Tag Archives: porn and erection problems

Q&A with J: “How Do We Get Back to Intimacy?”

Today’s question is from a wife who wants greater sexual intimacy with her husband, but they face some pretty big challenges.

My question is how do my husband And I get back intimacy?… I’ve had a hysterectomy so no more kids. We are good with that. Our marriage “broke” 8 weeks after we married due to porn. He didn’t want sex with me anymore and preferred porn and I found dating websites he was signed up too. I was in shock! We obviously had sex again but probably only 10 times in all these years. We’ve done [counseling] on and off. We go to church. We’ve grown in faith. He says I don’t do my “duty” of sex. That makes it awkward to me. But he’s communicating about it with me which is progress. I don’t have those feelings to want him like that, mainly emotionally maybe partially from surgery…. I think the rejection and lies over the years turned me off…. How should I handle this to grow with him?

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As often happens in a struggling sex life, there’s more than one challenge here:

That’s a lot to deal with. But as usual, the way to break through is to take the next step forward, then the next, and then the next.

To the reader, there are good signs here, in that the tenor of the message makes me believe that he has stopped watching porn. You have attended counseling, go to church, and have grown in your faith. These are important steps forward that bode well for laying a better foundation, both for marriage and for sexual intimacy.

The porn needs to stay far, far away. As the question says, “He didn’t want sex with me anymore and preferred porn…” That’s one possible result of persistent porn use — a rewiring of the brain to respond more easily and consistently to imagery than real life stimulation. Many men have reported impotence problems that have stemmed from too much porn watching and self-stimulation.

Rebuilding intimacy after the porn then requires rewiring the brain back to the sensations of physical intimacy with another person. That takes time and intentionality, but those who follow through can expect far better feelings than they ever experienced with porn. Because God’s design for sex contains not only physical pleasure, but emotional and even spiritual highs that perversions of sex cannot provide.

If your husband isn’t aware of how porn has affected his sexual responses, you should do some research with him. Read An Open Letter on Porn from The Gottman InstitutePorn Can’t Deliver What We’re Created For from XXXChurch, The scary effects of pornography: how the 21st century’s acute addiction is rewiring our brains from The Telegraph, and How Porn Changes the Brain from Fight the New Drug. (By the way, three of those articles are from secular sources, so this is not merely a moral claim religious people are making. It’s science that isn’t surprising to Christians because we know God didn’t create us for porn.) By understanding what’s happening, you can then work on rediscovering sexual intimacy slowly and surely through reawakening your senses and physical pleasure.

But now, three things in particular strike me as needing to be addressed.

1. His rejection and lies.

Sex requires trust and vulnerability. If a wife doesn’t feel physically and emotionally safe, it’s difficult to engage. This is why there are so many resources stressing to husbands how important it is to woo your wife, be kind to your wife, protect your wife, and demonstrate love to her. It’s why infidelity is so hard to recover from, because it breaks trust between spouses. And it’s why building a friendship, not just a sex life, is an imperative in marriage.

Ultimately, you have to invest in the relationship, not just the marriage bed. You two need to rebuild trust in your marriage before you can rebuild trust in the bedroom. How that happens exactly is a little hard to say. It will likely require ongoing conversation, quality time together, investing in what’s important to one another, and even more counseling.

You each need an opportunity to express what would make you feel loved and safe, and then each spouse should pursue making that happen. As much as they can. Of course, your requests need to remain reasonable, but we should be pursuing the good of one another throughout marriage.

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” (1 Corinthians 5:15).

2. She has a low libido.

Maybe it’s because of his rejection and lies, maybe it’s partly a result of your hysterectomy, maybe it’s just your set-point. I’m not sure why, but the lack of libido may need to be addressed. I can give you a lot of suggestions, because I do know them, but I have some really fabulous friends who specialize in helping women with low libido. So check out:

Bonny Burns at OysterBed7, who also has a workbook you can go through

Chris Taylor at The Forgiven Wife

Sheila Gregoire’s excellent Boost Your Libido course

It could be that dealing with the relationship issues reawakens your libido. However, many women who experience a prolonged time of not being sexual require purposeful effort to get their libido going again.

Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (Song of Songs 2:7) — and then awaken it!

3. He’s pressuring her for “duty sex.”

So look, I believe that we are obligated to have sex in marriage. Strictly speaking, it’s a bit of a duty. But you know what? “I just love having duty sex with my spouse,” said no one ever.

'I just love having duty sex with my spouse,' said no one ever. #marriage Click To Tweet

We sometimes cite 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 to back up the notion that your spouse owes you sex, but if you really read the passage and let it sink in, you’ll see how it stresses the mutuality of sexual intimacy in marriage:

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

If I were in your shoes, I’d turn that around with my husband and ask how he’d feel if I told him he was duty-bound to converse with me, to take me out on a date, to give me extended foreplay — that he owed me. While there’s some truth to that, would it make him excited to engage in those activities? Wouldn’t a different appeal work better?

“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7).

Explain to your husband that you want sex to be for both of you, and focusing entirely on what he gets out of it discourages the trust and intimacy you need in your marriage bed. And believe it for yourself. See Sex Is for You Too! by Sheila Wray Gregoire and Dear Wife, You Deserve a Great Sex Life Too from Calm.Healthy.Sexy.

Does this mean you then turn him down every time? No, of course not. You do need to rebuild sexual intimacy in your marriage, but stress the need for mutual pleasure and connection. Explain that you’ll be more excited about sex with him if/when he prioritizes your experience too. And let him know what you want in bed. That can help your husband feel that you’re a willing — or even eager — partner, but you deserve to be considered in the encounter as well.

As usual, I could say more, but this post is already really long. And there’s a lot of reading material in all those links!

One final thing: I strongly suggest that you grab my devotional book, Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage. And not just because the ebook happens to be on sale right now for $2.99. Rather, it’s a helpful resource in guiding you through what God says about sexual intimacy in His Word and how to align your thinking and your actions with His design for the marriage bed. Although aimed at wives, some couples have gone through the devotionals together and say they have prompted great conversations. Maybe your husband would go through Intimacy Revealed with you.

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It’s True: Porn Can Kill Your Sex Life

I’ve been reading about porn lately, not because that’s my favorite subject, but because I saw two excellent articles about the problems with porn — from secular sources.

Time Magazine’s April 11, 2016 edition had a feature article on Porn: Why young men who grew up with Internet porn are becoming advocates for turning it off.* The author, Belinda Luscombe, did a fair job of reporting what’s happening in science and society as people discover what the Bible has said all along: Sexual intimacy isn’t about using others for your own pleasure. That approach messes with your ability to enjoy what God intended you to have.

Sexual intimacy isn't about using others for your own pleasure. God has a better plan. Click To Tweet

The focus of that article is previous porn users who discovered how their heavy porn diet impaired their ability to perform and connect with a real woman. It’s called Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED), and more doctors are seeing erectile problems with younger men. The theory is that the men are desensitized to normal sexual stimuli and require a level of imagery, intensity, and novelty that isn’t real-life. Thankfully, some of these men are speaking up against the very activity they used to frequently pursue, warning of the dangers and consequences of consuming pornography.

It's True: Porn Can Kill Your Sex Life

Then there are Drs. John and Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute, famous for their marriage and relationship research. Although previously proponents of using porn to increase intimacy in relationships, they have changed their minds. I encourage you to read An Open Letter on Porn. They lay out several reasons why pornography is detrimental to the user and to their significant other, including sexual arousal difficulties and mistreatment of women in porn.

Based on various studies, they conclude that “use of pornography by one partner leads the couple to have far less sex and ultimately reduces relationship satisfaction.”

Now I’ve heard the arguments that it goes the other way — for instance, a husband not having sex and experiencing low relationship satisfaction then seeks out porn to fill in the gap. But as much as I feel for those in a sexless marriage, that’s not helping!

In the long run, you’re making it harder for both of you to engage in satisfying sexual intimacy if and when the opportunity rises. You’re messing with your view of how your wife should be behave (she is not your sex toy) and how sex itself works. And you’re not satisfying yourself anyway, because you have to get more frequent and stronger stimuli to get the same “high.” Your body responds sexually, but it doesn’t respond with the satisfactory bonding you get when you make love to your wife.

