This episode of Marriage After God is reflection back on our first few years of marriage, including what we went through and how God saved us. We vulnerably share about pornography addiction, our experience with painful sex, a discovery that helped us heal, and much more. We start back at the beginning! Just like in our book The Unveiled Wife, but you get to hear from both of us!
Sharing intimate and painful parts of our marriage story was not easy at first, but over time we realized our transparency helped other married couples find hope in the fact they are not alone in their marriage struggles, but also hope in how God can restore brokenness in marriage. Hearing how our story has impacted others we thought we should keep sharing! Enjoy!
If you can’t listen now, skim to the transcripts below!
Aaron Smith: Hey, we’re Aaron and Jennifer Smith with Marriage after God.
Jennifer Smith: Helping you cultivate an extraordinary marriage.
Aaron Smith: Today, we’re going to share with you our story, the good, the bad, the ugly in the hopes that it encourages you and lets you know that you’re not alone in your marriage.
Jennifer Smith: Hey, everyone. Thanks for joining us. We are so excited about today’s episode. We’re jumping in to share our story, some background on who we are, where we came from, how we met, and then our marriage leading up to this point. I just wanted to remind you, some of you may know, some of you may not know but The Unveiled Wife is a book I wrote about the first four years of our marriage and so if you’re interested in getting even more details, you need to check that out. You can go to shop.unveiledwife.com to get that.
The other reason why we are sharing this today with you is because so many of you have left comments asking for it. You guys wanted to know more about us and more about our story, so we are willing to share and we’re excited about it.
Aaron Smith: One of the guys that left a comment was asking, how did you get to where you are now because it’s easy to see our life now. Even we think about it like how do we get to here when we were there. Our hope is that you recognize that there’s hope for your marriage, that we didn’t just all of a sudden, proof, get to where we’re at and we actually have a long journey ahead of us still, but God can do miracles. He can also change us when we let him. We want to share with you where we came from and how we are, where we are today.
Jennifer Smith: I also want to encourage you. I feel like this happened a lot in our marriage where we got to a point where we wanted to give up or the struggle seemed too hard and we couldn’t foresee a future together. It was just that one day where someone said something encouraging or that one day where we saw something on Facebook that encouraged us to be intimate or have a conversation or hold hands. The main reason why Aaron and I are so passionate about our ministry to encourage couples is for that hope that you guys receive daily. Our hope is that you are receiving that hope.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, and the biggest catalyst, we bring this up often in the book, we bring it up often on our social media sites, the biggest catalyst for transformation in our lives was when we sat at a table with other married couples who were pursuing God together and they shared their stories. They shared their dirty laundry with us, and how God was changing them.
Jennifer Smith: All of a sudden, there’s this relief that you’re not alone. Even if the stories aren’t exactly the same, the struggles are struggles and knowing that you’re not alone in that is just it’s almost comforting.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, and there’s power in our testimony is that it frees us from feeling like we’re … We stayed in the dark for so long with things that we’re going through because we thought we’re the only ones going through it, which looking back, we’re like that’s crazy because we get emails daily of people saying how they’re going through things that we went through, are currently going through, and going through things that we never did but they have people just like them. We’re going to jump into our story. We’re just going to start at the beginning and we’re just going to walk through some of the main details, the main milestones of our life, and we just hope it encourages you guys. Maybe we’ll share a little bit of insights as we go of things that we learned along the way, and of course, we’re always learning, so hope you enjoy.
Jennifer Smith: Aaron and I both grew up in Christian homes. They looked a little bit different but our parents knew who God was, they took us to church. I come from a blended family. My parents divorced when I was four and remarried shortly after that but they both remarried and had more children. I come from a big family. There’s seven siblings altogether but like I said, different parents. It was fun growing up but it was a little chaotic at times too, but I did grow up knowing who God was. If someone ever asked me my testimony, I would tell them I feel like I’ve always walked with Jesus, like I always knew who he was. In seventh grade, that’s when I really gave my heart to him and decided I’m going to serve him. I’m going to give my life to him, and I was baptized and I haven’t looked back. Although I’ve had struggles along the way, I’ve always been with him.
Aaron Smith: For me, I was raised in a Christian home too. Both my parents are still together and they are what you call first-generation Christians, so they weren’t raised by Christians but they both got saved after getting married. They raised me in a home where we read the Bible, we prayed every night, my parents took me to church every Sunday. I was raised in the church. A lot of the schools I went to as a kid were church schools until I was in high school or junior high in high school, but yeah, they raised me to know God. I got saved when I was 18.
Jennifer Smith: You got to tell them the story though because I think it’s powerful.
Aaron Smith: Yeah. When I was 17 years old, I wasn’t being rebellious because I was mad at God or because I was mad at my parents. It was mostly because I was bored trying things, wanting to fit in in certain areas of my social circles, and there was a point in my life at 17 and 1/2 years old actually, because I was raised in a Christian home, I was always a part of Bible studies and youth groups and things like that even though I wasn’t walking it out outside the home.
One night, I’m leaving a Bible study and I just remember driving home. I’m by myself in the car and I remember God calling to me and just saying, “Aaron, what are you going to do? What’s your funeral going to be like?” He asked me, he went straight to my death and he’s like, “Who’s going to be there and the people that do show up, what are they going to say about you?” He really shine a light on me and said, “If you want to walk in a calling, if you want to have a purpose in this world, you’re going to find it in me.”
Jennifer Smith: It’s crazy that he went to the end to show you what that looks right now.
Aaron Smith: Not that I’m pursuing having lots of people say good things about me but that moment was he showed me … He’s like, “If you won’t have purpose in this world, you’re going to find it in me,” and I-
Jennifer Smith: He’s asking you what legacy are you leaving.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, what legacy am I leaving and so in the car by myself, I said, “Yes, God. I’m going to follow you from this day forward and I know that you’re going to give me a purpose.” My purpose ever since then has been following God and so that, again, we have struggles still and we’ll get to those in a second, but that was my transformation story, my conversion to Christianity was in the car driving by myself.
