The Challenge Facing Every Woman/Program 2
|By: Steve Arterburn, Shannon Ethridge, Fred Stoeker; ©2007
|For a woman, the “affair” can begin with an emotional connection long before any physical act takes place.
Announcer: Today on the John Ankerberg show, Shannon Etheridge, Fred Stoker, and Steve Arterburn, three bestselling authors, talk about the battle every woman faces to remain sexually pure, not only in their bodies, but also in their emotions and thoughts. Shannon Ethridge was a straight A student, a Christian who went to church every Sunday, and came from a wonderful family. Yet, her thoughts began to change.
Shannon Ethridge: You know, If anyone had asked me when I was 12 if I wanted to be a virgin until marriage, I would have said, of course I do. At 13, I would’ve said, I think so. By 14, I would’ve replied, maybe. And at age 15, my response would have been, I don’t see how that is possible.
Announcer: What causes young women to lower their standards?
Ethridge: What product in our society doesn’t use sex to try and sell their products? And so when women begin to believe that as a female I must be a sexual object, that we start looking at ourselves the same way that the culture portrays us.
Announcer: And what and about women who are married?
Ethridge: Well to often women assume that because I am married and I am having sex with my husband and no one else, then I’m acting with sexual purity. They fail to understand that purity goes a lot deeper than just faithfulness and that you have to be faithful in your mind and in your heart and in your spirit as well.
Announcer: And what can you do when your feelings for your husband or wife are dead?
Fred Stoeker: And then it wasn’t too long after that Brenda came into the kitchen one day, I was sitting there and she sat down and she said, you know I really don’t know how else to say this so I’m going to tell it to you straight out, she said my feelings for you are dead.
Steve Arterburn: Well I just want to say that if you are married to a woman that you say is frigid, well the first thing to do is ask if you are the Ice man, if you’re the one that is putting the chill here.
Stoeker: Well you know I was in despair and I knew it was over and I didn’t know what to do so I turned really to God you know. First I said, look I will do anything. And you know when you tell the Lord that you will do anything he is right on the edge of his seat ready to speak and ready to help.
Announcer: Join us today for the special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.
- Ankerberg: We have a great program for you today. I am glad that you have joined us. We are talking about “Every Married Woman’s Battle” to remain sexually pure. You say, “John, what in the world do you mean?” Well, that’s why we have got Shannon Ethridge, who wrote this book. She is a best-selling author, along with Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker. Shannon, tell us why you wrote this book to married women.
- Ethridge: Well, so often women assume that because I am married and I am having sex with my husband and no one else, then I am acting with sexual purity. They fail to understand that purity goes a lot deeper than just faithfulness. And, of course, you have to be faithful in your mind and in your heart and in your spirit to your husband as well. And I knew that I compromised in many of those ways in the early years of my marriage, and it was devastating.
- Ankerberg: Let me give a couple of the statistics that you put in the book that shows the seriousness of the problem for married women. Approximately 50% of marriages end in divorce. There are no women that sign up and say I do with the intention, “I am going to break my heart and split,” but that is what is happening. 65% of children in our country will grow up fatherless for a time in their lives. You say co-habitation is at an all time high. And 95% of couples say they do not want a marriage like the one that their parents had.
- Now let’s segue from that, in terms of those statistics, into the fact that here you were a straight A student, you were going to go to med school, you eventually were working in terms of a mortuary, and you were dating guys, you were a Christian girl, and you got married. And after you were married, the fact is, you said you were having an emotional affair with five different guys besides your husband.
- Ethridge: I was a very busy girl. I am not proud of those facts, but the reality was you know my accounting professor at college and my scuba instructor and my aerobics instructor and the guy that sat next to us at church. And you know, there were all these different men in my life that were fueling my passion for emotional connection by going out of their way to compliment me, to call me up in the middle of the day, to invite me to lunch. And I was thinking, “Well, it is not like I am having sex with them, so it is my marriage, it is not hurting me.” And I totally failed to understand that the more my heart gravitated in their direction the further away my heart was gravitating from my husband.
- And with every unfair comparison, “Oh well, you are not as witty as professor so and so, and you don’t make me feel as safe and secure as my scuba diving coach,” and just on and on, his worth kept coming down a notch over and over in my eyes, and I couldn’t appreciate him anymore. He left cabinet doors open, and he left toothpaste in the sink, and he left the toilet seat up, and left underwear in the floor, and he was human. And I was only looking at the bright and shining qualities of these other men and thinking you just don’t measure up, Greg. And it was a totally unfair thing to do and I think it was just as devastating to our relationship as if I had had a sexual affair.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, let’s drive this in one more point. A lot of women say, “I haven’t got any sexual problems here in the sense that the stuff that you are talking about, or you have written in your book, that it really applies to me.” But you are saying it applies to every woman who is listening that is married.
