Fully Known and Fully Loved
Dave and Ann Wilson talk with Ryan and Selena Frederick about the freedom in a marriage where both spouses are fully known and fully loved. Shame makes us want to hide, but transparency leads to a greater purpose than just intimacy in marriage-more glory for God. What's the right heart posture to build a love that "rejoices in the truth?" What should we do if we think our spouse is hiding something? And what's the difference between "keeping" peace and "making" peace?
About the Guest
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FierceMarriage.com in 2013 when they felt God calling them to share, with brutal transparency, the struggles God had helped them overcome. Since then, Fierce Marriage has grown into a thriving online community with hundreds of thousands of readers each month. Ryan and Selena have two daughters and live in Tacoma, Washington.
Ryan and Selena Frederick talk about the freedom in a marriage where both spouses are fully known and fully loved. Ryan and Selena also explain the difference between “keeping” peace and “making” peace.
Fully Known and Fully Loved
Bob: The Bible says, when we get married, the two are to become one; but if we are honest, there are parts of who we are—things about our past or things we may be thinking—that we just don’t share with each other. Ryan Frederick says, when we open up wisely and carefully, God can draw us closer together as a couple.
Ryan: Out of the blue—I mean out of the blue—I’m in my mid-30s—something from like when I was like 10/11/12 years old that had happened, popped into my memory that I had never told Selena about; but it was very shameful for me. Finally, we were doing communion at church one morning, and I just felt the Holy Spirit say, “Today’s the day. You have to just bring her into this.” What was the result from that? I felt so loved because she looked at me; and she just said, “Thank you for sharing. I still love you.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, September 17th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Are you and your spouse transparent with one another? Do you really know each other at the deepest level? How can you move closer in that direction? We’re going to explore that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. One of the things listeners recognize about you guys, if they’ve listened for any length of time, is that—
Dave: Oh boy! Where are we going?
Bob: You are remarkably—
Bob: —transparent. Don’t you think? I mean, when you compare yourself to average people, who are a little more guarded, you are kind of like, “What you see is what you get. We don’t hide behind much.”
Dave: It’s a little scary at times, especially when we’re on stage, and I don’t know what my wife is going to bring up or say; and she has brought it all up.
Ann: I don’t think it has even been intentional, necessarily. It’s just who we are—kind of messy and messed up. I feel like I probably bring that a little bit more than Dave. Now, Dave has just—you have gone there, totally.
Dave: I was going to add—this program isn’t about us—but it is intentional.
One of the values at our church as I lead our teaching team—it’s always like/I always say, “Every sermon should always have at least two things: one, our brokenness/how we’ve failed; in fact, I’ve even said, “If there’s not a story of weakness, go back and rewrite that sermon.” I’m not adamant about that, but there should be/I want the audience to go, “Wow. They struggle like I do”; but at the same time, there should be victory in Christ so they go, “Yes; but they know Jesus in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced that.” They [see] both transparent—and they get a real view into your struggle, and your marriage, or wherever—but they also see the power of God at work. They’re both true simultaneously.
Bob: We’re talking about transparency today because we’ve got some guests, who are joining us, who believe that transparency and vulnerability are an essential part of a healthy marriage.
Dave: Yes; you got to love the title of their book: See-Through Marriage by Ryan and Selena Frederick. It’s interesting to think—See-Through Marriage—when you see the title, you’re like, “Exactly what does that mean?” [Laughter] It could be a little scary; but then you read the subtitle, Experiencing the Freedom and Joy of Being Fully Known and Fully Loved. I think that describes what every human soul longs for; we do want to be fully loved and fully known. Yet, in a marriage, it’s hard to do; so it’s exciting to think of.
They are the authors of Fierce Marriage and a website with a few people—[Laughter]—like hundreds of thousands of people that they impact. This book is just another of a series that you guys have written. You are a couple that is see-through.
Dave: What’s that mean? What does see-through marriage mean?
Ryan: For us, transparency has just kind of been a way of living. I’d say we’ve been in fierce marriage for about seven years now/eight years. One of the things that really drove us into that was realizing that—“Wow; there is kind of another level of intimacy that we’ve experienced,”—because we had a pastor that had taught us what it meant to be transparent. That’s kind of bled into how we’ve communicated through marriage.
Really, it’s revolutionized our own marriage. We value it; it’s a big part of how we communicate. This book was just a response to all the response we get from our readers and listeners, saying, “What does it mean?” “How do we do it?” and “How can we start that journey?” So here we go.
