Roger Marsh: Today on Family Talk. And welcome back to Family Talk with your host Psychologist and Author, Dr. James Dobson. I'm Roger Marsh and yesterday on the program Danny and Sheri Silk, joined Dr. Dobson to talk about how to build, repair, and maintain your marriage over the years. They shared candidly about those difficult first years of their marriage, and now they are back today to share more about how they made it and how they now use their story to help thousands of couples around the world keep their love on.
Roger Marsh: All right, let's pick up as Sheri explains a key longing in every woman's heart and how the father/daughter relationship impacts this desire.
Sheri: Part of it's fantasy, but part of it is a reality. In a woman's heart, she really does want to be just adored and we have this image in our head of this person that's just radically in love with us. It's not real all the time, but I even watched my daughter when she was in junior high or so. She came home one day and Danny was in the kitchen, I think she was 16, actually she was in high school, and she said "You know what, daddy? You're the first man I ever fell in love with." And she just kept going on to her room and Danny about choked on his sandwich. And it was this reality of he is this living, breathing example of love to her, and she's gonna go look for that love somewhere else.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah, that's right.
Sheri: And I think in a lot of brokenness in homes nowadays, lots of hurt and pain, and there's still these little girls looking for this love, and they see it in their daddy's first and how daddy treats mommy and all of that. And then when you get in a marriage and it's really rough, you think this isn't true. All these things I'd been hoping for they're not true. When really they are just laying in there waiting to happen. You really are wanting to be desired and loved and he really does wanna be your champion, your hero, and that's what it's supposed to be like, and when it goes wrong, we think it went away when really we have to go find it.
Dr. Dobson: You know, Sheri, what I have observed is that that's not the way father/daughter relationships typically are.
Dr. Dobson: I mean, it's the way it needs to be, and what the little girl wants. Her daddy is the first man to hold her and love her and kiss her and be her hero, but many daddys are so busy they don't even see their little girls. They see their sons because they know their job is to make a man out of the son. They don't know that their daughters need them as much as their sons do.
Sheri: Yeah. This example of love comes first from a father.
Dr. Dobson: If it comes.
Sheri: Yes. But the "Papa God" I mean. Our Father in heaven comes.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah. Yes.
Sheri: The source is there and then it comes through this natural dad. Our Heavenly Father put that in us to want that intimate love that just "You're my hero, you're my everything." And then this little girl, she either gets it or she doesn't. We have that thing inside us that wants to be loved, and then we get married, and sometimes the fantasy that we have in our head isn't matching the reality that we're living in. And then we're disappointed and we don't know what to do.
Dr. Dobson: And you said yesterday that your tendency was to get mad at him.
Sheri: Yes. I always say "Hello, my name's Sheri Silk and I'm a rageaholic." That was my emotion of choice. If I was sad, I showed mad. If was hurt, I showed mad. That was just my way of protecting myself. You puff up like a Blowfish no one will eat you. That was my survival skill was anger.
Dr. Dobson: How long did you live in that fantasy that you were talking about before you realized that that person you're describing is inside of you? When did all of that begin to become clear to you?
Sheri: When he realized it was his job to protect me, then he became moving toward me in the middle of our conflict, and so I just got to be myself all the sudden. I don't have to protect myself because he's understanding and loving and he's moving toward me. So, I got to be that vulnerable person that he wanted to see in our relationship, and then I started thinking "You know what? He is that person that radically loves me, and I can give him my vulnerability and my whole heart." I didn't have to hold back because I was afraid he was gonna hurt me.
Sheri: In my life everyone I had ever dated, cheated on me, besides Danny, until Danny. My real, natural father left when I was one. So, my experience is someone's going to leave you.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah.
Sheri: So, I was afraid.
Dr. Dobson: You were a victim weren't you?
Sheri: I was, but I became angry. I think him bringing himself and overcoming his own fears, because to move towards someone that's scary?
Dr. Dobson: Yeah.
Sheri: I was loud and mean and all those things. So, he had to overcome that fear and move toward me. I think that was the key to knowing this is gonna work.
Dr. Dobson: Danny, add to that?
Danny: No matter what she does she doesn't control me, and it feels counterintuitive to control yourself in a relationship with someone who's out of control. But that's where success is. She can't control me, she can't make me back away, she can't make me reject her. I'm blaming her for all these things I'm doing, but I'm the one who decided to do all these things I'm doing. She's not controlling me. She's handling herself poorly. It doesn't mean I have to. Oh, my gosh, what am I gonna do.