Another thing that always crops up when I address porn is: What about women?! Aren’t they looking at porn? Or reading steamy romance? Yes, they are. The percentage of women viewing porn is increasing, and it’s a real concern. If any woman reading this is struggling with pornography, the one ministry I know designed to help is Dirty Girls Ministries. Check it out.

And I’ve written plenty about the problems with romance novels and erotic novels that promote terrible ideas about sexuality. Look, this is a case of “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). Anything opposed to God’s design for sex is a problem we Christians need to address.

Anything opposed to God's design for sex is a problem we Christians need to address. Click To Tweet

I’m glad that secular research is catching up to what God has said all along. The momentary pleasure of viewing pornography is too high a price and robs you of what God intended when He created sex.

If you’re in this struggle right now — either yourself or your spouse — get help. No more dithering: Today is the day. Talk to your spouse. Confess to a godly confidant. Make an appointment with a counselor. Join an accountability group. Get on your knees before God.

Don’t let this ruin your sex life. Here are a few Christian-based sites you might want to visit:

XXX Church (porn recovery for men)
Covenant Eyes (internet accountability)
Dirty Girls Ministries (for women)

Also, don’t be naive about your kids. I’ve talked with my sons about this temptation, and they’ve estimated that 70-80% of guys in their high school watch porn regularly. They’re probably right, and I bet their parents have no idea. Speak regularly with your teenagers about what God desires for their lives, including their someday sex life — which starts with making right and wise decisions now. An anti-porn site aimed specifically at youth is Fight the New Drug (not Christian, but has good overall information).

As Christians and Churches, we need to stay well-informed and outspoken against anything so against God’s design for His children and for sex in marriage. This isn’t simply a cause for us to take up and pat ourselves for doing the right thing. Our denunciation of pornography and erotica is about saving individuals, marriages, and souls.

*The Time article is available online only to subscribers. I read the article by accessing the magazine at my local library.

Q&A with J: “He’s Going Into His ‘Spank Bank’ “

Today’s question is a frustrating one. Yet another example of the terrible effects pornography can have on how we view sex and our ability to enjoy it in marriage the way God intended. Please say a prayer for this wife today. Here’s her question:

I get incredibly shy in bed with my husband. When I am on top, unless I have had like a bottle of wine, I get so much anxiety. I forget how to even be on top and it feels awkward.

I know I don’t have to feel embarrassed to tell you this. My husband has had a past with porn and we are still in the process of dealing with it. Because of the porn, he can’t stay hard sometimes, and I can see him closing his eyes and going into his ‘spank bank’ to try and get hard again. This is traumatizing to me and makes getting on top even more anxiety ridden. Do you have any advice for me?

 

Q&A with J: "He's Going into His 'Spank Bank' "

I see four issues in this short question.

1. Anxiety about being on top. I don’t know exactly why this wife feels shy about the on-top position. Maybe it’s the full view her husband’s getting of her, and she struggles with body issues. Maybe it’s the feeling that she’s in the dominant sexual position, and she feels uncomfortable being “in charge.” Maybe it’s a lack of experience and not feeling like she knows what she’s doing. Maybe it’s just physically hard to make things happen (it can wear on a gal’s knees).

Whatever the issue, some things are awkward when you first do them in the marriage bed. The first time, the second time . . . even the fifth time. But if you continue doing something with positive results, it gets easier and easier. Your comfort level increases.

To relax about any position, just pay attention to your breathing, making sure it’s steady and soothing. Lean into the pleasure you feel in that moment. Ask for feedback from your husband about what he enjoys of what he’s seeing and experiencing.

Remember that all sex is a little awkward. You never just suddenly find yourself in that position with your legs apart and hiked up or sprawling over your husband’s lap. You’re aiming for the pleasure that you get from pushing a little outside that comfort zone and connecting with one another in a way you don’t with anyone else, ever. But over time, that intimacy can become the most comfortable thing in the world.

