Can We Honor Our Bodies’ Rhythms? And Why that May Mean Saying No to Sex Sometimes

by | Aug 15, 2022 | Libido, Sexual Intimacy | 108 comments

Honor Bodies' Rhythms with Sex

God created life with natural rhythms.

But I feel like much of the effort of modern life is to obliterate those rhythms.

Two things got me thinking about this lately, and I’d like to tell you about them and then explore this further.

Exhibit A: I had COVID.

Thankfully, I did not have a serious case, and I was over the worst of it within about four days. When I started to feel better I got up and tried to do what I wanted to do, and about a week later I crashed again. I felt worse last Wednesday-Saturday than I had the previous Sunday-Tuesday.

I was just so dang tired. I’d record one podcast and then I’d have to be in bed. I didn’t even want to sleep, but my body was simply exhausted.

And I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to get back to normal unless I honoured what my body needed. So I started just going to bed when I felt like i needed it, and I’m feeling a bit better today. But this was something I couldn’t just push through.

Exhibit B: Gary Thomas was once again setting the expectation that women will give sexual favors postpartum or on their periods.

I posted about this on Facebook, but in a larger post about obligation sex (Gary was arguing that some were too extreme, alluding to me, and was wanting to find the middle ground), a commenter said:

Obligated should go both ways. I think it’s fair to say a woman should be orgasming 85% of the time compared to her husband’s 100% and most likely she will feel like giving during her periods or postpartum times or just not in the mood times. 

And Gary agreed with her! (I’ve got more here on that). 

Here’s how I explained the issue: 

Can we please stop normalizing the expectation that women will give sexual favors when postpartum or on their periods?

In a bigger conversation around obligation sex on his page, Gary Thomas agrees with this commenter, who is arguing that:

Because the husband makes sex ALMOST as good for her as it is for him when it is being done for mutual enjoyment, then she should be happy to give him sexual favors when she’s uncomfortable.

Now, some women really enjoy giving sexual favours at this time–and if that’s you, all the power to you. Have fun! But this is not the norm, nor should it be expected to be.

God designed our bodies with rhythms, and it is not too much to ask men to honour those rhythms, especially when she just pushed out his child (or had major surgery to deliver his child).

Can we please make the conversation around her period and postpartum experience to be how he can make life easier for her when she is in pain, experiencing postpartum depression, not able to walk, cramping, nauseous, exhausted, or experiencing not enough milk supply or oversupply, rather than turning the conversation to making sure that he experiences enough ejaculations?

Saying, “as long as you give her enough orgasms, you can collect on yours” is not an improvement.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Facebook

We seem to have forgotten that God did not make our bodies so that we would have the same energy levels, the same desires, the same experiences all the time. 

Instead, He created us to have rhythms. And that means that sometimes we won’t be able to experience what we do at other times. 

A wonderful Facebook commenter said this, and it got me thinking even more:

My response, as a midwife who deals in all those things, would be that while [desires] are natural, it is also natural for our bodies to go through cycles of rest and recovery. It’s the same reason all humans sleep, and why plants stop growing in winter.

God designed our bodies–designed all of nature–to require different things at different times.

We should always have marital intimacy, but intimacy does not always mean sex. The postpartum period is a time for the family to bond, for the husband to care for (nurture, protect, serve) the wife, and for the mother to recover from an arduous journey. Just because it is natural doesn’t mean it’s insignificant, or that no rest is necessary. It means that she’s in a different season for the time being, and men need to honor that not only as husbands who are instructed to love their wives sacrificially, but also as believers in the Creator’s divine order and design.

Facebook Commenter

Honouring rhythms of life means foregoing things when it’s appropriate or best.

Resting means we don’t get work done. Working really hard at times means that we may need more rest later. We need different things at different times.

But much of modern life is dedicated to making sure we’re able to do the SAME things all the time. Electricity meant that we stopped going to bed with the sun. The internet meant that we stopped going to bed when the good TV shows were over.

We’ve lost much of the rhythms of rest.

In modern life, women aren’t supposed to slow down on our periods. I’ve read stories that one of the reasons women don’t get help for heart attacks as quickly is because we’re so used to functioning with pain, and for many women period pain is worse than a heart attack, so we don’t realize how serious it is! When I think of the times I had horrible cramps and migraines and I had to get up on a stage and speak anyway–and I did it!–because that’s just what women do.

But our bodies were designed with rhythms when rest from sex, or even rest from strenuous activities, was best.

Our hormones even exist on a rhythm! The first part of the month women are high energy. After ovulation we’re more internally focused. Before our periods we get a burst of creative energy. Then we’re more contemplative. Imagine if we could organize our lives around those natural rhythms, doing the things that work best with our bodies!

Joanna, our co-author for The Great Sex Rescue, said something quite profound to me a few years ago. The concept of feasting in the Bible as a spiritual discipline–which it was!–only makes sense if you’re not feasting all the time.

Getting together as a community to have an amazing meal (or meals) and eat the bounty and celebrate only makes sense if you’re not gorging yourself on three desserts everyday normally. We’ve lost the spiritual discipline of feasting as a celebration largely because many of us live our lives feasting!

Spiritual disciplines means that there will be times of feasting and fasting; of resting and of hard work.

That is how God made us. That is how He set up Israel to function, with feasting times and fasting times.

He allowed women to have breaks when postpartum or on their periods. He saved a day for rest, when there would be absolutely no work, not even for the servants. Think about that! Rest and work; feast and fast.

Why is it, then, that it seems assumed that men must never, ever be asked to forego sex?

Not even a woman’s postpartum healing should prevent a man from getting ejaculation.

(And to put a further wrench in it, Gary Thomas implies in his book Married Sex that women get physically aroused giving hand jobs postpartum, as we detail in this podcast on postpartum sex advice in the evangelical world).

Perhaps part of the reason that men can’t let go of the obligation sex message, and that so many evangelical teachers explain that women should want to concentrate on their husband’s sexual release even when these women are in pain, nauseous, cramping, can’t walk, or exhausted, is that the idea of having to forego sex for even a small amount of time seems impossible to them.

But if that is so, then they have created sex as an idol. And they have forgotten that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. And that it actually does us good to honour the rhythms that God has set up for us!

In the history of the Christian church, it was actually assumed that people would abstain from sex at various points in the church calendar. Protestants got rid of that (though not all branches of Protestantism), but throughout history, the norm was that men knew that sex would be off the table quite frequently. It was not assumed that life would be constant sex.

Yet Kevin Leman tells women that unless you’re willing to give sex every 48-72 hours for the rest of your life (even during your period, apparently, according to his anecdotes), then you shouldn’t marry.

"A groundbreaking look into what true, sacred biblical sexuality is intended to be. A must-read." - Rachael Denhollander

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Great Sex Rescue

Every Sunday night we have family dinner at my house.

I cook a super big dinner, and I always have chocolate for dessert. My 2 1/2 year old grandson doesn’t get a lot of sweets (though he eats tons of fruit!), and so having chocolate cake at Mimi and Papa’s house every Sunday night is a super big deal.

We all sit around the table, with the baby in the high chair, and we all just talk. Four generations of my family. And it’s lovely.

But we don’t do it every night because it would be too much. This makes it special.

Honouring rhythms makes celebrations more special.

We need to honour our bodies’ needs for rest; for the right kind of food; for bursts of hard work; for feasting; for fasting. We need to honour the way that God made us.

And that means that it should not be expected that men should get sexual release all the time, no matter what is going on, or else they are being deprived. We need to stop centering the marriage on his desire for ejaculation, and instead see how we can foster intimacy to meet with the rhythms of life. And that may mean that sometimes we’re feasting, and sometimes we’re fasting.

And that should be okay–because that’s how God made us.

Honor Bodies' Rhythms with Sex

What do you think? Have you forgotten rhythms in your life, or do you practice them? What does it look like? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

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

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108 Comments

  1. Nessie

    “We should always have marital intimacy, but intimacy does not always mean sex.”
    -This is beautiful, and makes marriage seem like a beautiful thing. If intimacy is there, then when a rest period is over the sex will probably be better. If there is never a break taken, there is never a build up of true desire (not simply “release”).