Jennifer Smith: So awesome. You were praying for other things shortly after that moment. Do you want to share-
Aaron Smith: Yeah, so I began praying for a spouse. I went through a season before that of dating and just weird relationships that I … and I hated dating. I hated the dating scene, so after getting saved, I just said, “Okay, Lord. I’m not going to pursue any girls. I’m just going to pursue you and when you want me to start changing my heart and mind on that, that you would do that.” I just gave God permission to …
Jennifer Smith: Show you who your wife would be.
Aaron Smith: Show me who my wife would be, which just sounds weird but that’s exactly what I did. For three years, I didn’t date anyone. I just volunteered at my youth group. I became a youth pastor. We went to Bible studies and I just said, “Okay, Lord. I’m not going to do this until you want me to,” until the time came that my heart started changing and I felt like God was saying like, “Hey, I want you to start thinking about this.” He didn’t necessarily show me who my wife was going to be but my heart definitely changed.
In that season of going from not wanting to date at all and now, I’m going to see, I’m like, “Okay, now what does this even look like? Do I just start dating? Do I just start … What do I do?” I felt this this urge and I and I told God and I said, okay … Just to remind you, there’s a bunch of awesome Christian girls in my community and that I’ve kind of interested in. Not all at the same time, but I just said, “What I’m going to do, Lord, is I’m going to pursue relationships on the friendship level with someone that I think might I might be interested in.”
I gave God permission again. I said, “But Lord, if that’s not who you want, you would change my heart.” That happened. I would start hanging out with this one girl. We wouldn’t hold hands or do anything weird. There was no dating. It was just spending-
Jennifer Smith: Friendship.
Aaron Smith: Friendship, spending time.
Jennifer Smith: Spend time together.
Aaron Smith: Getting to know them, figuring who they are and if it would work. Then, what would happen out of nowhere is any emotions I have for that girl would just vanish. I would just not have any interest at all. That happened several times over a year and a half. It was really cool that God did that. He was faithful in this. I said, “Okay, Lord, I’m going to trust you,” and he actually did change my heart and perspective. That leads me to you. Why don’t you say your side of it now?
Jennifer Smith: Yeah. I started going to this Bible study when I was about 15, and it was a small Bible study. Over a year’s time, it grew really big and really fast just in someone’s garage who was willing to lead it out of our church. Aaron started showing up. Aaron’s personality is so different from mine. I’m the quiet, introvert, reserved.
Aaron Smith: Back of the room.
Jennifer Smith: Back of the room kind of girl and Aaron’s the in-your-face, front and center, bold. He’ll say whatever I feel because I just have this personality that’s big.
Aaron Smith: I toned it down a little bit over the years.
Jennifer Smith: Totally different, totally different but still very social and just easy to hang around. Anytime he was there, there was just this circle around him of friends that were just interested to hear what he had to say or conversing with them.
Aaron Smith: You make me seem much more interesting than I thought I was when I was growing up.
Jennifer Smith: You’re pretty cool. He’s pretty cool and he’s two years older than me so I just had this blush all over my face of just being almost embarrassed around you because I liked you so much.
Aaron Smith: I didn’t know.
Jennifer Smith: He had no idea because of course, I didn’t say anything but anytime I got to be a part of that circle, I was so quiet. I don’t even know if you probably realized I snuck up on you.
Aaron Smith: I didn’t realize.
Jennifer Smith: I really did have this liking for Aaron and just was very slow to pursue that friendship but eventually over time, because we had similar friends, we hung out more and we just kind of formed-
Aaron Smith: It overlapped a little bit during the time that I was spending time with other girls in that pursuit and then getting turned off in my heart. It was a little bit of overlap towards the end of that little season.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, and because I liked you so much, I did try and find ways to hang out with you and whatever it was. Even if it was a group date where there was a lot of people going to this one thing, I always tried to-
Aaron Smith: Chat about a few times, yeah.
Jennifer Smith: At least chat with you during that time or whatever. There was even a few times that I got to hang out with your parents because I thought, “Oh, if I hang out with his parents, I might see him when he gets off work or …”
Aaron Smith: Yeah. You spend a lot of time with my cousin because … Go ahead. Yeah.
Jennifer Smith: Your cousin was living with you at the time and we went to the same high school and so, yeah, I would pick him up for school and we’d hang out, so I did see you. Then, there was just this this moment where God kind of showed you that-
Aaron Smith: Well, yeah. In the same way God turned off my attraction and emotion for these other girls, out of nowhere, an attraction turned on in me to Jennifer.
Jennifer Smith: Finally. It took a long time.
Aaron Smith: It was the same sort of scenario but opposite, so instead of me pursuing Jennifer, because I wasn’t even pursuing you the way I was pursuing these other relationships.
Jennifer Smith: No, yeah.
Aaron Smith: I literally didn’t have … The way I was thinking about those other relationships and asking God if these are the ones, I wasn’t doing that with Jennifer but I was spending time with her as a friend and we did things. Then, out of nowhere, it snapped on. I was like, “Oh, I’m going to marry you.” That’s what I thought out of nowhere. Even though we didn’t I didn’t tell you that right away, it was in me. I was like, “Oh, this is a …”
Jennifer Smith: It motivated you to spend more time with me, and so we did formulate this friendship. I ended up volunteering with you at your church. We just became really close. Then, there came a point where you asked me out and we became boyfriend and girlfriend. We just knew at that point that it was like yes to marriage.
Aaron Smith: When I told her, I said, “I’m not interested in doing this if our minds aren’t on marriage.” Whether or not we would for sure get married, I just said like I’m not interested in playing. If we’re going to do this, both our minds have to be thinking about marriage and that that’s going to be a goal. We didn’t know when but I was very clear up front. You had already decided, it sounds like, before I said that.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah. Before he even said, “Do you want to be my girlfriend?” I was like, “Come on. I’m ready.”
Aaron Smith: She was already like ready to marry me.
Jennifer Smith: I always knew I wanted-
Aaron Smith: If I would have asked you to marry me right then, you probably would have said yes.
