Telling The Whole Truth
Ryan and Selena Frederick, authors of the book, "See Through Marriage," join Dave and Ann Wilson to discuss transparency in marriage. Not every conversation in marriage needs to be deep, but according to the Fredericks, making a habit of always floating above the truth will backfire. Real honesty always requires meaningful risk. Ryan explains the career and parenting sacrifices he and Selena have made to pursue a marriage where they are "fully known and fully loved."
About the Guest
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FierceMarriage.com in 2013 when they felt God calling them to share, with brutal transparency, the struggles God had helped them overcome. Since then, Fierce Marriage has grown into a thriving online community with hundreds of thousands of readers each month. Ryan and Selena have two daughters and live in Tacoma, Washington.
Ryan and Selena Frederick discuss transparency in marriage. Ryan explains the career and parenting sacrifices he and Selena have made to pursue a marriage where they are “fully known and fully loved.”
Telling The Whole Truth
Bob: One of the reasons we get married is because there is a longing in each one of us to be fully known and fully loved, but being fully known can be scary too. Here is Ryan Frederick.
Ryan: Whatever level of fear we feel about being exposed to our spouse—imagine if we held with true regard the holiness and majesty of God and the fact that we are exposed to Him—this verse is compelling believers to say, with confidence, “Draw near to the throne.” Why?—not because you’re worthy; not because you’ve earned it—but it’s through grace that we may receive mercy and find grace and help in our time of need. That same kind of grace is available in our marriage. We can trust that God is going to use our spouse to bring us further along in our walk toward sanctification.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, September 18th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. How can a husband and wife create a marriage, where they can draw near to each other in confidence that they will be well loved, even when their spouse sees their shadow side? We’ll talk more about that today with Ryan and Selena Frederick. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. If a wife asks her husband, “So—
Dave: Don’t look at me, Bob. You better look over there at Ann. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, I think both of you can weigh in on this. If a wife says to her husband, “So how are you really? How are you?”—
Ann: Ooh, I do ask this question a lot.
Dave: She asks me that all the time.
Ann: I do!
Dave: I mean that is the question on date night.
Bob: What is the most common answer a wife is going to get from her husband?
Bob: “I’m fine.”
Ann: Yes; Dave said—sometimes, he’ll say, “I don’t know; I think good.” [Laughter]
Bob: What is it that you are looking for when you ask that question?
Ann: I want to know so much. Poor Dave! I want to know what he’s been thinking about, what he is dreaming about, what he is struggling with. This is what I’m longing for.
Bob: “How are you?”
Dave: I just want to have a good steak; you know? I’m like, “Really?! I thought we were just going to go out and enjoy the evening.” I mean, I know what she is longing for now after 40 years; but initially, I would think, “If we’ve got to talk about it, there is a problem. If you don’t have to talk about it, everything is good. I want everything to be good.”
I’ve learned to share. You know, she has helped me; because I was not kidding: “I don’t know; I think I’m good,”—I really don’t know. She’d probe and ask, and then I’d realize, “Oh, it was helpful to talk that through.”
Ann: It’s also interesting with our kids. Our kids have told Dave they long for him to ask them that question.
Dave: We don’t have to go that deep. [Laughter] Seriously?
Bob: We’ve got some friends joining us, who are now thinking about their next book, which is See-Through Parenting. [Laughter]
Bob: We’ve got Ryan and Selena Frederick joining us, again, on FamilyLife Today. Guys, welcome back.
Ryan: Hey, thanks for having us.
Bob: Ryan and Selena are the authors of a new book called See-Through Marriage. They are bloggers; they are writers; they live in the Pacific Northwest. They’ve been on FamilyLife Today with us before.
See-Through Marriage is about what Ann is longing for on her dates with Dave, which is this: “Tell me everything about you, and let me see the real you and the full you.” What you guys are suggesting in the book is all of us really do want to be known and loved.
Bob: Yet, most of us spend a lot of time in our marriage trying to keep parts of who we are walled off and hidden from one another. We’ve got to figure out how we break through those barriers so that we can have the kind of naked-and-unashamed marriage that Genesis 2 describes.
And one of the things you say in the book is that, in order to have a see-through marriage, we need to, first of all, be able to go a little deeper in our self-understanding than Dave is typically able to do. [Laughter] We’ve got to be able to look and say, “How are we?” and come up with a better answer than “I think I’m fine, and now we’re done”; right?
