FamilyLife Today® Podcast

God, Sex, and Your Marriage: Dr. Juli and Mike Slattery

with Juli Slattery, Mike Slattery | October 12, 2023
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What if God gave us married sex as a picture of Himself? And how could your understanding of this picture revolutionize your sex life? Dr. Juli Slattery and her husband Mike explore mind-boggling truths of how, in an over-sexualized world, God's ideas about sex are far more than we imagined.

Covenant is a unique relationship that’s based on a promise. It’s not based on how you feel. It’s not based on if you’re attracted to someone. It’s not based on if you’re meeting each other’s needs. That’s a contract. A covenant is, “I am promising to love you. I am promising to not leave you or forsake you.”


  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

What if God gave us married sex as a picture of Himself? Dr. Juli Slattery and her husband Mike explore mind-boggling truths to revolutionize your sex life.

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God, Sex, and Your Marriage: Dr. Juli and Mike Slattery

With Juli Slattery, Mike Slattery
October 12, 2023
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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.

Juli: Covenant is a unique relationship that’s based on a promise. It’s not based on how you feel. It’s not based on if you’re attracted to someone. It’s not based on if you’re meeting each other’s needs. That’s a contract. A covenant is, “I am promising to love you. I am promising to not leave you or forsake you.”

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

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: As we travel around the country and do marriage conferences, it’s changed.

Ann: Yes, I would say it’s changed.

Dave: I mean, the audiences are the same, but there’s something different. We used to talk about sex and couples would come up and smile and say, “Thank you.” Now, they line up. They are hurt. They have wounds. They have trauma. They want to–it feels like a long line of a lot of pain.

Ann: What’s encouraging, Dave, is I feel like that trauma has probably always been there, but now they’re starting to be willing to talk about it. And I think because of my own past with sexual abuse and not thinking that would even affect my marriage. Then, we get married (so many of us) where there’s been some sort of trauma, and we don’t even know what to do with it after we get married.

Dave: Yes, and we need help. We’ve got help in the studio today. Dr. Juli Slattery is back. You are someone that can help us. Welcome back.

Juli: Thanks so much for having me. It’s always a joy to be here talking to friends.

Ann: Don’t you feel like when Juli’s with us, I come up with this list of things I want to talk to her about [Laughter] individually. Like, “Let’s talk to Juli about this!” There are so many things, because she’s wise; she’s biblical. She has a lot of help, and she has a new book, too.

Dave: Yes, and you’ve been talking and writing about sexuality for a long time. This new one is called, God, Sex, and Your Marriage. But before we even dig into it, you have four pillars in here of great sex, now who doesn’t want to know what those are, right?

Juli: Yes.

Dave: They’re saying, “Wait, wait, wait, wait. Don’t skip that.” We’ll get to it; [Laughter] but talk about what we just mentioned: trauma. Is that something you’re seeing as well compared to 30 years ago, or has that always been there?

Juli: I think, Ann, what you said is true.

Dave: It’s always—?

Juil: No, you just set her up so well.

Ann: It’s because Juli just told me about it on the walk back to the studio. [Laughter]

Dave: Is that true?

Juli: No, she knew, she knew—

Dave: –it’s always been there. Is that what you’re—

Juli: –it’s always been there, yes.

When you look at the stats, what is reported right now is about one in four women will say they’ve experienced some form of sexual trauma before the age of 18. And it would be about one in five or one in six men. But most experts will say (in the field) that’s way underestimated, because—

Ann: –really?

Dave: –yes, they’re not saying it.

Juli: –people aren’t reporting it. And a lot of people don’t even identify what they’ve experienced as sexual trauma until they’re with a counselor, and they describe it, and somebody says, “That was sexual abuse.”

Ann: That’s what happened to me.

Dave: I’m even wondering now, Juli, you would know better than anybody—a woman that’s married to a guy who’s looking at porn (or dating)—and again, I know women look at porn as well, but there’s a trauma in that, isn’t there?

Juli: Well, first of all there’s definitely dysfunction, and the trauma comes in depending on how that’s played out in their marriage. But there’s definitely something called “betrayal trauma,” and I don’t know if you all have talked about this on your show—

Dave: –no.