Dr. Dobson: How did that insight come, Danny? How did you begin to realize that you had responsibility to Sheri that you had not been meeting?
Danny: I think it was just watching the fruit of my behavior. In my head, I had a loving relationship with the woman who loves me, but what I'm sowing is rejection and punishment by silence and avoidance and disconnection. I'm sowing tons of fear into a relationship hoping to get love. It just doesn't work that way.
Dr. Dobson: Well, you began talking last time about the first 10 years being so rocky. In fact, even your premarital period was characterized by temperaments that didn't fit. They were in conflict, and you went to marriage counseling and took some of the tests that predict difficulty in marriage, and the counselor probably did you a great service or disservice by not telling you that you really shouldn't get married. You weren't made for each other, and your marriage wouldn't be made in heaven. You're gonna have to work at it.
Dr. Dobson: I'm not sure who was at fault there. So, you had 10 really tough years, and then you began to get a handle on what this thing called marriage is all about, and you've now lived together for 32 years and you're committed to each other and love each other, and you've begun writing books for others. Because you're trying to keep them from making the same mistakes that the two of you made.
Danny: Yeah. I think the hope that comes from facing an insurmountable obstacle and overcoming it and seeing our life on the other side of what felt like was going to stop you. My whole childhood all I ever wanted was a family. I wanted a whole family.
Dr. Dobson: Describe that to us?
Danny: Well, my parents, they had a tough time. My dad left when I was five. My little brother was one. My moved to a small town in Northern California. When I was going through my Masters Program, I had to sit down and do an autobiography, write 20 pages about my life, which really forces you to think about stuff.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah.
Danny: You just pushed way faraway. When I was eight years old until I was 12 years old, those four years when my mom had moved us up north, she was 24 years old. I stopped writing at 30, the names of the men who lived in our house, in those four years.
Dr. Dobson: In a sexual relationship?
Danny: Yes. That lived in our house. Some for a week and some for two months. I remembered 30 of their names. This is my childhood. This was before my first stepfather, which I had for three years, and then I had another stepfather after I left. I moved out of my house when I was 16 years old, graduated high school living with my girlfriend. So, we don't come from Christian families. We don't have a great set of skills. We have some tough, tough slopes to climb in figuring out how are we going to create a family that stays together for generations. How we gonna build a legacy that we wanna live in?
Dr. Dobson: And we're talking to people who have the same experience or similar ones to what you went through. You, Danny, seem whole today, seem that you have come to terms with life, you're serving the Lord, you're trying to help other people avoid some of the pitfalls you got into. How in the world did you overcome a household like that? With a mom living with all those men?
Danny: You know, I don't have any way to describe it except that it's just a miracle. It's a miracle of the presence of God in my life. I have no doubt that I just would have replicated my parents' lives. I have no doubt. That is the track that I was on. I could have easily done it, and it was the introduction of Jesus into my everything.
Dr. Dobson: What a testimony that is.
Danny: That changed how I see myself and how I see the future, you know?
Dr. Dobson: Sheri, when did you find the Lord?
Sheri: I was 21. I was just a young girl partying, just living my life how I wanted. Lots of different boyfriends and what not in my life, and I was teaching aerobics in a gym and I just was so depressed and so sad with my life, and earlier in my life when I was 12, I had gone to summer camp with a Christian friend of mine. She drug me to this camp, right? And so, when I was so alone and sad when I was 21, I thought "Well, maybe I should go to church."
Sheri: I didn't know where to go so I went back to the church, that's the gal that had taken me to camp with, and I remember sitting through that sermon and listening and when they gave the call "Does anyone wanna get saved?" I knew I had to do it. I was scared that if the Lord knew who I was, he wouldn't really want me. If he knew what I'd been up to and the way I'd been living my life, are you sure that it's possible that He died for my sins as well? I had to be convinced a little bit. Of course, they did a wonderful job, and I've been a Christian ever since. But I was on a road of destruction, you know?
Sheri: I'd look at my brothers and where they were going, and I have no doubt had I not met Jesus when I was 21, I'd probably been in multiple relationships, had children from multiple relationships. That would have been my life.
Dr. Dobson: Jesus is really the key.
