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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Finding Healing For Your Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

Finding Healing For Your Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

Bob and Dannah Gresh share how sexual sin nearly tore their marriage apart, but through God’s grace and love they found healing and growth. The couple explores seven truths that lead to a redeemed marriage, getting into practical concepts like opening sharing emotions, setting boundaries, and learning to forgive and trust. Their powerful story offers hope for marriages that need a touch from God. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: April 27, 2023

Preview:

Bob Gresh: It’s worth the fight. It’s worth the fight to be able to have intimacy with not just your wife, but with your friends. One of the definitions we have is, Into Me, See. And to be able to feel, even around your friends, that they know you fully, and still love you. It’s not just in marriage, it’s in all your close relationships that you wonder, would they really still love me and respect me if they really knew me.

End of Preview

John Fuller: That’s Bob Gresh. And he and his wife, Dannah, join us today on Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, and before we get started, let me just share that this conversation won’t be appropriate for younger children. So, uh, pop in some earbuds or distract them elsewhere. And with that, uh, let’s turn it over to our host, Focus on the Family president, Jim Daly.

Jim Daly: John, I so appreciate it. Both Dannah and Bob yesterday, that vulnerability, um. It’s refreshing. I don’t know that we have enough of it in the church to where people can feel comfortable talking about their pain and their journey and where they’re at. I think the early church does describe some of that. Paul himself said, “I do the things I don’t want to do, and I don’t do the things I should do.” And that’s a great indication, a very open indication for us to, uh, struggle together in this life to become better. And certainly that comes out in marriage. My goodness. You wanna talk about your exposure.

John: Yes.

Jim: (laughs). The person that knows you best is your spouse. And I, at least I hope so because that’s the way it should be. And sometimes that creates, uh, situation, especially around sexual sin that is really difficult. And, uh, we talked about that last time and they were so open about it. You know, that emotional baggage that you bring in and all of the, uh, temptations and sin, especially in that sexual area, can be devastating to a marriage. And the last time we talked about how shame causes us to retreat and hide from others. I think that’s very true of men and, uh, today, we’re going to continue that discussion about how to find healing, uh, in the process. And we have a couple of great guests back with us today.

John: Yeah, Bob and Dannah Gresh are here. They’re the founders of True Girl Ministry, which is an outreach to tween girls. And, uh, Dannah is a very popular speaker and a podcast cohost. And, uh, she’s written a book, along with Bob’s input of course, that captures their incredible journey here. It’s called, Happily Even After: Let God Redeem Your Marriage.  And we have copies of the book here at the ministry.  Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: I can’t believe that, you know, with the Christian divorce rate being, you know, somewhere around 38 to 40 something percent, that we’re not- with that subtitle, Let God Redeem Your Marriage, the phones should be ringing off the hook right now because that is the goal. Let God redeem your marriage. The last time we talked about the brokenness in Dannah and Bob’s marriage. And Bob’s struggle with pornography. And it- that sexual stuff, it can be a whole bunch of stuff, infidelity and other things. And we’re not going to, you know, cut so finely what is what. We’re just saying it’s broken. It’s brokenness. And how does God want to repair your marriage? He doesn’t want to see it fall apart. I’m telling you, the enemy of our soul wants to steal, kill, and destroy your marriage. And it takes great courage to step and say, “This is what happened to us. This is how we found our way out through the Lord, through scripture, through good Christian friends and counseling.” That’s what we want to lift up today. So that’s, you know, something you need to hear, stick with us today. And let me say to you, hello and welcome back.

Dannah Gresh: Good to be back.

Bob: Great to be back.

Jim: Sorry for that drama, but man, I just really feel it.

Dannah: Oh, I loved it.

Jim: The enemy is looking to just kill our marriages.

Dannah: Yeah.

Jim: And it’s horrible.

Dannah: Yeah. That’s because they are picture of the love of Christ. And if he can erase that picture, then a lost world won’t see the hope that they truly need is in Jesus Christ.