Ryan: Oh, absolutely. It’s funny that he says that: “We don’t have to go that deep”; right? “We don’t have to go there; I just want to enjoy a good steak.” [Laughter]
Ryan: I think there’s some truth and beauty in that—that we can just enjoy each other—like not every date night has to be this deep like probing of your inner-child/like finding out what your inner pains are; but on the same note, we can get in the habit of kind of living and floating above everything.
I think it is so important—I mean, Andy Crouch actually came up with this term, and the term is “meaningful risk”—and being known in a way that lets your spouse—in this case, we’re talking about marriage relationships; this also could happen in just any friendship—what the Lord lays on your heart to tell me is actually going to generate change in my own heart; that’s meaningful risk; right?
I think—yes—that’s/that is the call of biblical marriage, and that’s what see-through marriage is all about.
Ann: You guys have kids. How old are your kids?
Selena: Six, four, and almost a year.
Ann: Okay; some people are thinking, “I have no time for these deep discussions.” You guys are kind of in a lifestyle right now where you’re busy; you’re taxed; your kids are demanding; you’re not sleeping. How do you have these deep conversations in the midst of that kind of lifestyle? [Laughter]
Selena: He looks over at me. [Laughter]
Ryan: I don’t know; I just talk to Selena while she sleeps. [Laughter] Yes; it’s hard. I think—
Selena: It’s important. I think—
Ryan: It’s very important.
Selena: —I think it’s one of those non-negotiables; right? Like, unfortunately, sometimes, yes, you have to negotiate sleep; right? But connecting with your spouse and being honest and having a rhythm that you go to—like either if it’s once a week/at least, I would say once a week—you just have to see it as valuable.
If you don’t, then we can’t be wondering: “Why we’re not connecting?” “Why does our marriage feel like we’re distant?” or “…crumbling?” For that, it’s something you have to fight for, for sure; because if we’re not good—the old saying: “If Mom and Dad aren’t good, then how is the rest of the house going to be holding together?”
Dave: Obviously, you just sort of gave us a window into your life; but you’ve got little kids, so it’s crazy. You’ve got a vibrant ministry; so your work is all-consuming, and a lot of it is out of your house—I’m guessing; right?
Ryan: Every bit of it—well, yes; just about every bit of it.
Dave: So how in the world does a couple, living your life, make the marriage and being transparent—
Dave: —priority? Obviously, the date is important. Are there other things you guys do? Is there a rhythm that can help other couples?
Ryan: Actually, I love to speak to this a little bit; because so often, we approach our work—and our work lives/our careers—as almost like fixed objects in this conversation; right? We’re technically self-employed—we set our own hours; there is some uniqueness there—but I will say, “Work has taken a backseat, almost daily/at least, three to four times a week.” There are initiatives that just aren’t done; because I’ve just said: “I’m not willing to pay this price,” “I’m not willing to be away from you,” “I’m not willing to be away from our kids,” “I’m not willing to spend the time it takes to get these things done.” A lot of times, in American culture, in particular, we have to fit it around our career. I just want to kill that sacred cow and say, “Look, maybe, career is not the end all/be all of our existence”; right?
Aside from that, just kind of speaking to that point, mornings have become kind of a rhythm in terms of we try to have morning coffee, where we kind of sit. We do breakfast with our girls, but then they go and get kind of their hair brushed, their teeth brushed, and get dressed—everyone but the infant, I should say—then we sit. Kind of the rule is like, “You can be here, but you can’t talk; because we’re talking. This is important to us. Your mom and dad—we need to connect—
Ryan: —“so that we can love you well.”
Selena: Right; which we spoke to another couple, the Jacobsons—
Selena: —awhile back. They said that their kids—they have nine kids—they said that the one thing that they loved, and just respected, and were so grateful for the boundary of that—like coffee time that their parents had—and said, “Like you can be here, but we’re having this time.”
Setting that boundary, I think, for your kids is loving; right? Setting that boundary for your marriage is loving. It’s/I think it’s a call to holiness on some levels and discipline. I feel like it’s so much of a priority for us that we can’t do without it anymore.
Ryan: It just gets funky—Ann, like you were saying—something just is up.
