PODCAST EXTRAS: When Sex Problems Get Really Messy

by | Jul 23, 2020 | Podcasts | 28 comments

How to Untangle Complicated Sex Problems

What happens when you’ve got a problem with sex–but it’s just so convoluted and messy?

We’ve been talking all month about sex questions you can’t ask your pastor, and our podcasts have focused on a ton of sex questions, including newlywed ones!

But this week I want to talk about more intractable problems. Like I said on Monday, so often when we have a problem with sex, it’s not JUST a problem with sex. So may other things get all wrapped up in the issue, and it’s very hard to untangle.

So on the podcast this week, Rebecca and I took a look at some super difficult sex questions–not to answer them so much as to give examples of how you can think through some of these thorny issues.

So listen to the podcast!

And you can watch on YouTube here!

(Sorry for that big blue box in front of us. We couldn’t help it. We had to put the microphone in it. But we’re trying to figure out how to make a better sound studio for the future!)

Anyway, we tackled a bunch of really long, difficult questions, and I’m just going to summarize here (because the questions were REALLY long!

We’re newlyweds dealing with EVERYTHING–porn, erectile dysfunction, miscarriages, and more


I won’t write her whole question, but they’ve been married for a few months, and in that time:

  • They’ve suffered 2 miscarriages
  • She can’t reach orgasm
  • She has grief from a sibling dying earlier
  • Her husband had a porn and masturbation habit that he says ended before the marriage, but he now has ED
  • Her antidepressants are killing her sex drive

But they also really, really love each other!

This one was so sad! I really do feel for this young woman. The terrible levels and layers of grief that she is going through is pretty horrific.

We used this question as an example of how you can apply my 5 steps to untangling sex problems from Monday’s post! And, again, just a note to be wise about porn induced erectile dysfunction, and to seek help for this. His erectile dysfunction may not be tied to porn, but if it’s not, that’s all the more reason to see a doctor, because ED can signal some major circulatory problems.

But if it caused by porn use, then you need to make sure the porn is in the past, and you need to work through how to rebuild healthy associations of arousal and response with real intimacy. And I hope 31 Days to Great Sex can help you do that!

My Husband Likes Nudity–a Lot!

Here’s an example of a question that started out fine–but then turned a little strange. A woman writes:

We now have a bunch of kids who are past the baby stage. I expected I to be really into sex when I got to this stage,. Unfortunately, I rarely ever am in the mood. (I wasn’t in those years either.) We schedule sex two times a week now I always orgasm multiple times during foreplay and the experience is always pleasurable. Why don’t I like sex then?

My husband has an obsession with nudity. He loves to be naked himself, sleep naked, shower outside, swim naked if he can, and loves if I get naked with him inside or outside. He’s fascinated with nude art, in the past has looked up photos online of couples showering outside,
women getting massages, etc. to satisfy his thirst for it. He has a whole portfolio of naked photos he’s taken of me that he looks at every week, if not every day.

Is this normal? Am I the one that’s got a problem? I’ve become almost turned off at his naked body because it feels like he wants me to see, touch, etc. and I don’t want to. I hate this!

My big piece of advice for this question (and the next, actually) is this: If you feel something is off, it may very well be off! Go with your instinct. God may be revealing something to you.

If you seek out help, and it turns out it’s nothing, that’s okay. But I see so many red flags here that I would definitely set some clear boundaries (and maybe take those pictures he took of you away from him) and see  a licensed counselor.

3. Is it Normal if Erectile Dysfunction Comes and Goes?


I have become vocal about my husband being so detached and emotionally unavailable. Ironically enough, I had just realized he doesn’t consider any of my needs, sexual or otherwise, the week prior to your posts about sex and her needs, And redefining the definition of sex.

My husband has always had a lower sex drive. I have a high sex drive. Four years ago he had his testosterone levels checked and it was very low, so it made sense. He has been on testosterone supplements since. About two months ago, suddenly my husband stopped getting “morning wood” and had trouble getting erections. He promises he has never looked at porn (although when we first got married I found an abundance of porn on his computer, he says that he didn’t know about that and it had automatically donwnloaded from a website he used to download music/games.I am not a tech person, so I have no idea if this is possible) He also says he has never masturbated.

I find it odd, that out of NOWHERE he can’t get erections.  I shared my concerns with him. He told me he doesn’t know why his libido is low, and he has no interest. I asked, again, if porn, masturbation, or if he was not interested in me anymore,, or if he has cheated, and he promised me it was none of those issues. Then. two weeks later he comes home from work and we put our kiddos to bed, he is totally interested and invested in me, and had a normal erection. Sex was very pleasurable for both of us! I am so confused. 

