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Our Savage Marriage: Phil and Priscilla Fretwell

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
March 24, 2023 5:15 am

Our Savage Marriage: Phil and Priscilla Fretwell

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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March 24, 2023 5:15 am

Phil and Priscilla Fretwell, creators of Savage Marriage, continue their story of his sexual addiction, telling their kids—and the ways honesty transformed their family.

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Hey, Shelby Abbott here. Just want to give a heads up before you listen to this next program. Today's conversation on Family Life Today covers some sensitive but important subjects that might not be suitable for younger ears. So please use discretion when listening to this next broadcast.

Alright, now let's jump into it. Everybody tries to do something great for their kids, right? But the thing I think that we've thought about is if we can model humility for them, that can be one of the greatest things we can do for them because that will take them further in their relationships and life than almost anything else. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. So we've got a third day with Phil and Priscilla Fretwell back in the studio.

I mean, I thought we'd do one or two days with you guys. We just can't stop. We just keep going. We had so many problems. We have to hear the end of the movie.

That's what it is. Like, you have to hear the end, and we need help. Yeah, and I would just say if you've missed any of the last two days, go back. Start with day one because this story, which you guys recount in your book Savage Marriage, I don't know how to recap this thing.

I mean, I'm trying to bring our listener up to speed, but basically there was a secret in your marriage, which involved a porn addiction, which led to affairs that Priscilla didn't know about. Phil's living the life of being the perfect man. I believe I'm looking at you. You're like the elder. You've got a business career.

You're a community man. You have five kids. Am I exaggerating?

No, we looked great. Everybody on the outside. I mean, the family, the house, everything, even three dogs.

Even three dogs. I mean, you get the whole picture, and yet there's this secret lurking behind the veil that grabs your heart so strong you cannot live this anymore. Again, I'm recapping the last two days, but you confess your sin to Priscilla. She stays, which is a miracle in itself.

Because she has an encounter with God who really takes her on a journey that she's willing to walk through with Jesus and the healing power that he brings. And let me say this, you guys. Thank you for your honesty, your transparency. You have been incredibly real.

Yeah. And thank you. It's pretty astounding of the depth that you go and share, not only with us, with our listeners, but also, we stopped yesterday as we talked about you not only confessed to Priscilla, your wife, but you felt the need to confess to your five kids. Two of those were only 9 and 11 at the time, and Priscilla, you were not, like, what did you feel about that? I just felt like that's where we could not go. We cannot do this to our 11 and 9-year-old. This is too much.

Too much. What did you think it would do? I just thought it would ruin their perception of their dad. You know, I could see the older kids kind of listening and saying, OK, we understand what happened, all right? But the two younger ones, I was just like, no, they're too young to hear this. And I was just very adamant that this was not going to happen, and Phil talked me off the ledge and said, OK, we'll deal with that when it comes, you know? And Phil, were you general in your admission of what had happened, or did you say, like, hey, I've just had a porn problem, or did you go into detail? So for the 9 and the 11-year-old, specifically for them, we did not want them to ever come to a place, because sooner or later, they're going to know, right?

Sooner or later, yeah. When they're 15 or 16 or whatever it is, they're going to know, and we did not want them to ever think that they had been living with a secret. Because, see, the problem on the secrecy was the core, I mean, it was a backbone of my issues of not telling people. So as much as it was going to hurt, we wanted to just change the culture of our family, and we were going to start there.

So we did not want them to ever think of a time where they didn't know and that they had been kept in secrecy. And so we made it age-appropriate, and we revisited it with them when they were, like, four years later. We went through it in more of the level of the detail we had done with the older kids, and they really appreciated it. They asked great questions. Well, I mean, the thing that is astonishing, and it goes back to when you had the phone call on the airplane, and Paul Speed says, this is about your pride.

Yeah. In this moment, I'm like, okay, hold on to a little bit more pride, because, you know, to tell your kids, and now the world knows, you know, you write a book about it. But in that moment, nobody knows except you two, you know, it's like, this is true humility. There's no more pride left.

