August 10, 2023

A Guide to a Healthy Marriage and Sex Life with Dave and Ashley Willis

Inside This Episode

Maybe God kicks off a month-long dating and marriage series with a conversation on sex and intimacy with trusted marriage experts and hosts of the popular Naked Marriage Podcast, Dave and Ashley Willis. In this episode, they address what a healthy marriage and sex life looks like, how pornography and masturbation can negatively impact relationships, and how to talk to your kids about sex.

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Julie Mirlicourtois: Hey everyone, welcome to Maybe God. We're a podcast community of doubtful believers and hopeful skeptics boldly seeking answers to our most challenging faith questions through uplifting and powerful storytelling.

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For the rest of this month, we're engaging in some very practical conversations about issues that affect the majority of our listeners: dating, intimacy, and marriage. If you follow us on social media, you've likely seen that maybe God host Eric Huffman is in the process of playing matchmaker, setting up several Houston singles who were just fed up with the modern dating scene on blind dates.

A couple weeks back, he also hosted Maybe God's first singles event, a romance trivia night at a hip brewery in downtown Houston. So stay tuned for what promises to be a hilarious, shocking, and hopeful episode about singles and dating later this month.

In the meantime, let's kick off this relationship series with a conversation all about sex with two of America's most trusted experts, Dave and Ashley Willis, hosts of the popular Naked Marriage Podcast.

Eric Huffman: So Dave and Ashley, welcome to the Maybe God podcast.

Ashley Willis: Thank you.

Dave Willis: Hey, Eric, thanks for having us, man. We're honored to be here. We love what you're doing.

Eric Huffman: Thank y'all. Thank y'all so much. We love what y'all are doing. I can't wait to get more into the weeds with you today and hear a little bit more of your story. So why don't we start there? Just talk to us about who you are and sort of a little bit of background from where you grew up and how you met.

Ashley Willis: We love our story so we get giddy telling people about it. But we actually are originally from Kentucky. I'm sure you can tell from our accents.

Eric Huffman: Never would have guessed.

Ashley Willis: I was born and raised in central Kentucky. I'm the only one in my entire family for generations to move away, because we live in Georgia and have lived in Georgia for about 15-plus years now. But we met at a little Christian school called Georgetown College. Met my first day of class. Dave was two years ahead of me. And we got married the week after Dave graduated. So I still had a year and a half left of school.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Ashley Willis: We lived in a little rundown house on campus while Dave worked at a campus job, and then eventually was in ministry. And we did youth ministry at the beginning, like first three years of our marriage, and then we had children. We have four boys ranging in age from 8 to 18. We now work for Xo Marriage and love it. Dave is also a pastor at Stevens Creek Church here in Augusta, Georgia. That is a really short, condensed version.

Dave Willis: I'll add a little bit. And that we did a lot stupidly wrong early on.

Ashley Willis: Oh, my goodness, yes.

Dave Willis: I mean, we got married young. I made a bunch of mistakes.

Ashley Willis: Which we loved getting married.

Dave Willis: Oh, my gosh, I wouldn't change a thing about it. But just first off, in God's sense of humor, Ashley, who's always been brilliant, she was valedictorian at her high school, but she also won the superlative Most Gullible. So her friends can't believe that Most Gullible award winner is now a sex expert and it's just like...

Ashley Willis: I know my friends who grew up with me are like, this is what you talk about. Like, this just doesn't make sense.

Eric Huffman: I love it.

Dave Willis: God has a sense of humor and it's always unexpected twists and turns He takes us on. But early on we had monies troubles. I had a real issue with pornography that went back into my teenage years and then bled over into the early part of our marriage that caused a lot of brokenness and just sexual confusion and a lot of issues. We had in-laws struggles. We had mental health struggles.

We saw some really bad examples in marriage, even from people who were mentors to us. You know, the lead pastor at our church and our female worship leader had an affair at the church where we were first serving. We were trying to do stuff right. But we were stepping on a lot of landmines and seeing a lot of brokenness.

But I think through that... And I feel like God doesn't waste anything. I feel like He used all of that brokenness in the early years to really kind of plant seeds in us, to say like, hey, you guys, I want to not only bring healing to you, but I want you to be a part of bringing encouragement to others out there in those in this world where it's hard to find healthy examples of marriage.

So we love what we get to do. We say all the time, you know, we're not experts. I don't know if a marriage expert exists, but if they do, they probably been married for 70 years. We've been married for 22 and loving life. I love being married to my best friend. But we don't try to approach what we do as these experts. Like, "Listen to us. We have the answer." It's more like we try to be encouragers. It's like we're on the journey with you.

Ashley Willis: Kind of the first inkling that we might be doing marriage ministry one day was actually when we were in youth ministry, right, sweetie? We were talking to the kids and we were doing a relationship series and we broke up into our small groups and the kids were all... We were actually in a part of our community where there was a lot of broken homes, a lot of parents just trying to make it day to day, just a lot of relational trauma going on. So we talked about relationships a lot.

And I remember in this small group this little girl raised her hand, a little middle schooler, and she said, "I want the kind of marriage that Dave and Ashley have." I think in that moment, we kind of, you know, straightened up a little bit. Like, man, we got to get this right because it's not only for our sake and our family's sake, but for these kids that are watching us and that we can help people. Not only these children hopefully have healthier relationships than maybe they saw growing up one day, but also we're all in this together. Like we all need help. I think that was the first time for me. What about you, sweetie?

Dave Willis: I think that those kind of some of those early moments of people asking us for help and for advice, it sort of freed us from the trap of feeling like we had to have it all figured out before we could start helping. And I think sometimes we stay stuck in seasons of life where we think, no, I'm not ready yet. I'm not ready. I'm not experienced enough. I'm too this. I'm too that.

But right where we are, we have something to give. We always still have something to learn, we have something to give. So we just said, All right, well, let's just start trying to help whenever God brings someone in our path that might need help. And let's keep learning and growing. And really, like Ashley said, stay on our toes as well so that we're growing in our own marriage and trying to stay as healthy as we can. And connecting to people who are older and wiser.

That was really key for us and still is to this day, finding mentors, finding some people who are 10 years ahead of you that, you know, again, aren't perfect, but they're healthy. You know, they're doing it right for the most part. And just learn from them, hang out with them.

Our culture tends to force us into these little pockets where we're only hanging out with people in our exact season of life. You know, from preschool to old age. It's like we're in these little bubbles. But there's so much growth that happens when we're around people who are younger than us, older than us, and those who are right in the same season as well.

I think that's one of the wisest things we did. We did a lot that was wrong in the early years. The one wise things we did, just like those little kids did to us, looking up to us, we found people who were 10, 20 years ahead of us and just intentionally hung out with them to teach us. And even if it wasn't that specific of saying, teach us, we were learning by just watching how they interacted. And that helped us a lot.

Eric Huffman: That's so good. And that might be exactly the answer to my next question, which is, you've talked to so many couples over the years. You've helped couples. You've been helped by couples over the years. What do you see as sort of overarching themes in the strongest and healthiest marriages that you've seen? What do they all have in common?

Dave Willis: Man, that's a great question.

Ashley Willis: I love that question.

