I had an opportunity to be interviewed on the Praise.com podcast. You can check out that podcast right here, or scroll down to see the transcript of my interview.
Garrett: We have with us a very special guest, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and certified sex therapist with special training in sex education from a Christian perspective. She has a passion for helping couples fall back in love and devoting the entirety of their marriage back to God, and she’s a personal friend of mine, Dr. Jessica mclees welcome
Jessica: Hi thank you so much for having me I’m excited to be here.
Garrett: no problem, no problem, we’re glad to have you
We’re glad to have you.
Guy: Oh yes, Absolutely. Garrett we were just standing back waiting for your guidance on that.
Bekah: Yea, woo, sex therapy.
Jessica: Everybody was smiling at me so that’s fine.
Garrett: We’ve got a live guest today y’all, it’s exciting.
Bekah: That’s awesome.
So Jessica, tell us a little about yourself; how you get started in the field; how long have you been a psychologist; things like that.
Jessica: Sure, so I graduated from Regent University in 2012.
Chris: For those of you doing Simple Math that’s 8 years ago.
Jessica: Thank you for that, I would have had to count in my head.
So, 2012 is when I graduated and I’ve been doing couples therapy work really since 2008 when I started at Regent. So I kind of started doing couples work then and part of the reason why I’m interested in intimacy concerns and sexuality um…really there’s several reasons but part of that is my work with clients.
So I just quickly saw that this was an issue that several people struggled with so I wanted to have the answers and be able to help.
And part of its my own journey too. So I went through some sexual abuse growing up and in high school and so that absolutely I would say pivoted me toward wanting to work on that as I received my own restoration and healing from God. When I got that there was part of that that did come through counseling, part of that through prayer and community support; but I wanted to likewise for others and provide healing for those that are hurting.
Garrett: Wow, that’s amazing. That’s a phenomenal story right there.
Garrett: So um, why is this issue of sexual health and honoring God with your whole marriage, why is that so important? Like, what do people miss about this?
Jessica: Yeah you know. It’s huge. First of all, our sexuality can’t be separated from the rest of who we are and our marriage can’t be separated from the rest of who we are. Like, all of that is part of our being and all of that is really under God’s control and under His command. Should be under His Lordship, so to me practicing good quality education and learning what it means to have an intimate marriage that honors God is just really important. And not just important, but it’s really something we can’t deny, because it is absolutely part of what God wants for us.
So, we can read throughout the Bible how our bodies are not our own, they belong to God, so we need to honor Him with everything we do, so sexuality is of course a piece of that. Not the only piece, by any means, but an important piece that I think sometimes we just don’t talk about enough in the church.
Chris: So with that said, do you feel that sex is an integral part of communication in a marriage; how couples interact with one another?
Jessica: Yeah, that’s a really fascinating question because I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone quite say it that way.
Chris: Well, there you go, I ask fascinating questions.
Jessica: And you’re hearing that from a psychologist, so..
So, yeah, I think it is…I think it’s interesting the way you say it because you’re asking is that part of communication and yeah, absolutely. So, we communicate on verbal levels, emotional levels, on physical levels. So yeah, I would say intimacy becomes kind-of this big, complex picture of our communication. Um, what’s interesting, when couples are struggling with their intimacy, usually they’re also struggling with talking about it. So they can’t formulate the words, they don’t know how to even go there, or there’s so much embarrassment…
Sometimes people will email me and they’ll say, I can’t talk to my spouse about this, and I’m like, but, you gotta talk to your spouse about this stuff. They are the one that you should be talking to about this stuff.
So yeah, I think it’s a big part of communication and when there’s communication concerns in the marriage we can often see that happening in the marriage as well.
Bekah: And maybe it’s kind of linked to, but how is the level of sexaul health in a married couple; how is that related to their overall marriage health? From what you’ve seen in your practice?
Jessica: Yeah, that’s a really good question too. So, you know, it used to be, there used to be this theory that if your marriage was going well then your intimacy would be going well also. Or the opposite was true, so if you’re having troubles in your marriage in general then you’re going to have troubles in your intimacy. And, that’s true, we see a lot of that today.
But, every once in a while, we see people that are functioning pretty well in their marriage; fully committed to one another, they’re friends, they just enjoy being together, but every once in a while they may find they still struggle in their sexual intimacy.
So, sometimes, it’s actually off by itself because of a lack of education maybe, a lack of understanding and how this is impacting the relationship, and certainly marriage and intimacy; it’s all just intertwined. You can’t really separate the two from one another.
