Advice to Young Marrieds? Why Michelle Duggar’s Newlywed Sex Advice Hurts Women AND Men


A couple of days ago my social media sites were all a rage about some advice given by Michelle Duggar (19 Kids and Counting fame) in one of her blogs. Here’s the oft-quoted part,

She told me: “Michelle, I know you’re so excited. You’re a bride-to-be, but some day you’ll be at this point. I’ve been married three years and I’m still happily married. I have one child, we’re expecting our second and I’m big pregnant. You’ve got to remember this. Anyone can iron Jim Bob’s shirt, anybody can make lunch for him. He can get his lunch somewhere else. But you are the only one who can meet that special need that he has in his life for intimacy. You’re it. You’re the only one. So don’t forget that, that he needs you. So when you are exhausted at the end of the day, maybe from dealing with little ones, and you fall into bed so exhausted at night, don’t forget about him because you and he are the only ones who can have that time together. No one else in the world can meet that need.”

“And so be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you,’ no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels. ‘I’m still here for you and I’m going to meet that need because I know it’s a need for you.’ ”

No wonder the rage. The message is quite simply awful in its meaning. Here’s my take on what she really says:

Your husband’s sexual need is so great you can never turn him down or bad things will happen. Always be ready no matter what has been going on in your life. Put a smile on and do it! The only way he’ll really know you are “there for him” is your sexual availability.

Okay, a little context is in order for those, like me, who have never seen the television show. The blog, entitled, “Michelle Duggar’s Advice to Newlyweds,” begins with a fan question: What advice will you give Jill [her daughter] as a newlywed wife to keep in mind throughout her marriage? She gives three points: be available (quote above is from that point), talk about disagreements in private, and get marriage advice when you need it. And while the context is all about what she wants to tell her daughter before her wedding, she does conclude with a single sentence to the guys about not approaching marriage as if they are all “macho” and above the need for advice and help.

The problem

The problem with this advice is there is a bit of truth in it mixed with a significant dose of false conventional wisdom. It is true that we need to pay attention to the desires of our spouses. It is true that sex can be more important to one spouse than the other and so it if you are the lower-desire-for-sex spouse, it means you one form of love for your spouse is to care about their desires. But notice that “care about desires” does not mean you have to do whatever they want when they want. That is the false conventional wisdom in her post. Men have this need, so the thought goes, and a godly wife will always meet it because that is what love does.

Some Better Sex Advice for Young Married Men

Sex is not the (sole) definition of emotional connection. You want a good marriage and the probability of a decent sex life? Connect with your wife’s emotional and experiential life. Regularly explore her dreams, fears, and aspirations. You may be shocked to find out that you didn’t marry someone who thinks exactly like you. Allow her to have her own thoughts and feelings. It won’t diminish who you are.

When you come home at the end of the day, seek her out. You may have had a hard day at work but your wife still needs you to be present. Ask about her day. Notice what needs to be done around the house and do it, without being asked. And when you see she is burdened with care for the kids, the house, or her own health, step it up a bit without looking for a pat on the back. Only you can offer that kind of support.

Remember too, sex is a great thing but it isn’t intended to be an antidote to herb (or your) boredom, sadness, or tiredness. Find out what helps her to be ready for sex and yet be understanding when she says “not tonight” (note: when you want sex, be sure to ask not hint). She’s not a vending machine that always responds because you put in the right amount of money. When she declines, stay close to her. If she says yes only to avoid your cold shoulder, you are ensuring that sex is all about you and not at all about her. Do not make sex the requirement for your love, compassion, and interest in your wife.

Finally, and most importantly, remember that sex is a want, not a need. Sure, it is a powerful want and a good desire. But that does not mean it is a must-have. Treat it as a right and you will kill your love life. 1 Corinthians 7 doesn’t give you the right to demand sex. Notice that your body is not yours to control. That control is given to your wife. Yes, the point of the passage is mutual care for each other. But in a broken world, that does not mean that we mutually care for each other in the exact way we want to be cared for. And so we will have times of unfulfilled desires. Do not believe for a moment that her lack of availability is what tempts you to porn, masturbation or other forms of infidelity. It’s not her, it’s you!

