Getting Closer to God and Each Other
About the Guest
Dave and Ann Wilson, parents of three grown children, want couples to know that when they draw closer to God, they will become closer to their spouses emotionally and sexually. Ann, who has led a bible study for the wives of the Detroit Lions for 30+ years, remembers one time when she encouraged a wife to surprise her husband on their anniversary by treating herself to some new lingerie. The wife later revealed that it was the best night of their relationship. The Wilsons tell how past sexual experiences can affect a husband or wife's current sex life.
Dave and Ann Wilson want couples to know that when they draw closer to God, they will become closer to their spouses emotionally and sexually.
Getting Closer to God and Each Other
Bob: For more and more couples getting married today, promiscuity is a part of their past/part of their experience. Ann Wilson says, when that is the case, you’re bringing challenges with you into marital intimacy.
Ann: We carried all of that into our wedding bed/in our marriage bed. It was like it was crowded with other people. I felt so insecure; I felt like there was competition. I felt like, “Gosh; was this other girl better than me?” I felt so fearful and I worried: “Will he be unfaithful to me? He had multiple partners before; will I be able to trust him?” There were many, many different consequences that we suffered through.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, February 20th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
Sometimes, we are completely unaware of how sins from our past are affecting our relationship 10, 20, even 30 years later. We’ll talk more about that today with Dave and Ann Wilson. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. You want to talk about the petition that people have started?—to say: “No; you can’t leave FamilyLife Today”?
Dennis: Well, this isn’t a democracy, Bob. [Laughter] Barbara and I have been leading FamilyLife® for over four decades. We decided to step out of the President’s chair over a year ago and, now, we are stepping out of the seat of leading FamilyLife Today. We have asked Dave and Ann Wilson, former Campus Crusade for Christ® staff members—now known as Cru®—and pastor in Kensington Church in Detroit to become the new hosts of FamilyLife Today.
Ann/Dave, welcome to the broadcast and welcome to the responsibility.
Dave: Yes; [pause] thanks. [Laughter] I was going to say, “We are excited to be here”; but now, I’m scared.
Barbara: It’s second guessing. [Laughter]
Ann: Yes; those aren’t big shoes to fill at all!
Dennis: They’ve written a book called Vertical Marriage. This is not going to qualify them for leading the broadcast; but I think their authenticity—their desire to bring the Scriptures and the reality that the tomb of Christ is empty; He’s alive—because He’s alive, He can save people from their sins; but He can also save marriages, and He can help redeem families.
Barbara joins me on this broadcast. It’s interesting—one of the topics in your book that you spend a great deal of time about; in fact, how many chapters are on sex? [Laughter]
Dave: You know, I didn’t count Dennis; but probably not enough!! [Laughter]
Dennis: Ann, you were the one that started laughing. Why did you start laughing?
Ann: I was just like: “Oh, boy! Here we go.” You never know what Dave is going to say.
Dennis: This is vertical marriage, nothorizontal marriage.
Dave: That’s the beauty of it! When you go vertical with Christ, you end up going horizontal with your wife! Hey, that even rhymes!
All: [Oohs and laughter]
Dave: I’ve never said that out loud before. I think that’s a keeper.
Dennis: I think it is a keeper!
Barbara: Did you plan that?—that’s what I want to know.
Dave: We just got all the guys interested in it.
Dennis: Yes! No doubt about it! [Laughter]
Dennis: You guys tell a story about a Bible study you were teaching at the time, Ann?
Ann: Yes; Dave and I have been chaplains for the Detroit Lions for thirty—
Dave: —thirty-three years!
Ann: —thirty-three years. All those years, I’ve had a Bible study with the Detroit Lions wives. In one particular Bible study, one of the wives said: “Hey, tonight—it’s our one-year anniversary. My husband is renting a limo, and he’s taking me to a fancy restaurant downtown.”
I said: “Good for you. Now, what are you going to do for him?” She said: “I’m going! What else is there to do?” I said: “You should make it special for him. Why don’t you go buy something that would be really fun that you feel comfortable in to wear underneath your dress?” She goes, “That’s not really who I am.”
