That commenter who betrayed his wife sexually, but now pouts because she won’t serve him sexually even though he said sorry….. made me say some cuss words. Do men understand that we are literally letting them inside our body? Do men understand things like the clitoris and the G-spot? Sex is not a woman serving a man. And a man who has committed the ultimate betrayal should not be asking for service. Even if he said sorry. Even if he cried while he said it. He deserves no cookies for that. Ugh!

    • Jo R

      Oh, and I really liked how he phrased one part of it as something like “after the affair had happened.”

      Um, what????? Are you saying it was like a car accident? It just “happened” and you aren’t sure how? Pretty sure there were multiple steps between being fully clothed and you having sex with someone other than your wife, dude.

      That choice of wording is right up there with talking about rape in the passive voice (“a million women were raped”) rather than the active voice (“men raped a million women”).


      • exwifeofasexaddict

        Yeah, offenders often use passive voice when they talk about what they did wrong. It helps us feel a little more distant from it, so the pain is less. It goes right along with “apology” language like “I’m sorry if you were offended” or “I’m sorry you felt that way”. A real apology is “I’m sorry that I________”.

  8. Jim

    I’m sorry, I cannot take this community anymore.

    If I continue to listen to this, I will never want to be intimate with my wife again due to the fear that I am forcing her.

    Is it possible that men can be shown any compassion, grace or forgiveness in this community?

    I think we all know the answer…

    • Jo R

      Should women similarly decline to be part of a church community, since it’s all too often a key source of misogyny, of unbiblical teaching, and sometimes of just flat-out hostility?

      A man who genuinely realizes that he’s acted in these awful ways, elevating himself over his wife for years and decades, but who then genuinely changes his ways will get compassion, forgiveness, and grace. Just ask Keith! 😉😉😉

      But to expect that kind of response toward men who continue, or even double down, in their wrong thinking, attitudes, and behavior is asking a bit much.

      Where would you prefer to have hurting women participate in what amounts to a giant group therapy session? This is one website on the entire internet where women can get support, hope, and healing. It’s unfortunate, or maybe ironic, that you find such a safe space hurtful to yourself. Perhaps what you’re experiencing is a little taste of what women have suffered ***at church*** for two millennia.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      What exactly did we say that offended you? Where were we wrong?

      If you feel like you are forcing your wife, you likely are, and you need to stop. Sex and rape do not feel like the same thing.

      But a consensual sexual relationship is a beautiful thing. It really is! And it isn’t hard to have. You simply value her and consider her opinions and needs too. If you find that too difficult to do, perhaps it’s good to ask why?

      No man should feel guilty for wanting sex. But forcing your wife or coercing your wife is wrong. It’s quite easy to not force or coerce someone into something, and I’m not sure why this is controversial.

      • Jim


        ‘But a consensual sexual relationship is a beautiful thing. It really is! And it isn’t hard to have. You simply value her and consider her opinions and needs too. If you find that too difficult to do, perhaps it’s good to ask why?’

        I want a great mutual sexual relationship with my wife. I have loved her for 20 years and I would give my life for her.

        I have asked my wife if I am forcing her and she says no. But I keep having a hard time believing her because I keep seeing stories of those women here that say that they say yes but mean no. I honestly don’t know if I can believe my own wife anymore. If I am this terrible monster, than I should leave altogether.

        I am literally in tears writing this. I want to be a good man, husband and father. But I keep hearing how terrible men are and that we are too stupid to realize. Why would God curse us this way? I don’t think that you understand how this makes me hate myself.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Jim, it doesn’t sound like you’re coercing your wife then! I think a good thing to do is to talk to your wife about whether she feels able to say no. Does she feel scared that something will happen if she says no? Does she feel free to say no?

          Or even let me ask you–does she ever say “no, not tonight?” If she does, then everything’s likely fine! If she never says no ever, then there may be something else going on. That doesn’t mean it’s your fault, though. That was a big thing we found in The Great Sex Rescue–that many women internalized these messages that had been taught in Christian books, and they didn’t feel like they could say no, even if their husbands were fine with them saying no. What about just reading The Great Sex Rescue together? So many couples have done so and found it really freeing!

        • Jo R


          One very good thing is that you’re doubting yourself! That means you’re open to learning, and that’s half the battle. 😉😉😉😉😉

          Does your wife ever read any of the posts here? If she does, does she identify in any way with what she reads? Does she recognize the issues and situations described here in any of her friends or the couples you know? If she can admit seeing it in others but says she’s not experiencing it, well, that’s probably a good sign.

