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Best of 2022: Improving Your Sex Life to Improve Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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December 1, 2022 5:00 am

Best of 2022: Improving Your Sex Life to Improve Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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December 1, 2022 5:00 am

Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta help couples understand and experience mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy in marriage. Our guests describe God’s design for sex and how many couples don’t recognize its great value within marriage. (Part 1 of 2)

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In those early years, when I came to know the Lord, he and his family were so against it that they actually advised him to divorce me. Joy spent many lonely years trying to trust God and love her husband well. Thankfully, she found the support and encouragement she needed. I think that God just really used Focus on the Family and your guys' ministry to grow me and prepare me and guide my heart to live out in front of my husband what it means to follow Christ. And the best news of all is that Joy's husband also became a follower of Jesus. I'm Jim Daly. When we work together, we can strengthen more marriages like Joy's and give families hope.

Please call 800 the letter A in the word family or donate at slash hope and your gift will be doubled. Welcome to another best of 2022 episode of Focus on the Family. Today, we'll be addressing a significant issue that impacts every marriage and that is physical intimacy. This will be a pretty frank and godly discussion for husbands and wives, so we're going to recommend you direct the attention of younger listeners elsewhere.

We're going to start off with the following observation from Gary Thomas. Vastly more important than anything I might ever write about sex, it seems almost ridiculous to say this, is what God has written about sex. And so often we don't understand the way that God speaks of sex in such high terms and with such celebration.

In fact, one thing alone says so much about how God views sex because prayer is really important in the Christian life. But there isn't a single book in the Bible devoted exclusively to prayer. Finances are all over scripture.

There isn't a single book in the Bible devoted exclusively to how we handle our finances. When you think about it, there's really one book that has one central focus. And guess what that book is?

Song of Songs. You're with me. We'll hear a lot more from Gary and his co-author, Deborah Faleta, and they've written a landmark book. It's called Married Sex, A Christian Couple's Guide to Reimagining Your Love Life.

And as I've noted, this is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, this is one topic that most married couples and even single adults are intensely interested in, and I think that's great. I mean, this is an area where we need to seek healthiness because it is a gift from God. But in the Christian community, we hardly ever mention it. We hardly ever talk about it. The world has taken it over as a theme. And it's like taboo for us to discuss it.

And I totally disagree with that. If you want to know why our teens and our 20-somethings don't have a healthy perspective on sexuality, it's because we in the church are not talking about this great gift that God gives us in the context of marriage to enjoy. And yeah, there just seems to be so many crippling things that happen around this topic, and I think we should be leading the way. The most satisfied people should be the Christian community in this area, because we're celebrating the very gift God has given us. Yeah, and we know that there are couples struggling with really practical matters.

There are some who are struggling because of past wounds. This is a celebration of the gift, as you said, Jim, of sexuality in marriage, and we're really looking forward to the conversation today. In fact, Jon, I was shocked by one statistic that our guests shared in their book.

More than 80 percent, that's four out of five couples, have some kind of sexual issue in their marriage. And that's alarming, but it shows you the need. And I would hope that with our partners, the Christian stations, along with all of you, the listeners and those watching on YouTube, this again is important for us to talk about and to embrace, not run from. Right, and the incredible popularity of this Best of program reveals just why we've decided to share this great content again. I mentioned our guest. Gary Thomas is a wonderful friend and a prolific author and speaker. He's often here to discuss the spiritual dimensions of marriage and parenting and so much more. And we love having Deborah Faleta back with us.

She's a professional counselor, author and speaker. And, Jim, here's how you began the conversation with our guests on today's episode of Focus on the Family. It's like you said in that clip, Gary. Yeah, there is a book in the Bible that's dedicated to this. Now, what do you think the subtle or not so subtle message is there from the Lord? It's an invitation for us to explore what a blessing this is. It speaks of the goodness of God and the kindness of God, that he created us with bodies that have nerve endings and that we can share that in marriage. I think what it creates within marriage, what it does for our brains relationally, what it does for us physically, and I believe what it can do for us spiritually, worshipping the God who created us that way. I've said before, it's not just the act of physical intimacy that I'm after.

