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Focus on the Family Broadcast

How to Experience Great Intimacy and Love in Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

How to Experience Great Intimacy and Love in Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Dave and Ashley Willis help husbands and wives rediscover God's design for a marriage that enables them to be emotionally, spiritually and physically vulnerable and transparent with each other. They share their own love story and describe how “love is not enough” to sustain a lifelong marriage; couples need to commit to serving and sacrificing for each other. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: January 3, 2024

Man #1: I think vulnerability in marriage is saying the things to your spouse that you don’t even really want to admit maybe to yourself but sharing that anyway. Sharing fears and stuff about yourself that maybe is uncomfortable.

Woman #1: I think, uh, vulnerability and transparency means just being honest about everything.

Man #2: I think it means you just don’t keep secrets.

Woman #2: Uh, regarding vulnerability, it’s easier for me than him.

John Fuller: I wonder if those comments describe your marriage. Do you feel like you can be open and transparent, uh, no secrets with your spouse? Today on Focus on the Family we’ll explore how husbands and wives can experience greater vulnerability and intimacy and love in marriage. Thanks for joining us. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, I can already hear people going, “Feelings?”

John: (laughs)

Jim: “Oh, no.” And, uh, they’re-

John: Feelings.

Jim: … like, “Uh, let’s go listen to some-

John: (laughs)

Jim: … music right now.” But it’s true. And this is an area for me that’s really difficult, you know. I think when Jean and I talked about this, uh, you know, being an orphan kid, I learned to kinda just put it in a suitcase and deal with it, right? So there’s those moments where she’s going, “Ah, I need your heart in this discussion-”

Ashley: Yeah.

Jim: … and I gonna go find it.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Sometimes that’s hard to do. Just like can be easier if you just, like, lock it away and just get up and do the day and be done with it. I think men tend to lean in that direction. We compartmentalize so many things, that’s why we’re good at battle. We come back like the guys did from World War II and never talked about it.

John: Yeah.

Ashley: Uh-huh.

Jim: We can do that. Uh, woman, no. They wanna talk about it. They’re, you know, fully integrated. There’re two halves of their brains and- (laughs)

Dave: (laughs)

Ashley: (laughs)

Jim: … uh, we end up, you know, being a little isolated. So today we’re gonna, we’re gonna get into it because it’ll make your relationship better this is as much for me as it is for you.

John: Hmm. Yeah. And we’re covering unconditional love, which is something… I don’t know, Jim. I struggle with this. I’m not… I, I want-

Jim: (laughs)

John: … to love my wife unconditionally but I put stipulations and causes and I’m, I’m just a human, a selfish guy and I’m tryin’ but it’s hard.

Jim: Sounds like rules and regulations. (laughs)

John: You are gonna bring up the firstborn thing. Okay.

Ashley: (laughs)

Jim: No, I’m not. I’m not gonna say it.

John: All right. No couple loves each other perfectly and, uh, that’s the promise we have for today’s show. And our guests are Dave and Ashley Willis. They’ve been here a number of times and, uh, we’re so glad to have them back. Dave and Ashley are authors and speakers and co-founders of StrongerMarriage.org and they host The Naked Marriage podcast. And, uh, since 2018 they’ve been part of the XO Marriage ministry. They’ve written a number of books and, uh, we’re gonna be covering the content of, uh, two in particular today of a wife’s edition and a husband’s edition of 7 Days to a Naked Marriage. And, uh, we’ve got those two books bundled here at the ministry. The details are at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Well, Dave and Ashley, welcome back.

Ashley Willis: Thank you.

Dave Willis: Hey, guys. It’s great to be back.

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: We love hanging out with you.

Jim: It’s great to have you here.

Ashley: Love it.

Jim: It’s like we’re talking as old friends, right?

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: And that’s so good.

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: Man, let’s start with your love story. It’s always fun to do that. You guys are so vulnerable and so open with, uh, both the highlights of that and the lowlights of that. Uh, how did you meet and when did you know you were gonna get married? Was it like love at first sight?

Dave: Well, it kinda of was for me. I mean, I-

Jim: (laughs) Typical male.

Dave: You know, it took her, uh-

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: Maybe took her longer (laughs) but…

Ashley: I don’t know.

Dave: No.

Ashley: It was pretty quick.