    “Yet Kevin Leman tells women that unless you’re willing to give sex every 48-72 hours for the rest of your life (even during your period, apparently, according to his anecdotes), then you shouldn’t marry.”
    -This ties nicely to 12 August’s post. If Lehman’s requirement for getting married is “putting out” at least every 48-72 hours, then women are following his advice, are they not? It’s a shame these lonely men will never have sex instead of having it just 1/week+ (per your previous research of happiest marriages’ frequency) but I guess they can thank Lehman for looking out for them, right?

    Rhythms- just like women have been taught to ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit in favor of our husbands’ preferences, we have trained ourselves to ignore our bodies’ natural pulls on us. Raising a child, I had to work against others’ pushes to finish his plate, take a nap right now, etc. I tried to teach him to listen to his own body. Hopefully if a situation feels unsafe, he’ll follow his gut on that!

    When I do what my body tells me, such as sleep, I function much better. I feel more rested. I have more energy for things like sex (includes mental energy to focus on relaxing). I’m a better mom, better friend, better wife. Listening to our bodies is good stewardship of what God has given us.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Years ago, I remember skimming through Sheet Music at a bookstore. I was disgusted with it. I don’t remember the part where he said this: “unless you’re willing to give sex every 48-72 hours for the rest of your life (even during your period, apparently, according to his anecdotes), then you shouldn’t marry.” Yet, this does not surprise me at all. I just remember him saying that a wife should give her husband sexual favors when she’s on her period or postpartum.

      Books like this make me want to stay single forever or marry nonreligious men.

      Reply
  2. Elsie

    Such a great post, Sheila! In addition to your excellent points, I also think part of the issue with postpartum sex is that we don’t talk enough about how hard pregnancy and childbirth is on a woman’s body. Pregnancy involves a ton of labor to grow the baby but people just view it as a passive process when a woman’s body is actually working extremely hard – for 9 months! And pregnancy and childbirth complications as well as postpartum recovery is not talked about widely. One of my friends had a serious tear after birth and she had no idea that something like that could happen to her and how much it would affect her body. Our society should become more educated as to what women go through to bring a child into the world and womens sacrifices honored and appreciated.

    Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      Exactly. Pregnancy is an automatic process (once the baby implants), but is quite difficult, and is both physically and emotionally exhausting.

      If I may rant, the same people who crow about how women are past their “sell by date” at age 25 are the ones who act like pregnancy is such a nothingburger that women ought to be giving blow jobs in between contractions. Let’s think about why women are more fertile at 25 than at 45 – is it possibly because pregnancy is so hard on the body that nature just doesn’t let it happen when you’re too old to handle it?

      Reply
    • Anon

      Elsie you are very much onto something. My husband never viewed pregnancy and postpartum as any kind of big deal. Not because he’s a bad guy, but because nobody told either of us that my body was working hard and that I should have space to rest and recover.

      Reply
      • CM

        That makes sense.
        We never had sex before our wedding night, then I fell pregnant within a month.
        So I spent the first year wondering what was wrong with me … why was my libido so slow, what did my husband do wrong ? Feeling guilty that masturbation as a teen felt better than the Holy Graal, married sex …

        Then postpartum and complete abstinence for 6 months.
        Then … miracle ! Libido was back and sex felt great.

        Later I facepalmed and thought how silly not to have simply acknowledged my pregnancy was playing with my hormones!

        Reply
  3. CMT

    This is so important. I’ve been working on being kinder to myself and taking better care of myself, and recognizing my own rhythms has been a big part of that. I think there are a lot of attitudes in our culture (in and outside the church) that make women particularly feel like their bodies’ needs are problems to fix. Whether it’s the pressure to push through period pain, or to perform sexually when you really need something else, or just to get up and put on makeup so you don’t look as tired as you actually are, we are focused on outside expectations, not our own experience. It’s so unhealthy and also so ingrained that a lot of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

    Reply
  4. Mara R

    I’m going to read this more thoroughly when I get the chance.

    But I have always felt that our modern economy hated natural rhythms, including the seasons that get in the way of 9-5, 5-6 days a week, 365 days a year. Snow storms that snow us in are looked upon as a nuisance, getting in the way of our modern ideas of productivity. The need for rest is looked upon in a similar fashion.

    And the rhythms of a woman’s body are not respected at all. Which is more than a shame. It is a crime against womanhood.

    And the church is just as guilty and CEOs and those driving the workforce into the ground.

    Reply
  5. Laura

    “Perhaps part of the reason that men can’t let go of the obligation sex message… is that the idea of having to forego sex for even a small amount of time seems impossible to them.

    But if that is so, then they have created sex as an idol.”

    This here was definitely the case in my former marriage. Even though my ex and I never had children and during my 20s I did not have painful periods, I experienced a lot of fatigue due to thyroid issues and just working a lot. My ex demanded sex from me almost ALL of the time. He acted like he was going to die if he went more than a few days without it. To appease him, I would give him sexual favors if I could not do intercourse due to being on my period or if I was pressed for time and had to get to work. No, Gary Thomas, there is nothing sexually arousing about giving my husband hand jobs! That did nothing for me at all, except to get him to leave me alone because I gave him his fix.

    What I failed to know back then is that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Both my ex and I were Christians, but we did not really spend time reading our Bible. Had I known that, I would have told him about self-control.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m sorry for the objectification you endured! And I’m sorry that there weren’t enough voices in the evangelical world saying that this was wrong!

      Reply
  6. Jane Eyre

    Beautiful post, Sheila. I’m glad you’re recovering.

    I’ve said it before and will keep saying it: not everyone gets married at age 19, and many people take years or decades of adult life to find their partner. They are called to chastity during that time. If you can go without sex for 15 adult years while waiting to find your partner, you can go without sex for six weeks while your wife recovers from delivering your child.

    To the point of the post: the Screwtape Letters talks about this. God made seasons – literal seasons and different times of life – so that we would not get bored but not have constant excitement, either. Satan’s purpose, then, is to get us out of sync with these natural seasons, craving more and more, or craving something all the time that’s supposed to be a “some of the time” treat.

    Reply
    • Laura

      I’ve been celibate for over 20 years now, so this is proof that people do not die from lack of sex. During my times of sexual frustration, I remind myself that I’ve been without it this long, so what’s another year or more while I’m waiting for the right man?

      I just get busy with life and in my mid-40s, my sex drive comes and goes. But during my 30s, that was another story. I was anxious to get it on, but I refused to settle just so I could have sex.

      Reply
  7. Kay

    I keep thinking about the “methadone fix” model of men’s orgasm. Methadone, properly used, is for pain relief and to treat addiction. But what if men are being taught to use orgasm for their own emotional pain regulation, aka numbing? It makes sense then that they will become emotionally disregulated without it on a regular basis. In other words, it is emotional immaturity and a lack of healthy emotional regulation skills to need near constant sexual release.

    Which… tracks. Based on how poorly the church teaches men any sort of healthy emotional regulation skills. Once again, it would prefer to place that burden on women to regulate the men. It is a church-sanctioned unhealthy coping mechanism to avoid feeling painful emotions and do the work.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely, Kay. I think this is exactly what’s going on. So many men have very little emotional maturity, and they’ve been trained to channel all their needs for closeness and intimacy into sex. Not healthy at all.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        And again–this is not intrinsic to being male at all! Men can be just as emotionally mature as women. It’s just that we’ve socialized men not to understand or express emotion, and it leads to all kinds of problems. Thankfully, I think the next generation is going to do much better at this.

        Reply
    • Jan

      Methadone is also used as a substitute for the ‘real thing’ when applied to heroin addiction. So I wonder just what was going through his head when he wrote that?

      Reply
  8. Jo R

    How many men continually insist that they need their downtime during evenings and weekends, because their jobs are so stressful or tiring?

    Wives are supposed to honor, work around, and otherwise shut up about respecting those male seasons and needs, but women’s experiences of menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, and menopause are dismissed out of hand simply because they are normal, natural, and predictable. Oh, and of course because they’re merely female.

    [editor’s note: slightly edited for language! Love you, Jo R!]

    Reply
  9. A

    I suppose the male counterpart of sexual favours during postpartum could be to provide sexual favours during recovery from kidney stones or prostate surgery. I wonder why that’s never addressed? I’m curious how that conversation would go.