It's the smiles that come a couple hours later when a couple has been together and enjoyed each other and they look each other across from the table and said, we had a good time. And, Deborah, the thing that I guess is so subtle and under the radar for us is everybody, we're not talking about seriously conflicted marriages that have deep issues and the physical intimacy component is an area that those issues are showing forth, right? I mean, that'll show up in the bedroom for sure. But generally, we're talking about generally healthy marriages here that can do better if they can concentrate on this aspect of their relationship. Yeah, no marriage is perfect. And when you talked about the 80% of couples earlier who struggle, at some point in your marriage, whether it's the honeymoon or a decade in, there's going to be problems.

And I think part of the dilemma we're facing is we don't talk enough about the problems and so when people face those problems, they start to panic, they start to worry, they start to think something is terribly wrong rather than being prepared to handle some of the problems. Let me ask you, I mean, you're obviously representing all women here at the table. Yeah, every single woman in the world. But in that context, guys tend to run pretty solo and I don't know that we talk that much unless we're trying to build up our own self-worth with other men in this area. Do women share their pain more openly with each other here?

I just don't know, seriously. When women get together, do they talk about kind of the downside of their sexual relationship with their husband? Is that open discussion typically or how does that work? At the end of the day, I don't think it's a very open conversation for anyone. We took a survey and it was so surprising to see that the majority of couples reported that they either Google problems that come up with their sex life to get information or they don't do any research at all and they just try to figure it out on their own.

So it's those extremes. So it's extreme in that nobody is really talking about this. It's not one of those things that you can go to Starbucks and have a conversation about with your friends or it doesn't come up in Bible study. And I think Christian couples are struggling in isolation. And so this is why I'm excited about this resource because it will offer our readers an opportunity to have these really important conversations, some of them for the very first time. There are limitations to books but with this one topic in particular, this is where I think a book was really helpful because there are a lot of issues that couples don't talk about and probably shouldn't in small groups, to be honest.

So we wanted to create a resource. Sometimes the hang-up is theological. People don't realize how much the Bible celebrates sexuality and gives practical advice.

We have chapters where we talk about the Song of Songs Leading the Way. Sometimes it's relational. Deborah has a whole section about it's a relational problem or a sexual problem.

And so we wanted a book that could address, okay, this is a relational issue. Sometimes it's a physical problem. Sex is a physical act and there are certain things that you have to perfect and that you can learn from. And sometimes it's just a boredom problem.

You've had sex for a long time and you've kind of run out of ideas and you've just fallen into a rut. And what we were able to do by interviewing so many couples, changing the names and making it anonymous, we have just tons of practical ideas where couples have said, this was so helpful or this inspired us or this encouraged us that you really shouldn't share in a small group. And you don't want to know that about people you're sitting next to. But in this context, we were able to get very specific and helpful. So whether it's theological, relational, physical or just practical ideas, I think a book is really the form to get this information out there. Well, and that was one of the punches we were going to give, that we're not going to cover all the great content that you have in the book, so people need to get it.

And I think people will want to get this, actually. Let me go back to a more general question, though. And that is, you describe sex as both the greatest blessing and the greatest pain that couples can experience in marriage.

I mean, that kind of says it all. The joking side of me would say, I think which side generally men would go with and what side generally women would go with. But that, too, is a stereotype. Nothing is that straight any longer in the culture.

Even in the Christian culture, it's like an 80-20 rule. And so with that context, why is it both the highest of highs in the marriage relationship and sometimes the lowest of loves? I think some of the greatest validation and affirmation can come from a healthy sex life, but also some of the deepest rejection and abandonment can come from an unhealthy sex life, especially when you're not talking about it. You can read in between the lines of what you think this lack of intimacy is saying. And so a lot of people are struggling with reading in between the lines and not actually having open, honest conversations about what's going on deep down inside of them emotionally.

Yeah. I took a swing a few minutes ago with the idea that difficulties in your intimacy can often start in other areas. And it's simply the symptom. What are those lists of things that couples should be aware of that they might be struggling with that affects them in the bedroom? It could be negative or a positive. Here's a negative.

One woman said to me, Garrett, I'd love to have a better relationship in the bedroom with my husband, but here's a problem. Everything I do is wrong. I don't drive right. I don't cook right. I don't clean right. I don't raise the kids right.

I probably don't even pray right. And she goes, so at the end of the day, I know he's judging what's happening between the sheets. And I'm just tired of being criticized by a man that can't be pleased over that. That's not a sexual issue.

