Birth control should be a shared responsibility. I’m worried that too often women feel pressured to do something that hurts their health in order to preserve their husband’s comfort.
And that’s not right.
I’m down in New Brunswick (right on the Quebec border, on the north shore) right now for Canadian Thanksgiving and Keith’s family reunion! The colours here are GORGEOUS. (I’ve been posting on Instagram about some hikes we’ve been doing; come on over and follow me there! And I’ve done a lot of Instagram stories, too). The girls aren’t with me, but two of Keith’s brothers and their wives are, along with my parents-in-law. Great weekend!
Anyway, I was supposed to post an Ask Sheila video today, but I totally forgot to upload it before I left, so that’s not going to work. But last week, when I posted my birth control round up, I started noticing a theme in some of the comments that concerned me. And so I just want to address something important today.
First, let’s reiterate one basic principle about contraception:
Some contraception methods work by actually changing your body, which can have side effects. Others are simple “barrier” methods that don’t affect health at all.
Some women sail by with hormonal birth control and love it (I’ve received many of those comments; I’ll post some in my in-depth look at The Pill on Wednesday). But other women are really impacted by hormonal birth control. I know I was. My mood seriously suffered (I got so angry and depressed). I gained 5 pounds in one month (another family member gained 30 pounds in 4 months after being the exact same weight for years). I lost my libido. I got blood clots. I got blood blisters. And that was on several kinds of pills.
Many women echoed my story. The Pill changes you. It is hormonal, so it is messing with your natural hormone levels to make sure that you don’t ovulate. That is going to have some repercussions. And those repercussions aren’t only when you’re having sex; you’re changing your health and your body 100% of the time for the sake of the time that you do have sex.
The condom, on the other hand, doesn’t do a thing to your bodies. It simply acts as a barrier when you’re having sex. When you’re not having sex, your body is perfectly normal.
Condoms are very high tech right now; they are extremely comfortable.
I have a friend who had infertility issues her whole life, and so she never used birth control because they always figured, if they got pregnant, they’d be happy.
Well, her husband is currently in chemo, and so they have to wear condoms to protect her from radiation. They weren’t looking forward to this at all, remembering what condoms had been like many years ago. But to their surprise, they’re not like that at all now! They’re much thinner. You can barely feel them. And they make clean up so much easier.
I’m going to be blunt here: Often when men don’t like wearing condoms, or find that they impede sensation too much, it’s because they’re wearing too much condom. They’re not wearing the size that fits. Many guys like to buy the “Xtra Large” size, and many guys are simply not extra large. That’s why condoms can feel like you’re wearing a balloon. And that’s when condoms are most likely to fall off. Get a condom that fits, and it’s great!
Now, does that mean that it doesn’t impede sensation at all? No, likely not. But it’s not like it makes sex terrible. It means that instead of 100% pleasure, there may be 90% pleasure. It’s not like it’s 0%! And hey–you can get ribbed ones, too!
When I hear women saying, “my husband won’t wear a condom, so I have to go on the Pill even though it makes me miserable”, then, I get very concerned.
What he is saying is that he thinks going from 100% pleasure to 90% pleasure is so absolutely terrible and awful that he would rather his wife take hormones into her body that change her mood and make her miserable.
Considering that one of the biggest side effects of the Pill is loss of libido, too (and with that for women often comes loss of ability to enjoy sex as much), he’s saying, again, that he thinks it’s fair for him to ask her to sacrifice her pleasure and her well-being for the sake of his 10% loss of pleasure.
This is just so wrong. Her pleasure, and her health, matter!
(Interestingly, researchers know how to make a male version of The Pill. It inhibits sperm production. In many ways, it’s better than the female Pill, where there’s always a chance you might ovulate or that it may stop implantation rather than conception. The problem? It has all the same side effects of the female pill (moodiness, weight gain, loss of libido, etc.), and so men won’t take it and they can’t market it. Women are willing to do this to our bodies; men, as a whole, aren’t as willing.)
Now, if The Pill works for you, and you don’t like condoms, more power to you. That’s fine! But I had so many women comment saying that they would rather not use hormonal birth control, but their husbands refused to wear condoms, so they didn’t have a choice. That’s when I get really concerned.
Similarly, I heard from many women who underwent tubal ligations because their husbands refused to have vasectomies.
Again, let’s look at the dichotomy: a vasectomy is a very minor procedure, done in a doctor’s office. A tubal ligation is an actual surgery. A tubal ligation can affect hormones and can have long term health effects (not always, but it can); a vasectomy has nothing like that. Vasectomies are far more minor; have far fewer risks; and have far fewer long term side effects.
For a husband to say, “you should be the one to get the surgery” means he’s saying that you should undergo a far more major, riskier procedure because he doesn’t want to go through a minor one.
That is not right and that is not fair.
So can I just ask you something right now, that I think gets to the heart of the problem?
Do you think that you “owe” your husband amazing sex?
I think we believe this, and THIS is the root of our problems when it comes to birth control. We feel that our duty is to provide him with amazing sex, and so if he thinks a condom won’t let him have amazing sex, then we have to figure out a way around it so that he can still have amazing sex. What we experience doesn’t seem nearly as important, because we grow up in the church hearing that a wife’s primary responsibility is to keep her husband satisfied sexually. His sexual needs matter most.
Likewise, if he’s afraid to have a doctor go near his private parts, then we have to have surgery ourselves, because his private parts matter most.
Our husband’s sexuality and comfort is more important than our health: is that honestly what we believe?
I completely believe in awesome sex! I completely believe that we women should be aiming for awesome, frequent sex. I’ve told you time and again that sex is a really important part of marriage, and that his needs do matter, and it’s not okay to just refuse sex.
But at the same time, sex is not for him. Sex is about both of you, together. It’s a deep knowing. As I explained in detail in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, it’s not like sex is for him and we’re the afterthought, who get the crumbs. Sex isn’t primarily physical. It’s emotional, spiritual, and physical, all wrapped up into one. And it only works if it’s a true intimacy where it’s two people being joined, not just one serving another forever.
God made sex to be AWESOME!
If you are in a marriage dynamic that says that your health needs matter less than his pleasure, that is not right.
That is when you say, “Honey, I’m not going to put drugs into my body because they affect me too much, so you’ll have to wear a condom or we can’t have sex.”
I don’t normally advise refusing sex at all. But this issue isn’t about sex. This is about marriage.
This is serious stuff. And if he thinks it’s okay to change the hormonal balance in your body against your wishes, even if you have negative side effects, because he doesn’t like condoms, that is just not okay. You do not have to sacrifice your health (and your libido and pleasure) just so that he enjoys sex marginally more. You do not have to feed his selfishness.
Again, I am not referring to relationships where you would rather use hormonal birth control, or where there’s a medical or other reason why you should be the one who should be sterilized instead of him. But when his comfort is the ONLY consideration when you’re deciding on birth control methods–that’s wrong.
(And if you’re having this issue in your marriage, maybe you should go back and read last month’s series on what submission really means!)
And today, I just wanted to say that.
What do you think? How can we make birth control a shared responsibility? What are we doing wrong in the way we talk about it? Let’s talk in the comments!