Dave: When she walked in, it was her very first day of college and, and I was a junior. I was a couple of years ahead. And, and she walked in to class one day and, uh, I didn’t even know if she saw me or knew I existed but she was laughing and talking and, and just lit up the room. And I thought, “I’ve got to get to know her.”

Jim: Now why were you there in this, uh, particular room? We’re you a junior that was loo- looking at (laughs) the freshmen?

Dave: Oh, (laughs), right, right, yeah.

Ashley: I was like-

Jim: What was going on-

Dave: (laughs)

Jim: … there?

John: Making up from-

Jim: Yeah.

John: … your missed class.

Dave: You’re making me sound like-

Ashley: (laughs)

Jim: Terrible.

Dave: … really, really terrible.

Ashley: Oh my goodness.

Jim: You had a function-

Dave: But yes.

Jim: … I would assume?

Dave: That was actually part of the…

Jim: Orientation or something?

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: Right, yeah.

Jim: (laughs)

Dave: Let me, le- let me help. Let me, let me help, uh, the new freshman-

Jim: Yeah.

Dave: … found their way around. No, I, I was at class I’d kinda, like, put off. It was actually an acting class randomly.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: We were communication majors and in communication and our liberal arts school, little Christian school where we went, they, they threw acting in as one of the classes you could take and I’d kind of put it off ’cause I’m like, “I don’t wanna do that.” But I put it off. I took it my junior year. She took it as a freshman and it was just so fun. And of course, I look for every excuse to, like, do act- acting scenes together. Like, “Oh, you know we would-”

Jim: (laughs)

Dave: “We work well together like-”

Jim: Especially the kissing scenes. (laughs)

Dave: Right. (laughs)

Ashley: I know.

Dave: Right. (laughs) Yeah.

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: We really did try. We never got paired though, I don’t know why, like, in that class. But you said you noticed me ’cause I was wearing a hat. I’m a big time hat person.

Dave: I noticed a lot more than the hat. But, yeah, you were wearing a cute hat.

Ashley: But I was wearing this, like, fisherman’s hat. It’s really popular in the late ’90s, early 2000s and, um, and we, we tried to do that… That whole semester we were just kind of acquaintances kind of friends and then you ended up asking me to your fraternity formal and we went to each others, like we went to some dances together and, uh, really get to know each other. And very quickly, I mean, we, we really… I just felt like both… We started talking marriage pretty quickly. Wouldn’t you say, sweetie?

Jim: Well, that’s good though.

Ashley: Yeah.

Dave: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, that’s…

Dave: Yeah.

Jim: Yeah.

Dave: I mean, I had to, like… I had to seal this deal before she realized how much better she could do.

Ashley: Oh my goodness.

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: That is not true.

Dave: If, like, she’s out of my league, I’ve got to-

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: … make sure to-

Jim: You are a wise man.

Dave: … playing the blame here-

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: … that w-

Jim: That’s so true.

Dave: We just knew. I mean, we-

Ashley: We did.

Dave: … we knew that, like, we wanted to be together and-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: … and, uh, of course we had a lot to learn but-

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: … we knew we wanted to figure it out together. We wanted to, we wanted to be husband and wife. So we, we got engaged pretty quickly and-

Ashley: We did.

Jim: It’s always a little bit of an awkward moment when that… You know, it can be-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and, you know, you don’t want to make the assumption ’cause that’s not good. And then-

Ashley: Right.

Jim: … you want to get the point across at man, I’m really interested. So-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … it’s always that struggle of where’s that line. Jean and I had that. I mean, we knew… Both us I think knew but it took us… This is kind of funny. It took us like six months-

Ashley: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: … to get to the point of going d- do you think-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … do you think?

Ashley: Right.

Dave: (laughs) No, I…

Ashley: Right.

Jim: (laughs) And you know, I have to fill in the blanks.

Ashley: Uh-huh.

Jim: She knows what exactly what I’m talking about.

Dave: Well, yeah, I, y- Me telling her I love her for the first time-

Ashley: That’s how the I love you went.

John: Yeah.

Dave: … was one of the most awkward-

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: … moments-

John: Oh, yeah.

Dave: … of my life because I was so nervous, right? And so-

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: … she was like, “What are you thinking?” I, I, I wanted to say it but I couldn’t get it out. I’m like, “I was just, you know. I was, I was thinking like, um,-”

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: “… you know, like, I, I was just thinking and, uh-”

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: “… that I, that I am…”

John: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: He literally did this.

