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Cherish Your Spouse, Change Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Original Air Date 01/23/2017

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Author Gary Thomas describes what it means to truly cherish your spouse, offering practical advice to help you build a more satisfying and fulfilling marriage. (Part 1 of 2)

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Episode Transcript



Gary Thomas: Marriage will take off when a woman hears Song of Song 6:9 from her husband.

Jim Daly: And what is it?

Gary: “My dove, my perfect one is the only one.” Just think about it. “My dove, my perfect one is the only one.” I don’t want you to be anyone else. I’m never comparing you to anyone else. I love you for who you are. You are my woman. You define woman to me. And the wife’s saying the same thing to my husband, “You are my man; you define what it is to be a man to me.” That’s when you really feel cherished.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Gary Thomas describing one of the best ways that you can strengthen and revitalize your marriage. Welcome to another Best of 2017 Focus on the Family broadcast with Focus president and author Jim Daly. We’re glad you’re here. I’m John Fuller.

Jim: John, I’m so thrilled to feature Gary on the broadcast again; he’s so insightful. And his passion for healthy, godly marriages-- it’s infectious. I love it! And that’s why we’re bringing back this program today. It was one of our most popular of the year. And that word ‘cherish’ that he talks about is something we often take for granted. For millions of us who are married, we said it during our wedding vows, we promised to love and to cherish until death do us part. But do we really understand what the word means, especially after 10 years, 20 years. According to the dictionary ‘cherish’ means “to hold dear, to feel or show affection or to care for someone, to nurture them.” I love that. And if you’re in a good marriage, I know you’re trying to do your best to love each other. But I wonder if we’ve missed the power of this word, cherish. I look forward to revisiting this topic and hearing once again what Gary will unpack and the deeper meaning for all of us.

John: Mmhm. Gary’s been on this broadcast many times and he’s a gifted speaker, he’s written over 20 books. He’s part of the teaching team at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. And here’s how we started our ‘Best of’ conversation with him about his bookCherish: The One Word that Changes Everything for Your Marriage.


Jim: Hey, let me ask you. You … you heard my little intro onCherishand it did strike me. We say that word when we do our marriage vows, but I don’t know that even Jean and I, if we’ve ever talked about it since that day. (Laughing) I mean, what’s your definition of “cherish”?

Gary: I believe “cherish” is taking our marriages to the next level. You mentioned how all of us, just about all of us pledged to love and to cherish till death do us part. We always speak about love. And when we think about love, we think about commitment and sacrifice and hanging in there.

Cherish raises the bar a little bit higher. And it’s interesting because when I was working on this book, I would ask women, how do you feel cherished? What makes you feel cherished? And it’s like, turn over the hour glass (Chuckling), get a cup of coffee, ‘cause you’re gonna be there for a while.And I would say to guys, what makes you feel cherished? And there’d be, “Uh … am I supposed to be?” It almost—

Jim: Yeah. (Laughing)

John: --like it’s awkward. And …

Jim: It doesn’t sound like a masculine word.

Gary: But here’s what I’ve found.

Jim: It’s “be cherished.”

Gary: I … I … I put it in the language of a car. A lot of guys are into their cars. What does—

Jim: There you go.

Gary: --it mean to cherish your car? Well, if you cherish your car, you protect your car. You’re not drivin’ down pot holes. You’re … you’re indulging your car. You’re giving it the best wax job and the wash job. You think about that car and when you do, it gives you pleasure. You want to showcase your car. You want others to see. “Hey come on outside and … and see my baby.”

And it’s kinda funny. I don’t mean to insult wives. I’d say, “Can you treat your wife the same way you treat the favorite car you’ve ever had, you know, before you had to get the SUV or the minivan?” But … but (Laughter) that … that has that direct application. And … and I think it’s so sad that we often think of cherishing things more than cherishing people.

But the good thing, I think the good news is, that cherishing is a skill that can be learned. It can be practiced. We can choose to cherish. You know, infatuation comes and goes, but cherishing is something that we can build.

Jim: Now you see that cherishing happening even back to the Garden—

Gary: Yes.

Jim: --Adam and Eve?

Gary: Yeah.

Jim: Uh … refresh my memory. Where did you catch that moment where there was cherishing occurring?

Gary: That I believe is the goal of a cherishing marriage. You might ask why were Adam and Eve in Paradise? Why were they so happy early on in their marriage? And you could say, well, there wasn’t any sin and … and that’s true. I don’t think it’s just because they were naked and unashamed. Some younger men might think that, but I don’t think that was it.

Here’s what I think was a huge spiritual issue going on.When Adam first saw Eve, there was literally no one to compare her to.

Jim: She was it.

Gary: There was no Juanita (laughter), there was no Shenice. There were … there was no Janet. There was just Eve. She defined what a woman was for Adam. And Adam defined what a man was for Eve. He … he couldn’t say, “Well, she uh … Juanita has a better sense of humor.” Or “Shenice has … is slender or curvier or has, you know, more intelligence or is more gracious.” She just defined woman for him.

And I often tell guys, ‘cause this is a time when guys often cherish their wives. It used to be when the bridal march started, everybody would turn around and watch the bride come in. But I’ve noticed that’s changed and I think the Internet memes have sort of changed that. A number of people look up front at the groom’s face.

Jim: Right.

Gary: Is he crying? What’s his expression? They … they want to see that. And I’ve stood by a number of those men as a pastor when they’re watching that bride come down the aisle and at that moment, she’s the only one she se … he sees.

There are hundreds of other women in the room, other … others women … she … he is just so fixated on her. He’s focused. She’s the only woman in the world to him. And I said, cherishing is about making that a daily reality, not a once in your lifetime experience, but a daily reality.Marriage will take off when a woman hears Song of Song 6:9 from her husband. “My--

Jim: And what is it?

Gary: --my dove, my perfect one is the only one.”

Jim: Ah.

Gary: Just think about it. “My dove, my perfect one is the only one.” I don’t want you to be anyone else. I’m never comparing you to anyone else. I love you for who you are. You are my woman. You define woman to me. And the wife’s saying the same to my husband, “You are my man; you define what it is to be a man to me.” That’s when you really feel cherished.That’s when you really feel accepted. And I think that’s what Song of Songs is getting at, that cherishing attitude. 1 Corinthians 13 celebrates love. Song of Songs celebrates cherishing.

Jim: Now some couples, or let’s just say some wives are going, “Ah... I don’t have that. I want that. Maybe some husbands, too are saying, “I wish we had that kind of relationship.” How does a couple reset and recalibrate, because we’ve not recognized that important ingredient of cherishing one another? How do we change it today? We’ve been perfunctory. We love each other. We saidthosewords and we rememberthatcommitment, but we don’t cherish each other.

Gary: There has to be a new mind-set and then there are a number of practices we can put into place. The mind-set, I think, is best captured by a statement about the ballet. Russian-born choreographer George Balanchine once said, “The ballet is woman.” By that he meant that the best, at least inpas de deux, the couple’s dancing. The best male dancers recognize [that] people come to the ballet to see the woman, her agility, her grace, her strength, her beauty.

And so, his job is to help her be more than she could be on her own. Because he can lift her, turn her, support her, catch her, she can do things that you just can’t do on your own. And this … George Balanchine also said, “My job is to make the beautiful yet more beautiful.”

And I think if men would adopt that attitude, how do I showcase my wife? How do I hold her up? How do I support her so that people see the beautiful woman that I know is there? And then you help her through that performance. And then I love it at the end. If a … if a male dancer has done his job, he’s helped her; he supported her. She’s wowed the crowd. He finally throws her. She lands in the spotlight. It’s so powerful. The audience stands up and a thunderous standing ovation.And the male dancer steps back into the shadows. He’s breathing hard, but he’s done his job. The female dancer is celebrated. She’s adored. That’s what he was there to do. My marriage changed when God gave me a heart that took pleasure in my wife’s pleasure. I think that’s the difference.

Jim: Was there a moment that occurred. How … ?

Gary: No, no, I … I … I think it was going through these Scriptures. I think it’s just praying about my marriage, asking God to come into my marriage.

But when I got my highest fulfillment in loving her well and just sensing that, I … you know, when we talked earlier in a broadcast about a lifelong love, seeing our marriage as worship, that recognizing that that’s one of the best ways I could love my heavenly Father, was treating Him as my “Father-in-law” and loving on His daughter.

And … and I think it was sort of a corollary from that when it came down from that and just being able to realize that that’s when I find the most meaning in my marriage. And so, it’s not … it’s not a burden. It’s not oppressive. It’s kind of fun. It … it’s a delight. It’s just a change of … of mind-set. And here’s the thing.

The lust to be appreciated, to be noticed, to be served, to be pleasured is like any other lust. It can’t be satisfied. It has to be crucified. If you’re still operating with that mind-set in marriage, you can’t have a spouse that can focus on you that much to satisfy the lust because you just … you’re never noticed enough. You’re never appreciated enough.

But when you have the attitude of Romans 12:10, outdo one another in showing honor. And so, okay, if I want to be a faithful believer today, I’ve gotta out do my spouse in showing her honor. Then if your spouse isn’t honoring you, say okay, this is an easier day. You’re running downhill that day, not uphill. If your spouse is really spoiling you and lovin’ on you, you think, man, it’s gonna be hard to obey Scripture today. (Laughter) I’ve gotta—

Jim: Rise to--

Gary: --really—

Jim: --the challenge!

Gary: --up my game. And it’s … it’s that sense of fulfillment that comes and … and there’s just a joy that comes, I think, from aligning your heart with God’s.

Jim: We’ve talked a lot about the relationship and how a man needs to honor and cherish his wife. How … what does that look like in the other direction, a wife cherishing her husband? What are some of those examples?

Gary: Well, when the wife looks at her husband like Adam, the way I describe it is, that wh … the day she gets married, she has a commitment to contentment. No guy has it all. You have to realize that your guy has certain strengths and he doesn’t have …

Jim: (Laughing) So start with a deficit.

Gary: Right.

Jim: That’s how we begin this.

Gary: And you decide that he defines what a successful husband is for me. I’m not gonna compare him to Joe. I’m not gonna compare him to Frank. I’m not gonna compare him to Antoine. It’s a wife blessing her husband with the realization that he can’t be everything. And so, when she gets married, she’s makin’ a commitment. If you’re not a handyman, I’m not faulting you for not bein’ a handyman.

Jim: Whew!

Gary: If … if you’re not, you know--

Jim: That makes me feel better.

Gary: --if you’re not the kind of guy that enjoys two-hour soulful conversations, I’m not gonna feel jealous that my girlfriend’s husband, the first thing he does, he comes home and says, “How about your day? How are you feeling? Where are things going?” That you made a choice and you’re tryin’ to build on the strengths of that choice.

Jim: You know, Gary, you talked about the … the ballerina. I think that’s a beautiful il … illustration of a man’s role, a woman’s role, a husband and a wife. You also use an analogy of second violin. I get … second fiddle might be more commonly said.

Gary: Right.

Jim: You know, I don’t play second fiddle to nobody, you know. (Laughing) But how does the second fiddle position work? And … and what I appreciated about it is that limelight search. Who’s gonna be—

Gary: Right.

Jim: --the one in the limelight?

Gary: It came from a famous conductor who said, “I can get any number of first violins.” He goes, “The most difficult person to find is the second violin.”

Jim: Not because of their playing ability but because of their—

Gary: Willing to play that role--

Jim: --attitude.

Gary: --to put as much effort and excellence and meticulousness into playing second violin as you do for the first violin. But he said, “Without the second violin, the orchestra isn’t gonna sound well.” I mean, you’ve got instruments that they do their part. If everybody’s tryin’ to play first violin, it … it’s gonna be a disaster. And that’s what happens in marriage, is that we always want to be first violin and … and people are listenin’ today and saying, “Boy, I wish my husband was like that with me as the ballerina.”

And that’s the mind-set that we’re talkin’ about, that (Sigh) do we believe Jesus or not? He said it’s better to give than to receive.

Jim: Right.

Gary: And it’s hard for us to trust that. I’m just saying, when I test that out and trust Jesus, I find that those words are true.

Jim: Yeah, that … that’s powerful. But there’s something in our humanness, in our flesh that keeps us from moving in that direction, isn’t [it]? It’s odd--

Gary: It is.

Jim: --especially for us as believers and it’s true in our marriages, too, Gary. Um … talk a bit about how you undo those patterns that you’ve been maybe into for 10 years or 20 years or in Jean and my case, it’d be 30 years we’ve been married.

Gary: Yeah.

Jim: And I see those things. Sometimes temperament can come into this. I could see as I read the book and looked at the material, um … temperament … you know, one of the things for me when I’m under pressure, my personality type as I’ve tested it, I can be a verbal attacker. I mean, I will respond with verbal jabs.

Gary: Right.

Jim; And I could see how that doesn’t play well in cherishing. So, I’ve got to learn how to back that off and think before I speak, right? Rather than saying, “Man, have you looked at the house today?” That would be like a verbal jab.

Gary: Right.

Jim: Or what’s happened today?

Gary: Well, see, that’s why I like to present cherish as the new model of marriage. Uh … most wives don’t want to know that their husbands are just willing to be committed to them. And most husbands don’t want to know that their wives just put up with them. We want to be cherished.

A friend of mine was driving with seven other men and he said, “How many of you feel like your wives love you? Every man raised his hand. And he said, “How many of you believe that your wives like you?” Every hand went down. (Laughter) Those husbands felt loved; they didn’t feel cherished. So, what you’re talkin’ about is exactly where we need to go, Jim, because I … I do think that needs to be the new model. I don’t want my wife just to know that I love her. I want her to feel cherished. And a lot of it comes with this mental determination that I … I’m gonna display cherish. And let me give a couple examples where I’ve seen it in action, that it’s worked really well.

I got onto an elevator one time. Another married couple got in, middle-aged. And I’m in the back of the elevator and he’s standing in front of the buttons, just kind of staring at ‘em. (Laughter) So his wife says, “Floor 9.” And you’d think she’s just given him a physics test. I mean, he’s …he’s … he can … I wanted to say, “It’s between eight and 10,” but that would’ve been mean (Laughter), so I just … I … and … and she just smiled. He finally found it and she just cuddled up to him and said, “Your mind is really full about that business meeting, isn’t it?” And he goes, “Yeah.” She goes, “Don’t worry; it’s gonna come out.”

And you know, she could’ve shamed him. She could’ve been sarcastic. But what she did is, she recognized he’s doing something really important and that’s distracting him from something that really doesn’t matter. And so, she chose to look at the best, not to use it as a moment to ridicule him or belittle. And I think that man walked out of the elevator feeling cherished and supported and um … encouraged.

Here’s how a … another wife did it. It was great and it was a younger couple. They got married very young and got pregnant almost right away. And they’re walking through a mall. She is eight months’ pregnant at this time and she’s just kinda sauntering through the mall, trying to … to get going. And this beautiful lithe blonde woman walks by, very athletic. And her husband, Brian says, “Man, I forgot how pretty you are when you’re not pregnant.”

John: Ooh.

Gary: He really said that and she—

Jim: Yikes.

Gary: --just broke out crying and he honestly didn’t know why she was crying. He thought he was complimenting her. (Laughing)

Gary: And here’s what was so amazing. When I was talkin’ to her, and this is why they are now happily married 28 years later and she goes, “I realized I had to give him the benefit of the doubt. He would never intentionally hurt me. Things got jumbled up in his mind. He was trying to say, you know, you’re a beautiful woman. I know things are different now, but … but I remember that. And she goes, “And so, I just had to do that mental gymnastics, realizing that’s not my husband and giving him the benefit of the doubt.” And she goes, “And we laugh about it today--

Jim: Yeah.

Gary: --”because he honestly was mystified, why are you crying? I don’t know it.” (Laughter) And she goes, “You know what? It can be really hard for a new bride to do that with her husband. She doesn’t understand the way a man thinks. She doesn’t understand the way a … a man feels.” And she says, “At least give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.”

Jim: That’s a gracious woman, let me tell you!

Gary: It (Laughing) definitely [is].

John: Gary Thomas is our guest on Focus on the Family today and uh … we would invite you to get his book,Cherishor a CD or download of this conversation Gary, why is it so hard for us to give that grace? I mean, it seems like a lot of younger couples, they live there and then time kinda happens and kids happen, and we get a little more comparing?

Gary: Yeah,yeah. You know, I think part of it is just our sinful nature, because the reality is,a cherishing marriage is so rich, it’s worth working for. I think one of the biggest lies is that infatuation is the pinnacle of marriage.

And the reason I wroteCherishis that infatuation, neurologically lasts about 12 to 18 months. Unless you have a damaged brain, it can’t go longer than that.Cherishing is better. I’m been infatuated and I’m in a marriage where we’re growing in cherishing. I’m saying cherishing is better. I don’t envy those infatuated couples, because I know the infatuation’s gonna end and they’re gonna have to do the hard work of realizing who they’re married to, go through the grace and forgiveness and get through the bitterness.

And the other thing, John, it’s just so silly, is contempt makes no sense. The … I was with a couple one time at a dinner and he’s a very quiet man and he wasn’t participating at all. I was just tryin’ to be nice and bring him into the conversation and so, knowing what he did, I said, “Don’t chefs usually think such and such?”

And she immediately cut in. “He’s not a chef; he’s a cook. A chef prepares things. He just heats ‘em up. There’s a difference.” (Laughter) And it was clear that she was afraid I was gonna give her husband a little more respect than he deserved and she was horrified. Why would anybody respect my husband?

And I knew his situation. He worked at a rest home. He had charge of a kitchen where they fed 200 residents every day and … and I know that the budget is always tight and then say, “Okay, here’s the budget and we’re cuttin’ it by 10 percent and you’ve gotta offer three different entrees.” And so, sadly a lot of meals probably are just heated up and what not.

And yet, he said, “But I prepare things.” She goes, “No, you don’t. You just heat ‘em up.” And she goes, “Besides the … the residents don’t care what the food tastes like anyway.” (Laughter) And he said, “They do; they really do.”

Gary: And I thought, here’s a man with really … tryin’ to make a noble effort. He can make a difference in those people’s lives. He can maybe … why wouldn’t she pray for him, even a miracle of provision like Jesus feeding the 5,000. She could say, “Lord, with the … a decreased budget, can my husband create tasty, nourishing meals for people at a difficult time in their life?” When you look at Scripture, there are two groups I wouldn’t mess with: orphans and widows. If you want to see God get angry—I mean, God so many times, says look after the orphans and widows in their distress in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, that’s what really gets Him angry. He’s directly addressing one of the demographics that get so ignored in our society.

But she was just so afraid that she was not gonna let anybody call him a chef, and a cook. And I just thought, I … I’m sorry, but how stupid, because they’re gonna go home and … and they’re gonna have a tender evening? “Honey, thank you; we had … we had such a wonderful evening. Can I rub your feet? Can I give you a back rub before we go to bed?” He’s gonna feel distant and he’s gonna be quiet, so she’s gonna say, “See how boring a guy I married?” And I just thought, it … it serves no purpose to express disdain or disrespect or contempt. It’s never in the history of the world produced a more intimate, more fulfilling and happier marriage. So, have contempt for contempt. Aim for cherishing and cherish is the strategy we can use to bring our spouse to their glory.

Jim: Gary, we are comin’ in for a landing here on day one. I want to speak specifically to that couple and I don’t know if it’s the husband or the wife. And again, they’ve been married maybe 20, 30 years. And this is the rut that they have been following now. They haven’t done the cherishing. Um … how would you give them hope as we sign off today? What do you say to them about changing it tonight, rather than goin’ after each other verbally? What can they do differently?

Gary: Here’s where I think cherishing can point to an entirely different marriage and why this mind-set thing matters. I was in Winnipeg in February. I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone.

Jim: Yeah. (Laughter)

Gary: You … you don’t know cold--

Jim: Yeah, think July is [better].

Gary: --until you’ve been to Winnipeg in … in February. I met a delightful man named Terry who had, had two different marriages. Both wives died of a terrible disease. And he had heard me talk on marriage and he just said, “Gary, what you say is so true, but I want to share my story with you”

He’d been married to his first wife for, I think, 17 years and she’d been fighting cancer for five years and the last seven months around the clock care, just had to do everything. And when your wife gets that sick, that’s all you can do.

She died and he was single for four years and then married his second wife, who would later die of cancer. But he said his second marriage was so much richer and happier than his first marriage, not because his second wife was more excellent than his first wife.

Jim: Huh.

Gary: He said, “I knew ‘em both well,” ‘cause he’d been married to both of them for almost two decades. He goes, “My attitude was completely different.”

Jim: So it was a bit more about him than them.

Gary: Yeah, “I treated them like you’re talking about. I treated my wife like royalty. I treated my second wife like royalty. I called her ‘Princess.’ I treated her like one. I served her.” He goes, “I got used to doing that with my first wife when she went through cancer and I had to do everything. And I had to do everything as a single man, so I just kept doing that for my second wife. And she was so grateful and she was so happy and she thought she had, you know, already got a taste of heaven. “I didn’t know that husbands acted like this.” But he didn’t realize, “I didn’t act like that in my first marriage.”

But what really hit me and what I really stress is that he was adamant, “It’s not that my second wife was more excellent than my first. That’s not why we had a happier marriage. It’s that myattitudewas so different. I cherished my second wife and had a much happier marriage.” And so, I’m saying, regardless of what your spouse does, if you cherish your spouse, I believe you’re gonna have a happier marriage.


John: Some great insights from Gary Thomas on this Best of 2017 Focus on the Familly broadcast with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.

Jim: John, I’m sure there are many people listening to us right now who are longing for the kind of marriage that Gary has been describing. Maybe you’re going through a crisis with your spouse or it seems like you’re in a rut and your relationship will never improve. If that’s describing you, I want to urge you to contact us here at Focus on the Family. We have many, many resources and tools for couples who are in trouble, like our counseling team and Hope Restored, which is an intensive counseling experience over several days with an 81% success rate, post two years. I believe in that program and the great work that our team is doing there. Maybe our websites, where you can find answers to questions and links to articles with practical help and encouragement.

Here’s the good news-- it’s working, everybody! We recently heard from a woman named Bonnie who sent us this message and it represents so many more people. She said, “At one point in my marriage, I was really struggling and reached out to Focus on the Family counselors. What great service! The help and prayers went beyond what I imagined and your services continue to give beyond what you see. From that one desperate phone call, I went on to teach seven Bible studies encouraging women to grow in the Lord and heal their marriages. Praise God for His work through your ministry!” And that ‘your’ there-- that’s you too when you support and pray for us! This is part of your ministry through Focus.

John: Yeah, that’s a wonderful story of change and the impact of Focus on the Family, especially when someone feels like they are out of control or theycan’t get the peace that they want. God is there and he continues to use Focus on the Family as a resource in marriages in crisis. And if your relationship is struggling, call us and you’ll get the kind of help that Bonnie received as well from us. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY, 800-232-6459 or stop by the website where we have further resources and a directory of Christian counselors in your area. That’s

Jim: And may I say, if you’ve benefited from Focus on the Family in the past-- if one of our broadcasts inspired you or a resource we provided was particularly helpful, can I invite you to pass that blessing along to someone else by financially supporting us today. When you do, we will gladly give you a complimentary copy of Gary’s bookCherish: The One Word that Changes Everything for Your Marriage. If not for you, consider passing the book along to a family member or a friend who will benefit from Gary’s insights.

John: Yeah, we’d really love to have you join our marriage strengthening team and you can donate at or by calling 800-A FAMILY, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

And we mentioned our Best of 2017 audio collection. Now in addition to the great conversation we just heard with Gary Thomas, we have British evangelist J.John offering reasons why you should believe in Jesus Christ and some reflections on the value of suffering from Joni Eareckson Tada. Those are just a few of the dozen or so programs that are part of our “Best of” collection and that’s available on CD or as a download. Coming up next time on Focus on the Family, one of the best ways that you can cherish your spouse is by paying attention.


Gary Thomas:Here’s why his wife feels cherished. He goes, “I realize that when Jacqueline is talking to me, it’s not what she’s talking about, it’s who’s talking. And if I want to cherish Jacqueline, I have to notice.”

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Gary Thomas

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Gary Thomas is an international speaker and best-selling, award-winning author whose books include Pure Pleasure, Holy Available and Sacred Marriage. He has also written numerous articles for several prominent national magazines. Gary and his wife, Lisa, reside in Texas and have three children. You can learn more about Gary by visiting his website,