Let’s Talk Emotional Labour of Birth Control

by | Jul 10, 2023 | Libido | 74 comments

The emotional labor of birth control
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Every week I try to create awesome content for you all on the blog and the podcast–and even my social media! But I’ve got to tell you–some of the best content coming out of Bare Marriage is our Friday email that goes out to 46,000 people every week.

And I don’t write the copy. Rebecca does.

The Friday emails have the round-up on all the posts that dropped that week, including which ones were talked about the most. But then Rebecca expands on something that she and I have been talking about. 

 So many people open the emails to see what she has to say (since she started writing them, my open rate has skyrocketed!)

And I wanted to share a recent one with you. Remember—you can sign up for our emails, too!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Why are so many women willing to use birth control that makes them feel horrible because their husbands just don’t like how condoms feel?

This is the question I (Rebecca) talked about in a recent podcast and I thought I’d expand upon it today in the newsletter. 

Now, here’s something I want to make clear: this is not an “anti-the-pill” article. Not at all, and we’ll talk about how the pill can actually seriously HELP marriages if it’s a good fit!

But I want to go through this common scenario with you. 

Wife wants to go off the pill. It’s messing with her libido so she never wants sex, she can’t really get lubricated anymore, and she’s just not feeling herself. She thinks it might be due to the pill so she asks him to start using condoms so she can go off it.  He says he doesn’t want to wear condoms because it makes sex not feel as good, so she should just stay on the pill. 

But why is that an acceptable solution? 

She’s taking a birth control that is impairing her so much that she actively does not want sex anymore. Loss of libido is a common side effect of the birth control pill, as are changes in mood and difficulty with arousal. He is refusing to wear a condom because it may decrease his pleasure–but not to the point that he can’t orgasm. 

Not to the point that he doesn’t want sex at all. 

Not to the point that he would actively choose to not have sex rather than have sex with a condom on. 

No, it’s just inconvenient.

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What I see so often is the conflation of “impairment” and “inconvenient,” but with a gender swap. For men, we so often label “inconvenient” as “impairment.” He can’t have sex with a condom because it wouldn’t feel as good. But that’s not actually true–he totally can, it won’t really affect his sex drive, he’s just being inconvenienced. 

But then we tell the woman on the pill that’s making her feel depressed and completely bottomed out her libido that she needs to overcome this small hurdle and not elevate her own experience over her husband’s. But it’s not about just “experience.” She’s being impaired, this is not merely inconvenient.

But we call things that impair women inconvenient, and things that inconvenience men impairments. 

Why? I think it’s because we actually don’t expect women to enjoy sex, while men are expected to be sexual beings, so an impairment to her is seen as less bad as an inconvenience to him. And to that I say… well, a lot of choice words. 

Many conversations about sexuality and marriage in the church talk about “serving” your spouse. But what if that mentality actually backfires while we still have a male pleasure bias? Of course we should each serve each other! Absolutely! If we have a “tit for tat” mentality, frankly, we can get petty really quickly. 

But if we get rid of all ideas of equity and justice, that can get ugly, too. 

I think we need to get back to the actual idea of mutual submission, the idea that neither of us is more important than the other, but also that both of us are called to goodness, holiness, and justice as we walk in Christ. 

So what does that mean? 

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It means we stop seeing it as “husband vs. wife” and start seeing it as “husband and wife optimizing the relationship together.” 

Let’s go back to birth control here. A woman taking a medication she does not want to take, that is making her feel ill, killing her libido, and is yet another daily mental checklist task for her to keep track of no longer wants sex.

Sex feels like a chore, and she hates that because she loves her husband and wants to love sex but she’s just so TIRED and just so DONE with it because it’s horrible to keep having to push yourself to have sex you don’t want and your body won’t respond to. 

If she has a maximum “pleasure” score of 100, she’s like at a 37 right now. She’s depressed, exhausted, and her sex drive has evaporated plus she finds it stressful to remember to take the pill every day at the same time and she worries every time she is a day late for her period that she messed up at some point and it didn’t work.

For her, this is not a viable option. But her husband is having sex he loves. It feels good for him, except that he hates that his wife doesn’t seem to really like it that much. So he’s at like a 92/100.

Combined, they’re at a 129/200. 

What happens if she goes off the pill and he uses a condom instead? Well, if her problems are caused by the pill then she’s going to have an increase in libido, her moods are going to feel better, she’ll have less stress that she’ll get pregnant without wanting to, and over time sex will likely get much easier. Maybe she ends up at around an 86/100. 

And he’s wearing a condom now, so he’s finding that sex doesn’t feel “as good” for him. But it doesn’t do what the pill did for his wife and make him completely lose his libido entirely. He doesn’t dread sex.

It’s just a dampened experience (again, inconvenience versus impairment). So he’s like at an 79 maybe, assuming that the condom makes sex WAY worse (which, frankly, I find difficult to believe. I think likely it would only drop a few points, we are really stretching here to believe that the condom is truly a penis house of horrors).

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But overall, they’re still doing way better as a couple.

Overall, they’re at a 165/200. They actually HAVE a sex life that both of them enjoy. No one is feeling pressured or obligated to have duty sex. They both actually have a libido again. He’s not scared she’s going to just choose one day that she’s done with sex because she actually enjoys it, so why would she? Both of them are getting well over a “passing grade” for enjoyment. 

And if you’re a couple where she has endometriosis, then the pill may skyrocket that score, too! Her cramps get better, the pill would mediate a ton of horrible symptoms, and it may even improve their sex life as a result. Or you could be a couple where the woman doesn’t really have many side effects from the pill but she really enjoys the freedom of being able to plan a period around when you have big romantic getaways, and both of you enjoy getting to have sex without any barriers. 

So no one is saying what any couple should or should not do in terms of birth control, I could not care less, truly.

My only concern is that we do not allow women’s impairment to be an acceptable substitute for male inconvenience.

It’s not that either person matters more than the other. But neither person matters less than the other, either. 

Even the wife.

