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Moving From Loneliness to Intimacy in Your Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

Moving From Loneliness to Intimacy in Your Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

Psychologist David Clarke offers several practical ideas for couples to improve their marital intimacy, from regularly scheduled talk times, to spiritual leadership and being accountable to others. (Part 2 of 2)

Original Air Date: February 18, 2014



Dr. David Clarke: But a lady will love a man with every ounce of her heart until she’s finally … and not having… being honest about her needs or “I’m very unhappy,” until the last day. And then when that last (Sound of snap) ounce is gone, boom! I call it hitting the wall. She’s done. And you literally cannot … other than an act of God, get that woman back. She’s through.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Well, that’s a dramatic statement and it’s from Dr. David Clarke. He was our guest on the last Focus on the Family broadcast, as he talked about a significant problem in marriages today, where there’s an unemotional closed-off husband and a lonely wife. Our host is Focus president, Jim Daly; I’m John Fuller and Jim, Dr. Clarke says, don’t give up. You do have some hope, even if it seems like it’s all darkness around you right now.

Jim Daly: John, what I heard last time, first and foremost, it’s a good conversation for us to be having at Focus on the Family and I hope it’s helpful to you. If you missed last time, download the program or get the CD or listen to it on your Smartphone or your iPhone. It’s there. But uh … what I want to say is that, we touched on that idea of loneliness, even though you’re married. And um … you know, I have a lot of people in my life, that uh … are experiencing that. It breaks my heart. And at times, even Jean and I feel this way, to–

John: Sure.

Jim: –be honest. It’s … it’s normal for us to be isolated at times, because of the way God has wired us. Men can be very dense and we don’t get it. And we think talking about fixing the lawn mower or watchin’ the game on Sunday, that’s communication. My wife sat right next to me. She loved the Bronco game, too.

David: Quality time.


Jim: Yeah, that’s not it and so, I’m looking forward to getting back to it.We said last time that more than 60 percent of people who report feelings of loneliness are currently married. And 4 out of 5 are dealing with lonelinessin their marriages. That’s a big problem and uh … we want to address it today. So, let me say to Dr. David Clarke, welcome back to Focus on the Family.

David: Well, thanks so much.

Jim: I … hey, David, I love your energy. I love the way you approach it. You counsel thousands of couples in your practice there in Florida. So, you’re speaking from experience. You see it. We talked last time and we were pretty hard on the guys. But we talked last time about um … how we’re failing as men to get it. Yet, it’s always that 80-20 rule and you see that in your practice. It’s a general statement uh … that guys are usually the ones that don’t get it. But sometimes it’s the woman, isn’t it?

David: Yes, it is. Fifteen-20 percent of the time it’s themanwho is in the position of, “Gosh, I’m lonely and she’s not open to me physically or emotionally or frankly, spiritually,” and so, the roles are reversed. I’m thinkin’ of a guy right now that I’ve been working with who is a sensitive, kind, loving man, pursues his wife. Because of some background issues and who she is and I’ve met her, too, we’ve done a little work, oh, she’s just closedoffand he’s been dying. So, I handed them the book. I said, here’s the process I want you to take her through, lovingly, but firmly and everything could change.

Jim: Hm.

David: ‘Cause he is losing hope.

Jim and John: Hm.

John: And the book you’re talking about there, Dr. Clarke, isMarried…But Lonely: Seven Steps You Can Take With or Without Your Spouse’s Help. And uh … it really is a good workbook that is very practical, givesthe big picture, but gives some very tangible things you can do to help kind of break down those walls of loneliness.

Jim: Uh … last time, Dave, we were pretty hard, like I said, on the guys. Um … let’s turn the corner a little bit and talk about women andtheirrole in marriage. Um … they’re really firing, as we’ve talked about (Chuckling) in other broadcasts, that their brains are like spaghetti, that’s one way, where they’re all interconnected. They feel things. They know things usually before husbands know things. They can feel it. They’re intuitive. We talk about that, how women are intuitive. Uh … what is happening in the brain chemistry first and foremost with couples, the gender differences? And then what failures trip women up in this area?

David: Yeah, good questions. The woman has a lot to say. Everything that happens to a woman has meaning. I’m in the checkout counter buying some Gatorade, you know. I might say hi to the lady or … or say hi to the guy behind me. It means nothing to me. I’ve forgotten about it halfway to the car. It’s over. Not for Sandy. That’s an event of meaning and significance.

And that lady in line, we talked a bit about our kids and it was great and she has a daughter, our daughter’s age. I don’t care! I talk … I care about my daughter, not that lady’s daughter, but it’s important to Sandy. So, they have a lot of material and women make the mistake of wanting to share allof itwith their men.

Now you have to be selective. If you talk too much, well, then he’s just … his brain is overwhelmed and it–

Jim: He–

David: –will shut down.