Jennifer Smith: I probably would have said yes. I always wanted to get married young. I always saw myself as a wife, and I think because my parents divorced when I was so young. I always had this determination that I was going to be the best wife and my marriage was going to be the best marriage and that divorce wasn’t even going to be a thought because I thought I’d do it different than my parents, but it’s so funny how it doesn’t really matter even what you went through before with parents, that divorce is a real thing and people have real conversations about them. Even if you are someone who is convicted that it’s never going to be an option, it very well could come up just because-
Aaron Smith: It comes up pretty quick.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, so just want to encourage those of you who may be in that spot right now who are thinking, “I never thought divorce would be an option but here I am actually wrestling with the real thing,” please give your marriage some more time and just keep listening to the show because I think you’ll be encouraged enough to persevere through the hard times.
Aaron Smith: Yeah. We ended up … We get engaged.
Jennifer Smith: We dated for a year and a half, had an amazing time, and then you asked me to be your wife.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, and then, we were engaged for six months, so two years total as official together, but we knew each other for a couple years before that. Then, so six months, we get married. It’s really fast. We did the wedding and then … I’m going to go back to just how we … We’re both technically virgins when we got married. We’ve never had intercourse outside of marriage.
Jennifer Smith: With past relationships, we had been unpure and-
Aaron Smith: Yeah. I wouldn’t say we’ve been perfectly pure. We’ve done things sexually outside of this relationship. We weren’t perfectly pure during our dating and engagement season, which by the way, we’ve repented of and we learned through that and we’d never suggest that. As you can tell, we’re probably thinking like, “Okay, now, it’s about time. We’ve saved ourselves.”
Jennifer Smith: We just had all these expectations of what marriage would be like, and it would be like this beautiful expression of how we truly felt about each other.
Aaron Smith: My whole life, because of things that I struggled with, I was addicted to pornography. That was my life.
Jennifer Smith: Just so people know, this was a conversation that we had during our dating and engagement.
Aaron Smith: You were aware of it. It wasn’t a secret.
Jennifer Smith: Yep. I knew about it and I think I had this notion that all guys struggled with it. It’s not going to be that big of a deal.
Aaron Smith: That’s what we’re all told. It’s every man’s battle. I just thought it was something that everyone did. I was I was ashamed of it, and I sought counsel on it I got prayer for it, and I repented of it whenever I would fall into it.
Jennifer Smith: I think we both thought in different ways that marriage would fix it. I think that you thought-
Aaron Smith: I, for sure, thought … I thought, I was like all I need is an outlet.
Jennifer Smith: You need the real thing.
Aaron Smith: I just need the real thing because-
Jennifer Smith: I thought that if I could be that for him, then it would also be fixed, which I think-
Aaron Smith: Our wedding night-
Jennifer Smith: I think that kind of expectation too probably hindered this problem that we had even-
Aaron Smith: On a bigger level because the expectation was like, way up here, and we had no clue.
Jennifer Smith: Okay. Wedding night comes. We’re both exhausted but excited, and it was terrible.
Aaron Smith: We don’t want to get too graphic with anything but we just, we couldn’t have sex. It didn’t work.
Jennifer Smith: It was really painful for me.
Aaron Smith: In the first couple days, it’s like we’ve been told that it could be painful because I think that’s normal especially being a virgin, and then two days turns into a week and then-
Jennifer Smith: Turned into a couple months …
Aaron Smith: Turns into a couple months.
Jennifer Smith: … which lasted a total of almost four years.
Aaron Smith: Pretty much four years of us.
Jennifer Smith: I think there was a handful of times that it kind of worked but it was never not painful. It was always painful.
Aaron Smith: In reality, it never worked.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah.
Aaron Smith: That was just a big jump of the four years, is that was a main factor in where we were at emotionally and spiritually, is we couldn’t be intimate with each other. Now, on top of that, I was still addicted to pornography and guess what happened. This area amplified that area. During that season, you struggled a bit with pornography as well, not nearly to the extent that I was at, but-
Jennifer Smith: Not right away but I’d say probably two and a half years into our marriage where I was really unhappy and I just thought like we were done. I didn’t know-
Aaron Smith: Well, because things weren’t working, we got more and more angry to God.
Jennifer Smith: More isolated.
Aaron Smith: We’re like weren’t we … I was a pastor and we love you God and we’ve saved our self for marriage, and we did all the right things. Don’t you owe us this, God? Didn’t you say this is-
Jennifer Smith: I thought I deserved it.
Aaron Smith: We thought we deserved it. We thought he owed us as if he was punishing us, and then, so on top of we thinking he owes us, we think he is disciplining us. We’re like, “Well, he’s punishing us because we were impure a handful of times when we were dating and because of my porn addiction.” To be honest, he probably could have been punishing me because he disciplines those he loves, but that doesn’t change-
Jennifer Smith: I also think because he didn’t fix the issue for us and he didn’t bless us in that area, I thought, “Oh, he’s mad at us, so why would I want to walk in a relationship with someone that’s angry at you?” I started to pull away in my relationship with God and also with you so I became very isolated and really lonely. I hate that I was so excited about being married because I thought my best friend forever, I’m going to be with you all the time, and here I am feeling more lonely than I did prior to marriage.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, we felt pretty lonely. Pretty lonely. You know what, during this four years, what were we doing?
Jennifer Smith: Well, we were trying to serve God.
Aaron Smith: We were serving God. We’re missionaries.
Jennifer Smith: The first half, we were missionaries. The second half, we were trying to get involved in church and be a part of a marriage ministry that it was just really … it was really hard to serve when our mindset and our hearts were in a wrong place.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, so internally, we’re breaking more and more, getting more and more bitter at each other. We were fighting all the time, pretty much like every day especially-
Jennifer Smith: We bickered nonstop.
Aaron Smith: We didn’t even know how much we bickered until a friend one day said, “You guys need to stop it.”
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, he totally called us out.
Aaron Smith: We’re like, “Stop what?” He’s like, “Do you hear how you’re talking to each other?”
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, it was bad.
Aaron Smith: Then, that same friend called me out hardcore on how I was talking to Jennifer and he’s like, “Stop talking to her that way,” like yelled at me in the car and I’m just like … Anyways, the internal struggles that we were going through, on the outside, no one knew because we’re like these good Christians during missionary work.