I said, “But it might be really great for him. So think about him in those terms.”
So the next morning, she calls me and she says: “Ann, that was the best night of our relationship. And my husband was astounded, because I’ve never done anything like that before. And at the end of that time, he said, ‘Where did you get this idea?!’” She said, “At our Bible study!” [Laughter] He said—which he didn’t go to the Bible study—he said, “I don’t want you to miss one of those Bible studies again!” [Laughter] And sure enough, he shows up at our couples’ Bible study.
Dave: We had a couples’ Bible study for the team—we always have—and her husband shows up. He’d never been there; never came to chapel—anything. He knew me as the chaplain but never showed up, and there he is. And it’s all because the last week his wife entered that area of their marriage and brought a little spontaneity to it. Here’s the amazing thing—
—this guy, in about six weeks, surrenders his life to Jesus. They are now today, with six kids, in full-time ministry. And it all started with lingerie! [Laughter] But it’s one of those just wonderful stories—that God used that to draw a man and a woman to Christ—and it’s a beautiful part of marriage.
Bob: We tend to think about this aspect of marriage in—can I say?—functional terms rather than thinking about it in mystical terms. There is something profoundly mystical about intimacy in marriage and the impact it has, for good or for ill, on oneness between a couple; isn’t there?
Dave:Yes; one of the things that I never knew until I really dove into Scripture on sex. I grew up, like most people probably, hearing from the church that sex is wrong, bad, evil. I never expected the Bible to talk about sex in such beautiful, glorious, mysterious terms.
Then, as I started to study it, this is one of the most amazing, beautiful, intimate gifts God ever gave us. Now, so many people hear that; and they can’t even appreciate that, because it’s been warped—it’s hurt and there’s—
Dave: —pain and abuse.
But God’s original intent was absolutely incredible—I never learned this in school. I remember, in sixth grade, they did the “Birds and the bees” talk—they had their little thing—and you are all embarrassed, as a 12-year-old boy, because they’re talking about fallopian tubes. Anyway, I never heard this—nobody ever told me this that: “When you make love”—and this can be in your marriage or outside your marriage—“you are—there’s a soul connection.”
It is, like Bob said, mysterious. How in the world is it deeper than physical? Oh my gosh! It’s much deeper than physical, which is why it has to be protected; because you’re messing with your soul here. If it’s a one-night stand or a committed marriage relationship, you’re giving everything—not just physical—but spiritual, even soul-ish to that person. That’s why God says, “Protect this.”
Bob: It’s one of the reasons why you guys, early in your marriage, struggled in this area. As you’ve shared, you started your marriage the way most couples start marriage today—having already been sexually-active with other people. You brought that into your marriage; and now, the two becoming one has all kinds of baggage attached to it.
Dave: Yes; we had no idea/no idea how our past sexual experiences would bring luggage/baggage—pain into our new marriage.
Ann: I don’t think anybody talks about it. I mean, our world is saturated with sex, with pornography, with things on TV, at the movies, everything. Nobody talks about the pain—whether it’s sexual abuse, whether it’s addiction to pornography.
But for Dave and I, what happened was—we carried all of that into our wedding bed/in our marriage bed.
It was like it was crowded with other people. I felt so insecure; I felt like there was competition. I felt like, “Gosh; was this other girl better than me?” I felt so fearful, and I worried: “Will he be unfaithful to me? He had had multiple partners before, will I be able to trust him?” There were many, many different consequences that we suffered through.
Dave: I remember, one time, we went to a wedding—probably six to eight months after our own wedding—and we’re sitting in this church. I could tell something was wrong with Ann, like she’s not enjoying this. We get in the car to drive home; and I go, “What were you thinking?” She goes, “I was just looking round the church, and I saw three or four women that you have been with.” For me, it’s like: “Well, it’s all in the past. It’s all done.”
Well, guess what? That is the past, but the past is right here. If I could have taken those back in that second, I would; but I couldn’t.
So now, we are in this marriage, saying: “Oh my gosh; we’ve got to deal with, not just, you know, how hard it is to be married—now, we’ve brought stuff in that we’ve got to work through.” You think it’s just the bedroom; it’s so much deeper than the bedroom.
