Focus on the Family Broadcast

Pursuing Passion in Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Pursuing Passion in Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery and author Linda Dillow address common questions women have about God's design for sex and describe how wives can enjoy greater intimacy in their marriage. (Part 1 of 2)



Jim: Dr. Slattery, why do most marriages get stuck when it comes to passion and romance and intimacy?

Juli: That’s a huge question. I think just a basic answer is, I think a lot of couples assume you don’t have to work on that area of marriage, that it just happens. And when you don’t work on an area of marriage, it doesn’t just happen.

End of Teaser

John: Well, that’s the insight and probably the familiar voice to you if you’ve listened to these broadcasts over the years, of Dr. Juli Slattery and she’s here, along with Linda Dillow, to help you understand God’s design for intimacy and passion and romance in your marriage. This’ll be a candid, straightforward conversation on today’s “Focus on the Family.” And Jim, this is one of those times where we need to advise parents, we’re talking about a mature subject.  And before we get too far down the road, you might want to have the kids occupied elsewhere.

Jim: It’s a good idea and you know what? I know that some will be critical that we’re covering a topic like this. That’s okay. We’re gonna try to do it in a way that obviously has good taste, yet you know what? We have given this area of intimacy over to the world and it’s destroying us.

John: Hm.

Jim: And I think Christians need to take it back and put it in the right perspective in the context of marriage—man and woman—and to talk about healthy intimacy, healthy sexuality when it comes to marriage and human interaction. And I think it’s gonna be a very insightful and wonderful discussion actually.

Let me just add, here at Focus on the Family that’s the purpose and why we’re here, is to help you. You know what? Marriage in this culture today, marriage’s back is up against the ropes. And we’ve gotta do all we can to strengthen marriage, not so it can just survive, but so that the institution of marriage that God has ordained can thrive. And one of the key areas is intimacy and we’re gonna talk about it today.

John: Yeah, in fact, Jim we receive hundreds of calls, letters and e-mails from folks every month and year, asking for advice about this topic. And so, I think what we have from our guests will be very, very helpful. Dr. July Slattery is here. You heard her voice there a moment ago. She’s a clinical psychologist, an author and speaker. She and her husband, Mike have three boys and live here in Colorado Springs.

Linda Dillow has been here before. She’s an author, speaker and she and her husband, Jody are celebrating 50 years of marriage together. They have four children and 10 grandchildren and together, Linda and Juli have co-founded the ministry called Authentic Intimacy and they’ve co-authored a Bible study about this called Passion Pursuit.


Jim: Ladies, welcome to the “Focus” program.

Juli: Thanks for havin’ us, Jim and John.

Linda: It’s a joy to be here.

Jim: Uh … Juli, this is your first time back with us here at Focus since you started a new ministry with Linda. And as John said, it’s called Authentic Intimacy. What is it?

Juli: Wow, it’s just a burden that God put on my heart and it was the reason why I made the difficult decision to leave Focus. God just burdened me for the needs of women in particular and this area of sexuality represents so much confusion and pain and woundedness that God just called Linda and I to step into that and begin teaching specifically on intimacy issues—intimacy in marriage and intimacy with God. So, our charge is to teach and to bring clarity from Scripture on some of these topics that the church is often very uncomfortable addressing.

Jim: Ah. Linda, you’ve been at this uh … for a while and you’ve been on the program back with Dr. Dobson, talking about intimacy issues, etc. Uh … as you look at it over the span of time, what do you think is getting better and what do you think might be getting worse when it comes to intimacy in marriage and maybe even specifically Christian marriages?

Linda: Jim, I feel that what is better is that people are going to God’s Word. His people are going to His Word and they’re saying, “God, what’s Your perspective?” And um … that’s what I want to have in my life and marriage. What’s getting worse is the world’s perspective and the fact that the whole area of sexuality is our enemy’s target–

Jim: Hm.

Linda: –to take down families, to take down marriages. And we just see rampant confusion–

Jim: Yeah.

Linda: –just confusion. I talk to precious Christian women and they look at the world and the world overemphasizes this area. The world exploits the female body. And so, they look at the world and they think, “Well, I better be the opposite of the world. And so, I’m going to de-emphasize this area in my marriage.” But that’s not what God’s Word says.

Jim: Well, let’s talk about that. Why is there such confusion, Juli, when it comes to God’s design for sex? He obviously made it.

Juli: Uh-hm.

Jim: This isn’t something that’s dirty or ugly, except when it’s out of the context in which God intended it to be experienced. Why did He design sex the way He did?

