PODCAST: 3 Ways to Talk about Libido Differences

by | Oct 27, 2022 | Podcasts, Research | 17 comments

Libido Differences Conceptualized 3 Ways
Merchandise is Here!

We usually talk about libido differences in terms of high vs. low.

Who has the higher libido? Who has the lower libido?

And are these the best ways to talk about libido?

In today’s podcast, we talk about two OTHER ways to conceptualize libido differences that we find are usually more helpful. And then we answer some reader questions to look at these different ways in action.

Listen in!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube!

(transcript is moved to the bottom of the post!)

Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 All about libido difference
7:00 Emily Ngoski’s take on libido
13:45 How women’s first experience of sex affect libido
22:00 How unequal responsibility affects libido
27:30 RQ: I need help with physical touch
31:30 RQ: My wife has never had an orgasm
42:20 RQ: Hormones!
46:10 RQ: Pain during sex
51:05 RQ: “Sex isn’t a huge priority for me”

So how can we conceptualize libido differences in a helpful way?

Let’s look at three different ways to think about libido differences:

  1. High / Low
  2. Spontaneous / Responsive
  3. Solo / Dyadic

We talked about what each of these meant, and when it may be appropriate to use them. And we looked at some of the research we’ve talked about this month into what effects libido! 

You may also enjoy these two posts in our research deep dive series that looked into new libido research:

 

We tried to draw a healthy balance in this podcast with looking at all the ways that her libido can tank because of unhealthy dynamics either now or at the beginning, while also challenging people to not just give up and to look into ways that they can boost their libido.

Sex honestly is meant to be something which is life giving in a relationship, and in a healthy relationship, it can be that. We here at Bare Marriage desperately want that for people. Yes, that comes AFTER addressing all of the other problems. And NO, this can’t be done magically in an unhealthy relationship. 

But we also believe that couples can rediscover sexuality together. That’s also what our Boost Your Libido course is about, and I encourage you to check it out if you’re in a healthy relationship, but you know you want more. 

Are you TIRED of always being too tired for sex?

Do you yearn to actually WANT to make love--and figure out what all the fuss is about?

There is a way! In this 10-module recently revamped Boost Your Libido course I take you through what libido is (it may surprise you!), what affects libido, and how we can reclaim the excitement that God made us for.

Course totally revamped in summer 2022!

Things Mentioned in the Podcast

3 Ways to Talk about Libido Differences

What do you think? Which of the three ways of talking about libido resonates the most with you? Let us know in the comments below!

Transcript

Sheila: Welcome to The Bare Marriage podcast.  I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from baremarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your marriage and your sex life.  And I am joined today, as usual, by my daughter, Rebecca Lindenbach.

Rebecca: Hello.

Sheila: And today is the last Thursday of the month, and that’s when we often like to do topics that might appeal a little bit more to the male listeners although both women and men, I think, will enjoy today because we are going to talk about all of the deep dive research into libido that we’ve done this month.

Rebecca: Yes.

Sheila: And some of the things that affect libido.  It’s going to be wild.  It’s going to be fun.  And for those of you who are watching on YouTube, just a little note, we are trying out different things with our set to help with sound.  So you are looking at my hand knit blanket.  

Rebecca: Yes.  I know it’s still—we’ve still got some things to do, but it sounds a lot better with the blanket than it did without it.

Sheila: So this was 12 years in the making.  This is tons of sock yarn, and this is what I use for my bed covering in the summer.  So it is now our set, and we are drinking, of course, from our Love and Respect mugs because healthy people need both.

Rebecca: Healthy people need both.

Sheila: And you can get these in our merch shop along with our Be a Biblical Woman merch and our Biblical Womanhood merch.  Two different things.

Rebecca: Two different things.

Sheila: Two different things.  They’re awesome.

Rebecca: Same energy.  Yeah.

Sheila: Yes.  And when you buy those things, it helps us produce this podcast and the blog and everything.  

Rebecca: That’s right.

Sheila: So it just helps support us.  Another great way you can support us is our Patreon.  We’re really excited with some changes that are happening.  And we’ve just been blown away by your support for our Patreon that we’ve had to do a major rethink about what we’re going to use the money for.  And we’ve got some exciting things that we’re going to share with you in a couple of weeks.  I’m really pumped.  

Rebecca: Yes.  

Sheila: I spent a lot of my vacation doing some praying and goal setting and long term visioning, and I’m just really excited to share with you.  So you can partner with us with what we’re doing.  We have some great ideas on how we can expand beyond the blog and beyond the podcast and beyond my face.  So it’s not just about me anymore.  So that it can carry on even when I retire which I will do eventually.

Rebecca: Theoretically.  

Sheila: So you can help us move in that direction when you join Patreon for as little as $5 a month.  You get access to a Facebook group, unfiltered podcasts, and more, so check that out.  The link is in the podcast notes.  It’s patreon.com/baremarriage.

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.

Sheila: All right, Rebecca.  We are going to talk libido now.

Rebecca: Yes.  We are.

Sheila: So here is the thing.  What I’ve learned in our research that we’ve done is there’s three different ways that we talk about libido.  And in today’s podcast, I want to go over those three different ways and what the research says.  So to give our audience an understanding of where I’m coming from, this month, October on the Bare Marriage blog, we’ve been doing what we call our research deep dive series.  And some of that has come over onto the podcast too.  So we’ve been asking the question, what has new peer-reviewed research found about marriage and sex?  And you shared a lot of those things while I was on vacation.

Rebecca: Yep.  Connor and I did a podcast where he kind of walked us through the one gaze provoking and body gaze behavior and the incredibly concerning results that that study found.  And I know that one got a lot of really interesting conversation around it.  So if you haven’t seen that one and you’re interested in some more research, we’re not going to be talking about those studies.  So after you listen to this one, go back and check that one out.

Sheila: Yes.  Exactly.  I also looked at whether all men struggle with lust is a primal fear.  You can see that on the blog.  We tackled a couple of other things.  But what I really want to look at today is some of the stuff we found about libido.  So let’s talk about the three ways, first of all, that we can conceive of libido.  First of all, the way we usually talk about libido differences is high and low.  

Rebecca: Yes.  Who has—who wants sex more?  Who wants sex less?

Sheila: Right.  So we think of well, he has the higher libido.  And she has the lower libido.  Or in 19% of the cases, as we found in our survey for The Great Sex Rescue, she has the higher libido, and he has the lower one.  

Rebecca: Yep.  Exactly.

Sheila: Now we found that that isn’t necessarily a great way to think about it.  

Rebecca: Well, because it’s a very—it’s a relative measure, right?  So what if he has the higher libido because he wants sex 10 times a day?  And she has the abysmally low libido in their marriage because she only sex once or twice every other day.  It’s relative.  What does higher or lower mean?  And it doesn’t really help us see if there is actually a problem because if someone just wants sex 2 times a week and someone wants sex every day that’s not actually a low libido person who wants sex twice a week.  That’s very normal. 

Sheila: Exactly.  And so that’s one of the problems.  Just so everyone knows research tends to define hypoactive desire disorder—and hypo means low.  So hypotension is low blood pressure.  Hypertension is high blood pressure.

Rebecca: Think about it in terms of a child, right?  A child who is bouncing off the walls is hyper.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Hyperactive.

Rebecca: Okay.  So hyper is up.  Hypo is low.

Sheila: Right.  So hypoactive desire disorder is when you have really low desire.  And in women, that tends to be diagnosed and difficulty with arousal, not necessarily wanting sex but also—and this is a really key one.  Not having sex dreams and not really sexually fantasizing.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And we’re going to get into that in our difference between—our next measure of libido.

Sheila: Right.  Okay.  So that’s—so instead of thinking of it in terms of, “Well, I have a lower libido than my husband.  So therefore, that is bad,” because we tend to think of high libido as good and lower libido as bad.  We need to see that there are extremes on both ends, which are concerning.  So if you have a hypoactive desire disorder, that’s bad.  But also if you really are needing sex like multiple times a day, that’s also bad.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Or if you want sex every day, that also is much more than normal.  And if you can’t function without getting sex, that’s above normal.  And so it’s not your spouse’s fault if they can’t match you.  So that’s some of the problems that we have with the high low discussion.

Sheila: And there’s one other problem which is—okay.  So we said 19% of women have the higher libido.  And so do 58% of men.  But that leaves another chunk of 23% of couples that actually have pretty much a shared libido.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  And when we talk about high and low, we don’t really let couples know that there is a third option, which is, quite frankly, I’m going to be very honest.  The easiest of the three options.

Sheila: Yes.

Rebecca: If you’re in a marriage and you guys have a shared libido, you’re like, “Yeah.  We have sex from—I don’t know.  Between 1 and 3 times a week.  Varies on the week.  And there you go.  We’re good.”  That’s awesome.

