PODCAST: If Momma Ain’t Happy–Why It’s Okay to Sweat the Small Stuff

by | Nov 16, 2023 | Connecting, Podcasts | 18 comments

What if Momma Ain't Happy podcast

Is it really a woman’s role to pretend like everything is okay?

To see her life as just being about surrender, as if her needs don’t matter?

We’re going to look at some typical advice that’s given to women in the evangelical church, and show how this can actually lead to really poor outcomes long-term, while we use–wait for it!–actual research.

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

Timeline of the Podcast

4:00 Elizabeth Elliott’s definition of femininity
15:00 ‘If Mama ain’ happy, no one’s happy!’ Should we hide our emotions?
24:45 “If you have an issue with your husband, shut up and don’t say anything!”
31:50 Study on ‘sweating the small stuff’ in marriage
38:30 Study on ’emotionally intelligent husbands’ from John Gottman
47:00 Is all advice from the church bad?
53:20 Reviews for The Great Sex Rescue

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Check it out here!

What if Momma Ain’t Happy?

Elisabeth Elliot, in a quote that we read on the podcast, says that the essence of femininity is to surrender, to give up her life and desires.

Then we listened to two reels by Holly Furtick, wife of megachurch pastor Steven Furtick, which are totally typical of the advice we hear to women in self-help and marriage books: You set the tone of your house. You don’t have the luxury of being grumpy. Get your mood under control. Don’t let things bother you. And if things are bothering you–just pray about it rather than “shouting” at your husband.

We’re using Holly Furtick’s advice as an example not because we think she’s particularly toxic or bad compared to others, but just because it was such a perfect, quick encapsulation of what’s wrong with so much of the advice given to women (and because multiple people sent me these reels as problematic, so I had them at my fingertips!).

What really struck me in listening to these reels and reading her description is that all of the words that she used for women’s motivations and behaviour were negative ones. She said that women:

  • fussed
  • shouted
  • showed negativity
  • hinted
  • manipulated
  • sulked

The assumption in all of these words is that, if women aren’t happy, it’s because their attitudes are wrong. If women are bringing up something to their husbands, they’re automatically doing it wrong.

But this isn’t true at all. A woman might merely be drawing boundaries, discussing something, speaking directly, asking calmly.

To paint the woman as having a bad attitude always is simply not accurate–but it’s a great way to convince women to shut up, by insinuating that no matter what they do they’re in the wrong.

After we listened to this advice, which dovetailed with the issues we had with Power of a Praying Wife, Keith and I looked at a study that showed that if you take Holly Furtick’s advice when the marriage is a difficult one, in the long-run you hurt your marriage.

Things Mentioned in the Podcast

Episode 214 Women complaining

What do you think? Have you heard advice like this that insinuates women are always in the wrong? Let’s talk in the comments!


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 sex life and your marriage.  And I am joined today by my daughter, Rebecca Lindenbach.

Rebecca: Hello.  Hello.

Sheila: My husband is going to peek in a little bit later, and we’re going to talk to you.  And we’re going to talk about what it means to note sweat the small stuff and the whole idea that if Mama ain’t happy no one is happy.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Well, we’ve all heard that.

Sheila: Let’s talk about that.  But before we do that, evidence based.  We are the evidence-based blog, and we are in the middle of a new survey.  It is our matched pair survey.  Gender roles in marriage.  We have ethics approval from Queens University with my husband, Dr. Keith Gregoire, as the primary researcher.  And there is a link to that study where you can take it.  We’re looking for married couples where at least one of them is a Christian.  And it’s going to be awesome.  It’s for our new marriage book, and we’re so excited to have people join us and help us.  And you are the ones who make this possible because without you taking the survey we couldn’t have done what we’ve done so far.  And so the link is in the podcast notes.  We’re so excited to have this to share with you.  Please pass it around, and it is an anonymous survey.  So even your spouse won’t have access to your responses.  So do check that out.  And yeah.  We’re excited to see some of the responses are already coming in.  And yeah.  We’re just really happy to see how this is playing out.     

Rebecca: And, as always, it’s a huge help to us if you can share the survey to people who may not already know about us and what we do.  We like to get a really wide pool of participants and respondents.  And so I’m really looking forward to seeing the results from this.  And you have all been such amazing champions of this research, and you have been so instrumental in helping us change the conversation about sex, about marriage, in the evangelical church simply by elevating the voices of the people who are already in it.  And I think that’s what’s so cool about this.  I think this is going to be a great one.  Matched pair is so fun because we can see actually what couples say as well as what individuals within the couples say.  It’s very interesting.  Joanna is already salivating waiting to get onto the results from this.  We’ve already talked about all the different things that we want to run.  So I can’t wait to show it to you.  But first thing we have to actually have some data to show you.  

Sheila: Yes.  So please take it.  Share it.  And the link is in the podcast notes.  So cool.  And a special thank you to our patron group, who has been so instrumental in funding what we do.  And it’s also just an amazing place on the Internet.  When you join our patron group, which you can do for as little as $5 a month, you can get access to our exclusive Facebook group, to unfiltered podcasts, and more.  And that’s our safe space on the Internet.  So you can come on over and look for that.

Rebecca: And I will say, as we’re talking about Patreon, if you join this week, you get to still be a part of our book club. 

Sheila: Yes.  Yes.  We’re starting a new one.  

Rebecca: We did a book club back in September.  It was fantastic.  The conversation was awesome.  It was such an interesting group.  We’re doing a new one on Jill Duggar’s book, Counting the Cost.  Jill Duggar?

Sheila: Dillard.    

Rebecca: Dillard.  Yeah.  Jill Dillard’s book, Counting the Cost.  We’re doing it.  I’m very excited.  It’s going to go throughout the rest of November and probably a little bit into December. And so if you join now, you’ve only missed one week.  And so you can catch up.  It’s super easy.  But it will be included if you join the Patreon.  

Sheila: Yeah.  But before we jump in to today’s podcast, just a special thank you to our sponsor, nocd.com.  OCD is more than what you see on TV and in the movies.  Imagine being worried about committing a sin in your head all day no matter how hard you try to make it go away.  That’s religious OCD.  It comes with unrelenting, intrusive images, thoughts, and urges about breaking a religious rule or offending God.  Breaking the OCD cycle takes effective treatment.  Go to nocd.com to get evidence-based treatment always provided by licensed therapists.  All right.  So here we go.  I have a bunch of little things that I want to talk about today that people have alerted me to.  And, again, I don’t go seeking these things out.  People send them to me.  And I want to use an Elisabeth Elliot quote to kind of frame our whole discussion today.  

Rebecca: No comment.  

Sheila: All right.  So here we go.  So this is from an article that she wrote on the essence of femininity.  And Elisabeth Elliot was the widow of Jim Elliot, who was one of the five missionaries who was killed in Ecuador in the 1950s.  She became quite famous because she wrote some books on it, and Wheaton College has really promoted her and Jim’s marriage and their work.

Rebecca: But she’s become this expert from past on femininity and women’s roles in the church.  And it’s—yeah.  She’s a very complicated church figure.  

Sheila: Yeah.  She is.  And we looked at her book, Passion and Purity, when we were writing She Deserves Better.  It was one of the books that we analyzed for our study.  And here she is talking about the essence of femininity.  She says, “This is what I understand to be the essence of femininity.  It means surrender.  Think of a bride.  She surrenders her independence, her name, her destiny, her will, herself to the bridegroom in marriage.  This is a public ceremony.”  You need to let me finish, child.  Okay.  “This is a public ceremony before God and witnesses.  Then in the marriage chamber, she surrenders her body, her priceless gift of virginity, all that has been hidden.  As a mother, she makes a new surrender.  It is her life for the life of the child.  This is most profoundly what women were made for.  Married or single.  And the special vocation of the virgin is to surrender herself for service to her Lord and for the life of the world.”  All right.  There’s so many things we could say.