Juli: Well, I … I can’t say what God’s intention was or what His mind was when He created sex the way He did, but we can look at Scripture and we can learn from that and I think a lot of Christians are surprised to realize that the Bible talks about sex a lot. And uh … some of it is kind of hidden even in our translations, our modern translations. But it’s a metaphor. It’s an analogy throughout Scripture, from Genesis all the way through Revelation, of God’s passion for His people and His relationship with His people.

And then you’ve got, of course, the erotic book, Song of Solomon, where a lot of Christians are like, they just don’t even know what to do with that book, so they skip it. And I think what’s happened, particularly over the last 100 years or so, is Christians have dealt with the topic of sexuality with silence. They don’t know how to explain it, because it seems worldly. It seems filled with shame somehow. And so, we focus on other things and kind of just let people figure that out on their own.

And of course, the world is not silent on the topic. They’re very aggressive in teaching even children how you should think about sex. And so, Christians have a very worldly concept of what sex is. And again, they’re surprised to even learn that the Bible has a lot to say on the topic.

Jim: Well, and I think uh … within the church, the difficulty is, and I know for Jean and I when we were courting, we were very buttoned down. We were honoring the Lord in our courtship. We didn’t fall outside of the boundaries. We saved it uh … you know, our relationship for marriage. Uh … but in that context, what is so difficult is, within the Christian community, especially young people in their 20’s or 30’s, uh … who ha … are tryin’ to live honorably, they button this up and they control it and … out of their sheer discipline and appropriateness they don’t act on these impulses. And then somehow, magically you get in front of a pastor and he said, “Do you take this man …?” And “Do you take this woman …?” And you say, “I do” and then that night, the switch is flipped. And all of a sudden, you have to become released–

Juli: Yes.

Jim: –to be free in that area. It’s a hard transition. I think it’s particularly difficult for many Christian women, isn’t it?

Juli: It is, yea. Really what the message they’re getting throughout the teen years and the young adult years is that, not just sex outside of marriage is wrong, sexuality is wrong. And it’s paired with shame and it’s paired with guilt, the things that I shouldn’t be thinking about or shouldn’t be doing. And that pairing of sexuality and shame doesn’t go away on your wedding ceremony.

And what Linda and I talk about often is the fact that the church has majored on playing defense in this area. Everything’s about what you shouldn’t do and the dangers of sexuality. And Jim, you’re a … a former football player. If your team has a great defense, that’s wonderful. But if they have no offense, you can never win a game. And the church has no offensive message in terms of taking ground back and empowering people about how you win this.

Jim: What would offensive message sound like?

Linda: It would sound like, “Let’s go to God’s Word and see what He said.” And when we do that, we see in Ephesians 5, that God believes sexual intimacy in marriage is very holy. He says, “It’s a great mystery, but it’s even to point to Christ and the church and the intimacy that the Lord wants us to have with Him.

In other words, look at your intimacy in marriage and you will see the kind of intimacy I want to have with you. So, to me, that says not only is sexual intimacy beautiful in God’s eyes, but it’s holy.

Jim: Well, and you’re created this Bible study on sex. I mean, some people are going, “What?!” (Laughter)

Linda: Yeah.

Juli: That’s huge.

Linda: That’s … that’s a misnomer.

Jim: Even that reaction though, when you winced; it’s a misunderstanding of God’s beauty in this area–

Linda: Yeah, that’s right.

Jim: –and what He intended for us.

Juli: Yeah, we feel that Passion Pursuit is going on the offense. It’s like, we are tired of hearing everything Satan’s doing to destroy this in women’s lives and in marriages. God is greater. His truth is greater, so let’s get it out there. Let’s equip women with truth and watch God redeem marriages. And we’ve seen Him begin to do that.

Jim: Well, let’s get specific. You talk about the three-legged stool of sexuality in marriage and again, I know some women may be offended by even saying this, a woman knowing the needs of her husband and how he’s wired. Maybe we should start there. How are men and women wired in this area of sexuality?

Juli: Well, they’re wired quite differently. That’s gonna be no shock. (Laughing)

Jim: Now why do you think God did that? (Laughter) Do you think He’s got a sense of humor about this?

Juli: You know, I’ve thought quite a bit about that, because it’s played out in my own marriage to the point where there were times in my marriage where I thought the first question I’m asking God when I get to heaven is, “Why would You do this!” Why would you make us so different, so that we’re fighting about this instead of being united? And over the years of asking that question and seeking the Lord, you know one thing that God has taught me, is that God really cares about the quality of our love.

Jim: Hm.

