Building a Passionate Love Life - Part 1 (Transcript)

Dr. Clinton: Hi everyone, this is Dr. Tim Clinton, Executive Director of the James Dobson Family Institute and President of the American Association of Christian Counselors. Wanting to take just a brief moment to let you know that we love, appreciate, and are praying for you. Our entire team here at Family Talk is doing that very thing. We also wanted to encourage you, if you're struggling or you could use some encouragement, to feel free to call us and pray with us. Our toll free number is 877-732-6825. That number again is 877-732-6825. Or you could also connect with us online at Thanks for letting us be a part of your life every day. We are going to get through this. Dr. Dobson said we are going to get through this challenging time, and we're going to do it together. Let's go now to our regular programming.

Roger Marsh: Hello everyone. I'm Roger Marsh, and this is Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. We have an insightful program for you today, but I have one small caution before we get started. The content discussed in this broadcast is intended for mature audiences, and it may not be suitable for younger listeners, so if you have kids listening in with you right now, parental discretion is advised. Okay, with that warning, let's get into our topic right now.

In the Garden of Eden, God created the institution of marriage between one man and one woman, and husbands and wives truly become one flesh through the experience of physical intimacy. Sex was designed by God to be exclusively reserved for the marital relationship. However, as we'll learn through this broadcast, that divine purpose has been wildly disregarded by culture. Today, we're reaching into our audio vault to revisit Dr. Dobson's conversation with Dr. Clifford and Joyce Penner. The Penners are sex therapists and relationship experts who have years of experience helping heal and guide marriages. On this occasion, they identified the societal threats to intimacy and described the characteristics of a God-honoring relationship. There's a lot of content to get to, so let's begin. Here now is Dr. James Dobson to introduce his guest on this classic edition of Family Talk.

Dr. Dobson: Today, we're going to be specifically talking about the sexual aspect of marriage, the very precious and intimate union that God designed only to be shared by one man and one woman in the context of marriage. And to help us do that today, we have two highly qualified individuals, a husband and wife team. Their names are Dr. Clifford and Mrs. Joyce Penner. Dr. Clifford and Joyce Penner are internationally recognized sex therapists, educators, and authors. Joyce is a clinical nurse specialist, holds a master's degree in psychosomatic nursing from UCLA, and until recently was associate pastor of Congregational Life at Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena, California, where we used to live. Dr. Penner is a clinical psychologist. He earned a master's degree in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, and holds a PhD from Fuller's Graduate School of Psychology. The Penners have authored nine books, including The Gift Of Sex, Restoring The Pleasure, and Getting Your Sex Life Off To A Great Start.

In addition to conducting sex education and sexual enhancement seminars, the Penners specialize in sexual therapy at their clinic. The title of the new book is The Married Guy's Guide To Great Sex: Building A Passionate, Intimate, And Fun Love Life. That's the goal, isn't it?

Dr. Clifford Penner: That's right.

Joyce Penner: That's for sure.

Dr. Dobson: You all have been working in this field for 30 years. I don't know anybody in the country that's more knowledgeable or better qualified in this area than you all are. Let's start with a kind of a cultural checkup. What has changed in 30 years? Obviously, we are a much more eroticized society now than we were then. I mean, it's everywhere. From Abercrombie & Fitch to the television, radio, books, films, I mean, it's absolutely everywhere. Has that resulted in greater spontaneity and greater passion in the bedroom?

Joyce Penner: Unfortunately not, and because the emphasis is on the erotic rather than on the intimacy, and so the expectations are that it will happen, like we see in our culture, when a couple gets married, and what we find is that the attraction of a new relationship that creates the passion, that initial hype of newness, dissipates in about six to 30 months, and if we don't make the transfer into an intimate, deep connection with our spouse, then that passion dies and then the couple will think, "Well, you know, I married the wrong person. I'm just not in love anymore." It doesn't have to do with love. It has to do with not being able to connect intimately at a deep level.