Selena: Yes; we definitely did not arrive there. It took a long time, I think, to cultivate—even for us: “What does that mean?” “What does that look like day to day?” “Even big picture, year to year, what does that look like?”
Selena: “How do we”—it’s more than just, you know, checking in and accountability; right? There is so much more to—
Selena: —being transparent with each other than that.
Bob: So you guys would be different than—I mean, Ann described Dave and her as being kind of naturally out-there people. Would you say that you had to cultivate transparency? It did not come as naturally to you?
Ryan: I think, I mean, I think for every sinner—right?—you have to cultivate it to an extent. You have to realize that this walking in the light—so we talk a lot in the book about 1 John, Chapter 1—it’s that verse we all kind of know; it says: “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we will have fellowship with one another. We will be cleansed from unrighteousness.” I think that walking in the light—it becomes more intuitive; right?—as we learn to rely on the Holy Spirit.
I think, in general, we live transparently, just personality-wise; right? I’m a terrible actor. I was in a play once as a kid. I could not pretend to be somebody I wasn’t; it was horrible! Anytime I’ve been able to speak in front of a—it’s always got to be out of your heart, so I think that’s kind of natural in that regard; but in terms of being known in our sin, and like being vulnerable and taking our shame to one another, it did take some very conscious cultivating trust/cultivating our understanding of what it means to be loved in light of the gospel—what you guys were saying.
Dave, you were talking about being fully known and still fully loved. That’s the beauty of the gospel; right? We want that so badly in life and in marriage. I think marriage is designed with that end in mind; but we just—it takes a leap of faith to get there/to realize that, “Wow! You actually do still love me even after I’ve brought this to you.”
Selena: Right. I think we can even tend to think that we are being transparent; but I think, really, our tendency—if we look at Genesis 3, our tendency is to hide; right? Our tendency is to get really good at hiding/to get really good at putting up these—posturing—
Selena: —and sharing, maybe, just enough; because I think there is this middle part of like, “Just enough and too much”; right? How do we know when to share what, and how do we know that it’s being productive and not more destructive?
I think that’s something, when you get married, you are—hopefully, this book will lead you to want to explore those areas more and not just think that—you know, you’ve got to figure it out; because I know we felt like we had stuff figured out; we felt like we were honest. But as you guys know, as you’re married for longer and longer, you realize you’re just getting better at hiding things, maybe, and not being so upfront because: “Oh, they might not care.” You rationalize it a little bit more.
Dave: Now, when you go back to the—you mentioned Adam and Eve—if you go back to the first marriage, Adam and Eve—before Genesis 3, like Genesis 1 and 2—there is this phrase in there; and I am wondering if this is the what see-through marriage is—is “They were naked and unashamed.” What would your understanding be of: “What does it mean to be naked and unashamed in your marriage?”
Ryan: Yes; when you mentioned—I love that you brought up the Garden, pre-fall, because that was—that was the ideal. It was how creation was designed to function, and then here sin enters the picture and breaks everything. We are living in light of that brokenness. Thank God we have Jesus; that He has shown us a better tree.
Just like Adam and Eve used to run—they would run, and they would hide in the trees; right? Then God is walking through the Garden; He is saying, “Where are you? What have you done?” It’s not like God forgot where they were/couldn’t find them; right? He was calling them into a reflective state of how the relationship had broken; but in a similar way, we want to naturally kind of hide in the trees in the Garden.
We have a new tree now to hide behind; and that is the person and work of Christ on the cross and the sacrifice that He gave us. He gave Himself for us. To be naked and unashamed, I think, in a true sense—okay; it’s really easy as marriage writers just to say, “Hey, just be honest, and build trust, and do all these things,”—but like, “Okay; what’s going to fuel that?” If that doesn’t come from somewhere deeper, and my identity doesn’t go deeper than just what I’ve done and even who I am, my identity has to be in Christ.
In 1 John, when he writes, “Walk in the light,” it’s an active walking in the light, not just so I can be naked in front of you. It’s not this—like, “I’m prideful; I’m naked,” “I’m ashamed. Here I am; take it or leave it,”—it’s not that. It’s: “I’m being transparent so that/so that we can go somewhere together; so that we can be made cleansed from unrighteousness so that we can have fellowship.”