Jim: Well, and you know, I so appreciate that because it feels like right now He’s winning. The enemy. Look at what’s happening to marriage in the culture. They’ve redefined it to the point that it doesn’t mean anything. And then even in the church, the way the culture has seeped in. It really does break my heart, because I think God created marriage as an institution to reflect His character. And we’re stepping on it.

Dannah: Yeah.

Bob: Yes.

Dannah: Exactly.

Jim: That is not a good place to be.

Dannah: No.

Jim: So again, I so admire your courage to say, “Don’t give up. Work on it. Fix it. Heal it. Let the Lord work.” And I’m just so proud of you guys. Um, Dannah, let’s get into some of these truth’s that lead into redeem marriage. The first one has to do with emotion.

Dannah: Yeah.

Jim: So, okay, I guess the basic question is, you’re seeing it in me right now, but what is emotion?

Dannah: (laughs). Well, emotions are a good gift from God. They’re messengers that He’s created. Um, even those things like stress, anxiety, uh, depression, grief. In the right context, those are useful for us and they are sending us a message that something needs to be attended to in our spirit, in our world. And, um, a lot of times what women do when their marriage starts to create really painful emotions is they shut down. Here’s the problem when your husband is struggling with pornography, is that part of what the whole pornographic world has done, is divorced emotions from the whole experience that God created when he created sexuality. And so a man who is struggling with pornography let’s say regularly. You know, you’ve seen this pattern in your husband’s life for years. It’s maybe every quarter or maybe every month or maybe every week. He has an emotional anorexia that needs to be healed. When you shut down, all you do is feed that emotional anorexia.

Bob: Yeah. It actually pushes you into medicating your stress or your, your wounds. Um.

Dannah: Not to say that it’s…

Bob: Not to blame the wife.

Dannah: Right.

Bob: But, Satan is a real conniving…

Jim: Twister.

Bob: Twister.

Jim: Father of lies.

Bob: Yes.

Jim: Actually. But I want to, I want to hit that point because some women are, you know, they are so tender on this subject that they do feel bad.

Dannah: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Jim: We’re taking a swing there. And that’s not the point at all.

Dannah: No.

Jim: It’s just a, it’s a complex dance that goes on here. And when it breaks down, it, it breaks down for everyone.

Dannah: Yeah. What really woke my heart up because when Bob was away getting help, I was getting help with my Christian therapist, um, my heart was doing really well. But then when we came together to do work, my defense mechanism was to put up a wall. And the first thing our therapist said when we started working together was, “Pain is not the problem. It’s a gift from God. You’ve gotta feel the pain because the pain is going to help you and Bob trace the way to the lies that you have believed that got both of you to where you’re functioning.” Our communication wasn’t good. I mean, it wasn’t like pornography was the only problem in the marriage. We had learned some unhealthy patterns of communication that needed to be fixed. Why? Well, our emotions were helping us to see what lies we were believing. And we had to start talking openly about that to really reestablish better communication.

Jim: Let me, let me hit something there. Um, pain is that alarm system.

Dannah: Yeah, it’s an alarm system.

Jim: I mean, that’s a great way to look at it. It is a gift from God. It is an alert to say something’s not working properly. But it’s also pain.

Dannah: Yeah.

Jim: And so we don’t do well with that…

Dannah: It hurts.

Jim: …as human beings. It hurts. We want to move away from it. And the way most people move away from it is isolation or retreat. It’s certainly the way men do.

Dannah: Isolation, retreat, or medicating.

Jim: Or medicating.

Dannah: So, pornography is a way of medicating. My things that I have done to medicate, workaholism, spending, food. Um, and so when you don’t communicate, when you don’t let your emotional intimacy grow and nurture it when it’s been damaged, all you’re doing is feeding that desire to medicate.