Dave: I-

Ashley: And then on-

Dave: I, I, uh-

Jim: It sounds like a TV show.

John: (laughs)

Ashley: I-

Dave: It was.

Ashley: I’m serious.

Dave: And she was just smiling and waiting for it. I was like, “That-

Jim: The, the, the, the…

Dave: “… I love… You know, I-”

Ashley: You didn’t even say it.

Dave: “I really… I think that I lo-” And before I can even get it out, she said, “I love you too.”

Ashley: I did.

Jim: Aw, that’s sweet.

Dave: (laughs) She rescued me.

Ashley: ‘Cause I saw in his eyes and I said-

Dave: She rescued me.

Ashley: I said, “Sweetie, I love you too.”

Dave: (laughs) That’s right.

Jim: Well, you know it’s interesting-

Ashley: And then you were like, “okay.”

Jim: … there’s so much in that transaction ’cause guys we do not like to fail.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: Yeah.

Jim: And we wanna go out on a limb unless we have an assurance-

Dave: (laughs)

Jim: … that-

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: … we’re gonna win.

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: So that’s why I think guys hesitate like, “I’m not quite sure I’m getting the right vibe but from you.”

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: So that’s why you gotta finish the sentence the sentence for us.

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: Thank you, my love. Thank you.

Jim: Do, do-

Ashley: Aw.

Jim: … do, do you think, uh…

Dave: She’s been rescuing me ever since.

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: Oh, it’s not true.

Jim: Let me ask you about this. You have a quote that you like and it says, “Love is not enough for a marriage to work.” I mean, I understand it.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: But come on, isn’t love enough?

Dave: Well, I mean, love in the world’s definition. Like, as the world’s definition of love is really so superficial, you know. It’s kind of this, uh, something we derive from love songs and Hallmark movies and, and it words this picture of love where i- it’s always gonna be easy. If you marry the right person, you’re always gonna have these feelings. You never gonna struggle. It’s never gonna take real work but, but real marriage takes a lot more than that. I mean, it takes a commitment to each other, even on the days when you, you struggle to like each other in that moment-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: … um, because you’re committed to each other and it’s rooted in action. And that’s, that’s the way God, God loves us with the committed love that’s rooted in action and, and we got to love each other that way. So I, I think we gotta just break free from the world’s very shallow definition of love to what God has in store in mind for marriage which is it’s selfless, it’s sacrificial at times. It’s gonna take work but it’s so worth it.

Jim: Hmm.

Ashley: Right.

Jim: I was thinking about the transactional nature of that. You think of the world. And now, you know, psychology has shown that basically love defined by the world, that infatuation-

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: … it lasts about two years.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And it’s kinda like God’s sense of humor to say, “Yeah, I’mma give you a dose of dopamine in your brain.

Dave: (laughs)

Ashley: (laughs)

Jim: It’s gonna give you… You’re gonna have this infatuation-

Ashley: Right.

Jim: … because if you didn’t, it’d probably would nev- we’d never have children. (laughs)

Dave: (laughs)

Ashley: Right. Yeah.

Jim: I mean, I’m thinking, “Okay, Lord, what are you thinking?”

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And, but that’s true. I mean, i- i-

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: … it does. In the way he created us, he gives us this, like, you could do nothing wrong-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and then that wears off-

Ashley: Yeah.

Jim: … and then the hard work of marriage starts.

Dave: Sure.

Jim: You know.

Dave: Yeah.

Jim: You’re doing everything wrong. Well, I didn’t think it was me.

Dave: (laughs)

Jim: I thought it was you and…

Ashley: (laughs) Yes.

Jim: You know how, how, how that all goes.

Ashley: So true. (laughs)

Jim: Uh, we mentioned your books, uh, 7 Days to a Naked Marriage and I guess the question is, hey, how did you come up with (laughs) that title? Everyone was going, “Did I just here that correctly?”

Ashley: (laughs)

Jim: A- and then, um, you know, it’s, it’s talking about, uh, a bouquet of intimacy, if I could say it that way.

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: Yeah.

Jim: Emotional-

Ashley: I love that.

Jim: … physical.

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: That’s gonna be our next book, A Bouquet of Intimacy.

