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How to Experience Great Intimacy and Love in Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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January 3, 2024 2:59 am

How to Experience Great Intimacy and Love in Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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January 3, 2024 2:59 am

Dave and Ashley Willis help husbands and wives rediscover God's design for a marriage that enables them to be emotionally, spiritually and physically vulnerable and transparent with each other. They share their own love story and describe how “love is not enough” to sustain a lifelong marriage; couples need to commit to serving and sacrificing for each other. (Part 1 of 2)


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I think vulnerability in marriage is saying things to your spouse that you don't even really want to admit maybe to yourself, but sharing that anyway. Sharing fears and stuff about yourself that maybe is uncomfortable. I think vulnerability and transparency means just being honest about everything.

I think it means you just don't keep secrets. Regarding vulnerability, it's easier for me than him. I wonder if those comments describe your marriage. Do you feel like it can be open and transparent, no secrets with your spouse? Today on Focus on the Family, we'll explore how husbands and wives can experience greater vulnerability and intimacy and love in marriage. Thanks for joining us.

Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, I can already hear people going, feelings? Oh, no.

And they're like, let's go listen to some music right now. But it's true. And this is an area for me that's really difficult. You know, I think when Jean and I talk about this, you know, being an orphan kid, I learned to kind of just put it in a suitcase and deal with it.

Right. So there's those moments where she's going, I need your heart in this discussion, and I got to go find it. Sometimes that's hard to do. It's just life can be easier if you just like lock it away and just get up and do the day and be done with it.

I think men tend to lean in that direction. We compartmentalize so many things. That's why we're good at battle. We come back like the guys did from World War Two and never talked about it.

We can do that. Women, no, they want to talk about it. They're, you know, fully integrated.

They're two halves of their brains. We end up, you know, being a little isolated. So today we're going to get into it because it'll make your relationship better. This is as much for me as it is for you. And we're going to be covering unconditional love, which is something I don't know, Jim, I struggle with this.

I want to love my wife unconditionally, but I put stipulations and causes, and I'm just a human, a selfish guy, and I'm trying, but it's hard. Sounds like rules and regulations. You are going to bring up the first point there. I'm not going to say it.

All right. Well, no couple loves each other perfectly. And that's the promise we have for today's show. And our guests are Dave and Ashley Willis.

They've been here a number of times, and we're so glad to have them back. Dave and Ashley are authors and speakers and co-founders of And they host the Naked Marriage podcast. And since 2018, they've been part of the Exo Marriage Ministry. They've written a number of books, and we're going to be covering the content of two in particular today, a wife's edition and a husband's edition of Seven Days to a Naked Marriage. And we've got those two books bundled here at the ministry.

The details are in the show notes. Well, Dave and Ashley, welcome back. Thank you. Hey guys, it's great to be back. It's always good to have you here. We love it. It's just like we're talking as old friends, right?

Yes. And that's so good. Man, let's start with your love story. It's always fun to do that.

You guys are so vulnerable and so open with both the highlights of that and the lowlights of that. How did you meet and when did you know you were going to get married? Was it like love at first sight? Well, it kind of was for me. I mean, I don't know. Typical male. You know, it took her, maybe took her longer.

I don't know. It was pretty quick. When she walked in, it was her very first day of college and I was a junior.

I was a couple years ahead and she walked into class one day and I don't even know if she saw me or knew I existed, but she was laughing and talking and just lit up the room and I thought, I've got to get to know her. Now, why were you there in this particular room? Were you a junior that was looking at the fridge?

Right. What was going on there? Making up a misclass. You're making me sound like that. Yeah, it's terrible.

Really, really terrible. You had a function, I would assume? That was actually part of the... Orientation or something? Right. Yeah.

Let me help. Let me help the new freshmen find their way around. No, it was a class I'd kind of like put off. It was actually an acting class randomly. We were communication majors and in communication at our little liberal arts school, a little Christian school where we went, they threw acting in as one of the classes you could take and I'd kind of put it off because I'm like, I don't want to do that, but I put it off. I took it my junior year.

