The Challenge Facing Every Woman/Program 3

By: Steve Arterburn, Shannon Ethridge, Fred Stoeker; ©2007
How can you mend a broken marriage? How can you guard your mind, heart, and body against sexual and emotional compromise?



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: Welcome to our program. We have got a great one for you today. We want to talk to married men. Every married man that is out there, if you are listening, this program is for you. We have got some bestselling authors with us, I mean to the tune of 2-3 million books they have sold. One of them is, “Every Man’s Battle.” Here is the deal is that a lot of guys that are listening is that you thought, “If I can just get to being married, once I get married all my problems are solved.” Fred, in a way you thought that. What happened?
Stoeker: Oh, I really thought it was going to be great. As a matter of fact, I thought I was God’s gift to Brenda. I had grown up, I was valedictorian, and I was class president, and I was athlete of the year, and it just goes on and on. And then when I went to college I studied a lot about marriage and relationships; and every girl that I ever dated the parents would say, “Now he is a keeper, you ought to get him.” And so when I got married I thought I was going to be a great leader, perfect in every way. And I thought Brenda would be this great wife because she was a Christian. I thought we had it made.
But you have to understand, men, there is no guarantee at all, because the only guarantee that you get is that it is going to be a steam roller; and it is going to steam roll a lot of the dreams that you have. What happened to us is I married Brenda, but just five months before that, her dad died. And that created a whole wave of grief. And then when I tried then to take her away from home, marry her and take her home to Des Moines, her mom was in such deep grief Brenda felt guilty to leave. And so she wanted to go home every weekend.
On top of that she was working in a new job that was very… just a dismal working environment. She had been raised in a church her whole life and now she’s in a city with no church, no friends, no connection. And then she is married to a guy that, it turns out, has a horrible temper. I used to break holes in the wall just for effect and just to be theatrical, just to make her cower, just to make sure she would do the things I would want her to do in my great leadership skills. And so we were in this spot where Brenda was just feeling rotten.
And then my family didn’t like her, and so we were getting phone calls, oh every other night. It was like the bombers in WWII coming over and flattening Berlin. I mean my family, either one of my two sisters or my mom would call and holler about how rotten Brenda was and why do I love her more than them and just on and on. This was a small apartment and she could hear everything they were saying even though she wasn’t on the phone. And it was a very, very, very painful time. And in the last analysis what happened was things started to crumble in spite of all the things that looked good at the beginning.
I remember going into a valentine card shop early on in our marriage and I walked in and I started flipping through the cards. And the more I flipped through the cards the more of a sick feeling I got. Because every statement that I read on those cards sounded so romantic and so connected and intimate. And I knew I couldn’t give any of them to her with any kind of integrity at all. And so by the time I flipped through every last valentine card I couldn’t find one that matched up with our relationship. And I walked out of the place with tears in my eyes just knowing how far things had sunk.
And then it wasn’t too long after that where Brenda came into the kitchen one day. I was sitting there, she sat down and she said, “You know, I really don’t know how else to say this so I am going to tell it to you straight.” She said, “My feelings for you are dead.” And it was in that moment that I suddenly realized completely where things had fallen to. And as a person from a broken home that all I wanted was to have a great marriage, it was the oddest thing, but all of those swirling emotions from the fifth grade when my mom and dad broke up just came swarming in. And I was feeling this, “what am I going to do, what am I going to do,” and it was just for day after day after day.
And after about two weeks she was at work one day and I just stepped up to the refrigerator and had opened it and gotten a glass of milk. I had it in my left hand and I had shut the door and again a wave of emotion flooded through and I started crying. And I just lowered my head and you know “what am I going to do?”
And it was at that point that I just made a decision, and it is like Shannon had said how important decisions are. I remember I had this glass of milk in my hand I had my finger like this, and I said, “God I don’t care how much gravel I have to eat; I am never going to get a divorce.” And I just made that statement. Now what that decision did was for the first time engage me in a different attitude towards my marriage. I mean, I had always thought it was going to be a happy ever after thing where because of my so called greatness and because of her great upbringing we would get together and everything would smoothly go forward. What I discovered was there is a great deal of effort, sacrifice and giving that has to happen in marriage, to the point of eating gravel if I had to, because I wanted to make sure it worked.