          There is a chance, though, that she would not admit it for fear of hurting you or being disrespectful (if that’s how her childhood and your church roll). If you think she would not be truthful in admitting to feeling this way occasionally, then you have to decide how hard you want to push her to be absolutely honest.

          If she is honest, and if she admits to being hurt by you in the past, are you willing to own those occasions and work to improve?

          You have to decide what you want. Do you want to possibly be hurt by her absolute honesty in case you have done some of the things you’ve read about here? Or would you rather not know about past acts, even as you presumably will work hard to avoid doing them in the future?

          OR…maybe you really have nothing to be concerned about, because you’ve never exhibited these attitudes, thought patterns, and actions. 👍👍👍

          You just have to decide how badly you want to know the truth, and you have to be prepared for the worst, but you also have to decide to do the right things from now on.

          And again, the fact that you’re even worried about this is a huge step compared to many men, so we actually are rooting for you!

          • Jim

            Thank you for your kind words.

            We have been reading the Great Sex Rescue and have identified some of the bad teachings but we are working through it. Specifically the obligation sex message. I never want to force my wife to have sex. That is a violation and the thought makes me ill.

            My wife has assured me that I have never coerced her and I have told her multiple times that she can say no at any point and time.

            We think that our disconnect it is the difference between spontaneous and responsive libidos. I still struggle with the difference because it sometimes feels forced when I attempted to initiate and the response is not what I expect.

            I think that some of my issues with some of the discusses here stem from that I have suffered with clinical depression and anxiety since I was a teen. Due to this I can take things personally when I feel that criticism is directed at me. I begin to spiral and I can fall into what I call the ‘Pit of Despair’. (Bonus if you can name the movie).

            Again, thank you for your kind words. I hope this shows that all men aren’t monsters.

          • Anon

            Jim, you believe that it is important for sex to be mutually pleasurable, you believe that your wife has the right to say no if she doesn’t feel comfortable and you are aware that some women feel obliged to say yes even when they are not comfortable – all these things show that you are WAY ahead of many men.

            I think you may be worrying about your wife’s agreement unnecessarily. I am sure that a husband who is as concerned for his wife’s welfare as you are will be better at picking up on how she is feeling than that. There is a big difference between an enthusiastic yes and an ‘I guess I’d better say yes so I don’t upset him’ yes, and you are likely to spot the difference.

    • exwifeofasexaddict

      It’s not that hard to know if she is agreeing enthusiastically, Jim.

      • Jim

        It can be hard when she says that she is in ‘neutral, I can take it or leave it’.

        That doesn’t sound enthusiastic but that is how she has described it. But she still says that she is not being forced or coerced, it seems very weird.

        • exwifeofasexaddict

          After reading the rest of the comments, I realized I was overly harsh. I apologize.

          • Jim

            No apology necessary.

            I have noticed that many of the ladies here have been mistreated by their husbands and men in general. It is only natural that there is are inherent suspicions and open hostility against men.

            I hope that I and other men that are advocating and living out a truly Gospel centered marriage can make positive changes with your help.

  9. Jane Eyre

    If a husband’s wife died tomorrow, he would be expected to go without sex until, and if, he remarries.

    If he does not meet his bride until middle age, he is expected to forgo sex through his 20s and 30s.

    If his wife becomes incapacitated, he is expected to forgo sex.

    Why is it such a problem to not have sex during a wife’s period or postpartum healing?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I honestly don’t understand it, except that they see her as an appendage rather than as a person, and they have a pornified style of relating (again, I still can’t get over Gary Thomas describing a woman getting aroused giving a hand job while postpartum. It sounds like a porn trope).

  10. Susanna H

    I won’t give any credibility to the guy who called you “evil”… but for the better-intentioned men out there who might share some of his thoughts, I do have a question. You encourage a man to prioritize a woman’s needs (which can often mean “go without sex”) during postpartum, etc. I am 100% with you. But if you consider a pregnancy, plus postpartum, plus potentially lowered libido during nursing (a nursing relationship for many moms/children can last 1-2 years, or longer)… you have a couple who have potentially been navigating a woman’s low libido for 3+ years. And some guys might be having a hard time with that, even if they love their wives and serve their families and abstain to prioritize their wife’s needs. Add on to that couples who have many children, or several close together… that’s a long season of marriage with little sex, or sex she struggles to enjoy.