    Reply
    • Jo R

      It wouldn’t. It would be dismissed out of hand as uncaring and unchristlike.

      Internet searches reveal that vasectomy recovery can take anywhere from a long weekend to two weeks. He’s usually supposed to avoid orgasm. Well, does that mean he can’t stimulate his wife manually or orally during that time? Of course not. But he would most likely be excused from giving to his wife as it would be unequal for her to enjoy something he’s debarred from. It would also be considered un-Christian for a wife to insist on one-sided sex while her husband is thus limited, incapacitated, and even medically excused.

      Goose gander much?

      Reply
      • Tim

        Obvious TMI warning here, but since you brought up vasectomy recovery…

        I had one last year and gave my wife orgasms four or five times in the two weeks I was out of action afterwards. You could call it a ‘sexual favour’ I suppose, though I was as into it as she was. But if she’d been desperate, I don’t think it would have been kind, loving or reasonable for me to refuse her (apart from the first 2 or 3 days when I was genuinely in pain). Am I wrong to think that? I don’t know, maybe I’d feel differently about it if I had half a vasectomy every month…

        I assume recovery from surgery is quite an individual thing though (as are period pains, I understand). Not sure you can make a rule out of any of this (which I realise is kind of Sheila’s point).

        Reply
        • Jo R

          Well, since you volunteered to share 😜 …

          I don’t think your attitude would be the common one, based on … stuff I read in “Christian” books and the comments of not a few men on this and other websites. And that’s rather the point.

          May I just say, bravo!

          Reply
          • Tim

            Thanks, I guess…

            But yet if you reverse the genders on what I said, you end up with more or less what Sheila is arguing against. (Though acknowledging that I don’t know exactly what Gary T said beyond Sheila’s brief summary of it, and also that vasectomy is a pretty good, but not perfect analogy for period pain, etc). So genuine question: is my attitude wrong?

            What I’m wondering is if the problem isn’t so much the advice itself, but the fact it’s implicitly assuming an otherwise loving, healthy and mutually sexually satisfying relationship where these kind of things make sense. And perhaps failure to acknowledge that not all relationships are like that and women in abusive/otherwise really unhealthy relationships don’t need another thing on their to do list.

            It’s also just possible (speculating wildly, and being as charitable as I can) that Gary T’s wife has minimally painful periods and had a non-traumatic childbirth experience with relatively easy recovery and us generalising without realising how different some women’s experience is.

          • Jo R

            Well, reversing the genders is what emphasizes that the “advice” given to women is so utterly unsympathetic at best and unchristlike at worst.

            What normal wife would expect an ill or injured husband to ignore his illness or injury? Sure, there are a couple, but most women take up even more slack when their husbands aren’t feeling great.

            Women would just like reciprocity, starting with an acknowledgement that even though menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, and menopause are “natural,” that fact does not mean they are EASY.

          • Tim

            Yes, that’s all fair. Again, I think all of these experiences we’re referring to are very different for different people and what’s reasonable to offer/expect of each other will vary a lot from couple to couple and situation to situation. I agree a lot of the advice on this topic missed that nuance.

            Also, just realised I accidentally included my surname on those first two comments. Oops! Any chance an admin can remove that (or otherwise remove the comments entirely)? Would rather that isn’t the first thing that comes up when people google me!

          • Jo R

            Unfortunately, the most popular “Christian” marriage and sex books don’t really give women the choice. Women are more or less commanded to never say no to their husbands, no matter what the circumstances may be.

            That is the problem. Well, just one of many, but it’s a big one. Huge. And soul crushing.

            I’m glad you’re different and that your wife escaped this nonsense.

          • Tim

            Yes, I agree thats a huge problem that needs changing. I guess what I’m trying to clarify is, is what Gary Thomas said:
            (a) Bad advice in all situations full stop.
            (b) Fine in principle but problematic in the context of all that other nonsense.
            (c) Fine in principle but the specific way he expressed it is unhelpful (or worse)

            All of those need a response, but not the same response. And if it’s option (b) (which I think is what you’re saying – let me know if I’ve misunderstood) and we respond without making it clear that’s how we see it, does that make it harder for us to be taken seriously on those wider issues that I think we pretty much all agree are the fundamental problem?

          • Jo R

            “that I think we pretty much all agree are the fundamental problem”

            Depends on who “we” is.

            A remarkably small number of men do all the talking on these topics, and other men fall in line, because why wouldn’t they? What’s the message men hear? “Wives, you need to have sex whenever your husband wants it, because (1) he has a need you don’t have, (2) he’ll use porn or have an affair if you don’t, and (3) mere women can’t understand the pressures on men today.”

            So men have no real cause to decry the basic message.

            When women decry the message as dehumanizing and even unchristlike? Well, women are told that they just have to submit even more than they already do, pray more, wait on God, let God meet their needs. Oh, and don’t forget that women can’t teach men anything, because it’s unbiblical.

            So how does this … stuff … ever change?

          • Tim

            Yes, that was poorly expressed sorry. By ‘we’ I meant ‘the creators and regular readers of this website’.

            I think in large part the answer to your last question is it will change when men stand up against it. (To be clear, I’m not saying that’s how it should be, but realistically I think that’s the case).

            Which is kind of what I’m getting at. You’ll have picked up, I hope, that I’m pretty on board with Sheila et al’s mission. But if I was sceptical I can easily see how the way this issue has been discussed here (more referring to the comments than the original post) would turn me away, rather than helping make me an ally.

            At the same time, I know lots of women have been badly hurt by this stuff and need a space to vent and find support. Maybe the two are just mutually exclusive, I’m not sure.

          • Jo R

            On another website where women were pointing out to the male blogger that men don’t listen to women, one woman said that it doesn’t matter how women say something, tone of voice, vocabulary, sandwiching the negative between two positives, nothing. NONE of that winds up mattering, because men. Do. Not. Listen. To. Women. Period.

            One women then gave a great example about tone:

            “It’s not fair or feasible to figuratively slap someone in the face and then refuse to talk about it unless the slapped can be calm and polite to the satisfaction of the slapper.”

            Women have been getting slapped, physically and especially metaphorically, forever, including by ***the church***. Now that we understand that and have words to describe what we’ve been going through, yeah, we’re gonna vent.

            But citing a woman’s tone, vocabulary, or other delivery issues to ignore the CONTENT seems pretty inexcusable.

          • Tim

            Yeah, I think that’s a pretty fair generalisation, sadly. I think it’s the case with so many social problems that it’s a lot easier to reach the people who are hurt by them than the people who need to change their behaviour to fix the problem. I wish there was an easy solution but I think there are just various versions of the ‘least worst’ option.

    • Stefanie

      That’s never addressed because women don’t like/want/need sex, remember? It’s a male need.

      Can someone please publish a satirical book that switches the genders of these Evangelical books? I think it would be funny.

      Here, I’ll start:

      Men, do you see this Shulamite woman? Do you see how enthusiastic, adventurous and uninhibited she is? That’s because her husband made her life a sexual paradise. If you want to be a godly, biblical man, you will follow the example of the lover in this book and make your wife’s life a sexual paradise.

      Reply
      • A

        Do it! Write the book!

        Reply
      • exwifeofasexaddict

        the Facebook page, Man Who Has It All would give you tons of fodder for such a book.

        Reply
        • Stefanie

          Just looked him up. He’s funny!

          Reply
          • Stefanie

            Obligated should go both ways. I think it’s fair to say a man should be orgasming 85% of the time compared to his wife’s 100% and most likely he will feel like giving during his post vasectomy times or just not in the mood times.

            😉

  10. Angharad

    Life is so much richer when you follow natural rhythms and seasons anyway, so why would anyone want to override them and have everything the same 24/7. If you eat strawberries all year round, you never get the excitement of waiting for the first ones to ripen (and let’s face it, strawberries that are grown out of season, picked underripe, refrigerated and then flown to the other side of the world are totally tasteless compared to the flavour of an in-season, locally-grown, picked-at-the-perfect-stage strawberry) It’s the same with just about anything else.

    Maybe it’s because I’m a gardener, and used to following the rhythms of the seasons. But I’ve noticed that those of us who do, and who are contact not to have everything all of the time, seem to be much more content than those who want everything NOW and constantly.

