Candid Conversations About Intimacy
About the Guest
Want to improve the intimacy in your marriage? In Ron Deal's talk from a recent Love Like You Mean It® cruise, Ron explains that while sex isn't everything in a marriage, it's also not nothing. Every time a couple comes together in intimacy, they renew their vows to each other. Hear Ron explain a biblical perspective on sexual intimacy.
Want to improve the intimacy in your marriage? Ron Deal explains that while sex isn’t everything in a marriage, it’s also not nothing. Hear Ron explain a biblical perspective on sexual intimacy.
Candid Conversations About Intimacy
Bob: Intimacy in a marriage relationship between a husband and a wife is important. In fact, Ron Deal says, “It’s not everything, but it’s sure not nothing either.”
Ron: If you have great sex but nothing else, you’re going to be a miserable couple. You’ve got to have a whole lot more in the bank with each other than just sex. Now, here is the really curious thing: If sex is not going well, it drains your relationship. It’s not just a little hole in the bottom of the tub that drains it all out—it’s a big hole. It contributes about 40 to 50 percent of the negativity in a relationship.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 16th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to hear a very frank, candid message today about the importance of intimacy in a marriage relationship. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.
Dennis: Bob, have you checked just the quality of guests that we have?
Bob: Yes, we’ve got some good folks coming up here in the next couple of weeks.
Dennis: We have Tedd Tripp on parenting. We have Southern Gospel legend, Guy Penrod, and his wife Angie. We’ve—
Bob: Oh, I sing with them, too, on that particular program.
Dennis: Oh, I know.
Bob: You remember? Yes.
Bob: —a highlight.
Dennis: It is a highlight for July, no doubt about it. Rosaria Butterfield, Michael Jr.—and I just want to give a shout-out for all of our Legacy Partners who support FamilyLife Today, making an impact on marriages and families as God designed them. Thank you for giving on a monthly basis so we could be here on a daily basis.
Bob: Well, and I have to tell you about today’s program because the message we’re going to hear from our friend, Ron Deal—we were with a group of folks onboard the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise, back in February. We said, “We’re going to have an optional session—
Dennis: Wasn’t this a standing-room only session?
Bob: That’s the deal—
—“an optional session that Ron Deal’s going to do on intimacy in marriage—on sex.” We told folks, “It’s going to be—he’s going to be pretty candid; okay?”
Dennis: —“but it’s about marriage.”
Bob: It’s all married couples.
Dennis: It’s all married.
Bob: It’s—but he said, “I’m going to be pretty honest about this issue.” And I think he was concerned that by being honest about it there might be some folks who decided to skip it. Instead, more people showed up. It was—
Dennis: Yes, they packed it.
Bob: It was standing-room only, and it was a great optional seminar. We thought, “This is something we ought to share with our listeners.” Again, we’ll let you know that Ron is going to be candid—I think in an appropriate way. He’s not going to say anything here that most grownups haven’t heard somewhere else—and certainly going to present it in an appropriate way—but you might just want to keep that in mind as we listen to Part One of Ron Deal’s message on marital intimacy from the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, back in February.
Dennis: And in case our listeners don’t know who Ron is—Ron works here, at FamilyLife, and heads up our Blended Family Initiative. This is a fast-growing area of FamilyLife. In fact, we’ve got a Blended Family Summit at Mariners Church in Southern California later on in November.
Bob: It’s coming up November 13th and 14th. There is more information about the upcoming Blended and Blessed™ Summit for folks who are involved in blended family ministries. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” Look for the information about the Blended and Blessed Summit with today’s guest, Ron Deal.
[Previously Recorded Message]
Ron: The song you’re singing in your sex life is going to dictate how you receive this workshop—and I take this very seriously. Sexuality is a fun topic for us to kind of get into and explore; and at the same time, it can illicit all kinds of emotion inside of us. And I realize that you come in here today with some experiences, thoughts, feelings—
—some of them good / some of them not so good—some of them horrible.
Whatever song you are singing in your sex life right now is really going to dictate how you hear what I’m about to say. Some things will come off, perhaps, challenging to you. Some things may make you really mad, and some things will be relieving for you. So, I don’t really know what song you’re singing—and just realize that I want you to kind of ponder what you hear through your own song.
Did you know about 40 to 50 percent of the time sex is very good for both partners? Twenty to 25 percent of the time, it’s very good for one partner, and the other partner would say, “It was fine.” Another 20 to 25 percent of the time, it’s acceptable but not remarkable, and you’re not writing home to Mom about it—of course, you wouldn’t do that anyway; would you? [Laughter] And 5 to 15 percent of the time, sex is really a wipeout for both people.
That’s normal, average, everyday, American marital sexuality.
