God and Your Sex Life: Dr. Juli and Mike Slattery
Could knowing God's whole picture for intimacy rev up your sex life? Dr. Juli and Mike Slattery explore how understanding God's character in married sex transforms your bedroom.
Faithfulness is this idea of character and trust. It's not just sexual fidelity, but it's trusting each other's character that, “Hey, I'm not going anywhere. We're in this together, even if I'm having a bad day, or we're going through a season of marriage where we're not communicating, we're not giving up." It's that foundation of, “I can trust you”.
About the Guest
- Connect with Dr. Juli Slattery at www.authenticintimacy.com and learn more about her ministry at sexualdiscipleship.com
- and get a copy of her book, God, Sex, and Your Marriage
- Check out more episodes from Juli Slattery
- Go to familylife.com/comingsoon to sign up for the Art of Marriage live event and to be notified of when pre-orders are live!
- Find resources from this podcast at shop.familylife.com.
- See resources from our past podcasts.
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Authentic Intimacy. She hosts a podcast called Java With Juli, where she answers tough questions about relationships, marriage, spiritual, emotional and sexual intimacy. She has authored eight books, including 25 Questions You're Afraid to As...moremore
Dr. Juli and Mike Slattery explore how understanding God’s character in married sex transforms your bedroom.
God and Your Sex Life: Dr. Juli and Mike Slattery
Shelby: Hey, Shelby Abbott here. Just want to give a heads up before you listen to this next program. Today's conversation on FamilyLife Today covers some sensitive but important subjects that might not be suitable for younger ears. So please use discretion when listening to this next broadcast.
Alright, now let's jump into it.
Dave: So, if a young married couple came up to you, and they were going to ask you a marriage question—maybe they're not even married yet, or they're newlyweds, they're young, and they're just got married—
Dave: I want to know—
Ann: —"how to like my spouse, because I've fallen out of love?”
Dave: Wow! See, I thought, “I want to have a great sex life.” [Laughter] I thought you would go there, too.
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Yes, I mean, of course, there could be a lot of questions, but I think a lot of couples, and maybe it's a guy’s perspective—we’ve got some experts in the studio today who can help us [Laughter]—do want to know, “How do we have a great sex life, a great intimacy life, in our marriage?”
Ann: And they don't always know where to go with that question, especially from a biblical context in a biblical way.
Dave: It's like they're afraid to ask it.
Dave: We're not afraid to ask it today. [Laughter] We've got, not just Dr. Juli Slattery in the studio today, we've got Mike, her husband, with her!
Mike: Yes, here I am.
Dave: Welcome guys!
Mike: Thank you.
Juli: Yes, thanks for having us.
Dave: Now I think we sort of know, but have you ever done this together? I know it's all Juli—
Mike: Not like this—
Juli: Not often.
Mike: Yes, maybe on your podcast [Juli], we've done it.
Juli: Yes, you've been on—
Dave: Mike, are you excited, or are you scared?
Mike: I'm very excited! No, I'm good.
Mike: I signed the waiver. I'm good. I'm all in. [Laughter]
Dave: You signed a waiver?
Mike: I'm all in. [Laughter]
Dave: If you say anything wrong, we'll just edit it out.
Mike: That's right. [Laughter]
Ann: How many years have you guys been married?
Mike: 29. She just looked at me like I was wrong.
Juli: Well, no—
Mike: It's 29.
Juli: —I was testing you.
Mike: Yes, right! [Laughter]
Ann: And you have three sons—
Juli: We do.
Ann: —but you're in a new field now, Mike.
Ann: Tell us about it.
Mike: For 30 years, I was in Corporate America, and I was just praying about it: “God, what do you want me to do [in] this next chapter?” I was looking in the organization I worked for; some opportunities were opening up, but then they closed very quickly. I thought, “What happened there?” I just looked at Juli and the team that she works with at Authentic Intimacy, and it’s one of things where she works really, really hard, and she needs help. That was kind of the impetus behind it. I prayed about it and said, “Okay.”
Dave: Do you guys like working together?
Mike: I love it!
Juli: I do, too; yes.
Mike: Yes, it's awesome.
Dave: Let's talk about the topic we raised a little bit: the Four Pillars of Great Sex. We mentioned [them] yesterday with just Juli. So, this is going to be fun having Mike here to give your perspective; but can you recap the first one, faithfulness?