There’s a lot more to the question (so listen in to the podcast!), but I would say again that I see some red flags here. I’ll leave it to you in the comments to see if you saw what I did!

(And erectile dysfunction CAN be intermittent; but again, I’m not sure that’s what’s happening here).

4. What about masturbation if you’re separated?

Here’s one that Rebecca and I had slightly different takes on, and I don’t think there’s an exact right answer. A woman writes (again, it’s a lot longer on the podcast!):

My husband and I recently separated due to his alcoholism and emotional and sexual abuse (of me). My deep hope is for repentance and redemption, but reality is that I have no idea what the future holds.

Since being separated, I have struggled at times with missing him and, honestly, I miss having sex. 

I have considered masturbating when I feel particularly in need of release, but I never have, because I want to determine my course of action based on what’s right, not just what feels good. Part of me thinks it would be wise to masturbate before I see him if I’m feeling particularly aroused. (For the record, we’ve never had sexual contact since separating, but I feel like my hormones cloud my judgement.) (When I say “see him,” I’m referring to church, family events, or necessary contact for our children seeing him. We are not actively working toward being reunited at this point.)

Obviously masturbation is a poor substitute for the real deal, but I don’t have any way to rightfully have that at this point. I don’t want to re-train myself toward solo sex, but I also don’t want my judgement clouded by hormones or the effects of trauma bonding.

Listen in to hear Rebecca’s reasoning, but I think this woman is wise, and is brave, and is going through a lot, and I just feel really, really badly for women (and men) in situations like these. I don’t think there are easy answers.

And now–we’re so excited to have our first podcast sponsor!

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So those are our RAW and REAL questions we dealt with in today’s podcast–the weirdest podcast you’ll hear a mom-daughter duo do, although for some reason it doesn’t feel weird to us anymore.

What do you think? Did you see any red flags in these questions? Let’s talk in the comments!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Phil

    Hey there Sheila and Becca. I would like to add to your answer On question 2 the Art dude. Becca finally hit on it near the end with the word motivation. My view? This guy isn’t viewing art as art he is viewing art as porn. Honestly I was surprised you guys almost missed that. I actually think he is viewing his wife’s pictures in the same manner. That being said – to me that is the more larger contributor to the issue from what I heard.

    • Phil

      So in essence the man has a porn stash hidden in plain view but it appears its art or his wife

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I’d agree, Phil. That’s my thought, too. It’s hard to utter absolute pronouncements when we don’t know the whole story, but there are so many red flags here it is scary.

        • Phil

          I hear ya Sheila – just seems the more obvious to me.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I also echo what Becca said–it’s weird the way the wife phrased it–“pictures he took of me.” It really does make it sound like it could have been done without her consent. So scary!

  2. feelinglost

    Thanks for this. I need to talk with my wife about this. I need to be honest that my lack of desire for her is sadly a result of my porn addiction. The sad part is that it was when I started my road of recovery and started to make progress that my desire faded.
    Never had that problem before.
    She knows about the addiction but has never really asked much about it but I have answered all the questions she has had which only was two.
    What’s really sad is that since porn has been an issue my whole life I wonder if I will ever have a healthy sex drive again. It didn’t get better by the fact that our relationship sadly became very sexual from
    The beginning on her initiative. Not putting blame but I was q virgin she wasn’t and I guess she thought that was the way to keep a guy. I had a hard time to say no, specially when she threw herself on me.
    It’s sad. She deserves to be desired by a good man. If me confessing this leads to her wanting a divorce I will totally understand.
    Porn really destroys lives and relationships. I wish I could find a sex therapist but in my country there aren’t any Christian sex therapists. Secular sex therapists would probably say that my sense of guilt and shame has caused this and would probable blame my faith. One therapist I talked to once asked why I didn’t watch it my wife.
    The difficult part now is to find the right time to say it. I’m afraid that she will be in the mood one day and I won’t get it up or finish. So I need to say it before that happens. She is in the early days of pregnancy so right now isn’t a problem but she may start to wonder why I am not so sexually frustrated as I used to be with the other pregnancies.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Lost, I’m so sorry. I really am. I admire you for wanting to do the right thing. Just don’t give up! Get some counseling. Don’t assume she’s better off without you. Your kids are better off with you guys working this out, and God loves redemption. Seriously. Work at this, and don’t give up hope, and dedicate yourself to wholeness again, because you can get there!

