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That's a contract. A covenant is I am promising to love you. I am promising to not leave you or forsake you. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.
You can find us at familylifetoday.com. This is Family Life Today. So as we travel around the country and do marriage conferences, it's changed.
Yeah, I would say it's changed. I mean, the audiences are the same, but there's something different. We used to talk about sex and couples would come up and smile and say thank you. And now they line up and they are hurt. They have wounds. They have trauma. They want to, it feels like a long line of a lot of pain. What's encouraging, Dave, is I feel like that trauma has probably always been there. But now they're starting to be willing to talk about it. And I think because of my own past with sexual abuse, not thinking that would even affect my marriage. And then we get married, so many of us, where there's been some sort of trauma.
And we don't even know what to do with it after we get married. Yeah, and we need help. And we've got help in the studio today.
Dr. Julie Slattery is back. You are someone that can help us. Welcome back. Thanks so much for having me. It's always a joy to be here.
We love talking to friends. Don't you feel like when Julie's with us, I come up with this list of things I want to talk to her about, like individually, like, let's talk to Julie about this. There's so many things because she's wise. She's biblical. She has a lot of help. And she has a new book, too.
Yeah. And I mean, you've been talking and writing about sexuality for a long time. This new one is called God's Sex in Your Marriage.
Obviously, we read it before it even came out and just loved it. We've already talked a little bit about it. But before we even dig into it, because you have four pillars in here of great sex. Now, who doesn't want to know what those are, right?
And they're like, wait, wait, wait, don't skip that. We'll get to it. But talk about what we just mentioned, trauma.
Is that something you're seeing as well compared to 30 years ago or has that always been there? I think, Anne, what you said is true. It's always Anne's right.
I get it. No, you just set her up so well. It's because Julie just told me about it on the walk back to the studio. Is that true?
No, she knew. It's always been there? Is that what you're saying? It's always been there. Yeah.
Yeah. When you look at the stats, what is reported right now is about one in four women will say that they've experienced some form of sexual trauma before the age of 18. And it would be about one in five or one in six men.
But most experts in the field will say that's way underestimated because people aren't reporting it. And a lot of people don't even identify what they experience as sexual trauma until they're maybe with a counselor and they describe it. And somebody says, that was sexual abuse. That's what happened to me. They said, oh, you are sexually abused.
I'm like, wait, no, what? So that's really common. I'm even wondering now, Julie, you would know better than anybody, like a woman that's married to a guy who's looking at porn or dating. And again, I know women look at porn as well, but is there a trauma effect of that?
I'm married to a guy whose perspective on sex is so shaped by this pornography world. There's a trauma in that, isn't there? Well, first of all, there's definitely dysfunction. And the trauma comes in depending on how that's played out in their marriage. But there's definitely something called betrayal trauma.
And I don't know if you all have talked about this on your show. But for somebody who's married to somebody who has had affairs or even repeatedly is looking at pornography, that feeling and that experience of finding something on your husband's phone or computer or your wife's or finding out that your spouse has had an emotional affair or been unfaithful. That is a trauma. Like all trust now is broken. And the individual who has experienced that begins to look back on their whole marriage or relationship and say, was anything real?
Oh, yeah. Like was the past 20 years a lie? And now what we've begun to discover is that particularly if it's happened more than once, the person can develop like post-traumatic stress symptoms about even hearing a ping of an iPhone of, wow, is that another text my husband's getting from a coworker?
Or I'm afraid to look at my son's computer because I'm going to see it again. That form of betrayal trauma is a real thing that's being documented in literature today. Man, what do you do? Yeah, we just laid that out.
Our listeners are like, yes, yes, yes. You're working with people that, you know, have experienced that betrayal trauma. What do you tell them? Well, fortunately, there's a lot of help out there. And there are ministries and resources that are really helping spouses navigate that. It's very helpful to be in groups of other people that have experienced similar things so that you're like, I'm not going crazy, like you feel this too. But then also to work with a therapist or a counselor who understands the dynamics of betrayal or sexual addiction to help you know, like, where do you set boundaries? And that's one of the most difficult things to navigate is how do I set boundaries and address the issue without being paranoid?
So you really do need some specialized care if that's your situation. And Julie, your ministry is called like Authentic Intimacy and you are helping people. You do have groups, your podcast, Java with Julie. That's great, too, because people now are hearing other experts in this field helping them. So thanks for all the things that you're helping all of us with. Well, your first pillar, you tell us, I'm not telling you, you wrote it. But it has something to do with the other side of betrayal, you call it faithfulness. Yeah. Yeah.
Let me just set up these pillars really quickly for you. A lot of people listening are married, even those who are single. You care about marriage. So let me ask you to consider a question. What do you think makes a great sex life? Now, you guys have read the book, so you know the answer here. I'm thinking what I would have answered years ago, even compared to what I would answer now.
