FamilyLife Today®

Holy Sex?

with Tim Gardner | February 9, 2007
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On the broadcast today, Tim Gardner, founding director of The Marriage Institute and author of the book Sacred Sex, tells of the different ways husbands and wives approach the sexual relationship and contrasts that with the way God wants us to view the sexual union in marriage.

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  • On the broadcast today, Tim Gardner, founding director of The Marriage Institute and author of the book Sacred Sex, tells of the different ways husbands and wives approach the sexual relationship and contrasts that with the way God wants us to view the sexual union in marriage.

On the broadcast today, Tim Gardner, founding director of The Marriage Institute and author of the book Sacred Sex, tells of the different ways husbands and wives approach the sexual relationship and contrasts that with the way God wants us to view the sexual union in marriage.

Holy Sex?

With Tim Gardner
February 09, 2007
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Bob: What is the sign of your marriage covenant with one another?  If you answered, "It's my wedding ring," you're only partially right.  Here is Tim Gardner.

Tim: Every covenant made has two parts – the verbal declaration in our modern wedding ceremony is the vows.  Now, what's the oath sign?  In God's design and God's plan, the oath sign is sex.  That is the sealing of the deal, so to speak.  That is the creation of the covenant; that is the oneness.  Understanding that God uses sex in such a powerful way to create this oneness relationship is, I think, where we have to begin in our understanding of what was God thinking.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 9th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  God had a lot more in mind when he designed marital intimacy than most of us have in mind when we experience it.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  You and I have been in situations, Dennis, where we have encouraged couples, in fact, you've led couples in repeating their wedding vows to one another.

Dennis: Right, right.

Bob: And we've talked about the fact that most of the time couples will say their wedding vows once, and then that's it.  You never say them again unless there's some special event that causes you to say them again.  And it seems, to us, that repeating our wedding vows is not a bad thing at all.  In fact, I've used the illustration of the Pledge of Allegiance and said I've said that more than once about the flag, and I certainly – I have deeper allegiance to my wife, frankly, than I do to my flag.  Is that going to get me in trouble here on FamilyLife Today, do you think?

Dennis: No, no, I don't think so.  But I think it does make the point well, isn't it interesting that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States more often than we pledge allegiance to our spouse?

Bob: Although, as we've already heard this week, there is …

Dennis: There's another way.

Bob: There's another way to restate your vows, isn't there?

Dennis: It's called "Sacred Sex," and that's the name of a book by Dr. Tim Gardner.  Tim, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Tim: Thank you, it's good to be here again.

Dennis: Tim is a speaker, a teacher, an author, a licensed counselor, also the founder and director of The Marriage Institute, and he and his wife, Amy, along with their three children, live in Indiana.

 Tim, you tell a story in your book about a couple by the name of Jake and Karen.  Now, I need to be careful with this, because my son-in-law's name is Jake, and this is not about him.

Bob: No, in fact, you use pseudonyms for all the folks in your book, didn't you?

Tim: And I even used conglomerate couples. 

Dennis: I just don't want him calling me saying, "What'd you use my name for on the broadcast?"  But, anyway, Jake and Karen came to you for counsel, and Karen had a complaint that all Jake wanted in their marriage was sex.  Now, what was at the root of Karen's discontent of their marital intimacy?

Tim: Karen's chief complaint was that she had become an object.  All her husband wanted was sex from her and didn't really want to do anything else.

Bob: Didn't want any other kind of relationship.

Tim: And, to him, that was – he thought he was being kind and loving, but she was simply an object.  She was the, as C.S. Lewis used to say, "the necessary apparatus" for what the man wanted.

Dennis: And you have a diagnosis or a name you give to this dysfunction, right?

Tim: Right.  I call it "HD."  It's no "ED" like we hear about on the commercials all the time, it's "HD" which stands for husbandus dysfunctionus.  And it's just a husband who doesn't understand the whole picture of his role as a husband and, even more, his role as a lover of his wife.

Dennis: Well, let's talk about what that looks like, all right?

Tim: Great.

Dennis: Take us to the picture of what Jake needs to understand about a woman first, and then about Karen specifically.