Sometimes, our expectations of sexuality—because of media / because of our ideas about and what we think it should be—are so high. We just can’t even embrace normal, acceptable sex. I think it’s really good to have some perspective about that.
This topic—sexuality—it’s an important one. It’s something that we really need to pay attention to. I do this marriage conference called the Couple Checkup Conference and do it in churches around the country. And one of the things we do is—we take an online profile before couples come to the event. So, I know something about who is showing up. It’s really, really fun for me because then I get to tailor what I say to the people in the audience.
One of the things we assess is sexuality. This is the last church that I went to—but I want to tell you—this is very, very exemplary of Christian couples who come to a marriage enrichment seminar in a church. Sixty-one percent of the couples were struggling as it related to their sexual relationship. Less than a third were in a healthy place—
—this is not them saying it’s healthy. This is an assessment that is used to kind of determine that, based on his answers and her answers and whether they are positive, based on hundreds of thousands of other people who have taken the same profile.
My point is—this is God’s territory; and yet, we struggle. So, let’s jump in—shall we? What is this thing we call sex? I think it’s really hard to describe because it involves so much of us. It’s hard to get our heads around it. It’s a very complex subject. Our thoughts are involved, our feelings are involved, our emotions are involved, our bodies are involved, our relationship is involved, and the spiritual and the divine are involved. It’s in us, it’s around us, and it is above us. It is such an intimate part of every single human being; and yet, it’s a mystery.
I want to talk about this, and I want us to get real about it. I want us to look at it from God’s point of view. I want to look at it from the emotional, the thought life, the physical, and the relational.
I want us to dive into that spiritual stuff. It’s hard to kind of cover all of that; but yet, we really have to because it involves so much of who we are.
Now, I know this conversation is going to illicit different things from within you. For some of you, it’s going to illicit some curiosity about some things. For others of you, embarrassment, or shame, or anger; but I want to ask you to pay attention to what you are feeling as we go through this—and here is why—because what you feel is teaching you something about what’s going on with you. It’s teaching you something about you and that deepest part of you. So, pay attention to that.
Let’s start by talking about what sex is, and then, let’s talk about how we can, perhaps, enhance healthy sexuality. We like to talk about sex as a gift in the Christian community, and I really think it is.
I want to remind us of that today—sex is a gift. I think it also an icon—an icon—that little thing on your computer desktop that, when you click it, it shows you something bigger. It’s an icon that’s going to reveal something much more important and significant, and I think it’s about a vow renewal ceremony. Let’s just take a look at those, one by one.
Number one: It’s a gift, created by God, and declared very good. From the moment of creation, the sexual side of man and woman was evident. We read in Genesis 2: “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” The one flesh reference is, of course, a reference to sexuality—two becoming one. And it’s an opportunity for each of the two to give completely of themselves to the other.
God is always invested and interested—have you noticed, across all kinds of situations and circumstances with His people, He’s always invested in us—
—figuring out how to lose ourselves and be completed in relationship with others. In a sense, we do that in the church—losing ourselves, and showing deference to one another, and showing humility about ourselves so that we can put others before us and loving others—our neighbor as ourselves. It’s all about losing yourself. Here is this thing that is another one of those pieces of us—another opportunity to surrender who you are in the giving of yourself to somebody else.
God made us to be sexual—this has to be His territory / this has to be a very, very good thing. From day one, Adam and Eve could be together, naked in front of each other and in front of God. They were aware of that, and there was no shame to it whatsoever. In front of God, they are unashamed of their bodies, they’re unashamed of their pleasure, they are unashamed of their sexual thoughts, and they are unashamed of their hunger for sex—all in front of God. They could be vulnerable.
They could be unashamed with each other because they were unashamed before God.
I think that naked and unashamed thing is not just physically naked, but I think that is really profound. I think it speaks to depths that we just need to try to explore. I think it’s suggesting that we can be exposed to our spouse but not embarrassed—physically, yes—but also, emotionally-exposed. I think we can be comfortable being seen physically, emotionally, psychologically, without being self-conscious about whom we are.
I think the real challenge in being naked and unashamed is being vulnerable to, perhaps, criticism. And this is a person you live with who likes some things about you and doesn’t like some things about you—right?—to be honest. Some days, they are critical and negative of you, and you are very vulnerable to that because this person matters to you more than anybody in the world. So, how can you be naked and unashamed in light of a relationship that sometimes has criticism? You have to learn how to [takes deep breath] take a deep breath and calm yourself and find a way around that.
Otherwise, you’ll just keep hiding. But Adam and Eve didn’t do that—they were naked and unashamed.