What do you think people would say? Yeah. What makes a great sex life? Creativity, spontaneity, you know, fun. Dave, in the past, you would have said frequency. Frequency, you know, it's got to be on a regular basis. She wants me. And as a woman, I would say our relationship is what matters. Him being open with me on this. Relationship?
Really? See, I'm all about like, I want to know you. I want to feel good about our relationship. I want there to be affection. Those things make a great sex life. Are we ding, ding, ding, wrong, wrong, wrong?
No, you're great. Today, I would say, I mean, the biggest word before, I used to think sexual intimacy is separate from emotional and spiritual intimacy. And today, I would combine all of those. So a great sex life would start. Julie's saying, man, I need to just get them in my office and do some therapy. With intimacy.
That's what I need as a woman. Yeah, I think you guys invite me to do this just so I can do like some counseling. Okay, so the big question is, how would God define a great sex life?
So that's a good question. Yeah, so that's really what I was wrestling with in God, Sex, and Your Marriage, because I think most of us don't know the answer to that question. And based on our experience and how we're wired, we might pick aspects of this is what I think makes a great sex life. But if we step back and we say, why did God create sex as a gift in marriage?
And what does he say a great sex life should look like? What would most people say? Why did God create sex? What do you think most people would say? To make babies. And what would you say?
I would say he created sex as a way of revealing to us the nature of his covenant love. Whoa! He's so spiritual. That's deep. It is deep. Yeah, explain that.
That's beautiful. That's why I've written a book on it, you know, because it's a lot to explain. Say it again. God created sex as a way of revealing to us the nature of his covenant love. We have to understand that everything God has created in the natural world, he created intentionally to reveal himself.
Would you agree with me on that? Like trees, water, the stars? If you read the scripture, you're not going to find a page in the Bible that doesn't refer to natural creation in order for us to understand the nature of God. Yeah, it's called general revelation. There you go.
Yeah. So the concept of family and father, relationship, all this teaches us about God. So what did God create sex to reveal? And if we read the scripture, we see in the Old Testament and New Testament that he created sex to reveal this aspect of covenant, of his love for his covenant people, his chosen people.
In the Old Testament, it was the nation of Israel. And if you read the Old Testament, you see all this metaphorical language that's sexual to describe God's relationship with his people. And in the New Testament, God's covenant is with the church. And again, you see this bridal and sexual language as a metaphor to describe Christ's relationship with the church.
If that's the purpose of sex, then what does a great sex life look like? And the answer is it looks like God's love for his covenant people. And that's where I come up with these four pillars.
So that's the background of that. See, Julie's so much deeper than we are. Oh, I mean, it's so good.
It's so rich. I mean, that was a mini course in theology right there that most believers have never even heard, regardless if you're talking about sex. It was just—but I guess you're going to get into it under the first pillar, this covenant.
What does that mean? Covenant is a unique relationship that's based on a promise. It's not based on how you feel. It's not based on if you're attracted to someone.
It's not based on if you're meeting each other's needs. That's a contract. A covenant is, I am promising to love you. I am promising to not leave you or forsake you. And again, we hear echoes of that all throughout Scripture, but it's what we're intended to say in our wedding vows. Till death do us part, no matter what comes, I'm going to be faithful. And so when we look at the way God loves us, there's a very practical application to what marriage looks like and what sex looks like. And so that first pillar, which is the first aspect of understanding God's love for us, is this idea of faithfulness. That God's love for us is a promise that he is not going to change.
He's the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, that his word can be trusted, that his character is faithful, that even when he doesn't make sense, we can trust him. And so when we say, hey, what's a great sex life look like? You know, this idea of being sexually faithful, you can tell me if this has been your experience, but I always feel like the topic of faithfulness in sex is sort of like the special issue that only certain people want to know about. Like if you have experience of betrayal, now you want to book on faithfulness.
But what we don't realize is nothing else good from sex can happen if you don't have a foundation of faithfulness. Well, OK, Julie. I agree a thousand percent.
Yeah, me too. It is the foundation. So I'm thinking of the listener thinking, I am married. He's not faithful and he's addicted to porn and this could go either way. And we don't even have a relationship.
He's not even a believer. Yeah. Am I supposed to fulfill that covenant? Yeah, boy, that's a deep question. And there's a lot of nuance to each individual situation.
But here's what I will say. You can't build anything else until the faithfulness aspect is addressed. His faithfulness or your faithfulness?
His. Because any form of sexual infidelity, including habitual use of pornography, is a violation of trust. And God created sex to be so vulnerable and so intimate that we can't trust. We can't be vulnerable if there's continually breaking of that trust. You can't just say, OK, let's work on our marriage or our sex life by finding ways to have more fun and be adventurous.