- Ethridge: Oh, absolutely. I mean, over and over I failed to sever the soul ties that connected me to every man that I had had sex with. And just for example, one of the men that I just constantly compared my husband to was Ray. He was the dean of my college, and I had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with him when he was married. He wound up leaving his wife and we lived together for a year before I came to my senses and realized, he’s 20 years older than me. I am 20, he is 40. This is a father figure in my life. This is not a real intimate relationship.” And finally found the strength to leave that. Yet years later I am telling my husband, “I just wish you would be a lot more suave and debonair and romantic like Ray.” And I couldn’t believe I said it, but that was what was in my heart and my mind at the time. And my husband just very lovingly and very calmly said, “Shannon, you have no business comparing me to a man that you had no business being in a sexual relationship with.”
- Arterburn: And if Ray’s wife is watching, I am glad that she is finally on to this guy. But you know, what Shannon was doing is what so many women do. They set their expectations high because they have idealized other men or other male figures in the absence of a real male father in their life, not a father figure, but a real connecting father. They idealize what a man should be and could be, and then once they are in the marriage, they never ever allow their husband to be who he is or what he could be.
- Ankerberg: He can never measure up.
- Ethridge: Right.
- Arterburn: So rather than free him to be all he can be, they are trying to conform him to an idealized image that they can never meet. So you end up with a woman who stubbornly resists anything this guy wants to do. She doesn’t want to be a part of it, because he is not the man she wanted him to be. And then she has this arrogant entitlement, “since he is not who he needs to be, I am entitled to go and get what I need and get what I want from other sources.” And as long as it doesn’t become physical, then in her mind, “I am within the guidelines.” Well, if you get close enough to the fire eventually you are going to get burned, and then you have to deal with that.
- But I really believe that so much of our marital discontent comes from a women’s high expectations, and then from a man’s expectations of what it means to be the “leader,” which really means dictator many times to him. And so you get these two disconnected people in a marriage, and it is no wonder it is not working. And her part, which we’re talking about today, her part of this is stop the comparison, lower the expectations, and burn those bridges to those soul ties that she has. And it is very hard for a woman who wants to stay connected to a history and all the wonderful feelings that they had with a person. But it is that official burning of the bridges and breaking those soul ties that will free a man to be all that he can be and meet some needs – not ever meet all needs.
- Ankerberg: But, Shannon, isn’t one of the things the women, if they give up this illusion of what a man ought to be, they feel like, “I’m dead in the water?”
- Ethridge: It can be a scary place, but again exactly as Steve described is how I was living my life. It was at about the seven year mark of our marriage that I approached my husband saying, “You just don’t meet my emotional needs.” And I was thinking of leaving him and my two very young children. Aaron was three, and Matthew had just been born, but I was thinking of leaving in pursuit of the love that I felt entitled to. And fortunately Greg saw past my weaknesses to my needs and spoke the truth in love and said, “Shannon, you have a Grand Canyon of emotional needs. And even if every man in Dallas lined up outside your doorstep, it would never be enough to satisfy you.” He said, “And until you look to God to satisfy your emotional needs there is nothing I can do.” And while many women…
- Arterburn: Before you go on from that, to me I have always been impressed with two pieces of this story. One is that her husband who, he’s kind of like Zeus or something, this guy has got it together. But he knew how to respond to his wife in a connecting way, with wisdom, and he did it. And so often us men, we don’t talk; we pull away and so we don’t influence the outcome of the disaster. But the other thing about Shannon’s story that I have always been impressed with, this wasn’t a woman of the streets. You know, she wasn’t out selling herself, you know, she wasn’t involved in porn shop stuff or whatever, she was a Christian woman she….
- Ethridge: I was a youth pastor.
- Arterburn: …and involved in the church; ready to walk out on her marriage with two kids. And if somebody on this profile is willing to do that, well certainly you can see why so many other women on the fringe of church were also ending up at a place where they say, “Maybe I just need to leave.”
- Ethridge: Well, most women would have been offended if their husbands had said something like that. But to me it rang so true in my spirit, because I had given lots of men plenty of opportunities to meet my emotional needs and no man ever fit the bill. And the insightful thing that Greg said to me was, “Shannon, I know that this isn’t about you and me. This is about you and your dad.” And I could not understand that, but when my counselor – I went through six months of intense group and individual counseling and sex and love acts anonymous meetings – and when I had to make a list of all of my sexual partners throughout my teenage years, the common thread among them all was that they were significantly older than me and in some form of authority over me. And that told me that I had been pursuing a father figure. And that I needed healing in my relationship with my heavenly Father and also healing in my relationship with my earthly father. And God has been very good to bring that about.