Because there's a part. To confess this is like, oh, my goodness, I can confess some sin to people. But to go to, you know, the sin that you walk through, it's like, no, I'm going to keep that away, because I've got to have some pride left. But you're talking complete humbleness, right?

Yeah. I had to break the back of the pride in my life. And I tell you, going in front of your kids, and in humility, asking for their forgiveness for the way you've made them feel, and articulating how you made them feel. I mean, it really brings out humility to have to let those words come out of your mouth like that.

But also, looking at the fruit of what was planted, and seeing what we planted five and a half years ago, and there's fruit today is amazing. Our 16 and 14-year-old feel a lot of freedom to talk about sexuality with us. There's freedom for them to ask us questions. They've asked us, I mean, super personal questions.

One thing I was really proud of, this happened yesterday. I was at lunch with my two daughters, youngest daughters, and two of their friends. And we're sitting there eating. And my daughter, my 16-year-old daughter, Anna Hope, she says something about her period getting ready to start. And her friend is right next to her. And she just kind of whispers. She goes, you know, your dad's right there. And she goes, oh, no, my dad's cool.

He's chill. It's fine. And just to hear her say that in front of her friends and acknowledge there was no shame about talking anybody. It was just, you know, I was kind of proud of that.

I could tell. So do you think that would ever happen if you'd never? No. Never. No. That's a definite no, right? No. The way we speak to our kids today, the 16 and 14-year-old, is different than what we did with the older kids.

Way different. Our conversations around the dinner table are probably, people would not believe our conversations that we have. Because you're so honest? Yes.

Are you, what you referred to in the book is HOT, H-O-T, which stands for? Honest, open, and transparent. So with your kids, you're honest, open, and transparent, as you are with one another.

Right. Well, I mean, I think a lot of parents would say, yeah, I'm honest and open and transparent. What do you mean by that? Honest is you ask me a question, I give you a truthful reply.

Okay? But if you haven't asked the right question, I'm not open enough to tell you. So open is, this is what you were trying to get at.

You should have asked this question, and here's what the answer would have been. But transparent takes you another step, because transparency means I share with you what's going on inside, even when you ask no question. And see, that's what we're talking about in this relationship. I share things with Priscilla and my kids that they need to know about me, even when they don't ask a question, because we want to be intimate with one another emotionally. Yeah, that's real intimacy. That's more than flesh, physical, that's emotional, spiritual. I mean, you're getting it.

That's everything. And we've actually got one of your older kids on the phone. We've got Sarah. She's what number? Number two. Number two. Sarah, welcome to Family Life Today. Hi, thanks for having me. Yeah, Sarah is walking around her kitchen in Atlanta area with, what, a three-year-old and a one-year-old? Yeah, roughly, yeah.

And they're napping currently. And Sarah, take us back to the day where, did your dad come to see you? How old were you?

I think roughly like 25. And my husband and I were down in Orlando actually for a wedding, I believe. And my parents had asked for us to have a conversation with them. So we popped over to their house, having no idea what this conversation would be about at all. It was nowhere on our radar. How long had you been married at that point, Sarah?

I think like four or five years. And we had this conversation and there was just a lot of shock, crying, a lot of brokenness, just clearly evident. And then, wow, what is going on here?

This is not what I thought we were having a conversation about, but yes. Were you angry? Like, what did you feel besides being shocked if you went into your feelings? Yeah, I think initially I felt very like blindsided and just kind of like, whoa, my whole life is a lie. And then I think later I felt like a lot of anger and cynicism towards, actually not towards my dad, but towards like every man or person like in the church and just being like, wow, you're all hypocrites and liars. Like, look at my dad. He was an elder.

He did Bible studies. And look how messed up he was. You all are messed up. Like, you know, just not really knowing, but, you know, I might not be too far off, but like, you know, just kind of like seeing all of this mess made me realize that, like, wow, everyone has a mess. And I mean, the only way out is Jesus. But I just wasn't seeing that talked about.