Rebecca: Okay.  So first of all—okay.  I have thoughts about this.  First of all, let’s address the truth to this.  Let’s address the truth.  

Sheila: Yes.  Because there is some truth to this.  

Rebecca: There is truth to this.  Again, as someone who has been very open about having two very, very, very difficult child labors, Connor cannot do that for me.  In our marriage, there are certain things that I have to do because I’m the one with the uterus.  You know what I mean?  There is a level where women’s bodies were created to be more sacrificial because we are literally growing—I’m not saying every woman has to.  But I’m saying from a biological perspective, the role of the male and the female body are very different.  And the female body, biologically and reproductively speaking—okay?  Because that’s the whole point of biology is each living individual’s entire goal is to reproduce and then die and just make sure they don’t die before they reproduce, right?  Biologically speaking, that’s what we talk about.  And so their bodies are the ones where the infant is literally taking, right?  The dude—well, he’s there.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And his role in reproduction is kind of a lot more fun and a lot quicker.

Rebecca: Yes.  But there is a level where, genuinely, I do think Elisabeth Elliot is correct in saying that women’s—women are created in a more naturally sacrificial position simply because of the nature of how reproduction in human beings works.  Right?  So what I’m not saying is if you don’t have kids you’re not a good—don’t hear any of that.  I’m literally talking from a reproductive, biological standpoint.  Okay?

Sheila: Yes.  

Rebecca: You go ahead.  I have my thoughts after that.  

Sheila: And there is a sense where in sex—I don’t like the word surrender in sex at all.

Rebecca: I don’t like that either.

Sheila: I would use the word vulnerable.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  It’s a level where there is something different about—yeah.  The physical experience.

Sheila: Yeah.  To say that she surrenders to him really makes it sound like it is some sort of a fight and has some coercion or some really negative repercussions or insinuations there.  But there is no doubt that she is certainly more vulnerable when it comes to sex.  And I would definitely agree with that.

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.

Sheila: Okay.  Let’s just take the big picture from this for a minute though.  What she’s saying is this is the essence of femininity, which means these things are not masculine.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.

Sheila: So men do not do this.  So when men get married, they don’t surrender their independence.  When men get married, they don’t surrender their destiny.  They don’t surrender their will.  They don’t surrender themselves.  And no.  Hold on a second.  I don’t want to marry a guy who is not going—

Rebecca: Yeah.  He’s like, “I’ll marry you, but I’m going to still go to the bar.”  

Sheila: No.  No.  No.  When we get married, we each do this.  It’s not just her that does this.  We each do this.  This is not about femininity.  And even in reproduction, okay?  You want the man to also surrender his time and his body in the sense that he is going to get up in the middle of the night too.  He’s going to care for you.

Rebecca: Well, can I tell you the funny story about that with us?  So Connor actually had to do more physiotherapy after my labor than I did.  

Sheila: Yes.  Yes.  I remember.  I was there.  Yeah.

Rebecca: So I had a 23-hour, protracted labor that stalled for awhile, and I had doubling back contractions.  So Connor, my sweet husband, learned all the counter pressure points.  And he did them, and I was in so much pain I was like, “You have to go harder.”  And so anyway, he caused himself to have carpal tunnel in his wrist.  He had to go to physiotherapy, and he had to get braces for his wrists.  And he had to do all this stuff because he then couldn’t use a mouse because it hurt so bad.

Sheila: Yeah.  He was such a champ during your labor.

Rebecca: And the other thing too is in our marriage—yeah.  The husband can do other things to surrender and to sacrifice because my body was so spent.  And so then Connor was like, “Of course, I’m going to get up early with the kids.  That’s not even a question.”  That’s not the case in a lot of marriages because of this kind of crap.  Because the women are meant to be kind of miserable and sick and tired all the time because that’s women’s job to sacrifice.  It’s not men’s job to sacrifice.  It’s women’s job to sacrifice.  And so they don’t think about how mom is so tired because that’s just the mom’s job versus Connor was like, “You shouldn’t be more tired than me.” 

Sheila: Yes.  And when we talk about how she is supposed to surrender—oh, one other bit that she surrenders her priceless gift of virginity.  What about his priceless gift of virginity?  There is nothing more priceless and gift like about her virginity than there is about his.  And I don’t even like talking about virginity as a gift because virginity is something that can be taken from you.  Virginity is not a moral thing.

Rebecca: But also, hopefully, you’re having sex more than once in your entire marriage.  So what?  Is it all downhill from there?  

Sheila: I know.  It’s just not—even if you want to wait for marriage for sex and there’s very good reasons for doing so, this is not like you are presenting your spouse with a gift of virginity, which they are now owed.  Right?  And this is part of the problem is that we’re seeing it as my spouse is owed my virginity.  So if I’m not a virgin, I have deprived my spouse.  I have defrauded them of something.  And that whole way of thinking is so backwards and wrong.  And we measured it in She Deserves Better, our book meant for moms of teen girls at how purity culture ideals really hurt girls.  And yeah.  It’s toxic.  It’s totally toxic.  But that being aside, that aside, I just think this whole framing of the essence of femininity is that you lose yourself and that you give yourself completely up for other people actually has implications in how we talk to women about other stuff.

Rebecca: Well, and it’s so—can I say—it’s so dumb.  And I’m going to say why it’s so dumb.  So what she’s actually describing here is the natural repercussion of a patriarchal society, right?  It’s the exact same thing that God talks about during the Fall where He says, “Listen, this is now the curse that has befallen you.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”  Patriarchy is literally a result of the Fall.  So she’s saying that this is just how women are.  But then she says that that needs to keep happening.  So it’s like what you’re saying is the world is fallen.  And so because of that women have to give up independence.  They have to give up their will.  They’re totally at the mercy of men.  And isn’t that so amazing?  Oh, it’s so great.  Versus look at nature.  We would never say about a turtle versus a lizard, right?  They’re both reptiles.  One of them has a shell.  One of them doesn’t.  Well then, therefore, naturally, the lizard’s job must be to get stabbed more because it doesn’t have a shell.  So if it had a shell, then clearly we shouldn’t have to stab it.  But because it doesn’t have a shell, literally, it’s meant to be attacked me.  And it’s like no.  No.  No.  It just doesn’t have protection.  We don’t exploit the lack of protection.  We say, “Hey, maybe we’re extra careful not to step on the lizard.”  Now don’t step on turtles either, guys.  But you know what I mean?  It’s like we’re seeing these things like look.  Women have no protection in society in a lot of areas.  Women have much less protection than men.  And so now we’re saying, “Let’s lean into that.  Let’s exploit that even more.  Let’s teach them to ignore any of the protections they actually do have.  Let’s just keep them thinking, ‘Well, my job is just to surrender and just to surrender,’ instead of saying, ‘Hey, you don’t have to surrender.  We have rights now, guys.  And God likes that.  And so let’s use them.’”  That’s not what we do.

Sheila: And, again, to put this into another perspective.  Giving and serving is important for all Christians, right?  We are all to give and serve as Jesus did, right?  “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  And He is our example.  He is the One that we follow.  So we should all because giving and serving.  But we also need to love others as we love ourselves which means that we are still important.  And we need to remember that God’s will is not that you are erased.  God’s will is that everybody looks more and more like Christ.  And if in surrendering, you actually enable selfishness and sinfulness in others, which is so often what happens, this is not doing God’s will.  And so God’s will is not that you get stepped on so that other people can have easy lives.  God’s will is not that you get erased so that other people can have it cushy.  No.  God’s will is that we all look more and more like Christ which means that those around you should be serving you too.  And there needs to be balance in this.  And this whole thing about how the essence of femininity is to disappear and surrender is not okay.

Rebecca: Again, it’s like beating up a lizard because it doesn’t have a shell.  