- Ankerberg: Alright, you said that you have got to emotionally connect and have a love affair with the Lord Jesus Christ. And a lot of women would say, “I don’t understand what you are talking about.” We are going to take a break and I want you to explain that when we come right back.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we are back and we are talking with our guests. And we have got Steve Arterburn and Shannon Ethridge and Fred Stoeker. And we are talking to married women. What are the battles that you are facing for sexual integrity? And Shannon, you made a statement in the last part of our program where you talked about, if you give up this ideal for this man, and yet you are living with this real man over here that you don’t have a whole lot of hope for, of establishing emotional and sexual intimacy with, how in the world does turning your attention to Jesus Christ and having a love affair with Him enhance your ability to love your husband, the one that you have got?
- Ethridge: Well, often times women assume that if I let go of my ideal that my husband doesn’t live up to, what have I got left? What you have got left is reality. And you can actually make reality really, really wonderful when you start looking to God to meet your emotional needs. And that is a foreign concept with many women. Unfortunately, we grow up in churches where the preaching is all from a masculine perspective, and they don’t preach a whole lot about Jesus being lover of your soul in the majority of the churches in America. And so this is a new concept for me as a 20 something year old youth pastor.
- But what I realize is that, you know, my walk with the Lord is very, very public. Here I am in youth ministry. I have the Jesus bumper sticker, and I have the entire wardrobe of tee shirt with Christian slogans on it, and I go to church, and I go to Sunday School, and I sing really loud when I go to church. And yeah, I thought I was doing all the right things. And what I failed to understand is that, you know what, the only time you take your Bible off the shelf is when you need to prepare a lesson for the youth group. The only time you are ever really in prayer to God is to give you another morsel of something you can use in your ministry. And I failed to understand the importance of having that intimate relationship with God. Again, intimacy being what women crave most.
- And I had to understand that all love affairs are carried on in private. If the only time a husband and wife ever spend together is out in public, they really don’t have a very intimate relationship. And I needed to engage in an intimate relationship with God in my own private quiet time. I needed to spend time in my closet, with the Word, praying my heart out, listening for His voice. And it became a two way conversation, that it wasn’t just me telling God what I thought He should know, it was God telling me what I needed to know. And it truly developed into a relationship such that the burden of responsibility… I didn’t have to place on my husband’s shoulders to be my all in all anymore, because Jesus was my all in all and anything that Greg gave me was just icing on the cake. And our relationship thrived under that type of circumstance, that Greg no longer felt as if he could no longer live up to my needs. God was filling my cup and anything that Greg gave me was overflow.
- Ankerberg: Were you like guys? The guys when they let in sexual fantasies and pornography and had actual affairs, they felt a distance from God. Did you come to a spot that you thought your thoughts and your fantasies and your emotional attachments were distancing you from God?
- Ethridge: Absolutely. It is these extramarital affairs that really distanced me from God. And, of course, those three hours that my children are napping that I was watching soap operas, I could have made a really good use of reading the Bible and praying and writing in journals and things of that nature. But it is those emotional connections whenever I felt any kind of need in my life, whether it was emotional or spiritual, social, I would run to these guys instead of to God.
- And one day I realized that, okay, this relationship that I have going on with this guy right now it is co-dependent and it is dysfunctional and it has got to stop. And he would call – and they didn’t have caller ID back then, and so I would just let the answering machine screen my calls. And whenever it was a hang up, I knew it was probably him. And at one point I wanted so bad to pick up that phone and call him back and say, “Was that you that just called?” But I saw a red sharpie marker on the counter and I picked it up and I drew a big red circle on the palm of my hands, and told myself, “I will not do that. I will die to myself. I will die to my fleshly desires. I will be crucified with Christ so that He can live through me.” You see, there has to come that time where you make that decision and you draw that line in the sand and say, “I am not going to cross into that territory of compromise anymore.”
- Ankerberg: Steve, you have got an interesting little thing that you want to say, and it comes with a question. What is the most dangerous possession that the married women that are listening to us right now, if they have it, what is the most dangerous possession they can own?
- Arterburn: Well, I think the most dangerous thing you can carry around with you is justifiable resentment. And it begins with your father. If something happened with your dad and you – and anybody you tell this to, they would say, “Oh, my goodness, well, no wonder,” or “You should be angry.” And that enables you to carry that anger and resentment toward your dad. Even if you don’t have it toward your dad, and you bring that same justifiable resentment into a marriage, and you hold that against your husband. Maybe he has done something really crummy, and anybody hearing that he had an emotional affair, or he is unkind to you, they would say, “Wow, you ought to be angry about that. You ought to resent that.” And you feel totally justified in hanging on to that resentment. That will allow you, enable you, make you feel entitled to anything that you want. And that is what I love about the Bible. This God of ours is so smart; because the whole thing rests on being able to have, just like a computer a redo key for the marital relationship, and that is forgiveness and acceptance.