Sheila: And as we talked about in The Great Sex Rescue, here’s what that might look like.  Okay?  So you’re watching Netflix at night.  It’s a great movie.  As soon as it’s over, you’ve been holding hands all through the movie.  When it’s over, you start to kiss.  That leads to something more.  And the question is who started it?  Who was the one who initiated sex?  And it’s like well, I don’t know.  We just kind of—

Rebecca: Have sex.  Yeah.

Sheila: And when you’re asking who has the high or who has the low, you usually mean who is the one who tends to initiate more.  But for a lot of couples, it’s just—it’s kind of organic.

Rebecca: Natural.  Yeah.

Sheila: It’s natural.  And for them, it’s hard to say who has the higher one. 

Rebecca: Exactly.

Sheila: So saying high and low isn’t necessarily a helpful way.  So let’s look at two other ways.  Let’s start with Emily Nagoski, and she was the one in her groundbreaking book, Come as You Are—which is really good.  I highly recommend.  Not a Christian book.  But very, very good book in terms of the research and in terms of helping women understand who they are and how they were made and all of the stuff.  She really talked about the idea of responsive versus spontaneous libido.

Rebecca: Yeah.  She’s really responsible for popularizing this concept.  Something that was really new in the research from what I can see.  And Emily Nagoski’s book is what has now made it pretty much—what’s the word?  Common vernacular.

Sheila: Yes.  And what this means is that—and what she’s talking about is that some people just want sex.  They feel in a sexy mood.  They get turned on easily.  And they just want—and that’s more of a spontaneous libido.  And some people need something to respond to.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  I watched a TED Talk by her, and she explained it really well.  She said, “Spontaneous desire is the anticipation of pleasure.  And responsive desire is a response to pleasure.” 

Sheila: Right.

Rebecca: So that’s the difference is there’s always pleasure involved.  You really like sex.  You have a libido.  It’s just is it in anticipation.  Do you get out ahead of the pleasure?  Or is it more like I’m ready to feel good?  And then I know I’ll get in the mood as soon as I start to feel good because you know you’re going to feel good.

Sheila: Right.  Exactly.  And we talked about this in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex when we’re talking about the sexual response cycle.  How for some people desire precedes excitement.  So that anticipation gets you in the mood before you even start doing anything.  And for some people, you really need to get excited, so you need to start the touching and—so that you have something to respond to before the desire kicks in.

Rebecca: Exactly.  

Sheila: What’s interesting and what she really hones home is that responsive desire doesn’t mean you’re low libido.  And you can actually reach orgasm, enjoy sex, et cetera just as much as someone who is spontaneous.  So it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.  And it isn’t something that is like less than.  And not all women have a responsive libido.  Some women have spontaneous.  Some men have responsive.  So let’s not think of it in gendered terms either.  And then one of the things that Emily Nagoski says, which can help us understand responsive versus spontaneous, is the idea of brakes and accelerators.  And if you think about cars, okay?  There are two pedals in a car.  

Rebecca: Unless you’re someone who is really obsessed with driving standard, then there’s three.    

Sheila: Right.  But in general, there’s two pedals.  There’s one—your brake.  That’s going to slow you down.  And there’s one that’s your accelerator that’s going to speed you up.  And in order to have a really good libido, what you want is for the accelerator to work.  So the accelerator is going to go, and you just hit it.  And you’re rearing to go.  0 to 60 kind of thing.  And for the brake not to be too sensitive.  

Rebecca: Exactly.

Sheila: If your foot even touches the brake, you don’t want to come to a—

Rebecca: A just complete halt.  

Sheila: Right.  So what she says is that some people have really, really sensitive brakes.  So they may actually have a spontaneous libido.  They may actually want sex.  Their accelerator might be going full speed ahead.  I want sex.  But then they can turn on a dime because they have really sensitive brakes.  

Rebecca: And that’s frustrating for the person who is going through it, right?  If you’re trying to have a great sex life and you’re trying to get ready and you’re going to go, and then all of a sudden something happens.  And you just can’t anymore.  That’s frustrating not only to your spouse.  It’s frustrating to you as well.

Sheila: Exactly.  And yeah.  And then there’s people who have a really, really sensitive accelerator.  So they may not have that sensitive brakes.  Once you’re turned on, you may be really turned on.  And you stay turned on.  But it’s really hard to get you there.

Rebecca: A sticky accelerator.  

Sheila: A sticky accelerator.  That’s what she calls it.  A sticky accelerator where it’s just really hard to get—and then, of course, there’s people who have both a sticky accelerator and sensitive brakes.  And so in our Boost Your Libido course—

Rebecca: We talk about this a lot.  Yeah.

Sheila: We help people recognize their brakes and accelerators when you think it’s sexy time, et cetera.  And I really recommend—if you’re struggling with this idea of libido and you just want to feel more spontaneous, if you’re more of a responsive person, you want to feel more spontaneous or you just want to be able to let yourself respond more, then please check out our Boost Your Libido course.  It’s 10 modules.  It’s 10 different subjects that we’re following.  You’ll find that even after the first one—so many people have told me—I’ve gotten so many emails even after the first module saying, “Oh my gosh, Sheila.  I feel so much freedom now.  I never realized that.”  Just when people understand what libido is and what it’s not and how you’re not broken.  So check out the Boost Your Libido course.  The link is in the podcast notes.  And now the last one.

Rebecca: The third type of libido we’re going to talk about is solo versus dyadic desire.  Okay?  So solo desire, from what I understand, is pretty much defined as your kind of the sexual confidence, your sexual drive.  You might be someone who enjoys kind of erotic content is kind of what they talk about in these studies.  These are people who they might have a drive to masturbate.  It’s just, in essence, your sexuality that is yours, right?  It’s about you individually.  Dyadic drive is the drive for partnered sex, right?  So you have people who have—who might feel very much like, “Yeah.  I’m a sexual being.  But I don’t want to sleep with you,” right?  So it would be high solo low dyadic.  

Sheila: Right.  So you might have a lot of  sex dreams, for instance, a lot of sexual fantasies.  But whenever your husband kisses you, you recoil.

Rebecca: It turns off.  Yeah.  

Sheila: Or when you kiss your wife, you just recoil.

Rebecca: Don’t really feel as much.  Yeah.  

Sheila: Yeah.  You don’t feel as much.  So it’s like you want sex, but there’s something about this partnership that might be taking it away.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And that’s something that is really interesting that we’ve seen in these studies.  So we’re going to talk about that.  But that’s where we’re talking about this hypoactive desire disorder.  It’s not only going to really react to the partnered sex area.  It’s going to be a holistic desire—like lack of desire.

Sheila: Right.

Rebecca: So it will also be in the solo area as well, so that’s why I was saying we’re going to get back to it.  

Sheila: Yeah.  All right.  Now that we’ve got those three things out of the way—so we’ve got high low, spontaneous responsive, solo dyadic.  Let’s talk about some of the studies that we looked at this month.  

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  Sounds good.

Sheila: Let’s start with the one—I think—is it out of U of T?

Rebecca: One of them was out of U of T.  Do you think I can remember which one?

Sheila: No.  The first—the debut one.

Rebecca: Oh, the libido one.  Yes.  The debut one.  

Sheila: Or was it out of McMaster?

Rebecca: No.  The debut one was University of Toronto.  You are correct.

Sheila: Now we call it U of T because we actually live close to Toronto.  

Rebecca: Yes.  And everyone calls it U of T.

Sheila: Everyone in Canada calls it U of T.    

Rebecca: Yeah.  So there was—you introduce the study.

Sheila: And my husband actually did his residency at U of T.  So there you go.  

Rebecca: That’s right.

Sheila: So someone sent me this study awhile ago.  Readers send me the best stuff.  And we were just waiting for a good opportunity to talk about it, and it hit this month.  But here is what it said.  It was looking at how orgasm for women at first intercourse impacted libido later.  So they were saying let’s look at the sexual debut.  And if her experience was orgasmic, how did that affect her wanting sex later on?  And what did they find?  

Rebecca: What they found was that women who orgasm the first time they had intercourse had the same likelihood of having a high felt libido as men.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Now I want you to repeat that because this is astounding, and I don’t know if people understand the significance of this.

Rebecca: How big this is.  Yeah.  So women who orgasm the first time they have intercourse have the same likelihood of having a high felt libido as men do.  So what the researchers were saying was that there’s been this societal understanding that women simply want sex less than men.

Sheila: Right.  

Rebecca: Men simply want sex more.  And what they were asking is but could that be because women’s learning experience about sex teaches them that sex is not that great at a higher rate than that happens to men.  We know that when men have sex for the first time it’s practically guaranteed to happen.  If it doesn’t happen, it means something strange happened, for the most part.  

Sheila: Right.  Mm-hmm.  

Rebecca: Okay?  For women that is not the case.  The majority of women do not have an orgasm the first time they have intercourse.  The majority.  And so this is what these researchers were wondering is is it that sex is something that our brains learn from and it’s not an innate drive in the same way that we have assumed.  It’s not that some people simply have a high sex drive and some people simply have a low sex drive.  It’s that our experiences teach our brains whether or not sex should be a priority based on how rewarding it’s going to be.

