Share This Episode
Focus on the Family Jim Daly Logo

Answering Questions About Sex in Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
March 16, 2023 6:00 am

Answering Questions About Sex in Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 836 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

March 16, 2023 6:00 am

Shaunti Feldhahn and professional sex therapist Dr. Michael Sytsma join Jim and John to discuss common questions that married couples ask about physical intimacy. Whether you just tied the knot, or you’ve been married for decades, there are bound to be questions surrounding the topic of sex -- and that’s okay! (Part 1 of 2)

Receive the book "Secrets of Sex & Marriage" for your donation of any amount! Plus, receive member-exclusive benefits when you make a recurring gift today. Your monthly support helps families thrive:

Get more episode resources:

If you've listened to any of our podcasts, please give us your feedback:

See for privacy information.


Lonnie and Kay were high school sweethearts, but over time, the never-ending conflict and their loss of love threatened to tear their marriage apart. When we filled out our forms with Focus on the Family, they asked us if we believed in a miracle, if we were willing to allow a miracle to happen. And, you know, with all my heart, that's what I wanted. Lonnie and Kay attended Hope Restored, where Focus counselors help heal and restore broken relationships, giving husbands and wives godly hope for the future.

I guess what I'd say is I cherish her now more than I did before, and I have a way that I can communicate to her that I did not have before, and Focus on the Family has given me that ability. I'm Jim Daly. Working together, we can rescue more hurting couples like Lonnie and Kay.

Become a monthly giver today by calling 800 the letter A in the word family or visit slash family. One of the top questions that people come up to you with is, are we normal? Like, what we're dealing with, nobody else deals with. And the truth of the matter.

Now, obviously, Dr. Mike has seen this for decades in his therapy office, and we've seen this over the years constantly in the research, is that whatever you're dealing with, you are not alone. That's some great advice on healthy sexuality in marriage, and we'll be covering that topic today with a biblical perspective. And welcome to Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller, and we do want parents to know that we're going to be talking about some sensitive matters that aren't appropriate for younger kids. Johnny, I appreciate that.

You know, so often we think of intimacy in marriage as a taboo subject to talk about in public. I think it's one of the reasons the church has given so much over to the world. God created this as a gift, even raising my boys. I mean, forever.

Even when they were young and we first had the talk with them, which ended up being the talks, plural. But I can remember saying, hey, this is a gift from God. It's going to be a great wedding present. You can't treat it like a Christmas present where you peek on the end and look to see what's actually in there.

You just can't do that. This is a great gift God's going to give you. So the goal is to save it for marriage. But man, the church needs to own sexuality in marriage.

Because as the surveys suggest and tell us, the most satisfied sexual couples are those that are married and have faith in Christ. And I'm excited about that. Now, can we even do better in that area? And I think today's program is going to point many couples into a healthier place when it comes to their sexual relationship. Yeah, we've got Shanti Feldhahn. She's a social researcher, a best selling author, very popular speaker and a return guest here. She applies analytical skills and investigations and turns those into life changing truths about relationships. And we also have Dr. Michael Seitzma here. He's a licensed professional counselor and a certified sex therapist. Over 30 years of clinical experience.

And he's also a professor and a national speaker. He's the founder of Building Intimate Marriages Incorporated and co-founder of Sexual Wholeness Incorporated. And Shanti and Dr. Michael have written a book called Secrets of Sex and Marriage. Eight Surprises That Make All the Difference. Look for your copy on the website. The link is in the show notes or give us a call.

800 the letter A and the word family. Shanti, welcome back. It's so good to see you.

Thanks. It's always good to be with you guys. Please be sure to say hi to Jeff, your husband. I will. He is such a great guy.

Oh, thanks. Yeah, I'm sorry he couldn't be here. I always love it when he comes when you're on the broadcast with us because he's nice.

You guys just get along too well. I love it. And Michael, welcome for the first time. Thank you. I'm honored to be here. I appreciate it.

So good to have both of you. This is a touchy subject, isn't it? It is.

So to speak. I didn't mean it that way. I mean, you're a sex therapist, so you've heard it all probably. I like to say that I don't think anything could surprise or embarrass me any longer.

It's been a lot of years, way a lot of hours doing this. You guys are like at the top of your area of professions. How did the two of you get together?