Obviously, there is much more sex advice to be given to young married couples. Find a good book and read it together. Stay away from blog posts (even this one!) as your final source. But if you are in need of pithy bullet pointed sex advice, try these:

  • Don’t be selfish
  • Laugh a lot (especially at yourself)
  • Don’t keep a record of wrongs
  • Do repent quickly
  • Make and keep a tradition that is something you both love
  • Don’t ignore or withhold what makes your spouse feel safe and significant

You do these well and I would bet your sex life will be just fine.

12 Comments

Filed under marriage, Sex

12 responses to “Advice to Young Marrieds? Why Michelle Duggar’s Newlywed Sex Advice Hurts Women AND Men

  1. Beautiful advice. I think the truth Michelle Duggar was hinting at is that men (in general) need to have sex IN ORDER to feel loved, and women need to feel loved IN ORDER to have sex. It helps when both of us are willing to compromise sometimes – and talk about it always.

  2. I agree that she was hinting at that advice. But, I disagree with it just the same. I don’t think men need sex in order to feel loved. I think that is a common misperception. I think it might be like saying I need an iphone to stay connected. It certainly helps and simplifies but isn’t a necessity. I don’t think my view diminishes the value of sex or the good that comes from it. I’d just like us men not to take the easy path, to equate sex with love or vice versa.
    But I do agree with you that it always is a plus when we both are willing to work together and when we are willing to talk (and listen) about it.

  3. Reblogged this on A Cry For Justice and commented:
    We don’t usually publish a post on Tuesday but this one by Phil Monroe is so teriffice we couldn’t resist.

  4. Pingback: Advice to Young Marrieds? Why Michelle Duggar’s Newlywed Sex Advice Hurts Women AND Men | A Cry For Justice

  5. Phil said “I don’t think men need sex in order to feel loved. I think that is a common misperception.”
    AMEN and AMEN!

  6. Anna

    Wow, I’d like to see a man’s input on this. Yeah, we should avoid extremes, but I would argue that sex is indeed a need for men. Let a man respond to this one!

    • Anna, not sure how to take your comment but just in case you didn’t know…I the author am a man. I would argue that many men *believe* their desires are needs. If that is so, then so many single men must be tortured and that God is withholding them something basic that they need. It is easy to take a strong desire and turn it into a must-have to live. Sex is good and not something to cultivate in marriage but it is not at the level of need.

  7. Jersey Girl

    Oh what a wonderful post. It was like a huge breath of fresh air to read this. Thank you.

  8. Connie Rita

    I truly appreciate your timely and balanced perspective on this topic, Phil. Over the week-end, I attended a seminar on authentic intimacy given to a group of women at a church by highly credentialed presenters. The presentation’s perspective mirrored that of Michelle’s and the presenters even quoted the verse, Prov. 5: 19 “Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love,” emphasizing the words “at all times” and “always” as the wife’s responsibility to satisfy her husband’s sexual needs. Not one word was said about the husband’s responsibilities to his wife.
    I was sitting with another Christian counselor and we just shook our heads. We wrote out the question, “what about in marriages that involve emotional abuse? Or that are trying to recover from infidelity?” That question was never answered. I walked away from that seminar with a heavy heart because I knew there were women in that room that felt discouraged and condemned by the presentation as if the problems in their marriage were all their fault and they just needed to give their husbands sex “at all times and always.” I also thought about the single women in that room that may someday be going into marriage with the same perspective about sex as that of Michelle’s and the advice she was given.
    I would say that a “need” within the Christian church is to get a more balanced perspective on so many topics and to stop putting absolutes, all-or-nothing’s, on areas where so many other factors come into play.

  9. Pingback: Do Men Need Sex?

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