John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family, Milan and Kay Yerkovich are coming back to share more in the topic of physical intimacy in marriage. And, obviously, parents, this topic is not suitable for younger listeners. Now last time, Milan shared this revelation about a critical point in his relationship with Kay …
Mila Yerkovich: I had to learn to take a very hard look at myself. What was my orientation towards sexuality? I had to face my reality – how the world had shaped me, how the culture had shaped me… (Jim Daly: Uh-hm.) And I would have to say that through my adolescent years and through my college and my first few years of marriage, sexuality was out of proportion in my head. It was at a place where it had too much dominance and priority of thought. And then that was not fair then in our relationship here… (Jim: Right.) Because sexuality had this very high attention level in my mind, but then when Kay was expected to try to keep up with that it was not fair.
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John: Well, the good news is the Yerkoviches were able to work through those issues as you’ll hear today on this episode. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly and I am John Fuller.
Jim: John, we had a great conversation last time with Milan and Kay. They are the definitive experts (laughter) in this field of love styles, which refers to how we have learned to interact and respond to others based on how we were raised and the emotional mood of our families of origin. And I know some of you right now are going, “Oh, no!” But it is so Biblical. One of the great puzzles I think about with the Lord is that it seems like the rules of this life are kind of set, right? There’s predictability, uh, when it comes to human behavior. We’re extrovert. We’re introvert. And then with family of origin, there are wounds that we suffer that stick with us for a long time, uh, if we don’t deal with them. We often talk about these as triggers. Like, when your spouse triggers you when they’re doing a certain activity or saying something in a certain way, you become offended by it. And have you ever stopped to ask yourself why? And that’s really what we’re discovering here with the Yerkoviches – is why do I respond like this when my spouse is not trying to hurt me, but I take it that way?
Jim: And I’m sure we’re all gonna fit into the different styles that they described last time. And if you missed it, you need to get the download or go to the website, and we’ll get it to you. Uh, it was a great conversation. And this time, we’re gonna continue the discussion about these – uh, these styles and how we develop, uh, these particular styles over our, uh, childhood years and then how it guides us, uh, sometimes for ill in our adult years.
John: Yeah, especially as it relates to the physical intimacy in marriage. And the place for help is our website, uh, focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. And we mentioned last time that Milan and Kay are marriage and family counselors, and this discussion is based upon a video series they created called How We Love Sex… Or Don’t.
Jim: Hey, welcome, Milan and Kay, back to “Focus on the Family.
Kay Yerkovich: Thank you.
Milan: We’re glad to be here.
Jim: Great to have you with us. I love talking to you because you – how many couples – your estimate – how many couples have you helped over the years? I mean, thousands upon thousands.
Milan: Well, in our offices, as well as in our speaking and our workshops, we encounter thousands of people…
Milan: …A year.
Jim: So, the point of mentioning that is you – you have a database that’s pretty rich. I mean, you can see these, uh, life, uh, issues playing out. You can apply these brilliant insights that you have discovered through reading God’s word and applying what you’ve learned in counseling to help couples do a better job, particularly in their physical intimacy. But, uh, we’ve talked about these love styles. Let’s for the new listeners that didn’t hear us yesterday let’s pick it up for them and quickly define those love styles again. How they apply to physical intimacy and then we’ll get in more to your story. So, who can take a run at the love styles?
Kay: All right, let’s start with the avoider. Uh, that was my style. And the avoider is – comes from a family – there was a lack of emotional connection, a lack of vulnerability. So, some of the issues in marriage for both males and females who are avoiders is that they don’t really connect on any sort of an emotional level. They engage in sex as an act or something you do, but it’s not very personal.
Jim: Kind of a obligation, maybe?
Kay: Maybe for the woman, it’s more obligation. And it’s – uh, for the man, I think they tend to objectify…
Kay: …Uh, women because they – you know, they’re not really taught to see the whole person.
Jim: They don’t connect.
Kay: They don’t connect to the emotional side.
Jim: All right, let’s move to the next one.