That's a criticism issue. That's a relationship issue that's holding him back on the positive end. One wife said, I would love this. And she said, Gary, if my husband would just pray with me, she said he wouldn't be able to handle me in bed. He'd be crying uncle long before the night is through.

How many men are going to try that today? Well, honey, let's pray. Let's pray more. And what she's saying, before you touch my body, touch my soul, and sex will be the natural response. That's not a promise. It's not a guarantee. But it's just recognizing that, as Deborah says in the book, sexual problems are almost never usually exclusively about sex.

It could be something negative, removing the desire, or the lack of a positive that keeps the desire from being at its peak. Now, Gary, I trust you. You're an author of great books on marriage. But I want to get Deborah's input here.

Is that true? Touch your soul and you have the rest of me? The number one thing that women said, in order to arouse their body, you have to start by arousing their heart.

Like, that is the gateway. And if that's not there, then everything else is going to fall short. So much of what we learned in doing research and writing this book is that women are saying that they really need you to connect with them emotionally.

And what happens above the sheets fuels what happens underneath the sheets. And that is something that I think we don't give enough value to when we're having this conversation. Oh, my goodness. I mean, men, yeah, it's hard for us to think that way. It's microwave.

It's not crockpot. Yeah. And I mean, speaking to the men as a woman, how do we rearrange our thinking that way? Because so much of it is rooted in desire.

It's just bold desire. We just want to get right to the point and, you know, go. So what how would you in your counseling session with a man who is not building into that, that emotional intimacy? What would you say to him to do some things differently? You know, some simple things to build emotional intimacy is just by checking in with your spouse, asking them how they're doing.

I'm really listening when they're talking, seeing what they need to help them and to care for them. And I think it's important to take that physical drive that you have for sex and see it as a holistic thing. You know, if we really want to make the most of our physical intimacy, we've got to also make sure that we're boosting our emotional and spiritual intimacy.

The act of just praying with your spouse, we mentioned it earlier, but there is so much power in that emotional and spiritual intimacy that you can have with your spouse. When I talk about cherish, my book on marriage about cherishing, the distinction I make that's relevant here is that we need to use sex to cherish our spouse, not use our spouse to cherish sex. Wives understand if we're more interested in an act or in them, is it mutually pleasurable? Do we get our greatest pleasure from seeing her pleasure? Is it the kind of sex that builds her up and affirms her beauty and her wonder, or is it sex that makes her feel used or demeaned? And if we're focused on her pleasure and her well-being, then I think it's something that's serving the relationship.

I really think there are three markers of healthy sexuality that we have to point men toward. First, it's got to be mutually pleasurable. God designed both of our bodies to experience this healthy sex. One partner isn't feeling used. They're both feeling like their pleasure matters as much as the other. Second thing, it needs to build up the relationship. It's the kind of thing where you feel closer to each other, not manipulated, not controlled, certainly not abused or even used. And third, I think as Christians, it needs to be a worshipful experience. Sex designed as God designed it is one that makes us thank him as a creator.

And we're not wincing. We're like, Lord, thank you. You created us. This is your idea. We can celebrate it because of you. So if we both feel pleasure in our bodies, closer to each other and more worshipful of God, those are the three markers of healthy marital sexuality.

I think every husband needs to aspire. That's what I want to happen every time. That is really good. And we're going to continue to unfold that.

And I know this is going to be at least a couple of days that we're going to go here. Deborah, let me ask you, you heard of the story and I think it's a great illustration of a couple that found a bowl at a garage sale. But share the story and let's see if the listeners go out and find a bowl.

This is really good. Yeah, a couple went out garage saleing and they found this three dollar bowl. They took it home. Later on, they find out it's actually worth two point two million dollars.

It was this ancient Chinese artifact. They thought it was a cereal bowl. But isn't that so indicative of what we do with the gift of sex? We've taken away its value in this culture.

You know, we cheapen it. And what we have in our possession is this unbelievable gift that we don't even realize we have because we don't always know what it is. We don't always know how to make the most of it. We don't always understand God's design for it.

And so it keeps us stuck. Gary, in that opening clip that we played, you reference the Song of Solomon or the Song of Songs. What is so important for us to know about the title Song of Songs? It's an ancient Near Eastern phrase that elevates what's being talked about. Most of the listeners are familiar with God being described as the King of Kings.