Dave Willis: Well, I think first off, we all have blind spots that pride gets in the way, not just in marriage, but in all parts of life where we don't see our flaws. Like in my own mind, like when I talk, my voice sounds like Eric Huffman's. You know, it's this deep Morgan Freeman-like amazing podcast voice. And then when I really listen back to myself, it's more like Mickey Mouse than Eric Huffman.

I'm just saying, in deeper issues, we all have these blind spots where we don't often know how we're coming across to our spouse, where we can be sharp with our words, we can be sarcastic or mean when we're not meaning to be. But when we're humble enough to really listen when our spouse says, hey, you might not have meant it, but this is how you're coming across. And pride kind of steps in and like, "No, that's not how I am. "But when we really listen and say, Oh, wow, thank you for helping me see that blind spot, I think that's huge.

So staying humble. I think really working to be best friends with each other. The healthiest couples are best friends. They prioritize their friendship with each other. And that's an aspect of the marriage that can grow richer with each season of life. So keep pursuing each other. Keep learning about each other.

Eric Huffman: I mean, it sounds good to stay friends and to pursue each other as best friends. But I think most people think of their best friends as someone they feel like being best friends with. And that's not always the case with your spouse. You don't feel like being best friends all the time. Maybe you don't naturally have everything in common or common interests. So how do you pursue that even if you don't feel like it?

Dave Willis: Well, I think feelings are kind of the god of this age that we live in. Right?

Ashley Willis: Oh, yeah.

Dave Willis: You know, the world's like, Follow your feelings. Your feelings are always right. Follow your heart, your feelings... And the thing is, our feelings are so fickle that if we're only following our feelings, we're going to do some messed up things. And ultimately we're going to end up really unhappy because our feelings are sometimes a mirage. They're not a true compass that leads us always in the right direction.

Eric Huffman: Right.

Dave Willis: So, yeah, there are times you're going to not feel like being best friends with your spouse or pursuing your spouse or being kind to them but it's so important. It's most important in those moments when you're not feeling it to pursue each other because love really isn't a feeling. It's a commitment. It's an action. When we remember that, then we can lead our feelings in the right direction and our feelings usually catch up.

The couples we know who've really made it for 50, 60, 70 years and still like each other, not just love each other, but still like each other, at the end of it, they've all pushed through a lot of seasons where they didn't feel like it or they didn't like each other. But they said, "In this season right now, you know, we're butting heads, but I'm going to choose to love you. I'm going to choose to serve you. I'm going to choose to pursue you and to see the best in you and to speak kindly to you even if my instinct would be to be sharp and cruel and critical of you.

The more we can do that, it's like making deposits in the little love bank of our marriage where just like a 401k, you get to the end of your life, and that marriage has had so many deposits in it that you are going to feel like being best friends. You've got so much history, so much shared respect and love. And that's not just like pie in the sky, Hallmark movie channel kind of version of love.

I mean, it really is just... it's like any part of life. You know, there are days you don't feel like going to the gym, but a trainer will say like, well, if you want to be healthy, go the days you don't feel like it. There's going to be days you feel like just eating junk all day. I mean, I feel like eating junk all day-

Eric Huffman: I feel like doing it right now.

Dave Willis: Even though I do it sometimes, I know that those feelings ultimately aren't leading me in the right direction. And the more that I choose what's healthy over choose what feels right in the moment in any part of life, you know, your life's going to be better for it.

Eric Huffman: The part I think I'm hung up on, I think a lot of people are probably hung up on this, is we understand what it means to pursue our partner romantically. But what does it mean to pursue our partner as a friend? In a marriage where you have all these other elements mixed in, how do you really prioritize the friendship? What does that look like practically?

Ashley Willis: I think you take a look at your calendar because you know, what we want to get done is usually on the calendar. That's what we're prioritizing. And I think when it comes to spending time with our spouse, for some reason we get into this grind and this kind of autopilot dynamic where we're expecting things to just be good, or if we just avoid the problems, they'll go away. Or he or she knows that I love them. Like they just know. And I don't have to say it anymore. I don't have to show it anymore.

But really the couples that have thriving marriages and really are in it for the long haul, they prioritize date nights or day dates. The only way you can have quality time is with quantity time. You have to put in the time. And the more time you spend together... some of it may be hard where you have these hard conversations or you have to work through stuff, but there's going to be some good time in there because you're growing and you're learning together.

So I think you have to put things on the calendar where you go spend time together on a regular basis. That's going to look different for everyone. I think, especially for those who have kids and busy careers, have a time each year, again, the frequency is going to look different, but get away together and talk about what's going right and what's not going as well and that you can improve on.

We have to be willing to have those open conversations in order to grow. Because if we don't address an issue, we can't expect it to magically go away. Like we can't get help with it. And I think sometimes, and I, in the early years was very guilty of this. Like I went through a huge bout with anxiety and depression for years. And at first, I just kind of thought, "It's just my problem. I need to handle it or it's going to go away hopefully someday."

But you know, it was this huge wall between us because I didn't bring Dave into the picture. And I very quickly found out, in marriage, it's never really his problem or her problem. It's always our problem. And we really have a responsibility as married people to bring our spouse into the picture. We shouldn't keep those things to ourselves.

That's why we call our podcast The Naked Marriage. We're naked, meaning having no secrets. We're naked and unashamed, as it says in Genesis 2, you know, like Adam and Eve. And we want to have that kind of closeness.

But I think that we live in a culture that just looks down on vulnerability and on true intimacy, and we really kind of act like it's just sex. And sex is important, but your sex life is going to be so much better when you have a naked marriage and when you are honest, even with the problems, even with the yucky stuff.

I know in our own marriage, when we're able to be that honest with each other, our friendship grows. And out of that friendship, an appreciation grows, and more attraction grows. And you have all those different levels of intimacy that we all really truly desire.

Dave Willis: And for the friendship part specifically, I think it leads to an intentionality where you're just like, what are some ways that we can have more overlap instead of his hobbies, her hobbies; his friends, her friends; his dreams, her dreams?

For instance, there's a lot of shows and stuff I like that she doesn't, a lot of shows she likes that I don't. But as much as we can, we'll sit down and be like, all right, what's something we can watch together? Or she wasn't into sports at all because she grew up in this girl house where they just never watched it. But she started watching some with me and I would just explain the rules and she would start appreciating it. It's still not ever going to be her favorite, but she'll appreciate it and enjoy it now and we can watch it together. I'll watch some of this stuff with her that I never would have watched, like Lifetime movies and stuff.

Ashley Willis: I don't watch Lifetime movies. It's more like-

Dave Willis: Wedding dress shows.

Eric Huffman: There it is.

Dave Willis: And I'm like, all right. So I can tell you now what is in this season, what, with every-

Ashley Willis: You're pretty good at it. You are.

Dave Willis: I'm pretty good.

Ashley Willis: You are.

Dave Willis: I know how to say yes to the dress.

Ashley Willis: I know.

Dave Willis: So we'll just try to bring each other into one another's world as much as we can. Those shared moments are meaningful because when we're just doing something we like alone. It's not even a fraction as meaningful as it is if we're doing something and we can share the experience together. So friendship is really as simple as being intentional about trying to share moments together with someone.