    I think there’s a lesson for that in relationships too. Waiting can make something more special when it finally happens.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love this about gardening too! right now I eat an entire fresh cucumber everyday for lunch because my harvest is amazing! I love eating things in season, and planning my menu around what’s fresh. It is a great way to honor the seasons!

      Reply
  11. A2bbethany

    You know you are right when they start reluctantly conceding ground to your arguments. And it the time to hold firm and keep saying it. Because it shows they’re starting to consider how their own message is no longer coming off well.
    As far as seasons….I’m currently in my own very interestingly unique, seasons.
    It’s a completely natural next phase of life growing. With some growing pains….I believe caused by my husband’s struggling faith walk. I believe that God is trying to woo him into praying daily for help and he’s not. And I’m learning to be more blunt about his needs to pray rather than being quiet.

    Reply
  12. EOF

    I used to resent my church for not allowing times of rest. They would always plan so many things, and anytime there was a day off (including days like Columbus Day) that most had off the church would schedule a 10am park day and everyone was expected to be there or their relationship with God was under question.

    I personally had a stressful job during the week and being a newlywed under L&R type of teachings (though L&R was not published yet) I was at my wit’s end. I wanted nothing more than a day to rest. But I couldn’t even get that, ever, from church. Those were hard, hard days.

    I’m so grateful things have changed.

    Reply
    • Laura

      The problem with “organized religion” is that churches want everyone to get involved. Their belief is that if you’re not serving in some capacity every week and attending one or two Bible studies a week in addition to Sunday and midweek services, you are not right with God.

      I am working two part-time jobs and attending graduate school (that’s a job in itself) so I am taking a break from serving and doing all these church activities. Now that COVID is waning and my mother’s health does not seem to be in question, I have decided to return to Celebrate Recovery once a week and maybe one church service a week. I just don’t want to overdo it and all these church activities can be very draining. Maybe, in another season like when I retire in 20-30 years, then I will feel freer to serve more in church.

      Reply
      • EOF

        I also wonder if all the activity is a way to make sure the leadership is keeping the members out of trouble. It’s as if they can see us and what we’re doing, then they don’t have to worry that we’re off falling into sin.

        Reply
  13. Anonymous

    I say go for it during periods! My husband sure wasn’t complaining when he worked out in 100 degree heat 12 hours a day to bring home a paycheck.
    But most of all, meeting each others need even if we don’t feel like it strengthens our marriage. My husband adores me. Many comment on how enthralled he is with me when out in public and private. I do meet his needs and Im rewarded with a man most wished they had.
    I don’t see anything wrong with providing sex during periods or after having a baby in my marriage. But I don’t have a husband who watches porn, or cheats, or abuse. I have to wonder what came first? My Godly wifely attitude towards him? Or him? Because Im always giving, its hard to say.

    Reply
    • CMT

      Anon… you’ve got a good man, and that’s great. It sounds like you feel very respected and cared for in your relationship, so it’s safe for you to be giving. I don’t think the point of the discussion here was to tell women in your situation not to have sex on their periods if they want to do that. As you said, go for it.

      But I wonder, what about women who aren’t in as good of a position? Should we be telling them that if their husbands don’t complain about working hard for a paycheck, they shouldn’t object to putting out when they feel physically unwell? As a woman who contributes a lot of labor, both paid and unpaid, to the care of my family and others, I have to question that comparison.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        I still feel lust for my husband when unwell so I can’t answer this completely and my husband doesn’t ask for it when im unwell or sick.

        I do think for the protection of marriage both should try to keep marriage bonds strong so distance then division doesn’t happen.

        Im not saying because one side doesn’t object either should the other. Im saying i recognize and appreciate the sacrifices in my spouse and want to meet his needs also.

        Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      The problem with having sex after having a baby is that it can cause infections. I’m not sure why you should make yourself sick over sex, which is an optional part of life (see, celibate single people).

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        It causes infections if you’re still bleeding. Sex isn’t just intercourse for there are other acts.

        Celibacy is a choice. I know when i marry I would like sex to be a part of it because I wouldn’t stay in a relationship that caused forced celibacy myself.

        Reply
    • EOF

      If that’s what you want to do, nobody is stopping you. But like you pointed out, you aren’t married to a tyrant and that makes all the difference. It’s YOUR choice. Plenty of churches and authors are telling women THEY don’t have a choice. How do you think you’d feel if your husband was abusing you and the church was on his side?

      You can rest assured that your “Godly wifely attitude towards him” didn’t cause your husband to be a good man. When I got married, I was primed and eager to be the sweet, submissive Christian wife my church told me I had to be. And you know what? That didn’t stop my husband from pulling a complete 360 after we got married by verbally, emotionally, spiritually, sexually, and financially abusing me.

      Men CHOOSE to be good or bad. Period, full stop. It has NOTHING to do with how kind or submissive or giving their wives are. You are insulting many abused women by insinuating that your husband is a good man because you’re so giving.

      Reply
  14. Chloe Edmonds

    I admire your patience to go into the details of explaining your viewpoint, I would find it impossible to respond to this blatant misogyny.
    The idea that a woman’s purpose on the earth married or not is to please a man is sacrilegious to the actual sacredness of women and men being created as an extension of gods love.

    This language from the initial quote is just objectifying nonsense. Treating and talking about women as if they are purely existing for sex. It’s horrible. The idea that it is manly to demand sex from a post partum mum is for lack of better wording bullshit. It is indecent. In my opinion it’s actually a red flag for abuse considering the way it undermines female autonomy and ignores such a significantly transformative + shifting part of a woman’s life.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I would agree wholeheartedly, Chloe, but this is all still being taught in our best-sellers. I wish it weren’t, but I feel like I have to make logical arguments because so many people have grown up with this.

      And so many women believe their husbands’ sexual needs matter above everything, because this is what they’ve been taught. So I just want to show–no, that’s really not it at all.

      Reply
  15. Nathan

    > > Can someone please publish a satirical book that
    > > switches the genders of these Evangelical books?

    You mean like…

    Women have a sexual need that men just don’t understand.

    No matter how hard and stressful the husband’s day at work was, if their wife wants sex, he has to satisfy her.

    God made women to lust after men, but if the woman lusts too much, it’s the man’s fault.

    Men serve women, and women serve God. You might not like it, but that’s just how God made the world.

    Husbands, always and only attend to your wife’s needs while ignoring your own, since they don’t count anyway.

    If a woman stares at a man with sexual desire, it’s better for him to die than to have a woman lust after him.

    And so on…

    Reply
  16. Karena

    Wow, wow, WOW…there is just SO much in this post that is rich and steeped in God’s truth! I absolutely love the tie-in with rhythms of nature, as well as those of society and sacred ritual (feast and famine, sowing and harvest, etc.).

    As long as I have been a follower of Jesus (since I was nine) and have been studying the Bible, I continue to gain new insights and am delighted at the unfolding of God‘s great story of love and redemption throughout the Old and New Testament. When we look at Scripture as a whole and seek, through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, to understand the messages God is giving to us, we see this more and more clearly.

    For many, many years I was an unsuspecting adherent to many of the toxic teachings that are prevalent in today’s evangelical circles (and found in many of the most popular books that are sadly still circulating). I am now seeing more clearly every day that those messages are not rooted in God’s truth, but are based tenuously on a handful of cherry-picked and misunderstood passages that serve the selfish desires and pre-existing paradigms of their proponents. It has always been the case that if we look hard enough for evidence to support our own positions, we will find it.

    The trick is to humble ourselves before our Creator, who loves us beyond fathoming, and listen for His still, small voice of wisdom, revealed to us through his Word and in the person of Jesus Christ.

    Thank you, Sheila and Rebecca, for leaning into this process of listening to God, and for stepping courageously into your invaluable ministry of revealing truth! Your work is helping bring the Kingdom of God to earth! Oh, and helping women and men have better sex!!!

    Reply
  17. Anon

    I have been seriously ill twice in my marriage. Once with bronchitis and once with Covid. Both times, my husband demanded nothing of me sexually. He cared for me, picked up the slack around the house, and did everything he could to help me feel better.