What does that mean? It doesn't just mean that he's the strongest of kings and the most majestic of kings. It means if you were to put all the kings of the universe together, he's king of those kings.

He's different and kind. And so here you have the Bible dealing with the subject saying there's no other song like this one. Now, it's pre-Christ, which I think is significant. But when it's looking at all of the Old Testament songs, you could have the Song of Deborah, the Song of Moses, the Song of David.

The Song of Songs, unlike any other song, is a song that celebrates the sexual relationship between a husband and a wife. And when we think about what it does, the spiritual analogies, what it does to our brains and the relationship to keep bonding us toward each other, what it does to remind us that we are physical beings created with bodies that have nerve endings, and that we can literally create humans that share our DNA, co-creators with God. It's astonishing what physical intimacy represents. And the Bible says that just in the title of the book.

You don't even have to get into the verses where it's saying we don't need to be ashamed of this. We should celebrate it and unleash the power. And the good news, Jim, is that what we discovered with a lot of the researchers is that it takes a couple about 20 years to hit their sexual prime. That should be encouraging to younger couples. Right, because it's not just about the physical act, which you can master in a little bit of time, but it's a relational thing. It's a spiritual thing.

There's a lot of dynamics. They can rediscover the value of this act for their marriage. They can realize in a whole new way, with a little thought, a little understanding, scripturally, relationally, physically, and then with some tips, this can be a whole new element of marriage that could lead to a whole new marriage. One thing I found disheartening is how many people we've heard from who don't have that biblical view of sex. In fact, one woman said to me, I was shocked to see that sex is so celebrated in the Bible. And if you think about it, some people come from cultures where sex isn't really talked about as a biblical thing. And all they hear is don't do it before marriage, don't do it before marriage, it's bad, stay away. And then all of a sudden, somehow they're expected to shift that mentality in marriage, and they really struggle with that. So it was beautiful to be able to shine the light on how biblical a healthy sex life really is. Well, you've opened that door, and I was going to ask this question a little later, so I'll ask it now.

I mean, that's, I think, one of the great difficulties in the Christian community. And I've talked to my wife, Jean, about this. You know, you have that self expectation of I'm going to save myself, which is exactly the right idea.

We don't want to suggest that you need to experiment or any of that. You want to save this until you're married. This is God's plan, His wedding gift, as I call it with my own boys. And it's something you keep wrapped until your wedding night. And yet at the same time, I think especially for Christian women to try to make that leap from no, no, no to yes, yes, yes.

And in talking with Jean, she said, I found that very difficult to do. And I think a lot of women are in that place and probably some men, too, that are trying to bridle that appetite, bridle that appetite. And then we start marrying later.

And now the bridling of that appetite is even more dangerous, really. So speak to that attitude first for the women, and maybe, Gary, you can speak for the men. But how do we flip that switch and all of a sudden emotionally, intellectually, physically embrace, wow, okay.

I get to cut loose now with my husband. Right. I know so many people are feeling stuck in that because of the things they've heard, the things they've learned. There's a lot of false expectations that we bring into marriage, including the belief that sex is just for the man, for example.

A lot of women struggle because they've been taught that this is just for the man. And they don't understand that there is so much pleasure that God has for them as well. When it becomes a duty thing. Right. It becomes a duty instead of a gift for them to be celebrated, something to fill them up. And so I think having conversations like this begins to change the narrative, begins to help us understand that it's a gift for a reason. And there are so many blessings that come on the other side of marriage, blessings and gifts to be enjoyed. But I think we're not having enough conversations to help people understand that.

Right. Now, I could imagine a guy who hears this today talks to his wife over dinner tonight and says, honey, I was listening to focus on the family. They said sex was a gift. She will say, yeah, what man told you that? So it is important.

And it's the right thing. How do we see this as a gift? And in addition to that, you have something and I'll get to you in a minute, Gary, to give the male response there. But this sexpectations, it's a play on words, obviously. But what are those sexpectations? You know, sexpectations are the beliefs that we have going into marriage about what sex will be like.

And many times those beliefs are actually wrong or rooted in unhealthy things. Think about how Hollywood shapes our expectations of what sex is going to be like. You know, it's quick, it's easy, it's clean and you're snuggling at the end of the night.