Eric Huffman: Amen.

Dave Willis: And that's how you build any friendship.

Eric Huffman: There's a certain kind of grace in that that you're describing in a couple, in a marriage where you just... it's not that you're faking interest. It's that... for example, my wife and I are in our forties now, and we're kind of like you guys. We got married real young, been married a long time now.

But there's this obligatory thing that happens to couples in Texas in their forties where they have to suddenly get interested in antiquing. And I don't know why it just happens. But I couldn't care less about antiques. I think it's just basically a glorified rummage sale. But my wife loves it all of a sudden.

So I've realized it's not up to me to figure out a way to love antiquing or to figure out what's interesting about antiquing. I just want to know what she finds interesting about it and sort of facilitate that and sort of play along with that because it makes me happy to make her happy.

She's the same way with the Astros. She couldn't care less about the Astros. She grew up in Ecuador. You know, baseball doesn't really exist down there. And yet when she asks me about what's happening in an Astros game or she stays through the ninth inning with me now, it's like the most romantic thing she could ever do.

Dave Willis: Yeah. It's like she is leaning in and-

Eric Huffman: Yeah, she's working at it.

Dave Willis: I love it.

Ashley Willis: Great. Very well said.

Dave Willis: I think that when you'll share those moments with somebody, when she's with you at an Astros game, when you are with her and antiquing, then you're bonding in a way where that experience that they love is bringing out this side of them that you couldn't see any other place. So I want to know every side of her and, you know, and she wants to know every side of me. So it doesn't mean that I'm going to love going to a hobby lobby-

Ashley Willis: You could go by yourself.

Dave Willis: Yeah. You know, me and the guys aren't going go antiquing ever.

Eric Huffman: I think she doesn't want that either. I don't think she wants to come home and find you watching Say Yes to the Dress Alone.

Ashley Willis: Right.

Eric Huffman: But watching it together is good. I think that makes sense. That's how we forge friendships in marriage. So good. Now, there's been a running theme throughout your podcast. Again, it's called the Naked Marriage podcast for anyone who's not familiar yet. Y'all started in 2018, about the same time we started the Maybe God podcast.

You started with an episode called Let's Talk about Sex. And that has been a theme that has... I would venture to guess that your most listened to or watched episodes have to do with sexual themes in marriage. Why did y'all sort of decide from the get-go really to talk about that topic in particular as it pertains to marriage?

Dave Willis: Well, it's all she ever wants to talk about.

Eric Huffman: I'm sure.

Dave Willis: At home, at dinner.

Ashley Willis: I think he just wanted to provide a space where I would have to be forced to talk about it.

Dave Willis: Right. Yeah.

Ashley Willis: No, I mean-

Dave Willis: My master plan works.

Ashley Willis: It's your plan. No. Honestly, I think that we just, in our own experience, felt like there weren't that as Christian people, there's not a lot of places where people talk about this, you know-

Dave Willis: In a positive way.

Ashley Willis: In a positive way, in a practical way, in a biblically based way. So we were like, we want to enter into that and hopefully maybe give others license to do that as well. Like in churches to do that more. I know for me personally, I grew up in the purity culture era, and I don't think it was completely all bad. I think the intention was good to help, you know, people stay chaste and avoid some of these pitfalls with sexual promiscuity. But it really made the pendulum swing completely in a direction where it made people scared to talk about sex or have these secrets. It was breeding ground for pornography. Men and women, you know, can get caught up in that.

But I know that for kind of the people growing up in the time that I was growing up, it made us go to other places that are not of God to understand about sex, and it would give you these false narratives. And I brought a lot of those false narratives into our marriage. And then Dave, you know, was dealing with the porn issue as well.

I think part of the problem is that as married people, we don't even talk about these things. Like Dave always likes to say, just even the act of having a talk about sex seems more intimate than actually having sex for a lot of people. And it's like scary. But if we don't talk about it, we can never really uncover what's really going on, you know, why it doesn't seem to be what we each really are desiring, or maybe we're hurt, you know.

So that's why we talk about it a lot. It's become more comfortable to talk about as the years have gone on. But again, I would have never thought this would be something that we talk about all the time, but we're happy to do so.

Dave Willis: I mean, it's finding a need. And we just saw, like Ashley was saying, there's just a real need, especially among those who are trying to follow Jesus to have a place, a safe place where you can ask real questions about sex, get real info about sex, get real healing about maybe baggage that you've got related to sex in your past, whether that came from your own choices or past abuse.

And in all these things, tragically, you know, the church for the most part, the church is getting better as a whole, but for the most part has been just silent. I mean, it's just been silent. And that's made these people feel like they're suffering in isolation, or they're the only one hurting. So then that creates a dilemma within marriages where sometimes people, not knowing what to do with that, they'll just shut off kind of the sexual aspect of who they are, as if sex is somehow dirty in itself, and they forget God made sex. It's a gift. It's a gift for married couples to enjoy together.

I think Christian married couples should be having the best sex on the planet because that's how God designed it. But what we're seeing is largely the opposite. We just wanted to step into it and just be a safe place to have the conversations. Not again, as people who have all the answers, but it's like, look, let's just talk about this. You know, let's bring on people to share their experiences. Let's see what the Bible has to say. Let's dispel the myth that porn is a good instructional video that is just going to spice things up because...

I mean, even just a couple weeks ago on the podcast—the episode's not even out—we interviewed a guy named Joshua Broom, who is a pastor now, but who spent six years as an adult film star before he found Christ. And he just talked about how underneath the shiny veneer of that whole world, just the darkness and the dehumanization that it creates both for the consumer and those producing it. And he said in the 10 years since he's left the industry, he's had 30 friends that have died by either suicide or drug overdose.

Eric Huffman: Goodness gracious.

Ashley Willis: I know. It's just terrible.

Dave Willis: And he said, in the outward veneer, people would think like, oh, that's the dream.

Ashley Willis: It's just harmless.

Dave Willis: People think that's what real sexual fulfillment looks like. And he said, it's the emptiest, most dehumanizing form of sex. And now he's found Christ, and I mean, the guy just has this contagious joy. But we want to tell stories like that to say, listen, no matter what baggage you brought into the marriage, in Christ, guys, listen, we're a new creation. We can start again and we can have a great sex life.

And we need to prioritize it too. I mean, it's not just something we can have. But to really challenge folks and say, we've got to make the effort to keep connecting in this way through every season of life, because it's going to look different in every season. But it's important.

Eric Huffman: Good stuff. Thank you. I'll ask you a similar question I asked before about marriage generally in terms of the sexual life of a married couple. Like the strongest, healthiest sex life across marriages, what do you see as common themes there? What do couples have in common when they're really clicking on all cylinders? Is there a frequency that works best for couples? Is there sort of a boundary or lack of boundary around fantasy and things like that? What are y'all seeing from the healthiest couples you talk to?

Ashley Willis: That's a great question. I would say frequency is one of the biggest questions we get. Like, what is that magic number? I wish I could tell couples. I wish I knew that.

Dave Willis: I tell the couples exactly.

Eric Huffman: What is it?

