FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Marital Intimacy, Part 1

with Bob Lepine | July 20, 2011
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Marital intimacy is more like a thermometer than a thermostat. It's an indication of your relationship together, and your relationship with God. Bob Lepine talks about some of the physical and mental factors that can affect the intimacy in a marriage.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Marital intimacy is more like a thermometer than a thermostat. It's an indication of your relationship together, and your relationship with God. Bob Lepine talks about some of the physical and mental factors that can affect the intimacy in a marriage.

  • 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.

Marital intimacy is more like a thermometer than a thermostat.

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Marital Intimacy, Part 1

With Bob Lepine
July 20, 2011
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Bob:  When it comes to marital intimacy, are you most often selfish and self-focused, or do you find yourself thinking, “How can I love and serve my spouse in this area?”  Maybe there’s even a bigger, more important, question, and that is, “How can my marital intimacy honor and please God?”

This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 20th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We’re going to spend some time today examining marital intimacy and sexuality.  What is God’s design?  What’s God’s purpose for it?  How can we honor Him in the marriage bed? 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  When you are speaking at one of the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways, do you have a favorite message?  Is one of the ones – because we talk about, I don’t know, twelve different topics over the course of the weekend – is one of them your favorite?

Dennis:  I like the message on “Five Threats,” which explains how every marriage is moving toward isolation.  I also like the message on God’s purpose for marriage, which talks about the noble reason God created marriage.  I also like. . .

Bob:  You know, I asked. . .

Dennis:  . . . the plan for marriage.  “Sexual Intimacy.”  I like to talk to the men about being a husband and about being a father.

Bob:  (laughing)  Do you have a favorite or not?

Dennis:  All of them.  I can’t pick one, Bob.  You know that I can’t pick just one. 


Dennis:  And I really love the section where we present the gospel of Jesus Christ, because there are a lot of people today, who end up at our conference, who do not know Him as their Savior and Lord and Master.  It is really a privilege to practically, authentically, and biblically present the claims of the cross, and what Jesus Christ came to do for every person there.  How He came to redeem them from the ultimate problem in marriage, which is their selfishness and their sinfulness.

Bob:  You know, I have a friend who lives in Northern California; he is one of our Legacy Partners (he makes monthly contributions to help support FamilyLife Today and help keep us on the air).  He’s been writing to me.  He and his wife are signed up for the Weekend to Remember® at Yosemite this year.

Dennis:  That’s a tough venue.  Are you speaking at that one?

Bob:  I’m not speaking, but he’s really looking forward to the weekend, in part because his wife is not a believer.  He is hoping that in that context God might do a work in her heart and in her life.  So I’m praying with him about that as they get ready for that event.

Dennis:  You know, there are three or four thousand people per year who come to faith in Christ just through our Weekend to Remember® getaways.  They’re coming to a conference to try to find out how to put their marriage together and they realize, “You know what?  I’m not together.”

We do our very best to present the claims of Jesus Christ in a clear manner and invite folks to enter into a relationship with Him by faith.  Bob, some of our listeners find themselves in an unequally yoked relationship.  They ought to find a way to get away to the Weekend to Remember®, and just see how God uses it – not only in their life, but in their spouse’s life.

Bob:  We’re trying to do something special for FamilyLife Today listeners.  We have a group rate that is available for people who put a group together in their local church or wherever they want to put a group together.  We thought, “We’re going to make that available to FamilyLife Today listeners.” 

You’ll save about $100 per couple if you sign up to be a part of a group.  So, when you’re ready to go, you go online to or you call 1-800-FLTODAY.  Find out when one of our getaways is going to be in a city near where you live, or a city you’d like to travel to, or a weekend that works for you, and you’re ready to sign up.  As you fill out the registration form online, or as you talk to somebody here at FamilyLife by calling 1-800-FLTODAY, just make sure you let us know that you’re a part of my group.  Type “BOB” in the group box on the online registration form, or just tell whoever you’re talking to that you’re a part of the FamilyLife Today group or Bob’s group. 

If you do that, again, you’ll save at least $100 per couple off the regular registration fee, and if you go ahead and sign up between now and the end of the month, we’ll also send you a game for couples called “Spouse-ology.”  It’s kind of a fun game; like a newlywed game that couples can play even after they’ve been married for awhile.  That’s an early-bird gift we’re sending out if you will go ahead and register now for an upcoming conference – maybe the one in Yosemite, or I think we’ve got a couple in San Diego; San Antonio, Texas has got one coming up; there’s one in Philadelphia.  I mean, there are some great locations for the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. 