Jennifer Smith: People probably wonder like, “Well, why didn’t you talk to anyone about it?” Okay, talking about sex is not easy. Talking about sex problems is definitely not easy. It felt embarrassing to me to tell someone that I’m the problem in our marriage, that I can’t-
Aaron Smith: There was probably one or two times that we actually did try talking to someone. We talked to a nurse friend of ours.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, a lot of people-
Aaron Smith: She was like, “You know, hey, you’re young and it should be working.” Then, she’s like, “Why don’t you try this and why don’t you go have a glass …”
Jennifer Smith: I had a gynecologist tell me the exact same thing. People would ask me or leave comments on social media, why don’t you just go to the doctors? I did and-
Aaron Smith: They would tell us, be like, “Nope. Nothing should be wrong. You’re perfectly healthy.”
Jennifer Smith: There’s nothing-
Aaron Smith: We’re like, “Okay.” There’s something else wrong and we don’t know what’s going on.
Jennifer Smith: That made me feel broken physically, emotionally, mentally.
Aaron Smith: I got more angry because I kept thinking like, “Go to the doctors and we’re going to find out something’s wrong.”
Jennifer Smith: I’d rather have found something out that was wrong because then, I can at least …
Aaron Smith: Whatever it would have been.
Jennifer Smith: … be sorrowful over it.
Aaron Smith: Or figure out a solution maybe.
Jennifer Smith: Or figure out a solution.
Aaron Smith: Then, she would come home and she’d be like, “No, the doctor said I’m healthy.” Then, I’m just like, “Cool.” Then, there’s literally no answer. We’re just here and no matter how much I prayed, and we prayed every single day, we’d pray during trying to have sex. We would pray afterwards. We would pray, and it felt nothing would make a difference.
Jennifer Smith: Again, this area of our life, intimacy, which is such a huge area, amplified problems in just about every other area that you can think of.
Aaron Smith: I felt more justified in my addictions. I was like, “Well, I can’t get it from you, so if I can’t get it from you and I can’t get it … I’m not going to go cheat. I’m just going to get it here.” Not that it was not right but that was something that was just, I was justifying my sin because of this area of our life.
Jennifer Smith: I think a big part of when two people get married is embracing oneness and unity in marriage. I felt like we couldn’t do that, and so when it came to finances or making decisions, we really didn’t know how to embrace unity in any of those areas.
Aaron Smith: No, and in reality, we realized how selfish we were. We were both very selfish. We had way wrong expectations for each other. I had sexual expectations of you that were completely …
Jennifer Smith: Distorted, skewed.
Aaron Smith: … distorted because of my addiction. My desire, my sex drive was way too high. Not that this is what caused the problem, but this added a layer of anxiety and hurt and frustration to you because you’re like more often realizing like, “I can’t even fulfill this basic need of my husband’s,” nor did you even have a desire for it, and that hurt me because I’m like, “You have no desire for this. That means you don’t have a desire for me or even attracted.”
Jennifer Smith: I did have a desire for you. I just didn’t want it to hurt, and so there was this conflict in my mind and my heart and apprehension of the pain.
Aaron Smith: Because of your bitterness though and because of your anger towards God, you did get to a point of not wanting me.
Jennifer Smith: Not wanting it altogether. That’s true.
Aaron Smith: You would avoid me and you would go to bed early or late. You would-
Jennifer Smith: I signed up for some college courses just so that I’m busy.
Aaron Smith: To get away from me or from church. What happens when we’re going through these through hard trials-
Jennifer Smith: We started [crosstalk 00:22:03].
Aaron Smith: Two things can happen. I did one but two things can happen. We can grow closer to God and to each other depending on our perspective, or we can allow it to spread us apart. We were allowing it to take us apart. We went further from God, further from each other, and it was just wrong of us. Why don’t you tell them the story of how God started to change this in us?
Jennifer Smith: Well, we moved back home after doing traveling for some missions with a missions organization for a few years, and we moved back home more specifically to get out of debt because we knew that our finances were out of order, and we didn’t realize that God was going to get a hold of our hearts and a hold of our marriage, but thank God he did. We were living at home. When I say home, that’s back in California with where our parents are and most of our family. You invited me to a marriage ministry through the church. It was on Wednesday nights and-
Aaron Smith: I found out about it and I was like, “We need to do something because we’re getting … This is it.” If we don’t fix this, it’s gone.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah. At first, I didn’t want to go. Because I was so angry at God, I didn’t even want to step foot in the church at that point because I knew it would break my heart to fill all those heavy and intense feelings towards him and so I avoided it as much as I could.
Aaron Smith: Well, and the guilt of being before God. You told me that you didn’t feel ready to go and be before God.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, I didn’t because we were both wrestling with different sins and we hadn’t addressed them yet and things like that, but after you had asked me like, I think two or three more times, I knew in my heart that if I said no to going, it was an ultimate no. I was saying I’m not going to try anymore.
Aaron Smith: We’re done. That’s what you’re saying no.
Jennifer Smith: We’re done. Although I was very close to that point of having an ultimate no in my heart, I still wanted us to work, and so I went and that was the beginning of our healing really.
Aaron Smith: Yes, so I want to encourage you out there. If you guys are in a hard place and you feel like you’re just so close to being done, listen to the Holy Spirit because even though we were so angry and so frustrated and so bitter even with God, we kept listening. Jennifer was … because she was not … Saying no to me, it would have been a no to God and she knew that. She knew I was asking her because I was prompting because I felt God saying like you need to do this, you need to figure this out. You finally got to a point of like, “If I say no to this, it’s over.” She was hearing that quiet prompting from the Lord and so she said yes to God.
I want to encourage you, if you’re right there, keep saying yes to God even in the hard things. In those little things, you’re like, “No. We need to … I’m going to say yes to God. I’m not saying yes to my husband and I’m not saying yes to my wife. I’m saying yes to God and I’m going to keep saying yes to him,” because what will happen is he will change you. He will change your life. He will fix your marriage if we keep saying yes to him.