Dave Willis: I say, take the number you're thinking and double it.

Ashley Willis: Double it. Like aim higher, you know?

Eric Huffman: Sow them like a true man.

Ashley Willis: I know, right?

Dave Willis: And every wife rolls her eyes when I say that. Not every wife but-

Ashley Willis: You know what? We hear from a lot of wives who have the higher libido and want more frequency. So I mean, really, I think we're trying to dispel that myth as well. So it's a great exercise for couples to just talk about this and say, like, we need to have a baseline for the frequency that we want to make sure we're having. Maybe for some, it's every other day, or maybe it's every three days or every day or whatever it is.

Dave Willis: Or every week or whatever.

Ashley Willis: And then add to it. Or every week. I mean, it's going to be different for everybody.

Dave Willis: Anything in our life that is important, we tend to put on the calendar. That seems unromantic for people or weird. But I'm like, why is that weird? It's like you're married to say, Hey, Monday nights, mommy and daddy time, right? We're going to-

Ashley Willis: We're going to prioritize this.

Eric Huffman: I think why it's weird is, again, it's the addiction to feeling. I think we're conditioned to think, well, you're supposed to be in the mood for it. You're supposed to feel it. And that can't be planned. So it's just mechanical or whatever.

Ashley Willis: I know. That is so true. We actually just had a dear friend of ours on the podcast, Shaunti Feldhahn. You may be familiar with Shaunti and her books. And Dr. Seitzma. And they wrote a book on sex together. And it's really enlightening. One thing she shared that just, I already knew this, but it was cool to see the research behind it, is that for a lot of people, a lot of married couples, for the individuals who may not be in the mood, it takes making out and engaging in intimacy and then those feelings kind of catch up. So that's just supporting the science that go ahead and prioritize it, because more than likely you're actually going to end up enjoying this.

Dave Willis: They had a word for it. I think it was like reactive arousal or something.

Ashley Willis: I think it was reactive arousal.

Dave Willis: Where for most or a big chunk of people they're never, almost never just in the mood. Like it's never just going to hit them like, oh my gosh, I'm in the mood. Now we've got to have this steamy movie moment where we just connect and it's fire. But that's not real life.

Again, we're learning these false realities. And then we're based in our real-life sex life on this false stuff we've seen. But real life, it's like you've got to be intentional. It's like, hey, let's get together. Let's give each other a back rub. Let's just start maybe kissing and cuddling. And it leads to a place most of the time where there is arousal, there is desire. But two couples that believe the myth that we both have to be equally aroused at just any random moment for sex to happen, that's like catching a unicorn and getting struck by lightning at the same time. It's just not going to happen very often.

So if you want a thriving sex life, it takes some intentionality like thriving in any other part of life. Like, all right, well, that means we need to have time to connect. It means most women need a lot of non-sexual physical affection from their husband through the day. It means that the words we speak to one another have to be uplifting. It means that we need to have uninterrupted time where we can just kind of let down from the day. It means that we need to serve each other, kind of maybe do chores the other would do to free up the mental space.

Ashley Willis: They call that chore play.

Dave Willis: Chore play.

Eric Huffman: I like that. Is that trademarked by you guys?

Ashley Willis: Oh, man.

Dave Willis: We stole it from somebody else.

Ashley Willis: I think somebody else stole it. And they stole it from somebody else. But I still love it.

Eric Huffman: Well, I mean, if you're a Maybe God listener and you're listening in right now or watching, you've always wanted us to sort of talk more in detail about some of these sexual issues. Like really getting in the weeds. I'm just going to go ahead and say it now. We're going to outsource that to you guys and the Naked Marriage Podcast because you guys talk about everything.

And I really do admire your courage because if we don't talk about it ourselves, we're going to be talking about it or hearing about it from the world, right? And surely we can have better conversations than the secular world does. So I applaud that.

Now let's pivot a little bit. I mean, I love what you say about healthy couples and the need for greater frequency in healthy couples. I think the number that most studies point to is like three times a week or you guys are like maybe two. I've heard you say maybe two. But you seem to default to like whoever has the stronger sex drive in a healthy couple, like try to work toward that. That's beautiful and good in a healthy relationship. And I hope my wife is listening.  However, not all relationships are healthy, right? And if someone has a sex addiction, for example, that rule might not apply, right, because then it becomes sort of exploitative or abusive.

Dave Willis: It's a very different issue.

Eric Huffman: What kinds of issues do you see interrupting or really blocking a healthy sex life in marriages today?

Dave Willis: Sure. It's a great question. I would put them in different categories. One of the categories are the things that neither of you are at fault for it being there. So you could have an unhealthy season in your sex life just because one of you is unhealthy physically or mentally.

Like we went through a time when I have a thyroid condition, it threw my hormones all out of balance, my testosterone plummeted, my sex drive plummeted and for the first time in my life, I had real anxiety around sex. Because just to be very frank, I was afraid. And I never thought that I would be dealing with this, especially at the time as a young man, where I was actually afraid that I might not be able to perform. And that is a very vulnerable and terrifying place to be as a guy.

So I just, for a season, almost kind of shut the sexual part of my brain down. But at the same time, I knew that even through that difficult season, I had to prioritize it and we had to figure it out. Ashley was so tender during that time and patient. I mean, we still connected intimately, but it looked different. And thankfully now I've got all the right medications, you know, my testosterone's back where it needs to be.

So sometimes when you go through a difficult season where things feel broken, it's not because of some like sin issue or some false mindset or porn or any of that. It's because one or both of you are really struggling with a mental health issue, with a physical health issue, a hormonal issue. And there's no shame in that. I think that you have to really lean on each other, serve each other through that. We've had different seasons through, you know, anxiety and depression that Ashley had, through that physical stuff I was going through.

You have to just be extra patient and tender with each other, but also proactively work to find solutions. I think when we just say, well, this is just how I am now. And you're going to have to put sex out of your brain because it's not important for me anymore, so it can't be important for you, that's when it gets really unhealthy. We do hear couples that are in that place and it creates resentment and it creates frustration. It's completely unnecessary. So there's that category.

Another category that is within our control is stuff like pornography, masturbation. I think masturbation, pornography, those two things, they tend to kind of go together. But even outside of pornography, there's sort of a masturbation epidemic right now. What's it doing, it's creating in our minds, it's training us to be very selfish lovers. It's training us to look at sex as a solo sport, so to speak.

And it's under the guise of like, you know, for women, there's a lot of products being marketed to them, you know, vibrators and other things where it's like, Hey, this is empowering. This is you taking control of your sexuality and pleasure. And it feels like very affirming and empowering of sex, but really it's the opposite.

And for men as well, you know, men and masturbation, when you are finally together in that moment of like wanting to serve each other as husband and wife and create mutual pleasure, both of you have trained your minds to just do what feels good for you and get to that point of climax as quickly as possible. It's a cycle that a lot of folks are in. Again, it's one of those awkward things that isn't talked about, but I feel like God has called us to the awkward stuff. So more masturbation.

Eric Huffman: Is your advice to couples just to abstain from masturbation when you're married?