Ashley: (laughs)

Jim: But first, for some of those folks that are going, “What? What? What? They used the word naked?”

Dave: God uses the word naked.

Ashley: Right.

Jim: What?

Dave: Yeah.

Ashley: I know.

Jim: Where?

Dave: Hey-

Ashley: Genesis.

Dave: … Genesis.

Jim: Okay, give it to me.

Ashley: (laughs) Well, in Genesis 2, it talks about Adam and Eve, the very first married couple, being naked and unashamed. And that’s really where having a naked marriage comes from. It’s being naked, yes, physically. That’s a part of it. That’s an awesome part of it.

Dave: Oh, yeah.

Ashley: That’s not the only part. We gotta be naked physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and basically it means being vulnerable. Being vulnerable, you know, showing everything really being known and fully knowing your spouse. I mean, that’s really the goal-

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: … is… And that’s when you get that grit that you’re talking about that we don’t tend to have, you know, if these first two years where we’re going off the dopamine we had from the infatuation. But when, you know, everything really gets, you know, the reality hits that, like, oh my gosh, we’re imperfect people and we have to work things out and I don’t like every little thing you do. Like, there’s things that annoy me and I need to work through that. You know, that’s where we have to get that grit to work through all those things and, and we get that by being honest and by loving through those hard times-

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: … and not letting it be this conditional kind of willy-nilly if I’m not feeling it I’m not gonna be here for you kind of love.

Jim: Well, I, I think even… You know, we’re kinda giggling and laughing about the title and all that but there is a, um, a deep problem in the church. I mean, even some people listening. And I get it everybody. There’s a certain, I don’t know if it’s false, prudishness about it but that the Lord created us-

Ashley: Right, yes.

Jim: … naked and unashamed like we were just there.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: We didn’t know any better, right, Adam and Eve. This is who we are. He made us. Everything is good.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And then sin enters into humanity and all of a sudden we’re covered and ashamed.

Ashley: Yeah.

Dave: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: And we still lived that way, even, if I can say it, even in the Christian community-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … marriages live in that place of cover up and shame.

Dave: Yeah.

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: But they don’t have to is the good news.

Jim: Right.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: Like we get back to God’s original design and by His grace and we can get back to that place of being naked and unashamed where, yeah, we, we still have flaws. Nakedness is that picture of vulnerability where, whether its physical or emotional. It says like this is me, like kind of warts and all, scars and all. And I see you and, and your scars too but I accept you just the way you are, you accept me just the way that I am and there’s such a, an intimate connection that happens when you can be fully known and fully loved by someone. And God fully knows us and fully loves us, so He went first. I mean, He went first with showing us what that looks like.

Jim: Yeah.

Dave: But in marriage, we can get back to that place. So it’s, it’s heartbreaking for us when we see couples that are hiding from each other, hiding certain things, um, because they’re robbing themselves of that deep, wonderful intimate connection-

Jim: Yeah.

Dave: … that God designed them to have.

Ashley: Right.

Jim: You, uh, you did premarital counseling. By the way, uh, that is critically important. Again, we lean on a lot of research here at Focus. I think that’s one reason hopefully you trust what we have to say-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … the resources that we produce, et cetera. But, uh, the minimum number of hours, if you can receive 10 hours of premarital counseling, your likelihood of staying together is quite high. It’s in the, I think the 90-something percentile-

Dave: Yeah.

Jim: … range-

Ashley: Yeah.

Jim: … for 10 hours of counseling. Now we we- We, Jean and I, we saw that. We had probably 12 couples in our premarital counseling.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I think three walked out saying, “We’re, yeah, we’re not ready for this.”

Ashley: Wow.

Jim: That’s good.

Ashley: But that’s good thing.

Dave: Yeah.

Ashley: Right.

Dave: Yeah.

Jim: That’s a good thing-

Ashley: It is.

Jim: … I mean, that they were… It caught their attention.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: We are not either meant for each other or, you know, we need to do some work. So how was your premarital counseling? And did you guys go and going, “We are so much alike.”

Dave: Yeah. We-

Ashley: Oh, yeah.

Jim: We’re so… We got this.

Ashley: No, we totally did.

Jim: Jean and-

Dave: We go through the motions.

Jim: (laughs) Jean and I too.

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: We got a discount on our wedding license if we check this off the box.

Ashley: Oh my goodness.