Sheila: Yeah.  All right.  So I want that to frame what we’re going to look at now because this is so much of what has been taught.  That the essence of femininity is to make yourself small, to give everything up.  And what it results in is this.  So I want to play you a reel from Holly Furtick’s Instagram channel.  And, again, I don’t go finding this stuff.  People send it to me.  But Holly Furtick is the wife of Steven Furtick, who is the pastor of a mega church.  Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.  And on her Instagram channel, she has about half a million followers.  And she put out two reels that I want us to listen to.  Okay?  So here is the first one.

Holly Furtick: As a woman, you set the atmosphere of your home.  You are the thermostat.  You have the power to turn up the heat in your home or to cool it down.  We all know the saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”  And you can either fight this idea or you can embrace it.  Maybe you’re like me, and you thought, “I just feel like that’s unfair.  I mean why can’t I be in a bad mood for an hour?  Why can’t everyone just leave me alone, go do their own thing, and let me sulk?”  I’m with you.  But the reality is I don’t have that luxury.  I can choose to be in a bad mood.  Yes.  I can.  But the whole family is probably going to join me there if I don’t pull myself out of it fairly quickly.  Guys, I’m sorry if I’m already stepping on some toes.  This is a struggle for so many of us.  And it’s a struggle that I have.  There are days where negativity just grabs me by the foot and yanks me down.  Have you ever felt this way?  

Sheila: Okay.  Now there’s several things that I want to say about this one.  But what’s your reaction first?  Because you haven’t heard that yet.  This is the first time you’re hearing this.

Rebecca: Okay.  No.  I haven’t heard that.  And I’m a very crabby person a lot of the time.  I really am.  I’m very emotionally high or low.  And that’s something that I have had to work with.  And so I will say to Holly I do agree with her that we are responsible for not ruminating unnecessarily in being gloomy or glum or cranky.  And it is important for us to learn how to cognitively reframe to kind of get ourselves out of funks before they spiral into really bad funks.  I think that’s all true.  But you can’t be in a bad mood for an hour?  You’re not allowed to have negative emotions.  Okay.  You are asking to raise children who don’t know how to handle other people’s emotions.  I’m sorry.  But emotions are a part of relationship.  Like I said, I’m very high, very low.  I’m very all or nothing person.  No one is really surprised by that.  But it means that I’m really fun when I’m really fun with my kids, and I really struggle when I’m in a bad mood.  But you know what we just do about it?  We just talk about it.  And I can say to Alexander, who is only four years old—he just turned four.  And I say, “Alex,” because he’s telling me, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, my,”—and I’m like, “Alex, Mommy loves playing with you.  Mommy is so grumpy because Mommy is so hungry.”  And I say that.  “And Mommy is so grumpy right now.  I am a grumpy, grumpy grouch.  And I need you to go play by yourself in the living room while Mommy sits and reads her book until lunch is ready.”  And he will say, “You are a grouch.”  And I will say, “I am a grouch.”  And then he walks away, and he goes.  And he plays.  And then the other day he came up to me because we do this every now and then.  And he came up to me.  He’s not scared because he’s used to this.  I’m a grouch for 20 minutes, and then I’m fine because he gives me space.  And he comes up, and he just gives me a little hug.  And he says, “Are you better now?”  And I said, “I am so much better now.” And he wasn’t scared.  He was just like, “Oh, I thought of a nice thing I could do for Mommy.”  When you talk about it—and then I come over to him like, “I’m feeling a lot better now.  Thank you so much for giving me a little bit of space.”  And then when he’s grump, do you know what he says to me?  “Mommy, I just need some space right now.”  And it’s the cutest thing.  And he’ll tell his sister that he just needs to play by himself.  And then he’ll come back to her, and he’ll say, “I’m ready to play together now.”  That’s a part of learning how to handle people because also if I—I have found that if I don’t communicate that with my kids because I’m with them pretty much all the time.  If I don’t communicate that then what happens and then I do snap at them.  And then yeah.  If mama ain’t happy, ain’t everyone happy.  But I’m allowed to not be happy, and it doesn’t ruin it for everyone else.  

Sheila: Yes.  

Rebecca: That’s what I don’t understand.  Do these people not know how to be grumpy without having it not affect everyone else?  What I think is happening is because they don’t ever let themselves be grumpy a little bit.  It builds, and it builds, and it builds until it’s so big you’re screaming at all the kids.  I think that’s why they think when mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy because mommy is not allowed to be grumpy point one.  She’s only allowed to be grumpy when she can’t contain it anymore.

Sheila: Yeah.  I think there’s a bigger thing too going on here which is this.  What is it that we’re aiming for in our families?  

Rebecca: Oh, we’re aiming for female erasure.

Sheila: Well, yes.  That is what we’re aiming for.  But I think what we’re aiming for is that we are allowed to tell the truth about our relationships so that we can thrive.  Okay?  And we need to be able to tell the truth.  Because if you don’t tell the truth, you don’t get to deal with stuff.  So what I would say is if we were going to make a flow chart, all right?  Of how we should act.  I think what she has done is she is making a point on—she is talking about this about how you can’t be grumpy.  But that’s actually step two, and she’s ignoring step one of the flowchart.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Is there a reason to be mad?

Sheila: Which is you need to tell the truth about your relationship.  And then picture the flow chart splitting into two which is if you are grumpy and you don’t have a reason to be or you’re overreacting or you need to learn how to emotionally regulate, this is actually a fairly good message that she just gave.  And there’s a lot people—

Rebecca: To a certain extent.  To a certain extent because I’m that person—I think that a lot of it is also that you are allowed to feel it, but you’re not allowed to make it someone else’s problem.

Sheila: Yes.  Absolutely.  

Rebecca: Because that’s what we do in our house, right?  Because, again, the four year old doesn’t know how to deal with emotions properly, so he has to learn that too.  But yeah.  I agree.  The question is is there a reason to be mad.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And if it is honestly a you issue, you know what?  I didn’t get enough sleep.  I feel really busy today.  It’s no one’s fault.  It’s just the schedule is crazy.  And I am going a little bit off kilter.  And I just need to take a deep breath.  I need to not let this—I need to not take it out on my kids.  That’s a decent message in that case.  But what if that’s not the issue?  What if the issue is I am super busy because my spouse is not picking up his share of the load and because my kids, who are teenagers, are relying on me to do everything when they should be doing some stuff for themselves?  I am picking up the slack from everybody else.  So what if you have a reason?  And that’s what she doesn’t address.  It’s just like you need to get rid of the feeling.  And what I’m saying is no.  No.  No.  No.  There is a prior step, which is—let’s just embrace curiosity, people.  Okay?  Let’s embrace curiosity.  And let’s say, “Okay.  This is what I’m feeling.  Why am I feeling this?  And then what should I be doing about it?”  And it could be that the answer is, “Hey, you’re not supposed to get grumpy and take it out on your kids.”  But it also could be that you know what.  This is something fairly important and to tell myself to stuff it down is not the right answer.  I should actually be making an issue out of this because it can’t continue this way.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  And I think it’s always easy to find a reason for why you’re made when you’re grumpy too.  And I think being honest with ourselves and asking, “But is this a real issue or is this just me trying to find,”—again, Connor and I both leave coffee cups all over the house, right?  Both of us do.  I do it more than he does because he at least reuses the same coffee cup throughout the day.  I don’t.  But a lot of times if I’ve had a bad night sleep or I haven’t had enough to eat for breakfast or something like that, I see his cups, and I’m like, “He’s a (inaudible).  This is the worst thing.  He leaves his coffee cups.”  And then the other day I got mad at him for that.  And he just said nothing.  He just took it because he could see I was grumpy.  And then he just walked upstairs, and he just carried four coffee cups from my side of the bed.  No words.  And we had a really good laugh about it.  Because that was a situation where it’s like yes.  We should be picking up our coffee cups, but both of us do this equally.  We both understand this.  And I wouldn’t have been mad about this if I hadn’t already been in a bad mood and was trying to find something to pin the bad mood one versus earlier when we didn’t have mental load figured out when I actually did have a legitimate reason to be frustrated, right?  So I think there is a level where it’s like we do have to be able to be honest.  And just because you can think of a reason why you’re grumpy doesn’t always mean—but at the same time, you know that we talked about this stuff.  That a lot of time it genuinely is a problem.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And this is the issue.  When you’re making her emotions the problem as opposed to the things that are leading up to the emotions being the problem, this is where we get into issues.