Jim: Um, Dannah, I’m assuming there are women hearing this or that will hear it, and there’s kind of two broad responses. You know, they get that, you going to the woods as you described last time and talking to a friend after Bob revealed to you where he was at, and how that helped. Uh, I think in fact she took you to the Psalms, which is great. Um, there’s also the other reaction, which is anger. And that can drive you into a really bad place too. And you as a couple. Yeah, there’s a right to be angry. And there’s a way to be angry. And you probably need to be angry so that he sees this is serious. But, how do you now go beyond a boundary where that anger then ends up destroying the relationship?

Dannah: Well, did I do that well?

Bob: Yeah, she did. And I think it was her spending time with the Lord and her spending time accountable to other women that she was working with when she would say what was happening. I think they would push back on her sometimes and say, you know, “You need to be more gentle about this.” But she really did well. Dannah was really great at this. Now, there are…

Dannah: I sought counsel.

Bob: Yeah. There are times when it would blow up and I never knew when. And, uh, I never knew what would trigger her, um, and I had to come to the conclusion that that was the consequence. I had to deal with that because that was my consequence.

Jim: That you needed to own that.

Bob: I needed to own that.

Jim: I think that’s healthy. I think that’s good.

Bob: I can’t- and I think we deal with what we’re seeing a lot is men saying, “Hey, I confess. God forgave me. You forgave me. Move on.” And when these triggers hit, they kind of blame the wife or the spouse, whatever. I heard once about the gift of consequences. And I think that, in my life, I’ve seen that gift. I’m responsible to own them and walk my wife through them. Because I’ve, I’ve created them.

Jim: Well, I’m- you’re hitting on biblical manhood, in my opinion.

Bob: Yes. Yes.

Jim: Yeah, that’s our job to own it.

Bob: Yep.

Jim: That’s our responsibility.

Bob: But the natural reaction, because of shame is, “Hey, I’m forgiven. God loves me.” ‘Cause people rush in and say, “Oh no, don’t live in shame. God loves you. He forgives.” You know, there’s no condemnation. Right?

Jim: Yeah.

Bob: Then you use that verse as a husband saying, “If there’s no condemnation, why are you condemning me?” And that doesn’t go well. It gives a downward cycle.

Jim: You know, I hadn’t thought about, but you look at King David. Um, he, he seems to be a man who stood boldly in his sin and in his riotousness.  I mean, really. I mean.

Dannah: Yeah.

Jim: I really like that. ‘Cause he- when Nathan pointed out to him, “You’re the man”, he owned it.

Dannah: Yeah.

Jim: He didn’t backtrack. And I, I especially like that attitude ’cause I think it’s pretty objective.

Dannah: Yeah.

Jim: Once he realized, “Oh my, that is me.”

Dannah: Yeah.

Jim: Um, but it’s bold. It’s bold in the worst sense and bold in the best sense.

Dannah: I call that confident humility.

Jim: It’s confident. Yeah.

Dannah: It’s, it’s confidence in God and never forgetting what he’s rescued you from.

Jim: It doesn’t give you an excuse to act poorly.

Dannah: No, which…

Jim: It just says, own it.

Dannah: Right. Which I should say sometimes when I was triggered, I did act poorly. And so here’s what I learned about triggers because this is such a word. Everybody’s triggered these days. Right? I’m so tired of the word. But it is a real thing. And there would be times when something would happen and I would feel triggered. Well, the- I wouldn’t ignore those triggers because that is an emotion. And what did I just say? The emotions can show you what you need to work on. I began to look at those moments of triggering as, oh, this is a place where I’m not healed yet. What if I let God have this place? So they became a bouey for me to get into my spirit and let the Holy Spirit do work there.

Jim: Yeah.

Bob: We talk about having a ten reaction to a two problem. Why are, why are you doing that? What’s creating that ten reaction to a problem that’s, that shouldn’t maybe create that?

Jim: That’s really good. All right, that’s, uh, emotions and being essential to, uh, hopefully healthy intimacy.

Dannah: Yeah. Yep.