Juli: And if your husband and you or your wife and you were exactly the same, it really wouldn’t take much to love each other. And you could have a fulfilling sex life without much effort. But the way God’s designed it with us being so different means that, to have a fulfilling sex life over 15, 20, 40, 50 years, means you have to learn to be a great lover. You have to learn to be unselfish, a good listener, a good forgiver, a person who extends mercy. And that’s a beautiful design. You can’t shortcut it.

Jim: Well and what’s fascinating with that …I totally agree, because I think the whole mechanism that the Lord set up was for you to become less selfish.

Linda: Right.

Juli: Uh-hm.

Jim: That’s the–

Linda: Really–

Jim: –mechanism.

Linda—to become a servant lover.

Jim: Yeah.

Linda: And I think women can get that; okay, I’m gonna serve my husband in the kitchen. I’m gonna make good meals. I’m gonna have a wonderful home. I’m gonna be a good mom. But in the bedroom? But God wants us to be servant lovers, as husbands and wives in every area of our marriage.

Jim: Yes. Let’s talk about those differences though. Why? We’re laughing right now (Chuckling).

Linda: Yeah.

Jim: What do men think about in the way of sex and what do women think about when it comes to sex?

Juli: Maybe you should answer the men question. (Laughter)

Linda: No, you’re a–

Jim: You’re the–

Linda: –psychologist.

Jim: –you’re the psychologist.

Juli: Okay.

Linda: Uh …

Juli: Yeah, I think to start with, female sexuality is far more complicated than male sexuality. And you’re like, of course it is. It doesn’t take long being married to figure that out. But for a man sex is … for many men, a direct way of feeling companionship and love from his wife. It’s even physiologically and biologically how he feels connected to her, through the hormones that are released through sexuality.

For a woman, it’s much more the expression of what’s happening in our relationship. So, the average guy’s gonna say, “Our marriage isn’t going well. Let’s focus on sexual intimacy. It’ll make everything better.”

Jim: And his wife goes, “You’ve got to be kidding/”

Juli: Yeah. (Laughing) It’s like, “Let’s work on everything else first. Let’s go to marriage counseling and request …

Jim: We’re gonna talk!

Juli: Yes, we’re gonna have coffee together and men …

Jim: You know, we’re playing opposite roles here, which is kind of funny. (Laughing) I’m tellin’ you what the woman’s gonna think (Laughing).

Juli: We’ve been married for quite a bit now. We’ve got some of this figured out. But I think what tends to happen, Jim, is particularly from a woman’s perspective, a lot of women see the way that men view sexuality as less than the way women view it.

Jim: Perhaps animalistic almost.

Juli: Yes, like what is wrong with these guys? It’s all they think about. They don’t care about the relationship. And I had that attitude for many years and the Lord had to confront me on that. You know, the way God has designed male sexuality is no less than the way He’s defined female–

Jim: How did you–

Juli: –sexuality.

Jim: –get to that point though? I mean, what did God do, if I could use the metaphor, to hit you over the head with a 2 x 4 to get there? Because this area … the assumptions that a wife will make I think–

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: –about how a man thinks about this and vice-versa–

Juli: Uh-hm.

Jim: — these are very hard concepts for the other gender to really understand. I mean, we make jokes about it. Comedians make their living off of this.

Juli: Yeah.

Jim:  What did the Lord do to open your heart up to Mike, your husband and how to do this in a more biblical way?

Juli: You know, I think it began with seeking God, you know, which you would say, how do you connect those two? And when I, in my walk with Christ, would be in the stage where I’d be like, “God, I just want to serve You. I want to grow in my faith in You,” there were times where the first thing that God would bring to my mind was this area of our marriage, because it was the one area where I just felt justified in being selfish. You know, we had three boys. They were young at the time. I was exhausted. Every other woman is saying, you know, this can wait till later. What’s wrong with husbands? They always are interested in sex. They’re uncaring. And as a Christian wife, you can buy into that.

And when you spend time in the Word and you ask God to seek your heart and you’re serious about that, you look in the mirror. And I was looking in the mirror and seeing that this was an area that was not pleasing to God in my attitude. There was a lot of pride. There was a lot of selfishness. And again, it was isolated, you know. In every other aspect of my marriage I could say I was serving my husband and I was being unselfish. But this was a stronghold.

And so, it began, Jim, by saying, okay, God, I want all of my life to be impacted by who Christ wants me to be, not just 99 percent of it. And when we open our hearts and say, “God, would You change my attitude towards my husband? Would You change my attitude toward sexuality? Show me the truth.” He began to reveal things to me that really helped our relationship and helped my attitude.