The emotional labor of birth control the pill

What do you think? Does she have a point about impairment vs. inconvenience? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Rebecca Lindenbach

Author at Bare Marriage

Rebecca Lindenbach is a psychology graduate, Sheila’s daughter, co-author of The Great Sex Rescue, and the author of Why I Didn’t Rebel. Working alongside her husband Connor, she develops websites focusing on building Jesus-centered marriages and families. Living the work-from-home dream, they take turns bouncing their toddler son and baby daughter, and appeasing their curmudgeonly blind rescue Yorkshire terrier, Winston. ENTJ, 9w8

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  1. You know

    I wish I had this article years ago. I have a medical condition that causes me not to be able to take birth control. That, plus a latex allergy.

    So for years we used non latex condoms. My husband hated it. He also hated the way lube felt on his hands…

    And because he never did enough foreplay…

    Sex was excessively painful. Like horribly painful. I had been taught you can never say no…

    It was awful. I recently talked to my therapist about this. She was so angry. I put my husband’s discomfort over my own pain. Yes, I told him it was painful. He didn’t change anything.

    After a miscarriage (because he decided not to put on a condom, but made me think he had- a whole other-🤬🤬)…

    I told him no more sex until he got a vasectomy. He really didn’t want to, but I held strong. My health had been so bad at that point, when I got pregnant, I thought I was going to die. The miscarriage was a relief and I hated that it was a relief. I had three other kids to take care of and my body didn’t have enough resources to manage a pregnancy.

    We talked this whole thing over recently. It’s when I realized that our entire sex life was male centered.

    I started pushing back on this…

    That’s when I found out he “couldn’t follow directions” on purpose. He spent years telling me, “it’s always good for me, so I’m going to make this good for you”… And then never doing it.

    And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I’ll be headed out of this marriage as soon as it’s financially possible.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry. I wish you had been treated the way that you deserved. I’m sorry for the pain you’ve been through.

      • You know

        Thanks! ❤️❤️

    • Jo R

      “That’s when I found out he “couldn’t follow directions” on purpose.”

      Wow, that takes weaponized incompetence to a whole new level. 😳 🤮 😱

      • Lisa Johns

        My husband also couldn’t follow directions on purpose. The thing that makes me maddest is not that he didn’t follow directions (though that does make me mad), but that I stayed for so very long expecting that some day he would have an epiphany. Biggest waste of time ever.

  2. Daniella

    Before I got married, I remember having a strong sex drive. I don’t remember hearing anyone talk about the negative side effects of the pill, so that’s the birth control method I used for the first 5 years of my marriage. Initially, it made me feel really nauseous. But I wasn’t paying attention to if it was decreasing my sex drive. Sex was never really that good. And I didn’t have a “before and after” to compare sex before the pill and sex after the pill. I was on the pill already when I got married and had sex for the first time. But this post makes me wonder.

    Thank you, Rebecca, for this post. I wish I had someone 12 years ago to give this message. It would have been good to have it on my radar. Unfortunately, I wasn’t looking for “solutions” to why sex wasn’t good. I had been told at church that some women don’t like sex (like it’s just something that happens). And no one ever emphasized problem solving if the woman is not enjoying it. What was emphasized was not depriving your husband. This same message was given both to the women who liked sex and to the women who didn’t like sex.

    Also, the idea of “serving” your spouse was taught at church. I remember hearing sex teachings that both spouses aren’t supposed to worry about getting their own needs met, but instead make it their business to serve their spouse above themself, and this way both spouses will get their needs met. Except, in reality it didn’t work that way. I served but didn’t get my own needs met.

    • exwifeofasexaddict

      Daniella, I had a very similar experience. We were both surprised when I went off the pill and suddenly had a libido. I did read about that in a book, which I don’t remember the name of, ca. 2000.

  3. Lisa Johns

    I tried the pill and it made me murderously angry. Never again — it was horrible.

  4. Kay

    So the other alternative is tracking cycles, which also is mental load for the woman. A woman’s fertility is “her” issue, when it should be an “US” issue. We often look at how everyone else is doing things and think “well that’s the way to do it” when decision making should be why do WE want for our family….

    It’s interesting, we are to be one flesh- looking out and honoring each other, except in matters of sex and decision making.

    • Phil

      Hi Kay – 13ish years ago and 9 months my wife and I came up with that plan. I honestly did not like the “inconvenience” and registered the “feeling loses” complaint but was willing. However, she did not like the odor that is associated with condoms so I was certainly ok with the plan. The original plan was for me to get snipped but we were financially struggling. So it got shoved to the back burner. But for me it was truly on her because well…how would I know was my argument? Today I would tell you we could do it together as I have grown up, but back then I saw it as her responsibility because it was her body. However if you want the truth, it was my responsibility to withdraw. Which I did not. So that cost us a million lol. Now there were some thyroid issues and antibiotics involved in the error but we have 3 children today due to that decision. We promptly found the money to get it done. Now there is a case where I only needed 1 message. Now I got it.

    • Bernadette

      Some couples do make tracking cycles a “them” issue instead of a “her” issue. She tells him what needs to be written down and he writes it.

      Depending on what you keep track of to help determine ovulation, he could end up writing a lot.

    • Lisa Johns

      I got really good at tracking cycles, and actually enjoyed it because I felt like I knew something about my body — I could understand it. For me, that was cool!

    • Justine Thyme

      Yes, I tracked cycles and that was “my” job and “my” problem. When I accidentally got pregnant it was also “my” fault because I had not tracked properly. Apparently it only takes one partner to conceive. He said I did it deliberately. And he emotionally abandoned me during that time because he was so upset about having another child.

  5. Angharad

    In the circles where I grew up, women were more likely to be pressured to give up the pill than to stay on it. Being on the pill if you were married meant you were ‘selfish’, because you didn’t want children. Being on the pill when you were single meant you were immoral, because ‘the only reason for a single girl being on the pill is so she can sleep around’. So basically, no ‘good Christian woman’ should ever take it – ever!

