Top iTunes Marriage Podcast

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hosted by Dr. Corey Allan

Power Plays #478

On the Regular version of today’s show …

A voicemail from a wife looking to keep the connection and intimacy with her husband, who had a stroke 17 years ago. 

A follow up email from a listener struggling with power plays around his sexuality and sex life with his wife.

On the Xtended version …

A clarification from last week’s XTD content. And a conversation about the main concepts taught by Schnarch and our understanding of them.

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Speaker 1: You are listening to the regular version of Sexy Marriage Radio, You've turned on Sexy Marriage Radio, where the best sex happens in the marriage bed. Here's your host, Dr. Corey Allan.

Corey Allan: Hey, welcome back to another episode of Sexy Marriage Radio [crosstalk 00:00:28]-

Pam Allan: It's good to be back, isn't it?

Corey Allan: It's interesting because, every time we start the show, I have a pattern, a routine, a mental checklist, I guess, that I go through, and there's times that I'm pausing going, "What else could I do?" right before I'm supposed to start the show. That was one of those times this time.

Pam Allan: crosstalk think of anything.

Corey Allan: Yeah. I couldn't break out of that rut in that routine because that's what married life is sometimes.

Pam Allan: Sometimes it is.

Corey Allan: And so what we want to have happen here, with Sexy Marriage Radio, is help you branch out beyond, if you need to, or you're looking for that little bit of a spark or spice, or you just need to grow a little bit, challenge some things a little differently. That's what we're here for. So the way you can let us know what's going on in your world is you can call us at 214-702-9565, is our voicemail line that helps us answer questions that are on people's hearts in the SMR Nation. You can also email us at, where we still get quite a few emails each and every week and day that are helping us be better as a show, which is what we'll talk a little bit about today with today's episode.

Pam Allan: Perfect.

Corey Allan: But they also are good questions that we get to follow up on or go some places that maybe we haven't gone yet, which is fascinating to me because, even in our own marriage, 27 years into this thing, there's still places we haven't gone.

Pam Allan: Oh, I'm sure there's plenty.

Corey Allan: And I don't mean just in the world, I mean relationally. There's a lot of places in the world we haven't gone, Madagascar-

Pam Allan: We'll make it there.

Corey Allan: ... I don't know. Alongside my wife Pam, we're so glad that you guys take some time out each and every day and week to spend it with us. And if you like what we got going on here, please jump on iTunes, rate and review the show, leave a comment, subscribe, do the same thing with Spotify, iHeartRadio, Google Play, however you listen. The message that we've got going on, we want it to spread as far as we can to help marriages just thrive... not survive, but thrive and actually just blossom into all that they can be as they continue forward each and every day.
And before we jump into today's episode, Pam, this is... as we transition into the fall, there's two times a year that I open up Man Of His Word Mastermind groups, and the fall is one of them. So we do it at the first of the year, and then we do it as the transition from summer into fall, and so that is going on right now. And if you're not sure what I mean by "mastermind," you're going to need to go to and I'll give you a whole lot of information. But this is a six month process for six men at a time, in a group with me where we meet twice a month, and it's truly about just becoming better men, better fathers, husbands, friends, coworkers, neighbors, all that that entails as men, because this is one of those things that I believe and love so much, it's just watching men really take charge of their life, live a deeper life, set a good tone for their life and their family and their marriage, and it just makes things so much better.

Pam Allan: I appreciate the response that I hear from you, from some of the wives too, of the changes and the greatness they're seeing coming from their husbands that go through this.

Corey Allan: Right. And it is a fantastic process, but it's not just the first come, first served so, if you are interested as you're hearing this, if it's still in the fall of 2020, as in July and August, send me an email at or I'll get both of those, and just let me know you're interested and I'll send you the next step because there's a process to be admitted, possibly, into a group because this is about finding the right fit of guys, not just a group of guys because that's what makes the power of this process all the more meaningful and lasting.
So coming up on today's regular free version of Sexy Marriage Radio, a couple of your questions and our answers, one's a follow-up from the second segment last week, will be the second segment this week.

Pam Allan: Perfect.

Corey Allan: So we're going to continue on a dialogue that began and it will make a little bit of a pivot this time, with this episode, with the follow-up email from that listener. And then on the extended version, which is deeper longer and there's no ads, you can subscribe at We've got two parts that we're doing in the extended content, another follow-up from last week's episode in the extended content with some of the information we were sharing from a blog post on how do you confront a wife's denial or refusal-

Pam Allan: Yeah, appreciate the follow-up on that.