Jim: –he really backs up, doesn’t he?

David: Oh, yeah.

Jim: I mean, I can feel it, being a male. If you get too much data about something that you think is trivial, you emotionally kind of back up and you start thinking about your checklist or your to-do’s. Now women, it tends to draw them forward, doesn’t it? They’re getting to know something–

David: Right.

Jim: –about the person. It’s funny with Jean, you know, we … football … I enjoy football. And she said, “Well, I would enjoy it more if I knew more about the guy’s family.” (Laughter) Now I think, oh, my goodness. I don’t have enough capacity to think about–

David: Who cares? The guy…

Jim: –the quarterback’s–

David: –can complete passes!

Jim: –wife and kids. Who wants to think about the quarterback’s wife and kids? Well, that’s a woman. If I knew what kind of husband was he, is he a nice guy. And … but that’s how they think–

David: Oh–

Jim: –isn’t it?

David: –always the back story. Now if women can limit that, that’s why I have, I say four times a week on four days of the week, 30-minute couple talk times. The blonde and I do this. We’ve done this for 25 years now and it’s worked like a charm. AndI can give her 30 minutes of concentrated time, where she can talk and express and throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. And certain things I’ll respond to, certain things I won’t, but we can develop some great conversations. I can’t do two hours.

Jim: Can you do that with humor? Can the man make that point so she understands it in a way that you can both laugh about it?

David: Well, I think you’d better use humor. (Laughter)

Jim: Yeah.

David: I really do.

Jim: You know, just … I can’t take–

David: Right.

Jim: –too much, Hon, but let’s–

David: Right.

Jim: –go for 30 minutes and see how I do.

David: I’ll say to Sandy, “You know, you … you may notice at times I zo … “how men zone out. And then they’ll ask you, “What did I just say?” “Well, I … I don’t know.” You know, that’s the … I say this is my brain. I have no control of this. It’s automatically shutting down to protect my circuits.

John: Hm.

David: I’m overloaded just like that. But that’s a good indication, okay, there’s too much going on. Let’s take a break. Let me respond to the first 10 minutes here and then we can have a conversation. I can’t take 30 straight minutes. Gotta have a dialogue.

Jim: Let’s talk about the bitter woman, the woman that has been in this marriage for 15, 20, 30 years. And she’s experienced this lack of intimacy emotionally. Um … her response to that can become part of the problem, I would imagine, right?

David: Oh, yeah.

Jim: Describe that.

David: It’s death by 1,000 cuts. It … we look over 10 years, 5 years, 20 years and she has been disappointed so many times. She’s asked for intimacy and been denied. Asked for intimacy and been denied. The guy doesn’t know what he’s doing. She knows exactly what’s happening and she’s crushed.

She’ll take just so many of those– so yes, she is bitter. She’s frustrated. She’s angry. I say she has a right to be. Her fault is not sharing that with the guy. He doesn’t have acluethat, that’s all inside of her. Well, she’s acting kinda funny or I guess our marriage is not as great as it used to be, but yeah, that’s fine. No, he doesn’t know she’s on the verge of a meltdown and of walking away from him.

Jim: Does she assume that the guy is cognitively rejecting her, that–

David: Oh, yeah.

Jim: –he is … I mean, he’s thinkin’ this through. Surely he knows what I’m feeling and he is rejecting me–when guys aren’t there.

David: No, she’s sure of it. I correct ‘em in my office all the time and they’re shocked when I say, “Bill, did you know?” “I didn’t know.” “He’s lying.” “No, he didn’t know.” It’s obvious to them.

It would be obvious to another woman. Too bad you married a man. He doesn’t get it. So, this makes it even worse for her. He has hurt me so many times and he knows what he’s doing and it’s intentional. “No, that’s not true.” The good news is, that’s nottrue.

John: That’s a light bulb moment right there, Jim, for a lot of our listeners, women who are thinking, he gets it. And I remember when Dena had to say, “If I have to explain it to you, then somethin’s wrong.” (Laughter) And I … I just had to look at her and say, “You have to explain it to me.”

Jim: Somethin’s wrong.

John: Yeah.

Jim: Uh-oh, but you don’t want to say that either.

John: But … but how many women would you say, Dr. Clarke, areright there? They think he gets it. I mean, how … how many times do you have to say–

David: Oh, man. Most.

John: –he really doesn’t.

Jim: Well, and that’s the pain they’re feeling. They’re feeling like he’s outright disrespecting me.

David: Hm. And it’s obvious to them. We have this interaction and they’ll say to the guy, “We … we were watching the show and I asked you to talk to me.” This is key for her. And he said, “No, I want to watch the rest of the show.” He didn’t get the message. She didn’t do it clearly enough. And so, she thinks he re … intentionally rejected me.

Jim: Hm.

