Marriage, Part Five

On this week’s podcast, Dan and Becky Allender continue our six-part Marriage series, which began with Leaving (Part One, Part Two), moved to Cleaving (Part One, Part Two), and ends with Weaving—what it means for a couple to weave together as one flesh. To put it another way, we’re talking about sex.

Dan: “Addressing sexuality demands a level of honesty, but also a level of honor. […] We’re still sexual, we still have joy together relationally, we have joy sexually, but boy have there been struggles. And not just decades ago—the reality of aging bodies creates the necessity to say those struggles are ongoing.”

As they approach their 39th years of marriage, Dan and Becky reflect together on the things that they wish they had known in their earliest years together. These things include the physical realities of their bodies, the inevitability of distraction, ways to engage sexuality more fully, and awareness of the distinct differences in the ways they each approach sex.

Dan: “The reality is there are such different arousal structures for a man versus a woman. […] To understand that that’s how God made you has allowed for there to be so much more blessing of the differences with regards to desire. And I think that has maybe been the number one issue for me—the awareness that our desire is seldom 100 percent equal.”

Becky: “It would have been helpful, too, to have known that there are so many seasons ahead with being sexual with one another. […] To have been told your sexuality will change might have been intriguing—what does it really mean to be present in whatever stage we’re in?”

Our desire is seldom 100 percent equal.

Sexual struggles can develop when there is a lack of knowledge and information, but they can also develop—and be intensified—through a lack of communication.

Dan: “If desire is not going to be equal, how will you handle ownership of your own desire and bless your desire, and bless the otherness of your spouse? The opposite of blessing is the notion of contempt—contempt for yourself, contempt for your spouse. Struggling with the reality of contempt was huge.”

Becky: “That we had to tend to one another’s desires in a way that called us to fail more, in some ways, with being contemptuous or failing the other person. We didn’t put words to it so much, so we didn’t even have the language to talk about what was happening in our hearts.”

We didn’t even have the language to talk about what was happening in our hearts.

Dan and Becky also talk about their struggles with infertility and miscarriages, and about the harmful messages of sexuality they both received from their families of origin.

Becky: “We didn’t have the conversations because we didn’t think, as believers in Christ, that it was right to go back to our past. So I think that was even a stronghold, to not be able to seek help or deal with those issues until later on in our marriage.”

Dan: “Maybe one of the core realities that I wish we had known is that we had an enemy working against not just our marriage, but against sex. […] Evil hates sex, and it’s working to create division. […] We didn’t have the ability to see that resentment really does create a stronghold. You can have a heart that is richly given over to the other and yet have pockets of your heart that bear judgment, resentment, contempt.”

They both readily admit that they still have struggles. Sexual woundedness does not magically disappear, even after decades of marriage. But there is much they have learned about practicing healthy sexuality and weaving more closely together as a couple. Tune in next week to hear more about that in the conclusion of this series.