Bob: What is deal with mean?—what does it look like? I mean, when you got this, and you’re there—and you go: “Okay; we know this is here. We know this is a part of our past. We don’t like that it is a part of our past; we can feel it affecting our marriage now,”—do we go to a marriage counselor? What do you do to get to the point where you can be together, as husband and wife, and that bed is no longer crowded?
Dave: My answer—my first answer would be: “We talk.” We talked this through. Again, I would not encourage a couple to go into details about your past; but I needed to let Ann know enough, and she needed to share with me.
One of the things I was so naïve was about abuse. Again, I thought: “Well, Ann has had some abuse in her past. It’s way back there—20 years ago. It will not affect today.”
Oh, as a spouse, I need to understand: “What do you think? How do you feel? How can I love you?” and she’s feeling the same thing toward me. There’s a lot of talking—we talked about it previously. We had to get to a place of forgiveness with each other and then being able to let that go and move forward. But again, it started with hearing, listening, and trying to lovingly be a partner to one another.
Ann: I think, too, I love that God has do-overs. I love that He renews our mind, like Romans 12 says. I love that, with time, we heal. I think, because of our honesty and openness, that helped. I think a lot of people should go to a counselor, who can be a third party—to be a neutral voice—to help them walk through some issue that might be hard to discuss.
When we were in seminary, we were taking classes about how to be a counselor. In some of those classes, that’s when the abuse came up.
It flooded me. I was overwhelmed; because I had tucked it away, not thinking that it was doing anything to harm my marriage and our intimacy. But it was doing a lot. I think Dave was overwhelmed with my barrage of emotions and feeling like I was tainted. I had so much shame and embarrassment, and it was hard.
Bob: I’m thinking about people listening to this, and thinking to themselves: “I’m/we’re not going to talk about—I’m not going to have this conversation with my spouse. I mean, first of all, there’s shame and guilt on my part. I don’t want to revisit that. Secondly, it’s just going to drive the wedge deeper between us, because it’s going to bring hurt and pain to the other person: ‘Why haven’t you ever told me about this?’ and all.” So they go: “No; no. The safest thing to do is to try to keep this walled off. As long as nobody ever knows that any of this happened, we can muddle along with what we’re doing.” And your saying that’s the wrong answer?
Dave: Yes; I’m saying I totally understand that thought—I’ve been there. I honestly still feel this way. It’s easier for me to talk about sex on a stage at church than it is in my bedroom with my wife. It’s scary; it’s intimate. It takes courage to say, “I’m scared to even bring this up…”
Again, you don’t need to go into details, and every couple is different about what needs to be revealed. It’s like—get on your knees; ask God for wisdom; ask God for strength; and open your mouth and say: “We need to talk. Let’s go there.” It’s scary—but I will say this, because we’ve done it—God will meet you right in the moment of your fear. He will walk you through. We are closer today than we ever would have been if we’d never brought this up or gone through that journey. Honestly, I can say this—38 years into our marriage, our sex life is better now than it ever could have or would have ever been—it is! Part of it is because we decided to go there with each other as honestly as we could.
Ann: I was going to ask you, Barbara and Dennis—you have been married longer than we have, I see it as having hills and valleys in our relationship with intimacy. How have you guys—do you find that’s true?
Barbara: Yes; I definitely think it’s an up-and-down experience. I think that, as you grow and you change, there are more discoveries to be made about one another. I completely agree with what you both have said about being transparent in that area of your relationship, because we have done that too. It has made such a difference; because the more you are known, the more you feel safe; and the more you feel safe, then you can experience intimacy. If you don’t feel safe, and you don’t feel known and welcomed, then you can’t go to the intimacy—it’s a progression. You can’t jump instantly into intimacy without first crossing those bridges of safety and knowing one another. Yes; I agree with you totally.
Dennis: I think you are touching on where most men miss it in this area. I think men do not understand the need for his wife to be safe and to feel safe as she gives herself to her husband. First John, Chapter 4, [verse]18 says: “There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
I think the husband, who is finding things are not going well with his wife in the bedroom, needs to ask his wife: “Do you feel safe with me? Do you trust me? Can you give yourself wholeheartedly to me? If not, what am I doing that is creating fear?”