    I was on the pill for 10 years as a single girl because it was the only thing that controlled the constant and severe pain. I felt so shamed by the church for taking it – yet they are the ones who should be ashamed of their ignorance and judgemental attitudes. It makes me hopping mad that I was expected to black out from pain multiple times a month and feel constantly ill rather than taking a treatment that would ‘taint my purity’ for my ‘future husband’. Urgh!!!!!!

    Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone just left the choice as to what medications a woman took up to the woman and her doctor to decide?!!

  6. Anna

    I think this is a broader issue that id love to see addressed more. The emotional labor of family planning will always rest differently on a woman simply because she’s the one with a cycle dictating when she is and is not fertile. And yes; its heavy. My husband never had an issue with condoms; I do. They feel awful no matter what the situation down below is. We did that for a while after my first pregnancy when I realized how off the pill had me. It took 17 cycles and reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility before I conceived our first. I didn’t really get my libido and everything back until after our 2nd was born. (They are over 2 years apart.) I regret those years on the pill and what they stole from us. It was just what everyone was doing at that time. Buying ky was normal. Id gotten a wicked uti with a spermicide. We didn’t question the pill.

    After our 2nd I got really good at recognizing the signs of ovulation in my body. (I can’t do the temperature thing.) We add the withdrawal method to that 100% of the time. So id say he IS participating in our family planning. But it still falls to me to say when I’m fertile so we can decide if its best to control ourselves and avoid the possibility. It’s worked for over a decade; but I don’t expect him to just know when my cervical mucus has changed. We’re in our 40s and at over 20 years together.

    I had prayed about permanent methods for us and felt VERY strongly that we should not pursue those options. For some reason; its not right for us. Maybe the side effects would affect us. I do know women who’ve had horrendous periods after tubals. I know someone whose husband had painful ejaculation after his vasectomy. Those should be considered. And of course there are those surprise blessings where someone conceived years after surgically altering themselves. So really we ALL need to consider that nothing will be without benefits and risks. Sex will always require two partners behaving responsibly for whatever the outcome may be. Its not as simple as “he needs to wear a condom” because I know quite a few of those condom and pill failures graduating high school. Husbands definitely need to participate in finding what works best for BOTH of them. And we all need to lose the idea that creating an actual person is a negative thing. I say this as someone who has laid awake looking for that missed cycle more than once. Someone who has skipped cycles during stressful times. I don’t think it will ever be easy and carefree like some people want. Maybe that’s ok too. As long as you’re in it together. That’s the difference. We’ve been lied to as a culture to think it SHOULD be easy, breezy, fun with no responsibilities.

    • Suzanne

      I am sorry but no we don’t “all need to lose the idea that creating an actual person is a negative thing”, an unwanted pregnancy can very much be a negative thing. Not wanting to add more children to your family, or not wanting any children at all, or it being unsafe to have another pregnancy are ALL completely valid.

      • Angharad

        Agreed. I would argue that it’s far more important that we stop seeing birth control as a negative thing. A dear lady in my mum’s church who already had two young kids was warned that her life would be at risk if she got pregnant again, but they believed ‘God should set the size of our family’ and that ‘natural family planning’ was the only acceptable method, so she died giving birth to baby #3.

        • Jane Eyre

          I would be at a very high risk if I had another child. The sheer number of people who told me to just risk my life was horrifying and depressing.

      • Anon

        “And we all need to lose the idea that creating an actual person is a negative thing.”

        It would be a very negative thing for us. We don’t want children. Period. My husband has been snipped and I still track my ovulation and avoid on those fertile days just in case. If I did get pregnant, I would have an abortion.

    • Lindsey

      I agree with you. I would also just say that a great place to start is husband and wife praying about it and asking God to unify them on a decision. And we know that marriage requires sacrifice, as does the Christian life, and sometimes we will be called to do so (man, woman, or both).

    • Joy

      Eh. Fertility charting a la “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” was a huge problem for our intimacy. We did it 12 months, and at
      the end of that I got pregnant with our third child (unplanned but very wanted). After that my body and mental health broke, and my husband got a vasectomy. His recovery time took a bit longer than advertised (I have a hunch that “advertisers” are not honest about how much time it takes for men to recover as a way to get them to do it which is wrong), but it has been the best thing for both of us five year out.

      I had the pill irritations and spermicide reactions and condoms were annoying, too. I would also never recommend fertility tracking to anyone who does not want to or should not (due to health reasons) get pregnant. It is simply not a beautiful bonding experience for all couples. It’s good that y’all have found something that works for you, but that choice in our family would
      be one made without applying wisdom to our situation.

      • Anna

        Oh I never stuck with actual charting. That wasn’t going to be sustainable for me. We had to find what worked for us. I had just never seen resources that taught how to understand your body like that. I mean I had a general understanding of when ovulation occurs; but now I’m able to pay attention to the signs that I’m in that window. That didn’t happen overnight.

        There are still times I’ve really wanted a vasectomy to be an option. Maybe someday that will change. But until God gives us a peace about it; that won’t be the answer for our family.

        I grew up in a large blended family. I knew that we didn’t always have the resources my friends families did. But we were all loved and wanted even while our parents sacrificed for us. I remember my stepdad wearing worn out tshirts. We’ve discussed that and they have no regrets. Those hard times were temporary. I remember him selling things he loved and the stories of things he sold off in his first marriage. He did have a vasectomy after his 4th was born. I also remember how that 4th baby got to be the last one to ride in his prized possession of a classic car he rebuilt in high school. I will never see sex as something to enjoy without knowledge that you might create another human who deserves to be loved even if its hard on you. A friend of mine was told she was in menopause at an early age. Her partner was supposedly infertile. Her older kids are 11-17. And now she has a newborn. Was it easy? NO! It was a huge mental adjustment for everyone. But that sweet little baby is a blessing to them all. Our family has seen a lot. Not every member was created intentionally. Some joined our family out of foster care. Some have lost their children to their addiction. But I cannot imagine life without them. Its not all easy or pretty. My parents talk about the physical, financial, emotional sacrifices they made but not with resentment. They are up to 13 grandchildren and absolutely love this part of life. The hard times didn’t last.