    I have been following you long enough to know that you ALSO encourage women to get the pelvic floor therapy, pursue answers to low libido issues, cultivate intimacy in their marriage, etc. And the weight of advice out there has been so, so one sided that I totally understand why you don’t feel the need to add, “Women, work toward a good sex life if you’re able” every time you write or speak.
    But for someone new to your audience, trying to be a good husband, hearing this advice… I can see why he might feel like, “I love my wife, but based on our current trajectory, I’m not sure she’ll ever be up for sex again.”

    • NM

      I’ve been pregnant/nursing with very little time off for over a decade. But because my husband has been kind, caring, and never pressured me, we still have a healthy sex life. Sheila’s advice really does work!

    • exwifeofasexaddict

      But this still comes back around to men feeling entitled to sex. And that they need to/can do whatever it takes to get it, including coercion.

    • Jo R

      Someone (I think it was “Jane Eyre”) once commented something to the effect that too many husbands think their wives are going to perpetually be non-menstruating, non-pregnant, non-postpartum, non-nursing, non-menopausal twenty-year-olds who are hot to trot no matter what may be happening in their lives.

      So men think that the hottest sex they have for the first couple of years of marriage (or however long before she first gets pregnant and gives birth) should be what every sexy time is like for the rest of their lives (and that naturally it should happen as often as he wants).

      Reality? Who cares? Shouldn’t make any difference to her, since it doesn’t to him. 🙄🙄🙄

      • exwifeofasexaddict

        My ex seemed genuinely shocked, angered and upset by things like: me wanting to change my hairstyle, pregnancy body symptoms, me not wanting sex every single day, me gaining weight, me not want sex with a man who betrayed me. Like, wtf, did you think I was going to stay 19 forever and be frozen in time? I think he did.

        • Jo R

          I am really sorry for what you went through with your ex. 😢😢😢 A zillion hugs to you.

          Is this mindset part of the pornographic style of relating? After all, women in porn are never (I assume) menstruating, pregnant, postpartum, nursing, or menopausal. They’re all young(ish) and perpetually hot to trot. 🤔🤔🤔

          • exwifeofasexaddict

            Yes, it’s the pornographic style of relating. Straight up.

  11. Codec

    Part of why i like it here and why i now want to read Mr Thomas”s book and youes is that you guys are well open.

    I do not feel like a gross pervert here learning about stuff. I dont feel like i would be hopeless around women.

    It feels nice.

      • Codec

        I honestly want to read what you have to say regarding compulsive sexual bwhavior.

  12. Chris

    Sheila, do you and Carl have the same interior designer? 🤣. Or did you just choose paint together.
    On a more serious note, I am eagerly awaiting your post on what women can do when the sabotage their sex lives. Maybe you could do a podcast with Chris Taylor from The Forgiven Wife.

  13. Blue

    We have a lot more sex now that we’ve learned to make it good, and that did require a period of stepping back and starting from square one. Getting the snowball back up the hill and re-rolling it is no small feat. Additionally, I’ve learned a lot from this blog and the associated material about how important it is to put aside the stress of the day and relax into the marriage in the evenings. The net result is a better marriage and more sex for both. I do feel that I had to take some responsibility here too. Like, if my husband is coming halfway (willing to take time with me, improving marriage in general) then I have to be willing to consciously say yes and allow things to happen. If I just let the stress of life get to me and didn’t make a conscious effort, I do think my husband could do everything right and it wouldn’t happen.

    Once a week….eeeeeeh. I get why folks feel angsty about once a week. I mean does anyone get married hoping for a passionate sex life that happens only once a week? Life is busy and being an adult is hard but dang. Maybe on average it is indicative of marital satisfaction, but I just have a hunch that happy, healthy, well connected adults are going to want to get it on more often…

  14. Cynthia

    I had a thought as I listened to this, especially the part with Carl Thomas.

    So much of the toxicity seems to come from the issues that we ultimately prioritize. It seems that with conservative religious teachings/purity culture, the emphasis is on preventing ANY sexual thought or action (including masturbation), other than sex between a married couple. Then, because sexual thoughts and masturbation are incredibly common and difficult to stop for lots of people who have a libido, most of the emphasis goes toward preventing these things. That gets priority, and things like consent or treating your wife like a human being or not being angry/violent toward anyone for “tempting” you become secondary. If the main goal is preventing sexual thoughts or masturbation, you can get the idea that women should disappear except for being with their husbands and that a girl/woman poses a spiritual danger to any man other than her husband. You can get the idea that the purpose of the wife is to prevent the husband from ever having sexual thoughts about anyone else or touching himself, and it might seem logical (although it is actually horrible) to require her to serve him sexually if he ever felt sexual urges.