    • This is a Pseudonym

      How long have you been porn free? Have you heard of a thing called flatline? After quitting, you can have low libido for a while, but it should return. Research about nofap.
      Have you completely given up all fantasy, lust, etc.? If you’re still holding on to some remnants, you might not be free of it.
      With the Covid situation, a lot of therapists are willing to use video chats. Even if you can’t find a therapist in your country, you might be able to find one online. The first one might not be a good fit. That’s okay – move on and find someone that will support you in the ways you need! A good CSAT won’t advise you to watch with your wife.

  3. Phil

    Sheila – fyi I was unable to watch the youtube video today because the link was not there. I did see you mentioned something about a blue box where you placed your mic. I have had volume issues with your podcasts pretty much from the start. Today I had to put my earbuds in just so I could hear you both. I have listened to ALL your podcasts (except I do need to go back and listen to last weeks). I even bought a special speaker I use to listen. I thought maybe back in the day that the volume issue was related to Becca maybe calling in from Ottawa and it was just what it was. But then when you and Keith started doing them together (and now your entire family!) (whens your Mom comin on? LOL) your voice would come across super loud and I could barely hear Keith. That being said it is possible my volume issues could be potentially solved If I had a blue tooth capability for my car. Thats where I listen most. We drive old cars and run them into the ground. However, I suspect others may encounter this as well. Maybe not? Regardless, I wanted to give give you that information so you could improve the quality of your podcasts because I do know that you are listed many places outside your blog and there is definitely fluctuations with your volume of your podcast from week to week. Now I doubt you will take me up on this but I would be willing to personally sponsor your podcast to help you improve that issue (particularly because you have eliminated adds and are going at it alone). Just let me know and I would be willing to help you. Either way I just wanted to give you this feedback. Have a great day.

    • Connor Lindenbach

      Thanks for being such an avid listener to the podcast and supporter of the blog for so long, Phil! Rebecca and Sheila recently made a change to the recording layout to try to limit the echo, which may be partly to blame for the volume. We can start uploading the podcast at higher volumes so it will be easier to hear while driving or with other background noise.

      • Phil

        Thanks Conner

        • Phil

          Dang spelled your name wrong sorry

      • Dan

        I’m another guy who has lurked on this blog for many years now and want to just start by saying thank you for your real, honest, no holds barred way of tackling issues that are so hard.
        On the audio issues you were discussing, as and engineer and someone who has played with audio mixing and live sound a fair bit, I think you would be able to greatly increase your sound quality with just a couple small lavaliere mics and a little mixer. None of them need to be fancy or expensive, but just getting the mic closer to the sound source (you), will help reject more of the room noise and improve voice clarity. Feel free to email me if you want some ideas or recommendations. I would be honored to help out if you need.

        • Connor Lindenbach

          Thanks for the suggestions, Dan. And thank you for being a long-time lurker here on the blog. We love seeing guys who are invested in having conversations about these topics!

  4. Becky

    Sheila, what’s your issue with masturbation? I take it that you never masturbate?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I find it a really difficult topic, because in so many marriages it’s become a way to deprive a spouse of sexual release, OR it’s used by the higher drive spouse to relieve sexual tension, and then real issues in the marriage aren’t addressed. It’s a pressure release valve that lets them endure something they really shouldn’t be enduring.
      Then there are the issues that for many men especially, masturbation can be linked to erectile dysfunction when you’re with your spouse. It can dull sexual response/release.
      I guess when I just read so many horror stories and heartbreaking stories with it, I find it a very tricky topic. I did say in a previous post that when you’re dealing with something where a spouse just can’t have sex for whatever reason (say illness; getting treatment for sexual dysfunction; nausea during pregnancy, etc.) then masturbation can be away of alleviating tension and showing love. But in general I think it’s better to work on relationship issues and figure out the sexual problem together.
      And, by the way, I have no problem with masturbation when you’re touching yourself but while WITH your spouse, or on the phone, etc. I wouldn’t even call it that, because it’s not solo.
      When one is single, I think it’s a really grey area, and I haven’t come to a big conclusion about it because, again, I’m inundated with these horrible questions all the time that often have roots in masturbation habits. So it’s just a really tricky thing for me.

  5. Nathan

    I can’t speak for Sheila or anybody else, but I believe that the general consensus on this board (although not everybody agrees) is that masturbation is okay as long as you don’t do it to the extent that you deprive your spouse of physical intimacy.
    There are some who believe that it’s always wrong, but I myself view it as a way to close the gap between a low sex drive spouse and a high sex drive one

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      The only thing I’d add to that is that when masturbation is used as a way to relieve tension so that you DON’T have to deal with marriage or sex issues, it can make a problem worse. If there’s a marriage or sex issue, it’s usually best to deal with it than to make it more palatable by relieving your own sexual tension.

