About the Guest
She was embarrassed, frustrated, and more than anything, angry. Jennifer Smith, author of "The Unveiled Wife," talks about her first four years of married life and the difficulty she and her husband, Aaron, had consummating the marriage. Smith tells how their relationship began to change when both she and her husband started being more transparent with God and each other. When they began to share their struggles with a few close friends, healing would slowly come from an unexpected source.
Jennifer Smith talks about her first years of marriage and the difficulty she and her husband, Aaron, had consummating the marriage. When they finally shared their struggles with close friends, healing slowly came.
Bob: For more than four years, Aaron and Jennifer Smith were unable to consummate their marriage because of the intense physical pain Jennifer experienced anytime they tried. It caused Jennifer, at least, to stop and wonder whether it was time to call it quits.
Jennifer: I never had thought that divorce was a route that I’d want to go—especially because I experienced, with my parents’ divorce, how devastating that is to a family. But once you get there, and you are hopeless, and your heart is so broken, that is an option that you start to contemplate. Once you start thinking about it and dwelling on it, it becomes real.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 13th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Jennifer Smith joins us today to share about how her faith and perseverance finally paid off in their marriage. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. We’re hearing quite a story this week.
I just need to pause, here at the beginning of today’s program, and remind our listeners about a special opportunity they have, this week and next week, to join us at one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. When you sign up, either this week or next week, to attend one of the upcoming getaways—you pay for yourself and your spouse comes free—it’s a buy one / get one free opportunity. This is the best offer we make on the Weekend to Remember throughout the year. We do this so that, if you will plan ahead and plan to join us, you can take advantage of the best rate available for the Weekend to Remember.
If you need more information, go online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can sign up, online, or you can call to register—our number, again: 1-800-FL-TODAY—and our website: FamilyLifeToday.com. We’d love to see you at one of these upcoming getaways.
Hope you’ll plan to spend a weekend with us this spring—renewing, refreshing, relaxing, and building into your marriage as the two of you get away for a weekend together.
And I just have to say—I’m feeling bad for you with this cold you’re struggling with this week. I mean, you’ve been—this has been hanging on here.
Dennis: I do sound a little stuffy, but we are pressing on here. We’re having a very interesting conversation around a journey of a young married couple who started out their marriage—well, to put it bluntly—were not able to consummate their marriage for over four years.
Jennifer Smith joins us again on FamilyLife Today. How’s that for an introduction, Jennifer?
Jennifer: Interesting—I like that word.
Dennis: But you’re the one that wrote the book—
Dennis: —The Unveiled Wife: Embracing Intimacy with God and Your Husband—Jennifer, along with her husband, Aaron—who has fully blessed her book and her work and ministry through the Unveiled Wife, which is a ministry you have on the web—
—live in Bend, Oregon, with their two children. You guys have been married, now, over eight years; right?
Dennis: Take us three-and-a-half years into your marriage. We’ve told the story of how you start out your honeymoon and you couldn’t complete the process of becoming one, as a couple, because of pain. By three-and-a-half years into your marriage, had the process changed at all when you all attempted to be intimate with one another?
Jennifer: It was the same—so much pain/excruciating. We just couldn’t figure out why. It kept me from even wanting to try. By three-and-a-half years, I was really isolated from my husband. I really pulled away from him and didn’t even pursue him in that area. I waited for him to come to me; but by then, he was tired of pursuing me in that area. So, our marriage was falling apart.
Dennis: You were coming up with all kinds of excuses.
Jennifer: Oh, sure: “My stomach hurts,” “I have a headache,” “I can’t,”—yes.
Dennis: But it was all to avoid what you knew would happen—
Jennifer: Pain; yes.
Jennifer: I didn’t want to experience that.
Dennis: On a ten-point scale?
Jennifer: It was a ten. It was pretty—
Bob: Like childbirth?
Jennifer: Actually, childbirth—I felt like I could get through.
Jennifer: After having two children—I know it’s crazy to think about—but I’ve been able to endure that pain without shedding a tear even. With my husband and me, I cried almost every time.
Bob: So, you had been to a clinic and had talked to a nurse who had given you suggestions. None of that had helped. Had you gone back for a complete OB exam? I mean—a couple years into the marriage, if this is still a problem—you’ve got to get it checked out.
