It’s time for a new episode of the To Love, Honor and Vacuum podcast!

And this week we’re finishing up our series on how sex should be mutual–including working towards a new definition of sex.

And consider this podcast “extras”. If you want to go deeper into what I talked about in the podcast, here are some more things to help you.

But first, here’s the podcast:

Main Segment: Can We Work Towards a New Definition of Sex?

Too often we see sex as simply about a man doing something to a woman. But what if we thought of godly sex as something that was meant to be mutual–that was meant to be an intimate knowing of both people?

If we did that, then I think a lot of the problems we have with women having no libido, or with women feeling like sex is icky, would be greatly diminished. When we talk about sex as only being about men’s physical release, we cheapen something beautiful that God made. We make sex about a “right” rather than an intimate experience. We actually rob sex of the purposes that God intended for it. And that’s wrong.

Yes, it’s good to be giving to our husbands. But if we always see sex as being about a husband’s needs, we’re robbing our husbands of real intimacy, too. We need to be an active participant!

I know that I’ve been talking about this a lot, and this podcast concludes everything I’ve been trying to say. My intention was never to “let women off the hook”. I do believe that sex is vitally important in marriage. But what we mean by the word “sex” matters. When we make it all about men, we almost guarantee women won’t want it, enjoy it, or think it’s for them. When we make it about a mutual experience, we get closer to what God intended.

This is good news! It isn’t something that’s meant to bash men. And I hope, as you listen in, you hear my heart.

Here, though, are the two posts that I mentioned in this segment:

Millennial Marriage: 2 Things Millennials Tend to Do Right

We’re always hearing about how lazy millennials are, and criticizing them as a generation. Millennials, though, have some priorities really right! Today Rebecca and I talked about two of those priorities: Millennials are willing to embrace creative living arrangements in order to have a better quality of life and save some money (and no, we’re not just talking about living in your parents’ basement); and millennials are far more willing to go to marriage counselling far earlier when conflicts arise.

What else do you think millennials do right? Let us know in the comments!

Reader Question: My Husband is Always Too Tired for Sex Because of His High-Stress Job

A reader writes:

My husband is always too tired for sex and it’s really starting to bother me. We probably have sex like twice a month so it’s not never but still too little. We have been married for a few decades, and in the beginning when all the kids were born it was me who was so tired, so I feel like i can’t say much now, because my husband dealt with it before. He works really hard for our family and has a high stress job as an emergency responder, so I understand why he’s tired but I still need his affection. What can I do?

I totally get this. But I decided in this podcast to focus more on the sources of his stress, because I think if we can deal with the stress, the sex part would take care of itself.

Also, I have something to celebrate this week! My husband did his last call ever at the hospital where he’s been working. He’s changing his practice so that he won’t be up all night. He decided that two decades of sleep deprivation and stress was enough.

Some professions are simply high stress–emergency responders, like paramedics, police officers, fire fighters, emergency room staff, some inner city teachers, children’s protection workers, even the military–they deal with stress in a way that other people just don’t. Other jobs may be high stress in terms of what’s expected of you, but there’s something unique about jobs where you’re always dealing with emergencies and seeing humanity at its worst and at its saddest. It’s hard to turn that off.

In the long run, that kind of stress is a bigger health hazard than smoking or obesity. It takes its toll. I think, then, that when you’re married to someone in a high stress job, part of your job is to help your spouse handle stress. Figure out how to arrange their schedule so they have some downtime to decompress in a healthy way (not just with time wasters that don’t feed the soul!) Get great eating and sleeping habits. And try that marriage check in where you share your high and your low of the day. They may not be able to share all the details of what happened, but if you know in general terms what your spouse is dealing with, you can be a big support.

And then keep working at intimacy and staying close!

Comment: In Which I Step in It with Co-Sleeping Again

Last week I shared that I don’t think it’s healthy for moms to sleep with children (we’re talking toddlers and older kids) instead of their husbands. The focus on my video and post was really on those older kids, not on babies, but most of the Facebook comments were about sleeping with babies, so I’m not sure people truly got what I was trying to say.

I do bring this up every few years, and whenever I do, people get very upset with me. I do understand that sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get some sleep. But I wanted to highlight something about the research behind attachment parenting. On Facebook, a reader wrote that I was ignoring how babies attach better with their parents when they sleep in the same bed. Again, though, I want to reiterate this:

In my post I was talking about older children past breast-feeding age, not infants! Most of the pro co-sleeping comments were discussing 5-month-old infants, and I believe that is an entirely separate conversation. What we were discussing was a reader question where a wife was sleeping in the 8-year-old’s bed and it was damaging their marriage.