Dave Willis: I mean, people say, is it a sin? You know, and is it a sin if I like think about my wife and masturbate or if I'm like, you know, on a deployment and I'm overseas and I'm like, you know, looking at pictures of my wife and masturbating because it's the only release I have, is it a sin? I don't think that's really the right question. I'm not, you know, like stepping in referee, like, is that sin or not sin?

But what I do firmly believe, as somebody who struggled for years with this issue, especially in tandem with pornography, and this even lasted beyond the pornography, like even after I was finally able to break free from that, the addiction really that went with it with masturbation, it lasted longer and that took longer to break.

But what I saw getting free from that is like a freedom in my mind and a true connection with the two of us that was something so much better than where my mindset was back when I was caught up in it. My unique experience isn't... that's also lining up with what we're seeing in research and the experiences of a lot of other people. Again, I think sin is not really the best question.

Ashley Willis: Is this the best for my marriage?

Dave Willis: Is it the best for my sex life? I would say that a person that works to abstain from masturbation is in the long run going to have a healthier sex life within marriage than a person who is habitually masturbating.

Ashley Willis: Yeah. Yes. To answer your question about kind of what are the categories, I want to add one other category to what kind of is a hindrance to having a thriving sex life. And that would be everybody... And we have to fight this too. Just being too busy and wearing ourselves out.

I can't tell you how many messages we get from people that talk about like their husband or wife, it could be both. Like she just says she's so tired or he just says he's so tired and so then they just don't have sex. I mean, literally. And I know that sounds so simple and I get it. You know, we've raised four kids, we have busy careers. I get the exhaustion. I mean, there may be an illness involved. There may be caring for elderly parents or they're a caretaker of maybe an ill child. I mean, there's all kinds of scenarios. And this isn't to make anybody feel bad.

Dave Willis: No, no.

Ashley Willis: But I think we do need to recognize it for what it is. Because what we don't even realize is that really for both of us, to varying degrees, when you're just not having sex, that really can add to the frustration between you. And it's just this snowball effect of making your conversations more intense in a bad way. What we don't even realize is the power of sex to really bring us together. I mean, that's why God created sex is to bring a married couple together-

Dave Willis: Yeah, it's unifying.

Ashley Willis: Unlike any other thing. I mean, physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. So we don't want to cut ourselves off from that.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Dave Willis: And just to add to that, don't fall into the myth that like you can only have sex at the very end of the day after everything else is done.

Ashley Willis: True. Yes.

Dave Willis: Because that is when you're going to be most exhausted. But a lot of couples, they're like, That's the only time we could do it. If there's any energy left after we've done everything else. And what you're really saying is everything else is more important. If there's anything left over, then I might throw the leftovers toward making love.

But instead to say like, what would it look like if we connected when our energies at our best, you know? What would it look like if we, every now and then, met at home on a lunch break and had a little afternoon delight? What would it look like if we-

Ashley Willis: Or had sex before you go on the date?

Dave Willis: Yes.

Eric Huffman: Ooh.

Dave Willis: There you go.

Ashley Willis: Then it's not you're tired and you have to go to bed.

Eric Huffman: You've got something to talk about after.

Dave Willis: Right. That's a relaxed the date right there.

Eric Huffman: That's fantastic. I just love how creative and open you guys are in these conversations. Dave, one thing I wanted to have our listeners hear from you about specifically is, men's struggles with porn. Just talk a little bit about your past with pornography and how that developed, how that habit developed, and sort of what you ended up doing about it.

Dave Willis: That's a great question. I was one of the 95% of American teenagers that is exposed to porn before the age of 18. I went to a friend's house, middle school, I think it was, and first saw, Playboy, kind of soft porn. Those images of course were really, really enticing and I was feeling all kinds of things. I knew it was wrong already as somebody raised in a church, like, no, it's not good to lust and all that. But your eyes are drawn to it. So that was kind of the first thing.

And then a few years later, I'd say probably early high school, I had a friend whose dad had like hardcore magazines and penthouse and he looked at that. And then all of a sudden I had these really explicit images in my mind. And from there it kind of put me on this quest of like trying to find images like that when I could.

Now, I didn't have a lot of access at first, but once I got into late high school and we had internet, I started looking up stuff. And then I'd feel bad and I'd stay away from it for a while, but then I would fall back into it. And I would never deal with it in a healthy way. I would do it, I would feel bad about it and then I would-

Eric Huffman: Delete your search history. Yeah, all that.

Dave Willis: Yeah, exactly. And then I'd fall back into it. That cycle kind of continued on and off through college. Ashley and I got together late in college. I'd been free from it for a while because I was really like, no, I'm going to get married and I'm not going to be tempted anymore. So I didn't even tell her it had been a struggle, which was a cowardly mistake on my part.

We got married and I would say probably six months into the marriage, these temptations came back out of just nowhere and really bombarded me. And I ended up, I don't know, maybe around the first year mark falling back into it and just feeling ashamed, feeling like, oh my gosh, now I've committed adultery. Essentially, Jesus says, so look with lust is to commit adultery in your heart. I mean, I hated myself, but I didn't know how to break free from it and I fell back kind of into it hard until Ashley ultimately found on our old clunky desktop computer, where I'd been. And I was like so ashamed and so thrilled all at once. I mean, I was ashamed. I felt terrible that she'd found it, but I was thrilled that she'd found something that I had not had the courage to just confess on my own.

So once it was out into the light, it helped us to start walking through it. And even the walking through it was a messy process because by that point it had become an addiction. I was living as an addict. So even though I knew I wanted to be free, I knew I had to be free, I relapsed at least once. And then that opens up wounds all over again.

But ultimately we just kind of kept on that path. Ashley was amazing. Even though I had wounded her deeply, she was amazing at walking with me, making sure boundaries were in place, making sure accountability was in place. And she showed so much grace by not punishing me or not making me feel like, "Oh my gosh, you're disgusting. Or if you want those images and not me, then I'm never going to be attracted to you again." Or just saying like, you know, we're just not going to have sex for a year because you're gross and you're going to be punished and you're just going to detox from all that.

She didn't do any of those, those things. I felt like her approach was... where everything I was doing at the time mentally was just unhealthy and broken. The grace and the maturity that she showed through all of that was really a catalyst that kind of helped me get out of it once and for all. And I'm so thankful for that. She and Jesus are the heroes of that story.

I mean, I think once, once you get to a certain point... I've never had a chemical addiction with alcohol or drugs. But from what I understand from talking to guys who have, I mean, sometimes the process is very similar as far as what's happening in your brain. You know, it's difficult, it's really difficult in those early days. But then you get to a certain point where that temptation that just gripped you all the time it's lost its grip on you.

And then it's just doing the work that all of us have to do is like just being wise and not going looking for stuff that you know is not good, watching out for triggers that. Even now, if we're watching a movie or something on Netflix or wherever, if a really steamy sex scene comes out of nowhere, I mean, I always try to intentionally skip it or turn away.

Eric Huffman: Even if the kids aren't around. I do the same thing. So Ashley, from your perspective, what was it like to find those images on your computer and what gave you the strength to react in the gracious way that you did?

