Getting Closer to God and Each Other
Dave and Ann Wilson, parents of three grown children, want couples to know that when they draw closer to God, they will become closer to their spouses emotionally and sexually. Ann, who has led a bible study for the wives of the Detroit Lions for 30+ years, remembers one time when she encouraged a wife to surprise her husband on their anniversary by treating herself to some new lingerie. The wife later revealed that it was the best night of their relationship. The Wilsons tell how past sexual experiences can affect a husband's or wife's current sex life.
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Dave and Ann Wilson want couples to know that when they draw closer to God, they will become closer to their spouses emotionally and sexually.
Getting Closer to God and Each Other
Bob: For more and more couples getting married today, promiscuity is a part of their past/part of their experience. Ann Wilson says, when that is the case, you’re bringing challenges with you into marital intimacy.
Ann: We carried all of that into our wedding bed/in our marriage bed. It was like it was crowded with other people. I felt so insecure; I felt like there was competition. I felt like, “Was this other girl better than me?” I felt so fearful and I worried: “Will he be unfaithful to me? He had multiple partners before; will I be able to trust him?” There were many, many different consequences that we suffered through.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, May 13th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Sometimes, we are completely unaware of how sins from our past still affect our relationship ten, or twenty, or even thirty years later. We’ll hear more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Well, we’re right there; aren’t we? We’re listening, this week, to a conversation that Dennis Rainey and his wife Barbara and I had with you guys, Dave and Ann Wilson. This was more than a year ago; right after your book, Vertical Marriage, was released. This was right after you had gone to New York to be on the Today Show—
Ann: Oh, yes; that’s right.
Bob: —to talk about the book. Do you remember?
Dave: Oh, we remember.
Ann: I remember because Dave could not sleep the night after that interview.
Dave: Yes; I came home, and you know—it’s live.
Dave: There are four million-some people watching; and you have regrets, like, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t said this.”
Bob: Yes; what did you wish you hadn’t said? [Laughter]
Dave: I ended up in some crazy story to a question they asked that ended up—I mean, it’s a beautiful part of our marriage, where Ann was creative in the area of—
Dave: —being romantic in our marriage. You know, later, I just felt like, “Why did I end up going there?” Ann kept saying to me—
Ann: Because that’s where he always ends up going, Bob. [Laughter]
Dave: Okay; that’s the end of that.
Bob: We’re actually going to hear a little bit about intimacy and challenges with intimacies. You’ve experienced challenges; all of us have experienced challenges in this area in our marriage. You talk about it in the book, Vertical Marriage. There’s now a video series for couples called Vertical Marriage®. That’s a five-part video series that can be used for small groups or adult ed. You guys are transparent; but you’re appropriate in addressing this subject.
Dave: Yes, it’s a tricky subject. You have to be very careful because it’s emotional; there have been many wounds—even in our marriage and in our life in this area—so we wanted to honor God in how we talk about this.
Bob: Well, this was just a few weeks before you guys became the new hosts of FamilyLife Today that we had this conversation with Dennis and Barbara. You talked about the challenges you’d experienced in this area.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Bob: We tend to think about this aspect of marriage in—can I say?—functional terms rather than thinking about it in mystical terms. There is something profoundly mystical about intimacy in marriage and the impact it has, for good or for ill, on oneness between a couple; isn’t there?
Dave:Yes; one of the things that I never knew until I really dove into Scripture on sex—because I grew up, like most people probably, hearing from the church that sex is wrong, bad, evil. I never expected that the Bible would talk about sex in such beautiful, glorious, mysterious terms. Then, as I started to study it, this is one of the most amazing, beautiful, intimate gifts God ever gave us.
Now, so many people hear that; and they can’t even appreciate that, because it’s been warped—it’s hurt and there’s—
Dave: —pain and abuse; but God’s original intent was absolutely incredible. I never learned this in school. I remember, in sixth grade, they did the birds-and-the-bees talk—they had a little thing—and you are all embarrassed, as a 12-year-old boy, because they’re talking about fallopian tubes. Anyway, I never heard this—nobody ever told me this that: “When you make love”—and this can be in your marriage or outside your marriage—“you are/there’s a soul connection.”