Sheila: Right.  And so that very first time actually has a big influence.  And then when you combine that with the research that we’ve done about how Christians do the first time, we have a problem.

Rebecca: Yeah.  It’s not a great—yeah.  And that might explain why Christians tend to have lower libido among women than non Christians.  According to our study and some others that I’ve seen, it seems that women who are not in religious bases tend to have a higher felt need for sex.  And I do wonder if it’s because they’re more likely to be having sex for the first time because they are aroused which, of course, makes orgasm easier versus Christian women tend to have sex for the first time because it’s time to have sex.  

Sheila: Right.  Because now I’m married.  It’s the wedding night.

Rebecca: Yeah.  At a higher rate than non Christians.

Sheila: Right.  Now I’m going to play devil’s advocate here for a minute—  

Rebecca: Awesome.

Sheila: – and I’m going to ask you some questions that came up in the comments, and then we’re going to talk about how we should counsel couples because I don’t want people to get all freaked out by this.  Okay?  

Rebecca: Exactly.

Sheila: So first of all, but, Becca, maybe more sexual women simply orgasm the first time.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And I think that’s actually very, very likely.  It’s very likely there are some women who are going to orgasm more easily than others.  Maybe there are some women who just have—and we all are on a range, on a spectrum, of how much we feel things.  We even know this with things like hunger.  There are simply some people who feel hunger more than other people, right?  And so there might very well be differences in that.  However, multiple studies have found that the determinant of female orgasm is genuinely whether or not their partner listens to them and does what they want in bed.    

Sheila: And whether they feel confident speaking up in the middle of sex.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  Whether they’re able to communicate during sex and whether or not their sexual priority is—their sexual pleasure is a priority.  And so even if a woman is not as innately kind of high sex drive innately—maybe they don’t—that’s not true though because that’s genuinely what the study found.  Sorry.  I’m going to say that again.  One second.  [18:21] Yeah.  And I mean there might be a likelihood that there are women who are simply going to have an easier time, right?  The same way that we know that—okay.  For instance, alcohol and drugs are simply dopamine hits, right?  That’s why we do them because they feel good.  But some people are going to have genes that make them feel even better, right?  Those tend to be people who have the genes for addiction disorders—happen more often.  And there might be something similar to that with sex for some women, but that doesn’t mean that there is a genetic reason why women shouldn’t have an orgasm the first time.  So there might be a genetic reason why a woman should, but there’s not a genetic reason why a woman should not.  And so if we’re using that as an excuse for—well, sometimes it’s just too hard.  No.  Sometimes she wasn’t aroused enough.  And so if it’s just too hard, I do question what is the measure then.  Is it that well some women can orgasm in 7 minutes and she couldn’t?  And so therefore, it just wasn’t going to happen.  It’s like, well, if her pleasure was a priority and if you were like, “Hey, we’re not doing this unless it’s good for both of us,” there is absolutely no reason why should she not orgasm the first time.  Absolutely no reason.  

Sheila: Yep.  And this is where some of the advice gets tricky because here is the thing.  What I want to do is make this the assumption that couples have.  And this research doesn’t say that the first time you orgasm needs to be through intercourse, by the way. 

Rebecca: No.  They just looked at the first—the—what happened the first time a couple did have intercourse.

Sheila: Right.  Right.  So there is no reason why you couldn’t get married and then figure out how her body works.

Rebecca: Try it on easy mode.

Sheila: Try it on easy mode first, okay?  Get really good that—make sure that she is enjoying herself.  Make sure she feels comfortable and relaxed.  And this is what we recommend in both The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex too for premarital couples.  Please make those your bridal shower gifts.  They’re very healthy.  Get comfortable with those things before we try intercourse.  And I think that it should be the assumption that women can orgasm.

Rebecca: Yeah.  There’s a really stupid joke that I’m sure people have already heard.  

Sheila: I saw it go around TikTok.  I know what you’re going to say.  Yeah.

Rebecca: Okay.  So God is standing in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.  And He stands.  He says, “My beloved children, welcome to the world.  I have two gifts.  One for each of you.  So listen to them and then you can figure out who gets which one.  All right?”  And He goes, “Now the first gift I have is the ability to pee while standing up.”  And Adam goes, “Oh my goodness.  Nothing could be better than that.  I want that one.  Please.  That one is mine.”  And God says, “Are you okay with that?”  And Eve says, “Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah.  Sure.”  And He says, “Okay, Adam.  I mean if you really want that one.  The second one is multiple orgasms.”  

Sheila: Yeah.  Right.  

Rebecca: What I’m saying is listen.  Women have the ability to not only have the same amount of pleasure that men have but to have it over and over and over and over again.

Sheila: Right.  

Rebecca: And so why is it the assumption that women will be less sexual than men or that women will enjoy sex less than men.  We need to recognize that women are not less sexual.  And because of that, the response needs to be that sex can no longer be one sided.  And that sex should be a way for a couple to explore each other and to honor each other and to love each other.  And that really can’t happen if her priority—her pleasure is not a priority. 

Sheila: Exactly.  At the same time, I’m going to push back.  The advice that we give couples who have been married for five years would be different because this is what I would say to people who are getting married is prioritize her pleasure.  There’s no reason she can’t reach orgasm.  Let’s figure this out.  But what this study shows is that if she didn’t orgasm that first time—

Rebecca: She’s much less likely to have a high libido.

Sheila: Yeah.  And sex is going to get more difficult.  And so for you, there might be different—we don’t want to put this major pressure on women that you now need to orgasm every time.  If you have found orgasm really difficult, let’s instead figure out how we can overcome some of these road blacks.  A lot of which we built for ourselves.  And that’s where The Orgasm Course comes in as well.  So if orgasm has been a problem for you and you want to figure out how to make this work so that this can be something that you regularly experience—

Rebecca: Yeah.  So it can be fun and take the pressure off of it.

Sheila: Yes.  Yes.  Exactly.  Then you can check out The Orgasm Course as well because I know that this is—we don’t want to put more pressure.  But at the same time by not expecting orgasm, I think we’ve largely created this situation.

Rebecca: We definitely have.  

Sheila: So that’s number one from the research.  Number two is another interesting one.  

Rebecca: Okay.  I love this one.  This one was just great.  So some researchers did a study.  I believe it was at Australia.  

Sheila: I think it was out of Australia.  Yeah.

Rebecca: I believe it was out of Australia.  They have couples fill out this equality survey and also asked them questions about their sex life, about their sex drive to get at a bunch of different permutations of how these things affect each other.  And what they found is that women in relationships where they are holding an unequal amount of responsibility have way lower dyadic desire than women who are in equal partnerships.  Now what’s really interesting is their solo desire did not change.  So it’s only the partnered side of sex.  So these women still like sex.  They just like sex with him.  

Sheila: Right.  

Rebecca: They just can’t want sex with him in the same way.  And what these researchers were saying is that this might explain why researchers found that over time women’s sex drive tends to wane in a relationship.  What they said in an article that they wrote about the study was that you have the picture of this woman who is washing his dishes every night.  Every night.  And every time she does it there is just more—it just turns into resentment because she should not have to do all of this.  And he should be someone who is her partner.  And instead, he’s just another responsibility that she needs to take care of.  And frankly, it is not sexy to have sex with someone who you feel is just an overgrown child.  And I know that’s harsh, but that’s—

Sheila: Yeah.  And because what you want is a partner.  And it’s the partnered aspect of it which leads to desire.  And so if you don’t have that partnership, if you feel like he is one of my responsibilities, then that’s going to make sex way down the list because sex like that is not sexy.

Rebecca: Yeah.  If you’re always having to hound him to remind him to text his sister on her birth and to get his brother and his new wife the wedding present that he’s supposed to get them and—when these are things that he should just be doing.  This is the problem.  And so what this found is that equality is the biggest aphrodisiac for women really.  Long term.  If you want a good sex life long term, make sure that you aren’t off loading your emotional, your household, and your mental load responsibilities onto your wife.

Sheila: Yep.  And, again, I’m going to push back.  Okay.  So some of the push back that happened in the comments.  But, Becca, when they look at time studies, men do more paid work and women do more unpaid work.  But it’s all equal in the end.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  They always show this.  And the thing is that—one thing is I’ve seen a lot of studies that talk about this.  And they don’t take childcare into the equation a lot of the time.  Or they’ll have specific childcare tasks like, for example, how often—who bathes the children and puts them to bed.  But they don’t do the whole who is organizing to make sure that John’s homework is in on time.  

Sheila: Or who is just simply making sure—who is watching them?

Rebecca: Who is the default parent?  

Sheila: Yeah.  While you’re making dinner.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Who is taking care of the mental load of parenting?  Who is taking care of the mental load of the house?  Sure.  You might both only do an hour of housework in the evening.  But then is she also thinking throughout the day about the meal plan and keeping track of what’s in the pantry and making sure she has enough food and—

Sheila: And how much screen time they’re on.  And are they fighting with each other?   