So, figure out where you want to go.  Get signed up.  Make sure you use my name – type “BOB” in the group box or call 1-800-FLTODAY and tell them you’re a part of Bob’s group or you’re a regular FamilyLife Today listener.  You’ll save at least $100 per couple off the regular registration fee and, if we hear from you before the end of the month, we’ll also send you the “Spouse-ology” game.  Register online at or call 1-800-F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word “today” and get signed up for one of these Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways.

Dennis:  Well, today we’re going to get a chance to listen to a message by Bob Lepine, who was giving some of the content from the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway on the important area of “Sexual Intimacy in Marriage.”

Bob:  And I just want to say here – this is one of those messages. . .

Dennis:  Is this your favorite?

Bob:  It’s pretty close.  Like you, I’ve got some messages that I really love to give.  But this one – how often can you sit down with a group of husbands and wives and say, “Let’s get honest about one of the areas where many of us struggle; where there are challenges in our marriage”? 

I just find this to be a message that God uses in a lot of couples’ lives to help them in an area where they struggle in silence and they can’t talk to each other about it; they can’t talk to anybody else about it.  So they just struggle.  So, yes, I like talking about this subject.

Dennis:  I can tell that you do, and yet you do a very tasteful job of dealing with a very intimate subject.  Let’s listen to Bob Lepine on “Sexual Intimacy in Marriage” from a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.

Bob:  “We’re going to talk in this time about sex.  Are you ready?

Now, come on, let’s get a little enthusiasm going for the subject here.


This is a subject that is always a difficult subject to talk about in a mixed group.  I mean, there are some of you who are hoping I will go for however long I’m going to go and not say the word “sex” again, OK?

There are others who are wondering what kind of video clips we have for this session.  I understand.  It’s a divided room on the subject.

But here’s what we believe:  we believe that, number one, this is an issue in more marriages than we realize.  That this is one of those hidden, quiet issues that is causing couples to die in their marriage.  And where do they go to get help?  Who do you go to talk to about this?  Do you talk to your friend?  That’s awkward.  Are you going to talk to the pastor?  That could be awkward. 

So, it’s really one of those tough deals.  So we feel like we have an opportunity at our weekends and in this setting to really open up the subject and say, “Let’s look at this from a healthy, hopefully appropriate, but thoroughly biblical way of looking at this issue.”

Dr. Howard Hendricks, who taught for years at Dallas Theological Seminary said, “We should not be ashamed to discuss what God was not ashamed to create.”  I think he’s right.  I think we need to be able to get this subject out in the open, and in an appropriate way, deal with what’s going on in the area of our sexual relationship. 

So, we believe that sex was created by God.  Now, for some of you, that just changes your whole picture of who God is right there.  But stop and think about it.  God could have engineered human reproduction any way He wanted to, right?  He could have said, “OK, when it’s time to have a baby, you shake hands and then you’ll have a baby,” you know?  He could have come up with anything He wanted to.  He designed and invented men and women coming together in sexual union, and He made it pleasurable with the idea that procreation would be a part of that; that enjoyment would be a part of that; and that oneness would be a part of that. 

This whole idea of becoming “one” would have a spiritual picture to it.  Here’s what we want to suggest to you this morning.  There are really four elements that we think are the key elements for a healthy, vibrant, fulfilling sexual relationship.  When any of these four elements is lacking or missing or waning, it’s going to affect your sexual relationship.

The first one is commitment.  The second one is companionship.  The third is passion, and the fourth is spiritual intimacy.  We’re going to spend some time unpacking what all of that looks like as we go through it.  When we were working on “The Art of Marriage” project, one of the challenges we had was that we were going to spend a whole session on the sexual relationship on film.  “How are we going to deal with that appropriately?  How are we going to engage folks?”

One of the ideas that we had was to do a little “man on the street” stuff.  We worked with a filmmaker in New Orleans.  New Orleans is a great place to film this kind of stuff because you get diversity in New Orleans, right?

Here’s what we said to them:  “We’d like to go to a park in New Orleans and we would like you to take the love letter that Solomon wrote to the Shulamite woman that is found in the book Song of Solomon (I think it’s Chapter Seven), and then we would like you to take the love letter that the Shulamite woman wrote to Solomon that is in the same book (in Chapter Five).  We would like you to give those love letters to people out in the street and have them read them and interpret as they go along.  Then, at the end of it all, after they’re done, ask them if they have any idea where that came from.”

I mean, this is the inspired word of God as much as John 3:16.  It’s God’s view on the sexual relationship between a husband and a wife, and it’s a good thing.  The folks on the streets of New Orleans did not know what they were in for.  Watch this clip:

(Audio from Video Clip)

Male Voice:  Um.

Female Voice:  (Laughter)  Um, do you want to switch off?

Male Voice:  Yeah, let’s switch off.

Female Voice:  This is a wife?

Male Voice, reading:  “How beautiful are your feet in sandals, oh prince’s daughter.”