Rebecca: And I also think that if you give yourself permission to just be grumpy then you stop having to make everything a fight to.  If you’re just in a bad mood, you’re just allowed to be in a bad mood.  You are allowed to be in a bad mood and not make it someone else’s problem and also not have to fix it.  

Sheila: Yeah.  I remember when you guys—especially when you guys were teenagers, I’d be like, “You know what?  This is not your fault.  I know I’m snapping at you.  I know that I’m not happy right now.  None of it’s your fault.  Here is what’s going on with me.  I’m really sorry but just give me space.”  And you guys understood that.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And we were like, “Awesome.  We can probably get ice cream out of this later.”  

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  And you guys often did get ice cream out of it.  So yes.  It was very fun.  But, again, we are labeling the emotion as the issue, and we are telling women you are not allowed to have emotions.  Very similar to what Elisabeth Elliot said.  You need to surrender your will, your destiny, everything.  You need to surrender it.  So you’re not allowed to have emotions.  Now I want to do a follow up one with Holly Furtick where she further explains what to do when you’re actually upset about something.  Okay?

Rebecca: Oh dear.

Holly Furtick: Have you ever thought about the fact that your husband can be changed in one moment by God?  You may have been fussing for years to the wrong person.  Because if you take your request to God, God can whisper to your husband in one moment the very words that you have been shouting at him for years.

Rebecca: Have you ever thought about the fact that your husband can be so pigheaded that it would take years of yelling at him and still nothing could happen?  What?  

Sheila: I know.  Okay.  So yes.  Yes.  Yes.  

Rebecca: What?  What?  What?

Sheila: And I don’t want to dissect this one too much—

Rebecca: What?

Sheila: – because we did talk about this in Power of a Praying Wife—in our podcast about Power of a Praying Wife.  But this is basically repeating the same argument.  Hey, ladies.  If you have an issue with your husband that you’ve been talking about for years, stop bringing it up.  Remember that God can deal with it.

Rebecca: What?

Sheila: And it ignores the fact that God does not override free will.  Okay?

Rebecca: But also for pity’s sake, if you have even a half way decent relationship, your spouse should care.  That’s the things.  If you’ve been talking about the same thing for years and years without improvement and you’ve had to scream and yell for 15 years, I’m like why?  At some point—

Sheila: I know.  I know.  But let me read you the caption that she has with this video.  “You don’t have to nag, hint, or manipulate if you take your request to the right One.”

Rebecca: You also don’t have to nag, hint, or manipulate if you married the right one.  That’s the thing.  (cross talk)  But actually someone who listens to you.

Sheila: Yeah.  But okay.  What I would like to do is to do a bit of a word analysis here, Becca.  Okay?  So I want to read you all of the words that she used in her videos and in the captions to refer to women’s attitudes and actions in these two videos.  Okay.  So here are the words that Holly Furtick uses about women.  Bad mood, sulk, negativity, fussing, shouting, nag, hint, manipulate.  

Rebecca: Well, see, if all those doggone women would just use their nice words then maybe the men would listen to them.

Sheila: She never says anything about drawing boundaries, making—

Rebecca: Yeah.  Standing up for yourself.  

Sheila: Speaking clearly, making your requests known, that you matter.  She never says any of that.

Rebecca: Communicating healthfully or anything like that.

Sheila: Right.  She just tells women, “You need to stop fussing, shouting, nagging, hinting, manipulating.”  And she never says, “Hey, maybe when you were talking to your husband, you weren’t actually fussing, shouting, nagging, hinting, or manipulating.  Maybe you were just being clear.”  And that doesn’t even enter the conversation.  It’s like if a woman raises an issue with a man she must either be fussing, shouting, nagging, hinting, or manipulating.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  It’s like you bring up the problem with the man, and then the man gets to decide if you are nice enough bringing it up or not even though he is likely the one who created the problem since he is the one who you are bringing it up to.  

Sheila: Right.  It’s the same thing with Emerson Eggerichs in Love and Respect where he defines every instance where she brings up an issue as her nagging or her being disrespectful.

Rebecca: Well, and we know that men bring up issues with their wives all the time.  When have you heard men being careful not to nag at their wives and stuff?  No.  We talk about accountability and communication when men have problems.  Genuinely.  Even at marriage conferences and stuff like that.  It’s communicate about sex but make sure not to nag about housework.  Right?  It’s like oh, what?  

Sheila: Yeah.  Make sure you communicate about sex but don’t nag about housework.  Exactly.  Yeah.  But I find this so telling that the words that are used about women having emotions or about women talking to their husbands are all painting women in a really negative light.  You have a bad mood.  You’re sulking.  You’re negative.  You’re fussing.  You’re shouting.  You’re nagging.  You’re hinting.  You’re manipulating.  There’s nothing about what if she has a problem and she just wants to communicate it or she wants to draw a boundary or she wants to talk about it.  That could very well be what’s going on.  But because it’s her having a problem with her husband, then it is interpreted in a negative light as her fussing, shouting, nagging, manipulating, hinting.  This all stems from that idea from Elisabeth Elliot that a woman’s job is to surrender.  And so if she is not completely surrendering, if she actually has something that she wants from him because she’s upset, then she’s fussing, nagging, hinting, manipulating, shouting.  Okay.  So there is no option for her to just be like, “Hey, this is an issue.”

Rebecca: There’s no partnership.  And this is the whole problem when you see men as supposed to be in charge of the relationship and women are supposed to surrender to the man’s will there is no partnership.  Because if you have a thought about how your—if you’re at work, you don’t tell your boss what they’re doing wrong in the vast majority of cases.  And if you did, you probably wouldn’t—most people wouldn’t like that.  And that’s expected in those kinds of situation.  But in marriage, what does that mean?  If you see your role as completely erasing yourself to fit the mold of the man and then you don’t like the mold that the man is trying to make, well, you’re supposed to just be liquid.  You’re just supposed to be water.  Just filling whatever he wants, right?  You can’t have an actual partnership there.  You can’t have a biblical marriage in the sense of iron sharpening iron.  You can’t be equally yoked.  You can’t.

Sheila: Yeah.  But what Holly Furtick has said is so typical of advice that is given to women.  

Rebecca: Oh my goodness, yes.

Sheila: We’ve all heard this stuff, right?  And the first time you hear it you might not even realize, wait a minute, that sounds a little bit off.  But next time you hear someone giving advice to women listen to the words that they are using for how women are acting, right?  Fussing, hinting, shouting, manipulating.  Listen.  Bad mood.  Sulking.  Negativity.  And listen to what they’re actually insinuating about women’s motives because that’s telling way more of the story than the advice they’re actually giving.  And remember that the advice that Holly Furtick eventually gives is just shut up and pray.  

Rebecca: And they make it sound so spiritual because the—God can whisper in his ear.  And I was like, “Yeah.  Well, you know what?  Maybe God gave him you to make him better.”

Sheila: Yeah.  Because we’re supposed to be iron sharpening iron.  And if it’s a really big issue and he isn’t listening, that’s a problem.  And so let’s do what we always do, and let’s actually bring a study into this.  Can we do that, Becca?

Rebecca: Oh, sure.  

Sheila: Okay.  So this is an article from the Journal of Perspectives in Social Psychology.  And it came out in 2008, so it’s a little bit older than our usual rule because we usually say within 10 years.  But around the late aughts, there was a ton of articles written about this concept, which is don’t sweat the small stuff because there was a big book that was written, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, a couple years earlier.  And this whole concept of don’t sweat the small stuff was in research, and you can see a lot of it in these years.  Okay.  And so the article is called Benevolent Cognitions as a Strategy of Relationship Maintenance: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, But It is Not All Small Stuff.

