If you've felt discouraged, worn down, or are thirsting for hope, you need rest and renewal. Hi, I'm Deb Gorton, host of Becoming Well, and I want to invite you to join me at the Renew Women's Conference this September for a time of deep encouragement and challenging teaching. You'll hear from me, author Heather Holman, and so many more wise and wonderful women of faith.
Learn more and sign up for Renew 2022 at moodyevents.org. I think there are a whole lot of married Christian couples who don't have a vision and they just kind of feel stuck. But again, when we remember that this is all about revealing the nature of how God loves us, there is a pathway and a purpose for us to be maturing in our sexual love for each other. Welcome to Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chabman, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Today, Dr. Julie Slattery gives help and hope for sexual intimacy in your marriage. Our featured resource today has a provocative title, God, Sex, and Your Marriage. Find out more at moodybooks.org.
Click the radio microphone right there, moodybooks.org. Gary, we've had a lot of questions about sex and marriage through the years when we do the monthly Dear Gary program. This is a huge topic and a struggle for a lot of couples, isn't it? Well, there's no question about that, Chris, you know, and let's face it, our culture is permeated by sex and sexuality. And yet when it comes down to the real world, and particularly relating to people within the marriage context, many couples struggle to make this a mutual joy, you know, a mutual sense of satisfaction. So I'm excited about our topic today, and I don't know anyone that has really spoken more clearly on this topic than Dr. Julie Slattery. So I'm looking forward to our conversation.
Amen to that. Let's reintroduce her. She's a clinical psychologist, author, co-founder of Authentic Intimacy. In the summer of 2020, she launched sexualdiscipleship.com, which is designed to equip Christian leaders to address sexual issues with gospel-centered truth. In addition to speaking and teaching, she hosts the podcast Java with Julie. She's a prolific author. Her latest again is God, Sex, and Your Marriage.
You can find it at moodybooks.org. Well, Dr. Slattery, welcome back to Building Relationships. Always a joy to be with you.
Thanks so much for having me. Now, you spent the last decade writing and speaking about the area of Christian sexuality. Assess where we are right now, in your opinion. Well, the good news is we are more open to talk about sex and sexuality than we ever have been. And so this is a topic that I think in Christian circles and homes has been muted for decades, and the pain of our world and the confusion of our culture is forcing us and giving us permission to talk about things we haven't known how to talk about.
But that's also the bad news. As we look at what's happening in our world and how that affects us and what's even happening in our own families and marriages, there is a host of pain and confusion that makes us even wondering, like, where's true north? What is the purpose of all of this in the first place? So massive amounts of just pain, questions, confusion that I think the average person is just trying to figure out.
Yeah. What marital problems and pain points have you noticed in the last few years? Well, I think the pain points have always been there, but we are hearing more and I think they're getting worse. So some of the common pain points would be, you know, just your even basic, we're incompatible sexually. I'm married to somebody who has different sexual desires than I have or never want sex.
And so I'm lonely in my marriage. We have pain points of pornography. And so many people who have gotten hooked on pornography at a young age that follows them into marriage, that undermines the trust within marriage. So you have the spouses asking questions of how do I deal with this?
What does recovery and homeless look like? And then you have pain points of trauma of so many women and men having experienced different forms of sexual trauma. And the impact that that has is they try to communicate about sex and build intimacy.
And so those would be probably the main ones, but there are certainly others that we hear about at Authentic Intimacy. And I think anyone who's listening probably has a pain point in this area of life. Now you say that sex is like a jigsaw puzzle.
Explain what you mean by that. I'm always looking for these tangible ways to help people connect with such a complicated topic. And for me, jigsaw puzzle has been a really helpful one, because I feel like a couple opens up this jigsaw puzzle with pieces that they have to try to figure out how do they fit together. And I do jigsaw puzzles.
I really enjoy them. So the only way I can do a jigsaw puzzle if I have to have the front of the box in front of me, I have to have the picture that I'm creating as a reference point. And so every time I pick up a piece, I'm like, okay, where does this go within the larger picture? And I think that's a great metaphor for sexuality and sexuality within marriage, because we're creating something, but most couples don't know what we're supposed to be creating. Or even worse, they're working on the wrong picture. They're working on a perspective of sex that's inaccurate, and so they just give up on trying to even solve the puzzle. And so this book is really about, we have to have the right picture of what godly marital sexuality was supposed to be in the first place if we're ever going to be able to work towards wholeness in our marriages.