I'm just curious. We actually connected because Jeff and I had recognized that this topic really needed to be covered. Because, you know, we do these research projects and try to dig out whatever the little things are that are going to matter for relationships and especially for marriages. And obviously this is a big one. And we had just finished the study on money. You guys may remember. Of course, this is the other topic. And so we're like, oh, darn. Wait a second.

People didn't catch that. This is the other topic. These are the two things in marriage, right?

Money and sex. They really are top argument starters. Yeah, exactly. Great way of putting it. And so we were realizing, oh, no, like we never would have expected that we would start to tackle this topic in one of these research projects.

But it was so needed. You know, I probably oversimplify this and I don't mean to do that, but to me there's like probably three buckets of relationship experience. The bucket of people, couples that are doing well in this area, their sexual relationship is healthy, it's good. Then you got that middle bucket of couples I'm thinking of who some days it's good, some days it's bad for whatever reason. And then you've got that last bucket where our hearts are broken, where this area of their marriage is not functioning well for a lot of reasons. And I'm not sure where you, the listener or the viewer, will be. I think we'll help to identify that over the next few minutes. But the key thing is getting the help you need and not being stuck in those ruts. Which does require us talking about it.

Yeah, absolutely. Shanti, let's start with you. You had a medical situation, you had a medical professional, as you were talking about, perhaps your sex drive.

You got to help me better understand this in the book. But she sounded rather exasperated over the idea of sex. Describe that. Because I could easily see my wife could be in that discussion saying, hey, okay, what's happening?

And a lot of us could. Here's basically what happened. I had, as some of you know, unexpectedly found out I had breast cancer. Went through all the treatments, you know, everything's good. But in the process of this, one of the treatments, it has, and many people will be aware of it, it really does diminish libido, basically.

Like you have to really kind of be aware of it. And so I was talking with one of these medical professionals and telling her about the research study that we were in the middle of at the time. And she said, can I take off my professional hat for a minute?

And I said, sure. And so she said, look, I'm just, my husband and I have been married for 20 years. We're way outside our newlywed years.

Does sex really matter all that much anymore? Yeah, this is a medical professional. This is a medical professional. Or really, this is just another cohort woman who's saying, yeah. Exactly. Doesn't seem that important to me. Exactly. And that is really the crux of a lot of people's question.

Does it really matter? And one of the things that we found that I was, Dr. Mike was not surprised because nothing surprises him, but I was surprised once we got all the surveys back and started seeing the data is, wow, it really does matter for a marriage. Let me put it this way. And Mike, this may be your analogy, but both of you respond to this. It seems like the car and putting oil in the car and how that keeps everything running smoothly. How does that relate to our sex life? Two people in relationship with each other, because we're different, because we're people, we're human, we have all the frailties of human, we're going to create some friction.

We're going to create some conflict between us. That's just normal. And the sexuality, playfulness, having fun together, experiencing joy, experiencing good feelings around each other, really helps to keep that friction moving smoothly. And sex is a powerful way that couples keep positive sentiment, good feelings just between them to where, okay, what you just did hurt my feelings, but you can make me feel really good too.

So we'll overlook it this time. It's kind of what happens with it. And when it's not working well, the friction tends to build up and it's not as good. The analogy that Mike used, and you mentioned it, Jim, was we think of it like an oil in a car engine. Like it's just, the gears are just going to grind to a stop.

It's going to break things. And there is something powerful that God designed here. Now, some people listening to this are going to be like, well, it shouldn't be that way, right?

But it kind of is. Well, that was actually my next question. I was going to say, you know, somewhat humorously, God, why did you do it this way? I mean, I know that's dangerous ground, so don't write me or call me on that, but I'm just saying it's somewhat humorous that he created typically men with quite a drive through the hormones that we possess and women with, you know, other thoughts of what they could do with that time, generally. And again, if it's opposite, I understand that. I'm just saying generally, but it seems like there's a humorous side to this. The Lord's going, well, I put you together and you need to become more selfless.

And this is one great way to teach you how to do that. And accept influence from each other, because what both are bringing to the table is rich and is good. But if I demand my way and don't accept influence from my wife, it doesn't work. If she demands her way and doesn't accept influence from me, it doesn't work, whether that be parenting or finances or how to handle the in-laws, and especially so in the sexual arena of our lives. Let me go to the three common wrong assumptions that we make.

What are those three wrong assumptions that we have toward our sexuality? Well, Dr. Mike always says that when he speaks, and I'm starting to see this now, too, now that Jeff and I are speaking on this topic, that the main question that people come up... You put this on Jeff. You're dragging Jeff out to talk. I am dragging him. I got to call Jeff.