Juli: –but for somebody who’s married to somebody who has had affairs or even repeatedly is looking at pornography, that feeling and that experience of finding something on your husband’s phone or computer or your wife’s, or finding out that your spouse has had an emotional affair or been unfaithful—that is a trauma. All trust is now broken, and the individual who has experienced that begins to look back on their whole marriage or relationship and say, “Was anything real?”

Ann: Oh, yes.

Juli: “Was the past 20 years a lie?” And now, what we’ve begun to discover is that, particularly if it’s happened more than once, the person can develop post-traumatic stress symptoms about even hearing a ping of an iPhone. “Wow, is that another text my husband’s getting from a coworker?” or “I’m afraid to look at my son’s computer because I’m going to see it again.” That form of betrayal trauma is a real thing that’s being documented in literature today.

Dave: Man, what do you do?

Juli: Well, fortunately, there’s a lot of help out there, and there are ministries and resources that are really helping spouses navigate that. It’s very helpful to be in groups of other people that have experienced similar things so that you [know], “I’m not going crazy. You feel this, too.” But then, also ,to work with a therapist or a counselor who understands the dynamics of betrayal and of sexual addiction to help you know, “Where do you set boundaries?” And that’s one of the most difficult things to navigate: “How do I set boundaries and address the issue without being paranoid?” So, you really do need some specialized care if that’s your situation.

Ann: And Juli, your ministry is called Authentic Intimacy, and you are helping people. You do have groups. Your podcast Java with Juli is great, too, because people are now hearing other experts in this field helping them. Thanks for all the things that you’re helping all of us with.

Dave: Well, your first pillar, you tell us; I’m not telling you. You wrote it, [Laughter] but it has something to do with the other side of betrayal.

Juli: It really does.

Dave: You call it faithfulness.

Juli: Yes, let me set up the pillars really quickly—

Dave: –good—

Juli: –for you. A lot of people listening are married; even those who are single, you care about marriage. Let me ask you to consider a question: what do you think makes a great sex life? Now, you guys have read the book.

Ann: I know! [Laughter] I’m thinking [of] what I would have answered years ago even compared to what I would answer now.

Juli: What do you think people would say?

Dave: What makes a great sex life? Creativity, spontaneity, you know?

Ann: Dave, in the past—

Dave: –fun.

Ann: —you would have said frequency.

Dave: “She wants me.”

Ann: And as a woman, I would say a relationship is what matters; him being open with me and honest.

Dave: Relationship; really?

Ann: See, I’m all about, “I want to know you.” [Laughter] “I want to feel good about our relationship. I want there to be affection.” Those things make a great sex life.

Dave: Are we ‘ding, ding, ding’ or ‘wrong, wrong, wrong’?

Juli: No, you’re great. The big question is, “How would God define a great sex life?” That’s really what I was wrestling with in God, Sex, and Your Marriage, because I think most of us don’t know the answer to that question. Based on our experience and how we’re wired, we might pick aspects of, “This is what I think makes a great sex life,” but if we step back and we say, “Why did God create sex as a gift of marriage, and what does He say a great sex life [is]?”

Ann: What do most people say? Why did God create sex? What do you think most people—

Juli: –to make babies?

Dave: What would you say?

Juli: I would say He created sex as a way of revealing to us the nature of His covenant love. We have to understand that everything God has created in the natural world, He created intentionally to reveal Himself. If you read the scriptures, you’re not going to find a page in the Bible that doesn’t refer to natural creation in order for us to understand the nature of God.

Dave: Yes, it’s called general revelation.

Juli: There you go. Yes, the concept of family and father, relationship—all this teaches us about God. What did God create sex to reveal? If we read the scriptures, we see in the Old Testament and New Testament that He created sex to reveal this aspect of covenant, of His love for His covenant people, His chosen people. In the Old Testament, it was the nation of Israel. If you read the Old Testament, you see all this metaphorical language that’s sexual to describe God’s relationship with His people. In the New Testament, God’s covenant is with the Church and again, you see this bridal and sexual language as a metaphor to describe Christ’s relationship with the Church. If that’s the purpose of sex, then what does a great sex life look like? And the answer is, it looks like God’s love for His covenant people; and that’s where I came up with these four pillars.