Milan: Pleasers are fearful. And because there was a – something that scared them in their early attachment experience, they want to keep everybody close and – because if you’re close, then I feel safe. And so, there’s a problem with that because I don’t give you distance, or I don’t ask what do you want? Or I don’t ask what are your needs? I’m not gonna ask you where you’re at emotionally, spiritually, relationally. But if I’m anxious, if I’m a pleaser, I will often want to initiate sex because it creates closeness, and it makes my anxiety sort of dissolve and go away. So, it’s a disingenuous way of connecting. For the female pleaser, they will have a hard time saying no, and they could be emotionally incongruent with sexuality, but they won’t have the ability to say no because you mentioned earlier, Kay, they lack boundaries. They lack the ability to resist. They lack an adult voice. And so, they will have a hard time if their spouse says let’s have sex, they won’t say no. Worse, if their spouse says let’s do something that God says not to do, they will have a hard time saying no. And a lot of pleaser wives, especially, get find themselves in situations that are very much against God’s Word. And because they have the inability to resist, which is the same as the victim, by the way.
Jim: Is that right?
Jim: Yeah, and I want to – you for the two types that you were. And when I say type, I mean that family of origin things.
Jim: The wounds that you encountered.
Jim: Let’s dig into that to give the listener an idea of how they can look at their own lives and how they grew up to apply. So, you’ve experienced this. You brought it into your marriage. You touched on it last time. And, again, if you haven’t heard yesterday’s broadcast, get a hold of us. We’ll get it to you. You can download the “Focus on the Family” app or come to the “Focus on the Family” website for that. But, Milan, let’s start with you as that pleaser. What was going on your family of origin that created the pleaser mentality in your life? And then how you brought that into the marriage? Let’s get right into it.
Milan: OK. I had a very angry parent who was angry, and it was anger that was a surprise. It was anger that had – I had no way to predict it. I didn’t know when it was going to happen. It was just a blow up, would occur.
Jim: Was it emotional anger, not physical abuse?
Milan: It was emotional, but it was rage. It was words, and it was rage and anger and sometimes highly combative with people, you know, in public or at a store. And I was continually anxious, not knowing when this was going to occur because I was just getting dragged along. I’m the little kid.
Milan: And unbeknownst to me, that early patterning, that early imprinting carried forward into my relationship with Kay. And so, if she was OK, then I was OK. If she was quiet, that reminded me of the calm before the storm.
Milan: And I would think something was wrong. She’s also an introvert so that added to the quiet…
Jim: So, she wouldn’t – communicate with you.
Milan: She was – was more quiet. But quietness of her was very unnerving to me so it set up a chasing. Are you sure you’re OK? Is everything all right? Did I do anything wrong? So that’s how I started off in life. And marriage exposed that that was still with me.
Jim: You know, Milan, I appreciate your vulnerability with that. In fact, in the resources, the book, you – you mention how this even – and I don’t know where in your life stages occurred – but even having use of pornography…
Jim: …As part of your journey. You know, again, for people when we look at pornography particularly – and we have a lot of resources on pornography, and I don’t want to bog down on this. But I want to apply this principle that there are reasons that people are medicating with it. And it isn’t healthy — yet some estimate 60 to 70 percent of people in the church may be using pornography.
Milan: Oh, absolutely.
Jim: So, speak to that addiction that you had and then, you know, how you got control of that and why you got control of it.
Milan: Anxiety was at the root of why I found escapism in sexual thought. When we are anxious, when we have agitated feelings and emotions and we feel upset inside and we have all these difficult feelings and emotions that are inside each of our minds and bodies and we’re ruminating or we’re scared, we’re looking for escapes. And so, sex is a very convenient escape. As a matter of fact, it’s the number one escape for men.
Milan: To go to. It’s the number one go to for men as a place to escape and for a little bit of time not to feel those anxious thoughts. So, as a child, as an adolescent, sexual thought and sexual fantasy was a place of escape to literally get away from the bad feelings and have a sense of capacity to make them go away for a little while. It gave me a sense of control that I could make this agitation go away for a little while. I didn’t realize as a child and as an adolescent that it wasn’t God’s will for my life. But the Apostle Paul said, “You know, when I was a child, I use to think as a child, reason as a child and speak as a child. But when I became an adult, I had to put off the childish ways and become an adult and start stepping into an adult mentality and reality.”
John: If you and your spouse are dealing with any of the concerns that we’ve been discussing please contact us here at “Focus on the Family”. Our counseling team would be a great starting point, uh, to assist you in taking steps towards healing and even rescuing your marriage and they’re a phone call away. Call now to set up an initial consultation with one of those Christian counselors. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Kay, I’m coming to you in just a minute so get ready…
Kay: I’m ready. (Laughter)
Jim: But, Milan, did that addiction come into your marriage? And for how long in your marriage was that happening?