Ashley Willis: Oh man. When I found it, I wasn't looking for it. I just want to say that. I was actually going on our computer because I was actually back in school in a master's program for teaching. It was just where the internet was good in our old house. We lived in this hundred-year-old home and for some reason, they hooked it up to where that's where the internet was great. It was before Wi-Fi.

Eric Huffman: Old are the days.

Ashley Willis: The old days, I know. But I get on there and I just see the search history and I'm in the descriptions, I was like, what in the world? And I could not believe. I mean, my first thought really was like, who broke into our house and went to our basement and looked at porn sites? Like, what creeper came in here? That's really what I was thinking. Because you hold your spouse on a pedestal.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Ashley Willis: It was like, you know, the Holy Spirit waking me up and saying, you've known something's been off between the two of you and this is what's off, you know? So just for me too, it was like the worst day and the best day all at the same time, just like it was for Dave. And I remember I didn't really go deep and look at all of them. I didn't want to put that in my own mind but I knew what was going on here. And I could see like the list that had been going on a long time. And I was just like, oh man.

After I was disgusted, I was angry, I was sad, I was mad, I was just confused and just all these feelings, I prayed. And then I just was like, I have to hear Dave say this. Like he has to tell me. So I called him at work and he answered and he's just like, "Hey, sweetie." And all I could muster up to say was like, "Do you have something you need to tell me?" And he said he immediately knew I'd found it. It was almost like he didn't empty his search history because I think subconsciously you almost wanted me to find it, not to hurt me or anything, but just to get you out of this, you know? He immediately just started apologizing and he said he felt so terrible that I had to even find it, but also he was glad that finally I knew what was going on.

And you ask like, how did I have the grace to give him? And that's just God because there were definitely days where I'd be on my high horse thinking, you know, holier than thou thoughts. Like, I didn't do this to him, you know, I've been a good wife. And it was like very quickly God would humble me and be like, Okay, how many times today did you need my grace? And it's like hour by hour, right? Because I'm a broken human being too, a sinner saved by grace. Porn's not my issue, but I have plenty of other issues that God is constantly helping me with. So I think that helped me to stay humble.

I think that I just saw that when, when I gave Dave tools instead of judgment or ultimatums, it's like I saw him rise to the occasion. There'd be a lot of days where he's like, I'm disgusting and I'm such a failure. And he would have this... even if he didn't say it, I could see it on his face. And it was like I just knew that I needed to speak life to him. I needed to speak God's truth to him that he is not defined by his sin, that he is more than a conqueror in Christ and that God can renew his mind, and that he will get through this. That this is not who he is, this is something he did, but he can be free from this.

So it was a daily thing for us. It was really messy. I mean, it was not pretty. I will just say that. I had plenty of tears. This was in conjunction. Like my depression and anxiety were not because of this, but it happened in conjunction with it. And we were also in the midst of a horrible time with having in-law troubles. We've written an entire book about this. It's coming out in September called Married Into the Family. And it's not just our story, but many stories and how to have peace with a multi-generational family relationships. So just to tell you it was a really hard time.

Dave Willis: It was a hard time.

Eric Huffman: But God, I mean, it's a miracle that He got us through. I mean, He got us through and we're stronger because of it.

Eric Huffman: How many years had y'all been married at that point?

Ashley Willis: Oh, we just had our first child. So probably four years.

Eric Huffman: I have a similar story, Dave, just having been exposed to porn way too young and it playing a part in my life for a long time leading up to my marriage. And then in the first chapter of my marriage, which was probably more than 10 years of being married to my wife, I was watching porn periodically and not telling her and then, you know, getting caught and all of that. It was really ugly. And I know how it affects people's intimacy and sex lives.

Ashley, one thing I've been really appreciative of in your approach to the work y'all are doing with your podcast is you talk to women about pornographic material that women are drawn to as well. It's not like just the guys are weirdos and hooked on porn. It's almost like we're more efficient than y'all are. We just get right to the chase and women sort of... you know, Twilight is pornography, but it just takes like eight hours and 800 pages to get to the scene. But it's all the same. It's just different-

Dave Willis: But he's a vampire. It's different. He's a werewolf.

Eric Huffman: It's worse. It's just like we're all a mess. I think that's the point. And you've talked, Ashley, at times, I believe... I don't want to speak out of turn, but you've talked about how you had an issue with just a fear of sex. I wonder if you could speak to that from your angle.

Ashley Willis: Sex, you know, in my house growing up... I have wonderful parents who've been married 40 plus years and I'm so grateful for them. And I grew up in an amazing church. But kind of within my home and even kind of in my little circle, Christian circles, sex was like the thing that when it was talked about, it was like, shut it down as fast as you can. It's the dirty little thing that, yes, married couples do it, but heaven forbid you even think about it.

Again, I got most gullible in my senior class, maybe it's because I was taking things too literally and like to... it became like the thing that... you know, staying chaste, waiting before marriage almost became like an idol for me. I became so much more about what I didn't do than what I did as a Christian. And that was one of them. Like, I am the chaste girl, you know, and almost wore it like a badge of honor.

Fast forward... and this didn't mean I wasn't saving the kiss for the wedding day. Nothing wrong with that. But that wasn't our story. I mean, we were kissing and making out and all that kind of things, and we were not perfect either. But I was determined to wait before a marriage, and, by God's grace, we did.

But I remember all of a sudden, we're married, and I'm supposed to flip this switch. And all of a sudden, in my mind, I'm like, well, I'm supposed to be a sexual goddess and just know what I'm doing, and it's supposed to be perfect. So in those early years, clearly, that's not the story. And it isn't for most people, even if they have had sex before. There's all this baggage that can come on. I know for me, it was this fear there was something wrong with me. Do you remember that?

Dave Willis: Yeah.

Ashley Willis: It took Dave showing a lot of patience and grace for me to just kind of, I don't know, just figure that out and marry the two and feel good about being a married woman, enjoying and engaging in sex. Because part of my brain and part of my personality that I had for so many years, just literally just tried to shut off.

And I hear this. I'm not the only one. So many women, you know, especially growing up in church, where maybe it was talked about negative ways or in homes where it was talked about negative ways, they have very similar stories. I mean, I've even heard from women who had the same kind of mindset and then ended up having sex outside of marriage and then felt like once they got married, that they would not allow themselves to enjoy sex because they made that one decision of having premarital sex, like that that was God's punishment for them. And I'm like, that is just not at all found in the Bible. That's not how God works, you know. We're new creations and he wants us to enjoy His gift of sex and marriage.

Eric Huffman: One of my favorite quotes about sex in Christianity or Christian culture is from Butch Hancock. And he said, Life in Lubbock, Texas taught me that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth, and you should save it for someone you love.

Ashley Willis: Exactly. That is so true.

Eric Huffman: Because of the mixed messages we get as Christian kids growing up, it's like, yeah, yeah, sex is awful. You should never do it until you're married, do it with that person.

Ashley Willis: You're right.

Eric Huffman: What did you discover in the aftermath of getting married and sort of through the years about what the Bible says about enjoying sex? And what do you think the world and maybe the church needs to remember about what scripture calls us to see regarding sex and marriage and sort of what God wants for us?

Ashley Willis: I love that question.