Sheri: He is. Absolutely.
Dr. Dobson: That's not Christian rhetoric.
Dr. Dobson: It is the truth.
Sheri: Surrender. I surrender. I'm doing a bad job. I need some help. Please fire me from this job, and he took me in. The exact same time of course, I felt adopted into the family of God. So, I felt like I got mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters in the Lord that I had never seen people like this. I had never been in a house full of people that didn't yell at each other, or try and hurt each other, are sarcastic and mean to each other. I had not even seen that. I thought "I gotta have this. This is what I want. I want this family that loves each other and takes care of each other."
Sheri: I didn't know how to reproduce it. It took years for Danny and I to figure that out, but those hard years of us working it out, they are the reason why we're so passionate about helping other people. You know, Danny's book "Keep Your Love on" is written and forged from the years of us having to work it out. We carry hope.
Dr. Dobson: In the last program, I told you we wanted to talk about that book "Keep Your Love On." Explain what the theme is all about?
Danny: My goal is to help people realize how powerful they really are. I mentioned earlier the revelation for me came when I took responsibility for me in the relationship. Instead of blaming her for how I was treating her. So, "Keep Your Love On" is just a statement, it's just a phrase that really puts in front of you and me the idea that you have a choice. You can keep your love on or you can turn it off. You decide. But it's your decision. You're that powerful as a person. You're that responsible as a person. So, if you're gonna have a successful relationship with anyone, job one is that you keep your love on in each and every situation that you have. Because if you don't, you invite love's enemy, which is fear.
Danny: Love and fear are in this eternal battle, and love casts out fear and fear casts out love. Love is a wonderful counselor, and fear would love to be your counselor. So, you have to decide who is going to be your counselor in each and every relational exchange. Whether it's with your spouse, whether it's your children, your employer, your coworkers, your neighbor, whoever it is, you have to decide who's going to be your counselor? Will it be love or will it be fear, because that's gonna determine the fruit of everything that you do.
Dr. Dobson: Were you caught in that dilemma in your early marital life?
Danny: Oh, terribly.
Dr. Dobson: What were you afraid of?
Danny: I was afraid of not being able to get my needs met by her being happy. See, I thought that it was my job to make her happy. As a child, somehow I had these magical powers to make my miserable, codependent mom happy. She was so proud of me. It was like I had this magic dust, and I could just throw it on my mom, and she'd get all happy. Well, I brought that bag of magic dust to my marriage, and I threw it on Sheri, and it didn't work. It didn't work. I couldn't make this lady happy. So, I was in a free fall of trying to protect myself because I really only felt safe when she was happy.
Dr. Dobson: Isn't that interesting now, because yesterday, Sheri, you'd talked about wanting a man that would keep you safe, would fight for you, believe in you, protect you. You're having some of the same feelings.
Danny: I think it's basic to relationships is we chase the fear away. I think I was afraid of being rejected, I think I was afraid of failing, failing in being a man, failing in a marriage. I think I had a lot of expectations that life was gonna be easy and it wasn't. It was really hard. So, I was afraid I was failing.
Dr. Dobson: Sheri, you mentioned that you got pregnant very soon in the relationship. So, you had a baby to deal with.
Dr. Dobson: Did that help or did that hurt?
Sheri: Back to that test we took. Our pastor didn't give us the results of that test at the time when we were in premarital counseling.
Dr. Dobson: The one that said "Don't get married."
Sheri: It said "Do not get married. Do whatever you can to stop this." I was thankful that he never showed that test result to us. I think it would have given me an excuse if I was looking for a way out.
Dr. Dobson: That's good insight.
Sheri: I would point to that. So, I was thankful to the Lord for hiding that from us, and I think that having a baby and being responsible for this little person added to the tenacity that I had to just make this thing work. I did not wanna repeat my family failures of divorce.
Sheri: I remember Danny sharing a story about when Brittany was born, he remembers holding her. She just fit in his little hand, and he thought "She's so beautiful. If I don't grow up, she's gonna die." You know, that feeling as a parent like "I better grow up!" And I think having a baby for us was like oh, we had to pull it together. But did it make it hard? Yeah. We had more to fight about.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah.
Sheri: We definitely had more things to fight about, but we had more distractions as well. And I think part of our pattern was so I would pour myself out into these little children who reciprocate my love, and then it became another reason for us to be disconnected. Then I'm not pouring myself into him, 'cause it's hard. That would be another talk we had to have.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah.