Ankerberg: What are the steps that you took when you analyzed your marriage? What did you have to correct?
Stoeker: Well, the first thing I did was I recognize, you know, there is more to this than what I thought. I had thought we had been having some philosophical differences, but what I realize when she came to me and said, “My feelings for you are dead,” that there was a lot more here than what I understood. And so the first thing I recognize is that I am probably not seeing very well. And so I gave her a blank check. And I said, “Brenda, you and I are at a crossroads. I don’t understand what you think; you don’t understand where I am coming from. Let’s go to the pastor, in fact, let’s pick Ron because Pastor Ron is one that he knows us a little but he doesn’t know us that well.” And I just said to her, “Look, whatever he said, I will do.”
And she was shocked to get a blank check like that, but she was very overjoyed because she knew what he was going to say to me and that he was going to tell me the truth. Even though she didn’t know him that well, she knew that any pastor would have to tell me the truth. And so she was very happy to go.
And the thing that really started to change our marriage was when I went in there, he made some statements to me about something called mutual submission, where there is a role for men to play where I need to make room for her and who she is in the marriage, not just my thoughts and my ways. And I had never considered that thought before. So as that began to percolate in my mind, then something else happened when we got home. And that is that I got right on the phone, because Ron had told us that what I needed to do was get right on the phone and call each of my two sisters and my mom and tell each one of them, “Look, I am getting down on Brenda’s side of the fence. I am not going to sit on the fence in the middle anymore. She is mine, this is it.” And I remember I had said I would do anything. And so I went home, I didn’t do anything. Took my shoes off probably, and then picked up the phone and I called all three of them and I told them just exactly that.
And she said that as I made those phone calls that began to change everything about who she thought I was. Because she could see that I did love her more than I loved anything else, and that I was willing to make that stand for her, and that I would make a promise like that and actually keep it for her. And so from that moment on our whole marriage shifted and we began a climb into a very positive place.
Ankerberg: Yeah, but you also said that your feelings were dead too, and yet you still did it. You took a new look at the word cherish and you realized you weren’t cherishing her. How did you get the motivation to say, “Even though I don’t feel this, I am going to do this?” And then when did the feelings come back?
Stoeker: Well, the feelings, the motivation, came through scripture and also from my dreams that I believe God placed in my heart for marriage. And the one thing was that I wanted to have a marriage that was successful and would last on and on. And so that gave me motivation to look at new things.
But in terms of the cherishing, I saw a passage of scripture back in 2 Samuel where there was a warrior called Uriah and his wife was Bathsheba. Now, while Uriah was off at battle fighting the King David’s battles, she was taking a bath on the roof. David saw her and they had a sexual affair. And then what David was trying to do was to get him to come home, have some way to, you know basically get him with his wife so it would look like the baby was his and then he could send him back to battle, and then when the baby came, nobody would know that it was David’s.
Well, the thing that was amazing about Uriah was when he came home he got drunk. David got him drunk so that he would go do that. But his commitment to the King was so strong that even when he was drunk he was still doing the right thing by his king and by his wife. So in the end David couldn’t pull this thing off and he ended up having to kill Uriah.
The thing that was amazing then in the follow up is that when the prophet came then to talk to David about this, he talked about the fact that Uriah’s only great possession was his ewe lamb that David had stolen. And it was that phrase, that Bathsheba was his precious ewe lamb, that changed my life. Because I began to understand that, look, I am not looking at Brenda like this. She doesn’t fall asleep in my arms while I am thinking oh what a wonderful person. I was starting to look at her as a witch, as a nag, as someone that wouldn’t give in to help make things work with my family. And I saw that there was a complete difference between the way Uriah saw Bathsheba and the way I saw Brenda. And I knew again that I needed to begin to say, “Look, she is who she is. I need to love her for who she is today, not for who I wish she was or who she will be tomorrow.”