Dave: But, no, but we learned a lot and it challenged us and it, it was a wake-up call.

Ashley: It was a wake-up call.

Dave: It helped us to see we’re not nearly as-

Jim: Wow.

Dave: … as good as we think. Yeah.

Jim: So you were in there and you realized that-

Dave: Oh, yeah.

Jim: “I wasn’t that smart.”

Dave: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: No, we, we did. Especially in the area of communication, we went in very prideful because both of us have degrees in communication.

Dave: My parents were right. It was a dumb major.

Ashley: Uh, no, it’s not. We’ve used it.

Dave: (laughs)

Ashley: But when it comes-

Jim: How are you gonna feed yourself-

Dave: (laughs)

Jim: … with that major?

Ashley: I, well-

Jim: Now I wouldn’t wanna go there.

Ashley: … they honestly did ask that.

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: Like, really, they did.

Jim: Poetically, here you are.

Ashley: I, I…

Dave: Yeah, we’re…

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: We’re using it, guys.

Jim: Communicating.

Ashley: We’re using it.

Dave: Hi, Mom and Dad. We did it.

Ashley: Yeah. We did it.

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: No, but we really did. We thought even with like relationships, like, we we’re like, “Oh, like, even in marriage, like, we got this. Like, we majored in communication. Like, we got this.” And they did this exercise with us where basically they had us each say something and the other could not talk when the others, like when the spouse-

Dave: Yeah, we’re telling a story.

Ashley: … he was talking, telling a story. And it was like in a minute or something and we’re supposed to listen intently. And then when they’re finished, we’re supposed to say, “What I hearing you say is…” And then we would say what we thought we we’re hearing them say. And we both did this and we both really got it wrong. Like, because I think what we were doing instead of actually listening, we we’re thinking how good we are at this and what we are going to say back and we were assuming we knew what they were going to say ’cause that’s what we tend to do. Like, well, I, I hear the beginning of this and I’m just assuming I know the rest of the story. And right then and there, it was like it was a wake-up call to us. Like, man, we have a lot of work to do in this communication thing and that it’s not something that you just arrive at like in life. It’s a journey. Like, you’re always learning about each other. You always need to be a good listener and, um, not just thinking about your response. Like, really listen to your spouse. And so we’ve, we’ve worked on that, you know, for 22 years where, you know…

Dave: And we’re still learning.

Ashley: Always, always learning.

Jim: And how’s that going, Dave? Is it… (laughs)

Dave: Um, i- it’s…

Ashley: It’s a lot better than it was than those exercises.

Dave: … better than it was.

Jim: Oh, good.

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: I’m, I’m a work in progress.

Jim: Good to let her answer that question.

Dave: Yes.

Jim: That was excellent.

Dave: My love, how do you feel like it’s going?

Jim: Yeah.

Dave: I concur.

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: No-

Jim: I, I have that problem where I finish… I know people are gonna go, “You are kidding me.” But I tend to… If Jean’s kinda taking a little while to put the noun at the end of the, uh, sentence-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … I’ll offer three or four.

Dave: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Dave: You’re like the Google auto when you start typing and it-

Jim: And she’s so good, she likes… She’ll look at me and say, “Can I finish my sentence?”

Dave: (laughs)

Ashley: Yes. (laughs)

Jim: I’m still doing it. We’ve been married (laughs) 37 years.

Dave: (laughs)

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: I think it’s little lower volume but it’s like this thing I can’t get rid of-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and that’s what you’re talking about.

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: Yeah.

Jim: That’s not… See, I interpret good listening skills as finishing someone’s sentence.

Ashley: (laughs)

Jim: I’m really listening to you.

Dave: (laughs)

Ashley: (laughs)

Jim: In fact, so intently, I can finish what you’re gonna say.

Dave: (laughs)

Ashley: Right, right.

Jim: Uh, they don’t think so.

Ashley: Exactly.

Jim: She doesn’t think so.

Ashley: Exactly. No-

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: … and I done that for Dave. Like, there’s been-

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: … several times where I’m like I’ll insert something and he’s like-

Dave: No.

Ashley: … “No. That was not.”

Dave: Right, yeah.

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: Like, I’mma gonna go, “Get a sandwich. Go for a run. Go to look…

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: Like, no, no. I’ve, I’ve gonna go to take a shower.