Well, I think most of us can identify with that. But there are those, and I'm sure those listening today, who have difficulty putting together the word sex and God, because their idea of sex is that God's against this. You know, don't do this and don't do that. Don't do the other thing.
How do you what do you say to that person? Yeah, boy, that's such a great question, because that kind of gets at what I was just talking about. The front of the box of the jigsaw puzzle is actually God's love for us, Christ's relationship with the church.
And people hear that and they're like, huh, what are you saying, Julie? You know, if we read the scripture and we read about what the Bible says about sexuality, so often we just focus on a few passages that tell us what not to do. We try to make sense of Song of Solomon. But if you read the Bible as a story, as a narrative, embedded in that narrative is a purpose for our sexuality through the Old Testament and the New Testament. It's this idea that God created marriage and sexuality as a physical way that we can understand the nature of how God loves us with a covenant love. And we see that played out in the Old Testament through God's relationship with the nation of Israel, his covenant people. And we see that in the New Testament through Christ's relationship with the church, again, his covenant people. And that is the picture that we should be working on. And so people that are squeamish about integrating the thought of God and sexuality will by nature be working on the wrong picture as they're trying to put together the puzzle of sexuality within their marriage. So it's essential that we learn how to integrate those two things. Now, I'm guessing that most of our listeners, at least many of our listeners, again, are saying, wait a minute.
Now, you're telling me that the sexual part of the marriage is somehow a picture of God and his relationship with the church. I'm not quite getting that. All right. Well, I wish I had like an hour or so to teach this, but I'll try to summarize it.
This is really key. So follow me for a minute, okay? If we look at the very first book of the Bible, Genesis, within the first two chapters, we see that God creates male and female. He has them naked in a garden, and there's this first wedding and their sexual intimacy. And this is before sin entered the world. And God says, this is good. And he says, for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. Now, if we fast forward all the way to the end of the Bible, which is Revelation, we see another wedding.
We see another union. But it is the wedding between Christ and the church. It's the union between God and his people. And then we see in the book of Ephesians, Paul linking these two weddings together. He's talking about marriage. He's even talking about the one flesh union of a husband and wife.
He quotes Genesis. And he says, the purpose of this is that we might understand the love of Christ in the church. And I think that this is a truth that we don't know in the Christian church, because it's like you're saying, Dr. Chapman, it's complicated. It's hard for us at first to understand.
But it also is why we're so confused as we're trying to navigate these issues within our marriage, because we've lost that picture. This is Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . You can find more ways to strengthen relationships at FiveLoveLanguages.com.
You can hear the program there. Take an assessment of your love language or download the Love Nudge app at FiveLoveLanguages.com. Well, just a word to parents. Today's program deals with sexual intimacy in marriage and struggles with that topic. Dr. Julie Slattery is joining us, and our topic is God, Sex and Your Marriage. That's the title of her new book, and you can find it at moodybooks.org.
That's moodybooks.org. Dr. Slattery, you talk about the four pillars of God's love for us, that these help us have the right perspective on sexual intimacy in marriage. Can you walk us through that concept?
I would love to. As you mentioned before the break, we were talking about how this is complicated. Like, how does understanding God's love have anything to do with my sexual relationship in marriage? And these four pillars are really the tangible that connect the two. Because if we look at how does God love His covenant people, there's a direct correlation on what it looks like for us to build healthy sexual intimacy in marriage. I've kind of boiled it down to these four pillars of covenant love, of God's love for us.
So the first one is faithfulness, and that God loves us with a faithful love, and He calls us to faithfulness. Like when we have a covenant, we are to be true to our word, and marriage is a covenant where faithfulness is essential. You can't build intimacy without faithfulness. This is why it's so devastating to cheat on your spouse. It's why it's so devastating when pornography is involved in your marriage, because it breaks covenant.