Jennifer Smith: I also want to encourage those listening that if you feel prompted to invite your spouse to pray, invite your spouse to church, invite your spouse to participate in community, or counseling, or whatever it is that the Lord might be prompting you, invite them even if you have to keep-
Aaron Smith: Keep doing it.
Jennifer Smith: Keep inviting them because I feel like it would have been really easy for you to say, “I’m not even going to worry about that,” or, “I don’t want to go,” or I definitely don’t want to …
Aaron Smith: I know she’s going to say no. I’m not going to do it again.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, and justify not even asking or maybe just being over it yourself but you were brave enough to invite me and not just once. I just want to encourage those listening that if you feel prompted to invite your spouse to participate in something that could potentially save your marriage, do it even if it feels hard, even if you …
Aaron Smith: Even if you get rejected over and over and over again.
Jennifer Smith: Or you feel doubt that they’re going to say yes or no. I just want to encourage you to do it anyways.
Aaron Smith: We start going to this marriage ministry at our church and we would sit around a table and like we said at the beginning of this, other couples would share what they’re going through based off of the topic of the night.
Jennifer Smith: Honestly, it was the first time that we had experienced people opening up honestly about their marriage. We had heard different types of-
Aaron Smith: Everyone else’s marriages seemed perfect.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, especially on social media, but even in our culture, in movies and whatever, you don’t see people honestly talking about marriage issues.
Aaron Smith: No. We see all the pretty snapshots in everyone’s life. We did the same thing though. We hid under our masks, under our veils of perfection and we’re like, “Oh, we’re good Christians and we’re happy.” Deep down, were dying and we’re broken and we’re angry and we’re sad. We’re sitting there and these people are like, “Yeah, we just got in this huge fight.” At the end of it, I realized I was the wrong one. I was the one that was even so angry. We’re just like, “Oh, they fight like that. We fight like that.”
Jennifer Smith: Pretty much every Wednesday, one of the couples would come and say, “We literally just got in the fight on the way in here and we didn’t want to come in, but here so we’re just going to talk to you guys about it.”
Aaron Smith: Everyone’s like, “We did too.”
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, it was so funny. That relatability that I was talking about is so important because when we’ve realized that we’re not alone in our struggles, there’s this comforting aspect that reminds us that we can persevere, that we are strong enough and that God is with us walking us through that.
Aaron Smith: Well, and it’s the power of confession. The point wasn’t that they were all happy with the things that they were struggling. They were sharing the things they were struggling with so that they can actually be healed of the things that they were struggling with.
Jennifer Smith: Or get encouragement, advice, prayer, a number of things.
Aaron Smith: All of the things. It’s a beautiful gift that God’s given us of confession, that we can actually confess out loud like, “Hey, this is actually what we’re going through. We actually don’t know how to love each other right.”
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, we’re not perfect.
Aaron Smith: Then, someone, another brother or a sister could be like, “Well, why don’t you do this? Here’s what the word says. Why don’t you try this? Now, we could pray for you accurately.” There’s a lot of this just thinking about openness. You probably hear this all the time like, “Oh, I have an unspoken prayer request.”
Jennifer Smith: Speak it.
Aaron Smith: Speak it. What is this prayer request? Your husband struggles with pornography. Say, “My husband struggles with pornography. He needs prayer.” I know you’re probably afraid of then being judged but that’s the point, is that we actually find true healing and we cannot do that if brothers and sisters that we trust and walk with can’t actually know us.
Jennifer Smith: I also want to share this about community, something that I witnessed and experienced for myself. I always wondered in the hard times when it was just you me and God, why couldn’t God just help us figure it out, but it was walking with those other couples and in community that I realized God uses other people all the time to speak into our lives and to comfort us and to … It’s almost it’s him doing it but he’s using other people to do it. I never experienced that when it was just us too. It wasn’t until we really reached out and engaged in Christian community that I witnessed the power of God through other people’s lives.
Aaron Smith: Well, and it’s how God wants to do it.
Jennifer Smith: He wants to do that to us, and he wants to do that through you.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, we like the autonomy. It’s just us in God. We’re just doing this on our own. We have our own little relationship with God and you know what, the whole time, it was just us, we were falling apart. The moment we said yes to God’s way of doing it, meaning we’re going to have community, we’re going to walk with other brothers and sisters in Christ, and we’re not going to be hidden in darkness and in shadows, we’re going to be light. We’re going to walk in light. People are going to know us. They’re going to know what we deal with. They’re going to know how we think. They’re going to know how we feel. They’re going to know things we’ve done, and you know what, that’s God’s way that he wants us to walk.
If you’re out there and you’re walking in autonomy, we tell those people all the time, if you’re walking by … It’s just you and your husband and God and no one knows you, no one’s allowed in, no one’s allowed to know what you struggle with, no one’s allowed to know how you think, as long as they’re at arm’s length and they know that you’re good Christians and you have nice conversations every once in a while but that’s it, you’re doing it wrong. I’m just going to be straightforward with you. God has a way he wants us to live, and he wants us to live with one another. The Bible tells us in John chapter 17, the high priestly prayer, Jesus says he prays that we will be one, not just this but in the Body of Christ as he and the father are one. You can’t do that if you’re autonomous and you live in an island and no one can know you.
Jennifer Smith: I think that a fear that a lot of people, a lot of couples have when it comes to being engaged in community is that it’s messy but the reality is relationships are messy, but they’re also really beautiful and you won’t get to experience the beauty of relationships and of community if you’re not also willing to engage with the messiness of it.
Aaron Smith: We, part of this marriage community and we realized we’re not alone, immediately, we start feeling better. Just there’s like a weight lifted off our shoulders.
Jennifer Smith: We’re still bickering all the time. We were still fighting all this time and we-
Aaron Smith: I’m still addicted to pornography.
Jennifer Smith: We still didn’t have sex for about a year and a half.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, but we were no longer feeling hopeless.
Jennifer Smith: We weren’t feeling hopeless.