Milan: Well, as happens with many places of escape whether it’s alcohol, drugs, sex, exercise, food, overeating, undereating, all these things develop because we have anxiety on the inside and just depression and we want to make it all go away. And, of course, it carried with me into marriage. And I didn’t know it was there. I couldn’t even – I wouldn’t have even told you Jim and John that I was an anxious person.
Milan: I would – I didn’t think that way. All I knew is I felt agitated a lot and I exercised like crazy. And so, I carried it into marriage. And, of course, with the sexual appetite that I’ll call voracious…
Jim: Obese yesterday…
Jim: …Which I love that vision of that.
Milan: Yeah, there was a sexual obesity because I overfed something.
Milan: And then I come into marriage and all of a sudden it puts a massive strain on our relationship.
Jim: Now, think of that in the context of God’s design for marriage. What you just described there is a lot of dysfunction coming in, God exposes it through your relationship with Kay and then you begin to heal.
Milan: Yeah, we…
Jim: I mean, that is the way God intends this.
Kay: That’s very true. But it took some time.
Jim: Yeah (laughter), I was going to say.
John: Yesterday you said it was 15 years into your marriage.
Kay: Well, it was because this – let’s call it sexual obesity. I think that’s a good word. I had no idea I was marrying a sexually obese man, but the pressure and the frequency of his desire I felt I couldn’t keep up with. And I didn’t understand. I just thought, well, this is just normal so I must be broken. And I prayed and prayed, God, help me want a sex as much as my husband does. And God never did answer that prayer.
Kay: Because I’m not a man.
Kay: And I think, you know, over time he – probably the first honest conversation he had with me was that he was driving in a car memorizing Scripture and – what was the verse that you saw?
Milan: (Laughter) I was memorizing verses and the verse was bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. And I took this whole stack of memory verses. I know exactly where I was on the freeway in the Orange County Los Angeles area. And I took this stack of cards. And I threw it against the car window on the opposite side. And I said, “God, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I can’t do that.”
Jim: Oh, did I love that. (Laughter) God, you don’t know what you’re talking about (laughter).
Milan: Absolutely. I said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” I’m supposed to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. You’re kidding.
Kay: Because he knew where his mind was.
Milan: Because I knew where my mind was!
Kay: We had this little, unusual moment of honesty where he told me about that and he said I think my mind’s kind of out of control and I’m going to try and learn to control it and put my focus totally on you, which panicked me because I couldn’t keep up with this focus already. So, I tried to be the good, Christian wife. And I got a lot of Christian counseling. Don’t deprive your husband and, you know, so I had – I just kept trying to keep up with this frequency. And by year 15, I was resentful, and I didn’t like sex. And I wrote him a very honest letter saying I can’t do this anymore. Something has to change because I can’t keep up with you. And I don’t feel like I have a voice. I feel like if I say no, you get upset. Something has to change.
Jim: What was your expectation of what the change would be?
Kay: I had no – I had no idea!
Jim: Yeah, just something different.
Milan: And it was just all starting with an honest conversation. And I didn’t even have the real courage to say it out loud. I wrote in a letter and gave him the letter while – and sat there while he read it.
Jim: Now, let’s pause there. I want to come back to this, but let’s – Kay, go to your story because, well, let’s talk about why you’re responding this way. I mean, this is really interesting stuff, and we all play a role. You might see yourself in Kay’s position or in my Milan’s position. But, Kay, what was your family like? What were you dealing with? And why would you give a letter to Milan and rather than talking to him?
Kay: I had no sex education from my family. My dad was an alcoholic. He had a very womanizing type personality, and he divorced when I was – my mom – when I was 17. So – and then there was just – there was really very little relationship ever. But that really cut off any relationship. He just sort of got a new family. And that was the end of the first family.
Jim: You know, when you say it that way, it feels like you expected it. Like, as a – as a 16, 17-year-old…
Kay: You know what? No …
Jim: …Girl, you kind of knew?
Kay: … My parents never fought.
Jim: Really? OK.
Kay: It was a shock.
Kay: It was a perfect example of a marriage where they swept everything under the rug. And then one person just – finally, my dad said, “I’m out of here.”
Kay: So, it was actually a shock. But it made me very distrustful of men.