So that's the first one, but it's not the only one. The second one is intimate knowing. And so when we look at our relationship with God, the whole purpose of our covenant is that we might have close fellowship with Him, that we might have this intimacy that grows with Him. And the same is true within the sexual relationship. The purpose of sexuality and intimacy in marriage is that we might be on a journey of deeply knowing each other, of growing in intimacy.
And Dr. Chapman, I know that's your heartbeat as you teach people about the love languages you want them to grow in intimacy. And the third one is that there's an element in covenant that requires us to sacrifice. The climax of God's covenant love for us was the cross.
It was God giving us His Son and Jesus laying down His life for us. And the same is true in marriage and in our sexual relationship. Covenant is always going to have this element of love will cost you something. And that's true in sexual intimacy. That's just how God designed us to express love.
I want to give out of who I am. And then the fourth pillar is passionate celebration. And I think sometimes we miss this one, even our relationship with God. But God commands His people to celebrate our love for Him.
And that's really what we do as we gather in our churches every weekend is together we celebrate and sing of our love for Him. And in a similar way, God has given the pleasure, the gift of sexuality, the fun of sexuality for a husband and wife to regularly celebrate their covenant promise with each other. So that's kind of the outline of the book right there is those four pillars.
Well, I was sitting here thinking as you were laying those out, anyone who hears those four, I think will be motivated to read the book because those are four powerful elements. And I like that parallel between Christ and the church, God and Israel, you know, that all these things are there. Let's go back to that faithfulness part just a moment. Why is faithfulness so foundational to sexual intimacy? Faithfulness is what allows us to experience every other pillar of intimacy. So faithfulness means I can trust you.
It means I feel safe with you. And so it's not just I'm not going to cheat on my spouse, but that I continually am going to choose to be a safe person for my spouse. And it is only if you have that foundation that you can build intimacy, that you can experience pleasure. Like, let's be honest, like marriage and sexuality are very vulnerable. And for us to be able to go on that journey together as a husband and wife, we have to trust each other. So when there are consistent breaches and faithfulness, really, a couple can't build pleasure, they can't build intimacy, and they don't know how to make sense of sacrificial love.
So that really sets the table. If there's one pillar that's the most foundational and important, it's that one. You know, one thing that I've really come to learn is that the most important thing about your sex life is your character. And you'll never hear that from the culture.
But if you don't have character, it doesn't matter how many books you read or, you know, how adventurous you want to be, it's not going to work in the long run. Why is unfaithfulness so painful? You know, Dr. Chapman, I think it's because God designed it that way. You know, if we go back to that front of the puzzle box, God wants to teach us about how He loves us. And when we read the Old Testament and we see how idolatry broke the heart of God, and He even uses marital language and sexual language to say, You've cheated on me, you've committed adultery on me. God wants us to understand how broken His heart is when we're not faithful to Him. And that plays out in the metaphor of marriage and sexuality. And so I know that there is a husband or wife who's listening to this right now who has experienced betrayal. And we can tell you from the scripture that God personally knows that pain. He knows what it is to be a spouse who's been betrayed. And so even in our pain, we can begin to understand the heart of God and how much He longs for us to be His faithful bride. Yeah, it's powerful when you think of that in that framework. In the book, you say that most married couples are sexually active, but not sexually intimate.
What's the difference between those two? Yeah, this really builds on that pillar of intimate knowing. Activity is the focus on the body and on how often we're having sex. If we're sexually compatible, am I still attracted to my spouse?
And those are important matters, but they are not nearly the most important aspects of your sexual relationship. Intimacy, by contrast, is really looking at how is the gift of sex in our marriage helping us journey towards knowing each other more intimately? So one of the things that I talk about through the book is that this has been a difficult part of my marriage.
My husband and I have been married for 28 years now. And particularly the first 15 or 18 years of that, sex was the pain point. It was the area of marriage where we just felt like we couldn't connect, there were problems to address. And during those first 15 or 18 years of marriage, I really thought like, God, this gift is broken.