And it was in that attitude where I was then able to love her through some of the things that really even to this day I would say she wasn’t living up to what I would have expected. But I loved her through that and I loved her anyway. And in that process her feelings for me began to grow again because she saw that I was willing to sacrifice and rebuild and to love her in spite of those things. And that made it easy for her to love me in spite of the things that I had been. We were able to forgive and move forward.
Ankerberg: We are going to take a break, and when we come back I want to hear Steve’s story about how the things that you were doing before you got married you carried over into your marriage and it really effected you. And the same thing for you, Fred. We will talk about that when we get right back.

Ankerberg: We are back and we are talking with Stephen Arterburn and Shannon Ethridge and Fred Stoeker. And Steve, it is your turn. Stuff that you carried into your marriage actually affected your marriage. Tell us the circumstances.
Arterburn: Well, I certainly wasn’t able to offer total devotion and commitment of every part of me. My body wasn’t going to go have sex with somebody else, but my mind certainly was going to continue to. And I really didn’t know what full commitment was all about. I lacked character. But the other thing that I brought into the marriage was disconnection; I was disconnected with other men. My grandfather was a very disconnected man and my father was a wonderful Christian man, but really never got this connection piece to teach us. And so there was just a built-in disconnection from the very beginning.
And so I, like Fred ended up, and we write about this in our book, trampling on my wife. And so many men under the guise of submission will trample on their wives. They take a piece of truth and they use it in a very untruthful way. And the only way that you can talk about a women’s need to submit to a man is in a truthful way in a context of mutual submission where she is submitting to him but he is dying to himself, giving up his life for her, and wanting her to live the life that she can live. Now if he is dying for her and she is submitting to him, there is a mutuality that makes that work. It is very fair and it really is a great way to run a marriage.
But if you just have that one sided piece which I did, I came from that construct of women submit to men. Now you know, if you are walking around the house telling your wife what to do and ordering her around and she is the doormat and you are the dictator, you know, I don’t know a lot of women that just crave having sex with the guy that is doing that. And it totally turns her into that walled off, brittle woman. And her heart begins to die. And it is when a man finally can see himself, see what he is to her, what he is doing, and many times under the guise of biblical principle he believes he is living out the truth, but he isn’t. When he starts to see it, that to me is the beginning of change in that marriage.
Ankerberg: Fred, do you talk about the fact that there came a spot where you said, “Okay, I’m going to do anything.” There might be guys listening who say, “I understand what you are saying, but I am not going to do it.” If they don’t do it, if they don’t start to follow these principles and so on, there is a price for them to pay in a whole bunch of areas that they might not be familiar with. Number one is you said you paid a price spiritually, what was that?
Stoeker: Well, spiritually it was that I wasn’t obeying God in how I was to lead in my marriage. Or sexually either, where I was masturbating, looking at all the women in their lingerie, all those things. So the reason I wasn’t connecting there was because I said I was one thing and I wasn’t.
Ankerberg: And you had a real distance from God.
Stoeker: Absolutely. It grew and grew.
Ankerberg: There was a price that paid with your wife.
Stoeker: Ah yeah. You know, I just couldn’t give my whole self to her because I wasn’t sure at that point whether the marriage was going to last. I knew if that marriage collapsed it was going to break my heart. And I didn’t want to have her have 100% of who I was, because in that day I would be a pile of dust. So I kept some of myself back.
Ankerberg: You said your church was paying a price.
Stoeker: Yes. I would be masturbating every Sunday morning before I would go to church, to lingerie ad inserts. When I would get there, I couldn’t pray for anybody, they had to pray for me. I mean, I was the one that was needy every time I went there. I was an empty suit.
Ankerberg: You said, “My children might have had to pay a price.”
Stoeker: Yes. You know, my grandfathers, my dad, me, we were all hooked on porn. And it was at that point when I was looking into my son’s eyes, knowing that if I didn’t find a way to win myself, I could never teach him to win. And what I was afraid of was that I was going to pass down my sexual habits to my sons and even to my daughters. And as that would happen, I knew how disconnecting that was, too. And I knew our relationships would be weak.