I'm calling Jeff. But we are seeing the truth of what Dr. Mike has said, which is that when you speak on this topic, one of the top questions that people come up to you with, kind of wanting to talk in whispers around a corner, is, are we normal? What we're dealing with, nobody else deals with. And the truth of the matter... Now, obviously, Dr. Mike has seen this for decades in his therapy office, and we've seen this over the years constantly in the research, is that whatever you're dealing with, you are not alone. Correct.

It is definitely something that other people have had experience with. There's hope. There's help. The problem is that this is really one of the only, if not the only, areas of marriage that you don't even talk about with your closest friends. Right.

It's so close. You don't compare notes, and it's a sacred, private thing, which is probably to some degree as it should be, but it means that everybody is operating without a perspective of the fact that they aren't alone. And that one thing by itself can help relieve a lot of the tension that people put into this area of marriage. Right. So number one, you're not alone.

That's good. What's the second? The second one is this assumption that whether we're connecting in this way or not, it doesn't really impact the marriage. Like, those are two different things. And this is a wrong assumption. This is a wrong assumption, yeah. You know, the first assumption is that we're the only ones dealing with this. This assumption is that it really doesn't impact the marriage, and whoa, it really does, as I said earlier. It was astounding to me, looking at the numbers on the surveys.

And these were very large, expensive, nationally representative surveys that we were super excited about. We got a lot of robust data, and it demonstrated pretty profoundly, actually, that when you do have attention to this area of your life, you are far more likely to have a happier marriage. If you're communicating about this, you're far more likely to connect in this way. It is one of those things that it can be easy, I think, for a lot of us when we're busy, oh, it doesn't matter so much, or oh, I'm just tired.

And those are legitimate. That's a legitimate issue. And yet, to say it is important for us that we make this a priority.

Yeah, I appreciate that. You start by talking about three general categories of couples, those that this is just not an issue, it's going great. And it's going great because it's not an issue, and it's not an issue because it's going great. That big group of couples in the middle where there's something, and it may be we're not making it intentional enough or it's distracting, it can grow to be a problem if they don't stay on top of it. And then those couples that this is a problem area, often they come into my office and they want sex to not be a thing. Can we just not make this a priority in our marriage?

The rest of our marriage is going great. Why does this have to be a problem? And the reality of it is it is a problem.

The truth of it is if they lean in and really communicate effectively and work on it, they can move into at least the middle category and generally into the this is no longer an issue in our marriage because we've got it figured out, we've got a pace, we've got a way that we connect sexually that keeps that oil moving in the engine, and it stops being an issue. Well, and that leads actually to the third wrong assumption, which I know you were about to ask me about. I was. We know each other too well. But that actually what Dr. Mike said, the third wrong assumption is that it doesn't really matter if this is an awkward topic to communicate about because we found 73 percent. Which it will be. Yeah, which it often will be. And 73 percent of couples, I think it was 73 percent, said that they couldn't talk about this well. Like they kind of avoided it. It's uncomfortable.

It's uncomfortable. And so the wrong assumption is that doesn't really matter. Like actions speak louder than words, right? And we always say, yeah, but the numbers show that if you're not using the words, you may not be getting as much action because truly the communication on this, it had so many pivot points. And the encouragement to the average couple who was like me and Jeff, like when we started this, it was really difficult for us to talk about it. And one of the things that we learned over the course of the study is that the reason that it was difficult is that we thought what we were expected to talk about was like the technical stuff. Like the technique and like those things that you're thinking about. And no, it's often what's running under the surface, what are the insecurities that are in there, what are the here is why this is so emotionally important to me.

Those kinds of questions, those are a whole lot easier to connect on, and then it allows you to deal with the other stuff later. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, and our guests today are Shanti Feldhan and Dr. Michael Seitzma, and they've written a great book called Secrets of Sex and Marriage, eight surprises that make all the difference. Contact us today for your copy.

Our number is 800, the letter A in the word family, or check the show notes for details. Let me ask about the invisible gorilla. Yes, absolutely.

People are going, what did you say? The invisible gorilla, this is a test that was done. Tell us about it. So this is actually helping people understand how important it is that they really look at and believe the best of their spouses' intentions towards them. And it was a study at Harvard that really demonstrated the point that what you focus on is what you're going to see. These researchers at Harvard, they basically, you can find this on YouTube or anywhere, you just Google invisible gorilla.