Female Voice, reading:  “My beloved is dazzling and ruddy, outstanding among 10,000” – my beloved stands out among people. . .

Second Female Voice:  So he stands out.

Female Voice:  Yes.  Um, please help me out here.

Second Female Voice, reading:  “His head is like gold, pure gold.  His locks are like clusters of dates and black as a raven.”

Female Voice:  Clusters of dates and black as a raven?  I don’t know – the guy has black hair?  Black, curly hair?

Male Voice, reading:  “The curves of your hips are like jewels, the work of the hands of an artist.”

Second Female Voice, reading:  “His eyes are like doves beside streams of water, bathed in milk and reposed in their setting.”  So they are very white.  I am great at analyzing poems!


Male Voice, reading:  “Your navel is like a round goblet which never lacks mixed wine.  Your belly is like a heap of wheat and fenced about with lilies.”

Second Male Voice, reading:  “Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.”

Male Voice:  “Gazelles?”  I think it’s romantic.

(End Video Clip)

Bob:  It’s fun to see their reaction to it but, you know, you look at these passages; you look at the description of the husband talking about his wife and the wife talking about her husband; the delight that is there.  The thing that I really like is that the voice of God is present in the Song of Solomon so that after the husband has read, after the wife has read, they come together and God says, “Eat friends.  Enjoy.”

He blesses it.  He delights in a husband and wife coming together in sexual union.  In fact, I really think as we think about this whole area of sexuality and our sexual desires and urges, I think we have to realize first of all that when God created sex, He didn’t create it primarily for us to be focused on what we’re going to get out of the experience.  He didn’t even create it primarily so that we could be focused on what we would get out of the experience together; because, frankly, there are things that you can do sexually together that aren’t honoring or pleasing to God.

The real question in our sexuality is, “How can I use this gift God has given me not purely for my enjoyment, but for His enjoyment?  How can my sexual desire bless God?”  Another way of turning that around is to ask the question, “How does my lack of engagement, or how does my participation in sexual behavior, how does that dishonor God?”  We really have to have a God-centered view of our sexuality for it to work right.  We have to be thinking about, first of all, what pleases Him.  Not what pleases me; not even what pleases one another, but what pleases Him.  It’s in that environment that our sexuality can flourish.

Now, we think that sex is like a thermometer as opposed to being like a thermostat.  When you have a thermostat, what does that do?  It adjusts the temperature in the room, right?  You punch the buttons and it gets colder; you punch the buttons and it gets hotter.  When you have a thermometer, it does not adjust the temperature in the room; it simply measures the temperature in the room.  Sex is not something God gives us to adjust the temperature of our relationship.  Sex is something that helps measure what’s already going on in our relationship.

To put it another way, when there are problems in the bedroom, there are most likely problems somewhere else.  When there are issues in your sexual relationship, you can often trace that back to issues that are going on in other parts of your relationship.  Now that’s not always the case.  Sometimes the issues are physical issues; in fact, some of the challenges that couples face can be because of a physical or medical reason.  It’s a good reason to see a doctor, if you’re experiencing physical challenges. 

But most doctors would tell you that when couples come to them with sexual dysfunction issues, most of the time it’s not physical.  Most of the time, there’s something going on either in their own soul, or something going on between the two of them, or somewhere else that is having an impact on their sexuality.

Let me just give you some of those common things – I’m going to run you through a list, and some of these are physical; some of these are emotional; some of these are mental; some of these are spiritual.  I’m just going to run you through some of the things - some of the factors - that can affect our sexuality. 

For example, fatigue.  I mean, if we’re exhausted, when it comes time to be together sexually, there’s a lack of desire because we’re tired.  You just simply can’t bring yourself to want to get to it.  Although Mary Ann has remarked to me on more than one occasion – she has said, “I thought you said you were tired.”  And I’ve said, “Well, somehow I feel refreshed at the moment.” 


But fatigue is an issue.  Look, if all of your energy is going other places, then it would make sense that when it’s time to come together, you’ve just got nothing left.  You have to have some margin in your life in order for that to work out.  Mary Ann and I have five children, and during the time that she was raising five kids – she’s a morning person, not a night person.  You mix into the fact that her body is wired more to wake up early and she falls asleep easily in the evening – you mix five kids into the mix of that and nine o’clock at night is not a great time for her, because she’s already depleted.  I’ve got to be aware of that and we’ve got to figure out how we deal with that.  Maybe it’s me helping with the load; maybe it’s me giving her the opportunity for a nap; maybe it’s her carving out some time to get some rest so that she’s got some energy available at the end of the day if that’s the right time for us to be together.  So, fatigue can be a factor.