Juli: Faithfulness is this idea of character and trust. It's not just sexual fidelity, but it's trusting each other's character that, “Hey, I'm not going anywhere. We're in this together, even if I'm having a bad day, or we're going through a season of marriage where we're not communicating, we're not giving up." It's that foundation of, “I can trust you”.
Dave: Which is huge, as we said yesterday. Okay, intimate knowing.
Ann: That's pillar number two.
Ann: What does that mean?
Juli: Boy, this one's my favorite.
Ann: It's our favorite, too—
Dave: Mine, too, when I read it. It was so (for me) insightful, and I can't wait for our listeners to hear you explain it.
Ann: I think for me, as a woman, this is what I've been wanting to communicate for years, and I've never been able to communicate it. So, you put everything I've been feeling and yearning for in this one.
Juli: Yes. Let me ask you, Dave—
Dave: —oh, no—
Ann: Here it comes.
Juli: —what jumped out at you? How would you describe it as somebody who had read it for the first time?
Dave: You know, when Ann just said that I thought. “Oh, maybe that's a little bit of what happened.” As I was reading the understanding, and—you can explain it better than anybody—the intimate knowledge of knowing more than a body, more than physical; knowing intimately someone, and obviously, in relationship to knowing God, I think something went off in my brain: “Ann's been saying that to me for not just years—decades. ‘This is what I long for’.” Now, obviously, I do, too, but I couldn't put words to it, and you just described it. I remember running downstairs to Ann—
Ann: Yes, he did!
Dave: “I’ve got to talk to you about yada.” She's like, “What is yada? [Laughter] We’ll let Juli explain it.
Ann: Well, let me just add, too, because of my background: one, there's sexual abuse; two, pornography was a part of my life since the age of three, so I'm seeing—
Dave: I mean, cousins brought it to you and—
Ann: Yes, it was cousins. It was not even my dad, but outside family members. It was everywhere. So, the only time too, because I came from a family that [was] wonderful, but the only time I was touched was never, actually. And so, then I get married, and I've never been touched just through this beautiful, innocent, “I love you. I'm hugging you. I'm conveying my love to you.” To me, love was always connected to sex. Then I got married, and I thought, “Okay, that's all it is;” but I had this yearning in my heart for more.
Juli: Yes, I love the way you describe that, because that's so many people's journey. And the way you described it, too, Dave. We're taught to think that sex is about activity. It's about what our bodies do, which is why, when there's difficulty in your marriage, and you're not attracted to each other; one of you has gained weight, or your bodies won't work because of some physical ailment or emotional trauma, [you think], “Our sex life is broken. It's good for nothing because we can't have intercourse. We can't enjoy each other. We're fighting about this.”
But what we need to recognize is that God actually created sex for intimacy, and so, helping couples understand the difference between sexual activity and sexual intimacy. Activity is about your body. It's about, “How often should we be having sex?” It's about, “How good is the sex?” Intimacy is asking questions about: “Are we on a journey of knowing each other, of being vulnerable, of building this private language that just we share and knowing secrets about each other that, again, we share?”
The beautiful thing about this is—I talked yesterday about how sex is supposed to reflect God's love for us. We do the same thing in our walk with God. God didn't create us for spiritual activity, to just check off the list: “I did my devotions. I went to church.” That activity is meant to set the table for intimacy. God wants to know us intimately. When you think about your relationship with God, intimacy is not forged on the mountaintops when everything's going well. It's forged when the hard times come, where there's difficulty, where you're crying out to Him.
The same thing is true in a couple’s sexual relationship. When activity is broken and when there's pain there, it's actually an invitation to intimacy. Now, you're forced to talk about what's happening, about how you feel, about your broken heart, and about your fears and vulnerabilities. But most couples just skip right past that.
Ann: Oh, yes! Well, now that we have them both in the studio. . .
Dave: Oh, you want to ask them about their intimate knowing?
Ann: Yes! What has that been like? We assume, “Oh, this is what you do for a living.” Has it ever been difficult for you guys, figuring this out? This intimacy? This knowing?
Juli: I’d say the first 15 years of our marriage, this was the most difficult part of our marriage. We had problems we didn't know how to talk about. We didn't know anywhere to go for help. We wrestled with some of the same things that a lot of other couples do. But we didn't have the vocabulary. We didn't even have the road map for what it would look like to connect, to have this be actually an invitation to deeper intimacy.
But I would say now, over the last 10 years or so of our marriage, this has become an area that forges this deep intimacy with us. It's not just because, “Oh, it's always fun,” or things are always great. It's because we have the heart and the vocabulary to say, “What's going on? I want to know your heart. I want to know what you're feeling, what you're struggling with?” We have the openness to say, when our feelings get hurt—just to communicate.