Jennifer: Yes, I did. I actually had gone back twice. Both times, the doctors were like: “You look fine. You look great. You should have no problem being intimate with your husband.” I wept. I got in the car and said, “God, why?!”—just so angry / so frustrated—that I’d rather have bad news. I’d rather you tell me: “This is never going to work,” and that “You have some issue that you need to go have surgery for or whatever.” I remember thinking:
“I’m healthy?! You’re going to tell me I’m fine, and I have to go home and tell my husband that?!—that there is no reason why we can’t be physically intimate.”
Dennis: You all went on mission trips together. You were seeking to serve God, obey God, and trust God for Him to use you. In the midst of all this, you’re in a church. Did you tell anyone? Did you let anybody within your community / your spiritual community into the interior of your lives?
Jennifer: We didn’t because—well, my husband wanted to, but I told him I wasn’t ready. My heart was wrapped up in frustration, but also, embarrassment and insecurity. I thought everyone else’s lives looked perfect. Everybody else has a happy face and has love. You can see it—husbands and wives are holding hands and are building their families. Here, my husband and I are three-and-a-half years into our marriage, and suffering.
Dennis: And what would you say to a husband, who has a wife—and it may not be this issue—but it’s another issue that they’ve got in the marriage.
He wants to pursue some transparency with another couple in the church—
Bob: —and she’s saying: “No, no, no, no. Don’t tell anybody.”
Jennifer: I, first, would say pray for your wife and pray that God would change her heart because having those transparent relationships is what changed our marriage. I would also encourage him to keep inviting and keep asking her—pursue that in her. Just provide the times and ask her, “Do you want to go talk to So-and-so?” because it was my husband’s pursuit of that that eventually led me to talk to someone.
Dennis: What I hear you saying to a husband: “Don’t go past your wife. Don’t run past her and just force her to go do something. Instead, be patient; but pursue her. Don’t let her off the hook so easily,” because transparency in these situations will release a ton of pressure off the relationship.
Jennifer: Yes. And then, to the wife: “Allow your husband to pursue you like that and allow him to lead your family.”
Bob: You start your book—
—and you’ve already shared a little bit with us about this—Sunday morning at church, three-and-a-half years in, where in your mind, “This just is not going to work out.” You were ready to end it.
Jennifer: Yes, I was ready to have that conversation. It was scary, and it was terrifying; but I remember just thinking: “There is no other way. There’s no hope here,”—like, “This is not happening.”
Dennis: I’ve got to stop you there. Why take that route—the route of divorce—when you hadn’t tried the route of community and transparency with friends who love you?
Jennifer: I think the enemy is very good at spreading lies, and whispering in your ears, and convincing you to believe those lies. I believed isolation. I believed that divorce would have helped both of us because: “Then, we can start our lives over again—maybe, with someone that it would work.”
Once you start believing those lies, it’s like a snowball effect. I never had thought that divorce was a route that I would want to go—especially because I experienced, with my parents’ divorce, how devastating that is to a family. I’d always say:
“Divorce: That is not a route / that’s not an option.” But once you get there—and you’re hopeless and your heart is so broken—that is an option that you start to contemplate. Once you start thinking about it and dwelling on it, it becomes real.
Bob: Is the only reason you wanted out, at this point, because this issue of intimacy looked like it wasn’t going to go away; and it had put a wedge between the two of you?
Jennifer: It was the intimacy issue. Then, everything else was amplified because of that. We weren’t communicating to each other. We were frustrated with one another. It came out in our attitudes. The love seemed to dissipate. Now, it was just two roommates operating off of: “Well, this is what we think we’re supposed to do. We need to go to church, and we need to go to our jobs. We need to do this, day in and day out.” And we were just living—
Bob: But other than that, you are kind of in isolation.
Bob: He’s doing his thing / you’re doing your thing.
Dennis: Yes, she’s—
Bob: And a lot of couples get there.
Dennis: Oh, yes, they do. She admitted it earlier that she had shared how she’d wondered if she had made a mistake and didn’t really share it with her husband for a year-and-a-half.
That type of—well, lack of transparency / lack of communication—neither of you knew what was going on in one another’s hearts.
Dennis: So, at that point, you’ve got two individual people locked up, totally isolated from each other. It really is—you mentioned it earlier—there is an enemy of a marriage that honors God / that seeks to honor God in all that it does. That enemy wants to divide you, and he wants to isolate you. In isolation, he can convince you of anything.
What happened as a result of thinking about divorce in the church that day?