Why would you give us this gift and then not let us enjoy it? And I had to really wrestle with that. But what God began to reveal to me over time is that intimacy is formed in the difficult times, in the hard places. Like if we look at our relationship with God again, anyone I ask, when did you develop more intimacy with God? Was it during the good times and the mountaintops or was it in the valleys, like when you were experiencing hardship and suffering?
And without fail, everybody says it was in the valleys. And so the same is true when a couple is working on sexual intimacy. It is more intimate to walk through infertility together than it is to have sex. It is more intimate to walk through recovery together than it is to have sex. It's more intimate to be honest with your spouse about what you struggle with or to talk about triggers because of your past trauma. And so the broken pieces of sexuality are often that invitation to move into sexual intimacy instead of just activity. Well, let's talk about some practical steps that a couple can take to move more into intimacy.
Yeah. So I think it first starts by being able to talk about sex. So again, let's imagine that you're putting together this very complicated puzzle and you have to do it together, but you're not allowed to talk.
You can't communicate. And I know Dr. Chapman, as you've worked with couples, you know this is true. A couple could have been married for 25 years. They've been physically having sex for all that time, but they still can't communicate about this. They don't even know what to call each other's body parts. They don't know what words to use to initiate sex. They don't know how to share with their spouse, I love you, but tonight is not a good night. And they don't even have the basic building blocks of the vocabulary to begin going more deeply into intimacy.
So that is a really critical first step. And it's not just the vocabulary, that's the starting place, but then it's moving into understanding the meaning of sex for you. Being able to talk about why sex sometimes is associated with shame for you or why sexual pleasure is difficult for you. And so this level of communication is really taking a couple from it's just about what our bodies are doing to we're sharing the journey. Another piece is just praying together about your sex life. Like very few couples actually do that, but that creates deep intimacy.
I think you're exactly right. What might be a first step in a couple who haven't talked about this part of their marriage all these years, how do they get started? Yeah, you know, a great first step, and this is what my husband Mike and I have learned to do, is get a good Christian book on sex.
It could be God's Sex in Your Marriage or there's so many other authors like Cliff and Joyce Penner who've written on this topic, Dr. Doug Rosenow. Get one of those books and read it out loud to each other. So you read a couple pages, have your spouse read a couple pages. Why this is so helpful is because you are speaking words that you're not familiar with speaking. And you're using the author's words, but it's helping you get comfortable with saying things that are difficult to say and then pause after you read a couple pages and say, what do you think about that?
Or what part of that really do you think describes us? And so that's a great first step. You can also use podcasts or audio books or workbooks, sermon series. But I think reading out loud to each other gives you the skill of being able to verbally communicate things that are difficult for you to talk about. You know, I really, really agree with that strongly. And I think couples who do that, who will take a book and do exactly what you've said, I think they'll find themselves talking more and more freely about this part of their relationship. And it's amazing how it opens up a sense of closeness to them, an intimacy which we're talking about. And of course, obviously, it's not just talking about the sexual part of marriage. Intimacy involves sharing our intellectual thoughts and our feelings about other topics as well. But if we can talk about this part of our marriage, chances are we can share all the other parts of our marriage as well verbally with each other. Boy, that's so true.
It really takes us deeper. Well, let's look at the role of self-denial. You mentioned sacrifice. What role does self-denial play in a healthy sex life? I think this is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts about sex, particularly among Christians.
Because when you talk about self-denial and sex, you immediately go towards, if you know the scripture, 1 Corinthians 7, which some people will refer to as the wifely duty passage. You know what I'm talking about? You remember that passage? I do. Yeah.
All right. So if we look at that passage and a lot of sermons might be on this passage, it sounds like what Paul is saying is you owe each other sex. And so what couples will sometimes do is they'll get in a cycle where they'll take that particular passage. And let's say it's the husband who has a higher sex desire. He'll say to his wife, the Bible says that you have to give me sex when I want it because that's how I fight temptation. And so we have a whole lot of marriages that are in that kind of pattern, which if we go back to the fact that sex is meant to be this expression of covenant love, covenant love doesn't look like you owe me something, particularly something as vulnerable as sexual intimacy. And so I think we really have to understand self-denial and even that passage in 1 Corinthians 7 within the context of God is calling us to work on sexual intimacy, not activity.