She took it as a freshman and it was just so fun. And of course I looked for every excuse to do acting scenes together. Like, oh, we would work well together.

Especially the kissing scene. I know. Right. Yeah. You really did try.

We never got paired though. I don't know why in that class, but you said you noticed me because I was wearing a hat. I'm a big time hat person.

I noticed a lot more than the hat, but yeah. But I was wearing this fisherman's hat that's really popular in the late 90s, early 2000s. And we chatted it up that whole semester. We were just kind of acquaintances, kind of friends. And then you ended up asking me to your fraternity formal and we went to each others, like we went to some dances together and really got to know each other. And very quickly, I mean, we, we really, I just felt like we both, we started talking marriage pretty quickly.

Wouldn't you say sweetie? Wow, that's good though. Yeah. I knew I had to like, I had to seal this deal before she realized how much better she could do. Oh my goodness. I've got to make sure that I'm laying the plane here.

No, it's so true. We just knew, I mean, we, we knew like we wanted to be together and, and of course we had a lot to learn, but we knew we wanted to figure it out together. We wanted to, we wanted to be husband and wife. And so we, we got engaged pretty quickly and It's always a little bit of an awkward moment when that, you know, it can be, and you know, you don't want to make the assumption cause that's not good.

And then you wanted to get the point across that, man, I'm really interested. So it's always that struggle of where's that and Gina and I had that, I mean, we knew both of us, I think knew, but it took us, this is kind of funny. It took us like six months to get to the point of going, do you think, do you think, right.

And you don't even have to fill in the blank. She knows exactly what I'm talking about. Me telling her I love her for the first time was one of the most awkward moments of my life because I was so nervous.

Right. And so she was like, what do you think? And I wanted to say it, but I couldn't get it out. I'm like, I was just, you know, I was, I was thinking like, um, you know, like I, I was just thinking and that I, you know, I, I am literally did this. It was just smiling, waiting for it. I was like, I love, you know, I, you didn't even say I really, I think that I love and before I could even get it out, she said, I love you too.

I did. And I said, I said, sweetie, I love you too. There's so much in that transaction because guys, we do not like to fail and we don't want to go out on the limb unless we have an assurance that we're going to win. So that's why I think guys hesitate.

Like I'm not quite sure I'm getting the right vibe from you. So that's why you got to finish the sentence for me ever since you have a quote that you like and it says, love is not enough for a marriage to work. I mean, I understand it, but come on, isn't love enough?

Well, I mean love in the world's definition like is the world's definition of love is really so superficial. You know, it's kind of this, uh, something we derive from love songs and Hallmark movies and where it's this picture of love where it's always going to be easy. If you marry the right person, you're always going to have these feelings. You're never going to struggle.

It's never going to take real work. But, but real marriage takes a lot more than that. I mean, it takes a commitment to each other, even on the days when maybe you struggle to like each other in that moment. Um, because you're so committed to each other and it's rooted in action and that's, that's the way God, God loves us with a committed love that's rooted in action and, and we've got to love each other that way. So I think we've got to just break free from the world's very shallow definition of love to what God has in store and in mind for marriage, which is it's selfless, it's sacrificial at times.

It's going to take work, but it's so worth it. I was thinking about the transactional nature of that. You think of the world and now, you know, psychology has shown that basically love defined by the world is that infatuation.

Yes. It lasts about two years and it's kind of like God's sense of humor to say, okay, I'm going to give you a dose of dopamine in your brain. It's going to give you, you're going to have this infatuation because if you didn't, it probably would never, we'd never have children. I mean, I'm thinking, okay, Lord, what are you thinking?

And, but that's true. I mean, he does in the way he created us. He gives us this, like you could do nothing wrong and then that wears off and then the hard work of marriage starts. You know, you're doing everything wrong. Well, I didn't think it was me. I thought it was you, you know, how that, how that all goes. We mentioned your books, seven days to a naked marriage. And I guess the question is, Hey, how'd you come up with that title? Everyone's going, did I just hear that correctly? And then you know, it's, it's talking about a, a bouquet of intimacy, if I could say it that way. But first for some of those folks that are going, what, what, what they use the word naked.