2. Dealing with anxiety by grabbing the wine. I’m personally not opposed to a glass of wine. But I have concerns about dealing with anxiety in the marital bedroom by grabbing alcohol. Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage had an excellent post about this topic called Need a Few Drinks to Get in the Mood for Sex?

By using wine to deal with the anxiety, you’re likely evading the process of getting comfortable with being on top. You’re priming your brain and body to feel okay about it only when alcohol is involved. Remove the alcohol, and the anxiety is back.

Rather, trust that you can find ways to enjoy the experience without relying on alcohol or any other crutch.

3. Her husband’s porn past. Once again, porn rears its ugly head. You can also label this Satan, because he is all too happy to steal healthy intimacy in marriage by tempting people with a twisted version of sexuality. Remember who your real enemy is.

I’m so glad that you’re dealing with this porn past. That should include taking tangible steps to keep the temptation out of your home and off his phone and him getting support from others through accountability partners or ministry groups. Very few people who used porn much in the past simply say, “Not using porn anymore,” and stop altogether. You need a more involved strategy to conquer this evil.

However, it has obviously affected his ability to get aroused. Unfortunately, more young men now struggle with maintaining an erection because of the prevalence of porn. Viewing those images distorts how our brains register arousal and satisfaction. Sex becomes a two-dimensional, self-serving act, rather than the face-to-face, we-focused intimacy God intended.

The way to overcome this challenge is to unlearn bad habits and learn good ones instead. Not only does he need to throw off the porn, but you should both accept that he needs to awaken the arousal that comes from being with a real person — you. It may take some time for his body to change how it views stimulation, but with time and patience you can figure it out. God created his body to respond that way.

4. He’s going into his ‘spank bank.’ For those who don’t know what a “spank bank” is, that’s a colloquialism for a collection of mental images you can access to become sexually stimulated or to heighten arousal. In this case, it’s stored memories of pornographic pictures.

First off, that’s sin. Just to be clear here: There’s no justification for lusting after other people while making love to your spouse. Or at any other time. (See Matthew 5:28, Hebrews 13:4, Job 31:1, Proverbs 6:25.) Your sexual energy should be focused entirely on your covenant mate. It matters what happens not only with our bodies, but in our minds and in our hearts. (See Jeremiah 17:10.) Part of getting over this porn past is your husband retraining his mind. And you can help.

Explain to your husband that those images are another obstacle to your sexual intimacy — that they are prolonging the problems by maintaining that brain connection of two-dimensional images and sexual arousal. I get that it’s frustrating for him to have erection difficulties (not that I know what that’s like, but I can imagine); however, the long-term answer is to establish your one-on-one connection.

Be willing to set some boundaries. You can tell him, “If I see you going into your ‘spank bank,’ I cannot continue making love. It just doesn’t feel like you’re making love to me, but to those images. So if you go there, I’m going to ask you to stop and refocus on me. If you don’t stop, I’ll have to discontinue our sexual encounter until you can pay attention to me.” Reiterate that you’re not trying to punish him, but rather help him. You are on his side. But you also aren’t going to settle when you know that God has loving sexual intimacy awaiting you both for your marriage. You want your husband to be fully involved with you, and you want to be fully involved with him.

You may need to reassure him many times of your support and your love, because this is a difficult struggle. Yet you have every right to expect his respect in the bedroom — meaning he doesn’t get to bring other women in there. In reality or mentally.

[I wanted to add a great point that commenters have called me on. Rightly so. I’m not infallible, and I missed the very real possibility that this husband isn’t recalling past porn images at all. When he closes his eyes and concentrates, he could be regaining his focus on the moment with his wife. Rather than assuming you know what’s going on in your husband’s mind, ask. We should extend grace and believe the best about our spouses, rather than choosing the worst possible assumption. Anyway, I apologize if I got this one wrong. If he accessing past images, my advice stands. But, if not,…]

Your issues aren’t likely going to be settled in a week or even a month. But step-by-step, with intentionality and love, I am confident you two can move toward far more fulfilling sexual experiences. One or two years down the road, you might be amazed by the beauty and pleasure you’ve discovered in the marriage bed.