    So, what would happen if we completely redefined the underlying priorities? If we said that the #1 thing is making sure that we treat other people well – applying “love your neighbor as yourself” and the Golden Rule? That would mean that any sort of force, coercion, exploitation, violence, bullying, disrespect or disregard for someone’s humanity and feelings should be completely unacceptable.

    We could also teach that intimacy should be the goal in sex. If someone is married, they should be putting effort into having a great relationship, and part of that is trying to build closeness and satisfy a spouse sexually.

    If we do that, do we even need to say anything about sexual thoughts or masturbation, since these things on their own don’t hurt anyone? Or, if someone still wants to avoid these things for religious reasons, can we make it clear that this is THEIR responsibility alone and must never interfere with the main Golden Rule/Love Your Neighbor goal of treating other people well? [I happen to follow some religious rules about food, Sabbath, etc. that probably seem weird to other people, so I understand people following rules, but I also know that it would be absurd and unacceptable for me to demand nobody ever show me pictures of shellfish or pork.]

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love this, Cynthia! I do think that’s the problem–we start out with the wrong goal from the beginning.

  15. S

    A few years ago, my husband was working on a very academically rigorous certification for his career. On a day we had planned to be intimate, he failed an important test (he later passed on a retake). I understood that my desire for sex wasn’t as important as his emotional need. How could I enjoy sex when I knew his heart was breaking and he was worried about his future? I think this concept is what the gentleman who wrote the letter is missing. When you love someone, you put their needs ahead of your own. I didn’t die without sex that day and neither will a man when his wife is on her period, postpartum, or anything else. That’s not destroying marriages, but years of quiet resentment over your spouse putting their sexual wants over your comfort definitely will.

  16. Gracious

    I would really love to see/hear you delve more into porn recovery specifically. The book and blog talk a lot about the damage it does and why it should be avoided, the problems it causes, etc. But I don’t really see a lot on what to do when it’s no longer being used by a spouse, but the couple is left with the ramifications, and they don’t really know how to heal and get back to a real relationship. I believe there are many couples out there who have taken the first steps of stopping the addiction, apologizing, and wanting to be intimate again–but still dealing with ED, low libido, and possibly other issues that may have been present even before that (ie orgasm gap). How does a couple start over and begin to be intimate again after that damage has been done?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes for sure! We’re going to get into that more in March! Thank you.

  17. Bc

    Maybe this is a weird question and won’t help your cause but I am curious to know but here it goes….

    You mentioned that marital sexual satisfaction among couples is high as long as the couple is having sex once a week. It’s my understanding this comes from a recent survey. It’s also my understanding that 50% of the men in the survey were viewing porn. Would it be logical to conclude that men who are viewing porn and/or masturbating weekly are less interested in sex? That maybe once a week would not result in higher marital satisfaction?

    It would be interesting to see what marital satisfaction is in terms of frequency where this isn’t happening.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It’s actually other studies that have found this, along with ours. It’s not that marital satisfaction doesn’t improve with more sex; just that once a week is the magic number where marriages are no longer really harmed.

  18. Healing

    I know this thread is a month old and I’m not sure if Sheila sees new comments left… but I am so excited that you read my comment during this podcast.

    I’m the woman who wrote in about my husband convincing me to not nurse our son in hopes to get my libido back sooner. (Now, I’m not male bashing or throwing my husband under the bus. I just wanted to state some of the other things he did in case others can relate and be helped).

    So what were some actions?
    Sense of male entitlement. Coercion by throwing Bible verses at me. Know the 72-hour “rule”? My husband apparently wanted to “one up” it and expected something every 48 hours. Oh and if I didn’t want to have sex, well I was expected to provide a sexual favor instead. If 48-hours turned to 72-hours and nothing happened, I would hear huffing and puffing from his side of the bed which would then result in a lecture and a giant fight. Oh, here’s a “good one”: then there was a hierarchy of sexual actions and these were treated like currency: top was sex, then BJs then hand jobs. So like, if I didn’t want sex, it would take more BJs and hand jobs to equal what the act of sex would. (I wish I was making this up. He is now MORTIFIED that he actually said it.) When I’d get my period, he would get mad that we “missed our window (for sex).” (Because apparently, periods never end???) He refused to masterbate because that is considered a sin, so having his wife do it for him, despite her feeling used… apparently wasn’t sinful??? I’m sure I am forgetting some other instances. Nonetheless, can you understand why my libido disappeared? Obligation, check. Entitlement, check. Coercion, check. One sided sex, check.