Ryan: We can’t see straight; we need to connect. We start treating each other poorly; it’s like—
Selena: It’s so obvious.
Ryan: —we have to make time for it; yes.
Ann: So you take a little time every day to kind of touch base, at least. That’s kind of what you’re saying.
Ryan: I mean, we’re not perfect; we try to. If it’s not in the morning, then it’s in the evening.
Ryan: We’ll sit. Selena is usually reading a book in the evening, and we’ll talk through it. Some conversations go great; some are terrible, depending on how tired I am. One night, she was trying to read me something; and I was just like, “No offense, but I just don’t care about that right now.” [Laughter] You got really upset, and I had to apologize because you weren’t ready to hear that. Anyway, we learn; we learn. [Laughter]
Bob: You know, I’m thinking about listeners, who are hearing us talk about the value of transparency in marriage—and they are thinking back on past relationships; they are thinking back on stuff from their teenage years—and they are going, “I don’t think it’s going to help my relationship if I sit down with my husband tonight and say, ‘I’ve never really shared with you about this, but let me tell you about this guy I dated when I was a junior in high school.’” It’s like: “Do I really need to kind of just be transparent about everything in order for us to have the kind of marriage we’re supposed to have?”
Ryan: That’s a really good question; because the tendency is to, as you hear what we’re talking about, to kind of go through the litany of sins that you’ve created—things that you regret or things that you did before you were saved. I don’t know if there is a hard and fast rule for this; but generally, where we lead couples, when they ask us that question is, “Whatever that thing is that is [causing] you to kind of go into your hole,”—right?—“which is to hide from one another, or whatever that thing is that is creating dysfunction.”
If you had a past relationship that was really abusive—and it’s made you fearful in every relationship since, and you’re afraid of your husband or your wife because of that past experience, and you’ve never really been healed from that because you never—then that’s a good opportunity to really be known and experience love in that pain area of your life and experience healing—again, going back to 1 John 1—“so that we can have fellowship and be cleansed from unrighteousness”—not that feeling pain is unrighteousness necessarily—but it’s that fellowship that will help us walk through. Really, we use the word, gospel, as a verb sometimes in our marriage: we gospel each other in that, when we’re feeling that kind of lack of belief, we remind each other who Christ is and everything that He’s done.
To answer your question, Bob, I don’t know that you just have to create a laundry list and go through the whole thing; but I do think there are areas that you will know the Holy Spirit will prompt you to share for the sake of greater intimacy.
Selena: I think there is some repetition sometimes that happens. Sometimes, things will come to mind, and it filters through; but if—like you said with your experience: things kind of coming back to it, and you see it coming back again and again—you’re just like, “Man, this really…” It’s, again, creating those patterns of sort of feeling like you need to hide or these feelings of being afraid, then I would say it’s probably a safe bet that you need to address it.
Ann: Is there a point that we can over-share?—go into too many details?
Ryan: Yes; we call that rehashing the crime scene; right? I’m just going to go back to this example; but men or women, who deal with pornography addiction. There is a certain level that it just stops being appropriate and constructive to share—like, “Hey, this is the nature of the addiction…”—some of that stuff is just not edifying in any way nor does it help you get to a place of greater reconciliation. It just kind of begins to hurt even more.
Again, nothing replaces discernment in these conversations. And if a couple is dealing with something that is so, kind of, damaging and does continue to create pain, then I would highly recommend getting a counselor or a pastor involved so that you are not walking through it alone.
Dave: You know, I’ve also found—and I know you guys write about it in the book—the value of friendships to help us be vulnerable, not only with our friends—of course, hopefully, I have men in my life; Ann has women in her life—but there have been times, where I’ve been so honest with my guys that they’ve looked at me and said, “You need to tell Ann.” That community—it’s almost like they became counselors: “Iron sharpens iron.” Talk about that, because that’s a couple chapters in your book—the value/the need to live in community and how that helps us in our transparency.
Selena: Absolutely; I think a lot of times, at least in our experience, I think we had not really lived in true community the first few years of our marriage. We did not have people who kind of knew us. We didn’t have people, who were asking hard questions—but also walking with us, and encouraging, and kind of sharpening us, like you said, to have these conversations/to go into the fire and to not be afraid—right?—and to share what the Lord has put on our hearts, because our view of God was not—at least, for me, it was easy to see Him more as like a punisher—right?—or someone who is: “If you say this, these are the consequences…”; right?