Activity is let's have sex. Intimacy is let's create a safe environment in our marriage where we can journey together sexually. And so the scripture also talks about the need for that husband to say, how do I minister to my wife sexually? If she's not interested or she has wounding in her sexual past, how can I minister to her?
How can I be sensitive? How can I lay down my desires for her sake? And when a married couple both get that perspective of ministry, of working towards true intimacy, their sexual relationship will grow and develop and heal. But when they're just in a pattern of I want sex, therefore you owe it to me or the wife's perspective of I have to do this even though I don't enjoy it because it's my duty, they really shortcut and compromise intimacy. You know that whole Ephesians passage where he talks about wives, submit yourselves to your husbands. Some people say, well that's it, she's supposed to submit to me and be available anytime in this area of our marriage as well. And they fail to recognize that just before he says that to the wives, he gives a word to the whole church. Submit yourselves one to another, which is what makes the church work, serving each other.
And then the challenge to the husbands once he says that is love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. That's death. Yes it is. It absolutely is.
You're right. You know sometimes I remind people that in the same letter in 1 Corinthians is 1 Corinthians chapter 13 that defines what that love is supposed to look like. And when I'm teaching on this, sometimes I'll have the audience read that passage with me and after each description of love say in the bedroom. So love is patient in the bedroom. Love is kind in the bedroom. Love does not seek its own desire in the bedroom. Love forgives if we go on and on and we say that is the character that God wants to develop in our bedrooms the way we love each other. And I really believe that there are seasons where couples need to stop pursuing sexual activity in order to begin to build that true intimacy.
There's a lot of wounding and issues that need to be addressed that just having sex might be covering up instead of inviting them to those deeper places of healing. God, sex, and your marriage is our topic today on Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. That's the title of Dr. Julie Slattery's latest book. You can find it at moodybooks.org.
That's moodybooks.org. Today's program is about sexual intimacy so parents be aware of the conversation today. And don't forget you'll find more simple ways to strengthen relationships at 5lovelanguages.com.
That's 5lovelanguages.com. Dr. Slattery, you said just before the break that there are seasons, there are times when couples who really want to pursue each other and intimacy will not go the route of sexual intimacy for at least a while. Talk more about that.
How do you know that that's a good idea? Yeah, I would say that they're still building sexual intimacy even if they may not be having intercourse. And I think that's the distinction.
So let me give you some examples of this. Let's say you do have somebody in the marriage who has experienced sexual trauma. And every time they have intercourse, they're triggered, they can't relax, they're dissociating, which means they're sort of separating their body from their sense of being present.
And they've established that pattern over years because it's the only way that they can stay safe. Well, if they continue just to do things the way they've always done it, then they're never building that safety that's required to heal for that person who's been traumatized to be able to be present. And so sex therapists, marriage therapists will tell a couple like that, you need to back off on intercourse on anything that might be triggering and learn to establish safe touch and learn to communicate what triggers you. Do we have permission to stop when things get going so that we can stop and pray or we can stop and reset?
So that would be one example. Another example, and this is so common unfortunately in today's day and age, if you've been impacted by pornography and the only way you can engage sexually is to revert back to fantasies or images that you've engaged with in the past, you might be physically having sex with your spouse, but you're not present. You're not experiencing intimacy.
You're disconnected from what your body's doing and what your mind is doing. And so somebody who is going through a sexual addiction recovery or pornography recovery needs to stop engaging in sexual action until they can begin reconnecting. Okay, sex is meant to be about being with my spouse, thinking about my spouse, experiencing my spouse. And so those would be two examples of why sometimes taking a break and really focusing on intimacy can make a huge difference. I think the words you use, sexually active and sexually intimate, I hope our listeners are hearing that because having sex is one thing, but having an intimate relationship which carries over into the sexual part of the marriage is totally different. And I think, Julie, that there are many couples that have never gotten there yet. They don't experience sexual intimacy. I think you're right, Dr. Chapman. When I teach on this, I'll often have couples come up and say, we've been married for 20, 30 years and we've never experienced what you're describing.
We've totally missed it. And they want more. Both the husband and wife were created for more. They were created for this intimate knowing.