Aaron Smith: It immediately changed our perspective on our marriage, and even though things were still hard and literally nothing physically changed, our minds changed. You know what the Bible tells us, that we’re transformed by the renewing of our minds, so our minds were being renewed and our lives are becoming transformed, and so we began to walk in that. I didn’t quit pornography right away. I still struggled with that in this season. You still struggled with bitterness and not wanting to pursue me we still couldn’t have sex but man, I felt like everything changed emotionally, spiritually, in our minds. Again, I want to encourage you, if you’re in that place, nothing circumstantially might change right away, but our perspectives will. Your perspective will. Your spirit will. There’ll all of a sudden be hope. You’ll be like, “Oh, this feels good. There’s light at the end of this tunnel.” We didn’t know how far the tunnel was.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, it wasn’t-
Aaron Smith: … but it felt easier to be in the tunnel.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah. It was about a year or so of going to this marriage ministry, maybe a year and a half and then we had a trip coming up to Maui. It was our first time to Maui. We were super excited about it. It was part business, part fun, and we kind of saw it as like-
Aaron Smith: We put this expectation. We’re like Maui is going to be the time.
Jennifer Smith: This is it. This is it. This is like I-
Aaron Smith: We have no kids, by the way. It’s just us.
Jennifer Smith: It was just us and we just felt like it was going to redeem our honeymoon, and it was going to change everything.
Aaron Smith: Yeah. Well, it is our second honeymoon. We would say, we’re like, “Hey, this is going to be it.”
Jennifer Smith: We go to Maui and we literally tried …
Aaron Smith: Every night.
Jennifer Smith: … every single day that we were there and nothing worked and it was still really painful. I was so angry about it, but this whole time that we had been married, I was the emotional one. I was the one that would get hurt or feel like I was broken.
Aaron Smith: Outwardly, visibly emotional, angry, whatever.
Jennifer Smith: You were so good at comforting me or praying with me or telling me it’s going to be okay. You were super patient the entire time.
Aaron Smith: I tried to be on the outside. On the outside, I was that but it does not-
Jennifer Smith: You were wrestling too. Sure. About two weeks after we got back from Maui, we were doing photography at the time and we’re on a job, and I could just see the look on your face was like you were so depressed. I’d never seen you like that before. I went up to you and I put my finger in your face, and I said, “We’re on a job. If you can’t get it together, go out to the car because I don’t want you to ruin the experience that we were trying to cultivate here.”
Aaron Smith: Yeah. Because of that trip and because of the expectation I had, I just was like, “Okay, Lord. This is it. You’re going to fix it and this is our new start.” It felt worse than the last four years, that one trip, in me. I literally gave up. I hadn’t given up before. You had given up before and you kind of got back. I gave up. I was like, “I’m done.” I was totally spiritually, physically and mentally … I checked out.
Jennifer Smith: You were like that the rest of the day and then the next day, we went to church and you were like that the whole drive to church, and I was just like, “What are we going to do? I’m not used to being the one that has to comfort or …” I figured this out like you always did that for me, so I was really confused and then, I started getting upset and angry. We went to church that day and I thought, “Okay, this is it.” We’ve tried everything. We went to the marriage group. We tried everything. We’re probably going to be talking about divorce. We were just both overwhelmed with defeat.
Aaron Smith: During the sermon, which I wasn’t even listening to, I’m sitting there with my head and my hands between my legs just like a broken puppy, and you’re sitting there trying to listen but just thinking to yourself like, “Well, this is it. Today, we’re going to be talking divorce,” because it had come up in the past and you had never seen me that way. I was just thinking like, “I’m done. This is never going to work. I don’t get it. I deserve better. I don’t appreciate this, Lord,” and just like when I was by myself in the car when I was 17 and a half years old, I felt the Lord speak to me again. He brought me to the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was kneeling and praying three times, and God showed me a picture of my marriage that I’d never seen before.
He said, “Aaron,” he said, “Look what Jesus is doing. Jesus prayed three times that the cup of wrath would pass him and three times he said, “But not my will be done but yours be done, Lord.”” I felt the Lord saying, “Jesus knew what he was about to die on the cross for. He was about to die for a bride who was going to spit on him, a bride who was going to abandon him, a bride who was going to turn her back on him and you know what, he said, “Not my will but your will be done,” and he went to the cross anyway and he drank that cup of wrath.”
He said, “Aaron, are you willing to accept the bride that you’ve already accepted? Are you willing to say yes to her even if she turns her back, even if she can’t fulfill the things you want, even if she never treats you the way you think you deserve? Will you do that?” He immediately broke me because I was like I’m not even being asked to do it, not even a percent of what Jesus did for his bride. I’m just being asked to be faithful to my bride whether I get what I think I want out of her or whether if she ever gives me or treats me or does for me what she’s supposed to, will I love her anyway?
Well, I said not my will but your will be done, and it was in that moment that I just broke. I couldn’t say no to that because I knew who Jesus was and I knew what he did for me, and I knew especially seeing the picture of the Garden of Gethsemane in that prayer that Jesus did, in a new light like, “Wow, he said yes to me even though I would do what I do, even though I would be such a selfish person, even though I would turn my back on him time and time and again with pornography. He still said yes to me and went to the cross for me and accepted me, and so how dare I think anything my wife ever has done to me is worthy of me saying no to her and turning my back on her like nothing she’s done compares to all the sin of the world falling on the shoulders of one man?”
I realized I just have to forgive her and love her anyway, and I’m going to do that from this day forward whether she ever changes, whether she ever could fulfill for me that sexual need that I have. I’m just going to say yes and I’m going to do it anyway, if nothing ever changes, and I did.
Jennifer Smith: Yep, you shared all of that with me right after the service ended, and it was so refreshing to hear your heart on everything about our marriage, but that perspective God gave you was pivotal in the perseverance that we had throughout the rest of our marriage. Even still today, we get reminded of that story, and it gives us the strength to get through some hard things. I was really grateful that God revealed that to you and that it became part of our story.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, and so from that day forward, it was more than just we had hope. It didn’t matter anymore what was going on in our life. I had decided and you decided with me that we were just going to, it was going to work. Whether our sex life never changed, we were going to say yes to each other and we were going to pursue God, and we were just going to trust him and totally repented of our view and repented of our way of being toward each other.