I think true/I think biblical transparency isn’t just transparency for its own sake. It’s transparency with an end mind: and that is righteousness; that is fellowship; that is experiencing greater depth of relationship so that we can get a glimpse of what it’s like to be known and loved by God in marriage.
Ann: In terms of practicality, what should we be transparent about?
Ryan: That’s a good question. Our personal sort of test is: “Whatever that thing is that you want to hide, whatever that thing is that incites shame in you, whatever that thing is that incites fear instead of faith in you—that’s the thing. That’s the thing you need to figure out a way forward.”
I’ll just use a really quick personal example. I had been watching sermons online; God had been working on my heart over a couple of weeks. Out of the blue—I mean out of the blue—I’m in my mid-30’s—something from when I was 10/11/12 years old that had happened popped into my memory that I had never told Selena about, but it was very shameful for me. It was two instances where this popped to memory.
I was like, “Oh man! I just hope these go back to the dark hole from which they came”; right? I don’t want to deal with this; I don’t want to tell her, but I’m ashamed of this. God would not let it happen; I kept remembering. About two weeks went by, and my heart was being softened; but I kept wanting it to harden again to this. Finally, we were doing communion at church one morning; and I just felt the Holy Spirit say, “Look, today is the day. You have to just bring her into this.”
During communion, I remember we were kind of praying. I said, “We need to talk today, and it’s—I’m really ashamed, and I just want to talk. I need to bring you in.” Anyway, we ended up having a conversation. God was so gracious. Selena ended up opening up on somethings that she had been kind of like unknowingly not transparent with. What was the result from that? We felt/I felt so loved; because she looked at me and she just said, “Thank you for sharing. I still love you just as much as I did ten seconds ago or thirty seconds ago.” That just brought us even closer. In that sense, I got to really experience God’s grace.
To answer your question, it’s not that there is this checklist of things to be transparent about. I think it really is anything that you are hiding from your spouse I think is a good candidate for being exposed.
Bob: I’m thinking about two different categories. There are some things that we would be hesitant to be transparent about because: “I want Mary Ann to admire me; and if I reveal this about me, that’s going to make me less admirable,”—so that’s one thing. It’s character flaws in me/deficiencies—like what you described, Ryan—“If she knew this is a part of my background, she’s going to think less of me.”
Then the other things are ways in which we sin against one another/things that we’ve done, where we may keep it hidden. I’m imagining a husband, who is involved in pornography. He doesn’t want to be transparent about that with his wife, because he’s sinning against her; and if she learns that, then he’s busted. That’s when the mushroom cloud is really going to go off in their marriage.
Bob: Let’s talk, first, about those situations, where we’re thinking: “If you really knew the things I think about from time to time…” “If you really knew things about my past that are shameful…” “If you really knew what I said to a coworker today…”—things that would make me look bad to you—“I’m just afraid you would think, ‘Why did I marry you?’ or ‘I wish I hadn’t married you,’ or ‘I don’t want to still be married to you if that’s the kind of person you really are.’” We feel like, because we feel such shame in ourselves being that way, we don’t want to tell somebody else the shameful parts of who we are.
Ryan: Yes; I mean, there is a posture—right?—in marriage that I think is really/it’s really unique. It’s an opportunity. We don’t talk about it enough, I don’t think, in the Western church of this idea of contrition; right?—especially true repentance to one another and basically bringing something, not just with that heart of—again, 1 John 1—“I’m walking in the light so that…”—there is a reason for this. “I’m going to share this thing with you, that I don’t want to share with you; but here is why: because I know I need to be cleansed from it; I know that I want to have fellowship with you.”
It’s that deep underlying purpose for doing it, I think, that just gives all the power; because then it’s rooted in the gospel and not just in alleviating shame; because a lot of times, we’ll share something because I feel guilty; I just want to get it off my conscience. How often has that really led to heart change?
But when you are doing something with the sole aim of being made more righteous and to have fellowship with another, that’s powerful stuff. It’s really powerful stuff. It really does matter what your heart posture is, headed into it. Of course, there are all kinds of ways that could look; but I think, by far, the most important is the underlying identity, heart posture, and then being smart about how you present it and still being honest in that.
Ann: I think this can be really difficult. Yet, when we first got married, I told Dave, “I want to know everything about you. I want to know what makes you tick. I want to know everything.” Well, then, as we’re married a while, he starts telling me everything; and honestly, it was like, “Wait; I hate this part”; you know? When Dave came and shared with me his struggle with pornography, I thought to myself, “Do I want to know this?” because it’s really hard: I’m offended; and I’m hurt; and I feel incredible shame myself. It brings up all my own junk.