David: Well, later that night when he wants to be close with her and she says no, he’s wondering what’s goin’ on? That’s just the way she is, I guess. No, that’s because of what happened earlier.

Jim: Hm.

David: But he doesn’t know.

Jim: Dr. Clarke, applying the spiritual overtone to this as Christians, um … do you laugh or do you sigh? Is … does God have a great sense of humor or what is His purpose in creating us the way He created us?

David: (Laughing) Boy …

Jim: That’s a big question.

David: Boy, it is. I am convinced though after 30 years of doing this, that He’s forcing us to put Him at the center of the marriage. It can’t work any other way.

And to follow what He says in the Bibleandto work together. This book is all about working together and joining together. Okay, Honey, I will join you in this process, go through these steps together. And it’s the going through together and the learning and the understanding that creates real intimacy. If we could just do it, it wouldn’t be that great.

Jim: And is His purpose in this in marriage, I mean, it says that He created us in His image, both male and female, is it because we complement each other if we’re healthy and we realize it, that I have deficits that I can’t make up in a fallen state. My wife has uh … attributes that I need. And if I recognize that, we actually can work like a hand in a glove in a healthy marriage. Is that the goal?

David: Oh, yeah, I think so. God is … of course, He’s brilliant; He’s God. He knows everything. We’re so incredibly different, but those differencesmake it happen.

‘Cause there’s never-ending possibilities of combinations with a woman, ‘cause you don’t understand … you will never understand her–the moods, the emotions, the reactions. What! Are you kidding me? Can’t you just be like me? That would be disaster. (Laughter)

Jim: Hm.When you look at the Christian life, um … you know, we’re all trying to first of all, accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, the Son of God. And we acknowledge that. I think for men, it becomes more difficult after that, because Jesus was perfect. And when you see Him interacting with people, uh … it was perfect and the way He dealt with grace and truth was perfect. And as men, um … and being the spiritual leader of the home, that expectation’s pretty high. And so often, I think women can connect with the Lord because of how He talked to the woman at the well, what He expressed to the woman caught in adultery. And they … you know, they get an idea of Jesus and Heconnectsemotionally.

And they turn to their husband and go, “You’re no Jesus.” (Laughing) Um … the response often is, “Well, Jesus often raised people from the dead, too and I … I’m not seemingly able to do that.” So, how do we recognize that God, in His perfection, exhibited both these male and what some might think female attributes, that He was engaged emotionally, um … how do we raise our game?

David: I think we can learn from Jesus, to study His life. You study the Gospels, how He interacted with all the people and it’s overwhelming on the one hand. Man, this guy was really good. (Laughing) Of course, He’s perfect. But we can learn from that and then we take it in small chunks. No woman is asking for perfection like today or next month or maybe even next year. We take small chunks. And the book will guide people through small chunks of getting this skill down. Let’s move to the next skill and they will over time learn and it will start to really make a difference. So, it’s not all at once. It’s a lot to take in.

Jim: Hm.

John: Well, I certainly can relate to what you’re saying there, Dr. Clarke. And David Clarke is our guest today on Focus on the Family hosted by Jim Daly. Uh … as Jim said earlier, if you didn’t hear the entire conversation to this point or if you’d like to follow up on Dr. Clarke’s book,Married…But Lonely: Seven Steps You Can Take With or Without Your Spouse’s Help, uh … we’d invite you to stop

You know, we’ve talked during this past couple of days about how to kind of broach the subject of, I’m … I’m lonely in this marriage. And I’m guessing that many women, Dr. Clarke, just don’t feel like they can go there. They’re not confrontational. It probably would be easy to sit and simmer. What’s your advice though?

David: I’d tell ‘em look and … and I try to get their attention. If you don’t do this, with God’s help and the help of a team, frankly, my help if you’re using the book or seeing me in therapy, man alive, you’re … it’s gonna get worse. It will never get better. And you will eventually hit the wall and you will want out. I’ve gotta convince them of that.

John: So, this isn’t a matter of just, I guess this is how it is and I can live with this.

David: No, it’s not gonna be that way. She’s gonna be … and I’ll say, you will physically break down. Women are not made to hand this kind of misery. They’re sensitive creatures. They’ll break down physically. You’ll break down emotionally, depression, anxiety and there’ll be so … a spiritual problem you’ll have with God. You don’t want any of that, but it’s so important. Your marriage is so important to you. It’s not like an option. Well, I guess I can live … the man can do that, shouldn’t, but can. You cannot do that, ma’am.

So … and I say, we’ll make it easy. You can … I actually have them write it out and it’s gonna be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done probably. But write it out and just read it to him. Say, “Don’t respond at this session.” Just hand it to him. It’s clear. We can work on it together. The book has examples and just walk away. That … you can do that. I think I can do that. Okay. So, you cut to suit. Some women are ready for it. Some are not quite ready. I’ve got to get them ready–

John: Hm.