Dave: Well, that was a mini-course in theology right there, that most believers have never even heard. Regardless of if you’re talking about sex, it’s just–but I guess you’re going to get into it under the first pillar. This covenant, what does it mean?

Juli: Covenant is a unique relationship that’s based on a promise. It’s not based on how you feel. It’s not based on if you’re attracted to someone. It’s not based on if you’re meeting each other’s needs. That’s a contract. A covenant is, “I am promising to love you. I am promising not to leave you or forsake you.”

Again, we hear echoes of that all throughout scripture, but it’s what we’re intended to say in our wedding vows, ‘til death do us part. “No matter what comes, I’m going to be faithful.” When we look at the way God loves us, there’s a very practical application to what marriage looks like and what sex looks like. That first pillar, which is the first aspect of understanding God’s love for us, is this idea of faithfulness; that God’s love for us is a promise; that He is not going to change. He’s the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. His Word can be trusted. His character is faithful, and even when He doesn’t make sense, we can trust Him.

So, when we say, “What’s a great sex life look like?” you know, this idea of being sexually faithful—you can tell me if this has been your experience, but I always feel like the topic of faithfulness in sex is sort of like the special issue that only certain people want to know about. If you have experienced a betrayal, now you want a book on faithfulness. But what we don’t realize is, nothing else good from sex can happen if you don’t have a foundation of faithfulness.

Ann: Well, okay, Juli.

Dave: I agree 1,000 percent!

Ann: Yes, me, too.

Dave: It is the foundation.

Ann: I’m thinking of the listener thinking, “I married—he’s not faithful, and he’s addicted to porn.” This could go either way. And “we don’t even have a relationship. He’s not even a believer. Am I supposed to fulfill that covenant?”

Juli: Yes; boy, that’s a deep question, and there are a lot of nuances to each individual’s situation, but here’s what I will say: you can’t build anything else until the faithfulness aspect is addressed.

Ann: His faithfulness or your faithfulness?

Juli: His, because any form of sexual infidelity, including habitual use of pornography, is a violation of trust. God created sex to be so vulnerable and so intimate that we can’t trust and we can’t be vulnerable if there’s continually breaking of that trust. You have to address the faithfulness issue. If there’s a lack of trust, if there’s a lack of fidelity, nothing else can be built.

Ann: How do we address that? You know, if a listener is resonating, “I don’t even know what that would look like to address it.” How do we address that with a spouse?

Juli: Yes, well, first let me level set for a minute. I would say, based on the research that’s coming out now, probably about 90 percent of men and about 40 to 50 percent of women have some history with pornography. Many of them are continuing to struggle with it.

Dave: 90 percent of men?

Juli: Yes.

Dave: 50 percent of women?

Juli: Particularly in these younger generations.

Dave: And that’s in the church as well?

Juli: Yes, because we’re raised on it ,and those images get stuck in your brain. For many people, they’re very addictive. This is not just saying, you know, for that random couple out there. You’re not a random couple. Unfortunately, this is the norm. How do we address it? The first thing we need to do is to be honest about it. I think this is a conversation we avoid in the church and we avoid [in] marriage, because we’re afraid of what the answer is. We’re afraid of the conflict that will come up if we talk about it.

When we look at scripture, it says, “If we say we have no sin,” first of all, “we’re a liar, and we have no fellowship with God or with one another.” That’s what’s happening in a lot of marriages, because they’re avoiding the sin. They’re saying, “There’s nothing wrong. We’re fine.”

You can’t have deep fellowship with each other, and you can’t have fellowship with God. John tells us what to do in that situation: confess your sin; bring it out into the light. Let’s have the hard conversation, and then God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It has to begin by bringing it into the light, and not just with one another, but bringing it into the light with God. Praying, seeking help, seeking mentoring. There are a lot of ministries and groups where it now has become a safe place to have these kinds of conversations. Men with men, women with other women, and also for married couples.

Dave: Should a married man tell his wife, or should he keep it between him and God?

Ann: And a woman?

Dave: –tell a bunch of guys?

Juli: Yes, you have to share it with your spouse.

Dave: Yes.

Juli: There’s no intimacy when there are secrets.

Dave: Yes, I’ve heard others say, “Just tell a buddy.” I shared, 35 years ago, [that] I struggled with pornography with Ann. It didn’t go well in that first conversation.