Ankerberg: Now, you finally made a decision and you thought, “Okay, I made that decision, and it should be easy to get that sexual junk out of my mind and clear up my marriage.” But it wasn’t easy; there was a price to be paid.
Stoeker: Well, the reason why I thought it would be easy was because I had dumped the porn earlier, when I got married. But at the time I thought I had actually done something, but I really hadn’t. I just changed the pictures of what I was looking at from Playboy to lingerie ads. I just thought I could dump all that, too. But what happened was in this case I started to have to decide to dump everything. Then I was actually dealing with my addiction, and I was dealing with those pleasures that it would always give. And it put me in a position where it was a much bigger problem than what I thought it was.
Ankerberg: Shannon, what are you thinking about what the guys are saying?
Ethridge: As Fred was sharing I was just thinking about how great I think that it is when he recognized all of these things and started starving his eyes of all of these other images. I love what you said about what happened in your eyes as you looked at your wife, that when he looked at Brenda she looked like a beauty queen to him, that she really rocked his boat in a way that she had never done before. And I think that that’s the desire of every woman’s heart is that we want our husbands to look at us and just drop their jaw and go, “Oh my gosh, she is just the most stunning woman on the planet.” But as long as he is looking at all of these air brushed models and masturbating to all these other images of other women, we are never going to feel special to him.
Stoeker: And you know, I was shocked at that too. You know, when I began this process I thought the only real thing that was going to happen was I would get closer to God. I had no idea it would change what I was doing with Brenda or how I saw her. Or I really didn’t know what would happen on the other side. But the funny thing is, as I began to cut all of these images out of my life, after a couple of weeks Brenda began to notice – she had no idea what I was doing – but she began to notice that I couldn’t keep my hands off of her. I was patting her on her rear and saying, “Hey, baby, what about tonight,” and just stuff like I hadn’t been saying for a while. And it was starting to really bug her because she is thinking, “What? Is he having an affair, trying to cover it up, or is this some kind of weird jag? I hope so, because I hope this goes away…”
Ethridge: Taking Viagra.
Stoeker: Yeah. She had no idea what was going on. Well, Brenda is not one who can just say, “Well, we will hope that this will go away,” and never say anything. At some point she just got frustrated with me and spun around one day after I had said one of those things to her about, “hey babe”, and she said, “What am I doing to be so attractive so I can stop it?” You know it was just one of those things where she did not know what was going on. Well, when I explained to her what I had been doing, it revealed something to both of us. I had not put two and two together until right then. But what I found out was, as I had been cutting those other images out of my life she had become more and more beautiful to me. And that is what was happening in this process. And what I would say to men is that this proves one very important thing. Some of your sex drive is being fulfilled outside of marriage by all these things you are doing with your eyes and mind. And until you cut that out you can’t have that sex life of your dreams with your wife that you have always been hoping for.
Ankerberg: Steve, in the last program you talked about the most dangerous possession that married men or married woman can bring into their marriage. Talk about the most valuable thing that you can carry in.
Arterburn: Well, in both of the stories with Fred and Shannon you hear this in there. And that is that they both had willingness. You know, if you go into a marriage with someone that is not willing to look at themselves, not willing to get help, you are going to have a disaster. If you are in that marriage, it is a disaster. So I would just say to anybody who is struggling, “Are you willing to do whatever it takes to fix this?” There is a wonderful verse, 1 Peter 4:1, where it says that we ought to arm ourselves with the attitude of Christ who was willing to come and sacrifice His life for us. And then it says this, “for when we are willing to sacrifice our lives we are really ready to stop sinning.” If you are willing to sacrifice, you are willing to stop the sin that is preventing you from having the connection and the intimacy that you can have in your marriage.
Ankerberg: I am so glad that you brought that up, because in our last program we are going to talk about the interaction between married men and married women. And once you learn how they are wired you say, how are they ever going to get together? And they both have to sacrifice to get together. And how that is accomplished is what we want to talk about next week. I hope you will join us; you won’t regret it.

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