Technique, whatever. Yeah, like that's all for later. You have to address the faithfulness issue. If there's a lack of trust, if there's a lack of fidelity, nothing else can be built. How do we address that? Yeah. You know, if a listener's resonating, like, I don't even know what that would look like to address it. How do we address that with a spouse?
Yeah, well, first of all, let me level set for a minute. I would say, based on the research that's coming out now, probably about 90 percent of men and about 40 to 50 percent of women have some history with pornography. And many of them are continuing to struggle with it. Ninety percent of men. Fifty percent of women. Particularly in these younger generations.
Yes. Because we're raised on it. And those images get stuck in your brain.
For many people, they're very addictive. And so this is not just saying, you know, for that random couple out there, you're not a random couple. Unfortunately, this is the norm. And so how do we address it? The first thing we need to do is we need to be honest about it. I think this is a conversation we avoid in the church, we avoid in marriage, because we're afraid of what the answer is. We're afraid of the conflict that will come up if we talk about it. But when we look at scripture, it says that if we say we have no sin, first of all, we're a liar, and we have no fellowship with God or with one another. And that's what's happening in a lot of marriages, because they're avoiding the sin. They're saying there's nothing wrong.
We're fine. You can't have deep fellowship with each other and you can't have fellowship with God. John tells us what to do in that situation. Confess your sin. Bring it out into the light. Let's have the hard conversation.
And then God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And so it has to begin by bringing it into the light, and not just with one another, but bringing it into the light with God, you know, praying, seeking help, seeking mentoring. And there are a lot of ministries and groups where it's now become a safe place to have these kind of conversations, men with men, women with other women, and also for married couples. Should a married man tell his wife or should he keep it maybe between him and God and a bunch of guys? Yeah, you have to share it with your spouse. There's no intimacy when there are secrets. Yeah, I've heard others say, you know, just tell a buddy. And, you know, I shared 35 years ago a struggle with pornography with Anne. It didn't go well in that first conversation.
I mean, we laugh about it now, but she's just irate. You know, and this was before there was digital and, you know, nobody in the church, especially in church leadership, would ever say they struggled. And I did. I actually said it from the pulpit, too, but— I'm really grateful, though, because— It was a needed conversation, but it was a scary moment.
I want to know all of him. Yeah. I think that's the gospel. Jesus knows, wants all of us, sees it all, and he continues to pursue and love us. I think that's the picture of marriage. And is that even a move toward faithfulness? Because when you bring it out of the secret area and you bring it alive, it's like, I am committed to being faithful, and I can't if I have a lie or a secret.
And I think there's a big difference between finding out that your spouse is looking at pornography and them confessing. Because a confession is, I'm heartbroken about this. I'm wanting to be vulnerable with you.
I'm wanting to get help. I'm bringing it into the light, versus what often happens is, I find it once, then I find it again, then I think we're OK. A year later, I find it once again. Now we're into, again, that betrayal trauma. What is true?
I can't trust anything. And so as much as you feel like, this is going to hurt my spouse, to speak it out loud, you've already hurt your spouse. It's there. It's in the bedroom with you. It's interfering with intimacy. And so bring it into the light, and that first conversation may not go well. But bring God into the conversation.
Reach out for help. And Julie, what about as a parent? Are these discussions that a mom has with her daughter, that a dad has with his son? And what if you're a blended family or you're a single mom or dad? Is that important?
It is vitally important. And you can have conversations, mother to son, father to daughter, if that's where the strongest relationship is. You know, in my family, we have three sons.
So my husband did some of that father work with our sons. But because I was way more comfortable with this topic, I've also had honest conversations with my sons. And it doesn't have to be graphic. There's no need for it to be graphic. But to talk about what pornography is, to disciple them through that journey.
That's not just mom and dad, but it's also the other people that God brings into a young person's life to mentor and disciple them. You could start with that stat, 90% of men, 40 to 50% of women. Psychology Today had a study that came out a few years ago that was looking particularly at, I think it was 35 and younger, and it was a self-report study. And in that study, I believe it was 98% of men. And it was around 60% of women who said that they had looked at porn within the last month. This is, again, not an isolated incident. It is an epidemic. I would just say to the man that's listening that's struggling with pornography.
I mean, the stats are real. And almost every guy I talk to, if they're really honest, says, yeah, I've struggled. And the scariest thing in your life is to think about telling somebody, especially your wife. I'm just saying from one man to another, tell her. And I know you'll be in fear and trepidation.
I've been there. And you'll get every excuse not to do it today. You'll do it tomorrow. Julie, you can agree or not, I would say, man, this is a conversation you've got to have. And trust will be built.
It sounds like the opposite is going to happen. But over time, as you journey together as a couple, trust will be built. Faithfulness, that key pillar. And I'm guessing you started with faithfulness because it starts there. It's going to be built as you navigate through honesty. It starts with honesty.