Corey Allan: ... of sex. Yeah, that's the one thing over the eight-and-a-half years of Sexy Marriage Radio, I love the SMR Nation and those in it that are willing to push back and speak up and say, "Hold on a second there, fella..." they don't say it that way but you know what I mean.

Pam Allan: No, they don't say it that way, but that's all right.

Corey Allan: But just to call out what they see or what they're hearing and just asking for clarification or just offering up another view and another statement that I'm good with. We love that idea of... we want all the stuff that can be at least discussed, so then it helps us all make it better, and then the second half of the extended content, we're going to talk some about the world of Dr. Schnarch and his theory. And so one of the members of the Academy had suggested what if we did some of the basic terminology that has helped shape Sexy Marriage Radio, the way I practice. I can talk some of the theory and Pam's going to make it everyman-speak.

Pam Allan: This is stuff that, as you've written over the years, and I proof it just for proofing sake. I'm like, "Okay, dumb this down, give this to me in fourth grade or sixth grade level, certainly elementary school level, because I don't get it," so we'll see if we go there a little bit.

Corey Allan: So if there's concepts we've talked about on the shows before, and you're not sure what it is that we mean and you're not a part of the extended Academy, join, because Pam will help you understand it. All that's coming up on today's show.

Pam Allan: Right.

Jane: Hi, I was asking some questions about my husband. He actually had a stroke 17 years ago and I'm just struggling with trying to find ways to make sure that we both can keep each other happily with flirting and continual growth in our sexual relationship and emotional relationship. He basically just has problems with his sexual needs and desires, wanting more, and I actually am 55, so I would like to please him as well as make sure I'm happy, as well. So just asking about that, how do you do that when somebody has paralyzation on the right side and still wanting to make sure that we are as close in intimate as possible. My name is Jane, if you would just address that, please. Thank you.

Corey Allan: Jane, we'd love to address this because this is one of those things that it... you're talking about a hurdle that's happening in your marriage, a stroke that's occurred 17 years ago, and that can throw a definite... we got to go a different route, we got different things to address and confront crosstalk help experience what we want to experience.

Pam Allan: Yeah. It's not the normal just plain emotional whatever, I mean, there's the physical conditions you've got to overcome.

Corey Allan: Right. And so the thing I love about the way Jane's framing this is the key statement she made right in the middle was I want to, I'm hoping to make sure he's happy and I'm happy because I think that's a great thing. And I think you could almost even flip that because I believe, and we've talked about this on the show, the best relationships are: I want for my spouse what they want for themselves, and so there is an element of, when I know my wife is after something for her happiness or joy, if I'm at my best, I want what she's wanting for her.

Pam Allan: Right.

Corey Allan: Right? So-

Pam Allan: And the key phrase there is, "If I'm at my best."

Corey Allan: True.

Pam Allan: Sounds like Jane's at her best, so we're going to roll with that.

Corey Allan: Absolutely, it is, and so one of the things to... how do you keep the connection going? How do you keep the flirting going? How do you have a deeper connection? The biggest thing you do in that regard, Jane, is you make sure you are presenting something worth connecting with and leading the charge where you want it to go. If you're wanting more flirting in your marriage, flirt. I mean, some of it is that simple, of "I really want this," well, then do it. And I realize it gets more complicated than that because sometimes we're the higher desire for something, but not the higher desire to make it happen.

Pam Allan: And that's true, we totally get stuck in that. And potentially, if he's got right-side paralysis, there may be some pieces of the flirting aspect that he's limited by, potentially, and she's got to kind of maybe help fill in that gap on that side.

Corey Allan: It could be, and so she needs to readjust her view as a higher desire when maybe that's not what she was, originally, but if it's 17 years in, you probably have a pretty good picture of if you are or not. And so sometimes you have to face that, if this is what I'm really wanting and where I'm wanting this to go, I've got to muster up the ability to lead it there, not be led there, because one of the things that can happen from the fallouts of a stroke, and depending on severity because it sounds like he's functioning, it's just some paralysis and some hurdles that have created... but depression is a definite fallout of a stroke because now, all of a sudden, your view of yourself is different and it's a knock, it's a gut punch on, "I can't do this, I can't do that," and so I start seeing limitations rather than the power that, maybe, I once possessed.

Pam Allan: That makes sense.