      • Angela Laverdi

        Sometimes the other spouse WON’T help with the intimacy issue, especially if there really is nothing wrong other than the one spouse needs sexual intimacy a LOT LOT LOT more than the other. This is VERY hard when the woman is the higher drive spouse. Sometimes that release is essential to keep from blowing a gasket. Im sorry, but women with low sex drives dont understand this. I feel like y’all still secretely wonder why a woman wants sex that badly. It’s mostly not about the sex, the orgasm. Mostly. For me its the bonding. The reaffirmation that I’m sexy, beautiful, wanted, needed.

  6. Kya

    I haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but the third woman, who said she found porn on her husband’s computer, made me think of something. Before we got married, I asked my husband about porn use, and he said that he used it in high school but hasn’t since then. He then told me exactly how to hide (and find) porn on a personal computer, as well as stories of how he and his brothers hid their porn use from their parents. In one story, his dad found a porn stash on the family computer and blew up. My husband and his brothers, who are all quite tech-savvy, told him that the porn must have been downloaded unintentionally when they were downloading free music and games. It was a complete lie, but it’s an easy one to use on someone who doesn’t know much about technology. I pray that this woman digs deeper and finds help.

  7. Madeline

    I respect that you acknowledged the nuanced circumstances in the masturbation question instead of doubling down on a masturbation = bad message. I thought it showed real thoughtfulness.

  8. Laura

    When you started reading the last question, I thought, “Wow, that sounds like my situation!” And then you kept reading and I remembered that I had written to you and it was indeed my question. Thank you for taking the time to discuss it.
    Update: Eventually I came to the conclusion that, as long as I could do it without lust (and obviously porn), masturbation wasn’t forbidden and may be helpful. And in reality, it was. My sexuality was always inextricably tied up in my abusive husband–I’d never even kissed another guy. Having some release, apart from him, was incredibly freeing. No longer was my entire sexual identity tied up in my abuser. I cannot put into words how deeply this has affected me.
    Obviously it’s something where a great deal of caution and wisdom are warranted, but I wish there was more discussion, particularly for abuse victims. Even in the survivor support groups I’m apart of, it’s very rarely addressed–and I get it. It’s highly personal. But I think healthy (anonymous?) conversation could be so helpful.

    • unmowngrass

      I admire your candor, am so, so glad you have found some freedom, and wish you all of God’s best for the future.

  9. Hannah

    Hi I was looking through articles but I don’t even know what words I would search to find an answer to my question, so here it is.
    Recently I’ve been feeling more and more used by my husband when we have sex. He’s a really great guy and I love him so I don’t know why this is starting now, three years into marriage since I would say we have a good sex life.
    If I’m in the mood he’ll make me orgasm first with foreplay, then we’ll ‘have sex’ after for him (about once a week). Most of the time though, I’ll just give him a quickie (two or three times a week). This combination worked for us in the past because his sex drive is higher than mine, but now I feel almost annoyed that he wants to have sex all the time when I know most couples do not. He would never pressure me but I do think he feels entitled to having sex very often, and since I want him to be happy I’ve never tried cutting back. He’s been under a lot of stress lately (school and financially) and I know sex is a release so I don’t feel like it’s a good time to just cut back on sex, but I do feel like maybe that would help. If we aren’t constantly having sex that doesn’t do anything for me, I won’t feel like he just wants to have sex because it feels good, but for deeper reasons.
    I realize I should probably see a counselor about this but my insurance doesn’t cover it and we are already financially struggling. I also don’t want to go to my pastor because my husband is on staff at the church so I don’t feel comfortable talking to his boss about such personal things!
    Any thoughts or advice?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Hannah,
      That’s tough! I think what you’re saying is that you don’t want one-sided sex anymore, right? So would you like him to spend more time making you feel good on other nights? Or would you rather just not have sex as often? Or at least make sure it’s meaningful to you, too (like start with a long backrub or something). I think that’s okay to say. It’s okay to say, “Sex the way we’re doing it is starting to make me feel used, and I don’t want that.” But I also think that finding ways to make sex more passionate for both of you may be a good idea! You can talk to him perhaps about trying 31 Days to Great Sex, because it focuses on the whole relationship and on making sure that sex is for both of you. Maybe that?