Dave Willis: It's so good. I mean, that's the heart of what we're doing. That's why our podcast is called The Naked Marriage Podcast. It's not just that the word "naked" automatically draws us in, which is true. But it's the picture of that very first couple and it's an image of what God created marriage to be.

It said, Adam and Eve, the man and his wife were naked and unashamed. That we can get back to that place where there's nakedness as a picture of not only physical intimacy but emotional and spiritual intimacy. It's a picture of saying, I have nothing to hide from you. There's nothing here that is hidden. You see me, warts and scars and all. I see you the same, and yet we accept each other completely. We love and adore each other completely. And we can be in this intimate, beautiful union without shame and accept each other where we are. That's how God loves us. And that's the deep form of intimacy that couples are meant to share not just sexually. But sex is certainly one expression of that, a very important and special expression of that.

And then when you look through scripture, you look at Song of Solomon, which is just a celebration of sensuality within married sex. I think to see that, to see that we can be creative, we can be innovative, we can be poetic... This is supposed to be fun. If you're not having fun in the marriage bed, then you're doing it wrong because it's supposed to be fun.

Ashley Willis: And there's a freedom.

Dave Willis: And there's a freedom. That's the key word, I think, is giving people, married couples, that freedom to say, instead of just tiptoeing into the bedroom, so scared, walking on eggshells of all the things that maybe we're not supposed to do, to say, no, you're looking at it wrong. God's given you, as a married couple, an enormous amount of freedom to explore each other and celebrate each other, and bring pleasure to one another, and to do that naked and unashamed.

Eric Huffman: So how do you know when... gosh, this is a hard question because I don't even know there's an answer. How do you know when someone in a marriage, when you are coming from a pure desire for your spouse and you want to get creative with fantasy or gadgets or whatever, and that's just out of a good place versus bringing the pornified culture into your marriage bed? Where's the line there? Is there anything you've been able to discern?

Ashley Willis: We get a lot of questions from people about that. Because I do think, we're curious. We're like, okay, we have the freedom. We want to enjoy each other. We want to try different positions and maybe even some sexual toys. I think that as long as you're not bringing, obviously, another person into the marriage bed through actually in person or through pornography, watching something, there is freedom there. But you both have to feel good about that. If you're going to bring a toy in, you both have to feel safe and good about that. There should be no shame attached to it. If it's bringing you both pleasure, how about it?

I think that the same with positions. I think nobody should feel forced to do a certain position or to try... I mean, we talk about all different kinds of things, like oral sex. That should never be like, well, this is what Dave and Ashley said on their podcast that you should try this. That's not the approach. It needs to be something that you both really talk about in wanting to explore these things.

But if one of you, for whatever reason, feels like a visceral response to it... and it could be because of past trauma, it could be because of who knows what. But your spouse is more important than that sexual act with your spouse.

Dave Willis: Absolutely.

Ashley Willis: So we have to be so loving and kind and full of grace and never feel pressured. But do it out of love and out of just wanting to explore each other.

Dave Willis: And I would say a couple questions to maybe ask each other, not just in the moment, but you should be able to talk about your sex life over breakfast, is if there's something you're wanting to try, to get to the heart of like, okay, well, what about that feels really appealing to you? Why do you want to try that?

Ashley Willis: Why is that enticing?

Dave Willis: It just some porn fantasy that you're wanting to act out? Or is this like, no, I feel like this would feel really good? I mean, to get to the heart of it. And for the person that feels like, no, this specific act or this specific thing or position or whatever, no, I don't want to do that.

To talk about why and to be able to talk about it kind of without shame or embarrassment of like, well, no, I just feel like that would be really uncomfortable. I feel like that would feel degrading for me to do that. And to give each other a lot of grace to say, like, I want you to feel so safe. If that is making you feel threatened or uncomfortable or certainly in pain of any kind, then yeah, let's take that off the table. But let's not get so just, I don't know, stiff in our mindset, rigid, that we think, okay, this is all we can do. Like we're going to-

Ashley Willis: Just do missionary position.

Eric Huffman: Yeah. Yeah. Right.

Dave Willis: God gave you a lot more freedom than that.

Eric Huffman: Maybe the good line to think about if someone's looking for sort of something to hold on to here and maybe if you can't talk about it at breakfast, maybe it's not something you should be introducing into your bed as a married couple. Like if you're too ashamed or if it's too just wrong to bring up in a one-on-one conversation, then maybe you're not ready for that. Or maybe it's something you should leave in the past or maybe it's, you know, something you're bringing into your life from some dark place and maybe that's something you need freedom from. Or maybe you just need to bring it up at breakfast and see what happens. So great.

I really appreciate y'all's comments on that. Before we wrap up, and we're almost to our time here, one thing we're doing this summer at the Maybe God podcast is really trying to help single people both just in their discipleship and the questions they're asking about faith, but also in their relationships and making meaningful connections with other single people in Houston area.

I wondered what you might have to say to single adults who are getting married later than ever and Christians are telling, their churches are telling them to wait until they get married at 33 or whatever to engage in any kind of sex and things like that. What's your advice to people that are trying to stay faithful to what maybe what the Bible says or what God wants for them while at the same time, they're, you know, single adults in the midst of what may be their sexual peak or they've got all these natural desires and things? Do you have anything to say to single people in particular?

Dave Willis: Yeah, that's great. First off, guys, thank you for listening. I think, first, there's so much good that can be done in the season of singleness or even in a lifetime of singleness. I mean, so many of my heroes in the Bible were single for life. I think one of the mistakes the church has made is to look at singleness like a disease that has to be remedied through marriage and to just push people into that as quickly as possible instead of saying like, no, embrace the beauty of the season that you're in because in Christ you're already a whole person. You know, we don't need the spouse to complete us.

Now we can be one with our spouse in such a beautiful way, but that doesn't bring completion to our soul. Only Jesus can do that. So never feel like you're less than and never feel like you've just got to rush through this season. Embrace the uniqueness of it, the freedom that comes from it, and live for Jesus wholeheartedly while you're there.

Ashley Willis: I think that, you know, because you were talking about like, what are they supposed to do with this desire as a 30-something-year-old single person? And we get that question a lot because we even on the Naked Marriage Podcast have single people who have the desire to be married who are listening and have these questions. And I think that-

Dave Willis: "Can I get a vibrator? Can I at least do this?"

Ashley Willis: Oh, yeah. Like, what am I supposed to do with this? And I think that the more that we feed that, the more that we're getting caught up in things like pornography or romance novels, erotica, masturbation, things like that. I think that we need to watch that because it can become an addiction very easily.

But I think that focusing on how we're growing in Christ, focusing on getting healthy and emotionally intelligent and working through our own stuff so that when and if God has someone for us to marry one day, it'll be great, but also just our own relationship with the Lord and our own health, you know, as a person.

I know it's a little complicated when they are trying to wait until marriage, but it's just one of those things where there can be a lot of shame attached to that as well. But again, you know, God forgives and we can walk free from that shame and try to do better. Like if we have these things in our past, I mean, what else would you add to that, especially when it comes to like waiting, sweetie?