Jennifer: Well, it got stopped. Instead of me having that conversation with my husband about divorce, he ended up crying after the service. I said, “What’s wrong?” He goes, “I need to talk to someone.” So, we went to a couple who we knew in the church. He just started talking about his feelings about our relationship. It was the first time I had ever heard him open up as emotionally as he was that day about our relationship—
—the anger, the frustration, the “I can’t handle this.” He went from me seeing him as a patient man, and as someone who is enduring, to “He’s actually really broken.”
As he was sharing with us, he said, “I couldn’t listen to the sermon because I felt like God was just sharing with me the story of Jesus in the Garden, praying right before He was going to be arrested.” In Matthew, it talks about Jesus calling out to God and praying three different times, “Lord, let this cup pass from Me; and let Your will be done.” So, even though Jesus knew He was going to the cross—and He knew what He was going to endure was going to be so excruciating—yet, He said, “God, I’m handing this over to You; and if this is Your will, let it be done.” That was God’s will for Him that He would have to endure that much pain.
Aaron is crying as he’s talking about this. He looks over at me; and he says: “I committed marriage to you. I said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I do.’ And I’m supposed to love you like Christ. I’m supposed to sacrifice my life for you. So, instead of being angry that we can’t have a fulfilling marriage, I’m going to love you through it, no matter what.”
It just melted my heart. It reminded me of the purpose of marriage—that it was a reflection of what Jesus did,—
Jennifer: —and it’s a testimony of what He did. So, it’s okay to be imperfect. It’s okay to go through hardship. It’s okay to go through really frustrating—and sometimes, you don’t understand some of the things you go through in marriage—but that’s okay because, if you remain committed to one another and choose to love each other through it, you are actually reflecting what Christ did on the cross.
Bob: He was, at one level, renewing His vow to you in that moment.
Jennifer: Totally; yes.
Bob: This time, knowing what he was saying—like he didn’t understand it the first time. The first time he’s figuring the honeymoon is just hours away and, “We’re going to have a great time.” Now, three-and-a-half years in, he’s saying, “I know what this could be,—
Jennifer: —“and I’m in it.”
Bob: —“and I’m in it.”
Jennifer: And I think that’s important for all couples to hear right now—no matter what you’re going through—if it’s only been six months after the wedding or years, I think it’s important to make that renewal and to make it a daily thing:
“This is a covenant. This is a commitment that I’ve made. It’s not just based on feelings, or infatuation, or selfishness. There is another person involved, and God cares about your marriage.”
Dennis: And that kind of love creates safety; doesn’t it?
Jennifer: Oh, totally. I felt more secure than ever in that moment to open up and share what we were going through with others.
Bob: And so, did you, right there? Did you tell this other couple what was going on in your marriage?
Jennifer: Yes. Actually, in that moment, we talked a little bit more about some of the things that we were experiencing—some of the things Aaron brought up—and we prayed together.
Then, over the course of—I think it was two years—God just transformed our relationship. It was because of that transparency that came from feeling secure enough to open up and talk about it—that was huge for my heart. I felt like I was able to let so much go—and just release every emotion that I’ve had, every thought that I’ve had, and every insecurity that I’ve had. Just being able to talk about it gave clarity to my heart and to what marriage actually is.
Bob: Well, and somewhere along the line, here, somebody pointed you guys to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway; right?
Jennifer: Yes. Actually, we’ve had the opportunity to go to a Weekend to Remember just right in the midst of God working in our lives and working in our hearts to reconcile our marriage. That was an incredible experience because we got to talk about things that weren’t brought up yet. At the very end, they had a vow renewal. I remember just holding his hands, looking up at him, and said, “This is just what we needed.” It was really affirming to the love and the way that we were going.
Dennis: I don’t want to sound like a typical male here, Jennifer—because it’d be really easy, right now, to ask you, “So, Jennifer, how long did it take for you to fix it?” But I am curious because I do think a lot of couples, from the outside, peer into a relationship like yours—a journey that has gone through some hard times—and they think: “It’s going to be a snap of the fingers, and it’s done. It’s finished / it’s over. The problem is gone.”
What was the process that God took you through to ultimately bring some healing and where you could have intercourse together without pain?
Jennifer: So, after that moment at the church—where Aaron shared his heart with me and I got to share a little bit of my heart with him—it was about three weeks later that the Lord gave Aaron a revelation about how the environment might be affecting my body. He took my face wash, and he looked through all the ingredients. One of them was parabens. Parabens are known as an endocrine disruptor—they mimic estrogen. I think that, maybe, my body was really sensitive to it; but we took those out. Within a week, we had pain-free intimacy.