It is, like Bob said, mysterious. How in the world is it deeper than physical?—which is why it has to be so protected; because you’re messing with your soul here. If it’s a one-night stand or a committed marriage relationship, you’re giving everything—not just physical—but spiritual, even soul-ish to that person. That’s why God says, “Protect this.”
Bob: It’s one of the reasons why you guys, early in your marriage, struggled in this area. As you’ve shared, you started your marriage the way most couples start marriage today—having already been sexually-active with other people. You brought that into your marriage; and now, the two becoming one has all kinds of baggage attached to it.
Dave: Yes; we had no idea/no idea how our past sexual experiences would bring luggage/baggage—pain into our new marriage.
Ann: Well, I don’t think anybody talks about it. I mean, our world is saturated with sex, with pornography, with things on TV, at the movies, everything. Nobody talks about the pain—whether it’s sexual abuse, whether it’s addiction to pornography.
But for Dave and I, what happened was—we carried all of that into our wedding bed/in our marriage bed. It was like it was crowded with other people. I felt so insecure. I felt like there was competition. I felt like, “Was this other girl better than me?” I felt so fearful, and I worried: “Will he be unfaithful to me? He had had multiple partners before; will I be able to trust him?” There were many, many different consequences that we suffered through.
Dave: I remember, one time, we went to a wedding—probably six or eight months after our wedding—and we’re sitting in this church. I could tell something was wrong with Ann—like she’s not enjoying this. When we get in the car to drive home, I go, “What were you thinking?” She goes, “I was just looking round the church; and I saw three or four women that you have been with.” For me, it’s like: “Well, it’s all in the past. It’s all done.”
Well, guess what? That is the past, but the past is right here. If I could have taken those back in that second, I would; but I couldn’t. Now, we are in this marriage; we’ve got to deal with, not just, you know, how hard it is to be married now; we’ve brought stuff in that we’ve got to work through. You think it’s just the bedroom; it’s so much deeper than the bedroom.
Bob: What is “deal with” mean?—what does that look like? I mean, when you’ve got this, and you’re there—and you go: “Okay; we know this is here. We know this is a part of our past. We don’t like that it is a part of our past; we can feel it affecting our marriage now,”—do we go to a marriage counselor? What do you do to get to the point where you can be together, as husband and wife, and that bed is no longer crowded?
Dave: My answer—my first answer would be: “We talk.” We talked this through. Again, I would not encourage a couple to go into details about your past; but I needed to let Ann know enough, and she needed to share with me.
One of the things I was so naïve was about abuse. Again, I thought: “Well, Ann has had some abuse in her past. It’s way back there—20 years ago. It will not affect today.” Oh, as a spouse, I need to understand: “What do you think? How do you feel? How can I love you?” She’s feeling the same thing toward me. There’s a lot of talking—we talked about it previously. We had to get to a place of forgiveness with each other and then being able to let that go and move forward. But again, it started with hearing, listening, and trying to lovingly be a partner to one another.
Ann: I think, too, I love that God has do-overs. I love that He renews our mind, like Romans 12 says. I love that, with time, we heal. I think, because of our honesty and openness, that helped. I think a lot of people should go to a counselor, who can be a third party—to be a neutral voice—and to help them walk through some issue that might be hard to discuss.
When we were in seminary, we were taking classes about how to be a counselor. In some of those classes, that’s when the abuse came up. It flooded me. I was overwhelmed; because I had tucked it away, not thinking that it was doing anything to harm my marriage and our intimacy. But it was doing a lot. I think that Dave was overwhelmed with my barrage of emotions and feeling like I was tainted. I had so much shame and embarrassment, and it was hard.
