Lakewood’s marriage ministry addresses commitment, pride and intimacy at Spark Conference

CP: On the subject of intimacy or sex in marriage, churches sometimes avoid talking about that. Do you guys help couples in that area as well?

Clayton: I think it's interesting, Ashlee and I tell couples a lot that if you're not talking about your intimacy, if you're not talking about your sex life, you're probably not going to have a great sex life. In Ephesians 5 God tells us to submit one to another. You have to get to a place of that vulnerability of submitting one to another. 

When it comes to intimacy there can be a wide range of issues. There can be physical issues, there can be mental blocking or mental issues, or even your past. I think you come to that place of openness with your spouse, you come to that place of vulnerability that you're able to take care of it together, you're able to walk through it together. So that way neither one of you are walking alone, you both feel supported, you both feel honored, you both feel loved and security.

But I think a lot of times what we neglect to talk about is that vulnerability state. I think, for men specifically, it's really challenging for us because were brought up to be tough, be a man, don't show any emotion. But really, the thing that my wife desired most is, that I'd be vulnerable with her and it's probably one of the most attractive things that I can do toward her, which leads to intimacy, is if I would just be open and honest and vulnerable with her. I think a lot of times, we don't talk about that.

Ashlee: Of course, we talked about it. If there's anything you're going through, we want to talk about it, we want to help you, but a lot of times with intimacy, it's kind of like, let's look through the rear view mirror and see where is this coming from.

For me, I had issues with intimacy early on in my marriage but I finally realized that it had to do with some shame I had from my past that I've never really worked through and dealt with.

We talked to other couples about not meeting each other's love language, their love bank is empty. The other spouse has been taking a lot of withdrawals and not depositing anything. Especially with a woman, if she doesn't feel loved and cherished, then intimacy is really difficult for her. We talk about those things too. We really try to get to the root of where is this intimacy issue coming from. What's happening? Tell us what's going on with you, as a person, as an individual that's getting us to this place.

It's usually a bigger picture. We want to get to the root issue and we want to help in any way we can.

CP: What would you say is marriage's No. 1 enemy?

Clayton:  We used to think that the biggest issues were communication, intimacy and finances. We said for a long time that it was communication, and I think a lot of it has to do with communication.

But honestly, it boils down to pride. Pride can sneak in in so many different ways.

A number of years ago I was reading in Genesis about Noah. When he was off the ark he planted a vineyard, but he had too much to drink. He's laying naked in his tent and one of his sons comes in and sees him and realizes his nakedness, his shortcomings, and then goes and [tells] his other brothers. His two brothers cover their dad to not see the sin and the shame.

And a lot of times I've seen that in a marriage. You can see your spouse's vulnerability, you can see mess ups, and a lot of times, say, "Well, I gotta go tell somebody" or "I've got a point and poke at my spouse because they messed up."

Instead of exhibiting undeserving grace and covering your spouse, pride and selfishness says, "Let's go expose it," Grace and humility says, "Let's cover it." It's not that you don't talk about it, it's not that you get to that place to where you can deal with it. But in that moment of hurting and pain, you cover them because that's what you're there for as a helper, as a helpmate. You're there to cover your spouse and get them to that place of healing and of hopefulness.

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