Kay: And so, I think there was that distrust coming into my marriage. And then when I felt so overwhelmed by the amount of neediness for or the frequency level that he was desiring, I tried to be the good Christian wife. But I lacked the voice. I lacked the ability to really say no and make it stick. And so over time, I just – you know, there were times I would cry after sex. And he didn’t even know it because we didn’t have an honest relationship. So, honesty was the first step. And I think that was very hard. And that – that wound came from my family, too, because we never had deep talks about anything. I think if we had had more real talks in my family and a level of honesty, I would have been able to see my – my internal struggle a lot sooner. So, it was a very scary time for us because we knew something was very broken. But we didn’t know how it was going to look to fix it.
Jim: OK. So, you now are at this point where you have this 15-year marriage that’s hanging by a thread, basically, because of the intimacy issue. And you hand him a letter. What happens next?
Kay: We prayed a really brave prayer. We said, “You know, God, we know that something’s broken. We have this dance we do that we can’t – you know, he’s always chasing me and asking, am I fine? I’m always saying, yeah. I’m fine. Why do you keep asking me that?” So… (Laughter) we knew there was something broken. And we just said, “Will you show us what – what’s at the root of this? We don’t understand how – how to fix it.” And I can look back now and say we were missing emotional connection in every way. Neither one of us came from homes where we knew how to be honest, how to resolve conflict. We didn’t observe a family – and neither one of us had families who taught us how to listen well, who taught us how to, um, notice hurts and repair hurts. So we were, like, starting off as really grade school kids…
Kay: …Having to learn emotional connection. And we – the very first thing that we did is we got a feeling word list. And we just started having conversations that included feelings. And I really didn’t even know what my feelings were. I’d have to look on a list of paper and then make my first best guess because I didn’t have a language for emotions. So, I would say, in hindsight, God started to teach us about the whole subject of emotional connection. And then he brought in this whole subject of attachment and the wounds of attachment. And that’s where every – all the lights went on because I realized, well, no wonder I’m struggling sexually. I’m an avoider. I didn’t come from an affectionate home. I don’t know how to emotionally connect. I don’t know how to say what I want. I don’t even know what I need. No wonder I’m struggling.
Jim: So, when you look at year 15, and you’re now in year 46, describe the differences.
Kay: Well, that’s…
Jim: And this is the proof in the pudding.
Kay: Oh, it is. It could – it could make me teary because I didn’t dream that you could have a relationship like this. My husband gave me everything my parents – he learned to give me the things my parents never could.
Kay: He learned to comfort me. I learned to let him hold me while I cried. He learned to let me hold him while he cried. We – we learned to delve into each other’s stories. Uh, when I heard about his childhood memories, which I’d never really taken the time to listen to up to the 15-year mark, it turned my heart towards compassion. I mean, the things that irritated me the most had a big, old wound sitting under ’em.
Kay: And when I realized how anxious he was as a – a child, it’s like, well, no wonder he asked me a thousand times a week how I am! And so, I think we realized that understanding each other’s histories was key in really knowing the person you’re married to. And I would…
Milan: I asked the Lord. I have to see this woman in a different way. Would you please…
Kay: This was the 15-year mark.
Milan: This was – yeah. I said there’s a frustration. And I’m somehow – and I just thought of this. I was walking down the street. And one of the streetlamps flickered and went out.
Milan: And I said, “I’m doing that to Kay.” I am flickering her light out. And it’s gonna go out. There’s something wrong with how I’m seeing her and the stress I’m putting her under. Lord, help me to see her in a different way – one of the most profound answers to prayer I’ve ever had. Within an hour, I was driving on the freeway. And I had to go do something, and I was driving back home. And all of a sudden, I had this picture in my head of this little 7-year-old girl sitting on the end of a bed by herself, staring at the ground and nobody talking to her and her very alone. And nobody’d connect with her and ask her, “How are you? What’s going on inside?” She was just an alone little girl. And I said to her – I said, “I see the little you.” And it was a turning point in my relationship with Kay. And I came home. And I told you – do remember what I said?
Kay: Oh, yeah. I said, “I see the little girl in you.” And he told me, though, “But she scares me to death.” And I said, “Well, she scares me to death, too, so… (LAUGHTER) that makes two of us. Why don’t we try and figure out what to do, um, with this little girl.”?
Milan: But what I said was I want to get to know her.
Kay: And I want to help her grow up.
Kay: And that’s kind of what we did…
Kay: …Is we helped each other grow up.
Jim: Well, Kay, that emotion you just gave us over those many years of doing it better and better and hopefully year by year – the intimacy that you feel today was well worth the trouble of the discipling yourself, as you mentioned the other day…
Milan: Disciplining – discipline – yeah. Yes. Yes.