John: Juli, that’s great the way God used that open heart to speak to you and Dr. Juli Slattery and Linda Dillow are with us on today’s edition of “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly. And you can find their workbook and the DVD, both are called Passion Pursuit, when you stop by And Jim, it’s interesting to me that Juli talked about pride there as it relates to sexuality in marriage.

Jim: Well, and that’s where it starts. I think again, when you look at the breakdown of marriage and why we’re struggling in this culture when it comes to the issue of marriage. And you know, Christians, I think, by and large, we kinda turn our head, because we know even in our own relationships, it doesn’t feel healthy–

Juli: Uh-hm.

Jim: –if we’re honest. And I’m speaking generally. I know there’s going to be couples that have a great marriage. I understand that. But we’re talking about where there’s pain. And we have to admit; we have to find the humility to admit that, you know, even in our marriages, we’re not experiencing the fulfillment that God wishes here. And Linda, talk about that pride for a minute. Women have a lot of power in this area–

Linda: Uh-hm.

Jim: — in the relationship. I think men can be reduced to little boys when it comes to this and we act out in ways that are unhealthy. But women really do control, I think, a lot of the power when it comes to sexual intimacy in marriage. How can a woman better use that power?

Linda: I think you’re right, that women have pride. And I think some of that pride sounds like this. He just cares about the physical.

Jim: Uh-hm.

Linda: But I’m into the emotional, which is far more important and into the spiritual. So, he just needs to become more like me and care that we really connect emotionally. Because he just wants these exciting feelings. And Juli did some research about a hormone called oxytocin, that we tell women about because it helps understand. Tell ’em, Juli.

Juli: Well, basically oxytocin is a hormone in both the male and female body that is called “the bonding hormone.” It makes you feel close. It almost gives you rose-colored glasses and God in His wisdom, gives young moms tons of oxytocin when they’re with their babies, so that you’re bonding with this child and you’re willing to change diapers and things like that.

So, as women, we have oxytocin in various amounts through our body all the time and it’s really powerful when it connects with estrogen. So, if Linda and I are spending time together and we’re having deep conversation and having coffee together, we’re gonna get oxytocin and it’s gonna bond our friendship.

Now guys don’t get much oxytocin in their body, except for right after sexual intercourse. And so, their bodies become flooded with this hormone that bonds them to their wife. And all of a sudden, he’s more patient with her. He feels close to her. And I think …

Linda: He wants to talk to her.

Juli: He does and he doesn’t mind … okay, what are the things you need me to do this Saturday, that sort of thing. And when guys will say to their wives, “I feel close to you when we’re sexually intimate, the woman thinks that, that’s just a line, like he’s just manipulating.

Jim: Uh-hm.

Juli: But the research is showing that, that is true. That is when your husband feels emotionally the closest to you. It’s powerful.

Jim: It is powerful. People need to catch that, because I think you’re really landing on something that’s critical. And I think many men, if we look at it and sometimes we don’t take the time to think about it, we do feel closer to our wives. We’re not drawn to anybody else when that appetite is satisfied.

Now someone listening, I’ve got to admit, you know, women listening are saying, you are really pickin’ on us right now. There is a need for men to expand their horizons and to get beyond that physical need. We may have all the biochemistry going, but like we’re pushing a wife to think about her husband’s needs, how can a man better understand what his wife needs to feel that intimacy?

Juli: Jim, that’s an excellent point and Linda mentioned a few minutes ago, that we’re called to be servant lovers. And we’ve fleshed out a little bit of what that looks like for a wife to care about her husband and serve him. But as you’re asking, what does it look like on the other side of this?

Your wife is so much more complicated than you are emotionally and physically and sexually, that the average man just kinda channels the sexual relationship about his needs, because he can’t figure her out.

Jim: Right.

Juli: And a couple can go decades like this, where it’s all about his need and there’s no understanding that God is calling you to study your wife, to talk to her, to ask her how she’s feeling, to ask you questions about how you can love her physically and sexually and what helps her, to read books together from a Christian perspective about how a woman’s body is designed and how it’s so much more complicated and how it can be unlocked so to speak.

And a husband is called to be a student of his wife, not just the first year of marriage, but the decades into marriage. That’s your call as a servant lover. And I’d also say that in Ephesians, chapter 5 where it talks about the husband and the wife’s role, one of the things it says is, that the husband is called to love his wife like Christ loved the church and wash her with the Word and present her as a pure vessel.

And so, here’s my challenge to you guys. What are you bringing into your bedroom in your mind? What are you asking your wife to do that may defile her? You know, one of your highest callings is to present your wife as a pure bride and that’s not just on your wedding day. It’s how you handle this topic of sexuality throughout your marriage.