God uses the word naked. What? Yeah. Genesis. Okay.

Give it to me. Well, in Genesis two, it talks about Adam and Eve, the very first married couple being naked and unashamed. And that's really where having a naked marriage comes from. It's being naked. Yes.

Physically. That's a part of it. That's an awesome part of it, but that's not the only part we got to be naked physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. And basically it means being vulnerable, being vulnerable, you know, showing everything, really being known and fully knowing your spouse. I mean, that's really the goal is, and that's when you get that grit that you're talking about that we don't tend to have, you know, in those first two years where we're going off the dopamine we had from the infatuation, but when, you know, everything really gets, you know, the reality hits that like, Oh my gosh, we're imperfect people and we have to work things out.

And I don't like every little thing you do. Like there's things that annoy me and I need to work through that. You know, that's where we have to get that grit to work through all those things. And, and we get that by being honest and by loving through those hard times and not letting it be this conditional kind of willy nilly, if I'm not feeling it, I'm not going to be here for you kind of love. Well, I think even, you know, we're kind of giggling and laughing about the title and all that, but there is a, um, a deep problem in the church. I mean, even some people listening and I get it everybody, there's a certain, I don't know if it's false prudishness about it, but that the Lord created us, right? Yes.

Naked and unashamed. Like we were just there. We didn't know any better, right? Adam and Eve, this is who we are.

You made us, everything's good. And then sin enters into humanity and all of a sudden we're covered and ashamed and we still live that way. Even if I can say it, even in the Christian community, marriages live in that place of cover up and shame, but they don't have to as the good news. Like we get back to God's original design and by his grace and we can get back to that place of being naked and unashamed where, yeah, we still have flaws. Nakedness is that picture of vulnerability where whether it's physical or emotional, it says like, this is me, I kind of warts and all scars and all and I see you and your scars too, but I accept you just the way you are.

You accept me just the way that I am. And there's such a, an intimate connection that happens when you can be fully known and fully loved by someone and God fully knows us and fully loves us. So he went first. I mean, he went first with showing us what that looks like, but in marriage we can get back to that place. So it's, it's heartbreaking for us when we see couples that are hiding from each other, hiding certain things, um, because they're robbing themselves of that deep, wonderful, intimate connection that God designed them to have.

You, uh, you did premarital counseling, by the way. Uh, that is critically important. Again, we lean on a lot of research here at focus.

I think that's one reason. Hopefully you trust what we have to say, the resources that we produce, et cetera. But, uh, the minimum number of hours, if you can receive 10 hours of premarital counseling, your likelihood of staying together is quite high.

It's in the, I think the 90 something percentile range for 10 hours of counseling. Now we were, we, Jean and I, we saw that we had probably 12 couples in our premarital counseling. I think three walked out saying, yeah, we're not ready for this. That's good, but that's a good thing. That's a good thing. I mean that they were, it caught their attention.

We are not either meant for each other or, you know, we need to do some work. So how was your premarital counseling? And did you guys go in going, we are so much alike. Yeah, we totally did.

We get a discount on our wedding license if we check this off the box. But no, but we learned a lot and it challenged us and it, it was a wake up call. It helped us to see we're not nearly as good as we think. So you were in there and you realize that, Oh yeah, I wasn't that smart. No, we, we did, especially in the area of communication, we went in very prideful because both of us have degrees in communication. My parents were right. It was a dumb major. No, it's not. We've used it. How are you going to feed yourself with that major?

I wouldn't want to go there. They honestly did ask that. Here you are. No, but we really did. We thought even with like relationships, like we were like, Oh, even in marriage, like we got this, like we majored in communication. Like we got this. And they did this exercise with us where basically they had us each say something and the other could not talk when the others, like when this was talking, telling a story and it was like in a minute or something. And we're supposed to listen intently. And then when they're finished, we're supposed to say, what I hearing you say is, and then we would say what we thought we were hearing them say.