Rebecca responded with this, and I thought it was important enough to highlight:

 

I actually went to university for psychology with a focus in developmental & cognitive psychology. So my profs talked about attachment parenting a LOT. And honestly? Not a single one was “pro.”

I want to say something though: cosleeping while breastfeeding is different than cosleeping with a toddler or older. I’m focusing mainly on toddler or older here–kids are not breastfeeding anymore.

The problem is that attachment parenting doesn’t do a good job of differentiating between a “tight” attachment and a “secure” attachment. So parents see their kid who loves them and only goes to them and loves to spend all their time with them and see it as secure. But that’s not actually what secure attachment means.

In fact, much impartial research that is done (e.g., not paid for or done by attachment parenting organizations, since there aren’t any “anti-attachment parenting” organizations since no one has monetary gain by promoting the alternative) has found that attachment parenting leads more to anxious attachments than it does secure attachments.

Much of that is because a secure attachment comes about by a child having a secure attachment both with the parent but also with their own standing in the world. If the parent doesn’t allow them to explore the world and experience discomfort and then realize “Hey, I’m fine if I’m not cuddled when I fall asleep because I wake up feeling OK and nothing bad happened”, the child can actually become more anxious. That’s an oversimplified version, but that’s the gist of it.

Kids need parental supervision, attention, care, and love! But they don’t need to avoid all discomfort. Some discomfort is GOOD for kids, since it teaches them that they are capable and safe–their fears don’t come true and they learn to self-soothe in those situations.

Because it takes away this chance to learn to self-soothe, a lot of attachment parenting actually can be to the kids’ detriment by not showing the kid, “You’re strong enough to handle this. And you’ll be OK. The world isn’t such a bad place that you need to be rescued from all the time.”

At the end of the day, are parents who co-sleep bad parents? No. They’re not. But psychology also says that you aren’t necessarily giving anything extra to your kids, and you may be at a greater risk for kids having anxiety issues later in life. And I’m just not sure that it’s worth sacrificing a marriage so you can sleep with kids for years on end when it doesn’t actually help the child much after breastfeeding is over.

Again, we’re talking about children here, not infants.

I know I’ll still get a lot of pushback, but the reason I keep bringing this up, even though so many pushback, is twofold:

  1. I think husbands matter. So many wives sleep in their school-age kids’ beds, and the husbands feel really left out and neglected, and just want their marriage back. That’s not insecurity or immaturity or not understanding how important kids are. That’s actually husbands valuing the right thing. Ladies, if we’re going to say that marriage is supposed to be mutual in other areas (including with mutual sex), then we have to also say that husbands matter, too. If we want them to consider us, we should also consider them. And choosing to sleep in an older child’s room, or with all of your kids in the bed, when your husband would rather keep the bedroom to just you, really is something that needs to be dealt with.
  2. Many parents are simply exhausted. The reason that so many parents say that they let the kids into the bed is that it’s the only way anyone gets any sleep. I get that. My kids didn’t sleep great as babies, either. But what a lot of parents don’t realize is that you can actually train your children to not know how to “self-soothe” (as Rebecca was talking about) so that when they wake up, they need you. They can’t go to sleep without you. That’s why they keep waking you up in the middle of the night–because when they wake up, they can’t just roll over and fall back asleep. I know how tiring that is. And I just want parents to hear–there is another way! That’s all.

Look, if you all co-sleep, AND your husband loves it too, AND you’re all getting great sleep, AND your kids are well-adjusted, then more power to you. But if you’re sharing a bed with your kids long-term and your marriage is growing distant, or if you all are chronically sleep deprived, or if your child is school age and can’t bear to be without you, then maybe something needs to change. Do you think we can agree on that, or am I still totally off base?

Let me know in the comments! And I’d love to hear what you think about the conclusion to our sex should be mutual series as well. What do you think? Can we change the conversation?

SheilaSidebarAboutMe - PODCAST EXTRAS: A New Definition of Sex, What Millennials Do Right, and More! Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 27 years and happily married for 22! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature "Girl Talk" about sex and marriage. And she's written 8 books. About sex and marriage. See a theme here? Plus she knits. Even in line at the grocery store.
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