Juli: Yes.

Dave: I mean, we laugh about it now, but she was just irate. This was before there was digital—and nobody in the church, especially in the church leadership, would ever say they struggled, and I did. I actually said it from the pulpit, too.

Ann: I’m really grateful though, because—

Dave: –it was a much-needed conversation, but it was a scary moment.

Ann: —I want to know all of him.

Juli: Yes.

Ann: I think that’s the gospel. Jesus knows [us], wants all of us, sees it all; and He continues to pursue and love us. I think that’s the picture of marriage.

Dave: And is that even a move toward faithfulness?

Juli: 100 percent.

Dave: Because when you bring it out of the secret area and bring it alive: “I am committed to being faithful, and I can’t—"

Juli: –yes—

Dave: –“if I have a lie or a secret.”

Juli: I think there is a big difference between finding out that your spouse is looking at pornography and them confessing; because a confession is, “I’m heartbroken about this. I’m wanting to be vulnerable with you. I’m wanting to get help. I’m bringing it into the light,” versus what often happens is, I find it once, then I find it again, and I think we’re okay. A year later, I find it once again. Now, we’re into, again, that betrayal trauma.

“What is true? I can’t trust anything.” So, as much as you feel like, “This is going to hurt my spouse to speak it out loud,” you’ve already hurt your spouse. It’s there. It’s in the bedroom with you. It’s interfering with intimacy. Bring it into the light. That first conversation may not go well but bring God into the conversation. Reach out for help!

Ann: Juli, what about as a parent? Are these discussions a mom has with her daughter?

Juli: Yes.

Ann: That a dad has with his son. And what if you’re a blended family, or you’re a single mom or dad? Is that important?

Juli: It is vitally important, and you can have conversations mother to son, father to daughter, if that’s where the strongest relationship is. In my family, we have three sons, so my husband did some of that father work with our sons, but because I was way more comfortable with this topic, I’ve also had honest conversations with my sons. It doesn’t have to be graphic. There’s no need for it to be graphic to talk about what pornography is, to disciple them through that journey. That’s not just mom and dad, but it’s also the other people that God brings into a young person’s life to mentor and disciple them.

Ann: You could start with that stat: 90 percent of men; 40 to 50 percent of women.

Juli: Yes. This is, again, not an isolated event. It is an epidemic.

Dave: I would just say to the man that’s listening who’s struggling with pornography. I mean the stats are real, and almost every guy I talk to, if they’re really honest, says, “Yes, I’ve struggled.” And the scariest thing in your life is to think about telling somebody, especially your wife. I’m just saying, from one man to another: tell her. I know you’ll be in fear and trepidation. I've been there. You’ll get every excuse not to do it today or tomorrow.

Juli, you can agree or not. I would say, “Man, this is a conversation that you’ve got to have, and trust will be built. It sounds like the opposite is going to happen but over time as you journey together as a couple, trust will be built.” Faithfulness is that key pillar, and I’m guessing you started with faithfulness because it starts there.

Juli: Yes.

Dave: It’s going to be built as you navigate through honesty. It starts with honesty.

Juli: So true. Dave, one thing that I say is, the most important ingredient of your sex life is your character. If you don’t have that, it doesn’t matter how many books you read. It doesn’t matter how good you think you are in bed. You’ve got nothing. God wants to refine our character and that’s, for many of us, the first step.

Dave: Yes, you wrote—I’m reading right from your book: “You might get physically naked without trust, but true intimacy is impossible without it” (that trust). And if you sense that your spouse has a secret, whether it’s porn or emotional affair or a real affair, there’s no trust, so there’s really no intimacy.

Juli: Right.

Dave: It’s fake intimacy.

Ann: I’ll add this, too, Dave. When you were battling that, I could sense something was up.

Dave: Oh, yes.

Ann: And I would say to Dave, “Something’s going on. I don’t feel like we’re connecting. I feel like there’s something happening.” And I would ask him, “Is there something going on?” I wish I had gone to Dave with love and grace [with], “Hon, I just want you to know I’m your teammate. If you are battling—I heard the stats today and if this is a battle for you—as a wife, I’m going to confess if I’ve battled. I want you to know I will help you and be your teammate in it. I can’t imagine how scary it would be to tell me, but I want to know. I want to be in this together with you.” Would that be a wise thing to do?