Rebecca: And, again, who is doing the two-hour long phone calls with their mother-in-law to make sure they have the updates on the kids?  And who is doing all that stuff?  These are often not kept—these are often not discussed in these studies as well.

Sheila: Yeah.  And a good way to figure out who is the default parent is does one of you feel like you can just decide to leave?  Okay.  “Oh, So-and-so wants to get together for coffee on Thursday night.  Great.  I’ll go.”  Can you decide that without checking with your spouse?

Rebecca: And is it something that both of you can do or that only one of you can do?  Because I’m going to be honest, me and Connor can both do that because we know each other’s schedules.  And we know that if one of us has a night off the other one can take care of the kids, and we’ll swap at some point.  But if only Connor could do that or if only I could do that, that would be a problem.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  And one of the best ways to tell if there is unequal load isn’t necessarily to look at how much work everyone does but instead to ask how much downtime people have.  How much time in the week do you have where no—where you are free of responsibility, where nobody is trying to get you to change the channel or make me a snack or whatever—how much time do you have where you are completely free of responsibility?  And if that isn’t equal, that is a problem.

Rebecca: The other problem, additionally—just going to yet another one is that women tend to take on hobbies and activities that benefit the household whereas men tend to take on hobbies and activities that are just hobbies and activities.  There’s nothing wrong with having hobbies and activities that are just hobbies and activities, right?  But women’s activities tend to be also things that—maybe she’s really into baking, and so she makes all the muffins for the next 4 months.  Is that free time?  Or is that meal planning?  It’s both.  Right?  And so that’s why often, even when it seems like, “Oh, it’s an equal relationship,” it might not be.

Sheila: Yeah.  And so these are just things to ask yourself.  So this is a huge predictor of libido in a relationship.  So now what I would like to do, Rebecca, is I would like to take a look at some of the reader questions that are sent in.  And then we can look at them through some of these lenses whether it’s responsive spontaneous, solo dyadic, et cetera.  So here is the first one.  Do you have any resources for wives who just don’t like physical touch?  In general, I’m not a fan of hugging, kissing, and, unfortunately, it’s my husband’s number one love language.  But regardless, how will I ever enjoy sex if physical touch causes me to become squeamish rather than aroused?

Rebecca: Yeah.  Okay.  That’s a— 

Sheila: See?  I’m actually wondering if this is something to do—if she’s an HSP.  A highly sensitive person.  And this is more stimulation—sensitivity to stimulation than it is anything else because there are some people who are just overwhelmed by stimulation.

Rebecca: Okay.  I have a funny example for that.  So I am—I can’t handle auditory stimulation issues.  I can’t do it.  My kids only have one toy that makes noise kind of thing.  So my husband is—I mean the lowest of the low sensitivity people, okay?  And literally last week, he realized for the first time that it is difficult for most people, if he is practicing piano while there is other music playing in the background.  And I’m like, “Connor, I thought you were doing this, and you just thought it was funny.  This is the most horrible thing.  I have to go into another room.  Have you not realized this for the last 2 years?  I leave every time you play piano while there’s experimental jazz playing on the speaker.”  There are real differences in people.  Connor genuinely is able to compartmentalize, and I just can’t.  It’s too overwhelming.

Sheila: Right.  And so if she is just having issues, I think this might be more of a solo.  It doesn’t sound like it’s necessarily related to the relationship, if she just can’t handle touch at all.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Because she says, “In general, I’m not a fan of hugging, kissing, et cetera.”  

Sheila: Yeah.  And so I would see if this is a trauma response because it might be.  It might be trauma in your past.  But it might not be, so let’s not all jump on the bandwagon of, “Oh, I must have sex abuse I’ve forgotten about,” or something.  It might not be.  But it might be.   And so it’s worth talking with a therapist about that.  It’s also worth looking at—

Rebecca: How did your family express affection growing up too because, genuinely, kissing and hugging is very intimate and very vulnerable.  I mean I think about your typical kind of the stereotypical Nordic family, Danish family, versus your stereotypical Venezuelan.  

Sheila: Italian.

Rebecca: Or Italian or something.   “Oh, I love you.”  Versus like, “Hello.  How are you today,” right?

Sheila: It is good to see you after six years.”

Rebecca: Exactly.  There are some cultural differences as well, right?  So it might be that you just have different experiences, and that’s not necessarily—that’s not your fault.

Sheila: No.  But if she is finding that this is holding her back, right?  Because there’s nothing wrong with differences in culture.  But if you’re finding that something that you find innate to you is holding you back, it is worth investigating how you might be able to overcome it.  And there are some great—there’s some great mindfulness techniques, which just help you center yourself, help you lower your heart rate, help you experience what’s going on around you with less stress and so talking to a therapist about some of these techniques can help as well.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And if it is a vulnerability issue too, if it’s something where you have a hard time being vulnerable in general, that might be just something to explore.  And that might be a really good way for you both to grow and for your spouse to help you to learn that vulnerability is safe.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  So this could be—there could be all kinds of different reasons for this.  But I would really recommend just researching some of them and seeing if any of them seem to fit with you because—yeah.  There might be something which you are fine with.  Like if you were single, you would—you don’t think this would necessarily affect you, but we were built for connection.  And if there is something which is holding you back that you don’t want to hold you back, then let’s do some work and figure it out.  So there is number one where it really looks like it’s just more solo than anything else.  Let me read another one.  Okay.  And this one is for—this one is from a guy.  And he writes, “I have convinced myself that the reason we don’t have more and better sex is because sex is just meh for her.  She has never had an orgasm and does not feel that she ever needs to.  And if I can find ways to make it yay for her, she will be more willing to pursue me and her own sexuality.  I have done lots of research about what she should want, but I now feel like I am being restrained as she is not in the mood or not in the right headspace.  I feel like I cannot even put these ideas to practice.  I feel like she is holding herself back.  I have tried to respect her decisions and be okay with it.  But over and over, I deal with these feelings, and they end up bringing us apart rather than together.  I start to feel like I’m not a good lover and that I’m failing as a man and failing my wife.  How do I get to a place where my identity is not so heavily weighted to our sexual performance as a couple?  A place where I’m okay with who she is and I can stop trying to fix her.” 

Rebecca: Okay.  

Sheila: I have one big thought, and I’m curious as to your one big thought is the same as my one big thought.

Rebecca: Mine is harsh.  

Sheila: Mine is kind of too.  So let’s see.

Rebecca: What I think is this is a woman—this is a man whose wife has never had an orgasm.  And he’s concerned about feeling like he’s not a good lover.  What are we defining a good lover as then?  That is genuinely my question.  Is we get this a lot where it’s like, “I feel like maybe I’m just not good in bed.”  And I’m like, “Well, what would make you bad in bed.”  Like if her not having an orgasm doesn’t mean that a man is not doing well in bed, would him have to be raping her in order to be bad in bed?  That’s genuinely my question.

Sheila: Yeah.  I have a slightly different one.  So we do see this a little bit different.  But I think what he would argue is he wants to give her an orgasm, but she isn’t letting him.

Rebecca: Yeah.  But the issue is, of course, he has created an environment in which from the get go he was not a good lover.

Sheila: Right.  Exactly.  

Rebecca: That’s the problem.

Sheila: And the reason that I—my first response is this, okay?  So he’s concerned that she isn’t reaching orgasm.  And she says she doesn’t really care.  And there’s all these things he wants to do to help her get there, but she’s not interested.  But he’s still having sex with her.  

Rebecca: That’s exactly what I was going to say too.  Yeah.

Sheila: And that, to me, is the issue.  Okay.  Look.  All you are doing is cementing the idea that sex is not for her.  The more you have sex where she feels absolutely no pleasure and she’s doing it just for you the more you cement that that’s what sex is.  

Rebecca: And I do know a lot of men went into sex with no sex education, with no absolutely no real understanding of how any of this works, where they were thrown in blind, and that was not fair.  There are a lot of guys where they were told, “You just wait to the wedding night, and then you go. And you have sex.  And it’s awesome.  And because you waited, God is going to give you both orgasms that will make fireworks show off in your bedroom.  And you’ll fly.  And you’ll sprout wings.”  And that’s what they were told.  And it didn’t happen.  And they didn’t understand how they could have done better. 

Sheila: And they were never taught about the sexual response cycle because to give any real sex ed—

Rebecca: Might be too tempting.

Sheila: – might be too tempting.  And so they just weren’t taught this stuff.