And we both did this and we both really got it wrong. Like, because I think what we were doing, instead of actually listening, we were thinking about how good we are at this and what we were going to say back. And we were assuming we knew what they were going to say, because that's what we tend to do. Like, well, I hear the beginning of this and I'm just assuming I know the rest of the story.

And right then and there, it was like, it was a wake up call to us. Like, man, we have a lot of work to do in this communication thing and that it's not something that you just arrive at, like in life. It's a journey. Like, you're always learning about each other.

You always need to be a good listener and not just think about your response, like really listen to your spouse. And so we've worked on that, you know, for 22 years. We're still learning. And how's that going, Dave? Yeah, it's a lot better than it was.

Better than it was. Okay. I'm a work in progress. It's good to let her answer that question. That was excellent. Yes, how do you feel like it's going?

I concur. I have that problem where I finish, you know, people are going to go, you are kidding me. But I'll tend to, if Jean's kind of taken a little while to put the noun at the end of the sentence, I'll offer three or four. You're like a Google auto-singer. She's so good. She likes, she'll look at me and say, can I finish my sentence? Yes. I'm still doing it.

We've been married 37 years. I think it's a little lower volume, but it's like this thing I can't get rid of. And that's what you're talking about. That's it. See, I'd interpret good listening skills as finishing someone's sentence. I'm really listening to you.

In fact, so intently, I can finish what you're going to say. Right. Right. They don't think so. Exactly.

She doesn't think so. Exactly. No. And I've done that for Dave.

Like there's been several times where I'm like, I'll insert something and he's like, no, that is not. Yeah. Like I'm going to go get a sandwich. Go for a run.

Go to Lowe's. Like, no, no, I'm going to go to take a shower. It's like this multiple choice thing. Yes.

Just let me say it. Exactly. That's the benefit of premarital counseling is to learn, oh, we have a tendency maybe to do that.

Yes. And I'm glad you're listening to Focus on the Family today with Jim Daly because we're talking about marriage and some of the foibles, some of the challenges we all experience. Dave and Ashley Willis are our guests and they have written and spoken about marriage a lot and they're sharing a lot of their own personal experiences with us today. They've captured a lot of the content that we're talking about in a couple of books. There's a wife's edition and a husband's edition of Seven Days to a Naked Marriage. This is a great day-by-day guide to developing intimacy. And we've got this bundle of books for you.

The show notes have all the details. Dave, one obstacle to the vulnerability of marriage is something you call emotional sunburn. Now being a fair-skinned Irish guy, I'm connecting with you. I have had plenty of sunburns in my life and now I go to the dermatologist quite regularly. But what does that mean, emotional sunburn?

Yeah, so like when our family would go to the beach, we noticed that none of us were applying sunscreen effectively and we were all pretty fair-skinned. And so by the time we get back home at the end of the night, everybody was sore, needing aloe and just in a bad mood. Why did we go there? Why did we do that?

That was horrible. And I would notice that if someone would come and just tap my back like, hey Dave, how was your day? And they'd pat me on the back. I'd want to punch him in the face, right? Because they touched a place where I was wounded.

It had nothing to do with anything they did wrong. There was just under my shirt, there was this wound that they could not see. And in marriage, I think we all kind of carry to some level, these invisible emotional sunburns that over time, you know, our hearts have been wounded by different things. Maybe we've even wounded one another.

These wounds can be invisible. And yet when our spouse in close proximity to us just says something or just kind of touches us a certain way, it might evoke this irrational emotional response that surprises them and makes them think that they've done something terribly wrong when really, it's just a defense mechanism that we build up to protect our own wound. And so in marriage, you've got to become experts in navigating each other's woundedness and not lashing out in your own woundedness. Because it's something that all of us are prone to do when we're hurt, we tend to lash out and cause further damage.

But in marriage, we have to take a step back even in our pain sometimes, and lean in and really work through the process together. Okay, I'll stick with the analogy of the sunburn. So what's the aloe? What do you put on that soothes that pain?

