Most of us want to be a good girl or a good guy. We want to be good people and feel like we are doing what is expected of us. Unfortunately, when this attitude is taken to the extreme it can have a negative effect on our lives. This especially applies to our sex lives, in the form of Good Guy or Good Girl Syndrome.
We have mentioned Good Girl Syndrome and Good Guy Syndrome quite a few times here on the blog, but haven’t gotten the chance to really define and explore those concepts. Here, we define what Good Girl and Good Guy Syndromes are and explore how to adjust to a positive attitude about our sexuality.
What is GGS?
Good Girl and Good Guy Syndromes (GGS) are not official terms, and so anyone using these terms may mean something a little different. However, they both generally refer to sexual difficulties that come from negative associations with sex. They most often stem from value structures we build around sex. These values come (purposefully or subconsciously) from our parents, our religion, and the society we live in. The two concepts are similar to each other, but are slightly different.
Good Girl Syndrome
To put it simply, Good Girl Syndrome applies to a woman who feels that she shouldn’t or can’t enjoy sex. This woman may feel guilty being sexual. She may have never been taught to expect pleasure in sex, and feels like intercourse is just for her husband. This woman usually avoids sex, or if she doesn’t she may have struggles relaxing or letting herself enjoy the experience.
Good Guy Syndrome
Good Guy Syndrome is harder to define and is talked about less. It includes a man who feels like he is using his spouse when they have sex, or is afraid of appearing like he is disrespecting her. He may feel guilty for wanting something more from sex. In response, he will (most often) either avoid having sex with his spouse (which may lead to self-pleasing or pornography) or try really really hard to please his wife. Trying to please his wife in this way will feel like a losing battle because his desperation may be causing her to pull away. To hear more, listen to our podcast with Keith Gregoire.
The Origins of GGS
Where do these ideas come from? For most people, they come from our family of origin, our church experience, or the society we grew up in.
Our parents get blamed for a lot. Please know, I am not accusing your parents of anything malicious. It is really hard to figure out how to teach your kids about sex! It can feel supremely awkward and embarrassing as well as confusing, so many parents touch the subject as infrequently as possible. Oftentimes, our parents are just following the example of their parents, and so on.
Unfortunately, the message that get’s passed is that sex is not something we talk about. Sex is viewed as taboo, impolite, and sometimes even gross by kids when their parents don’t talk about it. As adults, we carry the connotation that sex is something mysterious or bad or at least not something a good kid talks about.
Often times as Christians we spend a lot of time and effort teaching our kids not to have sex before marriage (and this is not a bad thing!). Unfortunately, many of us did not receive the same level of teaching when it comes to sex after marriage. With so many messages telling us no sex [before marriage] and no messages telling you what is good about sex, it’s hard to let go of that negative connotation.
One of the biggest offenders is fear based purity lessons. Teachers often us metaphors like stains or cracks to describe what happens when you have sex. The damage is irreversible; having sex means you are broken. Even after marriage, we can take these connotations with us. We can subconsciously feel guilty or dirty having sex because the message has always been that sex will break you and make you dirty.
The most conflictual messages come from the society we live in. On the surface, sex seems to be everywhere. In movies, on our phones, in ads. But what are those messages saying about sex? They say sex is for the bad girl or boy; the rebel. It’s a hot, sweaty, unattached affair.
Society reinforces the ideas that sex is not for the religious, pious person. In marriage life, the media portrays sex as mundane. Sex only gets pleasurable when it is forbidden or edgy.
With all of these messages, it’s not wonder some people have confusing feelings about sex! Those who experience Good Guy or Girl Syndrome may not even realize that all of these messages are contributing to their problem. The first step is to recognize it! Here are some other tips for overcoming Good Girl/Guy Syndrome!
How to Overcome GGS
1) Identify Toxic Thoughts
Like I just said, the first step is to recognize what thoughts you have around sex. Take some time to explore your values and thought schema. Maybe start with identifying the emotions that come up for you. Then, try to trace those back to the source. Decide which of these thoughts are helpful to you, and which ones are harming you.
2) Pulling Weeds
Once you identify the thoughts that are hampering your sex life, it’s time to work on replacing those thoughts. We want to be intentional about which thoughts we keep and what thoughts we want to get rid of.
You may find that it’s not that easy to simply stop thinking these subconscious thoughts. Imagine your brain as a garden. If you pull up the weeds but leave the dirty empty, more weeds will eventually pop up. If you want your garden to work for you, you can’t just pull up the weeds, you have to plant flowers. What are good things you can think about sex? How can you encourage your sexual desires?
3) Planting Flowers
Finding those flowers to plant is going to take some self discovery. Find safe sources of sexual information. Learn about your body and your spouse’s body. Seek out some new things to try. Learn from other Christian couples about how loving sex has brought them closer together! If you need a place to start, stay tuned for the Next Level of Get Your Marriage On! (coming in January). Find the courage to try out something new, even something small.
4) Positive Reinforcement
As you start to discover your own sexuality and plant those flowers, make sure to give yourself (and your spouse) plenty of positive reinforcement. Dwell on the sensations you feel. Focus on what you enjoy, and tell yourself you deserve it! A mantra may help when you are battling those negative thoughts; something like, “I am a sexual being” or “God wants me to have pleasure!”. Encourage your spouse to do the same.
Good Girl/Guy Syndrome causing feelings of guilt or a hesitance to enjoy sex. This hesitancy can come from the messages we take in as kids. We don’t have to keep these negative attitudes as adults. We can discover for ourselves what is great about sex and replace those negative thoughts with the pleasures of being intimate with our spouse.
Written by Amanda Severson with Get Your Marriage On!