    But when I was postpartum, suddenly my husband’s sex drive was first priority. He did not want to hear that I’d just pushed out his child (or for my first, had a C-section) and my body was maxed out. We had huge fights about it that ended with me apologizing to him just to end the conversation. When I was pregnant, he got angry when I was tired and couldn’t keep up with my usual pace. He didn’t believe that I was tired and just had to move slower and everything was hard.

    The more I think about this, the more baffled I am. I get treated better when I have a cold than I did when I was pregnant/postpartum. Why were these seasons in my life treated with such unique disrespect? I have a feeling I’m not alone here.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Anon,

      That is odd how your husband’s sex drive seemed to be first priority during your pregnancies and postpartum. When you had bronchitis and COVID, I’m guessing these happened more recently than your pregnancies? Could it be that your husband has matured?

      I was married to a man who demanded sex from me when I was sick or extremely tired. It did not matter that I was running a fever; he insisted he HAD to have sex and that it would help me feel better. Nope, I just felt used. Needless to say, after 2.5 years of hell, I filed for divorce and have been free for 20 years.

      Reply
      • Anon

        Laura, that is what’s strangest to me. I had bronchitis BEFORE children! And Covid while I was pregnant with our second. I have to wonder what about the pregnant/postpartum season made him so demanding sexually when he usually is not? Not just him, but other men from what I read and hear. Is it the attention paid to mom and baby leaving husbands feeling sidelined? I really just don’t know. As I said, it’s baffling.

        Reply
    • Nathan

      I’m so sorry that happened, and you’re right in that it probably happens very often.

      My only guess is that it comes from a belief that women were designed to get pregnant and bear children. Since God put you here only for that purpose, how can it POSSIBLY cause any problems or make you tired?

      Reply
    • Jo R

      “I get treated better when I have a cold than I did when I was pregnant/postpartum.”

      Because men get colds, covid, and other respiratory infections, while pregnancy and postpartum only to happen to women? I.e., no empathy?

      Reply
    • Wheels

      This is what happens when husbands are near, at, or below their minimum threshold of sexual frequency before pregnancy. If there is one thing that is known universally by men is that there is only one greater killer to a woman’s libido than wedding cake and that’s a baby. If he wasn’t feeling loved or getting his needs met he was drawing his line, planting his flag…yes,wrongly. This should have been communicated and dealt with pre-pregnancy. But most guys feel like they have tried communicating their needs to be shot down. 4 out of 5 men in the western world that are married would tell you they are on a starvation diet of sex.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Okay, I’m getting tired of this. I will repeat this one more time:

        Women who have orgasms their first time having sex have pretty much the same libido as their male partners. Women’s low libido is largely caused because men are bad lovers.

        Also, our study found that when:
        women frequently reach orgasm
        There’s high marital satisfaction
        they feel emotionally close during sex
        there’s no sexual dysfunction
        there’s no porn use in the marriage

        Then frequency takes care of itself!

        All the men complaining that she never wants sex need to take a huge step back and ask WHY. If sex is so great–and it is–then why shouldn’t she want it? Answer: Because it isn’t great for her. So rather than getting mad at her, why don’t you figure out what’s not great for her?

        We have a 47 point orgasm gap. Just think about that.

        And men who are constantly complaining about women’s low libido and saying they’ll just leave their wives–well, a lot of those women would actually prefer that if that is their attitude. Because that’s dehumanizing and a large part of the problem.

        Sex is not for physical release alone. Sex is for intimacy, which means both people need to matter. Seriously.

        Reply
        • wheels

          Right, I forgot. It’s always the man that is the problem and selfish. It’s always his issues. Glad that was cleared up. I missed those verses in my Bible. I wonder why Paul even wrote both halves of that famous hated verse if only one party can be at fault. Man, me and so many men are just plain stupid. And selfish. And bad lovers apparently also. Again thanks for clearing that up!

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Well, statistically, you can’t argue with a 47 point orgasm gap, or a 50% porn use.

            But this does not that everything is his fault. She could have internalized negative messages about sex that make her not enjoy it (hence why we wrote The Great Sex Rescue!) She could have trauma in her past that needs to be dealt with. The marriage could be difficult because of issues both of them have.

            But the point is you find the ROOT. Her lack of libido is caused by something. Getting mad at her and rejecting her for it is a sign that the lack of libido is likely caused by his entitlement and objectification of her. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            And why are you ignoring the 47 point orgasm gap? (And in some other studies it’s even larger–closer to 55 points). How can you complain about women not wanting sex when so many women get nothing out of it? And the biggest cause of lack of orgasm? Lack of foreplay. This is largely fixable.

          • Wheels

            Whose ignoring it? But to blame it automatically on the man is insane. Sex only comes somewhat easy for a minority of women. For most it takes lots of practice and even sometimes working through some pain. Yes it can feel amazing! But so does being in shape. Yet how many put in the work to do that? Truth is women will never reach parity or maybe even close to it when you go across the board. Some will out orgasm their husbands though many times due to being able to multi- where is the commotion there?

            Your line of argument doesn’t hold up. So many men have tried and tried and tried everything under the Sun and it just doesn’t happen. You’ve listened to one side of the story for far too long. Reality is just not as you paint it.

            Bottom line is you married to meet the others needs. Most men would be happy living in a fishing shack, yet we slave our lives away so our wives can have what they want. That’s one example. I don’t think you understand the average man’s sex drive. I’ve been reading here 12 years and I face palm just about everyday reading. Sorry, you’re only telling part of the story. And to have a man whose literally doing everything and being a wonderful husband come here and you shout at him “you’re just a bad lover”. Well your no better than a Pharisee who loads up burdens on mens backs that they can’t carry. Sure there are some bad, selfish lovers out there. But just as many on the woman’s side- where generally you think just showing up means your putting in effort.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Okay, Wheels, I’m going to be blunt with you: No matter what a woman does, she can’t orgasm unless he does foreplay.

            And most men don’t do enough foreplay.

            If men want great sex, they need to learn to be great lovers. Yes, women have a role to play, which is why I’ve created The Orgasm Course, and which is why we wrote The Great Sex Rescue. But overwhelmingly the big message to women is to empower them to speak up and tell guys what they need. Because women can’t do it on their own, and most women feel broken because men have attitudes like yours.

            Did you know that lesbians orgasm almost all the time? The problem is not women. It is women in heterosexual relationships. (I’m just sharing stats, that’s all).

            So you can blame women if you want to, but that’s not going to make women have a good time having sex with you.

          • Anon

            Sheila the more I see of your research, the more it makes sense to me that women would turn to lesbianism. NOT saying they should or I agree. I hold a biblical view of homosexuality and marriage. Just that I understand.

          • Randall

            “No matter what a woman does, she can’t orgasm unless he does foreplay”

            Are you speaking to a specific situation here or what? Because I could go home and have sex with my wife with no foreplay and we could both orgasm. Surely you’re not that naive to paint men with such a broad brush are you?

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            You’re right. I should have specified that she needs more stimulation that the average man will give her if he’s just pursuing his own orgasm. Most men, if they are not concerned with her orgasm, can reach orgasm in 5 minutes. But most women need much longer than that. So what I meant to say–and forgive me for saying it wrong–is that she cannot reach orgasm without him paying attention to her needs, even if that simply means lasting longer and holding off his own orgasm. But most women do say they need more foreplay (like up to 80% in our survey).

          • Jo R

            Let’s review…

            Women have been told for centuries that (1) women don’t like sex, (2) women don’t need sex, (3) women can never, ever say no to their husbands, and if they read the best-selling book, that (4) sex doesn’t take very long at all and makes him soooooo happy.

            So why would women think they need something different to orgasm, compared to men? If he’s doing something unpleasant or even downright painful, she’s NOT supposed to tell him, because that would be disrespectful and could even be construed as attempting to teach a man. In fact, she’s supposed to make him think she’s enjoying it as much as he is, even if it’s been nothing but painful the whole time, even if she gets partway to an orgasm but never actually gets there.

            Again, how is she supposed to advocate for herself in this situation? She can’t speak up, because all he has to do is play the “you’re being disrespectful” and “women can’t teach men” cards.

            What are women supposed to do when sex, which is portrayed as the most fantastic experience human beings can have, in fact absolutely stinks?

            WHAT, specifically, can women do?