Rebecca: No.  But that doesn’t mean that you still didn’t do the thing that caused the ramification.  Just because you didn’t know better doesn’t mean that you are now blameless in what happened in terms of it.  It’s still your responsibility to fix it, right?  I see this kind of mentality a lot where it’s like, “We’ve been married for 7 years.  She has never had an orgasm.  And now I really want to make sure she has an orgasm, and she’s the one who is a stick in the mud.”  And my response to that is, “Okay.  But you’ve had orgasmic sex for 7 years.  Sure.  It might not have been everything you wanted because you wanted a really excited partner, but you didn’t put the work in at the beginning to have an excited partner.”  What this research has shown—not just the one study but all the studies that we’ve looked at is that men create the sex lives they have.  Really.  That is what it shows is that, in general, men create the sex lives they have, right?  Even in our study.  When it comes to sexless marriages, the majority—almost every sexless marriage that we looked at had multiple—multiple markers of damaging sexuality most of which were done by the men.  Like she never orgasmed.  That’s not her fault.

Sheila: He had porn use.

Rebecca: He had porn use.  Or she didn’t feel emotionally connected during sex.  The couple is not connecting.

Sheila: Yeah.  She’s feeling used.  Yeah.  

Rebecca: She’s feeling used.  Exactly.  There’s a lot of things where men have to recognize that you have a large amount of influence here from the get go.  And if you didn’t use that influence appropriately or responsibly, even if that was in ignorance, this is not her fault.  She didn’t choose to have non orgasmic sex.  She didn’t get married being like, “What I really want is to feel like this is a burden, and I feel used and feel like this is just for him.  And he has to just use my body.”  She doesn’t—no woman gets married being like, “Oh, I can’t wait to feel like I’m just going to lie there and hope it gets over with.”

Sheila: Yeah.  And so many men say, “Well, she was so rearing to go, and she was so excited about sex.  And then it was just like the bait and switch.  As soon as I put the ring on her finger, she just totally switched.”  She didn’t want to switch.  She didn’t want to do that.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  And maybe if you were having sex before you got married and then you’re like, “Well, then we got married, and then all of a sudden, it stopped,” okay.  But what else changed?  Is it now that she has to take care of all of your laundry and your dishes all of a sudden?  She doesn’t want to have sex with you anymore because you’re not living in separate places.  

Sheila: But let’s—okay.

Rebecca: But we’ll get back to this guy.

Sheila: I do want to talk about this guy for a minute.  And so this—now, again, we recognize there might be other things going on.  Okay.  She might be a victim of trauma, right?  She might have sexual trauma in her background, and that might make sex really difficult.  Okay.  And there is no getting around that for so many people.  But the more you have sex with her when she is feeling no pleasure and she is doing it for you, the more you make that trauma harder to get over.

Rebecca: And I think that if you want to have a great sex life where you have an eager partner, who is just ready and rearing to go, you have to put the work in at the beginning.  And if you didn’t put the work in at the beginning, you have to recognize now that it’s going to take a lot more work.  And you may not get exactly what you wanted.  And I know that’s not the hopeful message that we often like to give.  But I just have yet to see research that shows that you can get to the—if the damage has already been done, you can get to a really, really good place.  A really good place.  But she might always have a responsive instead of the spontaneous libido that lots of men kind of like go into marriage expecting, right?  And there’s nothing wrong with responsive libido.  It’s a good thing.  But we all have to recognize and be realistic about how actions have consequences, right?  There is the verse that we’re always quoting.  “God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.”  And that doesn’t always mean that it was sown in malice.  What I love about this guy’s letter is that he so focused.  He wants his wife to enjoy sex.  But does he want his wife to enjoy sex enough that he can stop enjoying sex for a little bit?  Because she’s not been enjoying it the whole time.  And so can he actually take responsibility and can he actually take the steps to truly and honestly get back to the basics of a relationship?  Instead of it being about how, “Well, you’re not performing well, wife,” versus he hasn’t been performing well.  The frustrating part for me is at what point is a woman not orgasming going to be enough to consider a man not a good lover.  Because what does being a good lover even mean then?  It’s meaningless.

Sheila: Yeah.  And I know he says, “But I’d be willing to do all of these things.  And I’ve researched.  I’m willing to do all these things, but she doesn’t want me to,” but the question is why doesn’t she want you to?  And that is part of being a good lover.  So honestly, if you want her to enjoy sex, you may need to go back to square one.  And we’re going to talk about this in November.  This is really going to be our series in November where we’re going to talk about how to dig out of the pit that you dug for yourself even if you did it totally in ignorance.

Rebecca: Totally in ignorance.

Sheila: And she may have dug it too, okay?  She may have been there with the shovel helping you dig it.  She may have said, “No.  Don’t worry about me.”  She may have not prioritized her pleasure as well.  She may have thought, “I don’t really matter.”  She may have contributed to this too.  But the difference is you were the one getting the orgasm and you’ve been the one getting the orgasm for years.  And now you’re coming to her and saying, “You’re still not good enough.  Yes.  You’ve given me all these orgasms.  But now you’re the one still doing it wrong.”  

Rebecca: Yes.  Instead of coming to her and saying, “I’ve done it wrong for however many years.  I have not been a good lover.  I’ve been a selfish lover.  I have not been good.  And from the get go, I should have been better.  And I’m so sorry.  And let’s kind of figure out how I can be the husband that you need and you want,” because she might decide she doesn’t want sex.  And is that something you are willing to have her decide?  Because that’s a question I always have for these guys is will you still love your wife even if she doesn’t really want sex?  Because you are the one who made it that she doesn’t want sex in a lot of these cases.  

Sheila: Because a lot of these women did want sex and were really looking forward to sex before the wedding, but then they get married.  And they have these negative experiences, and their sex drive is just killed.

Rebecca: Because we’ve heard from so many women who are in exactly this woman’s position where they didn’t have sex—they didn’t have orgasms for years.  They’re like, “We got married.  It was awkward.  It was messy.  I felt uncomfortable.  I felt just quirky and weird.  I didn’t feel sexy.  And we didn’t orgasm.  And so it just went on like that for 12 years.  And then all of a sudden we figured out these problems, and we just put a total sex ban on the table for as long as I needed.”  And then what they say is often, after time, when it was genuinely—she genuinely learned that he loved her.  He didn’t love using her body.  He loved her.  That’s when desire can often come back too.

Sheila: Yeah.  And that’s what we’re going to talk about is how to make that a reality in your life.  But I would just say to this man I know your heart—you sound like your heart is in a good place.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  It really does.

Sheila: I really want her to enjoy sex too.  I don’t want sex to be just about me,” but you need to show your wife that.  And you’re not showing it to her right now, if you’re still having sex with her when she’s not having a good time.  And so you might need to come to her and say, “Look.  We need to back up.  We need to back this truck up.  We need to go back to the beginning, and we need to figure this out because I don’t want to feel like I’m using you.”

Rebecca: Yeah.  If you don’t want to settle for B plus or C plus in your marriage, then don’t settle for it.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  Now I do want to talk about something else that I talked about on the blog this week actually about women who—we do get emails from women who said, “I never had an orgasm for 10 years.   And then something happened.  And suddenly, I became orgasmic.”  And sometimes that something is birth control.  I don’t have a letter about this.  But I do have a post on Monday about 10 ways that hormones can affect libido.  And that’s really about—and that’s when we’re looking at spontaneous or solo libido where women’s hormones do play a big role in libido.  We talk about this in the Boost Your Libido course as well.  How there are hormone fluctuations across the month where just before ovulation your hormone—and for men, it’s testosterone that really boosts libido.  For women, it is too, but it’s also estrogen.  And it’s also how high progesterone is.  You don’t want progesterone to be the highest.  It’s all the mix.  Okay?  It’s this nice soupy thing of hormones.  And when the soup is a specific kind of soup—

Rebecca: This is so gross.  This is so gross.

Sheila: – women are really rearing to go.  And we get that right around ovulation.  And then after ovulation, your body is like, “I did my job.”  And so your hormone levels change in the luteal phase, which is the phase after ovulation before menstruation begins again.  And your libido can drop.  And so one night you could be having sex, and you’re super into it.  And you’re really orgasmic.  And it’s easy.  And then another night it’s like everything is the same, but you find your mind is wandering.  And you can’t get aroused as easily.  And then you start thinking, “Am I stressed?  Am I made at my husband?  Do I not realize there is something going on subconsciously?”  And then you start thinking what are all the things he did to me today.  And it’s like, “That’s what it must be.  I must be mad at him.”  And really it’s just that you’re in the luteal phase.  And if we understood that in that phase, you’re just going to take a longer time to reach orgasm, and it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong.  Okay?  And then right before menstruation, a couple of days before, you could—some women find this weird combination where your libido is actually a little bit higher.  But at the same time, you’re really ticked off.  And so it’s just—it’s this really weird time, okay?  So it’s like if you think about after your period was the green zone where your body works really well.  After ovulation is the red zone where it doesn’t work as well, and you need some more time.  And then you have this orange zone where it’s like we don’t know.

Rebecca: Proceed with caution.