Dr. Clifford Penner: When we combine the erotic with the intimate, then we have a sexual life that can be celebrated over a lifetime.

Dr. Dobson: Yeah. Then, is it safe to say that there are more people who have a sexual dysfunction now than 20, 30 years ago when you started?

Joyce Penner: Especially younger couples start out with more disappointment.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Because they come with an expectation that it's going to be like it is in the movies or like they imagined it from whatever material has come their way, and in fact, it isn't that way. Whereas, in the past, we didn't have that set up of expectations.

Dr. Dobson: Well, it's not all fantasy. You indicate in the book, this was a shock to me. I thought I knew the statistics, that only 20% of the people who get married are virgins.

Joyce Penner: And, probably less than that.

Dr. Dobson: The politically correct belief at this point is that a young couple should go ahead and experience a sexual relationship before marriage so that they know what they're doing.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Yeah, the old-

Dr. Dobson: It does work that way.

Dr. Clifford Penner: "You'd never buy a car without doing a test drive," that argument.

Dr. Dobson: You know, I was about 13 years old when a 14 year old boy told me that.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Yeah.

Dr. Dobson: He said, "People really ought to live together because then it's like trying out a shoe." Can you imagine this? That was my early sexual training.

Joyce Penner: …sex education.

Dr. Dobson: Yeah, I never forgot his advice, although I didn't accept it. But, that is what's often believed, isn't it?

Joyce Penner: Yes, and it doesn't work because premarital sex is different than married sex, and many couples have difficulty transferring that premarital passion into their marriage because of our cultural expectations.

Dr. Dobson: And, there's a 50% greater chance of the marriage breaking up within five years if the couple has lived together before. It's a bad idea, but it's a very common one now.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Well, and still widely accepted in the culture, even after that statistic came out.

Dr. Dobson: What was God's original design for marriage? What do you think he had in mind when he gave us this gift?

Dr. Clifford Penner: The model as we see it, and this is why people over the centuries have compared the Song of Solomon to our relationship with Christ, because there is a lot of parallel. For the woman, it doesn't start with a sexual approach. It starts with an emotional, relational one.

Dr. Dobson: Sure it does.

Dr. Clifford Penner: And then, that opens her up sexually.

Joyce Penner: But, many times men feel incredible pressure, particularly when sex isn't going well in the married relationship, because they feel like somehow they should be getting her to respond, they should be making it work. And so, the pressure is in the wrong way. The pressure is on, and then she feels pressure because he's putting pressure on her.

Dr. Dobson: Especially today.

Joyce Penner: Yes.

Dr. Dobson: When it is so open, there's no modesty.

Joyce Penner: No.

Dr. Dobson: Things that are on television should embarrass us, if they don't, and MTV for kids begins talking about these embarrassing aspects of our sexual nature, and when you see all that and hear all that, performance becomes more important. You begin to feel you've got to do what you've seen others do.

Joyce Penner: And it becomes so goal-oriented rather than that relationship-oriented, and it gets focused on measuring how well we're doing and watching and spectator-ing, and all that pressure.

Dr. Clifford Penner: You see, that's what we as men do so naturally, because we almost inevitably want to win. We want to achieve our goal.

Dr. Dobson: Conquer.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Conquer. In fact, if you think about it in Genesis, when God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden, he said to Adam, "You have to go out and till the fields," in other words, you got to do something out there, and the first thing he says to Eve is, "and your desire shall be for your husband," which is a very relational thing.

Dr. Dobson: Yeah.

Dr. Clifford Penner: And it was there way back then already, and that's still true today.

Dr. Dobson: Cliff, as a psychologist, isn't that amazing that you find in those early scriptures the nature of mankind and woman-kind that is spelled out for us there, what was it, 5,000 years ago at least.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Exactly, yeah, yeah.

Dr. Dobson: And, there it is.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Yeah, and we see it lived out today. So, when men apply their goal oriented approach to the sexual relationship, where they're trying to achieve something or get somewhere or accomplish something rather than an experience of a relationship, it never works.