          • Tim

            Wheels, you’re not doing yourself any favours here with your tone, attitude, language etc. As far as I can see, no one here has shouted at you, called you a bad lover, or suggested that women can’t be sexually dysfunctional.

            BUT, I’m going to assume that all of that comes from a place of pain and I can relate to that at least. From the brief snippets of (I assume) your story that you’ve shared, it might even be a little similar to mine.

            My wife and I are in the process of unraveling years of sex being a wall between us, largely thanks to Great Sex Rescue, and it’s stupendously wonderful. You should read it, if you haven’t already.

            And I’m reading between the lines here (obviously I don’t know your story), but it seems like you blame your wife for whatever’s gone wrong in your marriage. It’s entirely possible that she’s primarily responsible, but focusing on that is a surefire way not to fix the problem. Cut that out.

            I’m making a boat load of assumptions here obviously. Hopefully some of that is helpful, and feel free to ignore me if not.

            Also, if you want to argue with people online, try attacking the ball instead of the player next time.

          • Anon

            Also Wheels, your “slave our lives away” line shows a sad misunderstanding of biblical servanthood. If a husband has this attitude, it’s no wonder his wife doesn’t want sex.

          • Angharad

            “Sex only comes somewhat easy for a minority of women. For most it takes lots of practice and even sometimes working through some pain.”

            No. Just no. You should never ‘work through’ painful sex. Sex should not hurt. If it does, that is a sign that something is wrong and medical help should be sought. ‘Working through’ it is only going to make her associate sex with being in pain…and I can’t think of a bigger turn-off.

          • Jo R

            When men orgasm 95-plus percent of the time while women are at 48 percent (and 18 percent—that’s one in five—have NEVER orgasmed), well, what would you call it? That women are just super generous and others-oriented?

          • Jo R

            Which verse would that be? 1 Corinthians 7:3? Which says, “A husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and if that means that she can’t orgasm through PIV, well then, fellas, that’s her problem, so don’t feel bad about leaving her hanging every time” (JSV)?

        • EOF

          Exactly!

          And to make matters worse, wives are told not to tell their husbands if they don’t like something in the bedroom — because that will hurt his ego. We’re supposed to act like our husbands are mini-gods in bed when we aren’t getting OUR needs met. (The church is telling us to lie — excuse me, boost his ego – and that our experience doesn’t matter.) Because it isn’t enjoyable, of course the wives don’t want more.

          It’s a toxic cycle all around.

          Reply
      • Anon

        Wheels, is it possible that a baby SHOULD be a libido killer? At least temporarily? That maybe a woman who is bleeding, stitched up, breastfeeding, and not sleeping is not supposed to want sex?

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, exactly. God made it so that breastfeeding would lower a woman’s libido and work to delay ovulation to spread out babies so that babies had a higher chance to be well nourished and survive, and so that women’s bodies aren’t too taxed. This is literally the way we were made.

          And if she is exhausted, it’s likely a sign that he needs to step up to the plate more to care for HIS child, rather than worrying about what she’s not doing for him.

          Reply
  18. Nathan

    Two additions to my sarcastic marriage book…

    Husbands, any time your wife does something wrong, it’s YOUR FAULT for not being submissive enough.

    To all men: your virginity/purity is the only thing of value that you have. If you engage in pre or extra marital sex, even one time, you’re forever tainted and no good woman will ever want to be with you.

    Reply
  19. Nathan

    This is the last one, I promise…

    Attention all husbands: It’s perfectly okay for you to get a job outside the home, drive a car or even visit the doctor if you need to… as long as your wife gives you permission.

    Reply
  20. Jo R

    (Pssst, Sheila, please remove one more instance of Tim’s last name.)

    Reply
  21. Sadie

    How do you communicate with your husband about home you are/aren’t having your period? I am the one who’s interested on light flow/spotting days, but husband is very squeamish about anything period-related. It’s frustrating because I know it wouldn’t feel any different when it’s really just light spotting, but he still finds it gross. So any communication about my period feels like I’m having to tell him ” I’m too gross for sex” or “I’m not gross anymore” which doesn’t exactly make me feel sexy. It’s so weird to me too because I’ve had the times of no periods because of anemia & times of way too frequent/long periods because of ovarian cysts, so having regular periods makes me feel good, like it’s a sign that I’m healthy. So it’s weird to have this turned back into something that makes me feel gross.

    Reply
    • Jo R

      How does he feel about his semen? Does he object to cleaning himself up from it after sex? Does he think you enjoy HIS messy contribution? Does he think you enjoy waddling to the toilet while “it” is dripping down her legs? How would he feel if you were grossed out by his completely normal bodily fluid?

      Unless he uses a condom, you’re dealing with his semen every time. You’re asking him to deal with light spotting once in a while. Seems like a reasonable trade-off.

      Reply
      • Sadie

        Yeah well I’m aware of those points but trust me that comparison doesn’t get anywhere with him.

        I’m feeling super hurt right now because I actually talked to him about it after I made my earlier comment, and he seemed sorry & well anyway he got an erection and so I suggested we move to our bed & then when I undressed he lost the erection. He thought I was just gonna pleasure him and seeing me naked turned him off because I’m still too gross, even though my period ended yesterday. I feel so awful. And something similar happened last month too. I feel so awful. I just want to be with him but apparently I’m too gross.

        Reply
        • Tim

          That’s really tough Sadie. Must feel very lonely. I honestly think your husband is being quite immature, but I also know that menstruation is very taboo in lots of homes (especially if he didn’t have sisters and maybe also depending on his cultural background). So if that’s where he’s coming from I can empathise with that too. It’s not his fault if his parents taught him it was a horrible thing (for example), but it is his responsibility to question whether his attitudes are mature and (if he’s a Christian) Christlike.

          Does he understand how this is making you feel? I’m sure it’s not what he intended so might be a good place to start a conversation. And then hopefully you can figure out together why he feels so strongly about it and look for solutions. E.g. would he feel better if you both had a shower right before…

          Re your first question (how to communicate), one thing I learned the hard way is that things you can’t talk about won’t go away on their own, they just fester. So you have to keep trying until you can talk about it in a way you both feel ok with. But short term, maybe having a code/system would help while it’s a difficult thing to discuss directly. E.g. a calendar somewhere you can both see where you mark out the days.

          Hopefully some of that is helpful. I would have thought the vast majority of men would open up to a conversation that starts with “I’d really like to have sex more often but there’s a problem I need your help to solve”, so you have that on your side. Good luck!

          Reply
          • Sadie

            I think that partly it’s due to how he grew up. He was homeschooled & his sister is much older so I don’t think he really learned about periods when he was a teen. Literally he thought that a period was only one day long until I told him otherwise (shortly before our wedding 2 years ago). I think it’s a combination of him thinking it’s icky and thinking it’s morally wrong. Early in our marriage he was appalled that I wanted to have sex on a light flow day because he believes that Leviticus says that it wrong. I showed him Sheila’s post disputing that claim but I don’t think that changed his mind, just made him realize that I don’t agree with that. But he doesn’t understand that it’s not a simple on/off even though I’ve tried to explain it to him. Early in our marriage there were times that my period was over but then I had spotting after sex & then he felt betrayed like I’d lied to him about my period being over. So he is not interested in sex unless my period has been completely over for a minimum of 24 hours & I have to explicitly tell him that it’s over (just putting on lingerie & trying to start things is not enough). The whole issue makes me feel so gross & undesirable.

          • Tim

            Again, that’s really difficult. Lots to unpack there, but one obvious thing: does your husband observe Leviticus generally, or just that verse? I don’t know you or him of course but I have a hunch that maybe the perceived ‘ickiness’ is the driving factor here and that verse is just making him think it’s ok to feel that. I could be completely wrong, of course.

            I hope you’re able to talk through it and find a solution together. But if not, I’d strongly recommend getting some help, either from a counsellor or friends you both trust who’ve been married longer. This issue obviously isn’t going to go away and from the way you’ve described the situation it’s hard to see how you wouldn’t end up resenting each other in a few years if you don’t figure out a solution. It sounds like it’ll take some really difficult conversations to work through it, but it’ll be so worth it when you find a solution that you’re both happy with and that makes you both feel loved and respected.