Corey Allan: And that's a huge hit, that's also a big libido hit. So recognizing, "Okay, that just changed our dynamics, so how do I see my role in this process and challenge myself in this?" Right? So then some of the other things that can happen when you're talking about paralysis, because that's an often common thing, too, as well as from the research I've done on this that... then you're talking about, "Okay, we have to sometimes be a lot more creative. Maybe we can't be as free-flowing," because maybe, if you're talking about partial on one side and it's the entirety of your body, maybe he can't prop himself up on his right side or whichever it's impacted, and so you're talking about needing to be more specific and pointed about, "What positions are we able to do? What can we do as foreplay is unfolding?"
And those are all things that, at face value, can be buzz-kills, right, because you're coming up against the limitation. And most of us have this romanticized view of, "I just want this thing to be free-flowing," and as things like this happen, and as all of us age, they don't always stay free-flowing.

Pam Allan: They don't. And as you're saying that, I'm thinking, "Wow, you're creating this intimate opportunity, actually, as you both..." nobody else is going through this with you, it's the two of you going through this and figuring out, "Let's talk about what positions are available to us, what works for us." And that's not free-flowing but, when you're in it, when you're doing it, and when you're done and you look at each other and say, "Thanks for talking to me about that. Thanks for sharing that. Thanks for asking the questions."

Corey Allan: Right. Well that's so that's a great tee up right there, Pam, on just... That is the intimacy and the depth of connection that maybe it's not being seen as such. The ability to confront the limitations and the struggles that are presented actually is creating more intimacy and deeper connection.

Pam Allan: Yeah. Despite what's gone on here, I want this with you.

Corey Allan: I almost envision, Jane, that my hope would be you could see you and your husband are at a party, and it's with really good friends, and somehow the topic of sex comes up and some people are talking about something they may be just accomplished. Maybe you've got a group of friends that are a little more boisterous and open about that part of their life, and maybe they're saying, "Oh man, let me tell you about what we discovered," and it's some sort of just technique or position, and my hope would be, you can look your husband in the eye and both of you have this realization: you have no idea what sex is really like until you've really faced what we face and what the depth and the intimate bond that that can be.
And that's something you can't express in words, you just experience it, and it sounds like you're well on your way, Jane, and my hope is you just continue to lead that charge and you'll be open about it with him, and you don't see those things as obstacles that are limiting. They're just things to learn and grow from. If you've listened to Sexy Marriage Radio for any length of time, you've heard us talk about how marriages have struggles, life has struggles, but you're not alone. If something's interfering with your wellbeing or preventing you from achieving your goals, help is available. I've had the help of a great therapist at several different points in my life and I would not be experiencing the life marriage or family I have today without them, this is where our sponsor BetterHelp comes into play for you.
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So last week in the show, we had an email that came in from a listener that he was talking about... his wife had pointed out a comment, that it seemed like he had initiated less. And her theory was because over three-and-a-half years ago or so, he stopped porn usage and he stopped masturbation, and so her theory is, now that you're not doing anything illicit and wrong, your desire level has leveled off like it should. It's small, it's less. He added into that email, "It's possible that that's a component of this, but there's also the component of," any time he initiates with her, the pushback and the response and the rejection is painful. So therefore, there is an element of, "I'm just going to try to squash it. I'm going to push it aside," and so he's asking for a little more. He's given a little more data with this information, but also going a slightly different way with this email.
So he says, "I'm definitely a higher desire spouse. Usually, my sexual advances are turned down. She's either tired, doesn't think I've done enough to connect on an emotional level first, or she's just unavailable. She has a hard boundary around masturbation, she thinks it's very unhealthy for me. I haven't masturbated for three-and-a-half years out of consideration for her views on it, though I don't share her views. I find myself getting resentful. If I take things into my own hands, I will of course be upfront with her about that, but it will almost surely result in her refusing sex until I eliminate that behavior, and she may even see me as toxic and separate or divorce me."
"I refuse to choose masturbation over sex with my wife but I also resent the power dynamic at play. I constantly live in shut-it-down mode when I feel any sexual spark. It feels like one of those classic two choice dilemmas, I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. This is a powder keg issue in our marriage, sex in general actually is. She has trauma around it, I have trauma around it, she's actually had an affair a few years ago. What's the growth path for me? I'm a Christian so I won't use porn, period, so that's not an issue here. I don't want to cater to carnal desires to gratify myself while wounding my wife, feels totally selfish and unchristlike. At the same time, I get angry about how much control she exerts over my sexuality."
"I don't think masturbation is morally wrong as long as I'm not lusting after any other woman in my thought life. She's the higher desire in other various areas like adventure, social interactions, travel, and she's able to satisfy all those things apart from me. She has a network of girlfriends that she's very active with but, as the higher desire spouse in the sexual arena, there are no such options for me. She's my only outlet for that energy. I have zero options, especially if masturbation is off the table. It seems so unfair."
"The Schnarch voice in my head says I need to own my view and be solid enough to live it out, meaning masturbate even if that hurts my wife and results in lost privileges for me or maybe even a failed marriage. The pastor's voice in my head says, "Die to yourself and refuse to gratify the desires of the flesh, prioritize loving your wife even if that means sacrificing things you want." Help. I suspect a lot of spouses in the SMR Nation will identify with this issue and be grateful for any words of wisdom you can offer."