Bob: I’m thinking about people listening to this and thinking to themselves: “I’m/we’re not going to talk about—I’m not going to have this conversation with my spouse. I mean, first of all, there’s shame and guilt on my part. I don’t want to revisit that. Secondly, it’s just going to drive the wedge deeper between us, because it’s going to bring hurt and pain to the other person—‘Why haven’t you ever told me about this?’—and all.” So they go: “No; no. The safest thing to do is to try to keep this walled off. As long as nobody ever knows that any of this happened, we can muddle along with what we’re doing.”
You’re saying that’s the wrong answer?
Dave: Yes; I’m saying I totally understand that thought—I’ve been there. It takes courage to say, “I’m scared to even bring this up….” Again, you don’t need to go into details, and every couple is different about what needs to be revealed; but it’s like—get on your knees; ask God for wisdom; ask God for strength; and open your mouth and say: “We need to talk.”
God will meet you right in the moment of your fear, and He will walk you through. We are closer today than we ever would have been if we’d never brought this up or gone through that journey. Part of it is because we’ve decided to go there with each other as honestly as we could.
Ann: I was going to ask you, Barbara and Dennis—you guys have been married longer than we have—I see it as having hills and valleys in our relationship with intimacy. How have you guys—do you find that’s true?
Barbara: Yes; I definitely think it’s an up-and-down experience. I think that, as you grow and you change, there are more discoveries to be made about one another. I completely agree with what you both have said about being transparent in that area of your relationship, because we have done that too. It has made such a difference; because the more you are known, the more you feel safe; and the more you feel safe, then you can experience intimacy.
If you don’t feel safe, and you don’t feel known and welcomed, then you can’t go to the intimacy—it’s a progression. You can’t jump instantly into intimacy without first crossing those bridges of safety and knowing one another. Yes; I agree with you totally.
Dennis: I think you are touching on where most men miss it in this area. I think men do not understand the need for his wife to be safe and to feel safe as she gives herself to her husband.
First John, Chapter 4:18 says: “There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” I think the husband, who is finding things are not going well with his wife in the bedroom, needs to ask his wife: “Do you feel safe with me? Do you trust me? Can you give yourself wholeheartedly to me? If not, what am I doing that is creating fear?”
Ann: Oh, that’s a courageous thing to ask.
Dennis: It really is, and then listen. Listen carefully to what is said and what isn’t said, because the real assignment of a husband, I think—he is commanded to love his wife as Christ loved the church. If our assignment is to love; and 1 John 4 says, “Perfect love casts out fear,” your assignment is to present your wife, before Christ, holy, blameless, without spot. That means there are no spots of fear.
Dave: Dennis, what you just said—I never understood what made her feel loved. I—and we got into fights about this/about the sexual part of our relationship—is I wanted her to be more interested in sex. It felt like I wanted it more and she wasn’t. Of course, we got little kids, and I have no understanding of what she’s carrying around; I am just like frustrated. Yet, I didn’t know that a woman longs to be cherished and loved.
I honestly thought, “Well, making love makes you feel loved.” I’ll never forget the day we read—I don’t know if it’s still out there—you might know if Willard Harley’s book, His Needs, Her Needs, still exists.
Dennis: Yes; it does.
Dave: But I remember picking it up. He had the “Top Five Needs of a Woman” / “Top Five Needs of a Man,” He is like: “Top Five Needs of a Man”—number one: ‘Sex.’” And then I look at the woman’s, and she doesn’t have sex in the top five. Ann remembers this—I brought the book to her. So, I’m like: “Okay; help me understand this. I look at his top five needs for men, and he says sex is number one; and I have to agree. I think he’s right. Sex isn’t even in your top five! Why isn’t it in your top five?” You remember?
Dave: She looked at me and says, “Oh! It’s number one, two, and three.” Number one for a woman: “Affection: Non-sexual Touch,” which I had to ask Ann, “What is that?!” [Laughter] I didn’t even know; you know? It is like holding hands, and putting your arm around her, and just being close—it’s like affection—number one. Number two: “Conversation”—that’s talking/communicating. Number three: “Honesty and Openness.”