Rebecca: Yes.  That’s the big one.

Sheila: And I want to read you the abstract.  Now the abstract tells the whole story.  It’s also written in academicese.  So I am going to read a sentence, and then you care going to interpret the sentence.  Can we do that?   

Rebecca: Okay.  

Sheila: Because it could be that some of our listeners are going to find this a little confusing.  

Rebecca: This is the most unnecessarily convoluted—I’m reading it now.  This is very much just—yeah.  I love how academists use so many words (cross talk).

Sheila: So I’m going to read it, but this tells an amazing story.  All right?  “To maintain intimate relationships in the face of negative experiences, many recommend cognitive strategies that minimize the implications of those experiences for global evaluations of the relationship.”

Rebecca: Your marriage sucks sometimes.  And a lot of us would say, “Man, but does it really suck that much?  It’s pretty good overall though, right?” 

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  Good.  That’s pretty good.  Yes.  “But are such strategies always adaptive?”

Rebecca: But is that a good idea?

Sheila: “Suggesting otherwise, two longitudinal studies spanning the first four years of 251 new marriages revealed that the effects of benevolent cognitions on relationship development depended on the initial levels of negativity in the relationship.”

Rebecca: We did some studies, looked at people over four years, and we found that—yeah.  Just getting over it works, and there’s not that much to get over.  But when there is stuff to get over, it doesn’t work. 

Sheila: Cross-sectionally, the tendency to make positive attributions or otherwise disengage global evaluations of the relationship from negative experiences was associated with higher levels of satisfaction in marriages characterized by more frequent negative behavior and more severe problems.”

Rebecca: At any given moment, people who are saying, “Well, it’s not that bad,” are going to also report being happier in their marriages overall.  And that is even more true of people whose marriages actually had more fighting more often.  So in the moment saying, “Well, it’s all going to be fine.  Our marriage is good overall,” seems to help.

Sheila: Right.  “Longitudinally, in contrast, such strategies only demonstrated benefits to healthier marriages, whereas they predicted steeper declines in satisfaction among spouses in more troubled marriages by allowing marital problems to worsen over time.”

Rebecca: But if you look over the long term that strategy of saying, “Well, it doesn’t really matter,” turns out it does matter if there is something to matter about.  And so the only people for whom it did well for were people who didn’t really have that much going on to begin with.

Sheila: “These findings highlight the limits of purely cognitive theories of relationship maintenance and suggest that widely recommended strategies for improving relationships may harm vulnerable couples by weakening their motivations to address their problems directly.”

Rebecca: Obviously, it’s not all in your head.  And so if you tell couples that it’s all in your head when it’s not all in your head, oop.  The not in your head part is going to catch up to you.  

Sheila: Yeah.  That pretty much sums it up.  Thank you for that.  So to sum up, what this thing is saying—by the way, I love—

Rebecca: I can summarize quickly.  

Sheila: Okay.  Yeah.  Uh-huh.  

Rebecca: To summarize, in the moment saying, “I’m not going to sweat the small stuff.  This isn’t a big deal,” will make you feel better today.  But if in doing that, you’re covering up a larger problem, that rug that you’re dusting all your stuff underneath is just going to get a bigger and bigger and bigger pile until it’s embarrassing when someone comes over.  Right?  So you’re not actually dealing with the problem.  And so if there isn’t a problem there, you’re also not making a problem where there isn’t one.  Like the example of me and Connor with the coffee cups, right?  Both of us do it.  I’m not going to make our weekend ruined over a coffee cup when he could go upstairs and find four of mine.  Instead, we’re going to work together to do better, right?  We’re not going to fight about it.  But if it wasn’t just coffee cups, if it was everything else, then not talking about it would make it worse and worse and worse.  That’s the issue.  

Sheila: And this is what I want to get into with Holly Furtick’s advice because this is so typical in Christian circles is what they tell us is don’t sweat the small stuff.  Don’t bring it up.  Don’t talk about it.  Shove it under the rug.  It isn’t that important.  It’s all about your attitude.  Your attitude is wrong.  You need to love him more and accept him for who he is.  That only works over the long term if you are in a positive, healthy relationship.  It does not work in an unhealthy relationship.  But it does help marriages stay together in the short term.  And so if you’re trying just to get people not to divorce right now, that advice is actually pretty darn good.  But it doesn’t help the marriages, and it can’t be sustained long term.  And that, I think, is why we’re seeing so many evangelical marriages start to break up in their 40s and 50s because people can’t take it anymore.  They have shoved this stuff under the rug for so long.  And what we need to be doing instead is not telling women, “You’re fussing.  You’re shouting.  You’re nagging.  You’re hinting.  You’re manipulating,” but telling women, “Hey, let’s figure out how to draw boundaries.  Let’s figure out how to bring up these issues in a healthy, positive way,” because it is important to tell the truth about your relationship and to work towards a healthy relationship where iron sharpens iron, not one where you get to be erased.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And what I find so sad is that when we’re—you talk about healthy versus unhealthy relationships.  That’s not actually the whole story because it’s not that all the relationships are unhealthy.  It just means that there are aspects that need to be improved.  And it only becomes unhealthy if those things aren’t improved.  Right?  If your issue is just mental load, okay.  Congratulations.  You’re in the majority of couples.  Right?

Sheila: Right.  

Rebecca: You’re in the majority of happy couples too.  The majority of happy couples even have mental load inequalities.  This is a very common issue.  But if you don’t deal with it, it can become so problematic.  It’s like this is something that you can deal with, and you can fix.  These are—there are so many areas like that.  And I don’t want people to get discouraged and say, “Oh, well, it’s either perfect, or it’s really unhealthy.”  It’s like, “No.  You just need to fix it sometimes.”  It might just be broken right now, but you can fix a lot of things that are broken.

Sheila: Yeah.  And so this idea that we don’t bring up issues we just shove them down because it’s healthier.  And it’s better, and I don’t want to be upset.  It doesn’t work in the long run when there is a lot of negative stuff in your marriage.

Rebecca: Mama is allowed to be grumpy.

Sheila: Deal with it.  If mama is always grumpy, maybe there is a reason.  And let’s be curious and ask what that reason is.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.

Sheila: All right.  I have brought my husband, Keith, onto the podcast.

Keith: Hey, everybody.

Sheila: And, babe, what we have been talking about so far is how advice to Christian women tells them don’t sweat the small stuff, bury it all.  Your purpose is to surrender.  Your purpose is to make yourself small.  And because that’s your purpose, then when you do speak up you are fussing, shouting, complaining, nagging, manipulating, hinting.  You’re not ever drawing boundaries, communicating.

Keith: Being assertive.

Sheila: Yes.  You’re just totally doing all these terrible things.  Right.

Keith: Speaking the truth in love.  None of those kinds of things.  Yeah.

Sheila: So I wanted to look at how a secular marriage researcher approaches some of these same issues.  

Keith: Some godless heathen.  

Sheila: Yes.  Yes.  And that is John Gottman.  

Keith: He’s great.

Sheila: From the Gottman Institute.  Probably the gold standard of marriage research around the world.  And his book, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, was our control book in our research for The Great Sex Rescue.  So we analyzed 13 of the bestselling evangelical sex and marriage books and marked them on our rubric of healthy sexuality.  And we also marked John Gottman’s book.  And it scored 47 out of 48.

Keith: Yeah.  It was good.  

Sheila: I forget why it—I think it lost the one point—something about the physical attraction. 

Keith: Whatever.

Sheila: It doesn’t really matter.  It’s a great book.  Okay.

Keith: Yeah.  It really is.  Because it’s based on evidence.  It’s based on what’s actually real and what’s true and what works in real life.  Yeah.