I wasn't seeing the messes talked about or anything like that. So it was just a very, very raw time. It took me, I don't know how long it took me to come out of that. But it was a very powerful conversation because my husband and I had been in very similar positions as my parents. If you had like rewound like 20 years or something, you know, I was really steeped in religion at the time. And my husband also dealt with pornography. So it was a very similar boat that we were in. And like hearing my dad's confession really was the catalyst for us being like, whoa, we need to be honest, open and transparent with one another now and not 20 years from now. And it really changed the trajectory of our married life, our spiritual lives, and even like our connection with my parents. How did you guys end that night, Phil?

Like, okay, you pour it all out. Everything that has happened, you share it openly. Was it awkward at the end? Do you remember, Priscilla?

I don't think of it as being awkward. I'd like to think we held hands and prayed, but you know, I don't know. I felt so terrible about myself. I don't know if I would have had enough courage to do it right then and tell you the truth. I don't know if you remember, Sarah?

I don't remember. I don't know if this is just wishful thinking or not, but I remember feeling more like forgiveness towards you because your brokenness was so apparent. When you see someone who's really prideful, you want to knock them down.

But when someone's like a crumbled mess in front of you, it's like, I'm not going to stop in your wound, you know? So anyways, all that to say, I just remember that happening. And then I think my mom and I were driving to a bridal shower and we like cried like pretty much the whole way there. Like it was an hour long drive.

And we had two Japanese international students in the backseat. They didn't know what we were talking about, but we were just like crying the whole way to the bridal shower, I'm pretty sure. What did that feel like for you, Priscilla? Like, what did you say to Sarah? Oh, well, I don't remember our conversation in that car. I just remember there being a lot of pain, you know, just talking through it and what was going on in our thoughts.

But I don't really remember what was said. Sarah, were you surprised that your mom stayed? And what did you feel about that? Were you glad that she stayed? I don't think I was surprised that she stayed.

I was definitely glad that she stayed. You know, I think it's moments like this where it really just tests your belief in the gospel. Like, do you actually believe that like reconciliation is possible no matter the offense? Do you believe that forgiveness is possible no matter the offense? Because it's like we have all been the worst person in the world. Yeah.

You know what I mean? At some degree we have. And so it's kind of like for us to stand here in judgment towards another person when we ourselves have been in that same seat is hypocritical, but it tests your belief in the gospel. So it's kind of like, well, do I believe that this is forgivable and reconcilable and able to be restored by God? And so I think all that to just say I'm glad she stayed because not only did it test our belief in the gospel, but it proved the gospel to be true. That reconciliation and forgiveness and restoration is always possible with Jesus. I mean, Sarah, if you think about your mom and dad never telling the truth, especially even to you guys, the kids, where would the Fretwells be? What would the legacy be if they just kept hiding the truth?

Wow. I honestly do not think any of the children would be where we're at. Like so many doors have been opened and so many like, you know, you think back to those verses about God opposing the prideful. And it's like if you're wanting the grace of God to flow through your life, which it clearly has, like you need to humble yourself. And I think if they had kept that secret from themselves, that would have just been closing a door with pride.

And then like the favor of God, the grace of God would not be flowing through our family like it is today. And it's generational. Like it has flown from my parents down to me and now my children are benefiting from it.

Because I'm in a place right now that I never would have been if they hadn't been open. Wow. That's remarkable. You're right, Sarah. What a great way to verbalize it. It is a picture of the gospel and you are all changed as a result, Phil, of your courage to lay it all out in front of everyone, regardless of how they viewed you. Like that is a picture of the grace of Jesus.

And even Sarah, like you're saying, like we wouldn't even be the same and our legacy wouldn't be the same. And yet I think that puts a fear in people's hearts. You know, like, should we do that with our kids? Should we expose the most wretched part of our hearts?