These researchers at Harvard basically had a group of students who were passing a basketball back and forth, and they asked the viewers in the video, count how many times the people in the white shirts pass the basketball. And so you watch this video, and you're focusing on it. I did this, right? You're focusing on it.

And I said, I think it was 16 times, and it turns out it was 17. And then the video says, did you see the gorilla? That's just so funny.

And you're like, what gorilla? And it turns out in the middle of this, in the middle of all the basketball players, a person in a full-length gorilla suit walks into the middle, faces the camera and pounds its chest, and then keeps walking off camera. And half of the people who watch this video don't even notice it. Because they're counting the ball passes.

Because they're counting the ball passes. And it's what you focus on is what you are going to see. And that principle for marriage, that neuroscientific principle about how God wired us, is really important for this area in particular. Man, that is really impressive that we're so blind to that when it's right in front of you. Well, if you think about it, and this is something that Dr. Mike, I know, sees in his therapy office a lot. It is very easy when you are hurt. It is very easy when things have gotten hard to focus on those things. It is very easy to focus on the things that really are the hardship, and they're there, they're real. And yet recognizing there's all this other stuff that's there and that's real as well. And if you can focus on that, it's not saying to dismiss the hard stuff. You still need to deal with that in some way. But if you can focus on the good things, for example, maybe your wife who's been hurt because her husband is dealing with a pornography issue, something like that. And you can focus entirely on that, and it's legitimate. That's a legitimate issue. Or you can say, this is an issue. You need to deal with this, honey.

We need to get some solutions here. But, oh, my gosh, she's such a good dad. And, oh, my gosh, I love the fact that you are always so kind to me. And that will help you as it comes to intimacy, especially to be wanting to connect in that way.

We're going to get to that pornography issue in a moment and talk a little bit about that, not extensively, but we'll get to it. But first, I want to pull something out of the book that you mentioned that every man and woman has a certain look that they long for in their spouse that reflects their deepest needs or maybe their deepest fears, what you're expressing. How did you discover that and what are those deepest needs that you're describing? So this is diving back into the research that Jeff and I have been doing for years with men and women especially and recognizing that it looks statistically like men and women tend, not 100% of the time but tend, to have two different sets of primary insecurities running under the surface where a woman's might be categorized as sort of, am I lovable? A man might be thinking, am I able?

Am I good at what I do? She might be thinking, am I worthy of being loved? And those questions, they tend to come out in a lot of different ways. And so as a result, we're actually kind of looking for signals as to the answer to those insecurities. And so that look that you're talking about is really just a signal saying you are so lovable and you are somebody who I view as absolutely you do measure up.

I so appreciate what you do. And I think people are going, wow, yeah, I feel that. So I think that's going to resonate, that idea of am I able as a man and am I lovable as a woman. Dr. Mike, I want to ask you that question. To me, there would be degrees of that, if I could say it that way, like a person that might need to hear that ten times today that I'm lovable versus a person that might need to hear it three times.

The point is they need to hear it, but some women in that context would need to hear that often to feel good, and then some men. Honey, I'm sorry the pipe's not going to get me. I'm certainly in this category, some plumbing accident and there's water all over the place, and I'm going, I don't know how to do this, and Gene's going, let's get a plumber. You did a good job trying. And that good job makes you feel much better. Maybe.

It depends on how much water's on the floor. But the point is degrees of impression. And part of the struggle that comes in is let's say I have this big need for it, and my spouse, that may not be their skill set. It may not be how they see things. I often work with a couple where one of them just has a critical mind.

They're able to see stuff that's not right, and that is really good in their field. They do great in the marketplace with that type of a thinking, but they bring it home and their spouse feels kind of beat up because all you see are the negatives. I need you to be affirming me all the time. And the moment we look at our spouse and say, you've got to fill this need of mine, I don't think it works very well.

How do I take ownership of these needs, not demand that you be the answer for it or I'm going to reach outside the marriage? Yeah, I just want to jump in a little bit and have the two of you play off of one another's gender here, okay? I'm using the word. In that, Dr. Mike, I can see a man, and again, the shoe can be on the other foot. I get it.

You don't have to write me. I understand that. But the man going, really? I'm responsible? That sounds exhausting that I would be responsible for all her fears and her needs in that way.

And he's not going to be able to do it well. I do think it's important for each of us to learn how to speak to our spouse, how to care for them, how to cherish them, how to adore them. I think those are scriptural principles.