Bob: Within a week?
Jennifer: Within a week.
Dennis: Zero pain?
Jennifer: Zero pain.
Bob: So, I just have to ask you, “What was that like?” [Laughter]
Jennifer: Incredible! I was like, “This is our honeymoon!” This was—it was just prolonged a little bit.
Bob: It’s not like your intimacy was the whole issue in your marriage; but when that got worked out, it paved the way for lots of other things to get worked out; didn’t it?
Jennifer: Absolutely. I think, looking back on it, God had a reason why it was physical intimacy that was our struggle. God used it to refine us and to draw out sins that we were struggling with and to make us more like Him—to transform us. Then, once He brought us through that, He gave us the blessing of being healed in my body so that we could be physically intimate.
And for people listening—I just want to encourage them to “Hand your heart over to God and to trust Him, even if you are in the midst of a hardship, because He can use it to transform you. He can use it to bring out those things that He needs to touch and that He needs to refine in you.”
Dennis: You’ve been married over eight years now. Any times you begin to engage in intimacy with your husband where you are afraid once again? I mean, four years is a long time. That’s over half the length of time you’ve been married.
Jennifer: Yes. Even though that first time—a week after getting rid of the parabens—worked, I had a struggle through a lot of mental obstacles to be able to be physically intimate with my husband because those anticipations and apprehensions had built up over those four years.
There were a lot of just mental hurdles that I had to get through.
I think, for physical intimacy for women, the mind plays a huge role in your body relaxing and being able to do that. I still struggled with the fear of pain, and that did keep me from pursuing my husband quite often; but it was also something that God was working out in me. There are times that I do have those fears; but the more that we are intimate, the more those fears lessen. So, it’s like, “Are you feeding the / am I going to feed the fear, or am I going to feed the good thing that we want to take place in?”
Dennis: You know, most of us read a book like this and we think, “There is—that is just a very small fraction of the population that would have any kind of experience like that.” Yet, as you’ve already admitted, you weren’t being open and honest about it. So, you have to wonder, “How many people are suffering silently?” As you’ve shared your story, what are you hearing from people?
Jennifer: The biggest thing that I hear through sharing my story, online, is: “I feel like I’m not alone. You’re saying exactly what’s in my heart.” And I love that response because it reinstates the purpose God’s given me in sharing my story because, just like you said, I was suffering in silence. I think there are a lot of women out there that are suffering and not willing to talk about the hard issues.
Bob: And have you talked to other women, who were experiencing pain—and for them, it was something other than parabens / it was some other phenomena—but there was a turning point for them. Are you finding out other things that can cause this for women?
Jennifer: There are several things that can cause it like vaginismus and things like that; but when I get an email of a woman saying: “Hey, I read your book. I went ahead and got rid of parabens because we were struggling the same way that you were, and I’m healed.” I get incredibly excited because I know that God’s doing something.
Bob: So, three-and-a-half years into your marriage—if I’d come up to you, and we were just casual friends, and I said: “So, how’s your marriage—scale of 1to10? How are you guys doing?” What number would you have given me?
Jennifer: “We’re a10! We’re doing awesome. We’re doing amazing.”
Bob: You would have said it was a wonderful marriage?
Bob: If I’d really pried and you decided to get honest, what number would you have given it?
Jennifer: I would have said, “Zero.” I would have wept. I would have asked you for help. I would have—
Dennis: No, you wouldn’t have asked for help because you hadn’t come to that point. [Laughter]
Jennifer: That’s exactly right.
Dennis: You know, I hate to correct you here on the radio.
Jennifer: You’re right.
Dennis: You were locked up in isolation, which kept you from admitting where you were in your marriage.
Bob: So, here’s the question I’ve got for you, right now: “Eight years into your marriage, how you doing? Scale of 1 to 10, what’s your—
Dennis: Now, come on. Now, let’s be honest.
Jennifer: You want me to be honest?
Jennifer: I would say we are at about a 7.5 / 8. I think with having children, it brings up a lot of other moments for refining.
Jennifer: We’re working on it.
Dennis: No! Children don’t impact the intimacy / don’t impact a marriage relationship. [Laughter]
Bob: Don’t you want to turn around and ask Dennis how he is on a scale of 1to 10?
Jennifer: I would love to ask Dennis that question. [Laughter]
Dennis: And let me tell you—
Jennifer: I think the listeners want to know.