Sheri: I need you to lean toward me.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah. There are very few people who are willing to be as honest about it as you are. A lot of people have gone through very similar things as you know. This is nothing new in human experience. But you have opened yourselves in a way that I think has been helpful to a lot of people. You know what, I hope that folks who are listening to this program will write and tell us about their experience. If they found things here that were helpful in these two days, or they get a copy of your book "Keep Your Love On", and wanna talk about it. I wish that they would either call or write us, 'cause that's what we're here for.
Dr. Dobson: We're here to help families make it. What a wonderful blessing it is that God wasn't through with you when you were through with each other.
Dr. Dobson: Isn't that a beautiful thing?
Sheri: Yes. Amen.
Dr. Dobson: And he is not through with you yet.
Danny: He is not.
Dr. Dobson: And the Lord is using you, Danny, in counseling and in seminars and conferences.
Danny: "Keep Your Love On", the acronym KYLO, we do KYLO conferences. But recently a lot of our attention is switched to our Loving on Purpose Life Academy, which is an online school, and we're really trying to reach more people just by not trying to be everywhere all the time, but make a resource that people can access the Keep Your Love On, the Loving Your Kids on Purpose, the parenting material, and then the cultural of honor material, which is really about leadership cultures, and building an online community that we can spend time with, you know, very much similar to this, where we would be talking about a topic and giving people access to some of the best conversations I've ever had. You know, being in a room with people who are doing the stuff. You're keeping your love on, you're showing your kids the way that God parents us, I'm gonna parent you. And a culture of honor where we are working together with other powerful people in such a way that we're working out our conflicts, we're protecting relationships above issues, and we're bringing out the best in each other every day.
Dr. Dobson: I'm gonna close with an illustration you gave in your book about the racehorse Secretariat. You wanna share that?
Danny: One of my favorite sports' figures is Secretariat. I think it was because I was a little kid when that horse was tearing up the track. It just seemed like Secretariat was untouchable. That horse was so much faster and had surprised everyone at every turn.
Dr. Dobson: There's a movie on that subject that really gets it.
Danny: I cry every time I watch it. I cry. I know what's gonna happen. At the autopsy of Secretariat, they discovered that the average horse's heart is about nine pounds, and Secretariat's heart was about 22 pounds. It was just the answer to how that horse could be so outstanding is the size of its heart. And I think that we as believers, we have the same setup. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, we have such a far greater capacity to love, to keep our love on, than the people around us. So, let's do it.
Dr. Dobson: Is yours still beating?
Danny: With all its might.
Dr. Dobson: Danny and Sheri, it's a pleasure to have you here, and a pleasure to get acquainted with you. I met you yesterday before the first program, and liked you, and I have enjoyed this conversation. It's brought back a lot of memories to me. I've had years of counseling experience too, and those principles are universal. I think they're built into the human temperament, the human personality. I pray that God will continue to bless your ministry, continue to give you strength and wisdom in knowing how to put broken marriages back together, 'cause that's where that big heart is, isn't it?
Danny: It is.
Dr. Dobson: Sheri, you gonna make it?
Dr. Dobson: Are you still angry?
Dr. Dobson: You got a smile on your face.
Sheri: Anger's just fake power, right? It doesn't work.
Dr. Dobson: Blessings to you both.
Sheri: Thank you.
Danny: Thank you very much.
Roger Marsh: You've been listening to Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk featuring Dr. Dobson's interview with Danny and Sheri Silk. I'm Roger Marsh. By the way, the Silks' website "Loving on Purpose" offers even more great advice and marriage-building tips, and you can find it at lovingonpurpose.com. Also, you'll find the Silks' book "Keep Your Love On" at that website as well, and we'll have a link for those resources on our broadcast page at drjamesdobson.org.
Roger Marsh: Feel free to browse our website for other helpful resources and tips and tools that'll help you build a stronger family. You know, we can offer these to you, because of the support of our ministry friends and partners, and if you would like to join the growing team of Family Talk supporters who pray for us on a regular basis, and support us financially month to month, call us at 877-732-6825 with your donation, or you can go online at drjamesdobson.org and you can give through our secure website.
Roger Marsh: Thanks so much for your prayers and your financial support, and remember to join us again next time right here for another addition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.
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