Jim: (laughs) It’s like, it’s like there’s multiple-

Dave: You just let me finish.

Jim: … choice, like…

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: Just let me say it.

Ashley: Exactly.

John: Yeah.

Ashley: Exactly.

John: That’s the benefit of premarital counseling is to learn, “Oh, we have a tendency maybe to do that.”

Dave: Yes.

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: Exactly.

John: And, uh, and I’m glad you’re listening to Focus on the Family today with Jim Daly because we’re talking about marriage and some of the foils, some of the challenges we all experience. Dave and Ashley Willis, our, our guest and, uh, they have written and spoken about marriage a lot and they’re sharing a lot of their own personal experiences with us today. Uh, they’ve captured a lot of the content that we’re talking about in, uh, a couple of books. There’s a wife’s edition and a husband’s edition of 7 Days to a Naked Marriage. Uh, this is a great day by day guide to developing intimacy and, uh, we’ve got this bundle of books for you, uh, just give us a call. 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Dave, one obstacle to the vulnerability of marriage is something you call emotional sunburn. Now being a fair-skinned Irish guy, I’m connecting with you.

Dave: (laughs)

Ashley: Yes. (laughs)

Jim: I’ve had plenty of sunburns in my life and now I go to the dermatologist quite regularly.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: But what does that mean, emotional sunburn?

Dave: Yeah. So, like, when our family go to the beach, we noticed that none of us were applying sunscreen effectively and we’re, we were all pretty fair-skinned. So by the time we get back home at the end of the night, everybody was, was sore, needing aloe and just in bad mood.

Jim: Why did we go there?

Dave: Why did we do that?

Ashley: I know.

Jim: That is horrible.

Dave: And-

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: … and I would notice that if someone would come and just tap my back-

Jim: (laughs)

Dave: … like, “Hey, Dave, how was your day?” and they pat me in the back, I’d wanna punch ’em in the face, right-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: … because they touch to a place where I was wounded. It had nothing to do with anything they did wrong.

Jim: Hmm.

Dave: There was just… Under my shirt, there was this wound that they could not see.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: And in marriage, I think we all kinda carry, to some level, this invisible, emotional sunburns that over time, you know, our, our hearts have been wounded by different things. Maybe we’ve even wounded one another. These wounds can be invisible and yet when our spouse in close proximity to us has just said something or just kinda touches us a certain way, it might evoke this irrational, emotional response that surprises them and makes them think that they’ve done something terribly wrong when really it’s just the defense mechanism that we build up to protect our own wound. So in marriage you gotta become experts in navigating each others woundedness and not lashing out in your own woundedness-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: … ’cause it’s something that all of us are prone to do. When we’re hurt, we tend to lash out and cause further damage. But in marriage, we have to take a step back even in our pain sometimes and lean in and really work through the process together.

Jim: Okay. I’ll stick with the analogy of the sunburn. So what’s the aloe? What do you put on that, that soothes that pain?

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: That’s a great question.

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: I think that the aloe is a combination of listening, of tenderness, of compassion, of encouraging words of just serving one another. And depending on your spouse’s temperament, their personality, the level of the woundedness, their own individual kinda love language, all those things, that aloe might look a little bit different, but for all of us, it’s gonna require a lot of tenderness and time.

Jim: We- And I think one of the challenges you have there is that t- t- typically in external treatment, meaning your spouse provides it. I- if you have those wounds, it’s hard for you to provide it for yourself.

Ashley: Right.

Jim: But when your spouse is able to soothe you-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … that’s a good thing.

Dave: Yeah.

Ashley: Right.

Dave: And really, we, we also had to lean, lean in to our Lord on our own.

Jim: Of course.

Dave: So like our, our spouse has to be part of that process but your woundedness is something you need to take first to Jesus, uh, and find that healing in Him and then let your spouse be part of that process. Don’t shut them out from it. Don’t push them away.

Ashley: Yeah.

Jim: You, you used the books. You, you used the actually the marital vows. We haven’t really said that.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Um, one is to love and cherish. And, Dave, I understand you like to illustrate this vow with living room furniture. (laughs)

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I’m not sure. That sounds really romantic by the way.

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: It is. Yeah. (laughs) It’s… Well-

Jim: Connect the dots for me.