Dennis: It’s empty-nest, and it’s a 9.5 in the empty-nest. [Laughter]
I wouldn’t want to go back and learn all the lessons we had to learn all over again.
Jennifer: Well, I just want to encourage you, as an empty-nester, there’s a lot of people that have focused on the children so much that, when they become empty-nesters, they’ve forgotten how to focus on each other.
Dennis: Oh, yes; that’s exactly right. And what I want to challenge our listeners to do is: “Restate your vows.”
Dennis: This is a great reminder: “I would marry you all over again. I still do. I love you. I’m committed to you. I thank God for you.” Grab your spouse’s hand and pray. I don’t care if you are the wife or the husband—just grab it, and pray, and say, “God, I thank You for my husband,” / “I thank You for my wife,” because the only way we are going to address a culture of divorce is for those of us, who know Jesus Christ, to fulfill the most precious promise and pledge we ever make to another human being.
Bob: Well, and I remember Dr. Jerry Kirk on FamilyLife Today saying, “Every time a couple come together and experience marital intimacy, they are restating their vows—
Bob: —“to one another.”
Dennis: They are.
Jennifer: I love that—that’s beautiful.
Bob: And that’s a great picture of how you can—you could do that even today—restate your vows that way, if you wanted to.
Dennis: That’s a good idea! [Laughter]
Bob: And let me—
Jennifer: And if you are struggling in that area, go get help.
Dennis: There you go!
Bob: And there is another opportunity for restating your vows that happens at the end of every Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. It’s a very meaningful time for a lot of couples because, again, Dennis—for a lot of these couples who are re-pledging themselves to one another, they know the hard things that they’ve been through—and to say, “I’d do it all over again,” in the midst of that is powerful.
Dennis: And the Weekend to Remember gives you an island of clarity to get some tools and equipping to help you know how to turn your marriage license into a true marriage that can be a 7.5, an 8, a 9, a 9.5. Jennifer’s book, The Unveiled Wife—I want to encourage you to get a copy of that, too, because I think it will help a lot of wives and husbands better understand where they are, what they are going through, and how they can get out of the ditch.
And Jennifer—I want to say: “Thanks for writing this, for your blog ministry, and for all you’re doing for marriages and families. Tell Aaron he was a good sport to be on the broadcast with us earlier.”
Jennifer: Thank you so much for having me, and thank you for letting him join in on that.
Bob: Well, thank you again for your transparency here; and thank you for the transparency in your book, The Unveiled Wife. We’ve got copies of the book at FamilyLifeToday.com. I want to encourage listeners—get a copy of this book. Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and order online; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order by phone.
And, of course, the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway that we were just talking about—this week, when you sign up to attend an upcoming getaway, you pay for yourself, and your spouse comes free. Not only is it a great getaway, but this is the best opportunity you’ll have to sign up all year long. And the offer is good this week and next week only.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and register for an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—register over the phone. We’d love to see you join us at a getaway in February, or March, or April, May, June. Come be a part of a Weekend to Remember. Get away, as a couple, for some refreshment, some relaxation, and for a better understanding of God’s design for your marriage.
Now, throughout 2016, you’re going to hear us talking a lot about anniversaries. The reason is because, this year, we celebrate 40 years as a ministry. That’s a milestone for us. Honestly, there are a lot of anniversaries we care more about than our own; and those are the anniversaries that you are celebrating this year—your anniversary.
In fact, a shout-out today to Michael and Jami Goransky, who are FamilyLife Today listeners, who live in Trenton, South Carolina, and listen on WAFJ radio.
The Goranskys, today, celebrate four years together as husband and wife. They’ve already attended two Weekend to Remember getaways. Way to go, guys! Congratulations on your anniversary.
It is anniversaries, like yours, that are what matter, here at FamilyLife Today. Our goal is to provide practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family. We want to see every home / every marriage be a godly marriage and a godly home. And we’re grateful for those of you who make all of this possible through your support of FamilyLife Today.
In fact, we’d love to acknowledge your anniversary this year. Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Let us know your anniversary date. Maybe, we can give you a shout-out. I know we’ve got some creative ideas for how this anniversary celebration this year could be the best one ever. Sign up when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and give us your anniversary date.
Of course, you can also make a donation, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to make a donation at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
And you can mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear from Dr. Gary Chapman, who has some thoughts on how husbands and wives, who are very different, can find joy in their differences rather than just being irritated with one another. We’ll hear from Dr. Chapman tomorrow. Hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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