Ann: Yes; those two—those second two—we want to know you—
Ann: —and we want our husbands to know us.
Dave: And I was mad at her. What she had every right to do is go: “You aren’t affectionate,” “We never talk,” “I don’t know your heart.” When I realized, “I am not being Christ/I am not serving my wife,”—to say: “If that’s her number-one need—sacrificially love her”—then it’s going to end up better, even in the bedroom; but that isn’t the goal; it was like—“I want her to feel cherished and loved; that’s what sex is to my wife.”
Dennis: So you hear those three things—for a man who doesn’t get it, how can a wife help him understand?
Ann: That’s kind of where we were. When I said, “Those are the top three. Like when we talk, that’s romance. When you just touch my arm, open a door, and hold my hand—I feel like you love me and you are pursuing me”; and I remember saying: “It feels like you don’t pursue me anymore. You pursue me, sexually; but you don’t pursue me, relationally, and that really hurts and makes me feel unloved.”
Okay; let’s talk to the wives. They’ve told their husbands that. How do we encourage them, Barbara? [Laughter]
Barbara: Thanks, Ann! [Laughter] You know, I don’t know—I mean, it’s a hard one; because we are so different. We’ve had that conversation—Dennis and I have—multiple times because our needs are just different, but that’s the way God made us. If we really love each other, then we need to learn to speak each other’s language/love language.
But I think, too, it’s also being patient, and trusting God’s timing, and praying that God will open our husband’s eyes and ears to see and understand. I think we live in such an instant culture, too—that that’s part of the problem. We expect change to be really fast, and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s not.
Dave: In our marriage we’ve been having this conversation for decades and growing! I mean, I’m sort of excited about the next decade, as strange as that may sound. We’ve grown, and grown, and grown, and—not groan! [Laughter] We have matured, over the years, in this area.
I really would say to the guys—and it’s true both ways: “Step up!”—it’s that simple. It’s like: “The bedroom and the sexual relationship is not about me,”—it really isn’t. I want a Philippians 2 in every area of my marriage, including the bedroom. I want to consider her needs more important than my needs. That’s what Christ did for us, and He modeled that for us.
Now, Christ lives in me. It’s about her feeling loved. Again, you have a spouse reciprocating that, you’re going to have a beautiful sexual relationship. If they don’t, it isn’t about them. It’s like, “I want to love them in such a way that they feel valued and cherished.”
[Someone may say] “I’m not an affectionate guy,”—it doesn’t matter—she is and longs for it. So I’m going to step up and be Christ to her and give affection, even if it’s not my natural bent.
Bob: Well, again, we’ve been listening to a conversation we had a little more than a year ago. Dennis and Barbara Rainey and I talked with Dave and Ann Wilson right as their book, Vertical Marriage, was being released. There is now a video series that accompanies that book.
I’ve had this experience, when we speak on this subject at Weekend to Remember® getaways, couples are so appreciative when we open the door on this and talk candidly and biblically about this in an appropriate context; because so many of them are trapped with questions, or insecurities, or shame, or whatever; and when the physical intimacy in your marriage is not working, that affects everything about your marriage.
Dave: Yes; it’s—you know, as we all know, everybody else is talking about it. The culture is—
Dave: —constantly talking about it; and often, it’s—
Bob: —in an inappropriate way; right?
Dave: Yes; and it’s often not truth; so, “What is God’s heart?—what is God’s truth on this?” It needs to be discussed, and it can really help people.
Ann: Well, the first time that Dave and I went to the Weekend to Remember marriage conference, it was in Chicago. I was 19; Dave was 22. I did not grow up in the church; I didn’t grow up attending a church. The first time we sat in this session on sexual intimacy, it was the first time I had ever heard God’s game plan for intimacy in a marriage. It was mind-blowing to me; because I had never heard this before, because I had only heard the world’s plan.
Bob: And I have to think, as you guys get together tomorrow night, and for the next three weeks, with listeners for a small group that you are going to be hosting, the question of God’s plan for intimacy is probably going to show up in the small group conversation at some point over the next three weeks.