Jim: …The working out, the gymnasium of working yourself out.
Milan: Today, Kay’s my best friend. There’s nobody else that I want. We can talk. We can negotiate. We listen. We provide support for each other that is found nowhere else. So, we’re not seeking because of a void to go run to some fantasy that I think will fill me up.
Kay: I’ll say one more thing. Probably the most profound thing I did that changed how I felt about sex was allowing my husband to hold me and grieving in his arms things that I went through as a kid. It was more vulnerable than sex, to open up my heart to tell him what the wounds were, to feel the wounds in the presence of another person and to learn to receive comfort. That level of emotional vulnerability completely transformed how I felt about sex because now sex is a representation and celebration of that level of connection.
Jim: Yeah. This has been so good. I mean, my jaw’s hanging down because I think so many people are going to be helped. I’m really inspired by what you’ve said and what you’ve done in the resources you’ve created to help couples, uh, do a better job of honoring the Lord. What you’ve really described is the way Christian marriage should appear and what it should look like, not just on the outside but deeply on the inside. And your level of satisfaction is quite a testimony to the Lord.
Kay: It’s – I’d never even dreamed it was possible.
Jim: Yeah. This is the real deal. And this is what it should be like. And it should be attracting the world to engage Christ in that way, right? Your lives are a testimony to those around you to say, “This is the way it should be.”
Milan: So, could I share a closing thought?
Milan: Mike Mason, in his book The Mystery of Marriage written 30 years ago, uses as the key verse in Proverbs, “Iron sharpens iron. So, one man sharpens another.” And we don’t think of that in marriage. We don’t want marriage to be a sharpening place. But if you think about it, sharpening involves friction…
Milan: …And heat. But it has to be at the right angle in order to refine and sharpen and hone. And we all like sharp objects. We hate it when we come across dull scissors or a dull knife. (Laughter) And we’re going, “Darn. Where’s my – my sharpener?” And Kay and I sharpened each other. And we helped each other literally grow up and replace the deficits from our childhood.
Milan: And we sharpened each other.
Jim: Well, here it is. And it’s available to you. I mean, Milan and Kay have done a wonderful job, both in their video series, the books that they’ve written. Along with their other, uh, resources, their study guides, everything. And, uh, we’ll make that available to you here at “Focus on the Family.” I don’t even understand why a couple would not want to do this and get involved and really better understand themselves.
Kay: I hope they will. I hope we can inspire some people to really know that that hard work – it was three years. The benefits have been…
Milan: But you have to pick your pain – the pain of growth versus the pain of staying stuck.
Milan: And we picked the pain of growth.
Jim: Well said. Great to have you with us.
Kay: It’s so nice to be here. We love being at Focus.
John: And we’re glad that you as our listeners have been able to join us as well for the past couple of days and hope you were encouraged by what Milan and Kay shared. This is such great content. Uh, we are actually offering a special bundle of resources that they’ve put together for us which includes their book How We Love which spells out their love style concept in a lot more detail. I’ve given a number of those books out to friends. And then Milan and Kay have recorded an extra audio message about the 5 top things you need to have a healthier sex life. And then finally in this resource bundle we’ll have the audio CD of our entire conversation with the Yerkoviches these past couple of days. We’ll send you that bundle when you make a monthly pledge of any amount to “Focus on the Family” today. We need more sustaining members who are committed to helping families grow strong in the Lord so, please make that commitment today. And if you’re not in a place where you can do that make a one-time gift and we’ll say thank you for your generosity. Donate at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
Jim: And for those couples who may be struggling, please, please, get in touch with us. I’m sure this program today has raised concerns for some of you and you’re probably thinking how can I move forward to heal my marriage. Uh, “Focus on the Family” is here to help and we have our team of Christian counselors that we can connect you with. We also have Hope Restored where we offer intensive marriage counseling for couples who may be on the brink of divorce. Don’t let that happen to your marriage. Get the help you need today – Bible-based practical help and hope for a better future. Let us be a part of God’s solution for your relationship and remember, at Hope Restored, uh, we have an 80% post two-year success rate. Those couples are doing better and so much of it is just learning how to communicate like Milan and Kay have been talking about.
John: Contact us right away. Again, our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. We hope you have a great weekend with your family and your church family as well and then join us on Monday for an important message about God’s grace.