Sheila: And then for some women during your period, your libido goes up.  So it differs for people but understanding that really helps.  Here’s the thing though.  Hormonal birth control can take away those spikes where you get the rearing to go.  And so does menopause.  Menopause also brings with it a bunch of other changes.  Vaginal dryness, vaginal atrophy, all kinds of thinness of the vaginal wall.  There’s less blood flow to the genital region, and so lubrication and arousal can just take more time.  And so these are all things that can also affect us.  But I’ve talked to so many women who started off marriage on hormonal birth control.

Rebecca: And when they stopped to try to have a kid, they’re like, “Wait a second.”

Sheila: Like, “Wow.  Is that what it normally feels like?”  I am not saying that no one should go on the pill.

Rebecca: Oh gosh.  No.

Sheila: Okay?  And we have a birth control series where we go over the different methods.

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  I’ve been on the pill for medical reasons—stuff.  I had horrible periods, and I’ve been on the pill for that for crippling pain.  Yeah.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And so we’re not saying that.  We’re just saying that is something to be aware of.  And so, again, if your libido isn’t what you want it to be and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of other reasons, just ask yourself if it could be contraception.

Rebecca: Yeah.  I mean it’s not a bad idea to try another kind of contraception for awhile.  

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  Okay.  So there’s another one that can affect solo where people haven’t orgasmed in a couple years.  And that could be something.  All right.  Another email.  “Sex is something that I could spend the rest of my life without and be fine.  It feels okay sometimes.  It hurts others.  I’ve talked to doctors, and they say they can’t do anything except for surgery.  And I don’t want to go that far with my other medical conditions.  I’m chronically ill and sick a lot.  My husband has an almost insatiable libido and tells me he wishes I would stop complaining about my illnesses and push through.”  

Rebecca: Oh gosh. 

Sheila: “In the same sentence, he will say he doesn’t want me to do anything I don’t want to sexually.  I’m really torn because sex is exhausting, makes me nauseous, and often hurts, but I know it’s important for my marriage.  It’s difficult because I’ve fallen asleep while my husband is trying to give me pleasure.  And it was disheartening for him.  He has said having sex with foreplay is too much work for nothing.”

Rebecca: Oh gosh.  That is something.  That sounds like a bad dude who knows the right words to say.  Well, I’m sorry.  But any time that someone is saying things like, “I want you to enjoy this.  I want you to have a great time.  I don’t want you to feel pressured, and then also I’m going to pressure you.  I’m going to give you unenjoyable sex and complain about having to have foreplay.”  Listen to his actions, not his words.  I’m sorry.  Listen to his actions, not his words.

Sheila: Yeah.  I will say if you are experiencing a great deal of pain please—  

Rebecca: Even any pain.  Any pain.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Please see a pelvic floor physical therapist.  I know she’s seen doctors, and I don’t mean to be anti doctor.  My husband is a physician.    

Rebecca: But they have no idea what to do about this stuff.

Sheila: But pelvic floor physical therapists are often more educated in this than many family doctors and even gynecologists.  Now some gynecologists are wonderful, and she may have a different condition.  There are conditions that are not muscular related.

Rebecca: That require surgery.  Yeah.

Sheila: That do require—yeah.  That aren’t muscular related.  And there’s also inflammation, inflammatory diseases, that pelvic floor physical therapists can’t really helpful with.  And so it’s not like a pelvic floor physical therapist is a cure all.

Rebecca: But for example—I’ll say for myself.  I had horrible—I talked about this in the book.  I had horrible trauma induced vaginismus after my son’s birth.  My family doctor told me the only result was to have a second kid and hope it tears the right way this time.

Sheila: Oh my gosh.  I didn’t know that.

Rebecca: Yeah.  

Sheila: Oh my—okay.  Repeat that again.  I’m still processing.

Rebecca: Yeah.  So I went to get a pap smear, and my family doctor told me that the only way to cure what was going on was to have a second kid and hope it tears the right way this time and hope it heals better.  And then I saw a pelvic floor physical therapist the next month crying to her because I thought I wasn’t going to be able to have more kids without C-section.  Ironically had a C-section next time.  And within 4 weeks, I was better because it was trauma.  It was not muscular.

Sheila: Imagine if you weren’t my daughter though.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  Imagine if I hadn’t done the research for The Great Sex Rescue already.  Yeah.  And so I—but that’s the thing.  Is my family doctor has—was a lovely person and was incredibly empathetic and was really just at a loss and was like, “I don’t know.  I’m so sorry.  I think it’s just this.”  She had no idea.  Absolutely no idea how the pelvic floor worked because that’s not her job.  It’s not her job.  Go see someone who it’s their job.

Sheila: Yeah.  Okay.  I’m going to say something which is going to shock you.

Rebecca: That’s hard to do.  Go for it.

Sheila: I want to praise Kevin Leman for something he said.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  No.  That would do it.

Sheila: So in Sheet Music, he—I thought that of all the books that we reviewed for The Great Sex Rescue he actually handled vaginismus the best.

Rebecca: Yeah.  He did.  We’ve had this conversation.  Yeah.

Sheila: Okay.  Now that does not mean it’s a good book.  Goodness me.  No.  You do not have to have sex during your period or give him oral sex during your period to keep him from watching porn.  But anyway, what he did say was he said, “Men, how would you feel if every time you thrust it felt like someone was jabbing something up your penis?  Would you enjoy that?”  And so we need—

Rebecca: He was the only—he was—genuinely, he’s the only male author I have ever seen asking men to get into the headspace of the woman in pain.  Yeah.

Sheila: Yeah.  And so we need—so I would just say to this woman she needs—first of all, you need to figure out the pain piece absolutely.  But there’s also more relationship issues going on here.  

Rebecca: This is a trust what he does, not what he says.  

Sheila: Because he’s not showing that he actually cares about her.  I will also say if during foreplay you’re falling asleep—

Rebecca: That probably means that your body needs sleep.

Sheila: And it probably means that you’re having sex at a time where it’s not going to work.  Assuming the pain thing is taken care of and assuming that the relationship thing is taken care of, if you’re really working on orgasm if orgasm is difficult and if pleasure is difficult for you, having sex right when you’re really super tired is probably not going to help.  And it may help to change the time of day that you try to have sex.  Also if you’re allowing your mind to wander, you’re not going to feel pleasure, and you’re more likely to fall asleep.  So learning mindfulness techniques where you can stay engaged and understand what your body is feeling is really important.  

Rebecca: But, again, for this woman, the priority is not orgasm.  The priority is to have her husband stop treating her so terribly or to—yeah.  Because that just makes me angry.

Sheila: Okay.  Two more about libido.  

Rebecca: Okay.  From a reader.  “My husband has a really high libido, and I do not.  I can typically go without intimacy for a couple of weeks while he prefers at least once a week.  He has expressed his want to have more sex before, and I agreed.  Cue uncomfortable and awkward emotions from me along with just being physical disinterested.  He is very attentive and makes sure I orgasm.  But sex is just not an absolute top of my list, got to have it now thing.  I’ve always been this way.  He takes this as a personal slight to his ego and believes I don’t desire him.  So he’s constantly asking what he can do to be more desired.  He says he is tired of getting rejected.  I kind of chalk it up to he is a man.  There is no doubt he thinks differently.  He doesn’t really stop and consider what’s going on in life, when he is asking.  Part of it is he always says he desires me so much, and it almost feels like he is blaming his desire on me when I have no conscious decision to be sexy.  I’m getting to the point where I just feel like touching, responding positively to his compliments, or even trying to be myself is leading him on.  This time when he approached me about his want to have sex more often it was placed behind a plea that it makes our marriage our better.  We are always closer after.  It’s hard to have these needs and not having them met, I just felt like crying.  And I’m super frustrated because he says more.  And I say no.  It’s also the timing.  We have young kids.  One of which we are having some major behavioral issues with, and we are actually taking a parenting class.  I’m having issues at my full time job, and I have a billion other things going on.  And he just does not understand that I am not ready to go at the drop of a hat like him.  I feel like he’s shaming and pressuring me, and I’m upset.”  

Sheila: Yeah.  I have some—I have two takes on this.  And we may disagree with one of the takes.  But I do think that this is an example of that solo versus dyadic.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  With the equality in marriage.  Yeah.

Sheila: Yeah.  Where she’s carrying a lot of this responsibility.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Because she says that he’s ready to go at the drop of a hat and she has too many things on her mind, right?  That’s what really she’s saying.  When I read this letter too, the big word that comes to my mind is just overwhelmed.  This just sounds very much like that study about how she might be holding more of the mental load, more of the—it might just not be an equal relationship.  The fact that she says this, “There’s no doubt he thinks differently.  He doesn’t really stop to consider what’s going on in life,” right?  That is textbook mental load inequality.  And my personal opinion based on the research that I’ve seen reading that is that this is a mental load problem.  She does have desire.  It’s just not that frequent.  She has sex desire.  “I can typically go without intimacy for a couple of weeks.”  There is a point where she can’t go without intimacy anymore, right?

Sheila: Right.  Right.  Right.

Rebecca: So she has desire.  But it’s just being so squelched by all the pressures that she’s feeling, and it sounds like he’s not even considering those.  