Tim: Men seem to have this ability.  Now, I always caution by saying it's not an excuse because men shouldn't use this as an excuse, but men have a great ability than women to compartmentalize.  They can have a horrible day at work and be chewed on by the boss and get caught in traffic on the way home, but they can seem to put all that out of the way to just want to come home and focus on having sex with their wife.

 A woman is much less able to compartmentalize, so if she's had a rough day or connected with her husband, if she feels disconnected to him, they haven't spent any time talking or she doesn't feel that he knows her in her world, what's going on, then she's not real likely to want to have sex, because that comes as a result of being known.

 So this type of husband comes home, and instead of saying "Honey, how can I help with the kids or dinner or the house," he'll pick up the mail, he'll flip on Sports Center, he'll head straight and start checking e-mail, and he'll go through the whole night doing his thing, and then he can't figure out why his wife is not ready to make love to him that night.

 So the dysfunctional husband is one who simply sees his world as the most important piece and doesn't see it as his job to get fully, 100 percent involved in his wife's world.

Bob: Okay, and I just want to stick up for the guys here who are listening and saying, "Okay, I've heard this, and I've made the switch.  You know, Tim, I've decided to be that kind of husband who does come home and help out.  I'm tender, and I say the right words, and I do all the right stuff, and I've been doing this for a while now and, you know, I haven't seen a dramatic change in my wife.  So I may have had HD.  I'm cured, but the situation is still there."

Tim: That's a great insight, but, to be honest, most of my experience is when a guy says they've done that, they've done it for two days.  They've done it for a day and a half.  They haven't done it for this long-term commitment focused on serving their wife.  And I guess to take that to the next level of what serving really means – if I'm doing it because I expect any response out of my wife, that's not service that's manipulation.

 If I'm doing it to really minister to my wife, to really serve her, then the response I'm not as worried about – or I shouldn't be as worried about.

Bob: And if a wife senses she's being manipulated, that just shuts her down emotionally, physically, all the way around, doesn't it?

Tim: Absolutely.  I mean, a common complaint that you hear from wives is that, "Okay, my husband does those types of things when he wants sex.  I can tell by the way he begins acting when he gets home of taking dishes to the kitchen" or whatever it might be.

 Now, granted, there are, to take that to the other side of this conversation, there are men who are very servant-focused, whose wives don't respond as well, and then I come back to say, "Okay, then, we need to have a discussion with the wife to see what her understanding of sexual intimacy really is."

Dennis: Yeah, and I found that interesting in your book.  You said that there are two questions a wife needs to answer – not only what she thinks about sex but also how she thinks about sex.  Unpack that a bit, if you would.

Tim: If sex for her is simply another thing on the to-do list, and it's simply a physical pleasure, then if she comes to the end of the day, and she's tired, and she has a choice between sleeping or sex …

Bob: … or another chore, in her mind?

Tim: Or another chore – she's like, you know what?  Give me the sleep.  So if she is approaching it from the "It is just another thing on my to-do list" or "just a physical pleasure that I'm going to have to" – even if she's able to respond sexually and enjoy it when she wants to, if it's simply an act or a physical pleasure, she'll let it go. 

 The shift goes back to what we've already covered this week, and that's that sexual intimacy is about the creation and re-creation of oneness, the creation and re-creation of the covenant, the saying all over again that "I would marry you." 

 So thinking about sex is something for the "us," for the celebration of the oneness, to honor God, even, will be the thought process that she needs to go through to see it a different way and not just something else on the to-do list.

Dennis: So how she thinks about sex and what she thinks about sex then becomes, "I want to celebrate my marriage with my husband and re-commit our marriage covenant.  I want to demonstrate that, and I want to do that on a regular basis."

Tim: Absolutely

Dennis: "I want to say to him, 'I would marry you all over again.'"  That's how she is to think, and that's what she's supposed to think as she approaches this subject.

Bob: You know, as I hear you guys talking about this, I'm thinking about the difference between a chore and a gift.  If you're doing a chore for someone, it's drudgery, it's work, it's something you'd rather not do.  If you're giving someone a gift, you're kind of excited about the gift, and you want the person to like the gift, and you are doing it because you want to bless this person or honor this person, and I think there may be a lot of wives who are thinking of sex as a chore and not as a gift they can give regularly to their husbands.