Jim: And then number two is honest confession is the beginning of healing.  So I guess in that context, how, how did you deal with Bob’s nitty gritty confession of telling you this is what’s going on? I mean sometimes you’re going, okay, that’s enough. Or tell me all of it.

Dannah: Yeah. I do believe that if- forgiveness is obviously an important part of this, right? Because there’s been sin and so you have to forgive. And I think a lot of times there’s superficial forgiveness when you haven’t had disclosure to a healthy degree. Now I want to say that I came into this marriage not a virgin. And when I confessed that to Bob, I didn’t give him details. He knows about that much, what I just said. Right? Um, and when Bob confessed to me, he had to give me categorical details. I had to know, what am I forgiving here? Because that’s part of the intimacy. But, disclosure does require some measure of self-control and restraint. Because for me as a woman, I had a lot of questions. What, what do you mean that this and this and this? These are my five questions I have about that. And my team, my Christian therapist helped me, is that a question that’s going to help- the answer’s going to help you heal? Is that a question that’s going to have a shameful impact on Bob? And can we work, move forward without the answer to that question? And when I would answer those questions, a lot of times I realized, oh my curiosity here isn’t holy. I’m in a mood where I want to bring retribution against Bob. Or I’m in a mood where I want to hurt him. I’m in a mood where I want him to remember what he’s done to be. And so, this whole confession thing is a really, really hard thing. But, I don’t believe you can have intimacy in the marriage unless you walk through it with help.

Jim: Well, I would say, just observationally looking at Hope Restored Program we talk about where we do four day intensives, for the most part. There’s other therapeutic approaches, but that’s the main one. Those couples that have experienced infidelity and they’re trying to put their marriages back together, or you know, pornography use, et cetera, sexual sin. I’ll put it in that camp. Boy, once, once those things are on the table and in the light, the predictability of them having deep intimacy is quite high.

Bob: Yes.

Jim: ‘Cause there’s nothing else to hide from.

Dannah: Right.

Jim: You now do know me.

Dannah: Yeah.

Jim: I’m not hiding something in the closet from you. And I’m fully exposed now. And you love me.

Dannah: Yeah.

Jim: That’s gotta be a very, uh, wonderful experience in one way. But it goes to the valley of pain to get there.

Dannah: Yeah.

Bob: Yeah.

John: We’re hearing from the hearts of Bob and Dannah Gresh today on Focus on the Family. And, uh, there are so many resources that we have for you. Jim mentioned Hope Restored, which is a marriage getaway, an intensive time of healing. And, uh, we can tell you more about that. We have other resources as well. Certainly we point out the book that captures their journey and has so much more than we can cover these couple of days here. It’s called Happily Even After: Let God Redeem Your Marriage. And we’d invite your call for help or for a copy of that book. 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast for all the details.

Jim: Uh, your truth claim number three, if I could call it it. You don’t call it the truth claim. But your third point under truth is that boundaries can bring holiness and health to your life. Um, boundaries are good, but describe what that boundary in marriage looks like. What are we talking about with boundaries?

Bob: Well, I have pretty high boundaries and that’s I don’t travel alone, uh, very often unless it’s absolutely necessary. I attend meetings. I attend 12 step meetings at times. I love the recovery movement as far as- It’s almost like a ministry to me and it’s a humility. Um, I have accountability partners. And I keep that up and Dannah sees that. And that’s one way to, to build trust and to keep trust. And that makes her feel safe. She’ll say it makes her feel safe. And so there are things that I do that are part of my journey that I know I have to keep doing or else it’s easy to slide.

Jim: Yeah, let me ask. I mean those become pretty obvious.

Bob: Yeah.

Jim: Interestingly enough, what are the boundaries that you deployed, Dannah, to not become bitter, to not become angry? Those sound a little different that what Bob has dealt with.