Pam Allan: A lot more data in that.

Corey Allan: Yes, there is. What jumps out to you in the data?

Pam Allan: The first thing that jumps out to me is that something's going on here, she had an affair back then, and so he's been continually held to the fire, for one thing, and I have no idea the healing process they went through from there. Right?

Corey Allan: Right.

Pam Allan: But anyway, that's the first thing that popped out to me.

Corey Allan: That's new data that makes it a little different because now, if you're talking about trauma that's surrounding sexual aspects of our life that can take a while to untangle, and some of them are relational and some of them are individual and there's sometimes big overlap in those two spheres. You're talking... I mean, here's what I hear in this, just right off the bat, is one partner seems to try to claim the moral high ground when they don't have it. It's like the hierarchy of pain, right, and one of the fundamental things I believe in is there's no hierarchy to pain. Pain between different people, one does not usurp another's.

Pam Allan: No, it's still pain.

Corey Allan: It's still pain. Right. So setting that aside first and recognizing, "Hold on a sec," because I like his phraseology of, "I do not... I'm frustrated at her power over my sexuality."

Pam Allan: Yeah, and that's key, but how... he's got to live according to how he believes is morally right. Right?

Corey Allan: Right.

Pam Allan: And that's what he's trying to do, but he feels constrained in one way and not the other.

Corey Allan: So then you start getting into the mandates and the edicts that have been brought down from scripture that aren't necessarily in there, right? I mean, this was on the Academy call last night, with the idea of "die to self," right? What does that really mean?

Pam Allan: You have to have a self.

Corey Allan: Well, you have to have a self first, which means you have your own power, you claim it, the agency of you is paramount. And so then I also love the way he wrestles with this in the sense that, "I'm not trying to wrestle it to pull one over on my wife, I'm really trying to wrestle as what's my move," right? Because we can get a lot of times where we get frustrated with a spouse and we just start yelling at the wind about my spouse and what they do or don't do rather than, "What's my move?" Right?
That's that whole, "I can get caught up in the marriage I wish I had or I can confront the marriage I have," and so your move, he's framing it in the sense of, "Well, do I be solid enough to live it out," as in even masturbate, which, okay, can you even move down that route without actually fulfilling it, though? I think you can. If it's almost a claiming, "I know you don't like this but, if I choose to, I will," and it's just kind of putting it out in the open. That's a power move, too. That's the same thing as her move of saying, "I'm not okay with this-"

Pam Allan: It is.

Corey Allan: ... because it's an attempt to control. And so I think you can, metaphorically speaking, securely attach your penis and, if you want to use it, use it, and just let it be known that, "I have the power to do so."

Pam Allan: Doesn't mean you're actually doing it. Just claiming that power, that "I do have the power to it-"

Corey Allan: Right, because a lot of times people make moves, and when the partner or their antagonists back down, well done on them, so how do you make it less easy to get moves around you for the things that you really care about? Which means, in some regards, you do need to muster up knowing full well if and when I steer a sexual energy or spark towards my spouse, it may not be received well, and I'm going to get some rejection from it. So how do I muster up knowing, "Okay, I can go in knowing this may hurt, but I can still go in because that's the better route for me, that's where I want to express this." So you just lean into that discomfort, and you continue down the path of being the higher desire, and it leading it towards you where you want. You could also, then, do... because one of the things that masturbation has such a power play over is the secretness of it, that's where a lot of times it becomes the bigger issue-

Pam Allan: Yeah, true.