So, yes; we do experience the consequence of sin, but God doesn’t leave us there. He doesn’t leave the sin like that in us; He sanctifies us. The best way that we’ve learned that and how He does that has been through our community—
Selena: —through our relationships with other godly men and women and mentors.
Ryan: I’m laughing; because I remember writing this part of the book. We had a bit of a burr in our saddle, I’ll say, because we’d experienced so many versions of “Christian community.” So much of it felt inauthentic.
Selena: —contrived; yes.
Ryan: It felt contrived. It felt like—we’re not trying to throw anyone under the bus—because I feel like that’s a cultural thing—
Ryan: —right? That’s why we talk about meaningful risk and what it means to have false vulnerability versus meaningful risk. We actually have a—it’s a table in the book that I’ve just found so elucidating in my own life; and it kind of contrasts false vulnerability with meaningful risk.
In a falsely vulnerable setting, you might go around the group, and you’re all sharing: “How are you doing in life? What’s God doing in your life?” Someone might say, “Oh man! Work has been stressful.” Then the group would respond, “Well, let’s pray that you’re not stressed; let’s pray that it all gets better.” The contrast to that—that’s the false vulnerability—because the meaningful risk side is, “Work has been stressful. I’m afraid I’ll lose my job because”—“What?”—“I’ve underperformed,” or “because I was late on this deadline,” or “because my sales numbers are way down,” or “the kids aren’t learning in the classroom; I’m supposed to be teaching them!”
What that gives us is an actual window—and take that example into any context that you want—but that gives us a window to actually say, “Okay; well, let’s address that fear. Why are you afraid you are going to lose your job?” “Okay; why have you underperformed?” See, that’s meaningful risk versus just kind of sharing just enough to kind of get past the Q&A so they go to the next couple in the group.
That’s the essence of Christian communities—actually, having a forum to say—“Listen, the playing field has been leveled. We’re all sinners saved by grace. Now, here is how we can sharpen each other,” like you said.
Ann: I think somebody has to take the initiative to that at times. I know that with a group of friends, we were having lunch. I love these women; and you know we were talking about all the typical things of kids, and school, and clothes, and all different things. I can be pretty passionate, because I love to go deep; we’re all wired in such a different way. I rudely interrupt the conversation; and I say, “Can we stop talking about nothingness?”—
Ryan: Oh, I love that; that’s awesome! [Laughter]
Ann: —which, of course, some people are totally offended. I said, “It’s not that I don’t want to talk about this sometimes, but I want us to go deeper. I want to know what you are afraid of right now, and what you are worrying about the most right now, and how your marriages are.” I can be like a bull sometimes, where I’ll just charge in; and I’ve tried to learn how to do that more tactfully.
Yet, I think, sometimes in marriage, one of us—and in our friendships—one of us needs to take that step of saying, “I want us to go a little deeper. How do you feel about that? Are you afraid?” “Are you into this with me?” “Would you go there with me?” Maybe, it’s just one friend; but I think it’s really important to do that in our marriage.
What are some of the steps we can take in a relationship when one spouse hasn’t gone there and won’t go there?
Ryan: Well, as far as the steps go, I think finding, again, our identity in Christ, realizing that He is more glorified the more transparent that we are. If our whole existence is for God’s glory—which we believe it is—then I think that can become the foundation for us to begin initiating those conversations, where those conversations may not feel welcome.
We mentioned 1 John 1. I want to go to John, Chapter 1; this is verse 5—it says: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Alright, so this is again introducing Jesus into the equation. It says, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John,”—this is John the Baptist—“He came as a witness to bear witness about the light that all might believe through Him.” John goes through the pain of explaining this; he says he was not the light but came to bear witness about the light.
On the cover of our book, it’s got these—this stained glass window. One of the analogies we use throughout the entire book is that we are all these imperfect shards of glass; right? We have rough edges; we have different shades of color; we have different varying levels of intensity in terms of pigment. We’re all different; right? There is this stained glass window—is only beautiful to the extent that light shines through it—so that gives us a whole context in that I can now glorify God even more.