Juli: Boy, that’s so beautifully put.

Dave: That’s what I thought.

Juli: Yes.

Dave: I thought, “Wow!”

Ann: Thanks, you guys.

Dave: Why didn’t you do that 35 years ago? [Laughter]

Ann: I was going to say, I would give yourself time to respond if your spouse tells you. I wish I had said, “I need a night just to take this before God,” because I did not do that, and I just reacted. I blew up. I was angry. I probably called you names.

Juli: That’s the normal response.

Ann: It is?

Juli: Oh, 100 percent, yes! The wife feels betrayed. She feels like, “You’ve kept this secret from me!”

Ann: Maybe, “You’ve lied to me over and over.”

Juli: And “How could you do this? Does this mean you don’t love me? I feel rejected.” It brings up all of her insecurities. The conversation that you just kind of role played—We’re old [Laughter], and you and I—

Ann: —we’ve learned—

Juli: —we’ve had time to grow in our relationship with the Lord, to grow in trust in our marriage. We’re at a place now where we can have that kind of approach. [Laughter] But maybe 25 years ago, those words could not have come out of my mouth.

Ann: Me neither,

Juli: So, for those younger wives who are listening (and husbands), there’s grace in this journey; and that’s why it’s so important to have older couples that can mentor you through this, because there’s a very good chance they’ve been through it as well.

Ann: That’s good.

Dave: Before we keep going, there’s a new thing FamilyLife is launching soon that you’re apart of—

Ann: —yes, a special project—

Dave: –a video-based series. We’ve been in it; you’re in it. Tell us what you’re excited about for this thing.

Juli: Yes, I’m excited for couples to have a resource where they can just learn some of the very basics of navigating marriage issues. I think sometimes, we take for granted that we know how to communicate, we know how to address conflict, we know how to approach sexual issues in our marriage or issues around finances. There’s such a need. Even in my own marriage, my husband and I have been married for 28 years, but to come back to the basics and to view them through God’s perspective and to be able to do that kind of processing in a group. FamilyLife has done an outstanding job of creating this kind of resource, and I’m just blessed to be a part of it.

Ann: And the resource we’re talking about is the new Art of Marriage®.

Dave: Let me tell you, it is awesome!

Ann: It’s going to be great.

Dave: I mean, the original Art of Marriage, which has been out for a couple decades, was fabulous. You know, obviously, we ended up in it, but we’re in the new one. What has been created, I think, is just going to blow people away. It is one of the best video marriage curriculums you will ever get a chance to see. Any by the way, you’re going to get a preview if you want. On November 1st, you can get a preview of the new Art of Marriage. You can sign up in the show notes, or you can go to soon, and you’ll get a chance to see what this new Art of Marriage is going to be about.

Ann: Juli, I’m really glad that you can be a part of this with us.

Dave: Well, we’ll do another program to do the other three pillars. We only got one of four. And we thought it would be fun to bring your husband Mike in to—

Juli: —that would be—

Dave: –hear the real story.

Juli: Keeping me honest here.

Ann: I like it.

Juli: That sounds good.

Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Juli Slattery on FamilyLife Today. We have been working a ton to bring you all the new Art of Marriage. You’ve been asking, and we heard you. So, if you’re not familiar with the Art of Marriage, it’s our cornerstone small group marriage study. Since its release in 2011, it has impacted well over a million couples globally.

On November 1st, we will be hosting a live event to give you an inside look at the new content and hear from the teachers of the study why marriages are so important and the impact we think this study will have. To sign up for the live event and to be the first to preorder, go to the show notes and find the link there. We cannot wait to share the all-new Art of Marriage with you.

You know, Juli Slattery has written a book called God, Sex, and Your Marriage. It challenges the common assumptions couples have about sexuality and presents, really, the richer biblical narratives of sex as a metaphor of God’s covenant love. You can get a copy of Dr. Slattery’s book of God, Sex, and Your Marriage at, 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.”

Now, tomorrow, as Dave and Ann Wilson were talking about earlier, Juli Slattery is going to be joined by her husband, Mike. They’re going to be talking about the parallels between God’s love and marriage. You won’t want to miss it.

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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