So, we've seen both sides of this. We've seen it be something that felt like we were on separate tracks. Then we've seen, over the last decade or so, it be something that really is bonding and special and just between the two of us at a deeply intimate level.
Dave: Then I also think—have you felt this or seen this in people?—to be honest, I say, “I want yada. I want intimate knowing.” There's another part of me that thinks, “No, I don't. It's scary. It's fearful.” I've said many times, “It's easier for me to walk on a stage and talk about sex to 1,000 people [than] to walk in my kitchen or bedroom and say, ‘Can we talk about our sex life?’”
I think it was even easier to get naked and have sex with Ann than be intimate. It's almost like a cover up: “I'll do this, and we're being intimate,” but I'm actually not because I'm not letting you in, because it's too scary. “This isn't as scary.” Is that common?
Juli: There's no intimacy without risk. Intimacy always means, “I'm going to show a vulnerable part of who I am. That means you can meet me with love and acceptance, or you might reject me, or laugh at me.” We've all experienced walking towards intimacy, maybe with your spouse, or maybe with someone else where you got hurt, and that vulnerability was used against you. That's why faithfulness is so important. You can't be intimate, you can't risk, if there's not trust.
Juli: So, you're absolutely right; there is deep risk with intimacy, but it's worth it if it's safe.
But the second thing you said that is really insightful [is] the activity can disguise the fact that we’re not intimate. There are some couples who will hear me speak on this, and they'll come up afterwards and say, “We've been married for 20 years, and we've never experienced sexual intimacy the way you're describing it. We've had sex two or three times a week for most of our marriage, but we don't know how to talk about it. We don't know how to share our hearts. It's like two bodies doing what they're supposed to do.”
Ann: It's an act.
Juli: Yes, it's not a journey of shared experience.
Dave: Yes, I was just looking at one of the sentences you put in the book: “Sex becomes less about intercourse or climax, and more about”—Listen, this is beautiful! (becomes more about)—"discovery, safety, vulnerability, and experiencing one another.” That's beautiful to anyone. “That's what I want!” But you're right, it's risky.
Dave: It's, “Am I willing to be that vulnerable?”
Ann: Can you share, Juli—I feel like we haven't hit it, we said the word “yada,” but—what is the secret of yada? What does that even mean?
Juli: Yada is a Hebrew word in the Old Testament that means “to know.” Not to know intellectually, but to know experientially. We see in the Old Testament, a lot of times when the scripture is referring to sexual intimacy or sex between husband and wife, they'll use this word “yada” as a euphemism—
Ann: Oh, “Ya-dah.”
Juli: I say, “Ya-dah.”
Ann: Yes, sounds more Hebrew.
Dave: Yes, that’s Hebrew.
Juli: Actually, the scripture says, “Adam yada Eve, and she gave birth to a son.” They're using this word, “Adam intimately knew Eve,” but if you look at yada throughout the Old Testament, the word is used over 900 times, and it's used to reference sexual intimacy. But most often it's used to reference a deep knowing and interpersonal knowing, even of God and His people.
[In] Psalm 139, which is the psalm of intimate knowing, David is saying, “Oh, God, You have searched me. You yada me. You yada when I rise and when I lie down. Before a word is on my tongue, You yada it completely.”
Or if you read Proverbs 3:5-6, which a lot of people would say is their life verse, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways yada Him, and He will direct your paths.” I memorized it as “acknowledge” Him. What's the difference between “acknowledge” and yada? Acknowledge is, “Okay, God, I know you're out there.” Yada is, “I have this intimate communion with you. God is in us; He's speaking to us.” That is used in Scripture both ways. So, it's telling us that your intimacy with God should be like the kind of intimate knowing a husband and wife have.
The same is true of the opposite. If I want to know what a godly sex life looks like, it should have that kind of yada that God calls us to in our relationship with Him.
Dave: Yes. See, that's why it's so beautiful.
Ann: I know! [Mike], when you guys first got married, did you have any idea how important this was or, even, of knowing Juli? What did it look like to know her?