But the culture and just kind of what we settle for is just a shadow of that. And so I love to give couples just the pathway of how do we go deeper? How do we pursue that depth of intimacy? And it may have to start in areas other than the sexual part of the marriage, right? I'm thinking like emotional intimacy. And if you don't feel attached emotionally, this is where "The 5 Love Languages" , I think, interfaces with all of this. If you don't genuinely feel loved by the other person, then just to have sex together, it may be momentarily pleasurable, at least for the husband, for example, but meaningless to the wife, if not even painful to the wife.
You're so right, Dr. Chapman. God never created sex to be separated from intimacy. These things go together. So your sex life isn't this special compartment of your marriage. It's the overflow of your friendship, of your laughter, of your communication, of your kindness to each other, even your love for God.
This is the overflow. And so I think a lot of us have been taught because of the silence in the church around sex that this is a special compartment that's not integrated. Yeah. Well, there is, of course, a passionate part and a pleasure part of sex in marriage. So what's the balance in the perspective of passion and pleasure in a Christian marriage? We understand that passion and pleasure are one of the four pillars.
And so you can't get rid of that fourth pillar. I think there are some people that because of their experiences have just given up on passion and pleasure and they just say, well, we can have the other three pillars. We'll be faithful to each other.
We'll communicate together. We will even be self-sacrificial. But sex is no fun. It's not enjoyable. But we have to say that's a limited perspective of what God created sex to be.
And even if we go back to it's supposed to be a model of our relationship with him, what would our relationship with God be like if we never celebrated our love for him, if we never took time to express how much we love him? And so this passion and pleasure part of sex is part of God's design. And most couples aren't going to really have to work at it. It doesn't come easily over the years of marriage.
It fades and you have to invest in it. So that's one piece of it. But I think then the other perspective is some people overemphasize pleasure and they just say, well, sex isn't pleasurable. Therefore, I just don't even care about it anymore. That's the only thing that matters. And that's kind of what our culture tells us, that if you're incompatible sexually or if it's not fun, you need to do whatever you can to get back that pleasure.
And that's an unbalanced view as well. And so we can pursue passion and pleasure in a healthy way when we combine it with those other pillars of faithfulness, intimate knowing, self-giving love. Now passion and pleasure has a balanced perspective to it. And if there's not that sacrificial part in which we are serving each other and have that deep sense that, you know, they really care about me, they're willing to help me on this, that and the other thing, we're far more likely to find pleasure when we have that kind of intimacy in the relationship. Yeah, boy, those other three pillars really set the stage for healthy pleasure. And there's a lot of unhealthy pleasure happening in marriages, again, where people use pornography or they're referring to their kind of database of images that are outside of their marriage.
Building healthy pleasure means building those other three pillars and then being able to enjoy the fullness of what God designed sex to be between you and your spouse. You know, you mentioned this also earlier that you didn't use the word happy, but happiness, you know, the emotional sense that I'm happy within our relationship, you're making me happy. And how many times have I sat with couples where one of them decided to divorce because they're not happy in the marriage, just not happy and I don't think God intends me to be unhappy, so I'm getting out of this. That's a totally self centered approach to life, right?
It really is. And if you are looking at marriage and sex through that perspective, you're missing it. You miss the whole purpose of marriage and sexuality, which is learning to love. And for me to learn to love my husband means that I have to learn to love through periods of time where I do feel unhappy, where I do feel disappointed. Love is about more than just me getting my needs met.
It's me growing in my character and my ability to love even beyond my own natural instincts. And that thing where Jesus said, love your enemies, sometimes that applies to marriage. It really does. I think everyone who's married has had at least a 10 minute period of time where they're like, yeah, that's my enemy.
So it certainly does. Now you make the statement that God is not only concerned with our sexual morality, but also our sexual maturity. What does that look like in a marriage?
Boy, this is something that I never heard as a young married person. It was all about making sure we're keeping the rules. We want to make sure we're not wandering sexually, which the first part of maturity is morality.
That's where we need to begin. But so many couples get stuck there. They're like, okay, we're not cheating on each other. We're not looking at pornography. We must be good. God desires to deepen each one of us in our experience and expression of love.