  22. CM

    Wow … reading comments and hearing friends talk, I sometimes feel sick.
    Is my husband Superman for simply acknowledging we’re both human beings with ups a downs, plus a man and a woman with different bodies ?

    I mean … the cycle is not only the woman’s. Men too are tired, sick or simply would rather talk or play cards that night ! Even more when they are active fathers !!

    As Catholics, we practice NFP (Natural Family Planning) with no condom option when I’m fertile and we want to avoid a pregnancy. That means in our case we currently have a 10 days window per month to have sex.
    Well, having a high libido, it’s hard for me. It’s hard for him too, but we both are grown up people with a minimum of self control.

    We hug before bed every night and that feels great to feel loved and desired even during my period or when sick or tired or whatever, but so far it never made us go farther than the boundaries we had set.

    Praying before sex helps that too. I can’t imagine us saying “ok Lord, one of us is not super okay to have sex tonight, but we do it anyways because the other is selfish” 😀

    And also, we live the old Church tradition of abstaining on Friday so we can focus on the Cross.

    I’m not saying periodic abstinence out of a church rule is something everyone should do, but it helps fighting lust, it helps working on marital consent, self control and listeining to our bodies.

    Yet I know people who live this and still have a very poor marriage. I guess that’s because they don’t relly listen to their bodies and to each other, they simply follow rules (either having a kid a year because abstaining is too much but contraception is ruled out or being rude to the other, even abusive)

    So … I wonder what could we teach our kids to show them sex is great, not a shameful thing, but not the begining and end of all things either.
    Especially young men who have been taught marriage = free sex 7/24 …

    Reply
    • Tim

      “I wonder what could we teach our kids to show them sex is great, not a shameful thing, but not the begining and end of all things either.”

      The Bible?

      Reply
      • Jo R

        Part of the reason we’re in this mess in so much of the church is that “teaching the Bible” has taken 1 Corinthians 7 to mean “Wives, you can never, under any circumstances whatsoever, say no to sex with your husband. And ‘sex’ of course means that your husband must for sure orgasm, while you, ladies, get to settle for the emotional closeness you’ll for sure feel, but you are not allowed to even ask for the kind of stimulation that you, bearing a clitoris given to you by God, need for you to also orgasm.”

        Reply
        • Tim

          I didn’t mean that Bible!

          Reply
          • Jo R

            But that’s the interpretation that comes through, Tim.

            No author or pastor is crude enough to put it the way I did (well, except that I’m almost positive “emotional closeness” is an exact quote from one of the popular books), but when you chop away all the flowery, spiritual language, that is the message that comes through loud and clear.

            And since women are not to teach men, women cannot raise any objections to being used as masturbatory aids by their own husbands. Wives cannot complain about feeling like prostitutes in their own homes.

            Because, “the Bible.” Yes, THAT Bible.

          • Tim

            Yes, I don’t dispute any of that. I meant the authentic message of the Bible on sex, as opposed to the distortions you’re referring to.

            But I’m sure that wasn’t obvious from my first response so fair call pulling me up on it.

          • Nessie

            I was picking up what you were putting down, Tim. 😉

            It is hard on us that have had “the Bible” weaponized against us, particularly after learning of several occurrences of inaccurate translating. Maybe a better phrase to use would be “God’s heart for us?”

            This is the problem when decades+ of people have muddied the water surrounding God’s Word.

          • Jo R

            So how do we eliminate the distortions (great word, thank you!)?

          • Tim

            That’s such a hard (but great) question!

            On an individual level, I think we (meaning mostly men) need to let ourselves be convicted of the ways we’ve read power and control into scripture when it’s not there. E.g. it genuinely blows my mind that anyone could read Eph 5 and think that more is being asked of wives than of husbands.

            I also don’t think it’s any coincidence that all the main NT passages addressed to husbands and wives (Eph 5, Col 3, 1 Pet 3) are either immediately before or immediately after instructions on general ethical living in community. Most notably Eph 5, where, if I’m not mistaken, most translations insert a section header right in the middle of the original Greek sentence. It looks a lot to me like Peter and Paul knew there was a risk of their teaching on submission, headship etc being taken out of context and used as a weapon and did everything in their power to make it impossible for anyone to read them like that, but we somehow did it anyway. (That’s really what I was alluding to in my first comment in this sub thread).

            So it starts with turning back to the Bible in context rather than lazy proof texting, and when millions of men do that together you have a movement. I don’t know how you bridge that gap practically but I suspect God has a plan.

            We’re going to try and do some mentoring with a recently married couple we know, maybe give them a copy of GSR, and I’m going to talk to our pastor about maybe preaching on some of these issues. It’s a start, I guess.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            That makes my heart happy, Tim! All of these things seem small on their own, but if thousands and thousands of people are doing them…we will make a change!

  23. Randall

    I’m new to this blog. I’ve read several dozen posts now before commenting. It seems very wife-heavy, I assume the readership is mostly female and borderline feminist. A lot of things said here seem to let women off the hook sexually. Kind of a “you don’t have to meet his sexual needs, take care of you first, make sure your needs are being met, worry about him later” kind of flippant attitude towards sex. Even in TGSR that attitude seems to come through the pages.

    However, this blog has had some amazing posts and some great things that have made me as a husband think twice about how I’ve approached sex in my marriage and it has given me things to work on so while critical, I can’t say ignore the enormous amount of good this blog has done for many.

    I’m curious what the “solution” is here. From the man’s perspective, is he expected to just wait around until his wife’s “rhythm” tells her she’s ready to serve her husband sexually again? Or when her desire for him returns? We know there is a 6+ week waiting period before sex after childbirth and we also know it’s common for women’s libidos to decrease after childbirth; so, is he expected to just wait 3, 6, 12+ months for his wife’s desire to come back before sex? That doesn’t seem right, either.

    So where’s the middle ground here? The man is going to continue to want his wife sexually, you’ve said it numerous times on this blog that we are sexual created for this amazing thing God made called sex. So if he is just supposed to pocket his desire and turn into servant mode (not a bad thing, of course we should serve one another and pick up some slack when one spouse is less able or has other things to take care of like a baby) until his wife’s desire comes back giving him permission to bring his desire back out?

    What’s wrong with a “babe, I know we can’t have sex right now, but I still want to serve you sexually, here’s a HJ or BJ” attitude towards the situation? Can she not still honour her rhythm and serve her husband’s sexual needs? And if she has some sexual desires he can serve her in return if her body is ready for it because I know someone here would bring up the fact that only his sexual needs are being met in how I’m saying this.

    If we’re sexual beings who want sex, telling the guy to put his desire away for who knows how long does not seem like an effective way to handle his sexual desires during the post-partum period.

    I know if I say “if he’s not getting it from his wife he’s going to seek it out elsewhere” will get me ostracized here but what is a man with sexual desires supposed to do when those desires aren’t being considered? This is not an excuse for porn or extramarital activities obviously, so what’s the solution?

    I’m genuinely curious where the middle ground is here or is there truly no middle ground and this post is saying “women, you first, husband when you’re ready?” Surely it’s not. Right?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Of course she can choose to give a gift! Giving a gift is no problem. Making it the expectation that she will is a huge problem.

      Some women want to give gifts. A minority of women even get aroused giving gifts. But most women on their periods do not want sexual activity (about 20% do; most don’t).

      So making it the expectation that she will is just wrong.

      I think the solution is for men to realize that sex is not a need. It is a desire. And self-control is a fruit of the spirit. You do not need sex over the course of her period. God did not make you to need sex; in fact, in the Old Testament men were commanded to not even touch their wives for at least 7 days. So the expectation is that she is left alone.

      What do you think men in the Old Testament did then?

      Reply
      • Randall

        Thank you for your reply.

        I noticed you addressed women on their periods while the majority of my comment was in relation to post-partum. Can you address post-partum please? It looks like you, not sure if on purpose or not, ignored my 3rd and 4th paragraphs. Can you please respond to those?

