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Sex is designed as an intimate and sacred gift created by God to be reserved for marriage. But what happens when a spouse struggles with intimacy or has a distorted view of sex?

On a recent episode of the “Let’s Talk Purity” podcast, former porn star Brittni De La Mora, who is now a devout Christian, and her pastor husband, Richard De La Mora, were joined by relationship experts Dave and Ashley Willis to talk about how married couples can improve their sex lives.

“Sex is a beautiful gift,” Ashley said at the start of the “Let’s Talk Purity” podcast.

“It’s a gift. And God is awesome, and God made it. And when it’s done the right way, it’s a great gift for married couples,” her husband, Dave, agreed, adding that married couples who want to have a healthy sex life should make sure “the marriage bed is the safest place on Earth for both the husband and the wife.”

“[When it comes to the marriage bed], it’s a place where they both feel protected and cherished and respected and adored and served and pursued. And all of those things happening at once,” Dave added.

“If there's a power dynamic that's happening in the marriage, especially in the sexual aspect of the relationship where one spouse is being manipulative, coercive or trying to force their agenda and make sex very one-sided, very self-centered, then that sabotages the whole gift of oneness that God created in sex,” he added.

“When a husband and wife are both committed to adoring each other, serving each other and connecting with one another, the sexual experience within marriage, it provides a lot of freedom, a lot of exploration, and a lot of fun. I mean, it should be fun. If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong. I mean, it's supposed to be fun.”

Often in some marriages, one spouse might be withholding sex from the other spouse for a number of reasons, Ashley said.

She explained that, sometimes, a husband might withhold sex because he's watching porn and sex doesn't fulfill him anymore, or a wife might withhold sex because she doesn't feel valued enough, or she might be offended by something her husband said or did.

“I would say sex isn't meant to be manipulative or weaponized. It's not even meant to be a reward, either. And when we are withholding, we're using it in that way. And that's really not what God designed sex to be,” Ashley maintained.

“The only time [the Bible] talks about abstaining — each partner both agreeing to abstain from sex for a certain amount of time — it's for a short amount of time, for the sake of fasting from sex, just to reflect on the Lord. That's the only time the Bible mentions that. … That has to be mutual,” she added.

“It says specifically in the Bible that we are not supposed to withhold. In fact, because, … as a husband and wife, we’re the only legitimate place to fulfill a sexual need. We're not supposed to fulfill it on our own. We're not supposed to go outside of our marriage to fulfill it, whether through pornography or through other people. It's important that we don't hold that back from each other because then we’re opening ourselves up to temptation, as well as our spouse.”

Communication is the key to having a healthy sex life in marriage, and it’s also the key to bringing intimate love-making back into a sexually starved marital union, Ashley noted.

“Whenever we've met with married couples, and there is a wife who doesn't really want to have sex, and she's like, ‘You know what, I just have a low libido,’ and the man is sexually starved, I'm telling you, literally 90 percent of the time it's because there's not been really good healthy communication,” she explained.

“It's like the man is not willing to have a conversation, and so the woman is shutting down sexually. And the more a man can be willing to listen and talk, and the woman can share her heart, the more the woman feels physically close to her husband and then, naturally wants to be romantic with him. I would say start with conversation.”

“It's important that you talk about your hopes and your dreams and the things that are really going on in your heart and in your mind. That's why we're big advocates of putting kids to bed earlier than maybe other people do. … It gives you time as a married couple [to talk to each other uninterrupted].”

Dave warned husbands whose wives struggle with low libido not to compensate by using porn, which will bring about a host of other problems within the marriage.

During his teenage years and early on in his marriage, Dave confessed that he, too, struggled with a “selfish cycle of watching porn, masturbating and having a sinful, broken view of sex.”

“I understand the temptation. I understand how hard it is to break away from that. But I also understand that nothing good, like literally nothing good comes from it. … It creates a vicious cycle when we start justifying our own bad decisions because of something that our spouse is doing. It just creates this vortex where nobody wins,” Dave added.

“I would say, in that situation, for the guy that's watching porn, … it's devastating to the mind, the heart, the marriage. And I think that in the short term, we feel like: ‘No, I'm meeting a need or I'm spicing things up.’ But it's toxic, and everything about it is toxic. Everything about it is going to hurt you.”

When a spouse watches porn, they are “sabotaging the intimacy in their relationship,” he said, while also training themselves to be “self-focused lovers by looking at sex and people as objects.”

“That's going to bleed over into your marriage. You're going to start seeing your spouse as an object. You’re going to start seeing your spouse in those kinds of ways. Nothing good can come from it. There's nothing your spouse could do that would make you look at porn, OK. Because sin is sin,” he said.

To the spouse who is struggling with a low libido, Dave said even though they might not have the drive and they might not have the energy, they should be actively looking for solutions to what could be an internal hormonal issue by getting their hormones checked.

He added, however, that there will be times in marriage when one partner might have to step outside of themselves to serve the other, and that might be in sexual ways.

“There are going to be so many times in marriage where we need to be willing to step outside of ourselves to help serve our spouse and not just with sex, but really in everything. … Think of all the things that you do for young kids when you became parents,” Dave said. “You don't feel like getting out of bed and changing a diaper. You don't feel like getting up and you’re being interrupted. We do it because that's what they need, and I'm the only one who can meet that need. It's in some ways a privilege, even though it's exhausting to do it.”

“But I will say that God's Word does, I think, give some clear and healthy parameters. And No. 1, I think talking about the marriage bed being the safest place, I think both spouses need to feel safe. Both spouses need to feel loved and adored.”

Dave further stressed that married couples should never leave room for anyone else to join them in their sexual intimacy, and there are certain biblical parameters for the way in which a married couple should engage in sex.

“Obviously, there's no room for anyone else to enter into that dynamic. There's no room virtually or in-person for someone else coming in and disrupting that oneness that God intended couples to have. So that means no swinging, no threesomes, and it also means no porn. Because when we're bringing porn into the marriage bed, digitally [or] virtually, we're inviting those other people into our marriage bed,” he said.

“That's out of bounds. I would say, don't hurt each other [when having sex]. I would say, don't try to coerce each other. If you're just constantly pressuring your spouse to do some act that is going to ultimately cause them pain. ... They finally just sort of give in and reluctantly agree. Even though you technically have consent, that's not the spirit of what the marriage bed should be,” he added.

"While you should have freedom to explore, have fun, and get creative — God's a God of creativity, and He's the One who made sex, and you guys should be able to explore and get creative — but if that creativity is leading you to a place where you're bringing in some of those outside forces or causing pain, I would say, ‘Alright, that's a timeout, and to call a foul on that.'

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