Tim: And to bring in Paul's words, "God loves a cheerful giver" where you're not giving grudgingly or under compulsion.  And, again, I think that's the factor.  If a wife feels that she has to give sex to her husband, like it is a have-to – it's not something for her to give, it's something that's, in some effects, has been taken from her, then it will not have that spirit that it is supposed to have.

 Women who have experienced sexual abuse of one kind of another in their life, what they have learned is that sex and sexuality is something to be taken from them.  They didn't have the power to prevent somebody, they did not give it freely, it was taken from them, and one huge piece of the healing process for somebody that has been sexually abused is to realize that this is a gift that God has given them and given them the ability to freely give.

 It's not just giving sex, it's giving yourself, it's giving everything about you, and there is so much freedom in that.  Again, it's where it goes from the have-to to the get-to.

Dennis: In your book you mention something that's called "meta sex."  Is this the solution to this scenario we're talking about here – because you describe a fresh way of looking at this whole subject of two becoming one.

Tim: In the business world, we talk often about meta communication, where that's not just how you communicate, it's what you think about communication, it's what you think the purpose of communication is, and so I started thinking about that in connection to sex – that we have to realize that everything that wanders through our days and our minds affects what we think about sex or even how we experience sex.

 So meta sex is understanding that what goes on at breakfast affects our sexual intimacy.  What I think about sex during the day, what I see during the day, what happened to me 15 years ago, if I haven't dealt with it – all of that affects sex.  So meta sex is realizing that everything I think, do, and respond, everything that I've created in my mind impacts the sexual experience.

Dennis: And for you and Amy, as your marriage progressed, there was something taking place in your marriage that was causing her to be able to keep her focus off of marital intimacy and oneness.

Tim: Yeah, I appreciate you bringing that up, thanks.

Dennis: Well, you were the one that wrote about it.  That's one of the problems of being …

Bob: … with her permission, I might add, right?

Dennis: Being an author, you know, you tell these stories, and then you're going to be asked about it by some radio interviewer, you know?

Tim: Out there forever.  That's exactly right, and I look back on – you know, we're getting close to 20 years, and I was a real clod in this whole area for a lot of years – still a clod in a lot of ways – but I was fascinated, as wives will think their husbands are, with sex.  But learning about it and what was God saying and always reading books on it, and my wife, being much more practical and grounded than me in a lot of ways was always concerned about our finances.  She was a schoolteacher, I was a youth minister, so we were always keeping an eye on things.

 So she would say, "Well, honey, what about the budget and have you – we need to talk about the budget and what about this?"  And I'd say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, but let me tell you what I just read about sex."

 And one day it was the proverbial board between the eyes when she said, "Honey, I wish you cared about our finances as you do about our sex life."  And that was the stop-me-in-my-tracks comment of you know what?  She's right.  She's exactly right.  I need to deal with what's important to her, important to our family, but this is an issue that I am ignoring that she is trying to get my attention.

 And what I had to understand was that that was hurting our sex life.  That was hurting our intimacy; that was hurting our entire relationship because I was not paying attention to something that was vitally important to her.

Dennis: Unless the man listened to your story and have some pride thinking, "Well, I'm glad I balance my checkbook and my wife knows I'm fully in charge of this area," you could pretty much fill in the blank with whatever our wife's needs are at this time.  And her needs change, by the way, as you move through the different seasons of life.

 It could be "You're not paying as much attention to our family," "to the raising of our children," "to me and my needs" "to how I need your help around the house," "to spiritual direction of this family."  You could just keep on adding.  The list goes on and on, but the question is for every husband who is listening to our broadcast, what is your wife's greatest need right now from you.  How would she answer that?

 You need to get on the phone or send her an e-mail and let her be thinking about it before you pop the question to her tonight and then listen carefully to what she says – maybe ask her for her top three needs and ask her to prioritize them.

Bob: I have to ask you about another scenario, because, Dennis, it's something you've written about in your book, "Rekindling the Romance," and I know you've seen it, Tim, as you talk with couples.  We've been operating on the assumption that this is kind of a one-way scenario; that guys have a higher sexual appetite than women do.  Women, for whatever reason, are less interested, and yet you know in this culture there is almost an inverse phenomenon that's beginning to go on.  There are wives who are listening going, "That is not our situation at all.  In fact, it's just the opposite."  What's going on there?