Bekah: I’ve got a follow-up question then, based on what you said. You said something about a lack of education. Do you feel like in the church, this is totally a loaded question, do you feel like…
Chris: I’m crawling under the table now
Bekah: I’m the progressive one here at the table. Do you feel like in the church, we have good Christian sexual education for people growing up in church, and of course that was me, that was you, that was you; overall do you feel like by the time people get to marriage that have been raised in the church that they have some great level of like sexual education that goes on to help them in their marriage?
Jessica: I kind-of feel like when you’re asking you already know the answer. Ha.
Bekah: I feel like I do.
Chris: Well, I was always taught that you kiss someone while they’re wearing a bathing suit it only led to horrible things.
Garrett: Like dancing.
Bekah: French kissing also bad.
Chris: All learned in church, nah, nah, nah
Jessica: Yeah, you know; there’s a lot of misinformation in church. I actually; so I’m remembering a lesson that we had in our youth group. This is a long time ago, of course, but I remember this picture. So, we used to have this theme park. I grew up in Houston and we used to have this theme park called Astroworld. So, they had the little kiddie rides and the had the big cool rides.
And, I remember this illustration one time that one of the youth speakers were giving and they showed the little kiddie ride, right and they said “this is sex before marriage.” And then they showed the best ride at the park, and they’re like, “this is sex after marriage.”
And, their point of course is, “this is why you wait.”
Jessica: Which isn’t true. That’s not why we wait. We wait because God has commanded it and we honor him with our bodies.
Garrett: Hmm, there you go.
Jessica: I know. Preach it, right? Haha So, that’s not why we wait.
But unfortunately, I think a lot of times in the church; first of all, there’s just some confusion on how do we even have this conversation. How do we have it in a way that’s holy and pure and how do we have it in a way where we’re not encouraging people to go explore this part of their lives that they’re not supposed to explore yet.
I mean, I don’t fault people for that because there’s been such a lack of education and training that we just don’t know how to do this. In fact, during the introduction you were saying, Garrett, that I’m a sex therapist, but I’m actually a Certified Christian sex therapist which is a litttle bit different.
Chris: A whole new, whole different dimension. Would that be accurate?
Jessica: Right. Absolutely. So there’s less than a 100 of us in the world practicing as Christian sex therapists.
Jessica: And it is different because we take all the education and all the training; so we learn all the anatomy, we learn about different dysfunctions and disorders and we learn about the proper treatment for those but we do all of that within the spiritual picture of who God is, and who he says we are.
Jessica: And that is different, but it’s just going to take a little while for us to get that information into churches because it seems like a really scary topic. Which is funny, because God is the one who created our bodies, he created every part of our bodies, not just like our nose and our ears and our eyes.
So, we can talk about these things, we just have to do it in a way that’s holy and the world is so distorted what sexuality is that I think it’s hard for us to sometimes see that sexuality is holy and intimacy is a good thing and God has created our bodies really perfectly for one another.
So, all of that we’ve got to learn to speak about in ways that are going to be more edifying to the church, and build people up, and teach them how to walk in holiness.
Chris: So is that a tall task?
Jessica: Uh, yeah!
Chris: To change those views and
Garrett: It’s a paradigm shift.
Jessica: Yeah, it is.
Chris: It is.
Bekah: Well you’re standing in the middle; on one side of this very distorted view of sex that the world may have, that culture may have, and then a very kind-of repressed view of sex that the other side has, and you’re in the middle trying to bring those two togeher for people today who are maybe married and maybe having issues and struggling; and you’re helping them try to see things in a different light, which I think is needed.
Garrett: Yeah, it really is.
Jessica: And it really is that paradigm shift because I’ve worked with a number of couples, so this is not isolated work; I’ve worked with many couples who might be married one year or two years or more and come to see me and they’ve never actually completed intercourse because there’s so much anxiety there that they just can’t go there.
Garrett and Bekah: Wow
Jessica: So, we’ve taken this beautiful picture of marriage and marital intimacy, and we’ve distorted it. When I say we, I mean culture and the world
Garrett: yeah, yeah
Jessica: and we’ve distorted it so much that people can actually enter marriage still feeling so, so, I guess down, through this idea of sex is a sin
Jessica: Yeah. Thank you. Shame is the word I was thinking of
Jessica: So, so much of that is there that they can’t even engage one another which to me is horribly sad because this is a gift that God gives us to help us understand him better. So we see this kind-of transcendent picture of God when we’re able to be intimate with our spouse. So, we kinda forget self for a while, be involved with somebody else and it creates a deep intimacy.