Dr. Dobson: So, when you're doing sex therapy with these couples, one of your first objectives is to get them to think in terms of relationships rather than achievement, conquering…

Joyce Penner: Yes.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Accomplish. accomplishment.

Dr. Dobson: Accomplishment.

Joyce Penner: Yes, yes.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Exactly. That's why we address The Married Guys Guide first, because that's a tough shift for a lot of men to make, because in every other area, sports or games or work or anything else, we're supposed to accomplish the goal.

Dr. Dobson: Do you find when men come in to talk about these kinds of problems, they find it very difficult to open up and be honest? I mean, there's masculine pride all over this subject, isn't there?

Joyce Penner: Well, many times it's the woman who comes, or she will bring her husband, even though he's the one, because he's hesitant to come.

Dr. Clifford Penner: So, you're absolutely right. It's difficult for them. In fact, we find at seminars that, you would think when you had a sex seminar at the church that all the men would sign up, say, "Yeah, that's what I want," but men don't want to talk about it, they just want to do it. So, it's always the woman dragging the man to the seminar, which is a rather fascinating thing.

Dr. Dobson: We were talking about the culture again. I want to go back to that, because I'm so concerned about pornography and what it's doing to us, especially internet pornography, which is so available. You know, people in respectable jobs would have to go to an adult bookstore and hope nobody saw them in the past and bring out a product in a brown paper bag. Now, they just turn on that computer and there they are.

Joyce Penner: There it is.

Dr. Dobson: And, so many people are getting hooked on it. Is that what you're hearing?

Dr. Clifford Penner: Oh, massively. I mean, we could fill our practice with just people who are sexually addicted to the internet. It is that great, and we're talking in all levels of life, all levels of education, Christian, non-Christian, it's just happening everywhere.

Joyce Penner: And, men tend to get addicted to the pornography, but women are getting addicted to the chat lines and the relationship aspect.

Dr. Clifford Penner: See, and that makes sense if you think about it.

Dr. Dobson: Sure.

Dr. Clifford Penner: We as men are oriented toward what we get-

Dr. Dobson: Visual.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Visually, and women are oriented to the relational, and so that's where they get hooked.

Joyce Penner: And, it so counters intimacy. It so counters what the man is really looking for. It always promises to fulfill, but it doesn't.

Dr. Dobson: You said in your book that in 30 years of being sex therapists, you have never met a woman who was attracted to pornography, per se.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Let's be very clear about that. We do not have experience with any woman who was addicted to it. We know lots of women who have used it along the way and even been attracted to it, but the addictive quality that we see in men where they'll spend two, four, six, eight, 12 hours at a stretch on it, we don't see in women.

Joyce Penner: But, we see that happening with them on the chat lines.

Dr. Dobson: And that's one of the things that's changed dramatically since you started?

Joyce Penner: Absolutely.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Yeah, when we were with you 21 years ago, there wasn't an internet, and you did have to go to the sleazy part of town.

Joyce Penner: And, we would have said at that time that all sexual addictions began between ages eight and 14, and that is mostly true. But, with the internet pornography, we find adults getting addicted at any age.

Dr. Clifford Penner: When they have not evidenced any addictive patterns, any obvious addictive patterns in their earlier years.

Dr. Dobson: You know, there are many people I fear, husbands and wives who use pornography to spice up their relationship, to generate something that's been lost and to, you know, get them back into a sexual frame of mind. Why does that not work?

Joyce Penner: That's interesting, because that's a common question that we get. You know, "Why can't we watch pornography together as a couple? It gets us great sex afterwards. What's wrong with it?" And, it's interesting because the secular research shows that couples who watch pornography together may have a much more exciting sexual experience right after they watch, but with time, they need more and more input for that to happen, more explicit, more involved, and they lose their ability to get turned on to each other.

Dr. Clifford Penner: So, they get further and further apart because they're focused out rather than on each other.