Tim: Besides the HD I talk about in the book, I also talk about what I called "CWM," and it's not country western music – I like that, actually.  CWM is a critical wife or mom.  Complaints are good in marriage.  Criticism is something different.  Criticism gets at there's something inherently wrong with you, and if a husband feels criticized by his earning potential, it's one thing to complain about his role with the kids, it's another thing to be critical of the way he is interacting with the kids.

 If he feels criticized all the time, where he is not feeling naked and unashamed, because that is a two-way thing, then he will find himself less willing to engage sexually.  He may be somebody that is more in tune with the wholeness of his life.  I want to make sure I stress – we talk about that men can be more compartmentalized, but I don't think that's what God wants.  God wants us to be as connected with our whole world and sharing our world with our spouse as much as she wants to share hers with us.

 I think we hide behind that.  I'll have people come into the counseling office and say, "You know, my dad didn't share his feelings, and my granddad didn't share his feelings, and I don't share mine," and I go "Great, you're a third-generation cripple.  Break that cycle.  Your wife wants to know what's going on inside your world."

Dennis: Barbara and I have recently had a conversation just, it seems like, for about the 100th time about the schedule.  As you might imagine, our schedules get rather brisk from time to time, and my wife is slower paced than I am.  And, I'll tell you, the answer did not come immediately.  I had to interact with my wife over and over and over again to begin to really fine-tune this and hear what she was saying, but what you are saying is relevant. 

 Our wives need to feel understood, and that doesn't necessarily mean at the point of understanding that you provide a solution to the problem.  It just means that you've heard them, and that you are beginning to express concern and affection and love and action that shows her and demonstrates to her, you know what?  Your life is important to me, and I do want to serve you, and I do want to love you well.

Tim: I should not hide behind, "Honey, that's just the way I am."  A similar event from our own marriage – I enjoy public speaking, I get to do quite a bit of it, and I am one of those that usually can walk into a situation having really thought through it just the day or a couple of days before I'm supposed to speak.  My wife's not that way at all.  She wants to have the whole outline and know everything she is supposed to say weeks ahead of time.

 Well, you see the conflict.  It would be urgent for her to sit down and have this conversation three or four weeks away, and I'm going, "Three or four weeks away?  That's an eternity."

Dennis: Exactly.

Tim: And after we had a number of these, I realized you know what?  I may not need that but my wife does, and it is a great service to her to clear the calendar, clear an evening, sit down and say, "Honey, let's go through this."

Dennis: And not do it begrudgingly.

Tim: Absolutely – back to the cheerful giver.

Dennis: Tim, what I really appreciate about what you're doing here is you're calling all of us men to truly be better lovers, and you're calling wives to be more intelligent lovers of their husbands as well. 

 The marriage relationship is one long process as a man of me learning what it really means to truly love and accept and understand and care for and serve my wife.  And I've gone to that school repeatedly.  I think the same thing can be true for a woman, and in this area of the marriage relationship it may be that the husband is more interested than the wife but, at that point, she perhaps needs to use this area of her life to get God's perspective of sexual oneness and marital oneness and re-think her own perspective of what she thinks about sex and how she thinks about sex and realize that it is also a call to redemption, too.  It's a way to learn how to love an imperfect man.

 And, again, it's back to the lifelong process that marriage is.  Where else could this happen but between two people who have forged a covenant, a promise, a pledge to one another – "I'm not going anywhere.  You're the one for me.  I love you, sweetheart, and you know what?  I'm glad I get to go through this process with you as a person."

Bob: You know, I've talked to a lot of guys over the years, and we've talked about their love life and how's your love life, and I've said, "Look at 1 Corinthians, chapter 13.  Go down to verse 4 and start reading where it says love is patient and kind, love does not envy or boast, love is not arrogant."  I said, "Just get that far.  Now go back up and instead of 'love' just put your name in there.  Bob is patient is patient and kind, Bob does not envy or boast, Bob is not arrogant."  I say, "I usually have to stop there, you know, because I'm blowing" – if I want to be a lover, if I want our love life to flourish, then this needs to be the milieu in which that happens.  These things need to be happening. 

 Mary Ann needs to be married to somebody who is patient and kind and who does not envy or boast and is not arrogant or rude; does not insist on his own way; is not irritable or resentful; does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth; who bears all things; believes all things; hopes all things; and endures all things.