There's no regrets. It just comes so naturally. And then when you get into marriage and it's not like that or you're not always in the mood or you're struggling sometimes, or it's not working the way that you thought it would work, you really start to struggle because now you're trying to align your reality to these false expectations. Other false expectations that we bring in are a result of our past.

Maybe we've got wounds from abuse and sex is actually a painful thing, you know, painful emotionally or even physically. And now we're coming to marriage and we're trying to align our reality with these false expectations. So I suggest that instead of aligning our sex life to the false expectations, we start rewriting our expectations.

We start aligning them to the healthy biblical truth of what sex is and what it's supposed to be like in our marriage. Yeah. Gary, we're right down to the end here. And I do want to come back next time and maybe a third day, who knows, but you can tell this is a topic that's so important to me and it should be to most people. You have a quote, though, and you can work in the male response to what we were just talking about. But I do want to get this quote. And you said a great sex life is something you make, not something you find.

And that is a great statement. Now tell us what that actually that was in Deborah's chapter. If I'm not mistaken.

Yeah, I'll take. Oh, that's funny. But going back to what you said, we have a chapter called Sacred Simmering, where the Bible not only says it's OK to think about the sexually desirable qualities of your spouse, it celebrates it. Researchers have talked about simmering for some time.

Simmering is the notion that it's difficult to go from ice cold to red hot. And so if you simmer, if you know physical intimacy is going to happen that evening, you start to get your mind ready. And what's amazing to me, 3000 years ago, the Bible has a woman thinking about the sexually desirable qualities of her husband and the man thinking about that with his wife, which tells us thinking about your spouse that way. It's not lustful. It's not condemned.

It's actually prescribed in the Bible if it's your spouse. Now, this is all on a spectrum. No man is alike.

No woman is alike. But I love that the Bible is celebrating. Hey, get your mind in gear. And look, to be honest, my wife has had to do that with me. Sometimes I can get tired so early because I'm such a morning person. I've got deadlines.

He says, hey, something's going to happen at 930 tonight. You need to get your mind in gear. And I actually appreciate that because she's saying, OK, this is for us. We're going to share it together. So reserve a little energy for me. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are paying Tom Brady millions of dollars to be ready on Sunday, he has responsibility to get his mind in gear and have his body rested. If we recognize that sexual intimacy can be such a life giving, relationship building, personally affirming aspect of marriage, there's a time when you say, OK, I need to reserve some energy for it.

I need to put some focus on it. And I want it to be something that I can bless my spouse with. So this is a blessing, not a burden in our marriage.

That's how God designed it. Well, John, it's no wonder this was one of our most popular programs in 2022. Such great insights from Gary Thomas and Deborah Faleta. And I'm really looking forward to sharing part two of our conversation next time. And I want to urge everyone listening to get a copy of this amazing resource, Married Sex, a Christian Couples Guide to Reimagining Your Love Life. And this is applicable for every married couple, no matter what stage of life you're in. And I know you'll find it encouraging and helpful in your relationship.

Contact us to get this book. And when you send a gift of any amount to focus on the family, we'll send it right out to you. That's our way of saying thanks for standing with us to strengthen and support marriages today. And if your marriage is in a difficult place and you'd like to speak with one of our caring Christian counselors, we can set that up for you as well. That's why Focus is here to equip you and help your family thrive. And our phone number is 800-232-6459.

800, the letter A in the word family. Request the book, make your donation and ask to speak with a counselor when you get a hold of us. You can also learn more at the website.

We'll link over to it in the show notes. We're also inviting friends like you to partner with Focus on the Family as we head into the new year. We anticipate hearing from hundreds of thousands of couples in 2023 who will want resources for strengthening their marriage and for dealing with a crisis in their relationship.

And we'll also equip single adults who want to prepare for marriage in the future. You provide the fuel we need to respond and help these people, giving them hope as they draw closer to God and to each other. So let's do ministry together. I hope we can count on your support today.

And again, one more time, our phone number is 800, the letter A in the word family, or donate and get resources and help for your family at our website. Well, make plans to join us next time for more from Gary Thomas and Deborah Faleta. For now, on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller thanking you for listening and inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ. It was very intensive and it was life changing. The counselors created the safest environment we could imagine, so that let us really talk. We're on a much different course now, and I believe we received a miracle that week. Visit us for a free consultation at
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-01 05:00:02 / 2022-12-01 05:11:44 / 12

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