Dave and Ann are going to be hosting, on Thursday nights, for the next three weeks—starting tomorrow night and then continuing in May after that—they are going to be hosting a small group around Vertical Marriage. You can sign up to be a part of that small group; it’s going to meet at eight o’clock [pm] CT. And when you sign up to be part of the small group, which will be a Facebook® group, you’ll have access to the first session of the Vertical Marriage series, which you can watch whenever you’d like. Then, when you come to the small group, everybody will have watched Session One; and the conversation can begin from there.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. I don’t know if you’re a part of a small group right now—if your small group has been meeting online, or if you just haven’t been meeting for a while, or you’re meeting out in somebody’s driveway—whatever is happening—you can join an online small group that Dave and Ann are going to be hosting. It starts tomorrow night and continues for three weeks. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for all the information, and that will get you access to the first session from Vertical Marriage that you’ll need to watch before the small group begins; okay? All of that make sense?
Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com is where you can get the information. If you have any questions, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. If you want a copy of Dave and Ann’s book, Vertical Marriage, that’s available for order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; and then the complete video series is also available for anybody who wants to use that in a small group or a Sunday school class in the summer of fall, whenever those start up again. All the information is available on the website at FamilyLifeToday.com; or again, call if you have any questions: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, we’ve got the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, here with us; and this online small group thing that we’re doing with Dave and Ann starting tomorrow night—we’re not the first people to come up with creative ways to employ the video series and to get people gathered together for a small group, even while we’re socially distanced.
David: Yes; it’s been really neat to hear from different couples, who started leading it when it was launched earlier this year.
Bob: —when they could still get together with their friends.
David: That’s right. Then, midway, we started hearing people moved to Zoom groups and do all these creative things. One couple from California said this: “Recently, we hosted FamilyLife’s new small group study, Vertical Marriage, with ten couples and had to move it to Zoom due to COVID-19.” They said, “It was an incredible small group and laid the foundation for what we are now walking through.”
They went on to say: “We watched the FamilyLife TV episode, after we finished Vertical Marriage, about grieving at a distance. Our discussions led to such sweet moments together, talking about grief that we are experiencing now and in our past.” Then she said: “Everyone in the group opened up and shared things that they’ve been holding on to, and almost every single one of us broke down and cried in some way. Our relationships grew deeper and deeper as we shared together.”
This was all over Zoom and then walking faithfully together, being friends together in this unique time. I just think it makes the point that it doesn’t have to be fancy; you certainly don’t have to have it all together.
David: Every one of us can take the intentional step of faith to lead a small group/to gather a group of people and say, “Hey; I want to grow in my marriage; do you?” Vertical Marriage video series is such a great resource/easy resource in order to connect with other couples and have really intentional conversations.
You know, as hard as navigating the coming months may still be, we are seeing families hunger for God and growing together more than they have in a very long time. That’s our prayer—that through this season, families will grow closer to God, stronger together, and will serve their neighbors with compassion and the gospel. Thank you for being a significant part of what God is doing in the home in our day.
Bob: You know who is making all of this possible—is friends of FamilyLife who are continuing to support this ministry during these challenging times. We are so grateful for those of you who are monthly Legacy Partners and those of you who, from time to time, will get in touch with us and make a donation so that we can continue to effectively develop godly marriages and families, who change the world one home at a time.
Right now, if you’re able to help with a donation, we’d love to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a copy of Barbara Rainey’s new book, which is called My Heart, Ever His. It’s a book about praying. It’s actually a book of prayers for some of the difficult circumstances we face in life. The book is our thank-you gift when you go online today to make a donation at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to donate at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
And we hope you can join us back, again, tomorrow when we’re going to talk about what is a challenge for a lot of people, particularly a lot of wives and moms. It’s the issue of wanting to be in control of life, and kids, and even your husband. Shannon Popkin joins us to talk about how she has wrestled with being a control girl. I hope you can join us for that.
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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