I think that’s a really good question; because we think, “Oh, this is going to be awesome; I’m going to know everything.” It can be really difficult to go there. It took us probably years to kind of—not only get into pornography—but going into deeper issues of growing up: shame, and abuse, and alcohol. We didn’t know how much it was affecting us until we talked to one another about it. As a result, it almost became like we were each other’s counselors. There is something about, when the other person sees all of you, and you can still be loved in the midst of that, there is a oneness and intimacy that really can’t be described; it’s beautiful. It is the gospel, as we just said; but it can be really messy.
Ryan: Yes; one of the markers of that level of transparency is, again, the gospel focus; but without that, you run the risk of being enablers, and we go toward the direction of codependence; right? If there is not desire that is kind of birthed in us through the power of the Holy Spirit to be made more righteous, then it just becomes about behavior modification; right?
Well, you see, some wives, particularly—it goes both sides—but wives will write and they’ll say: “I know my husband is dealing with this thing. I don’t want to bring it up, because I’m just trying to maintain the level of peace that we have in our household.” There is like a codependence that develops there; it’s very unhealthy. In that case, transparency is not actually moving you forward. All you are doing is just learning how to coexist with the sin; and that is—we are called out of that as believers. We are called to address it, lovingly and persistently, and fight the fight, run the race—these are arduous words/word pictures given to us in God’s Word.
We always contrast peacemaking versus peacekeeping; right? Jesus, in Matthew, Chapter 5—Sermon on the Mount—says, “Blessed are the peacemakers”; right? He doesn’t say, “peacekeepers.” Peacemakers is actually—the Jewish word is shalom under there; right?—that all-encompassing peace that comes from God. That is circumspect peace—it’s not just quiet; it’s not just stillness—it is peace that goes down to the root of who you are. We are not called to be peacekeepers but peacemakers. That means sometimes creating unrest so that we can have a greater, deeper peace. That is the hard work of making peace that God is calling us into.
Bob: Can you kind of run us through the three lies that you talk about that keep us from pursuing transparency?
Ryan: Yes; I love this one because Selena brought the lie-language into this, which I think is really good; because one of the best ways to work through truth in our lives is to understand the lies that tend to keep us from those truths.
The first one is—well, I just kind of just talked about it: “We can’t be transparent because I’m trying to keep what little peace I have.” I won’t rehash it; but just like we said, it’s the tendency/it’s really just: “I’m exhausted. I can’t gear up for another fight on this. I’ve tried; we’ve already been there.” I’m saying, “I think God is calling us into a place of endurance here, and resting in Him, and fighting the good fight to create and make peace the way we are called.”
Selena: The second one is: “I need the time alone, so I can work on myself.” Writing this one was a little too personal, I think. [Laughter] It was a little too close to home; because I think that’s my tendency—is to just: “Let me just go figure this out. Let me just—let God and I just work it out. Then I’ll come back to you, whole, and ready to go/ready to be married again.” I think we, then, rob our spouse of so much; and we rob our marriage and our relationship of so much growth and potential for unity and—again, like you said—experiencing intimacy.
Then the third one is: “My marriage isn’t that bad. It’s definitely not as bad as theirs.” [Laughter] Comparison game is strong in marriage. It’s not—
Ryan: Oh man!
Selena: —it just crushes everyone; right? You know, 2 Corinthians 10:12, Paul—he states that those who compare are without understanding; right? We are kind of boasting in our own knowledge/our own abilities rather than boasting in the work of the Lord, which typically comes about through brokenness and comes about through our weaknesses.
Ryan: We call it idol polishing—
Ryan: —in our own marriage in that we’re like: “We’re exchanging—
Selena: —“one idol for another.”
Ryan: Yes; like, “Oh man! I feel so bad about our life because”—whatever that thing is—“well, our life is not as together as theirs,” or “our Instagram feed isn’t nearly as interesting or exotic,”—or whatever—“we don’t go to all of these places.” Then we’ll comfort each other, “Well, listen; they are terrible in these ways.” We just like polish our idols. [Laughter] It’s like, “They fight all the time, so we’re better.”
Selena: “We’re good; we only fight like once a week.” [Laughter]
Ryan: I mean, how silly is that? We’re not called to compare, like Selena was saying; we’re being fools.
Selena: —not productive.