And that's in every area. It includes in our sexual love for each other. And so when we've been married for 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, we should be able to look at the past and say, our sexual love is more seasoned. It's more beautiful today than it was a year ago or five years ago, because God is challenging us to plumb new depths of His love for us and having that being expressed and how we love each other sexually. And I think there are a whole lot of married Christian couples who don't have a vision for that, and they just kind of feel stuck.
But again, when we remember that this is all about revealing the nature of how God loves us, there's a pathway and a purpose for us to be maturing in our sexual love for each other. This is Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Go to fivelovelanguages.com to find more ways to strengthen relationships. That's fivelovelanguages.com. Our guest is Dr. Julie Slattery. And if you're just joining us, our program is about sexual intimacy in marriage. Our featured resource is God, Sex and Your Marriage.
Find out more about it at moodybooks.org. Dr. Slattery, earlier, you mentioned pornography. What do you say to the couple who's in the middle of a struggle with pornography?
I would say, first of all, take it seriously. I think a lot of couples will sort of dabble in conversations about pornography, or they'll promise each other, I'll never look at it again. But pornography, its roots can go very deep in our hearts and in our minds.
It trains our brain in how to respond sexually and how to think sexually. So take it seriously. The second thing I would say is it is a journey for most people and for couples. It's not like you promise that you're never going to do this again. And even though you resolve, you're not going to fall back into it. The reality is that for most people, recovering from pornography use, pornography addiction is a journey. And you need help on that journey. You need other individuals or couples who know what it's like to have that struggle.
You need the help of experts who understand how pornography and sexual addiction impact the brain, impact the sexual relationship. And then finally, I would say don't give up because God is the healer. He heals and redeems all things.
And even if the journey takes a long time to get there, it is a journey that is worth it. And God will redeem when you surrender it to Him. And men are more involved in pornography than women, though there are women of course involved. But one of the saddest things I hear in my office when a wife realizes and finds out that her husband's involved in porn, often she says, Dr. Chapman, what's wrong with me?
That he had to go into an unreal world in this area. And so she tends to take it on herself. Pornography is a choice that a person makes and another person is not responsible for that. Now they can blame the other person and say, well, you weren't meeting my needs. And therefore, I don't know that it is as devastating as sexual immorality, having an affair with somebody else, but it comes pretty close to that, doesn't it? It does, particularly when the use is habitual, because it's a continual threat to your marriage.
And I'm so glad that you said that, Dr. Chapman. The truth of it is that most people that are really addicted to pornography or are regularly using it were exposed to it at a very young age. You know, 10, 11, 12, where their brains were not able to cope with it. And we know now that early exposure to pornography can have a really profound effect on the brain. And so the brain begins to get wired that way where we associate sex with pornography. And then a young man or a young woman will use it over the course of the teen years. That just reinforces that brain wiring. And so then you get married, your spouse is not going to fix that problem for you.
It doesn't matter how often they want to have sex or how great they are in bed. The wiring has been really overtaken by the consistent use of pornography, and that has to be addressed. Well, I hope those who are listening who are struggling with that will hear what we're saying and reach out for help. The last section of the book is called Taking the Next Step. Why is it important to see the path to intimacy is a step by step process rather than just one giant leap? Oh, man, it's so important because it is a journey.
I like this phrase that sometimes I use sexual discipleship because I think we don't think about our sexuality as being part of our discipleship journey, but it really is for every single one of us. And the problem is we often get stuck on that journey and we don't take the next step. When young couples ask me if they're getting ready to get married, like, what should we expect? What's normal? And I try to give them some good encouragement, but one thing I always say to them is you should expect that you're going to have some challenges. You're going to expect that you're going to run into some roadblocks.
That's normal. I don't want to discourage you or depress you, but that's part of the journey that God has for you. And so you want to keep asking him, God, what is our next step?
What does healing look like? What's our next step in building faithfulness? What is our next step in learning to communicate and become more intimate? And we should all be on that journey, even after you've been married a long time, like you have, Dr. Chapman, you're still asking that question, God, what's my next step in loving my spouse better and maturing and dealing with whatever circumstances this season of life is bringing?