And yet as you did it, it sounds like it's tearing down walls. In your book, every time you share parts of your story, it allows people to then confess their own sin and frailty and brokenness. Yeah. When we meet with couples for the first time in our house, we always, even if they've read our book, we share a synopsis of our story because they need to not only read it, but experience it with us, like in real time. And then we say, so where are you? And it always, always, they go down deep. It's kind of like we give them permission by sharing the depth of our issues and problems for them to share theirs because we don't walk in shame anymore. The shame tells us to keep it quiet and we just do not bow our knee to shame anymore. Yeah. And you don't bow your knee to pride anymore either because, you know, it's like I'm sitting there looking at you guys and now listening to Sarah talk about your story.

And I'm thinking the thing you want people to know you for is not this. Yeah. You know, it's like when I think of what do people say about David A. Wilson? I don't want them to say they almost lost their marriage at year 10. Or that Dave struggled with porn. Yeah.

I mean, it's like, no, that's, it's way back. It's not even a part of our story. And yet that's how you're known now worldwide. I hope your book goes worldwide.

It should. I really am praying for that. But that's how your story is going to be known.

I mean, the night when Ann said, I've lost my feelings for you, I literally had the thought in that car, nobody will ever hear the story. If we make it, it's our personal little secret. And now it's what we're not. This is what you're known for.

Isn't there a party that's like, couldn't it be something better than this? I know. I thought one day I'd be in, you know, on a stage telling men what I, how to be a great leader. Yeah.

I never imagined this is what we would be talking about. And, you know, as you say that, the truth is that's what you're doing now. Yeah. You are telling men how to be a great leader. You are telling women and couples how to be great. Isn't that amazing? That's the gospel. By being weak, you were made strong.

It is unbelievable. And we've thought for our children, I mean, everybody tries to do something great for their kids, right? But the thing I think that we've thought about is if we can model humility for them, that can be one of the greatest things we can do for them. Because that will take them further in their relationships and life than almost anything else.

And so it had to start here. I keep thinking about couples that come to your house where you share a synopsis of your story, but then you turn it and say, and how are you doing? I'm thinking like, some people are like, don't go to the front wall because they're going to pour out everything. And yet, isn't there a beauty to that?

There is. Because so many of us are living in shame, we're hiding. I had feelings of unworthiness my whole life because of my abuse, because it was a secret. And there's something too when we expose our hidden dark parts to Jesus. To the light. And then we expose them to the people that know us.

There's a freedom that comes from not having to cover up anymore. Like, I am so broken, I am so lost, I am so messed up, and yet the grace of Jesus. He's restored me by the truth of the gospel and his death on the cross.

Yeah. Well, when we saw that our marriage was coming together so that we could participate in one another's healing, that changed everything. And it got rid of the era of superiority that I had had most of my life, and it put us on an equal playing field. When people come to our home, they are at a place that they want someone to listen. And we all have a story, but we don't listen to those stories.

We actually shut people down. And when they come to our home and we share our story, we want to hear their story, go ahead and share it all. This is a safe place. That's what people are looking for, is to be able to have a safe place to share and not be judged by the things that they have walked through. That's interesting. That's what our kids are looking for, too.

That's right. And I can tell from Sarah's voice, she feels safe. Sarah, is there one last moment for you? Is there anything you would say to your mom and dad in this moment? I'm sure you've said it a thousand times, but is there anything that comes to your mind to say, Mom, Dad, I just want to say this?

Yeah, sure. I would love to just bless them. Just honor them. Thank you for glorying in the cross. Thank you for not building your own kingdom, but looking to a kingdom whose architect is God. Thank you for receiving the grace and humbling yourself to receive the favor and the anointing and the call that is upon your life. I bless you and I honor you. I love you guys. We love you, too, baby. Thank you, Sarah. You're welcome. What a sweet gift, Sarah. Thank you for being with us. Yeah. And thank you, guys.

Man, oh, man. I think there's some hotness that could take place in some homes, people being honest and open, transparent. It could change their marriage and their legacy, as we've been able to witness today. You guys, will you end by praying just for couples that are struggling right now?