That's a great question. I think that the aloe is a combination of listening of tenderness of compassion, of encouraging words, of just serving one another. And depending on your spouse's temperament, their personality, the level of the woundedness, their own individual kind of love language, all those things, that aloe might look a little bit different. But for all of us, it's going to require a lot of tenderness and time. Well, and I think one of the challenges you have there is that it's typically an external treatment, meaning your spouse provides it. If you have those wounds, it's hard for you to provide it for yourself. But when your spouse is able to soothe you, that's a good thing.

Yeah. And really, we also have to lean lean into the Lord on our own, of course. So like our spouse has to be part of that process.

But your woundedness is something you need to take first to Jesus and find that healing in him. And then let your spouse be part of that process. Don't shut them out from it. Don't push them away. You use the books, you use actually the marital vows.

We haven't really said that. One is to love and cherish. And Dave, I understand you like to illustrate this vow with living room furniture. I'm not sure.

That sounds really romantic, by the way. It is. Yeah.

Connect the dots for me. Yes. Yeah. Well, I'm a visual learner, right? So if I can like see something, I just kind of understand the concept more. And so in one of the talk we did at a marriage conference, we had some furniture on stage.

There was a love seat in the middle and two individual chairs next to the love seat. Oh, that's good. Yeah. I know where this is going.

I'll do good stuff, right? Yeah. So the love seat we would sit in and we'd say, okay, now this represents, you know, it's an actual love seat, but it represents, you know, love where love should live in your marriage, where you're united, you're here together. But another posture marriage can have is when you're in these two individual seats, you know, you're not the same place, you know, it's his and hers. And from this distance, it's so easy to get disconnected, to blame each other, to not lean in, to not connect intimately. And so many couples are in this dynamic. And so the whole goal is like, let's get in that love seat together, which means we're united physically, emotionally, spiritually, and we're together. You know, our proximity is near one another, both physically and emotionally. And if you're not there, if you feel that distance, then work actively to figure out how, where the distance started and then how do we get back together?

How do we write this course and get back in the same place again? Yeah. Hey, Ashley, you've been really vulnerable in the writing of these. And even when we've been here at the studio talking, you guys are refreshingly open about your shortcomings, which is great.

That's what we attach to. Because when we're honest, we got similar ones, if not the exact same ones. And in that way, you don't always feel lovingly or inviting toward Dave, especially when you've been dealing with children all day long.

That's completely understandable. What advice do you have for wives, mothers who struggle to cherish their husbands? Because they're not that cherishable. So I guess the quid pro quo there is, A, do we have to earn that cherished spot? And then B, how does a woman show that kind of cherishedness toward her husband, if that's a word? Yes. No, I love that question because I do, especially when we are in the thick of raising children, we can get so kind of focused on the kids, that we get frustrated when our husband actually needs something. Like when our husband comes to us and is like, hey, you want to have some intimate time together? Or hey, do you want to go on a date?

It feels like another thing on the list. And so what I would say... So when you say, are you serious? That's really not a good response. Right. Probably not.

Probably not. But I mean, I totally get the sentiment of it. And I've probably said it before myself. Because I do, I think we feel like there's all these plates we're keeping spinning, all these things we're trying to take off the list or whatever. But I think that we can't see our husband in our relationship with our husband that way. I mean, this is the one that we have pledged to live our whole life with.

It's our best friend. And so we have to not see him as another thing on our list and really make intentional time for him to really spend that time and talk to him. And I mean, that may look like putting the kids to bed earlier than you normally would so that you can have an actual conversation with your husband. Four o'clock bedtime. Yeah.

I know. And the kids, I would just say the kids aren't going to like it. The kids aren't going to like an hour earlier bedtime, but that's okay. I mean, you're the parents, you got to set those rules and just have that time. And even just, you know, making sure that there's room in your day for your spouse. And I would encourage husbands too, especially in the thick of raising kids, like don't let everything fall on your wife.

You guys are partners are in this together. Make sure that you're communicating well and assume the best of each other. Assume the best that he didn't know that you expected him to do that. Or she did not know that you had put that on the calendar. Like just go and communicate and say, listen, I would like more time with you.