Dennis: And one who doesn't sit in front of the tube watching "Game Day" and "Sports Center" and the hunting channel or whatever it is.  Are you with me?  The one who gets out of the …

Bob: I wish you hadn't brought that up.

Dennis: … but gets out of that chair and goes in there and turns off the TV and makes a statement and says, "Sweetheart, how can I serve you tonight?  How can I love you?"  Without, back to your point, Tim, without expecting a bonus on the other side of the evening.

Bob: But I wonder how many couples could be honest and transparent enough to have that kind of a conversation, you know?  I think there are so many couples who tiptoe or dance around this subject and feel like we can't bring it up without there being hurt feelings or hard feelings, and maybe they need someone who they can sit down with and have an open conversation.  Maybe they need to attend a Weekend to Remember where we talk very candidly about this subject and where there's a project that couples can work through.

 In fact, we're kicking off our spring season of Weekend to Remember conferences this evening in cities all across the country in the conferences and continues into June.  If you're not currently scheduled to attend one of these conferences, let me encourage you to go online at and get more information about the Weekend to Remember, and if you want to find that, go to our website,  Click the red button that you see in the middle of the screen that's heart-shaped right now, and that will take you right to a page where there is a link to the Weekend to Remember information. 

 There is also information about Tim Gardner's book, "Sacred Sex," and that's something that couples could sit down and read together that might open this subject up for them and make it possible for them to communicate with one another about this admittedly delicate subject for husbands and wives to talk about.

 Again, the title of Tim's book is "Sacred Sex, a Spiritual Celebration of Oneness in Marriage," and we've got it in the FamilyLife Resource Center along with other resources that are available on the subject of romance and passion in marriage.  You'll find the information about these resources on our website. 

 When you go to, and you click the red heart-shaped button that says "Go," that's right in the middle of the screen, that will take you to an area, the site where you'll get more information about what is available from us here at FamilyLife Today related to romance in marriage.

 Let me say a quick word of thanks, if I can, Dennis, to the folks who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  I don't know how many of our listeners realize this, but the reason we are on the air today is because we have friends of the ministry who, in the past, have said "We believe in what you're doing, and we want to support it.  We'll make a donation to help keep you on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country." 

 In fact, we've got a whole new group of Legacy Partners who have just joined us recently.  They support the ministry on a monthly basis.  This month when you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we want to invite you to request a thank you gift.  It's a CD that features two messages – one from C.J. Mahaney, and the other from his wife, Carolyn, both of them talking about romance in marriage, the basics of romance.  C.J. helping us as husbands understand how we can do a better job of expressing our love and our care for our wives, and Carolyn helping wives understand how they can affirm their husbands romantically.

 That CD is our thank you gift when you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today during the month of February.  If you're donating online, as you fill out the donation form, you'll come to a keycode box.  If you'd like a copy of the CD I'm talking about, just type the word "Love" in that keycode box, and we'll send it out to you.

 Or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation, mention that you'd like the CD that is the thank you gift this month.  They'll know what you're talking about, and we'll get it sent out to you.  Again, it's our way of thanking you for your partnership with us here in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  Dennis?

Dennis: You know, Bob, it's been good this week to talk about this subject of marital intimacy, and, Tim Gardner, I just want to express my appreciation to you for writing this book, "Sacred Sex."  I think you've really brought a unique perspective from the Scriptures around this that has lifted us out of the worldly and put it in the perspective in the spiritual realm where I believe this truly belongs, because sex was really created by God for men and women to enjoy together, and I just want to thank you for being on FamilyLife Today.

Tim: It's been an honor to be here.  Thank you for having me.

Bob: And I want to thank our listeners for being with us this week as well, and I hope you have a great weekend.  I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when your wife, Barbara, is going to join us, Dennis, and we're going to talk about understanding better a woman's perspective on this subject of romance in marriage.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  Have a great weekend.  We'll see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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Episodes in this Series

Romance And Sex Day 1
God’s Design for Sex
with Tim Gardner February 8, 2007
Today on the broadcast, Tim Gardner, founding director of The Marriage Institute, talks with Dennis Rainey today about God's beautiful plan for the sexual relationship.
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