        • Angharad

          ” I will never see sex as something to enjoy without knowledge that you might create another human who deserves to be loved even if its hard on you. ”

          So women who have had a hysterectomy should never enjoy sex because they can’t create another human being? Those who are infertile should never enjoy sex because they can’t create another human being? And women who know they will die if they have another baby should either take the risk of leaving their existing kids motherless or just never have sex again, because they shouldn’t be enjoying sex if the possibility of creating another human being doesn’t exist?

          I’m really sorry to break it to you, but not everyone lives in the kind of fairyland that you appear to inhabit. In the real world, women who are infertile…stay infertile. Women who are menopausal…stay menopausal. Women who will die if they carry another child to term…die. Just because you are surrounded with people who had happy endings doesn’t mean those endings exist for everyone. Some of us JUST CAN’T HAVE KIDS. So stop telling us that our sex lives are somehow ‘wrong’ or ‘less worthy’ because we’re not going to end up as parents. Or that women should risk their lives by getting pregnant when the doctors have told them that it would be fatal to carry a baby to term. People end up dead when that kind of thinking is promoted.

          The fact that you equate having kids being ‘hard on you’ with ‘having to wear worn out t shirts’ kind of says it all though…If that’s your idea of hardship, then I guess you can never begin to understand some people’s kind of ‘hard on you’.

          • Nessie

            I don’t know if this changes anything, but I read that line a bit differently… I took it to mean more that she always views sex as something with the weight of responsibility that one *might* get pregnant even taking all the precautions. As in: she can enjoy sex but does so while knowing it comes with the responsibility of possibly creating life and having to take ownership of that if an “oops” happens. I know a family who utilized vasectomy for birth control yet had another kiddo.

            I’m sorry you and many others have known such stark infertility. I wanted many kids but was only able to conceive and carry one to (almost) full term, BUT I know that is far more than many women have and I try to be so grateful for him always, knowing many would give almost anything to have that. I’m sorry if I have or am ever insensitive to that in ways I don’t realize.

          • Angharad

            Nessie, I doubt you will ever be insensitive on this issue – you are obviously so aware of the need to be careful around those who are childless and not equating woman with mother. But Anna seems so caught up in one idea of sex/parenthood that she’s not able to accept other viewpoints. It’s not just the comment about not enjoying sex if there is no potential for creating a child – it’s also her comments equating ‘hardship’ of getting pregnant with being hard up financially. I know multiple women who have permanent, irreversible health problems after getting pregnant more often than their doctor said was safe, and one woman who is sadly not here any more, all because they absorbed the ‘sex should always include the possibility of getting pregnant’ argument that Anna is preaching. That’s why I feel so strongly about this kind of teaching – not because it’s going to result in someone being hard up for a few years, but because women can literally end up dead because of it.

        • Anon

          ” I will never see sex as something to enjoy without knowledge that you might create another human who deserves to be loved even if its hard on you. ”

          So what? That’s nice for you. We don’t want children and have taken a surgical approach to it. We have sex because we enjoy each other and that’s that. If I got pregnant anyway, I would have an abortion. You sound like you live in a fairy tale. A baby is not a blessing to all, even if that was the case in your family.

        • Joy

          Imagine being a different sort of couple–a couple that is at peace with having no more children. A couple that is content with their current family size. I can tell you it feels amazing. I am so thankful for my three children, and I am thankful that I can fully invest in the phase they are in right now instead of being pulled in different directions with a baby. Contentment. Thankfulness. Not wanting more “blessings” than I already have. Knowing that having babies does not make me more “special” than not having babies. Feeling the mercy of God in the fact that I live in a day in age when He has provided us with family planning tools. These are good things.

          Please realize that it is not a universal experience to be the sort of woman who adores infants/babies/toddlers. The advice you are giving is niche advice for a very specific type of person. At some point every mother will have her last child. There is no Christian agreement about “leaving your womb open to God.” That is a specific life philosophy that not every Christian follows, and God is still there working in our lives.

          • Caitlin

            I read this the way Nessie did – there is a difference between saying “you can only enjoy potentially procreative sex” and “sex brings the possibility of children.” There are certainly people who believe the former, but I believe Anna is saying the latter.

  7. Happy Wife

    We decided before marriage not to use hormonal birth control, for many reasons. That left condoms as the best option, and required judicious use every time for 18+ months at a time for healing/spacing between births.

    It definitely dampens his sensation. He loves, loves, loves trying-to-conceive sex and really looks forward to it for that reason.

    But you know what? When it’s not TTC season, he’s super conscientious about condom use, even if I’m tempted to be lazy. Because protecting my body’s health is #1 for him.

    And I make sure that foreplay involves lots of sensation and touching, so that he doesn’t feel the lack as much when he has to put the condom on later during the experience.

    I wish more couples would work together like this, with the man prioritizing her health, comfort, and joy and the woman prioritizing his enjoyment.

    We’ve had a healthy love life, with every-time orgasms for both of us, since we got married. Considering that I grew up with some toxic messaging about sex (never tell your husband no, do it whenever and however he wants, etc), I believe my husband’s gentleness and selflessness is the main reason why we both enjoy sex so much today, even after significant health issues, babies, and so much more.

    Single guys take note: Make sex about her and her health and comfort, and you both win!

  8. Happy Wife

    In regards to my comment above: I addressed the single guys not because I’m encouraging them to have sex, but because they have a chance to start a marriage on the right foot when they do get married.

  9. Jo R

    It’s absolutely fascinating that the person who is 100 percent fertile 24/7/365 gets an absolute 100 percent pass on being responsible, or even just inconvenienced.

    All hail the power of the penis! 🙄

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Did you read Ejaculate Responsibly too? It’s so good!

      • Jo R

        No, but it’s clearly one more way a wife has be submissive to her husband no matter what. Her actual physical health can’t even trump his preference. 🤬

      • Caitlin

        Have you done a post on this book? I read it last year and would love to see others’ thoughts!