Dannah: Well, um, what we’ve learned through this first of all is that boundaries are sort of a word that a lot of people are afraid of. I mean, even the boundaries he just said, they do make me feel safe. Um, but what gets complicated is when you’re in the middle of this and your husband is maybe wanting to live in freedom. I mean, I feel like my husband lived in Romans VII for a while. “That which I don’t want to do I do, and that which I..” you know. That whole battle that Paul writes about.

Jim: Yeah, yeah. Thank you, Paul.

Dannah: Yes. I had to become an advocate for him and say, “Okay, so we want a marriage of integrity and love. So if this boundary is crossed, you don’t go to that 12 step group. You don’t talk to the counselor this week.” Whatever it is. “This will be consequence.” As a wife I would say, “I’m sleeping in the guest bedroom.” Or whatever we had agreed upon. We talked through those things. Now what that gets really hard for, I should say that I’m, I love the bible’s portrayal of the husband as the head of the home. That gets complicated when I’m going to the head of the home and saying, “If you don’t go to your group this week, I’m sleeping in the guest bedroom.” Am I still walking in respect and love and honoring that head of home thing then? Well, I think as long as I have accountability to do it with humility.

Jim: Well, and again I think this is really important, but it’s very personal boundaries and things like that.

Dannah: Yeah.

Jim: But the point you’re making is boundaries are good. Seek them out.

Dannah: Yeah.

Jim: I want to move to truth number four, which I think is core-core, and that’s forgiveness.

Dannah: Yeah.

Jim: And that it’s a supernatural act. Describe the importance of forgiveness and where do you find it and there are a lot of people, even in the church, that I don’t believe truly understand the source of forgiveness and the rationale of forgiveness.

Dannah: Yeah.

Jim: It’s very counter to the human flesh.

Dannah: Very counter. That’s why we say it’s supernatural. It’s not really something you can do without God’s spirit. There might be some people who are more natural at forgiving than others. But when it comes to the really hard stuff, you need the power of God’s spirit helping you. But, um, Bob is the greatest forgiver I know. So, I, when I got married to him, he thought he was marrying the driven snow and it was a few years down the road when I finally had a disclosure conversation with him for three hours in a dark bedroom ’cause I was so cloaked in shame I did not want him to see me when I said the words.

Jim: Wow.

Dannah: And his forgiveness was immediate. He, I remember he said, “I don’t know if I need to say this from me, but I think you need to hear this. I forgive you.” And so when Bob began struggling, for me to return that beautiful gift was really a no brainer, but that didn’t make it easy.

Jim: Right.

Dannah: So I had to search the scriptures. You know, the Bible commands us to forgive. The Bible says that we’re supposed to forgive and that is a piece of opening our hearts up to receive the forgiveness of Jesus that we need. Like, this is a really complicated topic in the Bible. He talks about it a lot. God’s word talks about it a lot. But, um, for me, I had to understand what it wasn’t. Forgiveness isn’t saying, “Oh, it’s okay. It doesn’t matter.” Forgiveness isn’t being a doormat. Forgiveness isn’t being weak. It actually is an incredible strength to be able to extend forgiveness to someone out of a heart that truly means it. And I, I hope that I’ve done it as well for him as he’s done it for me.

Bob: Yeah. She’s a great forgiver too.

Jim: I mean, that’s beautiful. I don’t know that more needs to be said. Forgiveness is the way. (laugh). It’s what the Lord has done for us. Right?

Dannah: Yeah.

Jim: In that context, the next one was trust. And I, I do want to cover this as well because I, I think you said something beautiful here, which is that, uh, trust is a gift that you choose to give someone. Now, a lot of people that are more black and white would say, “Well, wait a minute. Trust is earned, Dannah. It’s not something you give. It’s an exchange for something of value.” And just speak to that idea of trust having to be earned versus trust being a gift that you give.