    Alas, after reading The Great Sex Rescue and expressing all my hurt to my husband, what did he have to do to CHANGE?!?!

    He admitted how much of a monster he was. He had admitted to his selfishness. He expressed a desire to change. He understood that male entitlement is wrong. He understood that his PHYSICAL release wasn’t the point of sex. We actually did somewhat of a sexual “fast” and had no mention of doing the deed for a period of time. During our healing, until I’m ready, I am the only one that can initiate sex.

    If you could see how much he has grown in the 5 or so months since I’ve read the book. (He hasn’t actually read it himself but I would share aspects of it with him.) I think a key part of his change was realizing himself of how HE acted. It was one thing for me to say something to him about how he was acting (because like clockwork, we would typically have a big sex fight every few months because issues were never resolved) but it wasn’t until he HIMSELF realized how he was acting was wrong that he changed.

    He looks back on the man he was and is so ashamed. He grieves for the years we “lost” due to his selfishness. He even stated that looking at our photos on the wall makes him sad. He says that despite our smiles, he knows that I was hurting inside and he hurts knowing he caused the pain.

    I’m sorry this was so long. Hope someone benefits from this.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wow, this is amazing. Thank you for this update so much. It’s so helpful. And tell your husband he’s such an encouragement to me, too. This is what I believe–I think men CAN change, when they realize the truth and the Holy Spirit gets a hold of them. I think it’s more than possible. That’s amazing!

      • Healing

        Sheila, seriously… your book was LIFE CHANGING! As ashamed as my husband is of his past behavior, he wants to share his story. Maybe it would inspire other men to change too. Our previous church (before we moved) had a weekly marriage night. They’d frequently have couples talk about issues they’ve overcome. This would have been a great venue to tell our story. The “sex talk” night was only done once a year and was always an awkward, uncomfortable night as is… I’m sure my fear of public speaking would have made our awkward testimony easier. Only thing is, I *think* they support the “Love & Respect” book. (We still receive email recaps and they had an online lesson for Love & Respect.) Boo. Not sure if they would support your new book(s) but who knows! We love them!

        (Raising my hand for MY personal experience)
        I admit, I was a woman who said that I was repulsed by sex. I said that if I NEVER HAD SEX AGAIN I WOULD BE PERFECTLY HAPPY. I went to several doctors convinced I had to have some medical problem/disease causing my no libido. (I literally had my Dr test me for thyroid issues, hormone levels and even LYME disease for crying out loud because I wanted to find a concrete reason to explain my low sex drive.) I went to bed anxious nearly every night because I felt a sense of “wifely” obligation. This constant stress resulted in my digestive issues. I would have never thought that the actions of my husband were mentally and physically messing me up.

        So spouses who say they don’t desire sex anymore, there can be a happy ending to your story (no pun intended!) I believe you said it before, people don’t typically just stop wanting sex. There is usually a reason. Figuring out what that reason is will help start the healing process!!

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That’s amazing! And yes, it’s so, so true that so many women are repulsed by sex because of the obligation sex message. I’m glad my book helped you!

  19. Healing

    Listening to this podcast again months later, something that stood out to me was about the man writing in about prioritizing his wife’s needs at certain times: honeymoon, period, postpartum, menopause, etc… and how upset he was that it’s “not fair.”

    Makes me think of Philippians 2:3-4 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

    Yes, we all ARE supposed to prioritize other’s needs above our own… but men seem to feel that their WIFE needs to prioritize his “needs” while never having to prioritize his wife’s needs. They’ll claim the wife is “selfish” for not giving them release during postpartum, yet not see that (demanding, expecting, coercing) their postpartum wife to do sexual favors when she is unwell IS SELFISH. It completely boggles my mind how one-sided it is.

    Ironically, these selfish, demanding, coercive husbands are shooting themselves in the foot. If you show love and compassion to your wife when she is unwell, she will be more willing to be intimate with you when she is past the circumstance. When. You make her preform sexual favors when she isn’t well, you will most likely make her hate sex and her libido will die. So the lesson here is: utilize the Fruit of the Spirit of self control, love you wife as God commands.


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