Sheila: Yep.  Yeah.  And I will also say too that when men want sex regardless of what else is going on that can be a red flag in the relationship too.  We talked about that last week in the Paul and Morgan—talking about the Paul and Morgan YouTube video as well.  You shouldn’t want sex in the middle of a fight.  That does show that there’s a—

Rebecca: Yeah.  And I don’t know if that’s exactly what’s going on here.  It might just be that he doesn’t carry the household stuff.  But just for anyone who is listening, if you guys can be going through something really bad and he still is just mad that you’re not giving him any, that’s a little concerning.

Sheila: Yeah.  But at the same time, they’re—I do want to talk about the other side of it which sometimes we don’t talk about.  And so let’s look at the other side of it too.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Let’s talk about a theoretical relationship, right?  There is no mental load inequality.  She’s orgasming all the time.  They’re best friends.  They’re equal partners.  The marriage is really, really, really good, but life is just stressful and hard.  

Sheila: Yeah.  The behavior problems.  The job problems, et cetera.  When you are feeling stressed, you’re not going to want sex.  In a way, it’s almost like—if you’re in a lot of stress, you’re almost in fight or flight mode.  

Rebecca: Well, it’s the brakes, right?  The brakes are slammed to the ground, right?  Because your body doesn’t have the energy.  It doesn’t have the resources to resort to sex.  And especially as a woman, you definitely don’t have the resources to have another pregnancy right now.  You’re lizard brain, right?  The deep parts of your brain that are responsible for all these base needs are kind of like, “No.  No sex.  We can’t have baby.”  

Sheila: Yeah.  Because when your body is stressed, your body turns off libido because your body doesn’t want to get pregnant.  Okay.  

Rebecca: Now that’s a theory, of course.  It can’t be tested, but it’s a good theory.  

Sheila: That’s a theory.  But it does look like stress really does reduce libido.  Because your body is saying, “I have all of these really big things I need to take care of, these are my priorities,” and so libido just goes way by the wayside.  Okay.  Here’s where I’m going to push back a bit for women.  Okay?  Your child may have behavioral problems for the next few years.  This may not be something which takes care of itself overnight.  And even if your husband comes on board and is in parenting classes and is fully engaged with this.  It may still cause stress in your life.  You may have a super stressful job that is just making life untenable right now.  And so the big picture question is, is your life tenable the way it is?  Because if you have all of these issues, there is something going on that’s causing your child to have behavior problems.  You’re having major job stress.  Maybe you need a different life because is this really tenable.  And for some people, you can’t ask that question because you’re just in too much economic hardship.  And things are just too difficult.  But we’ve—Keith and I made the decision awhile ago to make major changes to his work schedule because our life was untenable.  And there are times where you—you’re kind of on this treadmill.  And you’re just going ahead because you’re just doing what you’re supposed to do and realizing that I am capable of stepping off the treadmill and asking, “Is this even where I want to be can be,” very empowering.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And often, if you’re someone who has young kids or you’re just kind of trying to get it sorted out, you don’t have the freedom to remove hours or to change jobs or anything.  And so are there other areas that could somehow be alleviated?  Are you really feeling a lot of mom guilt and mom pressure and putting your kids in 18 extracurriculars?  Are you doing things—I know a really simple—I know this is going to sound like a really silly thing because Connor and I are more in a situation that most people are in.  We can’t choose to change jobs or change our hours.  And we have young kids.  And really big thing for me—and I talked about it in the newsletter is we just genuinely changed how we did screen time, and it changed a lot of the behavioral stuff that we were dealing with.  I’m not saying for this kid.  I’m just saying for other families who are like, “Everything is just so hard all the time.”  It’s like, “Are there some things that giving it a good week of effort could change?”  I know that really helped us.

Sheila: But asking yourself, “Is this tenable long term?”  Maybe make a five-year plan where you end up—you move to a different city.  You change your housing situation, whatever it might be, to make life more tenable.  Maybe one of you goes half time.  Whatever it might be.  Because if this isn’t tenable in the long term, what are you doing to do about it?  And it might not be something you can fix in 6 months, but you might be able to make a five-year plan so that it’s better.

Rebecca: Yeah.  In the same TEDTalk I was talking about earlier from Emily Nagoski, she was sharing the two things that lead to long term happy relationships, right?  What makes a couple still be in love with each other 25 years down the road, right?  Which I recognize is in the back rearview mirror for you guys.  But for me, it seems very long.  And one of the things that they genuinely is they do prioritize sex.  Now she has a really big caveat where she says that includes infrequent sex.  But it is prioritized.  It doesn’t mean you have to be having sex every two days.  Every three days.  Nothing like that.  So here’s how Nagoski put it, and I typed this out.  So it as close to word perfect as I can get.  “I can think of nothing more romantic than being chosen as a priority even after I introduced all these difficult feelings into our relationship,” and what she’s talking about is talking about the body image issues or the reasons you don’t want sex and bringing them all forward.  “How do you sustain a strong sexual connection in a relationship over the long term?  You look into the eyes of your best friend, and you keep choosing to find your way back.”  And I think that we talk a lot on here about why women don’t want sex and why it’s often his fault frankly and—or why it’s the fault of bad teachings.  Or it’s the fault past bad experiences.  But I do think that what’s important to recognize is that in relationships we do have power to choose when we know something is good for us.  When we know something is good for us.  And maybe that choosing means you have to choose to give up something else.  Or maybe it means that you and your husband decide, “You know what?  I can do every other week.  Every other Saturday we’re going to have sex.  That’s fine.  And that’s what we’re going to do.  And we’re going to do that until—that’s working for us.  And then we can work our way up,” instead of him being like, “Well, I want sex every—once or twice a week.”  And she wants sex once every 4 weeks.  And so they decide to go once a week.  Maybe they just start easing it towards a more frequent instead of doing it all in because it has to be about both of you.  It has to be about both of you.  But that idea of choosing to come back, choosing to find your way back, to look into the eyes of your best friend, and choosing to find your way back.  I just thought that was really beautiful.

Sheila: It is.  And just as we were talking about how stress can lower libido, there are things that can lower stress.  And one of the ways that you can lower stress is by prioritizing intimacy and connection in relationships.  Relationships are one of the best stress relievers when you have a close relationship.  And so is orgasm.  And so we’re not—again, we’re not trying to say that how he treats you doesn’t matter.  

Rebecca: No.  Obviously not.

Sheila: We’re not trying to say that mental load doesn’t matter or anything like that.  But there is a time where sometimes the reason you don’t want sex is because of stress.  But ironically, if you practice some of the mindfulness techniques, if you decided I do want to prioritize this because I want to have a good time, and I want to feel close to my husband, and I know this is good for me, then that libido can come back.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Because there is going to be times where the reason for your low libido needs to be addressed by your spouse, right?  If you’re the woman who has low libido, there are going to be times where if it’s mental load, you know what?  He needs to deal with that.  But also life is just really hard and stressful.  And if we’re waiting for life to be perfect, that’s not going to happen.  And so what we’re saying is if there’s a chance—if there is a time where he genuinely needs to fix things, he needs to fix things.  And if he’s not willing to fix things, then he can’t really complain about not having as much sex as he wants.  But if they’re in a situation where they’re partners, they’re really in this together, and there is just a mismatched libido and there’s nothing more he can really do, at some point, we have to simply accept that it might be time to, again, look into the eyes of your best friend and choose to come back again and again.

Sheila: Because wouldn’t that be wonderful if you could live that?  And I think that’s what women want.  We just sometimes—we’re so in the middle of the stress that we don’t even see how it’s possible because we never have that felt need for sex.  And that’s what we talk about in the Boost Your Libido course too because I know this is really tricky for so many women.  And my heart is just to have people who feel connected enough that they can tackle the stresses of life together.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  Because the Boost Your Libido course is not going to tell you, you have to have sex more often or else you’re not prioritizing your marriage or else you’re not a good wife or else you’re not—no.  It’s nothing about that.  It’s about how can we figure out how to unlock desire for you because you deserve to want to have sex.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  And this was something amazing that God did make.  And it does help reduce stress, and it does help you go through life feeling invigorated and feeling like, “Okay.  I can tackle this.  We can handle this together.”  And it’s not going to fix your relationship, okay?  Your relationship is something different, and that does need to be tackled.  But if this really is a big roadblock for you, I hope we can help you get over it because there are ways.  And I just hate to see people feel stuck and feel so alienated when there might be a way around it.  So that’s what we had to say today about libido, these different ways of looking at it that can help us realize that maybe high low isn’t the best way of seeing it.  But when we can understand other ways of seeing it, it can help us recognize where the problems really are where we don’t just blame someone for having the lower libido.  We say, “Okay.  What kind of libido do you have?  What are the things that are going into lowering your libido?  And how can we overcome that?”  So take a look at the Boost Your Libido course.  Take a look at The Great Sex Rescue, and let’s continue this conversation and this research because it’s important.  Coming up in November, we’re going to talk about what to do if you really did dig this hole.  And because sometimes, you dig the hole a little bit, and then your spouse digs it a little bit more.  And then you just keep digging, and then the rains come.  And it just gets so—it’s like it’s not even a hole based on one problem.  It becomes a hold based on five different problems.