Sheila: Right.  Now I want to talk about the chapter on sharing power.  And it’s interesting because this is the chapter that we actually analyzed quite a bit in our podcast about Nancy Pearcey.  Because she quotes from this chapter to say that it doesn’t matter whether you believe in hierarchy or not in marriage, people do just fine as long they’re emotionally intelligent.  Right?

Keith: Yeah.  Exactly.

Sheila: And it’s like that is so not what John Gottman said.

Keith: So the point of the chapter form what I recall—it’s been awhile since I read it is this is a real problem in some marriages because they believe religiously the man is supposed in charge.  And this can cause real really huge problems because we know that not sharing power is really, really, really bad.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And he actually says it results in an 81% chance of divorce.  Yeah.

Keith: But those couples can do okay as long as he lets that slide and doesn’t make it a big deal and is willing to relinquish power.  He may say he’s the boss, but he doesn’t really act like the boss. 

Sheila: Exactly.  

Keith: So as long as you do everything you can to not actually put into practice what you believe, you can keep believing these things.  And they take from that this is totally fine to believe these things.

Sheila: It’s like no.  No.  No.  No.  And so he has—and so what she’s picking up on—the quote that she used was that emotionally intelligent husbands do fine.  And so I want to talk about what he says about emotionally intelligent husbands.  

Keith: Perfect.

Sheila: So he says this, “My data on newlywed couples indicate that more husbands are being transformed in this way.”  So they’re becoming emotionally intelligent.  “About 35% of the men we’ve studied are emotionally intelligent.  Research from previous decades suggests that the number used to be much lower.”  So he’s like 35% are emotionally intelligent.  So Nancy Pearcey, when she says, “Look.  Emotionally intelligent husbands do fine,” we’re talking about 35%, people.

Keith: Still a minority.  Got some work to go.  And you’re not increasing that minority by telling men to be in charge of everybody. 

Sheila: Exactly.  And so he goes on to talk about how emotionally intelligent husbands do some of the things that he’s already mentioned in this book.  Things like looking for bids to connect, paying attention to their wife’s emotional state, just knowing what’s going on in their wife’s emotional life.  In her emotional map.  All right?  And I want to read a little bit more.  “I believe the emotionally intelligent husband is the next step in social evolution.  This doesn’t mean that he is superior to other men in personality, upbringing, or moral fiber.  He has simply figured out something very important about being married that the others haven’t yet. And that is how to honor his wife and convey his respect for her.  It is really that elementary.”  And he later says, “Research shows that a husband who can accept influence from his wife also tends to be an outstanding father.  He is familiar with his children’s world including their friends and their fears.  Because he is not afraid of emotions, he teaches his children to respect their own feelings and themselves.  He turns off the basketball game for them too because he wants them to remember him as having had time for them.”  

Keith: Mm-hmm.

Sheila: And he goes into in more detail what it means for a husband to be emotionally connected to his wife.  And he says it doesn’t mean that he shows emotion in the same way as his wife does.  It’s not like he has to cry at the drop of a hat.  Or he has to—not that all women do that either.

Keith: Whatever stereotype you want to say. 

Sheila: But whatever stereotype you want to bring in.  It’s not like he does things in the same way as his wife.  He is tuned in to his wife’s emotional world, and he lets that affect him.  And that’s the huge bit.  That’s what he’s talking about in this chapter about sharing influence and sharing power is that he allows his wife’s emotional world to affect him.  

Keith: Yeah.  Absolutely.  

Sheila: And that’s just so the opposite of what this Christian advice was given to women which is your emotional world is not allowed to affect anybody.  You need to take all of your emotional world.  You need to shove it under the rug because if your emotional world is going to make everyone else’s lives miserable and if you try to confront any problem, if you try to get your husband to listen to you, you are nagging, hinting, manipulating, fussing, or shouting.  

Keith: Right.  That’s terrible.

Sheila: I know.  

Keith: It’s just so crazy because, to me, when you look at what the Bible actually talks about husbands this is just natural if you’re going to be Christ like.  You want to give of yourself to your wife.  The kind of man who says I want to be in charge is not being Christ like.  We say that the Christian marriage is where the man is in charge, but any man who wants to be in charge, to me, that’s by definition not Christ like because the whole role—Christ said, “I have come not to be served but to serve.”  And that’s what we should be doing as Christian men.

Sheila: I know.  And I find this so interesting that a secular person writing this gets it.  He’s like here’s the picture of what emotional intimacy looks like.  Here is the picture of what emotional connection looks like.  And the problem right now—and he’s quite blunt about it too.  He’s like, “Okay.  I’m just going to be clear with you people.  The problem right now when it’s about sharing power is that men need to learn how to accept influence because women already do it.”  And he gives all kinds of numbers.  He talks about his research.  It’s like women are already allowing their husbands to influence them.  It tends to be men who aren’t. 

Keith: Yeah.  And when they don’t let their wives influence them, it has bad effects.  So it’s in your best interest to learn to do this, guys.

Sheila: Exactly.  And he’s like the biggest thing that can really help marriages today is for me to learn to be emotionally intelligent.  And yet, at the same time, in the church, the messages that we’re given are the exact opposite.  

Keith: Absolutely.  The whole idea that men are stone wallers.  That’s the way God made them.  Stone walling is one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.  

Sheila: According to John Gottman.

Keith: According to John Gottman.  He says it’s a marriage killer.  And Eggerichs comes out and says that’s what Gottman preaches.  That men are stone wallers, and that’s just the way God made them.  It’s crazy.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  Emerson Eggerichs is famous for using Gottman’s research but ignoring Gottman’s conclusions.  And when he uses the research, he distorts the numbers.  I wonder what Emerson Eggerichs would ever say about the number that only 35% of men are emotionally intelligent.  Again, this is not innate to masculinity.  And in this chapter, Gottman goes into detail about the way that we socialize children and how the games that little girls play are actually geared around helping them become emotionally intelligent whereas the games that boys play are not.  And so boys are growing up at a disadvantage.  This is actually a big deal.  And you look at the rates of loneliness and unhappiness.  Men much more lonely than women are.  Men are much more unhappy in general.  This is a problem because men don’t have these relationship skills that women have been—have had nurtured.  And that does need to change.  One of the questions that I often get by people who are pushing back on what we’re saying—okay?  Is, “So, basically what you’re saying, Sheila, is that all advice in the evangelical church is bad.  It can’t all be bad.”  

Keith: Okay.

Sheila: What would you say to that?

Keith: Well, I would say that the—unfortunately, the evangelical church has bought into this lie.  And the lie is that it is fundamentally essential that we see men and women as different species.  That men and women are so entirely different that they can’t even understand each other, and they’re totally different things.  We need to treat them totally differently as opposed to seeing men and women as both being human beings.  And we may be different.  But we’re often more similar to—as a man, I might be—have more things in common with some women than with most men.  We can’t think that way because it takes these nice little defined boxes of what is a man and what is a woman, and it makes them all squishy and messy and complicated.  And I can’t handle that.  My little brain is going (makes noises).  And it’s crazy.  And I think part of it is because we also have this whole belief of men need to be in charge.  And if men need to be in charge, it’s because there is something about men that’s different than women and all that kind of nonsense.  And so, therefore, everything we say we have to package it into gendered terms.  And that destroys everything.  So like the whole idea of emotional versus logical, we talk about how men are logical and women are emotional which is garbage because there’s a lot of logical women and a lot of emotional men.  Why don’t we just talk about the value of logic and the value of not forgetting that we are emotional creatures?  And wherever you are on that spectrum whether you’re a man or a woman, it doesn’t matter.  Try and be more balanced.

Sheila: Yeah.  

Keith: Why don’t we talk like that?  

Sheila: Yeah.  And if your spouse is the opposite, you need to find ways to recognize the strength in that and communicate too.  