  10. Alex

    Interesting read. We’ve been married almost 19 years. I went on the pill, and back then hadn’t even heard about possible libido side effects (once our family was complete hubby had a vasectomy) so I never really thought about not being on it unless we were trying to conceive. BUT I also knew condoms weren’t really a choice, because though I was a virgin hubby was not and did tell me he didn’t like them. That being said, I think if we had the knowledge that it could be affecting my libido, I know that hubby would have been willing to try other methods and yes that would probably have included condoms. So my point here, is to TALK about it. I think the post makes great points, and I think that if it is presented this way to most men they would hopefully be willing to compromise.

  11. Boone

    The first pills my wife was on tired her into a homicidal maniac. She called the gyno guru and got them changed. No problems. As many versions of the pill as there are there is no reason to suffer. It’s like staten drugs. It took three changes for me not feel like I’d been whipped with an axe handle but we found one.
    I’m also a big proponent of getting fixed when you’re done having kids. My wife brags that we stopped at the vet on the way home from the hospital with the third youngun. She also told people that I just laid on the porch now and had stopped chasing cars.
    Really, the big “V” was the easiest procedure I’ve ever had done. No muss, no fuss and we never had to worry about it again.
    Oh, it was my wife that put the quietus on condoms. She said that we’re married, we’re not in college, they stink and it’s like washing your foot with your sock on.

    • Suzanne

      What does the use or non use of condoms have to do with being married or in college, they are for birth control, the need for birth control doesn’t go away once you graduate college. How are they like washing your foot with your sock on? None of that makes any sense.

      • Boone

        Back when we were in school condoms were thought of as being used by people that had a lot of different sexual partners. Girls in long term relationships with one guy or getting married usually got on the pill. The pill was used by more mature stable people.
        As for the washing your foot analogy, just think about it for a while. It may just be a Southern thing.

        • Suzanne

          It may be a Southern thing, or it may be that it is more of a male thing to say not really something a woman would be claiming, but sure your wife said that.

          Condoms were for before marriage when a guy had to put the effort in and like many things dropped when they got married because birth control became her problem along with everything else right?

          • Boone

            Yes, she said that. Yes we had both heard it before. She was adamant that she wanted to use the pill. When the first one had bad side effects she went back to the gyno and got another one. She didn’t sit around being miserable. She is a responsible adult. We had planned that when we were done having children I’d get a vasectomy. That’s what we did.
            We’ve never had her problems or his problems. We’ve always had our problems which we attack together.
            I don’t know your situation but you need to be aware that there are an awful lot of wives out there that are not oppressed and miserable. There are an awful lot of husbands that see their wives as partners and not possessions.
            Oh, and there are a lot of women that hate condoms. Everything is not about a power struggle.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            You raise a really good point–“the pill” is a misnomer because there are actually lots of different formulations, and if one does’t work, there are others to try. I’m so glad your wife took the initiative and did that! I had such horrible weight gain/blood clotting side effects from one I was too scared to try another. But if the side effects are more minor, then trying another formulation can often work.

        • Suzanne

          I am not an oppressed miserable wife, none of my friends are not oppressed miserable wives. My husband is and always has been awesome, he is also part of secular society. I am here for support of the the women who were not as lucky as we have been. I don’t have my husband on here speaking for me and making claims that I said things I never would say. Unless your wife has a penis I very much doubt she attributed sex with a condom to washing your foot with your sock on…. I don’t buy what you are selling.

          Using condoms is also a responsible adult activity. Coming to a post with “but some women hate condoms too” when the post is about impairment versus inconvenience is pretty telling.

          • Nessie

            Boone doesn’t need me to speak for him, but I do want to say that I’ve been an observer and then a commentor around here long enough to believe that he is a straight shooter. He has been honest both for and against himself. Most men I know that speak “for” their wives (and I’ve known way too many of those) don’t tell on themselves when they’ve done wrong. I believe he respects his wife enough to represent her honestly.

            I am one of the women you are here for so thank you, Suzanne- and thank you to Boone who has also spoken up for us women trying to heal, too, and does so in his job as well. Healing from all this crap is difficult. Thank you both for your hearts to support in different ways.

      • Anonymous

        I feel like I’ve had a unique problem but maybe not. I’m not really sure what to think anymore. My husband and I have 5 kids. Over 6 months ago we discussed trying for our 6th beginning in June. About 3-4 months ago my husband declared he was too old to have kids. Didn’t want anymore, but also didn’t want to go through with a V or wear condoms and that the pull out method works just fine. That killed any drive I had and I heavily avoided sex. Who wants to risk a pregnancy their partner doesn’t want? Neither of us believe abortion is ever an option. Neither of us views hormonal birth control as an option either since it prevents an already fertilized egg from implantation. So literally in his mind pull out method was the only option. So I took him to marriage counseling and with a lot of discussion…he reluctantly agreed to a V. More like angrily. So then he schedules it, day before cancels it and says he wants another baby. We have sex that would allow for a baby and then he tells me he hopes I’m not pregnant. So then he flip flops back and forth some more and lands on we are going to try for another baby. So I have emotional whip lash and decide to just give it to God since I have always been open to more children and I feel like this is just immaturity on my husband’s part. So we have more sex late at night that could result in children and he was tired but asking me if he should or not and I said well I’m ready for another one if you are so he does and then later tries to compare me with Lot’s daughters…as if I raped him in the middle of the night. I had always thought we’d just have kids until our fertility was gone or he’d get a V. I’ve even offered for myself to get a tubal which he doesn’t support that either. It’s been a very painful experience for me and I’ve just landed on that I’m going to focus on pleasing the Lord and what He wants of me until my husband can stabilize. In the meantime whether I have more children or not I’m giving to God because I don’t know what else to do.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, Anonymous, I’m so sorry! It sounds like your husband is being extremely unfair to you, and I think it’s okay to say, “I’m not okay bringing a child into the world that you don’t think you want. All you have to do is wear a condom, but you won’t do that for me, which shows me how little you think of me or value me. So I will be stepping back from sex and re-evaluating our relationship based on this new information I have of how little you think of me.”