Yeah. I think that's so important to recognize, and the sooner a couple can recognize that, the better. I sometimes say to couples who are getting married, it takes time to learn how to make sex a mutual joy in the relationship, just like it takes time with every other aspect of marriage.
So don't think that it's because you get married, then it's just going to be heaven for both of you every time you get in bed. I mean, that's just not realistic. It takes time, but it also takes more than time. So just the passage of time isn't going to make that happen. It's the effort that you put in while the time is going by. Yeah, what you do with the time.
Yes, that's right. Let's talk just a moment. Is there hope for a sexless marriage? I mean, they just put it on the shelf. Is there hope for that couple?
Yeah, absolutely. You know, your marriage isn't, first and foremost, your sexual relationship. It's your covenant. It's your promise to one another.
And I've had couples that reach out to me and say, we haven't had sex for one reason or another in three or four years. Does that mean we're not married? I'm like, no, your marriage isn't sex. It's a covenant.
It's a promise. Sex is simply the physical way that God has given us to celebrate and remember the covenant. But if you are in a sexless marriage, I would challenge you to really look at how did it become a sexless marriage? What's in the way? Is it physical problems? Is it trauma?
Is it a lack of safety and communication? God doesn't want you to stay there. Not just because sex is important, but more importantly, that journey of intimacy is important. And even when you can't necessarily have the full act of sex or intercourse, that doesn't mean you can't still build sexual intimacy and learning what it is to be vulnerable with each other and celebrate your love for one another. And so my encouragement to you would be absolutely there's hope.
And there's also an invitation for you to look at the intimacy that God is asking you to build within your sexual relationship. Dr. Slattery, is there a story about a couple that you like to tell that illustrates the hope you have for marriages that are struggling? Yeah, there are so many stories.
I'll share one that is in the book that a couple has given me permission to share. So Dane and Brooke, about four years ago, first heard me speak on this topic of marriage and sexuality and they were actually separated. But they were at a marriage event and they had, for their whole marriage, had an open marriage. Even though they were Christians, they felt like, hey, our marriage is going to be safer if we give each other permission to look at pornography, cheat on each other. And so they had just this mess in their marriage that had led to separation, depression, disfrustration.
And when they first heard me speak on this, it was intriguing, but they were at a point of desperation. And then they said yes to the journey that God invited them on of restoring their marriage, of learning what the purpose of sex and intimacy really is. And so over the last four years, they've been in counseling, they've been in discipleship groups, learning about healthy sexuality, dealing with the pain of their past. They both had been addicted to pornography, so they both went through recovery. And about a year or so ago, they really got to the point where they were no longer just dealing with the past, they were building true intimacy.
And so now Brooke and Dane actually lead other couples through materials that help them rebuild intimacy in their marriage. And they're thriving, they have two little kids. And it's just, it's a story of God's redemption. And it's a story that gives hope to every couple who feels like, man, we're too far gone.
They would tell you four years ago that they were too far gone. And God has done amazing things. I hope our listeners are hearing that.
If you are in a marriage where you feel like there is no hope, I hope you're listening. Because the reality is, we determine what the future looks like. The past is behind us.
We cannot undo the past, but we can overcome the influences of the past that were in a negative sense. So Dr. Slattery, let me thank you for being with us today. Let me thank you for writing this book. And let me encourage all those who are listening to get this book, read it for yourself. And as we said at the beginning of the program, read it with your spouse. And then it's a book I think you may want to pass on to other people as you encounter them. If it's helpful to you, it will help other people. So thanks again for being with us today, Dr. Slattery. Thanks so much for having me. Once again, Dr. Julie Slattery has been with us.
You can find out more about God, sex, and your marriage at moodybooks.org. Click the Moody Radio microphone right there at moodybooks.org. And next week, how to become the man you were made to be with nothing to prove, nothing to hide, and everything to live for. Don't miss a conversation with Anthony Delaney in one week. Before we go, let me thank our production team, Steve Wick and Janice Bakke. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman is a production of Moody Radio in association with Moody Publishers, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute. Thanks for listening.
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