And if you go from the heart, I mean, that's how you cherish each other is really getting to the heart of things and that you want to have that time together. Actually. One thing I want to recognize for wives and mothers right now is that I, as you were talking, it hit me. Everybody's pulling on you. Yes. And I can get that because typically in that busy season, you're not as the wife initiating intimacy. Right. And you feel like I've got the kids pulling on me and I got my husband pulling on me. It's pour out, pour out, give, give, give, give, give who's filling my tank. Just describe that.

And then what can we do as husbands to help fill that tank up in a way that feels, um, true and not motivated by some other underlying desire. Exactly. No, in that you just hit the nail on the head. I think that that is when wives feel like, oh, he's only doing this because he knows we're going to have a special time together later. It can feel inauthentic.

And so I would say, yes, I agree with you. I mean, I remember those times. My kids are a little older now, but I remember feeling like, man, literally like literally and figuratively everything and everyone pulling at me. And it just felt like, gosh, can I just have a moment to myself, you know?

And I would say as a husband, what you can do is help, help give your wife that moment to herself. Like I remember just a little example when we had, we had several small children in our house and we were at a new place and I was trying to get kind of, you know, into the community. And I had this girl come up to me at church and said, Hey, Ashley, I heard it used to be a dancer. Well, we have a dance team at our church and it's kind of a small group too. We pray together.

We do life together. Would you like to come? And I'm like, well, yes, I would love to come. When do you meet? And she was like Tuesdays at seven or whatever. And immediately I thought I have too much on me.

I can't do that. And I later on in the day was talking to Dave about it and was like, he was like, how was your day? You know? And I was like, Oh, well Sarah came up to me and told me that the church has a dance team. Isn't that just so cool.

They celebrate the arts, man. I would just love to be part of that. It's just too bad. I can't. And he stopped me right there and said, no, no, no. When is it? And I was like Tuesdays at seven. And he goes, I will rearrange my schedule.

We're giving you Tuesdays at seven. And it was like every week having small children and at the time I was staying at home. So it was like, I was at home all day with kids, which is awesome. And I loved it.

But to be able to go and be with people who love the Lord, who loved to dance, who want to pray with me and do life with me, it literally just was, it was like wind, fresh wind to me. And so I would just encourage husbands. It may not be a dance team for your wife, but like find a way to give her that time. And then I'm telling you, when she sees you being intentional about giving her that time, it naturally, she feels cherished and she's going to lean in more to you because she knows you're trying to be a true partner. Well, this has been great. I mean, I think people are getting the vibe that this is good material and you know, again, everything rests on the foundation of the Lord and that's, what's so good. And yeah, you know, it's obvious when you read the word and pray and the Lord gives you the insights, how this should roll.

We still struggle with that even as Christians, but you have done a great job with seven days to a naked marriage, the guys edition and the girls edition. And I hope you're feeling it. So thank you for being with us and for the folks. I mean, again, we're trying to put a good meal in front of you every day that we're in the studio and, you know, give you a resource and some thoughts and ideas that make your marriage better. And this is one of those resources we believe in. So get in touch with us. If you can help us in ministry, let's do this together.

Help other couples find a better place. Make a gift of any amount. If you could do it monthly, that's great. A one-time gift is fine. We'll send you copies of these books as our way of saying thank you for being a partner in ministry.

Yeah. Play it today as you can. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word family.

800-232-6459. Or stop by the show notes to learn more. And when you're online, check out our free marriage assessment. More than a million people have taken this and it's a really tremendous resource. It'll take maybe 10 or 15 minutes even for this assessment as a couple and you take it and then you'll have hours of conversation afterwards about what's working well in the relationship and maybe some improvement points.

It's free, so check out the Focus on the Family marriage assessment online. The details are in the show notes. Dave and Ashley, again, thanks for being with us. Let's come back next time and keep exploring this great topic. Can we do that? Oh, I'd love it.

Yeah. Thank you for having us. Well, we hope you can join us then. And for now, on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. which program will work best. Call us at 1-866-875-2915.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-03 05:04:50 / 2024-01-03 05:18:10 / 13

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