We can ground them in things that Paul and Christ have said. But to say that my spouse is responsible for me feeling good, that kind of puts me in a bit of a victim mode if you don't do well enough. And then I blame you and I attack you for not filling that need. And the reality of it is they sit in my office and I look and say, you're really demeaning your spouse in this moment.

You're saying that they're not measuring up. What is the heart of the person that you married? You married them because you love them and because you know they love you. And is this a heart issue or a skill issue? Their heart in my office is very much for you, but they don't affirm me enough. Well, that's a skill issue we can teach them to.

But how do you get to where you can draw things from them and you can fill your own heart? You and God work on that piece. So then what your spouse is giving you is the bonus, is the proverbial icing on the cake, that you're not asking them to be responsible for you feeling good in this. Yeah, I mean, it all sounds like it's going back to expectations, that nasty word, expectations.

But now on the woman's side, I would think, really? I've got to manage his ego? I do it all day long and I've got to tell him he's capable, he's good enough.

I mean, he's really not. There are some women who are listening to this going, seriously? And let me tell you, I actually used to be in that category. You're a strong woman. I am a strong personality, right? If you don't mind me saying so. I know you well enough. You've known me for, what, 25 years or something now. But it's who you are. It is. And I recognized two things, right? I recognized that, A, as Dr. Mike was saying, it's not my responsibility to make Jeff, for example, feel better about himself.

That's something that he was saying. He has to work it out with God. But I love one of the things that Dr. Mike actually said as I was wrestling with this in one of our meetings. We did a lot of research meetings, basically, about three or four hours every Wednesday for three years. And in one of those meetings, I was like, but how do I help him?

How do I help my husband? I'm not responsible. And he said, look, think of it like he's out there fighting a battle and you can either give him ammunition to fight the battle well or you could be shooting at him. And so it's like you're helping him or not. And that to me was, okay, I can get behind that because it's still his responsibility. And yet I recognize that I'm in a unique position as his wife, called by God, to try to be a partner to him in the way he needs.

This is sounding exactly right. And then there's a problem called our flesh and triggers. And you know what? I know the right thing to do.

I don't feel like doing it right now. And that's not okay. That withholding sense, that is outside of the goal that God has called for us. We step in and we do care for our spouse. And we have to be able to receive it well. To pull from that example, how many times husband said in my office and say, I tell my wife I think she's beautiful. I think she's so competent. I enjoy her body and being with her. And she just says, you can't, you don't.

I don't believe that. And we're not able to receive her. My wife will say, you're amazing.

And he doesn't receive it. So it gets really messy in the mix of this. And for me the invitation is, what is the vision? What are we striving toward? We both love each other. We got into this because we liked each other.

And how do we hang onto that and believe the best in each other as we keep moving forward? There is so much here. And I can't wait to come back and talk about this in a deeper way. And we'll get to the things that we didn't cover.

And we're not going to cover everything in the book, obviously. But Shanti and Dr. Michael, this has been so good. Thank you for being here for this first day. And let's come back and continue. Can we do that? Absolutely. Yeah, excellent. I hope you're going, wow, okay, this is something I think I need.

Let's make it real easy and fun. If you can send a donation of any amount, if you can do that monthly, it's great. Or a one-time gift, that's fine too. But join the ministry and let's help other couples do well.

And get a copy of this book. We'll send it for that gift as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry. If you can't afford it, from time to time I say this, we are a Christian ministry. We want this book in your hands. We'll trust that others will give enough to cover the cost of taking care of you if you can't afford to help us right now.

So that's all good. And again, it's Secrets of Sex and Marriage, eight surprises that make all the difference. I think this is just like run out of here, John, these books. So get in touch with us and get help today. Yeah, we're especially hopeful to have a thousand people joining our monthly Sustain Your Team. Sign up to be a monthly pledge partner with us if you can.

Or as Jim said, make a one-time donation of any amount. We'll send the book to you as our way of saying thanks for being a part of the support team. We're a phone call away for the book to make a donation and to connect with one of our counselors. If you're one of those folks that is really struggling with this topic and you don't know where to turn, 800, the letter A in the word family is our number 800-232-6459 or click the links in the show notes. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back next time as we continue the conversation and once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. Find the family clubhouse junior magazines at slash club radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-16 07:12:13 / 2023-03-16 07:24:39 / 12

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime