Authors Kathi Lipp and Erin MacPherson encourage moms to overcome the daily challenges of parenting to make sexual intimacy with their husband a higher priority. (Part 1 of 2)
Kathi Lipp: We were talking to moms who were kind of setting this aside while their kids were young, 'cause they were tired. They were overwhelmed. They were exhausted, but we also knew that they really longed to have this physical intimacy, as well as spiritual intimacy and emotional intimacy. And we're saying, you can have kids and have a great intimate life with your husband at the same [time]. It really is possible.
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John Fuller: Encouragement from Kathi Lipp about building a better relationship with spouse that's more happy, healthy and fun and she and Erin MacPherson are on today's "Focus on the Family" with your host, Focus president, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller. And if you've got younger children in earshot, you might occupy them elsewhere. We're gonna be talking about this matter of intimacy in marriage pretty candidly today.
Jim Daly: John, you know, a couple of times a year, we touch on a very touchy topic and that is intimacy within marriage and the importance of that and how God designed it. And so often in the Christian community, we're giving that over to the enemy and to this culture, who reconstitutes that into something not godly, something ungodly. And we're gonna talk about it today and I want people not to turn the radio off, to listen to this, because I think it will deeply and profoundly help you in your marriage.
You know, as created beings, we're created with emotion and spiritual depth and also physical needs in relationship. And I know some of you are going, no, no, no. I don't want to talk about that. I would encourage you, let's talk about it and then talk about it with your spouse later. That's our goal today and I think it's going to be, not just fun and interesting, but also deeply helpful to you in your marriage.
John: Yeah, we hear from a lot of couples who are struggling in this aspect of marriage and our guests are going to bring a very light-hearted approach, insightful approach to this topic. As I said, they're Kathi Lipp and Erin MacPherson. They've been rather regular guests here on "Focus on the Family" and we're grateful for that.
Together they're good friends. They host a podcast together called "You've Got This." And they've written a number of books individually and then, co-wrote Hot Mama: 12 Secrets to a Sizzling Hot Marriage.
Jim: Let me welcome you both back to "Focus on the Family."
Kathi: Thanks so much for having us.
Erin MacPherson: We're so glad to be here.
Erin: We're excited.
Jim: Hey, let me start there. You both counsel a lot of women in your conferences and online and what are you hearing from them when it comes to this area of physical intimacy? Describe that for someone who maybe feels that, you know, their sex life is healthy in their marriage and they're okay. They don't understand maybe what's going on in many, many marriages.
Kathi: Well, it was interesting. The reason we wanted to write this book and by the way, the idea of writing a book called Hot Mamas was nothing that ever (Laughter) showed up on my radar. But I wrote a blog post when the book, 50 Shades of Grey came out. And what was so surprising to me was how many people I knew online who were reading this book.
Kathi: And I was shocked, because—
Kathi: --Christians, oh, yes and pastors and pastor's wives and I was blown away, 'cause I thought, well, obviously we know that this isn't good. And so, what is the draw? What is the attraction to this?
And so, I wrote a blog post saying, "Guys, we need to be looking for our intimacy ideas and inspiration in better places. And the backlash on that blog post was crazy.
Jim: What did it sound like? What did—
Jim: --they say?
Kathi: --people thought, they called me "prude." They [called me] "unimaginative," I mean, like any word you can think of to say that, which was exactly the opposite of what I was trying to do.
So, people were mad at us because we were talking about sex, but they were also mad at us because we were saying, you know, maybe some of this other stuff isn't healthy. In fact, we know it's not. And so, we were getting it from both sides and Erin's the generation that I'm most concerned about. I'm making her sound like she's 40 years younger than me.
But you know, women in their 30s with young kids, who are saying, "I don't have time. I don't have the energy for this aspect of my relationship," but then they're seeking out things like 50 Shades of Grey and so, it was very, very concerning to me. And so, when I talked to Erin, she had the same concerns and we said, "What if we did kind of a girlfriend's guide to this? What would that look like, to really encourage people in their marriages, but also say, you can have fun, but there are some biblical guidelines you have to follow.
Jim: Erin, follow up on that. I mean, what in that context, what as a 30-something, I'm not asking you your age, by the way. (Laughter)
Jim: John taught me not to do that. (Laughter)
Erin: I'm 37. (Laughter)
Jim: Okay, but what do you and your peers face when you're, you know, got a 2-year-old, a 4-year-old and a 7-year-old?
Erin: Well, you know, the comment on Kathi's blog post that she just talked about that hit me the hardest was, "Why are you talking about this, because your sex life must be vanilla." And the word "vanilla" really reverberated with me, because I thought, here our world has this twisted view of intimacy, to wit, that's so different from what God created it to be. And then Christians are considered vanilla or boring or the one that, you know, you choose last.
And I started thinking, we gotta take this back. We gotta grab this for us and take back intimacy and turn it into something that, it was created for Christians and Christians should be the people that everybody says, "I want a relationship like that."
Jim: When you say that, "created for Christians," what do you mean? Because I think God designed this obviously, in the context of lifetime monogamy, whether you're Christian or non-Christian, but it's that faithfulness in marriage that's so critical for—
Erin: I think I—
Jim: --a human being.
Erin: --I think I misspoke a little when I said "for Christians." What I meant is, God created sex and intimacy in marriage and I think our world has twisted it into something that's so different from what He created. And I think we need to be living our lives and showing our marriages in the way that He created it to be, so the rest of the world can see that.
Jim: Let's talk about in the Christian community and you know, Jean struggled with this, because it was no, no, no, no and then we get married and it's yes, yes, yes.
Jim: And that's a hard switch I think particularly many women, but I would assume some men, too, to flip. All of a sudden, they've been told "thou shalt not" all their life—
Jim: --and then all of a sudden at 23, 24, 27, they all of a sudden hear, yes, good, go. And you're going, whoa, wait a minute. I can't transition that quickly. Talk about that, Erin.
Erin: You know, I got married when I was very young and I had grown up in a Christian home and right in the time where purity culture was really at its peak. And purity culture has a lot of good stuff with it, but it did lead me to this place where I walked into my marriage thinking sex and intimacy were bad. And the night that we got married, it was really hard for me to suddenly flip that switch and go from, this has been bad, this is something I don't do, to be all in for my husband.
Jim: So, guilt.
Erin: I felt guilt and I felt shame, but I also felt just like it was hard to me to pursue my husband in this way, in a way that showed enthusiasm and that I really wanted him, because there was so much from my past.
Jim: When you look at that in the Song of Solomon, it's very good instruction, both for a man and a woman in that context of marriage and how to pursue each other. How did you get to the point where that became emotionally easier for you?
Erin: I think time had to pass. I think it took me six or seven months before emotionally I felt competent in that way.
Jim: Did you talk to your husband directly? Or was it kind of unspoken?
Erin: I did talk to my husband directly about it some and he had a similar past that I did and you said that it happens a lot with women and not as much with men. I think my husband had a very similar feeling. Like I remember the first time I met his family, he was embarrassed to hold my hand because he felt like that was too much intimacy when we were dating. I think we were even engaged at the time. And so, I think to him, it was hard, too.
John: Well, Jim, I've shared this in limited venues and Dena's okay with me talkin' about this. Our wedding night she was so exhausted. I mean, that's very common for women. She grew up in a Christian home where you don't do sex. You leave that for marriage and when it came time, you know, I'm waiting for the night and the marriage to be consummated and she was sick. And I just held her and I said, "It's okay."
And she woke up the next day and realized part of that was that whole switch you're talkin' about, Jim. Don't, don't, don't. Okay, now you're supposed to give of yourself freely to this guy that you just married. I had pretty high expectations, but somebody had warned me that it's not uncommon on a honeymoon night to find yourself saying, "Let's just put this off one more night." There was a sense of trust that she had with me after that, but that switch that you're talkin' about, yeah, I think that's a pretty common thing, don't you, Erin?
Erin: I think it's really common. In fact, I think we heard more about that guilt from that switch from women than from women who felt guilty about their past, which I thought was really interesting.
Jim: There's that aspect of it and then there's also just the dreading of it, that there's little desire, if any. You know, men typically again, I'm just saying this is the 80-20 rule, so I know if you don't fit into this category, I realize that and I'm not wanting to be too general. But typically, this is testosterone. This is a man is driven to seek and to have sex and women tend not to be as aggressive in that area, although it is changing, especially with younger, younger women. But talk about the dreading of it, not just the fact that it's a switch that I gotta flip—
Jim: --but now the other side of it, I'm really not that interested. It's not what I think about that often, if at all during the day.
Kathi: Yeah and you know, I'm 47, so I've been through a lot of stages and I've been through the little kid stage. I've been through the teenagers in the next room. And I remember having a conversation with my husband and he being so shocked that I can go a whole day without thinking about sex. (Laughter)
Jim: Most men, they're going, yeah, okay.
Jim: That's not me.
Kathi: And I'm like, "Well, how often do you think about it?" He goes, "When do I not think about it?" You know, he goes, "It's just constantly, you know, on the back burner of my mind until it's brought to the front burner."
And when, you know, that was such an interesting conversation for us to have and really start to understand that, you know, it's a very different thought. Our brains are just wired so differently. And so, we've had to have some very honest conversations about kind of meeting in the middle, because if it were up to me, I might not think about it for a good long time. But him, he would probably want to do it more often.
And so, I've been able to tell him, "Here are some things that can help me out. One of the things is telling me, this is on my mind. I would like to explore this in the next 24 or 48 hours." (Laughter) And I'm like, "Okay, I can put you on the calendar. We can make that work."
Jim: Now in fairness, so that would be a dread to some women.
Jim: Now it feels like pressure.
Kathi: I think that thought for a lot of women, from talking to them, I think you're right for some of 'em. That's why couples have to communicate.
Kathi: There are no 100 percent answers on either side of this, but when I can say, okay, I want to make sure that our kids are occupied or out of the house. I want to make sure, you know, I am so much better when I've had a shower and a chance to relax. And one of the things I tell women that are, you know, maybe they're newer brides, I always say, when your husband is saying, you know, doing those eyes and—
Jim: Sending the signal.
Kathi: --sending the signal (Laughter)—
John: Maybe tonight.
Kathi: --and you're not there, because for women it sometimes takes a little bit longer, I say, you know what? Let me just go grab a shower. And I go into the bathroom and I pray. I say, "God, I don't want to, but I want to want to," because I really love my husband and he's invested in taking really good care of my emotional and you know, all of those needs. And I want to be able to help him, as well. And by the way, for most women, when they are in the mood, they're in the mood. But it's getting there that's—
Kathi: --sometimes the hardest part.
Jim: Right, it's that barrier.
Kathi: Yes, because we're thinking about the dishes that have to be done. (Laughter)
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Kathi: We're thinking about everything and I remember growing up and everybody saying, "Don't have a TV in your room. It impedes intimacy." I say, have a TV in your room and play it as loud as you possibly can when you have children—
Kathi: --because that helps a tremendous amount. (Laughter)
Jim: You didn't have to worry or think about it.
Kathi: Yeah, exactly--
John: And have the door locked.
Kathi: --because moms are thinking about (Laughter) all of that. What did he say?
Jim: Door locked.
John: Have your door locked.
Kathi: Okay, if you do not have a lock on your door, you're either going to scar your children or you're (Laughter) not having enough private time with your husband.
Jim: And you can always move your dresser in front of your door (Laughter), I guess.
Kathi: Why are mom and dad always moving furniture? (Laughter) I don't understand.
Jim: Mom always wants to reposition that dresser for a minute. (Laughter) But at the same time, you know, you think of God's design in this regard.
Jim: And if neither person in a marriage had an appetite—
Jim: --we wouldn't be having offspring.
Kathi: Right, exactly.
Jim: I mean, you could see God's design—
Jim: --that way. But it also gets down to the abuse of that. I mean, I would think—
Jim: --some men emotionally can't manage rejection that well and then it leads to disconnecting in the marriage. And I really do believe this is one of the key areas where Christian marriages particularly are unhealthy.
Jim: And it leads to other unhealthy behavior—
Jim: --'cause this area, they may pray together. They may read Scripture together, but if there's a withholding in this physical area, it can destroy the marriage.
Kathi: It can really build up resentment and a feeling of abandonment. And I think that there are some key issues where we need to get a Christian counselor in the mix of our marriage, because sometimes we just need somebody to help us take a different perspective and this can be really, really healthy for Christian couples.
John: Well, this is "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller. We're talking today to Kathi Lipp and Erin MacPherson and our program is intended for couples who are doin' okay, but maybe just need a tune-up in this area of physical intimacy or perhaps some deeper conversations about needs and expectations. If you need some help along the way, we're here for you. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY and we've got resources, caring Christian counselors and of course, we'd recommend the book by Kathi and Erin called Hot Mama and a CD or a download of this program.
Jim: Erin, let me turn to you for a second, because again, you're living with younger children in the home. You're in your 30s and we started here. We so easily hand over and I am repeating this. We so easily hand over this area of physical intimacy to the enemy and we don't talk about it in Christian circles. We may not even talk about it in our Christian marriages. It's just something we do from time to time, but it's not a focal point for us in our relationship, 'cause we feel somehow that maybe God is a disapproving grandfather, that we're being caught or something like that. And we have to get rid of that. You talk about a story with a girlfriend of yours, which ended up being a wake-up call for you.
Erin: Yeah, you know, when we started writing this book, I did not talk to any of my friends about sex and intimacy in any way. So, one morning I went to coffee with one of my girlfriends and I was wearing yoga pants and I was tryin' to work on my computer and I hadn't brushed my hair that morning. We just dropped the kids off at preschool.
And she was lookin' really cute. She had jeans and lipstick and we're sitting there and she starts getting a text message and she looks at me and giggles and then we keep talking. And then another text message and she giggles and finally, she just stands up and she's was like, "I have to leave." And I'm like, "What do you mean you have to leave? We're having coffee and we're here." And she's like, she holds up her phone and it was from her husband and it said, "Nooner." (Laughter)
Erin: And I was shocked. And she went home and she said her husband and her in the daytime, when their kids are in school, that's when they find time for intimacy. And at first I was shocked, because that's not kind of what I would've thought to talk about with my friend. That wasn't what I would've thought of to do with my husband.
But I really started to pursue this idea of having a conversation and pursuing our marriages. So, probably the very best thing that has come out of writing this book to me is having a group of girlfriends that we talk to about intimacy in a way that's different than I expected.
We have a text thread that we text all the time and I know, day or night, anytime I can text these six girls and every single one of them will respond with something that upholds my marriage and that's really important to me.
Jim: What are some of the rules of that engagement? 'Cause that can be kind of dicey.
Erin: Yeah, well and that's important. Our rules are, that every single response always has to uphold the marriage and pull the person back towards their husband.
Jim: Boy, that's great.
Erin: So, you know, someone will say, "Hey, I'm going on a date night. What should we do?" And we'll help them with that. Or, "Hey, I'm gonna be flirting with my husband tonight, you know." We can give encouragement. We talk about underwear, which is complicated. (Laughter) But I love that I can turn to my friends and I can have someone tell me, "Turn to your husband. Go pursue him. Go give him a big kiss. Go plan something." You know, put the kids to bed early and make dessert. Do something to make your marriage stronger and I love that and I think it's really important that we use our friends and our accountability circles to do that.
Jim: Speak to that woman who is struggling to get into that mood, Kathi. You talked about that. You talked about what you would do. But could it be there are other things besides just, you know, the emotion of it? Are—
Kathi: A thousand.
Jim: --there things she should look into maybe?
Kathi: Yeah, well, I think when we have kids and other responsibilities and this is not something naturally we want to pursue, it's so easy to put it on the back burner. But I think that one thing is to go to your OB/GYN and just say, "Hey, is there something going on with some of my level[s]? Is there something physically going on?"
And for a lot of women, intimacy can be painful and so, that's a natural barrier to that. Also, if you're in a place where you're really struggling with your husband, I'm thinking maybe there are financial situations going on, that can really—
Jim: So, emotion.
Kathi: --yeah, your emotions, physical, emotions, mentally. If you are overwhelmed by life, I don't think anything shuts down intimacy almost as quickly as being overwhelmed.
Kathi: Yes, stressed, it's just [that] there are so many things. And so, if this is something that you're struggling with, I would say, either a Christian counselor or a trusted friend, maybe somebody who's a little bit older than you, a Christian friend who you can discuss this with somebody who like Erin's friends will uphold the marriage and say, "I don't know what's going on, but I feel like this isn't working for me and my husband and to talk to your husband.
Jim: Yeah, the other one that you didn't mention in that category, which I think a lot of women struggle with, I'm talking [about] women who have a, you know, a good body image—
Jim: --but they still struggle.
Kathi: Well, yes.
Jim: It's amazing how many women, that is at the top of the list, not the bottom. My body image keeps me from feeling good about myself.
Kathi: Well, and you guys know me and see me in person and you know, I am not what you would see on TV or in a magazine. And I've really really struggled with this and one of the things that I have finally had to come to embrace about this, is that while it's not the body that I would want to present to my husband, it's the one body he gets to enjoy. And boy, you know, my husband, there's so much husbands can do in this realm.
Jim: Give us some examples. Help us.
Kathi: Well, one of the things that my husband does all the time is tell me how much, one, he loves me; two, that he's proud of me, and three, that he thinks I'm beautiful. And after 10 years, I'm finally starting to think that maybe he actually believes what he's saying. It's taken a long time. I'm just being honest.
Jim: Well, and Kathi, I don't want to go by this too fast, is—
Jim: --again, even beautiful women—
Jim: --struggle in this area in a way that you shake your head, going what in the world? But there's so much pressure, so much pressure and it's so damaging that you've gotta get a grip on who you are in Christ.
Kathi: You know, this is something that Erin and I were talking about in the car on the way over. And you know, to Erin, 5 pounds isn't a world-changing amount, but it's something she needs to be considerate about. And I'm thinking, 5 pounds! My brain goes, "Five pounds! Are you kidding me?"
But I have come to understand, every woman's issue is an issue for her. I don't get to judge because it's just 5 pounds. And I say, you know what? That's something you're struggling with; let me be a support to you and we as women, can do this together.
But when we start to reframe how we think about our bodies, you know, my body has carried two babies. My body can love my husband well. My body gets me up and gets me to places all the time. And when I can start to look at it like that and be very conscious every single morning as I'm doing my quiet time, I thank God for my body. That sounds so weird and so twisted—
Kathi: --in our society, but it's how I've had to radically change my thinking about who I am and how God's created me.
Jim: Those are good points.
John: And it sounds like it's not a bad mind-set for a husband to have about his wife, as well, right?
Kathi: Right and--
John: Because I think a lot of us guys, we send signals to our wives that you don't measure up.
Kathi: --well, you know, my husband is radically focused on making sure that I never feel compared to somebody else. I'll even say, "Oh, my goodness," you know. If I said, "Erin looks really beautiful today," he'll say, "Kathi, you're the beautiful one in the room." I mean, he will always bring it back, because he understands that's something I'm struggling with.
And here's the thing. It makes me feel safe with him. And can we just say, one of the best open doors to intimacy is when you feel safe with your husband. And if your husband can create that place of safety, intimacy becomes much easier for a woman.
Jim: Kathi, those are such good points and I hope women and men are hearing what you're saying there, the heart and the spirit of what you're saying and I'm sayin', if you've been uncomfortable with this conversation, I hope this has brought you some insight. That's what we wanted to do. There is so much more and I want to come back next time and talk about some more hard-hitting questions in this area of physical intimacy in marriage.
I'm tellin' you folks, here at Focus on the Family, this is one of the key issues in Christian marriages today and I would say in all marriages today and that's why it's important for us to understand it, to deal with it in a healthier way in our own marriages, so that when people talk to us, we can say, you know, Christ has shown us the way. This is His gift to us and we are using it to the fullest extent for our enjoyment and pleasure, which is what God intended. Kathi Lipp, Erin MacPherson, authors of the book, Hot Mama, can you hang on and come back next time?
Kathi: Yes, please.
John: Well, we hope the conversation has been helpful to you and that you're inspired by what our guests have shared today and their book again is gonna give you 12 secrets that you can apply today in your marriage to make it more exciting and fun in this area of physical intimacy. And you'll find a copy of Hot Mama , as well as a CD or instant download of this conversation at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio .
Now we've been candid but pretty lighthearted with regard to this aspect of marriage, but it might be that there are some deeper issues that you're struggling with in your relationship, that there is a total lack of any kind of intimacy--physical, emotional, spiritual. There are barriers. There are walls. There's trouble in your marriage. If that's the case, please know that Focus on the Family, because of our supports, our donors, we're able to provide you with an initial consultation with one of our caring Christian counselors. We're a phone call away and we would count it a privilege to talk through some of those issues with you and help you get started on the road to restoration. Our number for those counselors is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
And then, let me just share with the kinds of ways God works through Focus on the Family. We received this comment from someone who said, "We wanted to thank you for your radio program. On the exact day that a particular interview aired, my husband of 30 years and I separated. I had stuffed my anger instead of communicating it for too long and lost much of the love I had for him. After hearing that program, my husband ordered the CD and asked me to listen to it. When I heard your guests share about their relationship and how they had worked through difficulties, something clicked and I'm happy to say that my husband and I were reunited three months later. God is restoring our marriage and making it better than ever. We've been going to counseling, reading Christian literature and attended a marriage conference. The Lord has been so faithful and we thank Him for working through Focus on the Family. We've supported your ministry for many years. Little did we know that God would use you to save our marriage. May He continue to bless you in a mighty way."
Well, I mentioned our counseling services are only here because you provide generously to this ministry and we're so grateful that God used Focus to help restore that marriage. We want to see more marriages thrive, to be strengthened and we need your help to do that, so please make a generous donation to Focus on the Family today. And when you do, we'll send a copy of Hot Mama by our guests, Erin and Kathi, as our way of saying thank you. You can donate at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800-A-FAMILY.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back next time as we hear more from our guests about making time for intimacy in the midst of a busy schedule.
Kathi: And so, what we're asking wives to do and men in different ways, is to be more intentional, to get intimacy on the list, because for a lot of women, it's not even making the list.
End of Clip
John: That's tomorrow, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.
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Kathi LippView Bio
Kathi Lipp is a popular public speaker and the author of 16 books including Clutter Free, Hot Mama: 12 Secrets to a Sizzling Hot Marriage, The Get Yourself Organized Project, The Husband Project and The Cure for the Perfect Life. She is a frequent guest on radio and TV, and host of the podcast Clutter Free Academy. Kathi and her husband, Roger, are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, Calif. Learn more about Kathi by visiting her website, www.kathilipp.com.
Erin MacPhersonView Bio
Erin MacPherson is an author whose books include Hot Mama: 12 Secrets to a Sizzling Hot Marriage, The Christian Mama's Guide series and Free to Parent. She has been a featured columnist for numerous websites and publications, including MOPS International and MomSense Magazine. Erin and her husband, Cameron, reside in Austin, Texas, with their three children. Learn more about Erin by visiting her blog.