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: Yeah. Well, I’m a visual learner, right? So if I can, like, see something, I, I, I just, I kinda understand the concept more. And so in, in one of the, uh, talk we did in a marriage conference, we had some furniture on stage. There was a loveseat in the middle and two individual chairs next to the loveseat.

Jim: Oh, that’s, that’s good.

Dave: Yeah.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: Yeah. We’re off-

Jim: I know where this is going.

Dave: … off to a good start-

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: … right? Yeah.

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: So the loveseat, we would sit in and we say, okay, now this represents… You know, it’s an actual loveseat but it represents, you know, love, where love should live in your marriage, where you’re united, you’re here together.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: But another posture marriage can have is when you’re in these two individual seats. You know, you’re not the same place, you know. It’s his and hers and from this distance it’s so easy to get disconnected, to blame each other, to not lean in, to not connect intimately and so many couples are in this dynamic. And so the, the whole goal is like let’s get in that loveseat together, which means we’re united physically, emotionally, spiritually, and-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: … we’re, we’re together, you know. Our, our proximity is near one another, both physically and emotionally. And, and if you’re not there, if you feel that distance, then work actively to figure out h- where the distance started-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: … and then how do we get back together, how do we write this course and, and get back in the same place again.

Ashley: Yeah.

Jim: Yeah. Hey, um, Ashley, you’ve been really vulnerable in the writing of this and even when we’ve been here at the studio talking, you guys are refreshingly open about your shortcomings, which is great. That’s what we attach too because when we’re honest, we got similar ones, if not the exact same ones.

Ashley: Right, right.

Jim: And in that way, uh, you don’t always feel lovingly or inviting toward Dave, especially when you’ve been dealing with children all day long.

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: That’s completely understandable. What advice do you have for wives, mothers who struggled to cherish their husbands because they’re not that cherishable?

Ashley: (laughs)

Dave: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: Oh my goodness.

Dave: Yeah.

Jim: So I guess the quid pro quo there is-

Ashley: Yeah.

Jim: … A, do we have to earn that cherish spot, and then-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … B, how does a woman show that kind of cherishness toward her husband if that’s a word?

Ashley: Yeah. No, I love that question because I do… Especially when we’re in the thick of raising children, we can get so kind of focused on the kids that we get frustrated when our husband actually needs something. Like when our husband comes to us and he’s like, “Hey, you wanna have some intimate time together, or hey, do you wanna go on a date?” it feels like another thing on the list. And so what I would say-

Jim: So when you say, “Are you serious?” that’s not really a good response?

Ashley: Right. (laughs)

Dave: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: Probably not. Probably not. But, I mean, I totally get the sentiment of it.

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: And I probably said it before myself.

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: Because I do… I think we feel like there’s all these plates we’re keeping spinning these, all these things were trying to, you know, le- take off the list or whatever. But I think that we, we can’t see our husband in our relationship with our husband that way. I mean, this is the one that we have pledged to live our whole life with-

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: … our best friend. And so we have to, to not see him as another thing on our list and really make intentional time for him to really spend that time and talk to him. And, I mean, that may look like putting the kids to bed earlier than you normally would, so you can have an actual conversation with your husband.

Jim: 4:00 bedtime.

Ashley: Yeah. Right.

Dave: (laughs)

Jim: Kids, let’s go.

Ashley: Hey, I know. And the kids, I would just say the kids aren’t gonna like it.

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: The kids aren’t gonna like an hour earlier bedtime but that’s okay. I mean, you’re the parent. You gotta set those rules and just have the time. And even just, you know, making sure that there’s room in your day for your spouse. And I would encourage husbands too, especially in the thick of raising kids, like, don’t let everything fall in your wife. You guys are partners. You’re in this together. Make sure that you’re communicating well and assume the best of each other. Assume the best that he didn’t know that you expected him to do that or she did not know that you had put that on the calendar. Like, just go and communicate and say, “Listen, I would like more time with you.” And if you go from the heart, I mean, that’s how you cherish each other is really getting to the heart of things and that you wanna have that time together.

Jim: Ashley, one thing I wanna recognize for wives and mothers right now is that I- I- as you were talking, it hit me, everybody’s pulling on you.

Ashley: Yes. Oh, yes.

Jim: And I can get that because typically in that busy season, you’re not as the wife initiating intimacy.

Ashley: Right.