Ann: Oh, that’s a courageous thing to ask.
Dennis: And listen carefully to what is said and what isn’t said, because the real assignment of a husband, I think, is he is commanded to love his wife as Christ loved the church.
If our assignment is to love; and 1 John 4 says, “Perfect love casts out fear,” your assignment is to present your wife, before Christ, holy, blameless, without spot. That means there are no spots of fear. It’s the wise husband, who becomes a student of his wife and asks the question, “How can I love you in that way, practically speaking?”—not just with words—but with attitude, with actions, and being tender and being gentle with his wife.
Dave: Yes; because we are still on this journey. This wasn’t just year one or year five—it has been a continual learning/growing process.
Dennis, what you just said—I never understood what made her feel loved. I—and we got into fights about this/about the sexual part of our relationship—is I wanted her to be more interested in sex. It felt like I wanted it more and she wasn’t. Of course, we got little kids, and I have no understanding of what she’s carrying around; I am just like frustrated.
I didn’t know that a woman longs to be cherished and loved. I honestly thought, “Well, making love makes you feel loved.” I’ll never forget the day we read—I don’t know if it’s still out there—you might know if Willard Harley’s book, His Needs, Her Needs, still exists.
Dennis: Yes; it does.
Dave: But I remember picking it up. He had the “Top Five Needs of a Woman” / “Top Five Needs of a Man,” because his subtitle was How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage. If you don’t know what your wife’s needs are, somebody else could come and meet those. I’m like: “Oh, my gosh! I got to read this!”
So I look real quick—I didn’t read the book—I just picked up the chapter titles to see if I am going to read it. He is like: “Top Five Needs of a Man”—number one: ‘Sex.’” And then I look at the woman’s, and she doesn’t have sex in the top five. Ann remembers this—I brought the book to her. I’m like: “So okay; help me understand this. I look at his top five needs for men, and he says sex is number one; and I have to agree. I think he’s right.
“Sex isn’t even in your top five! Why isn’t it in your top five?” You remember?
Dave: She looked at me and says, “Oh! It’s number one, two, and three. I looked down, and I’m not kidding—it was a revelation for me to understand. Here’s what he said—guys you better write this down; by the way, you better write this down—because I think he’s right; or at least, ask your wife, “Is this true for you?”
He said number one for a woman: “Affection: Non-sexual Touch,” which I had to ask Ann, “What is that?!” [Laughter] I didn’t even know; you know? It is like holding hands, and putting your arm around her, and just being close—it’s like affection.
Number two, “Conversation”—that’s talking/communicating. Number three, “Honesty and Openness.”
Ann: Yes; those two—those second two—we want to know you.
Ann: And we want our husbands to know us.
Dave: And I was mad at her, and what she had every right to do is go: “You aren’t affectionate,” “We never talk,” “I don’t know your heart.” When I realized, “I am not being Christ; I am not serving my wife—
—to say: “If that’s her number-one need—sacrificially love her—then it’s going to end up better, even in the bedroom; but that isn’t the goal—I want her to feel cherished and loved. That’s what sex is to my wife.
Dennis: I want to know what your response is to what he just said. You hear those three things—for a man who doesn’t get it, how can a wife help him understand?
Ann: That’s kind of where we were. I remember having Dave come to me with that book, like, “What is this?” When I said: “Those are the top three. Like when we talk, that’s romance. When you just touch my arm, open a door, and hold my hand—I feel like you love me and you are pursuing me.” I remember saying: “It feels like you don’t pursue me anymore. You pursue me, sexually; but you don’t pursue me, relationally, and that really hurts and makes me feel unloved.”
Bob: Just recently, our kids were home for awhile. We were all sitting in the other room, watching TV. One of my daughters-in-law was on the sofa; and my son was in a chair, across the room. My daughter-in-law just kind of patted the seat next to her and said, “Why don’t you come sit here next to me?” He said, “This chair’s really comfortable.” [Laughter]
Dennis: That’s a rookie mistake. [Laughter]
Bob: She pats it again. He gets up and goes and sits next to her. Then, something happens, and he gets up and goes out of the room for something and comes back and sits back in the chair—
Ann: Oh, come on!