          Honestly, he is being childish and cruel, and that isn’t okay. You can draw some boundaries.

  12. Thomas

    Another hint for my fellow men…at least some of your wives probably don’t like the sticky, drippy aftermath of condom-free sex. If so, they might be more inclined if you use a condom at least some of the time just to avoid the mess.

  13. MarriedInMiddleAge

    I’m 44 and just got married in June. (No signs of perimenopause yet, so define possibility of what would be a very high-risk pregnancy)

    When we started talking marriage, I just shared with him the side effects of birth control, from the pill to an IUD to a tubal litigation. He said, “No way. I would not suport you dealing with ANY of that.” And he had a vasectomy even before he proposed, so that was one thing we didn’t have to consider.

    This post reminds me how grateful I am for this man.

  14. Jim

    I believe that this speaks to a larger issue of who has the most options when it comes to birth control.

    Women: multiple forms of hormonal birth control like the pill and barrier methods.

    Men: condoms.

    For many women, the pill has been the go to since the 1960s, often starting in their teenage years.
    Now that there is more information coming out of the effects of hormonal birth control on women, there has been push back on these methods. My hope is that this push back combined with the overturning of Roe v Wade here in the US, will start to change the conversation about birth control.

    • Phil

      Hi Jim, I would like to remind all here that we dont go there…politics that is. As for the US political system changing the conversation in the Evangelical church – we certainly dont go there. As a proud USA citizen I am fully aware that our laws are not the center of the conversation across the globe on how a man and woman can mutually agree to a path that works for them for birth control in their marriage. I suppose thats why we should be grateful that we live in the land of the FREE – where we can call out toxic teachings in he Evangelical world to change the conversation.

      • Nessie

        I didn’t get the feeling he was really trying to get political, but referencing that changes in things that happen to be political can have an impact, especially when combined with other factors. Just my 2 cents’. Unfortunately there is a lot of politicality tied to things like birth control.

        Out of curiousity, I did look into male contraceptive research and it seems like there are advancements being made, though it will be years away it seems.

        I would be curious to see how, if we could gender-neutralize the “side effects” of birth control options (eg state it can lead to gender-specific organ cancer instead of prostate, etc.), we might rate the various forms of birth control and if they are worth the risks and rank them, then reveal which party is at greater risk.

        I’ve seen men claim they would take a bullet for their wives- but they won’t consider a condom. 😶

        • Jim

          That was my point. There are several factors that are influencing this conversation. We can acknowledge the effects of politics without arguing about it.

  15. Perfect Number

    Wow, is this a common thing, that men don’t want to use a condom, so they expect the woman to use birth control methods that cause a lot of bad side effects for her? My husband and I always use condoms (except when I was trying to get pregnant)- if anyone tried to make me use birth control methods that caused side effects, I would just quit having vaginal sex instead. It’s not worth the trouble.

    (But yes I know that birth control pills can be very useful for some women, which is great for them. Exactly like the article says- you can choose the method that works for you.)

  16. R

    Another commenter mentioned this, but I’ve never seen it talked about before – when my husband wears a condom it is uncomfortable for me. At all. I had our 4th child this year, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be pregnant again. I don’t want to use any hormonal methods, and I don’t have the headspace while baby is still an infant to do natural family planning. So that leaves condoms for now. We’ve never had to use protection before, and it really takes the fun out of it for me because I know when he puts that condom on it’s going to be uncomfortable for me.

    We have talked about him having a vasectomy but we aren’t confident in taking that step.
    I grew up, shall we say, “quiver-full adjacent” – my family wasn’t part of that whole movement, but they had a bunch of kids and believe that the number of kids you have is up to God. They subscribed to the above rubies magazine and some of my siblings have large families. So I find it very hard to feel OK with a permanent option due birth control. I also feel guilt about not wanting to have any more kids, even though we have good reasons.

    I haven’t found a good Biblical basis for saying no to more children, and that troubles me. I love children, and I always wanted a big family – but my eldest is 11 and I don’t want to be tired anymore. I want to be mentally, physically, and emotionally available when my children are becoming teenagers – I don’t think I have the capacity to parent an infant and teenager at the same time.And there’s so much we want to do with our kids that are difficult when pregnant or with a babies and toddlers.

    Is there anyone out there that grew up with similar ideology around family size that can help me out here?

    • Jo R

      We were unable to conceive, so no kids, but that doesn’t stop me from having thoughts.

      First, even in the Old Testament, several women were considered blessed even though they did not have a quiverful of children: Rachel and Hannah, right off the top of my head.

      Second, how many children you have is completely between you, your husband, and God. Everybody else needs to mind their own business. If people persist in expressing their opinions, ask them what’s their favorite position for intercourse or if the husband gives the wife oral sex on a regular basis. When they are offended at such personal questions, say, “Yes, that’s exactly how I feel about your comments.”

      Third, make sure you’re actually hearing from GOD on the matter, and not simply being guilted into more kids. You are allowed to be a human being with limits. Pretending you can do unlimited children is absurd.

      And finally, can you name even one post-pentecost New Testament woman who was praised for being a wife, let alone a mother? I can’t. But Paul praised plenty of women for their gospel work, using the same ministry terms for them as he did for the men who labored with him. Being a wife and mother is not the be-all, end-all for women, despite the church teachings of the last five centuries.

    • Tim

      I’m thinking out loud here, but arguably this passage could also apply to the decision to have children or not.

      “And I want you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the things of the world, how to please his wife, and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is concerned about the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the things of the world, how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place a limitation on you, but so that without distraction you may give notable and constant service to the Lord.” (1Cor 7:32-35, NET)

      • Angharad

        That’s a really good point.

        Like R, I grew up around families that believed in no birth control at all, although my parents only had me (secondary infertility, and they had so much cruelty from people around them who said this was a sign of ‘unconfessed sin’ in their lives because obviously if you’re living right you end up with 10+ kids…)

        One of the couples was warned to stop having kids after baby #10 because of the mum’s health, but the parents refused. After baby#11, mum’s health broke down permanently, and eldest daughter had to leave college (where she was preparing to be a missionary) to come home to care for all her siblings…

        I honestly don’t believe that a broken-down, old-before-her-time woman pushing out baby after baby while bedbound due to health issues was being ‘concerned about the things of the Lord’, and her poor eldest kids, who ended up being full-time carers, certainly weren’t either.