  10. Jay

    This is an older podcast, but just came across it and felt there could be more nuance on erectile dysfunction, especially as the effects of COVID on erectile function are still being figured out. I’m in my early thirties, no porn use, very infrequent masturbation (less than once a month), normal range testosterone, 12-14% body fat. It is very atyptical for someone in my situation to have erectile dysfunction, but after just a mild bout of COVID, I’ve now dealt with degrees of erectile dysfunction for over a year.
    It would have been really difficult if my fiancee kept asking questions about my behavior or putting the blame on me for erectile dysfunction, so the advice given to the first question felt a little “icky” to me
    When I heard “there are some red flags”, having read the “Guys Guide” and heard much of your content, I thought I knew what the red flags would be:

    The issue starts around here:

    When the wife says, “He has tried to be understanding and loving, and that has helped, but I have grief over his erectile dysfunction and bad choices.”

    “He feels like when I bring it up I’m not accepting him and I’m digging into his past.”
    Around 8:15, you point out that taking this at face value, the sin issues are in the past. You then say, “However I see some red flags here… When she brings it up, he says ‘Why can’t you accept me?'” I thought I knew what you would bring up, having read the “Guys Guide” and a lot of your other content.
    I thought you would point out that if you can’t “get over” your partner’s sexual past, you shouldn’t marry them, and when you do marry them, you don’t get to hold their sexual past against them. But I was kind of surprised and felt a little “icky” in a way that none of the content here has made me feel when it went a completely other direction.
    “Finally, don’t marry someone if you can’t accept their sexual past. None of us is perfect. When you say those vows, you promise to love each other completely, and that includes who they are despite—or even because of—their past. If you can’t accept that, it is unfair to marry her and then hold it over her head as if she robbed you of something. Either marry her wholeheartedly, or leave her the freedom to marry someone else who can.”
    -Gregoire, Sheila Wray; Gregoire, Keith Ronald. The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex
    If they’ve already talked about his past porn use, and that was a long time ago, and there have been no signs of him being untrustworthy, it is not fair to add this emotional distress to what is already a highly emotional condition (erectile dysfunction).

    I thought there was also a clear analogy with what you’ve taught about vaginismus. A husband should not be pressuring the wife or making her feel like something is wrong with her when there is a physical and psychological condition to be treated. So when it was flipped and the man was portrayed as in the wrong, it felt hurtful and confusing to hear. Of course it is fair to ask about erectile dysfunction, just like it would be fair to ask about vaginismus. But that doesn’t mean it’s fair to continuously bring it up or act like the man is broken. I thought analogous advice to this would have made a lot of sense:
    “she is not broken. Her clitoris is not broken. Her vagina is not broken. She may simply have roadblocks that you can help her dismantle. Maybe she feels shame from past messages about sex and needs to work through these with a licensed counselor”

    -Gregoire, Sheila Wray; Gregoire, Keith Ronald. The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex (p. 49).
    I think this quote can apply with words switched for male anatomy.

    I’m not yet married and still a virgin, but if my wife was given the advice from this episode, it would have been really harmful for our engagement and future marriage.
    I didn’t know much about erectile dyfunction until I suddenly had it. Yes, it is extremely atypical for a young healthy man with no sexual addictions to get it, but now that I’m here, I realize how much shame there already is around the topic. If there isn’t a history of breaching trust or lying, I don’t see anything in this situation where the man should have to be treated with distrust.
    And it also seems that COVID-19 has increased the rate of erectile dysfunction in young men (according to both urologists I have seen in the last year). Interestingly, upon learning that I am not sexually active, masturbation was actually prescribed to help resolve the erectile dysfunction. And that actually has helped. I learned that psychological factors play a big part in erectile dysfunction for young men, even after biological issues have been cleared up. I feel like the advice given in this case would actually contribute to the man’s erectile dysfunction if he really isn’t using porn or frequent masturbation and is just made to feel like it’s his fault and his wife doesn’t trust or accept him, even though he’s done nothing to lose trust. One’s sexual past from before the relationship, unless it’s a sexual past of unfaithfulness, is not grounds for “mistrust.” If there’s been porn use after the marriage, or lying about one’s past, then there’s clear cause for mistrust, but at face value this story felt like a genuine case of erectile dysfunction with psychological factors, and the advice given would only increase distrust and feelings of shame in the marriage.
    The sarcastic tone used in describing such a mentally difficult situation was very tone deaf and the only example I’ve ever come across in your content that feels “icky” in the way other Christian resources have been. I am glad this is the only time I’ve felt this way with your content. I understand that it may be more common for their to be sin issues underlying ED, but I think there’s room for more nuanced triaging of the situation before jumping right to moralizing the problem which would leave men in my situation in a worse situation.
    Overall though your content has been SOO helpful and I recommend it to my Christian friends!


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