Mike: Absolutely not, right? [Laughter] Because where are you going to hear this? We don't talk about sexuality because it's awkward. You don't talk in the church, and you get it. There are males and females; there are kids in the congregation, so you’ve got to be careful. We're fortunate not to have abuse in our background, but we had our problems; we had our struggles. It took us many, many years, and she's a clinically trained psychologist. Now, I was in finance, so I have no obligation here, right? [Laughter]
I have to make sure I pay the mortgage. But that was something that we had to learn over the years, and we're still learning. That's the one thing I always want to tell people when we go to a conference or something. We don't have a wired—
Ann: Oh, we don't either.
Mike: —there's no formula that you can say, “This, this, and then you've achieved.” I think it's just this process. It's a spectrum we're on, and God is kind to bring us closer and closer as you mature in Christ. This is something that's been revealed to us.
Dave: And is this yada, which is risky and intimate—to know God, to know your spouse; is this one of the reasons men and women go to porn?
Juli: Yes, there is no risk with pornography. Actually, pornography is a promise that, “I'm not going to reject you.” But Dave, we talked about how there are four pillars to a great sex life. We talked about faithfulness. We're talking about that yada or intimate knowing. Another pillar is passionate celebration.
Dave: That's the last one.
Juli: That's the last one, but that's the one that people want, and they go for to pornography, because they want that pillar. They want the high, they want the dopamine hit. They want the excitement, but they don't want to build the other pillars. And that's why it's so unsatisfying in the long run, because you cannot be sustained by just this one pillar of pleasure. But I'd also say that, for a married couple, your sexual relationship is going to feel incomplete if you have the other three pillars, but you don't have the passion and the fun.
Dave: Is that what passionate celebration is about?
Juli: Yes; if we look at our relationship with God; again, that's the model. It's this idea that. “What if you were a Christian and you were faithful; you were obedient, but you had no joy in the Lord?” Is that what God wants?
Juli: He actually commands us to rejoice in Him, not just individually, but corporately. When we get together on Sunday, it's a worship celebration of His Bride just celebrating our love for Him. That's what worship is. It's crying out to God, how much we love Him; how beautiful He is. There's this interchange of our love and His love, and it's meant to be joyful. It's meant to be a reprieve from the hard things we're dealing with in life. God has created sex that same way. He's made it so it's pleasurable; it's meant to be ecstatic.
Ann: It's like dessert. [Laughter]
Juli: Yes, I mean, we're told to be intoxicated with sexual love. So that, as difficult as marriage might be, we have a place to go together, this sanctuary, where we can laugh and have fun and experience pleasure that helps us deal with the hard things of life.
Ann: I think this relationship we're talking about between a husband and wife takes work; takes time. It's risky; it can be hard, especially if we're busy, if we're tired, [if] we have a lot of kids that are little. It's exhausting at times, but it's so worth it.
Dave: But it does make you think. I'd love to know your perspective about joy in the bedroom. A lot of couples, even when they talk about their sex life, it's sort of boring. It's sort of like, “Well, we do it because we're married and we enjoy it, but there's not joy.” Is that lacking for a lot of us?
Juli: Yes, I really think it is. It's something that, for a lot of couples, including us, we have to work on. It doesn't come naturally because you are tired. It feels like it's the last thought at the end of a long week or a long day. You have to invest in it. I like what doctor Dr. Doug Rosenau once said. He said, “You don't work your way to a better sex life. You play your way to a better sex life.”
Ann: Oh, that's good.
Juli: We need to hear that.
Ann: We need to laugh and have fun.
Juli: Yes! We take ourselves so seriously, and there's a time for that. There's a time to do the work of addressing pornography and learning to communicate and addressing the pain. But there's also a time just to say, “We are told to enjoy this very imperfect marriage with two very imperfect bodies.” If you're not sure about that, just wonder, why did God put the book Song of Solomon in the Bible? It doesn't seem to fit other than to say, “This is an important part of the covenant of marriage,” and that sense of celebration and rejoicing is also an important part of our relationship with God.”
Dave: Okay, we have one more pillar, and there's somebody thinking, “You said four. I've only got three. I've got faithfulness, intimate knowing, passionate celebration, and—"
Juli: It's sacrificial love. This is the pillar that none of us really want, and it's the one that surprises us when we get married, especially if you grew up with pornography. You grew up believing, “Sex is all about me getting my needs met.” And then we Christianize that and say, “God wants me to get all my needs met within the marriage bed.”
But in reality, God's ultimate goal for us is to learn to love the way He loves. If He created marriage to be this reflection of His love for us, really the cornerstone of God's love for us is sacrifice. It's Him giving His Son. It's Jesus laying down Himself for us out of love. If marriage and sexuality are a reflection of our covenant with God, why would this not be baked in the cake, that we can't have a great sex life unless we learn to sacrifice for each other; unless we're growing in unselfish love?