        Also, let’s not forget that in the past, the only effective form of birth control was abstinence. The Bible doesn’t mention other forms of birth control because they weren’t available in those days. I think we ‘super spiritualise’ child-rearing sometimes. After all, the Bible doesn’t mention anaesthetics either, yet I don’t hear any of the ‘God sets the size of our family’ folks insisting on having major operations without anaesthetic…

        And anyway, if you believe God sets the size of your family, you should be having sex constantly, every night, until you are menopausal – it’s so hypocritical to criticise people who use the pill/coil/condoms or whatever for trying to ‘take control’ and yet think it’s fine to use NFP. Surely, avoiding having sex when you think you might get pregnant is every bit as ‘taking control’ as going on the pill?!

        Another point – I don’t read anywhere where God talks about setting (or not setting) the size of your family, but I do read an awful lot in the Bible about being active, involved and caring parents – and you can’t parent like that if you have so many kids that you have no strength, energy or time left to parent properly.

    • Nessie

      I didn’t grow up that way, but my thoughts:

      1. You said you felt guilt about not wanting to have more kids but your reasons seem sound- could that be some conviction from the Spirit to not have more? You sound like you want to take good care of the children God has gifted you. Might it be you are called to steward them well instead of simply adding to their number? That’s between you, God, and your husband.

      2. I have family with strong opinions about how I should/shouldn’t raise my only kid (including how I shouldn’t have made him an only kid. That wasn’t by my choice-infertility-, but they don’t accept that.) The times I felt guilt or shame over what they said were times I had to really seek God and I reached an awareness that I was somewhat idolizing what they said over where God was leading me in my child-rearing methods. That was my situation anyhow.

      I hope you find peace in wherever God is leading you and your family.

      • R

        Thank you. I experienced secondary infertility and then two miscarriages after my first baby, so I thought I’d already dealt with the baggage! Intellectually, I don’t believe that God necessarily calls us to have *all the babies*, and that the number of children that we do or don’t have is not in any way related to our relationship with God.

        I guess my main difficulty comes in being unsure whether it is ok to permanently set our family size through my husband having a vasectomy, for example. I’m ok with preventing temporarily, it’s just permanently that I am having difficulty with.
        But at the same time, I don’t want to have to be worrying about prevention via condoms, or NFP (too much thinking!!) for the remainder of my fertile years. We have always had a fairly spontaneous sex life so having to think about preventing pregnancy kinda takes a bit of the joy out of it.

        • Angharad

          As others have pointed out, pregnancy can still occur even after a vasectomy. So it’s not 100% guaranteed that you won’t have another child even if you do go down this route. Just very, very unlikely. I don’t know if this helps or not, but maybe if you felt like you were leaving a tiny door open to the possibility, it might give you greater peace about going ahead?

          I think it’s a weird time for any woman when she’s in that stage of not knowing if she will ever get pregnant in the future, and it can be hard initially to deal with knowing that ‘this is it’, but in the long term, certainty may be easier to deal with than uncertainty.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m wondering what makes it uncomfortable? Is it that you have a latex allergy (there are non-latex condoms)? Or is it that you need more lubrication (there is lubricant available?) Or is that you’re not aroused enough before you start, and this was okay without condoms, but you feel it more acutely with the condom? I think I’d try to get at the root of what exactly is making it uncomfortable?

      • R

        Not a latex allergy. I am post partum and breastfeeding so lubrication is a must, even when aroused. But a Condon just feels, well, plastic in an uncomfortable way. And being only 3 months post partum things are more delicate/sensitive. Have never had to use condoms before so I don’t really know if it’s just a matter of getting used to it, or if I just need to wait until the post partum hormones settle and my body is less sensitive 🤷‍♀️

    • Joy

      You have to separate out what is more of a cultural practice (being involved in a Christian subgroup that embraces “quiverfull adjacent” ideals when in broader Christendom this is not universally accepted) with what is “biblical.” Look in to other Christian perspectives on it. Over the years I’ve learned that just because I was raised a certain flavor of Christian it does not mean the approach to the faith is compelling to me as an adult. You are free to explore and adopt other modes of Christian thought.

      • R

        We are involved in a church where people would probably have very little experience of quiverful-type ideas. (We are in Australia and it wasn’t really a movement here like in the US.) Most people would be more familiar with Catholic teaching on birth control than anything else.
        Also my husband didn’t grow up with the same outlook, but his mother would have liked more children than the 3 she was able to have, and had a sort of unfulfilled longing for more kids.
        So it’s not so much about not exploring other ideas, but about reconciling in our own minds the practicalities of our faith.

        • Stefanie

          In case you would like Scriptures to back up the idea of a smaller family, here are two off the top of my head:

          If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
          1 Timothy 5:8NIV

          My thoughts: providing for a family in 2023 includes healthy food (not cheap, processed garbage), education (including all the extra curriculars that look good on a college application which may cost $), clothing, healthcare, a house with enough room for your daughters to have privacy away from your sons to get dressed and take care of their hygiene, and a car with enough seats/seatbelts for every child, baby gear that’s not recalled. All of this costs money. My point being: it’s ok to only have as many kids as your budget allows you to provide a middle class upbringing. (Not extravagant but not poverty stricken)

          John 1:12-13
          Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

          God recognizes “human decision” as a legitimate human right when considering bringing children into the world. (I know that’s not the point of the Scripture. It’s talking about those who believe in Jesus become children of God. But it contrasts becoming children of God against children born of human decision.)

  17. Amy S

    Thanks so much for saying this! I went on the birth control pill a few months before I was married in order to be ready for my wedding night. It gave me terrible migraines that impacted my ability to function at work, but I initially keep pushing through, feeling like the pill was the only reliable method of birth control. I wish there was better information about this because there are so many other options.