Ryan: We need to boast in the Lord and what He has done in our lives. That is the only spot for us to actually have confidence.
Selena: We don’t actually get to boast. We get to boast about our weakness—right?—
Ryan: Yes; yes!
Selena: —like Paul does; and we are really boasting about God’s glory.
Dave: Well, I think as I look at those three lies—and I’m sure there are more—but I’m guessing a lot of couples have experienced all three.
I know, as I read them in the book, I was like: “Whoa! I did number one,” “Oh, I did number two,” “Oh, I did number three; I did all three.” It was like, “I don’t want to tell her what I’m struggling with,”—and again, we’ve been married 40 years; so this is in year 5—so we’re early in our marriage. I’m struggling with porn. This was before digital porn; but still, I’ve got this private, little struggle; and I’m hiding like Adam and Eve in the Garden. Our marriage is good.
Ann: But I could tell something was going on. He would say, “Our marriage is good.” I would say, “Our marriage is weird right now; something is happening.”
Dave: I’d say, “Yes; but you see Joe and Sally’s marriage?—it’s a lot better than that one!”
Bob: So number three is up there; yes. [Laughter]
Dave: So there I am. Then number two is: “I need time alone.” That was what I was playing in my head—is: “I’ll get a handle on this. If I get a handle on it, which I will, of course, then it won’t be a problem. I probably won’t even need to bring it up because it will be under control.”
Ann: And “Why hurt me [Ann]?”
Dave: Yes; I was not expecting—what you guys shared earlier is—when you shared something fully known, you were fully loved. I’m thinking, “If I’m fully known—really fully known/fully transparent—I will not be fully loved.”
Ann: Well, I wasn’t very good at loving you at the beginning.
Dave: No; it didn’t go well. I’m bringing this up because I know there are couples, who have experienced the same thing. Maybe, you did as well. It was like, “Okay; I had the courage. I finally let the light in”; because when you are in the dark, dark is going to suffocate; you’re going to lose. Finally, I’m like, “Okay; I’ve got to tell her,” and I did. I’m now living see-through marriage, and she blew up. It felt like, at the time: “I should have never said it. This is hurting our marriage. She doesn’t/I don’t know if she really loves me. She’s like/she didn’t know this; now, she knows; but here is where we are.”
Again, this is a process for us. It didn’t get handled in a month or even six months; but now, as I look back—and yes; she blew up for a while, and there was anger. Then there were tears. Then there was hurt. Now, I look back and think, “It was worth the pain to be fully known, because I feel more loved now than I”—because if I continued to hide that, I’m not really loved; it’s a false superficial love. She sees it all, and I’m loved—that’s the gospel.
Bob: If you try it and you say, “Okay; I’m going to be transparent and vulnerable,” and it doesn’t go well—because it may not—
Dave: Go back.
Bob: —your spouse may be hurt.
Bob: Just know that you can keep pressing in, and persevering, and be humble, and be gentle, and be loving. Where you’ll get on the other side, you’ll have to go through a valley/through some pain to get there; but where you’ll get will be richer, and deeper, and a more authentic kind of love than what you are experiencing as long as you keep the veneer up, and it’s just a superficial relationship.
Ryan and Selena dive deep into this in their book, See-Through Marriage, which is a book we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to get a copy, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the title of the book is See-Through Marriage: Experiencing the Freedom and Joy of Being Fully Known and Fully Loved by Ryan and Selena Frederick. Order your copy, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
One of the things that can interfere with intimacy and with transparency in a marriage is if we’ve experienced betrayal in a relationship. We talked about this earlier this week when Phil Waldrep joined us on FamilyLife Today. His book, Beyond Betrayal, is a book that we’re making available to FamilyLife Today listeners, who can help support the ministry with a donation.
I think most of you realize that the reason we were able to have this conversation today, and you were able to join in, is because a listener, like you, cared enough about this kind of ministry happening that they made a donation to support the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today. If you’d like to see this continue—pay it forward/invest in the lives of other couples—you can do that by donating today. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com; make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. When you do, again, ask for your copy of Phil Waldrep’s book, Beyond Betrayal. We’re happy to send it to you as a way to say, “Thank you for investing in the lives of so many people and supporting the work of FamilyLife Today.”
We hope you can join us, again, tomorrow when we’re going to talk about the fear that is there in a relationship that keeps us from being transparent with one another and what we do about that. Ryan and Selena Frederick join us tomorrow. I hope you can join us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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