So, that’s a picture, right, of our relationship with God that can grow through our deep intimacy with him. But we’re not teaching it that way.
Garrett: And, you were telling me last time we met about a new e-course that you have coming out that actually is kind-of broached those topics for married couples. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Jessica: Yeah, so I have an e-course coming up. It’s called, “Becoming One” and it’s going to be on my website at BetterThanTheHoneymoon. So the course is going to do all kinds of great things for couples. You’re going to learn communication, and you’re going to learn how to resolve conflict if that’s been an issue, and you’re going to learn about personality differences, what you each bring to the marriage and how to strengthen your marriage that way.
And then there’s a significant portion that’s completely dedicated to intimacy, so any couples that are struggling in that area you’re going to find a lot of your answers, or a lot of your questions are answered through that course.
So, it will address a really wide range of topics within sexuality.
But, more so, the big picture is to see it in a theological view. So sex becomes something that we see as, “Why did God create this? What is his purpose for sex and intimacy?” Not like skills-based training like you might read in some articles or Christian or non-Christian bloggers. This is going to be more specifically-focused on how can you have the best intimacy you can possibly have with your spouse.
Bekah: Wow. That’s great.
Garrett: Yeah, that’s so needed. And even for someone that’s not, maybe wouldn’t admit or see it as struggling; that’s something that my wife and I would be interested in just doing because it adds knowledge and adds understanding and kinda broadens the horizon as in; you know or our minds there. To really understand, what is this relationship look like in God’s eyes, you know.
Jessica: Yeah, and I’m glad you pointed that out. It isn’t just for people who have some major specific issue, although those questions will be answered also. But it isn’t just for those couples. It’s really for any Christian couple who want to have marital intimacy that honors God, honors one another, and really kind of lives out that picture of what it means to be united in Christ.
Chris: So, if you had one key piece of advice for married couples on the topic of sex and intimacy; through the lens of Christianity and faith, what would that be?
Jessica: So, I would say that biggest piece of advice would be that if you’re struggling and your intimacy isn’t bringing you closer together and connecting you more fully, then it’s definitely something that you should be first of all praying about because it’s okay to pray about your sex life. So, praying about that but also seeking out some extra help because there is some good help out there.
You just want to be careful about what help you get because you don’t want to get that from a secular viewpoint, especially when we’re talking about sexual intimacy. So you want to get some good, solid, Christian help so you can have the intimacy you desire. Because God wants that from us for sure.
Garrett: That’s true.
Chris: Can’t let you get away today without talking about the big elephant in the room for a lot of relationships and a lot of people, and that’s pornography.
Chris: What advice do you have for people struggling with sexual sin?
Chris: In relation to their purity versus pornograpy.
Jessica: Yeah, gosh that’s a really loaded question too; I’ll try to keep it
Chris: So, I’ve asked a fascinating question, and now I’ve asked a loaded question.
Garrett: That’s what we do here. All loaded questions.
Jessica: haha, very good questions, very good questions
Chris: Go ahead, I’m sorry.
Jessica: haha, that’s okay.
So, pornography is such an evil beast because it hoooks people and there’s actually research to show us that when you’re watching pornography, your brain lights up just like it would with cocaine, um so we know.
Garrett: Oh my gosh
Chris: Yeah, I’ve heard that before
Garrett: Wow, I’d never heard that
Jessica: Yeah, so brain scans show that. So this isn’t people just guessing that. It literally highlights those areas so we know that it can be addictive and destructive for people. I work with a lot of Christians that uh, think pornography is okay. So, that’s a major issue even with how we’re training and teaching one another.
Garrett: So, like it’s okay to watch together kind-of thing?
Jessica: Yeah, so
Garett: You hear that argument
Bekah: As long as both people are okay with it, people think that it’s okay.
Jessica: Don’t watch alone though, because then it’s cheating.
Garrett: haha, so distorted
Jessica: I know. People are okay with that. And then for some, it’s just such a hinderance that they can’t seem to get past.
So, there’s a couple of things. First of all I would say, keep in mind that you know, our Christian walk isn’t about the behavioral do’s and don’ts. It’s about having a heart after God. and so, that needs to be your first focus. Focus on loving Him and living like Him and having the Spirit just alive inside of you. That’s the first step, okay.
