Marriage, Part Six

This episode marks the conclusion of our six-part Marriage series, a conversation between Dan and Becky Allender. In case you missed any of it, you can still catch up on past episodes, including Leaving (Part One, Part Two), Cleaving (Part One, Part Two), and Part One of Weaving.

Dan: “That war of blame, judgment, shame, accusation, contempt, withdrawal—that’s a cycle that we unfortunately allowed to exist for a lengthy period of time. […] We allowed almost 30 years of our marriage, bumbling, stumbling, faithful but nonetheless with these pockets of heartache and resentment.”

Dan and Becky conclude the series by sharing more about what they have learned in their 39 years of marriage, particularly regarding sexuality.

Becky: “I’m more aware of my body, more aware that my body is different than yours. I’m more aware that we have an enemy that wants to make us feel stupid and less than we are. Our sexuality is a focus for the enemy, and we have got to pray against that and be kind to one another against that.”

All of the themes addressed in this series—including shame, contempt, the lasting impact of our stories and attachment histories, spiritual warfare, and the necessity of kindness—take on a unique urgency in the context of sexual intimacy.

Dan: “Sexuality still bears literal and figurative nakedness, therefore, constantly there’s the threat of or potential of shame. With shame there’s judgment, contempt, and then a withdrawal.”

Becky shares about the childhood messages she received (or, more often, did not receive) about sex, and the secrecy and shame that was associated with it. She and Dan also talked about the impact of Becky’s work with underage girls in prostitution, and in Dan’s professional work around sexual abuse, and how their very different attachments to their mothers affected their intimacy as a couple.

Dan: “No wonder it was difficult for us to even touch each other regularly. Holding hands was not a natural thing, hugging—there was a war there. […] It’s part of our limbic structure that—even with the healing of forgiveness, and the work of prayer—still has to be healed and engaged. Understanding, kindness, blessing that allows for our bodies to have their own story, and to know that that story intersects with a lot of complexity when our bodies actually come together with something as simple as holding hands.”

As they have grown in kindness and loyalty toward each other, Dan and Becky have been able to engage conflict more effectively and enjoy a sexuality that is marked by laughter and joy.

Becky: “I have so much more compassion now. I seem to have had to go through some anger to get to the place where I am now, to be more compassionate and loving, and to know that if there is something I need to bring to you, to bring it with a kind voice and at the right time. It’s so, so sweet to be more aligned with you in all things. Instead of finding fault with you, I first more or less feel that there is something else coming against me to try and divide us. And that has been key to a more peaceful heart, and a more loving heart, and a stronger personhood, too.”

Dan: “We can stay in conflict longer than we used to, because contempt is not roiling, we’re not dividing. There’s still, even in conflict, more kindness and compassion. I think there’s greater loyalty, greater commitment to having a contempt-free marriage, even though we stumble and fail pretty much every day. That’s our desire and design.”

In the final minutes of this episode, as they look back on the entire series, Dan and Becky each offer two key ideas that they hope listeners will take away. We won’t spoil it here, but trust us: it’s worth a listen.