Now, here is the litmus test to see if you can translate this theological concept into your marital bedroom. I’d like to ask you to, sometime in the next couple of weeks, invite God openly into your lovemaking. Okay, some of you just went: “That’s weird. I’m so not doing that.” Why not? What’s that shame thing? What’s the hiding thing?—because whatever that is—it is a distortion of what God has created for us in this gift. Now, I don’t mean get weird. I just mean kind of, in your own silent way, perhaps—even just in your own mind, between you and God, or maybe outwardly before your spouse—
—just kind of whisper, or talk, or say something that acknowledges, “This is a good thing.”
Sex is an icon of spiritual oneness. You know, some people talk about the Trinity as the communion of love—right?—the Three that are One. There is such community in union between the Trinity.
Christ and the church—Ephesians 5 tells us that the relationship between husband, and wife, and sexuality somehow is a mystery. It is a little window into what the relationship between Christ and the church is and will ultimately be someday. I’m not sure I really get that one, but it’s there because there is more to it than just the sex. It is somehow symbolic of something far more important—far more eternal.
It teaches us surrender. Christ gave His body—is the implication in Ephesians 5. We are to give our bodies in loving service of one another. Again, 1 Corinthians, Chapter 7, talks about the husband—his body is not his own, but it belongs to his wife—and the wife is not her own / it belongs to her husband. This is a mystery, folks; but here is what it means.
Somehow, sexuality is tied to spirituality on an eternal level. It should leave us standing in awe of it. It should really kind of take us to—I don’t know—places of worship.
Well, it’s not just a gift, and it’s not just an icon of something bigger. It really is a vow renewal. When you stop and think about the function of sex, one of the things that it is doing is—it is reminding us of our vows in our covenant for one another. When you have a marriage covenant and you put sexuality within the covenant, you have a safe environment for vulnerability.
I’ve got to just say—there is such a trend in our culture, today, toward stay-over relationships and cohabitation. I have to say—you don’t get that in cohabiting environments. What you get is—that more fear thing, where “I’m not so sure how you feel about me,” and “I’m kind of with you, but I’m not really with you.” So, how can you be completely vulnerable with somebody you’re not sure is going to be around tomorrow?
You can’t! It limits your vulnerability—your willingness to risk.
Any of us, who are truly going to be naked and unashamed about it—not just physically—but emotionally, and psychologically, and spiritually—anybody who is really going to take the risk to go there needs to have a sense of permanence like: “You are here. We’re here, and our usness is good for all time. For me to go that deep, I’ve got to know that I know that I know.” God knew that about us. So, that’s one of the reasons He confined sexuality to the marriage covenant relationship.
So, you get this safe environment with permanence, but then, you have this symbolic nature to sexuality, where it expresses that covenant. It actually kind of recreates that decision that you made to be in covenant relationship with one another. It takes selflessness—“I will, until death do us part,”—and it puts it into bodily form. You give yourself away again like you did on your wedding day. It’s symbolic of all of that.
It serves the other person—it shares who you are. It’s an intimate form of communication with them. Then, it bonds you through the pleasure that comes as a result of that.
Sexuality, in a way, functions as God’s little marital ecosystem to help sustain your marriage covenant. I’m never going to quite understand that, but I do know that it drives me to a sense of awe and wonder in the God who made it.
The word, yada, in Hebrew means to know—to be made known / to be revealed. It is also the word that is used over and over in the Scriptures to refer to being made one flesh, but it is used in other ways as well. So, the word, yada—for example, in Exodus 6, God uses it when He’s talking to Moses about redeeming the Israelites. He says: “I’m going to redeem you, and I will redeem with an outstretched arm with great judgments. Then, I will take you for my people, and I will be your God and you will know that I am the Lord your God.” So, it’s used in this spiritual sense—
—of the people coming to know who God is.
It’s used in Genesis, Chapter 3, regarding gaining knowledge when Satan comes to Eve and he tempts her. The serpent says to the woman: “You’re not going to die. For God, knows”—yada—“that in the day that you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil”—yada—good and evil. Then, he goes on and he says, “After she gave to the husband and he ate, the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked,”—yada.
In Chapter 4, in Genesis, verse 1, it’s used specifically in connection to sexual relationships. Now, the man had relations with his wife—he knew his wife. You’ve heard the term—“He knew her,”— in the biblical sense; right? That comes from this word, yada.
Interesting—to be known / to become known—your sexual relationship should help you know something about your spouse that you don’t know about them any other way—
—hear one another, see one another, learn about each other in your sexual relationship. It should be a revealing of you—not just a learning about them. It’s a two-way street. Think about that—it is an intimate form of communication.
Now, if you stop and you think about this for a minute, there is verbal intercourse; and there is sexual intercourse. They both have the same purpose in marriage—that ultimately is about finding connection and safety with one another.