    I’m thankful it was my husband (then my fiancé) who encouraged me to stop taking it and suggested we research and talk to the doctor together to find a solution that wouldn’t cause me any side effects. Now that we’re married, we use a combination of condoms and natural family planning using an app. My husband sees condoms as a very mild inconvenience and he’s totally fine with it. There’s really no comparison and more men need to realise this instead of pressuring their wives to do things that potentially seriously mess with their bodies.

  18. Joy

    I’ll also add in here that this topic really nails it on the head. This is an actual issue for people. I remember when I first pitched fertility tracking to my husband. I was having side effects after going back on the pill after my child was old enough. He actually listened to me and cared, though, and we started using tracking (which has its own side effects–frustration and intimacy disruption in our case). Tracking gave us two more children. We were content at three and made it permanent with a vasectomy.

    For anyone out there who needs to hear it: It is possible for men to listen and care about how their wife feels while being on the pill month to month. It is possible for men to go through a less than ideal time (tracking) while building a family so that she can avoid the pill if it makes her feel bad. It is possible for a man to serve his wife with a vasectomy. These things are not unreasonable within a loving marriage.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Well said, Joy!

  19. MomOf3

    I’m not surprised that some men are so selfish, but I’m so glad not to have experienced that in my own marriage.

    My husband has always considered having children (or preventing conception) a joint responsibility. This has meant trying a lot of different solutions over the years. When I was pregnant with our third child, we knew that I couldn’t handle any more. At that point, he made a deal with me. He would get snipped if I would too. (Not at the same time, to allow for recovery, of course.)

    Prior to that, he was ALWAYS conscientious about using a condom when we weren’t actively trying to conceive. He’s always made sex about my pleasure, because as he says “It’s always good for me. I want to make sure it’s good for you too” – even though that means more work for him 😉

  20. Pat A

    There’s an excellent new book or focused mostly on this issue called Ejaculate Responsibily. It’s short. One of the points she makes about condoms is that often less than good experience with them has to do with lack of trying different types and brands. Here’s a shocker: one size doesn’t fit all. She provides some thought on how guys could learn more and get a better experience. This is not a Christian book and she speaks frankly, but it’s an eye opener.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is AMAZING! Highly recommend.

  21. MacKenzie

    Sheila and Rebecca, this is such an important topic! I think it would be so extremely beneficial to your readers if you were to have a conversation about fertility awareness/natural family planning with someone from the Catholic perspective, like Ellen and Kathleen of the Charting Toward Intimacy podcast. https://www.stitcher.com/show/charting-toward-intimacy

    While Catholic sexual ethics differ from Protestant ethics in that condoms or other forms of birth control are not licit, they are absolutely on the same page with you all about not leaving the responsibility of family planning on the wife as well as the potential dangers of the pill/female birth control when it comes to obligation sex.

    There have been some comments here about the inconvenience or burden of NFP as well as the failures of it – If a couple takes an actual method course with a certified instructor then the efficacy rates of the method are comparable to the pill. And, the NFP approach encourages husbands to be involved and to lift some of the burden – to attend the instruction class, understand the ovulation cycle and female reproductive physiology, be more aware and supportive of where his wife is in her cycle and how that affects her energy and moods – and abstain from sex regularly in each cycle if avoiding pregnancy! Some couples have him do the actual record keeping while she makes the observations. AND there are so many other option besides just tracking cervical mucus. We have urinary hormone testing methods which are super effective for both regular and postpartum cycles and can take the guesswork out of mucus methods.

    Another HUGE pro of couples learning NFP together is that it actively fights against the mentality that men are owed or are entitled to sex. In the Catholic Church, if you have discerned that you do not want to add a child to your family, then it is understood and expected that there will be times of abstinence in marriage.

    My husband I use fertility awareness and as Protestants, we feel like we have freedom to use condoms instead of totally abstaining in the fertile window when trying to avoid pregnancy, which we sometimes do before I have ovulated (and he has zero problem with using condoms – I’m the one that more strongly prefers to go without!) We try to avoid PIV during my ovulatory phase (because condoms can still fail!) but then after I’ve confirmed ovulation with a temperature shift or a urine progesterone test we are in the clear until my next period. But taking an actual method course with a certified instructor has been so helpful in him a better understanding of *our* fertility not just my fertility, and in giving us confidence to use the method to avoid pregnancy.

    https://fabmbase.org/method-overviews/ is a great resource for breaking down the different methods.

  22. Jane Eyre

    Not sure if this is in the comments (missed this post the first time around):

    There is also the issue of how things play out over time. If she’s been on the Pill for 20 years straight expect when trying to conceive, pregnant, or breastfeeding, maybe it’s time for him to use a condom – even if he thinks it really really sucks – because it’s not fair for her to make sacrifices for decades on end while he sacrifices nothing. Your turn, buddy.

  23. VW

    IUDs and vasectomies seem like the best long term birth control options (more effective than condoms by a significant margin). I wish these would get more mention and coverage. Why not consider these options and promote them over the pill and condoms? I am amazed that people believe it’s either the pill or condoms and otherwise it’s withdrawal and tracking mentrual cycles. That’s just the case.

  24. Scott

    I feel this blog misses on three major points. First, it fails to address the big issue for Christians: is birth control morally okay, and are all forms equally okay? Any birth control method that causes abortions (e.g. hormonal BC) should be off the table – full stop. Second, it severely understates the issue for men. Imagine for a moment putting on dishwashing latex gloves every time you wanted to touch your baby, and that was the only way you could touch your baby. Would you do it? Of course! But you would never kid yourself that you’re touching your baby – what you feel is the inside of a glove. Men don’t hate condoms because they diminish the thrill – they hate them because there is a barrier that prevents them from feeling their spouse, except in the most muted and blunt ways. Third, and most importantly, you present only two birth control options (see: false dichotomy) as though they are the only viable ones available. Modern NFP (more than just a calendar) is just as effective as the pill (and way more effective than condoms) and has zero side effects for husband and wife. It deserves mention.


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