So true. Dave, one thing that I say is the most important ingredient of your sex life is your character. If you don't have that, it doesn't matter how many books you read, doesn't matter how good you think you are in bed, you've got nothing.
And so God wants to refine our character. And that's, for many of us, the first step. Yeah, you wrote, I'm reading right from your book, you might get physically naked without trust, but true intimacy is impossible without it. That trust.
And if you sense that your spouse has a secret, whether it's porn, an emotional affair, real affair, there's no trust. Right? And so there's really no intimacy. Right. It's sort of fake intimacy. I'll add this too, Dave. When you were battling that, I could sense something was up. Oh, yeah. And I would say today, if something's going on, I don't feel like we're connecting, I feel like there's something happening. And I would ask him, is there something going on?
I wish I would have gone to Dave with love and grace. Like, hun, I just want you to know, I'm your teammate. If you are battling, I heard this stat today, and if this is a battle for you, and if, as a wife, I'm going to confess if I've battled, I want you to know I will help you and be your teammate in it.
I can't imagine how scary it would be to tell me, but I want to know. I want to be in this together with you. Would that be a wise thing to do?
Boy, that's so beautifully put. That's what I thought. Yeah. I thought, wow, you guys.
Why didn't you do that 35 years ago? I was going to say, and I would give yourself time, too, to respond if your spouse tells you, I wish I had have said, I need a night just to take this before God. Because I did not do that, and I just reacted. I blew up. I was angry.
I probably called you names. Who knows? That's the normal response. It is? Yeah. Oh, 100 percent.
Yeah. The wife feels betrayed, and she feels like you've kept the secret from me. Maybe you've lied to me over and over.
And how could you do this? Does this mean you don't love me? I feel rejected.
It brings up all of her insecurities. The conversation that you just kind of role-played, you know, we're old, and you and I- We've learned. We've had time to grow in our relationship with the Lord, to grow and trust in our marriage. We're at a place now where we can have that kind of approach. But, boy, me 25 years ago, those words could not have come out of my mouth.
Me neither. And so, for those younger wives who are listening, and husbands, there's grace in this journey. And that's why it's so important to have older couples that can mentor you through this, because there's a very good chance they've been through it as well. Yeah, that's good. So before we keep going, there's a new thing Family Life is launching soon that you're a part of. Yeah, it's a special project. It's a video-based series. We've been in it.
You're in it. Tell us what you're excited about for this thing. Yeah, I'm excited for couples to have a resource where they can just learn some of the very basics of navigating marriage issues. I think sometimes we take for granted that we know how to communicate, we know how to address conflict, we know how to approach sexual issues in our marriage or issues around finances. There's such a need, even in my own marriage, my husband and I have been married for 28 years, but to come back to the basics and to view them through God's perspective, and to be able to do that kind of processing in groups. So Family Life has done an outstanding job of creating this kind of resource, and I'm just blessed to be a part of it. And the resource we're talking about is the new Art of Marriage. And let me tell you, it is awesome.
It's going to be great. I mean, the original Art of Marriage, which has been out for a couple of decades, was fabulous. And, you know, obviously we ended up in it, but we're in the new one.
And what has been created, I think, is going to just blow people away. It is one of the best video marriage curriculums you will ever get a chance to see. And by the way, you're going to get a preview if you want on November 1st, you can get a preview of the new Art of Marriage and you can sign up in the show notes or go to familylife.com slash coming soon, and you'll get a chance to see what this new Art of Marriage is going to be about. And Julie, I'm really glad that you can be a part of this with us. Well, we're going to do another program to get the other three pillars. We've only got one of four, and we thought it may be fun to bring your husband, Mike, in. That'd be great. Keeping me honest here. Yeah, I like it.
That sounds good. I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Julie Slattery on Family Life Today. We have been working a ton to bring you all the new Art of Marriage.
You've been asking and we heard you. So if you're not familiar with the Art of Marriage, it's our Cornerstone Marriage Small Group Study. Since its release in 2011, it has impacted well over a million couples globally. And on November the 1st, we will be hosting a live event to give you an inside look at the new content and hear from the teachers of the study on why marriages are so important and the impact we believe this study will have.
To sign up for the live event and be the first to pre-order, go to the show notes and find the link there. We cannot wait to share the all new Art of Marriage with you. You know, Julie Slattery has written a book called God, Sex and Your Marriage. It challenges the common assumptions couples have about sexuality and presents really the richer biblical narratives of sex as a metaphor of God's covenant love. You can get a copy of Dr. Slattery's book, God, Sex and Your Marriage at familylifetoday.com or you could give us a call at 800-358-6329.
And that number is 800 F as in family, L as in life and then the word today. Now, tomorrow, as David and Wilson were talking about earlier, Julie Slattery is going to be joined by her husband, Mike. They're going to talk about the parallels between God's love and intimate relationships. You won't want to miss it. On behalf of David and Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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