Rebecca: Exactly.  

Sheila: And where do we even start to dig our way out and to find the sex life that we want.  So we’re going to get some practical in November with some more stories of people that have just been really struggling and, hopefully, provide some hope on how we can turn this around.  So thank you for joining us on Bare Marriage.  Your support with Patron, with buying our merch is always appreciated.  And your support with our courses is always appreciated too.  So we will see you next week for our first podcast in our new series.  All right.  Bye-bye.

Rebecca: Bye.

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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17 Comments

  1. Jim

    I hope that you will at some point address those women who have a refractory period where they need to break off a sexual encounter after orgasm. You continue to preach that all women can have multiple orgasms but that it not true for all women.

    My wife is one of those and she has expressed how she feels broken because of this. It would be helpful and more inclusive to address these women as well.

    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/refractory-period#females

    Reply
  2. Jane Eyre

    Lovely job, Sheila and Rebecca.

    It’s so weird that men think sex is a bait and switch. It seems like men are all “we will wait for marriage, I love you and God more than I love sex,” and the moment married sex starts, it’s all “I love sex more than you and I have no problem making married intercourse into a sick, twisted mockery of what God intended. Let me use your body for pleasure you have never experienced.”

    If men told their fiancees that it might take a decade or more for them to climax, but the husbands would reliably be getting theirs, how many women would call off the wedding?

    Reply
    • Em

      You’re totally right, a mockery of what God intended. Sounds like grounds for divorce, honestly.

      Reply
  3. Chuck A

    First, thank you for your work and the TGSR. It helped us uncover things that were contributing to us in being stuck in our pursuit of a mutually pleasurable and passionate marriage. My wife read Emily Ngoski’s book before yours. We had years of counseling and two years ago went to a sex therapist. My wife is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, but has always been orgasmic. Even after your book, and therapy, things got better, but we were still stuck in our pursuit of a passionate marriage.

    We came across Dr. David Schnarch’s research and books when you were a guest on another podcast. Have you heard about his framework of Higher and Desire? It applies to any topic in marriage including sex. Have you heard of his book that is the textbook for many sexual therapists: “Constructing the Sexual Crucible: An Integration of Sexual and Marital Therapy. He cites much research in the book. Do you consider graduate level textbooks to be peer reviewed? His Differentiation Theory is very well researched, and his books cites all the research to support it.

    We read Schanrch’s book the Passionate Marriage, and have gone to a Scharnch trained therapist. Wow, what a difference, we are on the path to the passionate marriage we dreamed about, before it went off the rails in year two of our marriage

    Your book and Schnarch’s work has helped me understand the way I created the sex life I have, the ways I have gotten in my own way, and set us on a journey where we are coaching other couples in our church on their pursuit of a healthy, pleasurable, passionate sex life. Thanks for the ways you helped our journey

    Reply
  4. Suzanne

    I commented on FB, but will repeat myself here. There was a bit of obligation sex message in the end of this podcast, I was really surprised by that. You can be intimate together without sex. “At some point you have to look into the eyes of your partner and chose to come back”, just sounded like even when you are stressed and don’t want sex, have sex because one partner wants more sex. Sex doesn’t take away stress, it doesn’t make bills get smaller, bullying of kids stop, health issues get better. I resent the idea that I need to just empty my mind of what is happening right now in my life so I can just get into sex, because those stresses will just come slamming back in. Good sex is not the same as sex because you feel like you owe your partner. I am “with” my husband even when we have a sex dry spell, because we choose each other, and know that our marriage is more than how often we have sex.

    Reply
    • Ray

      I understand your point, but I do think they were trying to say if you genuinely want to have more sex with your partner but continue to live a stressful, busy life that doesn’t allow you to connect with your partner, you should work on the things that are roadblocks to intimacy rather than just accepting your life how it is

      Reply
    • Anna

      I agree. I heard an obligation sex message there too. Any time you have to just ignore stuff that is weighing on one of the partners, it isn’t likely to end well. Because, understandably, people resent their burdens being minimized.

      Reply
    • Elf

      TBH I found the responses across this podcast confusingly emotional and contradictory. I agree there seemed to be obligation overtones to the last letter. Earlier, the “guy it’s all your fault, it’s your responsibility to fix this, and only you can fix this” seemed to take agency away from the woman. Perhaps that’s not the intent.

      I’d prefer to hear some of these questions answered by a licenced, practicing, and experienced relationship or sex therapist. AFAIK Sheila and Rebecca have little experience counselling couples one on one, in a professional setting.

      Reply
    • Sarah

      Yeah I heard that too, and was surprised. I mean, what I heard from that last commenter was that her husband was a tad egocentric, or at least didn’t appreciate how much she was being impacted by the hard stuff of life. And I also think they were a tad hard on the first commenter. I think I’d have felt discouraged if I were him, and crushed if I were her.

      I liked the advice to consider how sustainable your pace is long term, but it’s entirely possible to know that your life runs at an unsustainable pace right now and yet be able to do very little about it. The pace at which I live life feels unsustainable sometimes (and I’m single!) but I can’t bail on my job/family/ministries/friends just because this is an overwhelming season of life. Similarly, if this woman is going through a really hard time with her additional needs child and her husband is not understanding of that, they need couples therapy imo, not advice to just ‘choose each other’ when he’s being selfish,

      Reply
  5. JB

    Thank you for this podcast! It hit me hard (in a good way).
    I have been married for more than a year and a half to a loving and kind man, and, although I have been through pelvic floor physical therapy, intercourse still hurts, so my husband and I don’t really do that. I also have very sensitive brakes, so the moment any type of touch hurts (even if I let my husband know), I am launched into deep distress and disappointment in myself. I don’t expect to orgasm with my husband and have only (probably) done so once, although he prioritizes my pleasure. I also have sexual trauma from purity culture and a past abusive relationship, with frequent flashbacks during sex or foreplay. I am looking for a new therapist to help with this, as my last (long-term) therapist victim-blamed me for it. Many sexual encounters with my husband have ended with me sobbing due to feeling broken.

    You all have helped me so much. When I read The Great Sex Rescue, I found out I had bodily autonomy. We just bought The Orgasm Course to do together. (Side note: is the course a digital download? Will I get an email with the files? How do I access it?)
    Thanks for all your help!

    Reply
  6. Chuck A

    odd you won’t post some comments, if a couple’s journey of healing falls outside your narrative. These “outlier” people’s stories of couples with trauma, like ours, that might help other people. You have no trauma training. Your do not see clients who have trauma. You just recommend people go see a therapist. That is good. But limiting posts from success stories is not helpful to other outliers… Is that because my wife and I won’t give you all the credit?

    She is so disappointed and fed up with you, she won’t even listen or read your stuff anymore. We will continue to recommend TGSR to couples we coach. But we will warn them that your other resources, and ideological echo chamber contained in your FB, may contribute to some couples staying stuck. If you reach Schnarch’s academic work you will understand why. I pray you will one day. If you every want to chat with my wife and I and hear our story, you know where to reach us. A show of a little humility of what you may not know would be endearing.

    Reply
    • Suzanne

      I saw two comments from you. Sometimes they don’t show up immediately, but if you are not being crude or ugly they seem to post most comments.

      I read reviews and snippets of one of Schnarch’s book but it was a bit to much in terms of the descriptions of sex so I put it down. I am not interested in details of others sex lives. It seemed to push masterbation and the idea of porn use to the higher drive spouse. That doesn’t follow what Sheila and Rebecca promote, so I can’t see them endorsing something they do not believe in, not do they endorse explicit sex advice.

      Just food for thought.

      Reply
    • Chuck

      Thanks for posting my original comment. I apologize for being too reactive with this second comment. I thought you blocked it. God bless and praying for you and your team.

      Reply
    • Lisa

      Chuck your first comment with the book recommendations is posted.

      Reply
    • Dani

      It’s a little strange that your previous comment was so full of thanks for the work these ladies do but then when your comment wasn’t posted in a timeframe you thought it should be you immediately went on the attack. Is there something else underlying that very quick change from grateful to very, very critical?

      Reply
  7. Dani

    My question after listening is, you guys say often that it can take time to figure out what a woman likes and what works for her. Are you saying intercourse shouldn’t happen for the first time until that has occurred, regardless of how long it might take?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That is likely a good idea! Every couple can decide for themselves of course, but if you want great sex long term, figuring out how to make her feel good and learning each other’s bodies is likely better to do before you have intercourse. Like I said in The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, the order should be: feel comfortable, get fully aroused, intercourse. Some couples can do that in one night; some take much longer. But having intercourse when she is not aroused we know does lead to long-term libido problems.

      Reply

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