- If you resent him and you justify that resentment – you don’t want to enable evil; if he has a drug problem or beating you or whatever, you need to be sure that you are safe, and you get that stopped, you get treatment – but if there are these things in your life that you need to forgive him for, and you need to accept the things in him, when you start to do that, it frees him to be a man. And it also takes your focus off of all the things out there and brings it right back where it needs to be, and that is his heart. You have a chance at connection at that point. But if you hang onto your justifiable resentments and continue to build that case against him, you most likely will end up in some kind of divorce. Whether you are living in the same house or not, you will never connect with that man’s heart.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, let’s punch that in a little bit further here, Shannon. There are some women that are saying, “I understand what you are saying, but I am not going to do it. I am not ready.” What would you tell them?
- Ethridge: That pride comes before the fall, that when we can humble ourselves and acknowledge our part in the dance of discontentment, then things can truly change. And you know, so many women say, “Well, I often fantasize about who the next man in my life will be after my husband dies.” Or, “Maybe he will leave me, but I would never leave him, because then what would the church think about me?” That kind of a thing. But they would start entertaining those thoughts, and they think that they would be so much happier with somebody else. And that is why they fall into emotional affairs and sexual affairs.
- But what I want to say to her is, a different person is not going to change the relational dynamic, because the common denominator in each of those relationships is you. And until you change you, you are not going to change the relational dynamic. And until you are happy with yourself you are not going to be happy with any other man. No man can fulfill you and make you feel good about yourself. That has to be something that comes from God and from within yourself.
- Ankerberg: Fred, you haven’t said a whole lot in this program, tell me what you are thinking.
- Stoeker: Well, just what she just said about being happy with yourself. The instant thought was my wife, Brenda. She was raised in a fairly perfect home, a Christian home. And as she was raised and then came into my life, I noticed immediately there is a deep self confidence in her. I mean, she knows who she is, she loves who she is. She has never accomplished any great shakes in life. She always only wanted to be a mother, raise kids, be a good wife. And so it is not like she is some kind of a genius out there that’s accomplishing great work. But the amazing thing about her is that she has a self image and a self concept that is that strong. And one of the things that did for me in my life is, I came into marriage with a lot of baggage, and just the strength of seeing her confident and then being able to speak out of that confidence to me, helped me to drop all my baggage. And now we have a great relationship.
- Ankerberg: Let’s comment, as we close this program, on some of the myths that keep women standing in the line of fire here for sexual temptation. Real quickly, “I am mature enough watch any movie or television show, read any book, listen to any music.”
- Ethridge: Garbage in, garbage out. It is going to rot in your life and it is going to stink.
- Ankerberg: “It doesn’t hurt if I fantasize about someone other than my husband when we make love.”
- Ethridge: Making love is not just about physical intimacy; it is also about mental intimacy. You need to be mentally present with your husband.
- Ankerberg: Do women actually think what you just said, that “if my husband dies, I am already picking out the next one”?
- Ethridge: Yeah, they just think that their life will be so much better if they have a different partner.
- Ankerberg: What do you say to those people?
- Ethridge: Again, changing partners isn’t going to change anything about you. You need to fix you. And when you fix you, you might find that this relationship that you have with the husband that you have now can become wonderful, can fulfill the dreams that you had for marriage when you were a little girl.
- Ankerberg: “Masturbation doesn’t hurt me or my relationship with God or my husband.”
- Ethridge: The more you separate yourself from your husband to gratify your own sexual desires, the less desires you will have to be intimate with him. You are robbing him of the sexual intimacy that you promised him at the altar. And you are robbing yourself of the intimacy and the connection that you long to have with another human being. Flying solo does not fulfill you.
- Ankerberg: What do you say to the women that say, “Shannon, nobody understands me”?
- Ethridge: Well, you know we would draw a bell curve and we would say, you know what, there are 10% of the women on the planet who really are June Cleaver type of gals, that would never dream of looking at anybody but Ward. And on the opposite end of the spectrum you have the Playboy bunny type of girl. But in the middle, you have 80% of women who struggle with sexual integrity to varying degrees. And you are not alone in your struggle.
- Ankerberg: Alright, next week we are going to flip this. And Fred, give me the punch line. You became a Christian, you married a wonderful woman, and within nine months she looked you right straight in the eye and said what?
- Stoeker: “My feelings for you are dead.”
- Ankerberg: Alright, a lot of married men who have had their women, their wives, say that exact same thing to them. And what do you do? What are the challenges that married men are facing today? We will talk about that next week you won’t want to miss it.