Dr. Dobson: They're into fantasy.

Dr. Clifford Penner: That's right.

Dr. Dobson: And there's nothing in reality that can compete with fantasy.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Exactly.

Dr. Dobson: When it comes right down to it, and what you mention Joyce, when I was on the pornography commission, that progressive nature of pornography is something people don't count on.

Joyce Penner: Right.

Dr. Dobson: I mean, what stimulates you today will not be enough tomorrow.

Joyce Penner: That's right.

Dr. Dobson: And that will not be enough the next day, and it walks you down the road toward harder and harder, more violent, more perverse activity in order to get the same stimulation. It's not unlike heroin. One little pill or one little shot, you know, is tremendously exciting, but it won't be enough. A month from now, you'll need more and more and more until it destroys you. That's what it does to a relationship, and furthermore, here I'm talking like the experts, you guys are the expert, but I've been there in-

Joyce Penner: But, you're the expert on the pornography.

Dr. Dobson: -that pornography commission, but also the women don't want to do what the guy sees in the pornography, and he demands things of her that are offensive to her and it becomes a barrier, not something to bring them together.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Well, let's talk about that, because-

Joyce Penner: Yes, that's a whole 'nother issue.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Because what the man sees on the pornography, whatever form he gets that in, what he likes about that is that the woman always does whatever he wants. He gets whatever his fantasy is because he can pick and choose from, you know, 150 million choices, and she never asks anything of him. So, it is a total non-intimate, one-sided event, and they always behave as if they're loving it. That's the whole idea of pornography. And so, it can't ever be translated back into the bedroom in a committed relationship.

Joyce Penner: But, men do then come to the married relationship and want the wife to dress that way, they want her to behave that way, they want to do the activities they saw in pornography, and she is many times trying to go along with that but feels offended, feels violated.

Dr. Dobson: Used, she feels used.

Joyce Penner: She feels like she's an object, rather than, again, it isn't connecting the erotic with the intimacy.

Dr. Dobson: And, he is not making love to her, he's making love to that image.

Joyce Penner: That's right.

Dr. Dobson: That he has seen. I wish everybody believed that. Do you attempt to treat pornography addictions?

Joyce Penner: We do.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Oh, all time.

Dr. Dobson: All the time.

Dr. Clifford Penner: All the time.

Dr. Dobson: How successfully?

Dr. Clifford Penner: If we can get people to acknowledge that it is indeed an addiction, get them to cop for more than they were busted for. You see, usually somebody doesn't come in until the wife checks out the history channel, walks in on him, comes home when she wasn't expected to come home, something comes up. It is very rare that a man will come and say, "I've just realized I need to stop this." That's happened every now and then, but very rarely. Most of the time it's when they get busted, but when they are willing to acknowledge the extent of their habit and then commit to somebody who they will be accountable to and recognize that this is going to be something they will have a tendency to slip into for the rest of their life unless they are vigilant and diligent, and then, that's the one side.

Joyce Penner: I was going to say, yes.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Then on the other side, we also have to work on building the intimacy in their marriage, because you see, a sexual addiction usually is a result of somebody who has not developed that intimacy in their marriage, so we can't just cut out the addiction. We've got to replace it with something on the positive-

Dr. Dobson: Yeah, you're really marriage counselors.

Joyce Penner: Yeah, yeah.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Exactly right.

Dr. Dobson: The sex is just a part of a much bigger picture.

Joyce Penner: Right, and we guide them through our book Restoring The Pleasure, which starts with kind of all over and building, how do you connect with someone physically, emotionally, and spiritually? How do you bring-

Dr. Dobson: How about that? We're talking to men right now.

Joyce Penner: Yeah, yeah.

Dr. Dobson: Fewer men write to us, but they're out there and I meet them on the street, I know they're there.

Joyce Penner: Yes, yes, right.