Keith: Yeah.  Because if we believe men and women—if God has made men and women different, then why don’t we just try to be like Christ and allow the natural differences that God has made within us come out naturally rather than trying to shove ourselves in these little cookie cutters that fit some very particular person’s idea of what a man is or what a person’s idea of a woman is.  I mean it’s just terrible because you can take really good advice, but you put it through those little molds.  And it comes out all misshapen.  It doesn’t make any sense.

Sheila: Yeah.  It absolutely does.  And I think you’re right.  I think the problem is that the reason that—yes.  I would say that the vast, vast, vast majority of marriage advice, and probably parenting advice too I would argue.  But maybe for different reasons.  In the evangelical church is bad.  And it’s because we start from faulty premises.  And one of the faulty premises, I think, is this gendered dichotomy, which is based on the idea that we need to put men in charge.  And, therefore, men and women have to be fundamentally different, and so we’re going to base everything on gender stereotypes.  And we see that in what Elisabeth Elliot said, about how the essence of femininity is to surrender and, basically, make herself nothing and give up her will in everything to her husband.  Well, that doesn’t—whereas John Gottman is saying, “Actually, no.  He needs your influence.”  When you look at studies, men need women’s influence, and we need to share power.  So it’s like the exact opposite of what is being said if you’re actually looking for health.  The other one, I think, that really makes evangelical marriage advice go off the rails is that our aim is wrong because our aim in evangelical marriage advice is keep the marriage together at all costs.

Keith: Right.

Sheila: And that’s why we say things like, “Don’t bring up issues.  Just leave it to God.  Just pray about it.”  Because if you bring it up, then you might realize your spouse isn’t going to change.  And this may cause a crisis, and this may mean that you leave your spouse.  So we’re going to give you advice that is going to make you stay together no matter what.  So the goal is not actually for healthy marriages.  The goal is for intact marriages no matter what those marriages look like.  

Keith: I think part of the other thing too is that we start with knowing the answer and then we try and find it as opposed to saying what’s true and go there.  And that’s exactly the opposite of what Jesus said.  Jesus said you’ll know a tree by its fruit.  And so when I read Gottman and I see what he says—what he demonstrates is true in the world, then I can take that and say, “Yeah.  That’s true because this is what—the way God made the world.”  When I come with the idea that God made the world this way and I’m going to see it in the world however I want, then I can read Gottman and totally misread it because I’ve already decided that men are supposed to be in charge.  So even though he’s finding that men shouldn’t be, I can see that it’s okay that men be in charge because that’s the way I’m reading it because I’ve already got that—I’ve got my blinders on.  

Sheila: Which is what Nancy Pearcey did.  Yeah.  

Keith: Yeah.  Exactly.  So I think we need to be more open to—I think we need to trust God that if something is truly from Him it should work in the real world.  And if it doesn’t, we should go, “Maybe the problem is with me.  Maybe the problem is with my theology.”  And maybe we should do some introspection.  That’s what I would say.

Sheila: So to wrap up, everybody, you’re allowed to sweat the small stuff.  Okay?  If there is a problem in your marriage, you’re allowed to bring it up.  And bringing it up does not mean that you are necessarily fussing, shouting, hinting, manipulating, whatever the other worse were.  Okay.  You are allowed to bring things up.  And if there is a really negative pattern to not bring it up actually endangers your marriage in the long run.  And the key to a healthy marriage isn’t to make yourself to nothing.  It isn’t to surrender everything.  It isn’t to pretend that your grumpy moods don’t matter.  It’s to be curious and figure out, “Hey, what am I actually feeling,” and then get in tune emotional with your spouse.  That’s the key.

Keith: Yeah.  And if you’re the husband, Gottman’s advice to you would be to find out what’s going on in your wife’s heart.  

Sheila: And in your own.  That’s a big part of what he says.  And in your own as well because a lot of men don’t know how to talk about their own emotions.  

Keith: Yeah.  But if the teaching she is getting don’t bother your husband with all your little, piddly, little emotions, then my challenge to you as husbands out there is ask your wives.  Show them you want to know those things.  Show them those things matter to you.  That you want to hear their heart.  That they can get over that hurdle that they’ve been taught to not tell you.  They can actually share it with you.  And it will build intimacy.

Sheila: Yep.  All right.  As we’re ending, I just want to read a couple of the reviews that we haven’t done from The Great Sex Rescue.  We used to do that a lot on the podcast.  Haven’t done it in a while.  But if we’re looking at evidence-based research, then The Great Sex Rescue, She Deserves Better—they’re based on our two—two of our previous studies.  We’re so excited to one day share with you the marriage book that is based on the survey that we’re doing right now.  Link in podcast notes.  But here are two that came in.  This is a one-star review.

Keith: Oh good.

Sheila: Yeah.  “Terrible autor.”  I think he meant author.  “Terrible research.  Don’t waist,”—as in your waist, below your stomach.  “Don’t waist your money.”  Okay.  

Keith: Gotcha.

Sheila: “The author plays with emotion and doesn’t actually do research.  I read the book thinking I would get some sort of knowledge.  But instead, I was bored to death.  Whoever follow’s”—with an apostrophe—“this author, I would highly question her educational background.  She also tends to quote other books and doesn’t read the entire book.  She just wants to gain an audience with her emotional responses.”  Oh, those emotional women.  Oh, they don’t use logic or do research.  So that’s an issue and a problem.  So I will just—you know what?  When your one-star reviewers are like this—

Keith: That’s a good sign.

Sheila: It’s a good sign.  

Keith: And she’s critiquing your lack of knowledge, and their spelling and grammar is hideous.

Sheila: Yeah.  It’s actually a man.  It’s a man.

Keith: Okay.  A man.  Okay.

Sheila: Yeah.  Mm-hmm.  So that’s actually one thing that I often do when I’m buying books is I check out the one-star reviews.  And if the one-star reviews are really stupid, it’s like this is probably a really good book.  Okay.  So here’s another recent one that came in.  This is also by a man.  So two by a man.

Keith: Is it a good one or is it another low one?

Sheila: It is a good one.  It says, “The best Christian sex book I’ve ever read.  I read six or seven books on the topic of Christian sexuality, but this one is by far the best.  It is research based and does a great job of discussing years of male centric teaching.  It reviews a bunch of other texts and questions how useful the teachings actually are.  Highly recommended.”  And so we still have lots of reviews coming in.  There’s almost—I think there’s 2,400 now or something.  But people just keep telling us how life changing it is.  And that’s great to hear.  So do check out—just for fun.  Go to Amazon right now and check out the reviews for Great Sex Rescue and She Deserves Better.  I love reading them sometimes just to give myself some encouragement when I need it on bad days.  And so thank you all for reviewing these books.  It really helps.  And if you have not picked them up yet, please do so.  They’ll make great Christmas gifts for Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, anyone that you want to influence.  And we also have some amazing merch that you can get for stocking stuffers too like our biblical womanhood, biblical manhood, prayer and tent pegs.  So we will put the link to all those fun things.  And remember that when you purchase those things or when you join our patron group it just helps us keep doing what we are doing on the Bare Marriage podcast.  So thank you so much.  We will see you again next week.  Bye-bye.

Keith: Bye.

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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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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  1. Kathryn

    I can definitely relate to this idea of women’s attempts at communication being framed negatively. I am a fairly clear communicator (according to the feedback I ask from other people in my life) and I’m a fairly laid back person. I was also raised in the Elizabeth Elliot age of “surrender and shut up”. So I let a whole lot roll off my back and just let it go. But on the occasions i have an issue that needs addressed, 9/10 times, when I attempt to raise an issue that concerns me to my husband, I get stonewalled with silence or it’s immediately turned around to become my problem. Over two decades, his communication skills have now “improved” to the point where he will come back to me 24-48 hours later and basically say I deserved the dismissive response I got because I didn’t say my concern in just the right way. My way was (rude, disrespectful) and this is how I should have phrased it (and then he will give me an example sentence. Somewhere along the lines he also internalized the idea that women’s tears are a form of manipulation. I am not a crier, but once every few years I get to the point where I am so distraught or heartbroken over the state of our marriage that it does indeed bring tear and instantaneously he feels manipulated and I am the “manipulator”. This, folks, is the direct result of growing up saturated in books like those mentioned above.