David: –because if you don’t do it, you … right around the corner is disaster. We actually have disaster now, but it’s gonna get worse.

Jim: Uh … Dave, you talk in the book about “shunning,” which is a word we don’t use in the culture much. What is it and where is the biblical reference for it?

David: This is the last resort. Let’s say the woman follows this plan, goes all the way through the steps and the man simply will not join her in the process. Okay. You have done four or five months of this and he simply is not gonna change and he’s not gonna get it. And now you … now you know he’s intentional, because you have laid it out–my needs, my resentments, what I want. You haven’t read the five, six and seven chapters in the book. We know now he’s a clear and serious sinner, because he’s violating the Scripture concerning marriage, the most important of all human relationships. It is sacred to God. So, now we go into Matthew 18:15 through 17.

And you … this lady is going to, after you’ve have him through the process, she’s gonna confront him individually. She’s already done that, one or two witnesses the Bible says, men that he knows that have the guts to confront him and she’ll tell them everything. If he responds to that, fine, repents, we’ll go through the book, we’ll change.

Or if he doesn’t respond to that, then we take it to the church. [The] church leaders need to step to the plate. That’s what leadership is about, difficult situations, men on man, we’ve called you in. Your wife has talked to us. We’re gonna help you through this process. If he refuses eventhat, okay, now we get to the final phrase in Matthew 18:17 and that is, treat him as a Gentile or as a tax gatherer. This is extremely serious in the Christian community. And I take that to mean, you will pull back from him. Again, last resort to get his attention. You don’t leave him yet. We’re not talking separation. That may be what God guides you to do, but now we’re gonna pull back and really get his attention.

Youare stillin relationship, but it’s not much of one. You’re not gonna cook for him. You’re not gonna clean for him. You’re not gonna have any physical intimacy with him. You’re not gonna drive with him to church. You’re gonna tell the kids what’s going on. This is again … is the end of the chain. He’s had umpteen opportunities.

John: Hm.

David: This is a stiff-necked sinner. He is no longer a good guy. He’s a dirt ball–

Jim: Uh …

David: –a sinning dirt ball.

Jim: I mean, David, that’s very blunt and very straightforward. One of the things that it appears that we’re missing in the church today is that kind of accountability.

David: Right.

Jim: We’ll place that on the world to expect them to behave better, but we don’t do that within our own community of–

David: Yes.

Jim: –believers. We look the other way, so often unfortunately.

David: Yeah.

Jim: And when that couple that you know does divorce, you kinda just shrug your shoulders. Rather than, where were we to engage people–

David: Right.

Jim: –in the way that we should? I think it’s one of the most critical ingredients that we’re missing today in terms of discipline within the believing community.

David: Oh, I couldn’t agree more.

Jim: And I … what do we do to get that back? I mean, you’re doing it as a counselor. You’ve got the label. You’ve got the education. But how do we as the laity, how do we and for pastors, how do we reengage this so we are healthier as a community of believers?

David: I say, key people in the church, rank and file people, need to go to their pastor, have a sit-down meeting and explain what is your process of church discipline? What kind of accountability are you under, are the leaders under? What’s happening in our church? And not in a … in a sarcastic or mean way, but I want to be part of the solution. Because so many wives I talk to, particularly, and men that want to confront, they find no one to help them.

Jim: Hm.

David: Church leaders turn away. Well, that’s too bad, but we don’t want to offend him. That’s not what the Bible says. Or I can’t find one godly man to talk to my husband. I can’t findone.

John: Hm.

David: I say, for heaven’s sake, all right, we’re gonna have to move through those steps the best way we can, even without help.

So I think we have to talk to the pastors. The pastors are so critical. So many well-meaning men that just don’t understand this and don’t want to offend people, people leave the church. They’re leaving anyway, pastor. They’re gonna get divorced and they’re going to leave. So, let’s see if we can catch them first and build this accountability in.

Jim: Uh … Dave, you’re describing something that catches my attention, ‘cause we’ve talked aboutMarried…But Lonely, really from the woman’s perspective. But what you just said caught my attention and that is, men are lonely, too because we don’t have those intimate relationships. When a woman says that my husband doesn’t have a godly friend who can confront him,that’sa problem, too.

David: Right. He probably doesn’t have any friends period–many men are in that situation–or just casual friends, talk about sports.

Jim: Sports buddies.

David: We pass the plate, you know, as ushers, yeah, but we do … or the neighbor guy.Yeah, we’re talkin’ about a deep committed, you know me and I know you and I know you … we know our weaknesses and we hold each other accountable. I’ve got my guy, Rocky Glisson, every Saturday morning. I’m here at Focus, all right this week and so, I’ll be talking about that with Rocky on this Saturday. But every Saturday morning, Pop & Sons Diner, Tampa, Florida, we are at our one booth, Grace, our wa

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