Ann: Mike, what's that look like for you and Juli?
Mike: It's a great question. One of the things—it's interesting when you look at the Christian life—it's always about sacrifice. Christ said, [paraphrase] “If one mile, go two miles. Give more. Give of yourself. Give to the poor.” Except in this area, right? We, in the Church, have missed this. It's really been more myopic; more self-fulfilling. That's something that's really been, as I go through online Bible studies or online book studies with these guys through this (I've got a group of guys I go through [these studies with]), that's one that is an “Aha moment.” “Oh, that's right! The Christian life means serving, not being served.” It's almost like you can see a light bulb click or turn on for them where it's,” Oh, yes! That’s right! That's why my wife doesn't feel she's being heard, or she's being listened to or whatever.” Fill in the blank.
That's something, I think, that is a really cool thing to look at; but once again, we don't equate that to Christianity in the bedroom, right? “Well, I’m not supposed to serve.” No, you are. Why should that stop at the door? So, that's something that's, I think, been a great pillar to focus on.
Dave: So, that's something of taking your selfishness and trying to be absolutely unselfish in the bedroom. It's not about me. It's not about my wants and desires. “How can I serve?” You even wrote in the book about your struggle with that.
Juli: Yes, yes. I think God has created the differences between men and women so that you can't have a great sex life without learning to be unselfish.
Juli: And I do want to say, Dave, there is an element of healthy selfishness in marriage where, to enter into pleasure, you have to say, “My needs matter first.” But you have to have both. It's first, “How do I love you? How do I please you? How can I make this fun for you?” But it's also receiving. If you have a marriage where only one person has that sacrificial attitude, and the other remains selfish, you have a potentially destructive sex life. So, it has to be balanced with the other elements of what [a] healthy covenant looks like.
Dave: I’m guessing that a lot of this content is in your new book and in your workbook. Is that something you talked about in the new Art of Marriage®?
Dave: When we interviewed you for that video, you couldn't get all of this in there, but you got some of that in there?
Juli: Yes, we got a lot of it in there. I think they asked me like probably 20 or 30 questions [Laughter] “What would you say if…?” [Laughter] So, it was very—the Art of Marriage is very practical in terms of, “Okay, so how do we address our mismatched desire? How do we address if you find your spouse looking at pornography? How do we address it if I can't enjoy sex?” So, there's a lot of practical advice that comes through in that course.
Dave: Man, those three right there make me want to get it!
Ann: I know! [Laughter]
Dave: It's like, “Gee whiz! Those are—”
I can't ask you what your answers are, but it's in the new Art of Marriage, and you can sign up for the Art of Marriage preview event through the link in the show notes, or you can go to Familylife.com/ComingSoon.
Ann: You guys, thank you! It's great being with both of you. Thanks for all you're doing.
Mike: Thank you.
Juli: Thanks so much.
Mike: Thanks for having us.
Shelby: I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Juli and Mike Slattery on FamilyLife Today. Whew! It’s been a conversation, hasn't it?
If you know and love the original Art of Marriage or are curious to know all about why we're so excited for this new marriage small group study, we'd love it if you join us on November 1st for an exclusive look inside the study and to hear from the teachers of the study about why you should care about this new marriage curriculum. It's going to be amazing!
On November 1st, we're going to be kicking off pre-orders as well. So, you can go to the show notes, find the link there, and sign up. We can't wait to share the all-new Art of Marriage with you.
Dr. Juli Slattery has written a book called God, Sex, and Your Marriage. This book challenges the common assumptions couples have about sexuality, and really presents the richer biblical narrative of sex as a metaphor of God's covenant love. Dr. Slattery applies that biblical framework to the practical challenges of sexual intimacy. And we could all use some help there, right?
You can get a copy of God, Sex, and your Marriage at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800, “F” as in family, “L” as in life. and then the word “TODAY.”
Guess what? Today through Sunday, the Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaway is happening in Raleigh, NC. We'd love it if you'd pray for all the couples who will be attending there. With over 40 events across the country still happening between fall and spring, there's still time to find a location near you to attend the Weekend to Remember Marriage Getaway. You can find all that information at WeekendtoRemember.com.
Now coming up next week, marital transformation happens in the context of approaching God in prayer. David and Ann Wilson are going to be joined next week by Paul Miller to talk about praying together as husband and wife for marital transformation. That's coming up next week.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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