Corey Allan: ... and so I'm curious about what might happen if you do even a bolder move of... the day has been unfolding and you were just really jazzed and you're like, "Okay, if you're not available, I'm really at a point of just looking for some release and I really want to share this with you," because I think that's a human carnal thing and I don't think that's sin in the sense of just our biology.

Pam Allan: Right.

Corey Allan: So a different move would be, "Hey, I'm really interested in having sex with you tonight and, short of that, I'm going to masturbate but I'd love to do it right around you. Can you join me in it? Can you participate in some way?" Something where it's just like, "I'm still steering this and not hiding this from you at all."

Pam Allan: Okay. I mean, that's a move... From this wife's point of view, I'd be like, "Okay."

Corey Allan: I got ya.

Pam Allan: That's not going to be a turn-on that would get me to want to come back-

Corey Allan: Fair.

Pam Allan: ... to bed with you.

Corey Allan: Fair-

Pam Allan: Just saying.

Corey Allan: ... but it's not hiding it and it's also not running to a secret, so it is truly-

Pam Allan: I get what you're doing, there.

Corey Allan: ... a move of bringing it much more into the open, and possibly intimate, in the future. It's not going to be, necessarily, right then because it's a power move, but the difference is that I'm claiming my own power here, not necessarily wielding it haphazardly and evilly, but I am claiming a power. Because there is still the last statement that's worth unpacking, just real briefly, is this element of there is a power play when it comes to a lot of sexual dynamic in couples where there is this element of, "Should I have to earn this?" Right?

Pam Allan: Yeah.

Corey Allan: And that's a tough one because... Can I treat someone poorly and still think that the sex is going to happen? Depending on the person, I don't know. It happens.

Pam Allan: I'm sure people think that all the time, but the reality is we look at how we're treated as a whole, and I guess I don't think people typically put the "earn" word on it, but there's definitely things you can do throughout the day, throughout the week, that really just say, "You're not worth having this time with." And whether you call that earning or not-

Corey Allan: Right. Well, but it also begs the question of... You have to ask, "What kind of sex am I trying to have?" because if it truly is just a one-sided affair, why would the other partner want to always come back to that? Right? That's that element of, "You know what? You can take care of that yourself if that's really all it is." But if it is this, "I want to have a joint venture together, that we both get stuff out of," there is an element of, "It's not earning it, but it's enticing, it's inviting, it's inspiring," and there's a fine line on what is that, is it earning or not, and yeah, no, it's both. It depends on the circumstance and the person because-

Pam Allan: I think the earning thing is just a whole big topic.

Corey Allan: It is.

Pam Allan: That's a whole big topic in and of itself, that sounds to me like someone who's just kind of got their checklist during the day and-

Corey Allan: Well, that's-

Pam Allan: "If you give me this, I'll give you that."

Corey Allan: That's the power move, though.

Pam Allan: Tit for tat.

Corey Allan: That's his phraseology of the power she exerts over his sexuality, "It makes it feel like I have to earn it."

Pam Allan: Gotcha.

Corey Allan: My belief is you don't earn your own sexuality, you claim it, and so what I do with it is what his next bigger step is, of what do you do with your own sexuality, and where do I steer it? And that's just where, a lot of times, knowing how I know this guy already, one of the things you're going to need to do is talk less when you make these moves. Don't try to explain it because we get caught in, "Let me explain because I'm trying to soften it," that's the two choice dilemma, because I know the pushback that's about to come. Instead, I'm better off with just the statement of, "I'm taking back my own sexuality. I'm steering it towards you, baby, but I'm taking it back."
"I don't like..."
"Just letting you know," and then maybe down the road there's a, "Okay, now we can start unpacking. Here's the fear I've got surrounding this. Here's the trauma I've got surrounding this," and maybe then you start to really both unpack, "Have we really healed from the trauma on both sides?" because there's this element of they both have this that they're bringing it in, and there's probably layers of it that that's still wreaking all kinds of havoc. It's always fascinating to me when you think about marriage through the lens of power, and the fact that power is a dynamic that's at play in a relationship, because we get caught in this turmoil and world of, "Where is my power?" but also, "Where is the relational power? And where's my spouse's power?" and it can get so convoluted that we just get lost in the weeds. Right?
And so how do you start to see, I guess, our journey as: where am I creating a self that I am giving, in my relationship and in the world, that truly is by choice, because we're all better in that regard. Well, this has been Sexy Marriage Radio. Thanks for taking some time out of your day to spend it with us. If there's something left undone, you know what you should do: 214-702-9565 or We'll see you next time.