Jim: Um, a- a- and you feel like, “I’ve got the kids pulling on me and I got my husband pulling on me.”

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: “It’s pour out, pour out, give, give, give, give, give. Who’s filling my tank?”

Ashley: Right.

Jim: Just describe that and then what can we do as husbands to help fill that tank up in a way that feels, um true-

Ashley: Right.

Jim: … and not motivated by some other underlying desire?

Ashley: Exactly. No, in that you just hit the nail on the head. I think that that is… Whe- when wives feel like, “Oh, he’s only doing this because he knows we’re gonna have special time together later,” it can feel inauthentic. And so I would say, yes, I agree with you. I mean, I, I remember those times. My kids are a little older now but I remember feeling like, man, liter- like literally and figuratively, everything and everyone pulling at me. And it just felt like, “Gosh, can I just have a moment to myself, you know?” And I would say as a husband, what you can do is help, help give your wife that moment to herself.

Dave: Yeah.

Ashley: Like, I remember just a little example. Uh, when we had, he had several small children in our house and, uh, we were at a new place. I was trying to get kind of, you know, into the community. And I had this girl come up to me at church said, “Hey, Ashley, I heard you used to be a dancer. Well, we have a dance team at our church and it’s kind of a small group too. We pray together, we do live together. Would you like to come?” And I’m like, “Well, yes, I would love to come. When do you meet?” And she’s like, “Tuesday at 7:00,” or whatever.

And immediately I thought I have too much on me. I can’t do that and I later on on the day was talking to Dave about it, was like… He was like, “How was your day?” You know. And I was like, “Oh, well, Sarah came up to me and told me that the church has a dance team. Isn’t that just so cool they celebrate the arts? Man, I would just love to be part of that. It’s just too bad I can’t.” And he stopped me right there and said, “No, no, no, when is it?” and I was like, “Tuesdays at 7:00.” And he goes, “I will rearrange my schedule.”

Jim: Ah.

Ashley: “We’re giving you Tuesdays at 7:00.” And it was like every week, having small children… And at the time I was staying at home. So it was like I was at home all day with kids, which is awesome and I loved it. But to be able to go and be with people who loved the Lord, who loved to dance, who wanna pray with me and do life with me, it literally just was… It was like wind, fresh wind to me.

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: And so I would just encourage husbands. It may not be a dance team for your wife but like-

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: … find a way to give her that time. And then I’m telling you, when she’s you being intentional about giving her that time, it naturally, she feels cherished and she’s gonna lean in more to you ’cause she knows you’re trying to be a true partner.

Jim: Well, this has been great. I mean, I think people-

Ashley: Yeah.

Jim: … are getting the vibe that this is good material.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And, uh, you know, again, everything rests on the foundation of the Lord and-

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: … that’s what so good and, yeah, you know. It’s obvious when you read the Word and pray and the Lord gives you the insights how this should roll. We still struggle with that-

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: … even as Christians. But you have done a great job with 7 Days to a Naked Marriage, the guys edition and the girls edition. And, uh, I hope you’re feeling it. So thank you for being with us.

Dave: Tha- Thank you for having us.

Ashley: Thank you.

Jim: And, uh, for the folks, I mean, again, we’re trying to put a good meal in front of you every day that we’re in the studio and, you know, give you a resource and some thoughts and ideas that make your marriage better, and this is one of those resources we believe in. So get in touch with us. If you can help us in ministry, let’s do this together. Help other couples find a better place. Uh, make a gift of any amount. If you could do it monthly, that’s fine. A one-time gift is fine. We’ll send you copies of these books as our way of saying thank you for being a partner in ministry.

John: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Donate today as you can. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word family, 800-232-6459, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast to learn more. And when you’re online, check out our free marriage assessment. More than a million people have taken this and it’s a really tremendous resource. It’ll take maybe 10 or 15 minutes even, uh, for this assessment as a couple and you take it and then you’ll have hours of conversation afterwards about what’s working well in the relationship and maybe some improvement points. It’s free so check out the Focus on the Family marriage assessment online. We’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Dave and Ashley, again, thanks for being with us. Let’s come back next time and keep exploring this great topic. Can we do that?

Dave: I would love it. Yeah.

Ashley: Mm-hmm. Love it.

Dave: Thank you for having us.

John: Yeah. Well, we hope you can join us then. And, uh, for now, on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening 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

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