Bob: No! He does! I looked at him and said, “Son, you are not paying careful attention,”—I said it in front of her—“That spot on the sofa is still open; right?”
The reason that I was smiling, as I was doing that, because I thought: “How many times has Mary Ann said to me, Come, sit next to me’?” As a guy, I’m thinking—
Bob: “The recliner is so much more comfortable. Why does that matter?” But for a woman—
Ann: It matters!
Bob: It matters; doesn’t it?
Ann: Okay; let’s talk to the wives. They’ve told their husbands that, and they’re still not listening.
Bob: They don’t get it!
Ann: Yes; how do we encourage them, Barbara? [Laughter]
Barbara: Thanks, Ann! [Laughter] You know, I don’t know—I mean, it’s a hard one; because we are so different. We’ve had that conversation—Dennis and I have multiple times—because our needs are just different, but that’s how God made us. If we really love each other, then we need to learn to speak each other’s language/love language.
But I think, too, it’s also being patient, and trusting God’s timing, and praying that God will open our husband’s eyes and ears to see and understand. I think we live in such an instant culture, too—that that’s part of the problem. We expect change to be really fast, and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s not.
Dave: In our marriage we’ve been having this conversation for decades and growing! I mean, I’m sort of excited about the next decade, as strange as that may sound. We’ve grown, and grown, and grown, and—not groan! [Laughter]
We have matured, over the years, in this area.
I really would say to the guys—and it’s true both ways: “Step up! It’s that simple. It’s like: “The bedroom and the sexual relationship is not about me,”—it really isn’t. I want a Philippians 2 in every area of my marriage, including the bedroom. I want to consider her needs more important than my needs. That’s what Christ did for us, and He modeled that for us.
Now, Christ lives in me. It’s about her feeling loved. Again, you have a spouse reciprocating that, you’re going to have a beautiful sexual relationship. If they don’t, it isn’t about them. I want to love them in such a way that they feel valued and cherished. “I’m not an affectionate guy,”—it doesn’t matter—she is and longs for it; so I’m going to step up and be Christ to her and give affection, even if it’s not my natural bent.
Dennis: I have to quote the passage you just ran past very quickly—
—Philippians 2: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves,”—guys, did you get that?—“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” I tell you that’s a great verse for marriage—[Voices of agreement]—not looking out for yourself but looking out for your bride.
I just got to tell you—I am excited about the future of FamilyLife Today. I’m glad you guys are coming onboard to give leadership to it. While you’re doing this, Barbara and I are going to be on a date! [Laughter]
Bob: I think we need to wrap up the program pretty quickly. [Laughter]
Bob: Let me tell our listeners—they can get a copy of your book, Vertical Marriage. We are making it available this week to listeners who can support this ministry with a donation. FamilyLife Today exists—
—you got to hear today’s program because friends—others like you/listeners—have called, or gone online, or written us and made a donation to say: “This is good. We need this kind of hope and help for our marriage and our family.” If you’d like to pay it forward, so that others can benefit from the practical biblical help and hope you are receiving from FamilyLife Today, you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com—make a donation today—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and just ask for your copy of the book, Vertical Marriage, by Dave and Ann Wilson.
We’re happy to send that to you as a way of saying, “Thank you for supporting this work.” Again, you can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to donate: 1-800-FL-TODAY. If you’d like to request a copy of the book by writing to us, our mailing address is FamilyLife Today, at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223. Just include a note, along with your donation, that you’d like a copy of the book, Vertical Marriage.
Now, tomorrow, we are going to talk about parenting. We want to talk about how we can cast a vision for our kids—help them grab on to the idea that life is to be lived on mission—that there is more to this life. Steven Curtis Chapman used to say: “More to this life than living and dying; more than just trying to make it through the day.” We’ll talk about that tomorrow with Dennis and Barbara Rainey. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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