    • Lisa Johns

      Not to mention that your husband is behaving in an extremely toxic and manipulative manner himself! I feel you on all of this. You’re not alone, sister! Blessing to you, and I pray you find the truth of God’s love and regard for you.

  2. Jo R

    “How to Make Christian Stepford Wives”


  3. Lisa Johns

    Honestly, don’t the people who say “don’t sweat the small stuff” realize that it is the small things every day that build the marriage?

    Sure, if a brick is knocked out of the wall of your house, don’t sweat it. The house won’t fall down for the lack of one brick. But what if another brick is knocked out of the wall of the house two or three times a week for the next year? How long is the house going to stand at that rate? So with marriage.

    I lived with someone who refused to sweat the small stuff for decades, and I can attest to the fact that if a guy isn’t willing to take care of those small things, the big things aren’t going to be there either.

    Sweat it!

    • Codec

      You know what this reminds me of actually Lisa Johns? It reminds me of one of the chapters in the Screwtape Letters. Screwtape recommends to Wormwood that rather than have his patient commit big acts of cruelty that will result in him possibly getting caught or having his conscience step in leading him to repentance that instead he should foster in people small cruelties that build up into subterfuge and sabotage.

      It also reminds me of a management principle. That of depreciation. Goods and services naturally depreciate over time so one must take care of said goods so they continue to be valuable to you.

      • Lisa Johns

        Yes, and yes! I love these observations!

    • Jo R

      Agreed, though my thoughts ran more to construction, as in…

      A marriage can have (1) a hundred-foot-tall monolithic wall of a problem, like adultery or addiction, or (2) a series of one-inch-tall small-stuff problems, or even the same problem that occurs every day or several days a week, and eventually, after twelve hundred repetitions, those one-inch-tall occurrences will add up to being a hundred feet tall.

      That’s why we have the saying about a straw that broke the camel’s back.

      • Lisa Johns

        Exactly so!

  4. Laura

    This Instagram reel of Holly Furtick’s is why I no longer get involved in women’s Bible studies unless it’s about an actual book in the Bible rather than some cookie cutter advice that’s recycled from these horrible evangelical books by authors like Elisabeth Elliott. I would like to know what Holly’s credentials are regarding her advice on marriage none of which sounded healthy. It was more like “how to avoid confrontation.” Yes, I believe God can work on people, but when in relationships there is more than one person. So, there needs to be direct communication. My boyfriend keeps reminding me that if something is bothering me, I need to tell him.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It’s amazing how common what she said was. And she is a really good speaker, married to a megachurch pastor, so she gets a big platform.

      • Lisa Johns

        I wish we could see a mass exodus from mega-church membership.

  5. A

    Interesting. Guess who sets the emotional tone in my house? Hint: It’s not me. The rest of us are subject to the moods and emotions of my husband. Much of his communication is loud ranting or yelling or passive-aggressive manipulation. Does this advice ever get given to men?

    • Laura

      Men probably don’t get this kind of advice in men’s Bible studies. Their advice may be on how to lead their families by doing the things their wives are already doing such as praying with the kids, reading a devotional together, getting the family ready for church on Sunday, then telling men they get to be in charge because they’re men and that’s how God designed them.

      I think anyone in the household can set the tone. Some days, it’s the kids like when they come home from school and may be super happy or in a bad mood and fighting with each other. Growing up, my brother did this especially when he got in trouble at school.

    • Lisa Johns

      I feel that. My husband set the tone in our house and marriage for years by his crankiness and manipulation. But guess whose fault it is that the marriage is breaking up.

  6. Bill

    I found you guys due to your critique of Every Man’s Battle, which has been very helpful to me in cultivating purity and has dramatically increased my ability to lead as a man and increased my wife’s enjoyment of our marriage in all aspects. I’ve been free of porn since before we were married, but there are many other ways to sin sexually, and EMB helped me a lot with those. So at first, I was a little aghast at your critique. And I still don’t agree with you on everything.

    But…I have to say that your perspective on marriage and intimacy is like a breath of fresh air across a desert. I’m repenting of many of my attitudes and my wife and I are both reading your books. We actually had a huge fight when I first brought up your books because this has always been a testy area for us. I’ve been dissatisfied with our sexual life for years (we’ve been married almost 39 years) and it’s been a source of many arguments. Her response has typically been and was in this instance: “we’re fine, why are you bringing this up?” But after the dust settled, she agreed to read your “Good Girls” book, and I’m reading your “Good Guys” book. It feels like the winds of massive change are blowing across our marriage. By many standards, we have an excellent marriage, we’ve always communicated pretty honestly, but this is moving it to a new level.

    You didn’t say this, but It’s not always the woman whose “small thing’s” are getting ignored or put down. In many ways, my wife and I are opposite the stereotypes. I’m the one who typically brings up issues in our marriage 98% of the time. She typically wants to avoid discussing any issues.

    I want to thank your for giving me language for what I really want in our marriage: intimacy. I have often focused so much on sex and have been guilty of emotionally coercing her. And yet often dissatisfied even when we do the deed.

    Thanks for exposing the lies and garbage that are out there in most Christian books on marriage and sex. Even when I don’t agree with you, it is helpful to hear a different perspective–it makes me think and question my presuppositions. I really appreciate the work you guys are doing.

    I see a lot of anger being vented here by women, and I’m sure most of it is justified. Men are easy targets often by our own doing. But we’re hurting too, and we want intimacy too–we just don’t know it most of the time. Books and podcasts like yours can help us realize what we really want and help us love our wives like we’re supposed to. They’re certainly doing that for me.

  7. Bill

    You didn’t say this, but It’s not always the woman whose “small things” are getting ignored or put down. In many ways, my wife and I are opposite the stereotypes. I’m the one who brings up issues in our marriage almost all the time. She typically wants to avoid discussing any issues. “Why are you bringing this up? I’m fine with how things are.” Except that often she’s not, but just lowering her expectations. I want to know what’s going on with her and if there’s anything I can do to help. But it’s often like pulling teeth to get her to talk about things. Often she doesn’t know what she’s feeling herself, and I need to say, “I don’t know for sure, but you seem angry or “. And then she can often identify what’s going on. But it feels like I’m doing all the work in the relationship and its gets tiring sometimes. And in counseling, I’ve often been told that I should just overlook issues sort of like Holly Furtick’s advice to women. That’s the road to big problems, though, so I don’t do that.

  8. Emmy

    It’s funny how I has interpreted the slogan “If Mom is happy, everybody is happy” differently. I’m not from America, so I was not familiar with the context this slogan was used. I assumed it was about the importance of making and keeping the mother happy, because her actual happiness contributes to everyone else’s happiness. I thought it was, let’s say, like a dad, exhorting the children: “Now, let’s all be nice to Mom, and co-operative and helpful, and let’s not make her life hard. If Mom is happy, that will be good for us all.” Seems like I have been wrong, and it is about Keeping up Appearances rather than actually caring about Mom’s real and actual happiness.

  9. Jenny

    Keith: So like the whole idea of emotional versus logical, we talk about how men are logical and women are emotional which is garbage because there’s a lot of logical women and a lot of emotional men. Why don’t we just talk about the value of logic and the value of not forgetting that we are emotional creatures? And wherever you are on that spectrum whether you’re a man or a woman, it doesn’t matter. Try and be more balanced.

    Me as an INTP woman: YES! Oh, how I struggled! I grew up hearing that false dichotomy and I was so insulted and frustrated because I’m naturally logical, I sucked at emotions, and clearly being logical was superior because men are logical and they’re the leaders and therefore better. I genuinely needed someone to tell me emotions were okay and it was right, proper, and healthy to actually feel them (instead of stuffing them down and pretending they don’t exist).


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