But then, also, seeking help. And, I actually have a colleague that I refer a lot of people to when their dealing with pornography becausae he’s a certified sex addiction therapist, which is a little bit different
Garrett: oh okay
Jessica: Yeah, so he’s also got his divinity degree; used to be a pastor for about 20 years before going into counseling. So, I refer to him quite often when we’re talking about pornography addiction because it can get so hard to get away from when that’s something that’s been in your life for a significant amount of time.
So, like I said, it highlights the brain just like a cocaine addiction would do. But the reality is that the way our brain is intended to work is that when we see things we kinda relate to them and start trying to have relationship with them. So while you can’t have a relationship with a blank screen, you’re brain is acting as if you’re having a relationship
Chris: That’s interesting
Jessica: So it really distorts your ability to have a healthy relationship and healthy intimacy with a real live person. So, its’ definitely something to get away from. Um, even if you don’t believe it’s sin, my friend, it’s something to get away from because it’s just not healthy for a relationship and relationships just don’t fair well when that’s happening.
It’s inviting in a third party. Like maybe not a live person in the room, but it’s inviting in a third party and that’s just problematic.
Garrett: It really is.
Well, Dr. Jessica; thank you so much for being here. We’ve had a phenomenal time with you and you’ve really opened our minds and hopefully opened our listener’s minds to the need for healthy intimacy inside of a marriage and honoring God with the entirety of your marriage.
Bekah: I’ve got one more question.
Garrett: We’re wrapping it up. Sorry. Haha
Chris: Is it fascinating or loaded?
Bekah: I doubt it. But I think it is important. Especially for the listeners we have. And for those of us who aren’t married or who have been married and are single again. What kind of advice do you have for those Christians who are either young singles or adult singles. What would your best advice for them be Because it’s going to be a little bit different, obviously.
Jessica: Right, so it’s going to be a little different. And, gosh, I could talk for a really long time on this, but I’ll streamline it and say to remember that you’re still sexually whole. So, not having sex doesn’t mean you’re not sexually whole. So God created you as a sexually whole being and you can be honored in your sexuality whether you’re man or woman.
So, there’s a beauty that comes to those opposites in genders like that and we can appreciate that about one another and even see characteristics of God in those opposite genders. It’s really just beautiful the way God designed us.
So first of all, I would say you are sexually whole. That doesn’t mean you have to be behaving sexually. The Christian perspective of course, is there’s a right time and a right place for our sexuality to be lived out when we’re talking about the actual physical behavior of having sex. So, reserve that for marriage. It’s just not worth it to have sex outside of marriage.
It leads to brokenness, broken relationships. Of course, that doesn’t mean if you have sex outside of marriage that your marriage is doomed at that point. But again, we’re living our lives for God, not for ourselves, so my advice would be you keep remembering that.
You know, it’s a struggle. I was single until I was 30, so I didn’t get married until I was 30. And, it’s tough to live that life and be single for a long time. It just is. And so I would say, find yourself in positions where you are keeping yourself safe. So, spend time with friends so you’re not going to be as tempted sexually. Try not to spend too much time one-on-one with someone, especially like in a dark room or something like that.
You know, keep yourself inside of the boundaries that will keep your sexuality pure. But beyond that, I would say, it’s just hard when we struggle for those physical needs that are not being met and there’s not this good easy answer of just do this and those needs won’t be there. Because the reality is that the needs are there because God has given that to us and it’s a part of his creation. So I would say, that when those moments come; if you’re feeling lonely, or you’re feeling like you would like to be intimate and it kind-of stinks that you can’t; I would say turn that to God.
Tell him first of all, “Thank you that I have these attractions and these desires because I know they’re good, now help me keep them pure until we get married. Or, until I get married if you’re not even dating anyone.
Chris: Good advice, good advice.
Chris: Write it down, I’ve taken a couple of notes during our conversation. So the name of your website, Jessica, is BetterThanTheHoneymoon.com. Got a new e-course coming out at the end of the March with the first one called, Becoming One. So you can all go to her website and check that out. Take a course and you could learn something that could be very valuable to incorporate into your marriage. So, once again Jessica, thank you for being with us.
Jessica: Thank you
Chris: It’s been a delight. It’s been a treat. And, I thank-you for applauding my questions.
Jessica: Haha, you’re welcome.
Chris: It made me feel really good and made my day.
Jessica: That’s hilarious.