Dave Willis: I mean, I would say I'm so thankful for God's grace. I don't think that He ever calls us to walk in shame. Shame is something... that's the devil's business. The Lord will bring conviction, which is different. I mean, that's when you're doing something that's unhealthy, that's hurting you, that's sinful. It's like touching a hot stove and the stove is hot. That's a natural survival instinct saying, get your hand off that. That's not good for you.

Sex outside of marriage is like that. It shouldn't bring shame but I do think that we should have that conviction of saying, Okay, this isn't what God has for me. So I want to step away from that, even if it's something I've done in the past. Instead, I want to really do my best to live this part of my life where I don't have, in marriage, I don't have that outlet for sex that God created. So instead of going the culture's way of just leaning into some artificial outlets, which is really going to train me to be a bad spouse-

Eric Huffman: That's right.

Dave Willis: Instead, like I want to just wholeheartedly pour myself into finding fulfillment in other ways, realizing that like, okay, those desires that God's given me for sex are natural, are good. They're good desires. There's nothing to be ashamed of. But in this season, without that healthy outlet for them, I'm going to kind of put those on the shelf, so to speak, even though that's difficult. I mean, that's a sacrifice, but it's a sacrifice well worth making.

And I think that the more we're willing to make that, even if we haven't made that in the past, the more we're setting ourselves up for true fulfillment on a spiritual level in this season and true fulfillment in a marriage down the road.

Dave Willis: Amen. Well said. And finally, you guys are raising four boys, right?

Ashley Willis: Yeah.

Dave Willis: Yeah.

Eric Huffman: Ages 8 to 18. God bless you. I can only imagine the sex conversations you're having.

Dave Willis: It varies wildly.

Eric Huffman: I bet. I bet. I'd love for you to just share a word with parents that might be listening in right now about the need for these kinds of conversations about sex and sexuality with our children and teenagers as they're growing up.

Ashley Willis: Oh, man, I think it's so important. Because we want to be those first people to talk about things like sex and our bodies and how God made us and why He created sex in a healthy way and a biblically based way with our children. And just the hard truth is that kids are getting exposed to different narratives of sex, whether or not they're seeing pornography. But just even kids on a playground talking about a sexual act or whatever it is, they're getting exposed earlier than people think.

So it's not just waiting to have that big birds and bees talk that people talk about. But it's really having lots of little kind of age-appropriate talks.

Dave Willis: Making it a normal part of a conversation. Like celebrating early on that God made you a girl or God made you a boy. And that's a beautiful thing. Just starting from the beginning. That right there is countercultural anymore in a world that says... just like, you know, one of your latest episodes, which was a great conversation, can't remember the lady's name, about like gender and sexuality.

Dave Willis: Oh, Nancy Pearcey.

Dave Willis: She was excellent.

Eric Huffman: Awesome.

Dave Willis: But just the sacredness that we should view the body, how God gave us a body and that that's a gift that He gave to us and how we honor Him with our bodies, how we live out our best life in the body He gave us. And I think you can start those conversations, you know, when they're, you know, three, you know, talking about, man, God made you a girl, God made you a boy. That's amazing. That's wonderful. And then from there, in age-appropriate ways, talk about bodies changing, talk about temptations and about—

Ashley Willis: And protecting your body.

Dave Willis: Protecting your body.

Ashley Willis: We talk a lot about that. I mean, you hear about people who've been through sexual abuse kind of, if only... I mean, it's never the person's fault he goes through sexual abuse. Of course. But they just wish someone had been there to protect them. So one way that we can try to help protect our kids from that is teaching them about their bodies.

I think, again, we need to do it earlier than we realize and how, you know, you don't go touching someone else's private area. They should never touch your private area, or even show your privates to someone. Don't let them show their privates to you. This is for kids and adults, family, non-family. Like we're that specific because we need to do that. Like we need to educate them. But also, like Dave said, not it being a shame thing but that's just being a wise kind of exercise.

Then I know that Dave... and we have only boys, but... and we both talk to them about sex and their bodies and things like that. But there does come a time kind of with our kids and it comes around like... what would you say like with Chandler? Was it around like nine where you got real specific? Age-appropriately specific about what sex is.

Eric Huffman: Right.

Dave Willis: Well, in an age-appropriate way of like just making sure, you know, just kind of the biology of it. This is how God designed us, and this is where babies come from. I actually wrote a whole book specifically for the teaching boys part because that's the only experience I have, but it's called Raising Boys Who Respect Girls. It's really all about these conversations and what the conversation should look like, kind of age by age. So that's a resource you can check out if you're interested. We also have some free resources on those same topics through

Ashley Willis: Exactly.

Eric Huffman: Awesome.

Ashley Willis: And like you were talking about the spectrum. These days we have a kid going to college. Our 18-year-old is going to the University of Georgia in like a week or a week and a half.

Dave Willis: I know, it's wild.

Ashley Willis: For us, we want to always be a safe place where our kids can ask us any question. And that still goes with our 18-year-old because, I mean, he's going to be in a world that's a totally different world than what he's experienced in high school. And like, we've had some different conversations with him about just all these different things with sex and like, what are we going to do in this scenario, that kind of thing.

Also like in the middle school years, don't be surprised if your kids come to you and they give you a word and you're like, I don't know this word. Don't be afraid to go look it up on the Urban Dictionary to find out what they're talking about. I've done this. Like we try not to act shocked because we want to be able to talk to them about it. Don't all of us want our kids to come to us instead of going and looking it up on the internet or going and asking a random kid? So just being that safe place, that's kind of always been our goal.

Eric Huffman: It sounds like you're really talking about just creating a culture of open conversation and communication in your home from the get-go, so you don't have to create a way to do it later. Like just as early as possible, you know, making those channels of communication open for your kids to basically talk about anything.

I think there is a lot of value in, you know, sort of moving on from the hyper, hyper-vigilant puritanical sort of culture where we keep all of our biggest questions in secret and keep it in the dark because we're ashamed of asking. I really value that about y'all's podcast and about obviously the way you're raising your own family. I'm just so grateful for y'all and sharing your witness with us today and with the world in all of the different ways you are. It sounds like you got a new book coming out. When's that coming out again?

Ashley Willis: Yes, it'll be in September. It's our book about healthy in-law relationships called Married into the Family: The Not-So-Secret Guide to In-Law Relationships.

Eric Huffman: Beautiful. We'll include all of those links and information in the show notes. If you're watching or listening right now and want to get more from Dave and Ashley, hope you'll check those links out. And always you can find the podcast wherever podcasts are found and on YouTube and everywhere else if you like watching podcasts by looking up the Naked Marriage podcast.

So Dave and Ashley Willis, thank you so much for spending this time with the Maybe God family, and hope to have you back again soon.

Dave Willis: Thank you, Eric.

Ashley Willis: Thank you so much.

Eric Huffman: Thank you. Bye bye.

Julie Mirlicourtois: If you have any comments or questions about today's episode, don't forget to engage with us on social media or email us at [email protected]. Today's episode was produced by Julie Mirlicourtois and Eric and Geovanna Huffman. Our associate producer and social media manager is Adira Polite, our editor is Justin Mayer and the director of all of our YouTube videos is Mark Calver. Please don't forget to rate us wherever you just listened to this podcast. And thanks for listening.