And like you were saying—those kind of chit-chatty conversations—you’re saying, “Let’s go deeper, friends, not so we can just get the juicier details. Let’s go deeper so that we can greater glorify our Creator, the One who is the light.” In going deeper, I think, the motivation is to have a greater glory for God in that instance.
Dave: And I would add, as a dad, I know it’s been difficult to do that with my adult sons. It takes courage to say, “I want to know your heart.” I think one of the first steps I’ve learned to do is to share my heart. Transparency sort of begets transparency.
Dave: Even in a small group, if no one is transparent, everybody just fakes it; and they go home; you know? Most/many people hide more at church than anywhere else; but if somebody is vulnerable and transparent, it’s like, “Oh, I can be that honest?—and be fully known and fully loved.”
I feel, as a parent, I would encourage dads and moms to really go there. This could be a time to say, “Okay; I really want to know my teenage daughter or son, and I’ve never had the courage to speak transparently with them. I want—I don’t want just a see-through marriage; I want a see-through family, so I’m going to lead there.” I would encourage men: “Do it! Lead!” See what God does.
Ryan: What you said, “Transparency begets transparency”—absolutely that’s true. It diffuses that tension there. Now, people feel comfortable because—
Ryan: —you’ve been vulnerable; and “Now, I can.”
Selena: I definitely think prayer is an obvious one; right?—like praying for your spouse: “God, soften their heart.” What Dave said about just courage—I would add consistency; because it’s really easy to just get shot down; right? It can be real easy to fall within yourself: “Oh, I tried; and it just felt horrible, so I don’t ever want to do that again.” No; keep trying. Remember your identity is rooted in Christ. He is enough; keep trying; keep going, because the consistency, I think, is—
Ryan: That’s really good.
Selena: —where the softening happens even though we may not see it in our spouse; right? God is still, I think, faithful.
Bob: I think a lot of us look at the current state of our marriage and go: “You know, it’s okay. I don’t want to do anything that would make it more challenging. I’m happy with this level of transparency and this level of intimacy. We’ll just live here; and I know there are things, if I shared, maybe, would open; but maybe not”; right?
Ann: “Maybe, we can go deeper and make it better.”
Bob: Yes; “Or maybe, we’ll just stay here and just keep it the way it is.” [Laughter] I think what we want our listeners to hear us saying is: “It is worth it—
Bob: —“to risk it, and to go deeper, and to be open and to say, ‘This is hard, and this is vulnerable. I’m not comfortable even sharing some of this reality of who I am with you; but I’m going to believe that we’ll have a better marriage/a stronger, deeper, more committed, a more loving marriage.’” One of the things the Bible says is: “Love rejoices in the truth.” As long as there is not truth between you/as long as there is not this kind of transparency and vulnerability, there’s part of the love that is missing from your marriage.
Guys, this has been really helpful. Thanks for taking time to be with us. Thanks for being on FamilyLife Today.
Selena: Thank you, guys.
Ryan: Thank you so much for having us.
Bob: I hope our listeners will go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to get a copy of your book, See-Through Marriage: Experiencing the Freedom and Joy of Being Fully Known and Fully Loved, by Ryan and Selena Frederick. Again, our website, FamilyLifeToday.com—you can order the book from us online—or call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
By the way, we’re going to continue our conversation with Ryan and Selena. We want to talk about transparency when it comes to sexual intimacy in marriage, so that’ll happen online. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and that conversation is available as a podcast. You can download it and listen as we talk about what it looks like to cultivate transparency when it comes to sexual intimacy.
Finally, a quick word of thanks today to those of you who have made today’s program possible. We have a small committed group of regular listeners, who have taken the next step and said, “I want to make sure FamilyLife Today continues to be available in my community, not only for me and for my relationship with my spouse or my family, but I want to make sure it’s here to help others grow in godliness in marriage and in family.” Every time you make a donation, that’s what you are doing. You are investing in the lives of other men and women—husbands and wives/moms and dads—helping them grow more Christ-like in their marriage relationship and in their parenting. Thanks to those of you who have made today’s program possible.
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And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able, in some form or fashion, to worship together in your local church this weekend. I hope you can join us on Monday when we’re going to talk about how important a dad is in a family. Bryan Loritts has some things to say about that. He’s just written a book called The Dad Difference. We’ll talk to Bryan on Monday. I hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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