Jennifer Smith: Our selfishness.
Aaron Smith: it was so selfish, and so I repented that day and we repented a lot over that season. We still repent about how we are sometimes. We have to. We have to have hearts that are repentant and want to turn from our selfishness, turn from our flesh, and continually put our flesh on the cross and say not our will but your will be done, Lord. Then, you know the timeline better.
Jennifer Smith: It was literally that … I’m pretty sure it was that same weekend or that following week that we discovered that … You discovered the issue.
Aaron Smith: Well, so, yes. When I say the Lord speaks to me, I don’t ever hear an audible voice. It’s almost he-
Jennifer Smith: Prompts his thoughts.
Aaron Smith: He prompts thoughts but he brings to remembrance things from my life or from his word, so I never hear him saying like, “Here’s my special revelation for you, son.”
Jennifer Smith: You were in the shower and you had this flood of thoughts come to your mind over a conversation that we had about six months prior with another couple.
Aaron Smith: Sharing our brokenness sexually.
Jennifer Smith: We’re sharing our brokenness, our problem with sex. The wife just suggested … She goes, “I’ve never heard of this before. I want to be able to help you guys but the only thing I can think of is another friend of mine had PCOS and she went all organic to try and help some of the symptoms and she actually ended up getting pregnant within three months of switching to all organic products.”
Aaron Smith: Yeah, changing all of her products in the home to organic.
Jennifer Smith: At the time, we didn’t know anything about really organics or GMOs or healthy living or anything really, so we threw it out. We were like, “Well, that doesn’t apply to us. We’re not trying to get pregnant. We’re just trying to have sex.”
Aaron Smith: We don’t have PCOS.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah. You’re in the shower and you had this epiphany.
Aaron Smith: Yeah. Well, that story of this couple that told us about this woman who had PCOS and how she switched to organic came to my mind. I’m in the shower, I’m thinking. I’m like, “Okay. What does that even mean?” It just out of nowhere, popped into my mind. Then, I just started thinking like, “I wonder, like if maybe something Jennifer’s using or if there’s something could be actually harming her body.”
Jennifer Smith: You started thinking, “What has she been using,” because you went straight to my face wash. You were like, “I know you’ve been using that.”
Aaron Smith: Yeah. Well, I asked her what she’s been using. I was trying to prompt her. I said, “What have you been using ever since before we were married?” She uses this face wash every day for her whole life.
Jennifer Smith: As a teenager, I had really bad acne, and I was afraid of getting acne again because the only thing that worked was this face wash.
Aaron Smith: What’s hard about telling this story to some people is it’s not a very spiritual story, but it is. I get presented this idea, so I start thinking. I’m like, “Okay, well what could it hurt?” I took her face wash. I started researching every chemical that was in this face wash.
Jennifer Smith: He just went online and started Googling.
Aaron Smith: … which there’s this much chemicals in it.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, there’s a lot.
Aaron Smith: Most of the chemicals, there was nothing weird about them but there was a handful of chemicals in this face wash that the site that I was researching it on said that they mimicked estrogen and the chemicals are called parabens. I don’t know if you guys have noticed lately but almost every product nowadays says no parabens or paraben-free.
Jennifer Smith: A lot of them are doing that. It’s definitely a trend.
Aaron Smith: It wasn’t like that back when we were figuring this out, so there should be something to be said about that but anyways, I just said, “Hey, babe. It says that it mimics estrogen. There were some …”
Jennifer Smith: They were known endocrine disruptors.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, they’re called endocrine disruptors, which is main gland system in the body that deals with sexual function, deals with a lot of things and so I was like, “Hey, I know you love this face wash. I know you don’t like breaking out.” I said, “Why don’t we just try it? Let’s just clean up what you use. Maybe you’re having an allergic reaction to it. Maybe you …”
Jennifer Smith: I remember saying right away nope.
Aaron Smith: You told me, she’s like … and I was like, “I’d rather you have acne and us be able to have sex.” That was what I said.
Jennifer Smith: I was terrified of having the acne, but I’ll tell you what. You guys, I’ve given that up for years now.
Aaron Smith: She doesn’t have acne since the day she stopped using a face wash.
Jennifer Smith: I haven’t had any.
Aaron Smith: Not a single one.
Jennifer Smith: Just to encourage you, if you feel there’s something hindering your bodies or just affecting your relationship and it’s something that you want to switch in your personal care products or your house products, don’t be afraid of change.
Aaron Smith: Well, and again, this doesn’t sound very spiritual but I want to mention that when we have bad eating habits, it can hinder things. If we eat junk food all the time, if we eat sugar all the time, and actually-
Jennifer Smith: It could just affect your attitude, affect our relationship.
Aaron Smith: It affects her attitude. It can affect your body, so when the Bible tells us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, when the Bible tells us that we should be wise people, it’s not unspiritual to be like, “Well, are we being aware of the kinds of things that we’re putting in and on our bodies?” Again, we’re not going to make this … This is not a law. This is not a rule, but for us, you stopped using it you and immediately started feeling different in your body.
Jennifer Smith: Within three days, I felt different so much so that I called you and I’m like, “I don’t want to get too excited but I feel different,” and within a week, we were able to have pain-free sex.
Aaron Smith: You can argue with us or not. You can decide to-
Jennifer Smith: Now, I do everything-
Aaron Smith: Be skeptical. That’s fine.
Jennifer Smith: I do everything paraben-free.
Aaron Smith: You actually used …
Jennifer Smith: Less products.
Aaron Smith: We used way less products overall.
Jennifer Smith: Way less.
Aaron Smith: Then, the products we do do, we just try and not have much chemicals in them.
Jennifer Smith: If you’re wondering what facial cleanser I switched to since I had to switch my face wash, we actually use Dr. Bronner’s now, which we use for a handful of things.
Aaron Smith: Essential oils.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, but that’s a really easy go-to if you’re looking to change out your stuff because I went from this one face wash and a handful of different body washes to just this one, so that was an easy switch.