Linda: Juli, I love that, because it goes back to what we were saying earlier, that what God wants to do in us as husbands and as wives, is to get off the rough edges and to get the sin out and to make us servant lovers to one another. And so, as a husband or as a wife, we’re going to God and saying, “Would You show me how to love my mate, how to love her emotionally, how to love her spiritually, but also how to love her sexually?”

John: Let me voice something that I’m sure a lot of listeners are thinking about right now. It’s one thing to hear this on the radio, but how do I go home and talk about this? I mean, men and women oftentimes it seems, and I have a lot of friends in a lot of different circumstances, I think this is the big unspoken conversation. So, help them get from listening to actually employing some of what you’re talking about.

Linda: I would encourage every husband and every wife to get out their Bible and open it to the Song of Solomon and have a piece of paper and a pencil and for a husband to ask God, “All right, would You show me through this book, the kind of lover that Solomon was to his wife.” And for the wife to say, “God, would You teach me from this young bride what it looks like for me to be a lover to my husband?” Because this is God’s biblical model. And yet, I think very few husbands or wives have ever made a list of what they see from Scripture.

Jim: Well, in fact, in your Bible study, the Passion Pursuit, you talk about reading that and coming up with smokin’ hot mama (Laughter), which I’m not sure that’s a biblical term.

Juli: Of course, it is.

Jim: But tell us–

Juli: It’s in the Greek.

Jim: –how you get …

Linda: Juli’s biblical term. (Laughter)

Juli: Yes.

John: In the original or the Hebrew?

Jim: What version is that? That’s the really new —

Juli: The “Juli Revised Version.”

Jim: –the super-new version of the English Standard translation.

Juli: Well, you heard the challenge that Linda just gave to husbands and wives. And Linda before we ever were thinking of writing this Bible study, gave me that challenge, just as a mentor in my life. And we were talkin’ about Song of Solomon and I confessed to her that I just didn’t get a whole lot out of that book of Scripture and I thought it was too poetic for me.

And she gave me that challenge. She’s like, nope, go back and read it again and I want you to make a list of everything you see the wife doing to please her husband and to pursue sexuality. So, I made a list and I was going over that list with her and just what I’d learned from the wife in Song of Solomon. And I just said kinda off the cuff, “This woman was a smokin’ hot mama.” I mean, just (Laughter) … she really was!

And I thought about how often we teach women about the Proverbs 31 woman and you know, that’s like a couple verses at the end of Proverbs. And here we have a role model who is the subject of a whole book of the Bible, but no one talks about her as a role model and what we can learn from her as wives.

Jim: Well, and I think that points to our uneasiness with the topic–

Juli: Yeah.

Jim: –and the fact that we fumble in this area, ’cause we don’t believe it’s godly to talk about intimacy, which is unfortunately, exactly opposite of what you’re saying in your Bible study, Passion Pursuit and clearly what the Scripture is saying in a variety of places.

We have (Laughing) really just kind of awakened people to this discussion today. There are so many more questions that we want to get to, practical ones like the one you asked, John. So, let’s keep rollin’ and we’ll come back next time and hopefully, provide some very practical answer to the troubling questions that exist. Can you stick with us?

Linda: We’d love to.

Juli: For sure.


John: Well, we will have more conversation next time with our guests and they’ll offer that biblical insight and answer some of the deeper questions about this part of the marriage relationship, which causes so many problems for so many, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

And as you can tell, our guests really come to this topic with a lot of commitment to biblical understanding and that’s what you’ll find in the workbook, Passion Pursuit and the accompanying DVD. We’ve got that here for you. It’ll answer a lot of questions. It’s a great tool for you, for you and your spouse or even a small group of friends.

And then Jim indicated that one of our core missions here at Focus is to strengthen your marriage and we do that through these radio programs and articles, resources, downloads, a very content-rich website and so much more. And we also have now and you might’ve seen this in Jim’s newsletter or heard about it here before on the radio program, the National Institute of Marriage, which is a really intensive time of counseling for couples who are really at the end of their relationship and they don’t know where to turn.

Now you can be part of the day-to-day worldwide ministry that goes on through Focus on the Family when you join our support team. Your financial contributions fuel the ministry here and allow the outreach to continue. And we’d invite you today to touch lives and to be a part of what God’s doing to help marriages worldwide. For a donation of any amount, we’ll send that Passion Pursuit workbook to you. It’s our way of saying thank you and it’s a great tool for you or perhaps to pass along to a family member or a friend. Make that donation when you stop by or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for listening in. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back next time for more insights from Dr. Juli Slattery and Linda Dillow about pursuing passion in your marriage, as we once again share trusted advice and encouragement to help your family thrive.

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