Dr. Dobson: Truck drivers and physicians, and a lot of people are out there. Suppose that such a man is sitting in front of you and he says, "I really want to connect with my wife. I really want to love her the way God intended. I know this is right and I know that our sex life has been lacking and it has not been meaningful to either one of us even though we go through the motions. Where do I start? How do I get an understanding of what she needs from me? I'm a man, I don't understand women. I don't even understand my own wife." Where do you start?

Joyce Penner: That's great, and what we would encourage them to do is to take a book like The Married Guys Guide To Great Sex and read it out loud together, and then she can say, "Yes, that's exactly it," or, "you know, that isn't quite me," and he can say, "You know, I don't think that's true about men." She can say, "Well, I think it is." That's often the way it goes.

Dr. Clifford Penner: A lot of times couples, if you just sat them down and said, "Okay, now start talking about your sex life," it's a great silence because they don't know what to talk about. That's why-

Joyce Penner: Don't know where to start.

Dr. Dobson: That's part of the problem.

Joyce Penner: Yeah.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Yeah. That's why we have them read out loud together, and then they've got something to bounce off of with each other so that they can begin to get into the experience of discovering where the other person is and what their needs are.

Joyce Penner: Then, we recommend to couples that they spend 15 minutes a day together, and this isn't having sex, this is just connecting. We have a little formula that, and during that 15 minutes, they spend some time just, you know, face to face intimacy, just talking about "where you are, how was your day, what happened?" And then, maybe read a Bible verse together, some scripture, a couple's devotional, pray, and 30 seconds or less or more of passionate kissing. But, we believe that if couples kissed passionately every day and had some way to connect with each other and had some kind of prayer together, spiritual time, that this difference would start to happen. We doubt that many couples would get divorced if they could do that together.

Dr. Clifford Penner: 15 minutes a day sounds like very little, and we're all for an hour a day, but for most couples, 15 minutes a day of face to face contact would be a new experience.

Dr. Dobson: Not talking about sex.

Joyce Penner: No.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Not talking about sex.

Joyce Penner: And not talking about who's going to pick up the laundry or who's going to take the kids to their lessons or anything like that.

Dr. Clifford Penner: Just kind of where they are, what they're feeling, where their heart is.

Joyce Penner: Because, so many couples over the years stop kissing passionately, and the reason they stopped kissing is because the wife will think before she'll kiss passionately. She'll say, "Okay, now, if I kiss passionately, I know he's going to want to have sex, so I've got to be sure I really want to have sex before I kiss," and eventually they're not kissing very often and they're not kissing very passionately, and we believe it's the connection and kissing passionately that keeps the pilot light on.

Dr. Dobson: This half hour has gone by in a big hurry and all we have time left for is to say goodbye. Dr. Cliff and Joyce Penner, great friends to Shirley and me for many years, at least 30 I guess.

Dr. Clifford Penner: It seems like it.

Joyce Penner: I think so, I think so, yes.

Dr. Dobson: Yeah, and I appreciate what you all are doing. Thank you for taking the time away from your practice to come over here to Colorado and be with us, and there's a whole lot more for us to cover here.

Roger Marsh: An enlightening, biblically based discussion about sex on this edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. We encourage you to faithfully follow what God's word says about intimacy, especially in this overly sexualized society. Dr. Clifford and Joyce Penner have been our guests today, and we will continue their conversation on tomorrow's broadcast. In the meantime, learn more about the Penners and their therapy work when you visit our broadcast page at That's, and then go to today's broadcast page.

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Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.

Dr. Clinton: This is Dr. Tim Clinton, Executive Director of the James Dobson Family Institute. Thanks for listening today. We hope you found this program helpful and encouraging. Please remember that our ministry is here to serve you and your family. For more information about our programs and resources or to learn how you can support us, go to That's or call us toll free, (877) 732-6825. I pray that God will bless you in 2020. We're so grateful for your partnership. We ask you to stand with us and to continue to defend the Christian values in an ever changing culture. Thanks again for joining us. We hope you'll join us again on the next edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.
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