        If sex is not a need for men, then what is it? A treat? Then we’re no different than a dog who has to be good in order to get a treat. Sex is not to be something that is withheld and given only when one “feels” like it because for many, that would not be very often. Also, your whole “sex is bad for guys because they’re bad lovers” argument falls apart because then why can’t guys just withhold serving their wives sexually during a time where they don’t want it as the wives withhold from them? Now, of course, these are both ridiculously immature approaches to sex, I hope you agree and I’d be shocked if this is actually how you would teach women to approach such a situation, so what is sex allowed to be for a man if not a need? A desire, sure. But aren’t we to serve one another and fulfill their desires within marriage? Firstly have our desires fulfilled by God then secondly by our spouse?

        So, if sex is not a need for men and they can’t expect it during certain periods of life, your solution for them is to just wait? Again, I don’t think waiting for several months post-partum is realistic for most men, so what’s your solution? Your approach seems very one-sided in favour of the women, while ignoring the desires of the man with a solution of “just control yourself.”

        I get your point about the OT, but reality is, we’re not living in the OT, life is very different now and I don’t think that is a revolutionary thing for me to say. We no longer live under OT law thanks to what Jesus did on the cross for us.

        But again, going 7 days without sex is very different from the post-partum period that you seem to have conveniently not responded to. I look forward to your response, hopefully to the entirety of my comment and the bits you missed from my previous one. Thanks!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Actually, if God expected men to wait in the postpartum period in the Old Testament, then HOW MUCH MORE should they be able to wait today, when they have the Holy Spirit, which wasn’t available then?

          Sex is a drive. It is a desire. It is a strong one for many, but it is not a need on par with safety, clothing, air, food, water, and shelter.

          Sex is a vitally important part of a healthy marriage, but it cannot create that healthy marriage. It is the culmination of a healthy marriage, and without that foundation, sex can actually make a marriage worse (if she feels used, for instance).

          So get the healthy foundation, and the sex will tend to follow. And if it doesn’t, then address it. Talk about it. Go to counseling. Figure out what the roadblocks are. Often they’re bad teachings that she has internalized, and when those are dealt with, much is often better.

          But, yes, you can be expected to wait during the postpartum period, because your wife is not a blow up sex doll. Your wife is the mother of your child, and her body just went through extreme work and trauma having that baby, and now your wife’s body is transitioning to feed that baby. That is literally what her body is for. And so you need to honor that. God expected you to do it before you had the Holy Spirit, and self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. So you can do it. You really can.

          Often the men who feel as if sex is an uncontrollable need have channelled their other emotional needs into sex. They don’t know how to connect emotionally. They don’t know how to talk about emotions. They don’t know how to build intimacy. Sex allows them to feel connected without doing the work of connection, but because it doesn’t bring real connection they need it more and more and more because they’re trying to soothe something that sex can’t soothe. If you find that you’re absolutely in dire straits, it’s worth figuring out why. Yes, sex is a drive, but in Christ we aren’t to let our drives consume us. And we are to love our wives as our own bodies. If your body had just gone through the trauma that hers has–you would want to rest and recuperate.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            One more thing–if you’re finding the postpartum period just too difficult sexually–try helping more with the baby. Do a ton of laundry. Get the meals on. Help with the older kids. The newborn period is so exhausting. If you’re not utterly exhausted, then she’s likely doing too much!

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Oh, sorry, and one more clarification: people keep saying that I’ve said sex once the week is the ideal. That’s not true. I’ve always said that marriages improve if you have sex several times a week. What I have also said is that our study–and many others–find that once a week is the cut off for when more frequency helps the marriage. When you get to once a week, anything after that helps the marriage, but to a much lesser extent that the jump from twice a month to once a week.

            So think of anything from once a week and more to being a preference, and anything less than once a week being a problem. Preferences you work out between the two of you and honor the two of you. They do not mean anything is wrong, either way. Problems, on the other hand, need to be dealt with.

            Again, this is what our study and others have shown, and if people don’t like it, then they should see a licensed counselor and talk about what the issues are.

          • Randall

            I must say, I really appreciate the time and grace you show, even to those who may seem critical. That is very respectable.

            I know you’ve helped a ton of women and men and marriages so I’m not here to bash you so I hope it didn’t come across that way.

            I don’t think your content is bad, like I said in my first post, it’s made me have to rethink a few things and adjust my mindset towards aspects of marriage and sex and a lot of it I agree with.

            “Sex is a vitally important part of a healthy marriage, but it cannot create that healthy marriage. It is the culmination of a healthy marriage, and without that foundation, sex can actually make a marriage worse (if she feels used, for instance).

            So get the healthy foundation, and the sex will tend to follow. And if it doesn’t, then address it. Talk about it. Go to counseling. Figure out what the roadblocks are. Often they’re bad teachings that she has internalized, and when those are dealt with, much is often better.”

            Those two paragraphs are absolutely bang on. We’ve been there done that and have an amazing sex life so my push back isn’t necessarily because of my own situation, but I just happened to disagree with certain things that were said or perhaps things that maybe weren’t said in this post.

            I have 4 wonderful kids, we’re out of the post-partum phase, and agree the kids are a lot of work and we are both usually exhausted.

            God bless you and your ministry.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Thank you so much, Randall! I’m sorry if I sounded defensive; it was a rough week. Thanks for your graciousness too!

    • Jo R

      ‘Kind of a “you don’t have to meet his sexual needs, take care of you first, make sure your needs are being met, worry about him later” kind of flippant attitude towards sex.’

      If a woman is expected to orgasm through PIV, and if she is one of the 63-ish percent of women who find it nearly impossible to orgasm that way (often due to variations in anatomical geometry, which puts the clitoris too far from the introit to receive sufficient stimulation), then yes, they—really, he—must do something else if she’s going to orgasm. If he orgasms first, chances are pretty good the whole encounter will end. Her wanting him to delay his orgasm for her benefit is not selfishness on her part; it’s just hormonal chemistry.

      Will he have to focus on her? Yes. He will have to give her stimulation that likely doesn’t stimulate him at all.

      Is that unfair? Not really. If she’s enduring pleasureless penetration, she’s already supplying him with stimulation that doesn’t do anything for her, by definition. (And sadly, sometimes she’s been doing so for decades.)

      The “problem” is that women aren’t so willing to put up with orgasm-free sex anymore. And they’re talking about it. And they’re asking that husbands do unto their wives as the wives have been doing unto their husbands. Love your neighbor as yourself, even if that neighbor is merely your wife. And multiples, if she wants. 😉

      “If we’re sexual beings who want sex, telling the guy to put his desire away for who knows how long does not seem like an effective way to handle his sexual desires during the post-partum period.”

      I don’t mean to be too snarky, but what do men do before they get married?

      Reply
  24. Brambonius

    I find it very weird that any of this has to be said if I’m honest. (Yes, I’m a man)

    I can remember as an older teenager that some dude from True Love Waits Belgium was giving me a whole speech (Yes, I know, of all people… They seem to have disappeared completely afterwards by the way and never were more than a tiny hobby club) and among the argumenst for not having sex before marriage was the ‘there are times without sex in a marriage too, and it’s better to practice self-control to be able to deal with them.’ His examples were disease and pregnancy/ after childbirth, maybe even depression.

    I would never have framed it as a self-control issue, but I accepted the idea as one of the most logical things ever, which has proven itself true too and which sounds like completely logical.

    Especially for Christian who believe that sex only belongs in marriage the idea of men being able to not have sex for a while should be quite natural, seen that they expect it from single men for a whole lifetime.

    (There’s also the issue that I find the idea alone of enjoying sex with someone who isn’t enjoying it extremely creepy. I don’t know how anyone can live with that and consider themselves a lover.)

    (Another cultural difference is that the only time I ever heard about ‘blue balls’ was an American pie movie that I shouldn’t even have seen, and I never believed that anyone ever thought like that. Neither have I ever been taught anything like a 3 day rule and never felt that such a thing was ever accurate either.)

    But the biggest problem I see here is the one that sex isn’t always intimacy and intimacy isn’t sex, and there’s something intimacy-killing about intimacy-less one-sided sex that I don’t understand anyone in a relationship would want. If you know how intimacy works how can you ever be satisfied with forced ‘physical relief’? Makes zero and less sense to me.
    It does the opposite of what sex should do. But it probably reinforces the ‘sex is always a bit wrong’ idea that seems to pervade certain corners of Christianity, and with such a deep thing it can only make men feel very bad about themselves.

    Reply

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