Aaron Smith: We don’t want to get too much into the practicality of it. We just want to say that the Lord showed us in our life what might have been the problem and you know what, it actually made a big difference for us. We’ve been … There was still a long process of us healing mentally because sex was a scary thing for us. The only experience we had with sex was petting-
Jennifer Smith: For four years.
Aaron Smith: Frustration, anger, and fighting, so we had a good year and a half of … two to two years of us relearning our sex life.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, how to be intimate really.
Aaron Smith: How to be intimate with each other, how to enjoy each other.
Jennifer Smith: Even like in conversations.
Aaron Smith: How to pursue each other because we just stopped pursuing each other. A year and a half, two years later, I finally found freedom from pornography. I began to walk in perfect and clean freedom, which has been awesome and that’s totally started changing almost every aspect of our lives because now, I have a healthy view of our sex life even beyond what we had before.
Jennifer Smith: I know pornography is a huge issue in marriages and so I don’t want anyone listening right now to feel like we’re skipping over this huge marriage issue. We actually want to dedicate a whole another episode to talking about his and her viewpoints and experiences with pornography.
Aaron Smith: We’ll, probably do a handful of episodes because there’s a lot of different aspects of this and we’ve had a lot of experience with it unfortunately.
Jennifer Smith: As far as our story, Aaron has been freed of it and I have too because I did mention that I’ve struggled with it myself, but we have been walking in purity and it’s been amazing for the intimacy in our relationship.
Aaron Smith: The authority we get to have in our home and with others.
Jennifer Smith: About a year after we were healed physically, I got pregnant, and so Elliot is our oldest, and then we had Olive, and Wyatt, and I’ve mentioned now that I’m pregnant with number four who’s due this August.
Aaron Smith: Yeah. That kind of leads us up to where we’re at today. It’s been a long journey. We’ve dealt with a lot of different things, ministry, and addictions, and wanting to be divorced and run away. I think we can do somewhere episodes in the future on some of the aspects of those seasons but we just want you to know that we’re not perfect. We’re still growing and changing. God’s constantly working on us because we let him, and wherever you’re at in your marriage, you can drop to your knees at any moment and say yes to him. You can present him with your whole life and say, “I want you to have it and I want you to show me how I need to change,” because oftentimes, we need to look inward.
I needed to look inward on … because it was my perspective on my marriage. Divorce was no longer an option the moment I said, “No matter what happens, I’m going to be here and I’m going to love her.” I began digging into the word and finding out what it looks to love her, and it’s still a journey. Even to this day, I’m like, how can I love my wife well today? I mess up sometimes, but we just want you to know that our story is not unique. Wherever you’re at in your story, share it. Share it with us. Share it with people you trust in your community, and begin to speak it out loud and drag the things that are in the darkness into the light because what gets dragged in the light becomes light.
Jennifer Smith: I mean, I’ve experienced that when you are transparent with others and you are vulnerable enough to share those embarrassing and hard sins that you’ve been struggling with, it-
Aaron Smith: Confess them and repent on them.
Jennifer Smith: It makes you not want to do them again because they know now and they’re going to keep you accountable. You’re not going to want to have to tell them again and again and again and again. You just want to be free from that. I think that you’re right. When you pull things out of the darkness and into the light, the devil can’t use it as a foothold anymore.
Aaron Smith: No, he can’t. As long as it’s hidden, it’s a foothold the enemy can use.
Jennifer Smith: Absolutely.
Aaron Smith: Our whole goal in telling the stories because we desire for marriages to be extraordinary, that you move beyond just happily ever after, that you find your mission together.
Jennifer Smith: When we first got married, we used the word extraordinary even way back then because we saw ourselves serving God together and we saw ourselves building his kingdom.
Aaron Smith: We didn’t know how or which way but-
Jennifer Smith: Nope, but we just knew once we got married, it was going to be go time and we saw ourselves living extraordinary lives. Then, all of this stuff happened and we felt so defeated like it could never happen, but you guys, every day, even through the highs and the lows, we’ve experienced extraordinary things. I think a big part of that is keeping your eyes on God because he will show you those opportunities in moments where he’s letting you experience extraordinary.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, the Bible tells us to draw near to God and he will draw near to us. No matter how dark the valley was that we walked through or how far we felt we were from God, he was with us. We know that because he kept pricking our hearts and pulling us and drawing us. You know what, we have pushed him away and we tried. There was times that we tried to push him away, but there was a part of us that knew he was there. He cling to that and when we got to that point of when the Lord was showing me that story, I could have easily said, “No, God. I’m done with this,” but I didn’t because I knew who he was and what he did for me.
I just want you to know, it doesn’t matter how deep the values or how dark it is, that God is there but you got to open your ears to him and your eyes to him and you got to release what you’re holding onto to him. Otherwise, he … because he’s not going to force it. He’s not going to force you. He’s not going to turn you into a robot, which is something I actually prayed a lot, was like, “Just make me a robot. Just make me into the thing you want me to be,” and he’s like, “No.” He wants us to choose him.
Jennifer Smith: Choosing it is so much more powerful too.
Aaron Smith: It’s the only way. It’s not going to happen unless you choose him, and so we chose him and we chose each other, and because of that, God’s transformed us day in and day out, over and over and over again, and we and we continually go back to that, “Okay, Lord. Not our will but your will be done.” We hope that this encourages you today. If you’ve enjoyed this video, please hit the subscribe button. Hit the bell next to it so that you get notified when we launch new videos.
Jennifer Smith: This episode is so unique because it’s such a personal aspect of our story, but we would love to hear parts of your story so if you want to leave a comment.
Aaron Smith: Whatever you’re willing to share.
Jennifer Smith: Whatever you are willing to share or if a part of our story resonated with you because you relate or it happened to you too, please let us know and let us know where God’s got you right now. Again, you guys, we shared a lot of our story today but we also skipped over smaller details just for the sake of time. If you want those details, don’t forget to get your copy of The Unveiled Wife. There’s a link in the description.
Aaron Smith: Thanks for joining us. See you next time.
Voiceover: Did you enjoy today’s show? Find many more encouraging stories and resources at marriageaftergod.com and let us help you cultivate an extraordinary marriage.