Dannah: Yeah. It was really hard for me to start operating out of trust with Bob again and I didn’t do that well. So this was a hard lesson to learn. But, when I studied the scripture, I learned that we’re not really supposed to trust in other men. Like, the Bible says that over and over again. Don’t trust in man. That’s going to go in all the wrong places. And the Bible does command us to trust in the Lord. But obviously in a marriage relationship, you need that trust. So, um, what I really realized is that Bob was doing things that were trustworthy. Going to his weekly groups, seeing his Christian therapist. At some point you just have to say, “Baby, I choose to trust you. You’re trustworthy.”

Jim: Yeah. Bob, it takes a lot of courage to own up to our sin, to take the responsibility to make things right. That takes both of you to work on. Speak to that husband. I want to go back to the stats for a minute. That to me are a bit shocking, but I’ll take them at face value that somewhere around 70% of men in the church are struggling with pornography. And I’ve heard the number of about 27, 28% of women. So it’s prevalent. It’s out there. What do you say to that man who is struggling with that? What encouragement would you give him if it’s still unknown?

Bob: I would encourage him, first of course, to confess his sin to God.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Bob: Um, and be forgiven. And then, as we talked about earlier, to be healed by the workings of the church, which is to confess to other men.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Bob: That helps shine a light on it, like you said. And it’s worth the fight. It’s worth the fight to be able to have intimacy with not just your wife, but with your friends. One of the definitions we have is Into Me, See. And to be able to feel, even around your friends, that they know you fully and still love you. It’s not just in marriage, it’s in all your close relationships that you wonder, would they really still love me and respect if if they really knew me?

Jim: Dannah, this may sound odd, but especially for women who are listening and they have a hunch or they know that their husband is struggling with pornography. Do you feel after going through the rage and the arguments and the healing and the commitment Bob has made to be accountable to others, do you feel closer?

Dannah: Oh, yeah. So good. We just had a staff- every year, True Girl has an annual day of prayer with the staff. And, um, of course we’ve been in healing for a lot of years. But this is the first year that we’re really telling our story. We have not hid our story from our staff, but we sat down and we told our story to our staff. And I said to him at the end of the day, “This day felt so intimate. Like, I felt so loved today.” And I felt loved by him in a way that I could never have known if we both didn’t fight through this. It’s not that early honeymoon love passion before love. This is after all the brokenness and the hurt. I feel exceedingly loved and known and understood. I think he does too. And that is, that is what marriage is supposed to portray. It’s not the honeymoon love we’re supposed to portray. It’s the redeeming love of Jesus that we are supposed to be telling the world about.

Jim: Well, what a great place to tie a bow on this. And I again so appreciate your courage and your willingness to write it in a book, Happily Even After, and then to come and talk about it. That’s vulnerable, ’cause you don’t know where these questions are going to go. And I, again, so appreciate your courage. Thank you for being with us.

Dannah: My pleasure. We’ve loved it.

Bob: Thank you.

Jim: Well, uh, man, what a great illustration of the way to behave in marriage. It’s right here on full display and I’m so grateful again. Let’s get you a copy of Happily Even After, especially if you’re in that place where you’re struggling and it could be fill in the blank, whatever the verb is, uh, addiction to what. Um, get in touch with us. We’ve got 45 years of experience. We have a number of programs that can help you including Hope Restored, our four day intensive. We have this great resource, Happily Even After. And if you can make a gift of any amount and do it either monthly or one time gift, we will send it to you as our way of saying thank you for helping other couples, uh, in this ministry. And if you can’t afford it, get a hold of us. We’ll trust that others will cover the cost of that. We just want to get it into your hands. And get you on a better journey forward and really help your testimony. Right? Be the person you need to be, the couple you need to be as faith believers, as Christians putting your hope and trust in Jesus.

John: Yeah. Focus on the Family is here to help. Happily Even After by Dannah Gresh is a terrific tool. We’ve mentioned along the way that we have a team of caring Christian counselors and we can also tell you more about our Hope Restored marriage intensives when you get in touch. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. And we have all the details at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Happily Even After: Let God Redeem Your Marriage

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