Diet can be a factor.  By that, I’m not suggesting that there are aphrodisiacs that you can eat that will help heighten sexual desire, but I’m suggesting that the condition of your body is a factor.  Interestingly enough, some people are so into fitness and into running and exercise that they actually drain sexual desire through the exercise.  They find that the more they’re involved in their physical routine, the less energy for sex or they have less desire for sex. 

By the same token, after you’ve had a big meal, and you’re just really full – you’re stuffed – that’s not the time you say, “Boy, I’m just really in the mood.”  There’s just something about being stuffed.  So, if you’re going out on a date, get the salad, OK?  I’m just suggesting to you that if you’ve got something in mind, don’t get the big thing. 

I mentioned this at one of our Weekend to Remember® conferences when I was doing this message.  We got done with the message and then we let couples go for a date night, and our speaker team went out to a restaurant nearby.  We walked in and there were three or four couples from the conference.  One of them looked up and he said, “I’m having the salad!”  He got the message – he was ready.  Diet can be a factor in all of that.

Pregnancy, obviously.  During seasons of pregnancy, that can affect your interest in or your desire for sex.  Then there are issues of erectile dysfunction or other kinds of sexual dysfunction that can be worked out and figured out.  So, there can be physical issues.

Oftentimes there are mental issues, too.  For example, if you’re just distracted by something that’s just a consuming issue for you – maybe you’ve got an issue with one of your kids or maybe there’s a project coming up at work or there’s just something that’s got you distracted, it’s hard sometimes to clear that aside so that you can be focused on the emotional and relational togetherness that’s required for good sexuality.  So, preoccupation or stress or distraction can be an issue.  So can incorrect information.  I talk about this as a mental issue, but honestly, we find a lot of couples who have been married for a long time who are just dealing with biological mythology.”

(End Audio Recording)

Bob:  Well, we’ve been listening to part one of a message on understanding what the Bible has to say about sexual intimacy. 

Dennis:  By none other than Bob Lepine.

Bob:  This is, as I said, one of those important issues that couples wrestle with in marriage, and yet when you open up the Scriptures and say, “Look at what God’s Word has to say about this.  Look at what having a God-centered approach to sexuality can do,” that can transform a marriage relationship.

Dennis:  It can.  Every couple needs biblical teaching.

Bob:  Yes, they need help

Dennis:  They do.  They need to know what the Scriptures say about this important area.  I think the world has done a great job of distorting and warping what God created, what God said was very good.  If we don’t have something to, not just counterbalance it, but replace what the world says with what God says is “good,” then we can be seduced by the world and end up in our marriages really not experiencing what God designed it to be in its fullest.

Bob:  Well, we hope that what folks heard today gave them a little bit of a picture of what it’s like to be at a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.

Dennis:  And, Bob, one of the things we haven’t talked about is that following this message would be a project that would give a couple talking points to go over as they have their dinner together, their date night at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, where you don’t just hear the content of the message, but we help you apply this to better understand what one another’s needs are; what your desires are; and how you can do a better job of loving one another according to the Scriptures.

Bob:  Yes, there’s a lot more to the weekend than listening to messages.  There are projects that couples do, there are opportunities for you to get some time alone together and just be together.  It really is a fun, romantic weekend away together.  What we’re hoping this week and next week is that not only will you have a chance to hear a little bit of what we talk about at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, but you can go online at, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, and learn about when a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway is going to be in a city near you or a city you’d like to go to or a weekend that works for you, and make plans to attend one of these upcoming fall getaways.

If you do that, as a FamilyLife Today listener, we’re going to give you a little incentive.  You sign up to be a part of the FamilyLife Today listener group, and you will save at least $100 per couple off the regular registration fee.  All you have to do is identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener.  Either call 1-800-FLTODAY and say, “I listen to FamilyLife Today,” or “I want to be in Bob’s group;” or if you sign up online at, just type my name – type “BOB” – in the group box.  You’ll save at least $100 per couple off the regular registration fee for an upcoming Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.  If we hear from you before the end of the month, we’ll also send you as a gift the game for couples called “Spouse-ology.”  It’s kind of a fun, get-to-know-one another better game for couples.  We’ll send that as an early-bird sign up gift if we hear from you by the end of the month.

So, again, go to or call 1-800-FLTODAY and find out when a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway is scheduled in your area or an area you’d like to attend or a weekend that works for you.  Get signed up and then identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today group member by typing my name – type “BOB” in the group box – or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY and saying, “I’m a FamilyLife Today listener.”  When you do that, you’ll save at least $100 off the regular registration fee for a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.  We’re hoping that a lot of our listeners will make plans this fall to be at one of these upcoming getaways.

Now, tomorrow we’re going to talk about the differences between husbands and wives when it comes to marital intimacy and how those differences can create some challenges for us.  I hope you can tune in for that.

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.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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