Women tend toward verbal intercourse as their opportunity to find connection and safety with their husband. It’s kind of like, guys—when we listen to our wives, and we really tune in, and we’re really kind of getting what’s going on with them and their thoughts, and not just what they are saying but the words and the meaning that’s underneath that—when we are really tuning into that, what she hears from you is—you’re telling her what she means to you—that she is important, and cherished, and loved, and that you are there for her. She is not alone.
Ladies, sexual intercourse tends to be where men lean toward to find connection.
We’ve got to kind of keep that in mind because of the gender differences between us. If you’ll just think of those two phrases as two ends of the same continuum—they are two strategies to get to connection. We just tend to emphasize one of them more than we emphasize the other one. It might help you in some ways.
Okay, a little perspective as we move forward with this. My mom said to me, before my wife and I got married, “Sex is the biggest little part of your marriage.” Years go by, and all of a sudden, some research comes out. We discover that, in healthy marital relationships, sex makes up 10 percent of what adds to and contributes to the vitality of that marriage. In other words, if you have great sex but nothing else, you’re going to be a miserable couple. You’ve got to have a whole lot more in the bank with each other than just sex. Now, here is the really curious thing—if sex is not going well, it drains your relationship. It’s not just a little hole in the bottom of the tub that drains it all out—
—it’s a big hole. It contributes about 40 to 50 percent of the negativity in a relationship.
So, if sex is going really well, it’s important—it matters. It has eternal perspective. It’s symbolic. It recreates and re-bonds your covenant relationship. It reminds you of why you got together in the first place. It does all of that, but you’ve got to have a whole lot more to your marriage than just good sex. But if sex is not going well, it can really pull you down fast—and if it’s one factor of some other things that are not going well in your relationship, it’s definitely something that you really need to be thinking about.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to our friend, Ron Deal, talking about intimacy in marriage. You know, Dennis, this is something that I think sometimes we have tended to shy away from candid conversations on this subject because it is deeply personal; and we don’t want to be cavalier about something that is so powerful and so personal.
At the same time, there are a lot of couples that need godly guidance in this area because it’s an area of marriage that has been a challenge for them.
Dennis: You know, at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, we spend a good hour with the engaged couples, talking about preparing for this dimension of their relationship, which they should be waiting for—
Dennis: —until marriage. Then, we spend another hour with all the married folks and just walk through a biblical perspective—which is what Ron’s talked about here today. He has talked about how it is good for a couple to re-bond by coming together in this mutually-satisfying relationship that God designed for married couples to experience.
And Bob, we have to pay attention to this dimension of our marriage relationship. If you are not really finding a time to come together, as a couple, I think it leaves you vulnerable to temptations / it leaves your spouse vulnerable.
I think it’s just wholesome and good—I’m not speaking as a man and how women can hear men speak about this—I think it’s a divine command and very important part of marriage that couples need to pay attention to, all the way through all the seasons of their marriage relationship.
Bob: I remember, years ago, hearing a guest on FamilyLife Today say the same thing that Ron said in this presentation. Every time a couple comes together in marital intimacy, you are renewing your vows with one another. And I think it is an essential part of marital intimacy.
You know, for years, at our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways, we have made available a copy of a book by Dr. William Cutrer and Dr. Sandra Glahn—a book called Sexual Intimacy in Marriage that is a very realistic, very Christ-honoring book about this subject. We’ve had a lot of couples say:
“Thank you for the help we have needed in this area because we just had questions,” or “We didn’t know this about one another, and we didn’t know who to talk to.”
We’ve got copies of the book, Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com to request your copy. When you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,” and you’ll see a copy of the book, Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, available there. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. Once again, 1-800-FL-TODAY is our toll-free number. Or you can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
You know, the ability to have these kinds of conversations, even in this setting—I think it is important for married couples to be able to dialogue on this / to be able to be instructed on issues of marital sexuality in a way that is appropriate / a way that’s candid.
I hope none of our listeners, today, have been offended by what you’ve heard. We try to make sure, again, that this is always appropriate; and yet, we feel like this is an important part of what God’s called us to, here at FamilyLife. Our goal is to provide practical biblical help for every area of your marriage and your family. And this is certainly an important area.
And I want to say a word of thanks to those of you who believe in this ministry enough to support us financially. We are listener-supported. More than 65 percent of the revenue we need to operate comes from folks, like you, who—either as Legacy Partners each month or on occasion—will pitch in to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We’re grateful for that.
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Make your donation over the phone. Or you can mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today. Our mailing address is Post Office Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear more from Ron Deal on the issue of intimacy in marriage. So, I hope you can tune in and hear tomorrow’s program.
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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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