Sure. Father God, we lift up the couples that are struggling, Father, and wanting to change, wanting to see a resolution in their life, and you are the only one. Father, that they will call upon you, that they will look to you, Father, for their rescue, that they will look for you as their deliverer in this time of crisis, that they will hold on to you, Lord Jesus, and know that you have the answer for what is happening in their family and in their marriage. In Jesus' name.

Yes, Father. And we do just pray for boldness and courage, Father, for people to step out and in humility expose the lies in their life, the deepest, darkest secrets, Father, to take that to a different spot, Father. We thank you that you are our rescuer. You rescue us out of the lowest pit, Father, and we praise you for that. Thank you for the work that you want to do and the couples that are listening, Lord. I pray that you would give them the boldness to take right now that thing that is hidden in darkness and bring it out into the light, Lord, in Jesus' name. Lord God, I also just send out just a prayer for the couples who are struggling right now in their marriage. I pray that you would draw them near with your kindness, God, that they would see you as a father who longs to be close to them, that you are not ashamed of the dirt and the mess and the rags that they hide underneath the rug.

Instead, you want to lift up that rug for your healing light to come in and penetrate the deepest parts of the soul that they don't even know that need healing yet. So we just say yes to you, Holy Spirit, that you would go ahead and flow, that you would flow in their lives, that they would start to see how you have repaired the broken roads that have led them to this spot, that they would see all the years that the locust has eaten be restored in their lives, that there would be intimacy between the parents and the children and the spouses together, that they would see family restoration. They would see generational blessing flow from the grace that you pour out of the doors of humility that get opened through each testimony, through each confession.

It's not a, oh, woe is me, I'm a worm, but oh, look at Jesus and oh, look at the cross and look at his grace. Let Jesus be magnified and lifted high and glorified and families where fathers and mothers take their place, not to be perfect, but to be open and to be beautifully broken as we just see the Savior come and bind up each heart. In Jesus' name. And Father, we thank you for the Fretwells, for their family, for their legacy, for their courage.

We pray blessing over them, God, protection. And Father, I pray that their legacy from generation on until you return will call upon your name. Thank you for Sarah coming on. Thank you for her. She's a preacher, Jesus.

She's a warrior. A warrior for you and thank you for this family. May your angels go about protecting each one of them and protect this ministry and thank you for all they're doing. And Lord, would you bless this ministry to help marriages come clean. The truth really does set us free. I pray for truth, for courage, for couples to step in, to take what's in the darkness into the light and you would transform them and transform their legacy. That the world could be reached, the gospel could be shared through our weakness.

Use this to lead people to Jesus. In his name, amen. Amen.

Amen. You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Phil and Priscilla Fretwell and their daughter Sarah on Family Life Today. I highly recommend picking up the Fretwell's book called Savage Marriage, Triumph Over Betrayal and Sexual Addiction.

You can pick up a copy at to read more and see how God has redeemed their story. So you might be feeling a little bit like Phil. It's terrifying telling kids difficult things. Well, we want to make one of those things a little bit easier for you. The baby question.

Maybe you have small ones asking where they came from. Well, when you give any amount this week, we want to send you a copy of Justin and Lindsay Holcomb's book to help make answering that question a little bit easier. Their book is called God Made Babies, helping parents answer the baby question. It's our way of helping you out and saying thanks when you give anytime this week. If you're feeling like God is calling you to partner with us with a donation, you can go online to or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. It could be a one-time gift or a recurring monthly gift.

Again, the number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And feel free to snail mail us and drop something in the mail to Family Life, 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832. If you know anyone who needs to hear conversations like today's, would you share it from wherever you get your podcasts? And while you're there, you can help others learn about family life today by leaving us a review. Well, next week, Dave and Ann Wilson will be joined by Jason and Tori Benham to talk about how they transformed their marriage and started winning together. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-25 05:25:16 / 2023-03-25 05:36:38 / 11

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