Questions from Women: Pornography, Effort, and Long-Distance

On Instagram, we ask for any and all of your questions! Dan Purcell, GYMO founder and relationship coach, gives his take and advice on these commonly asked questions. Here are some of the top questions asked by women in August of 2022. A lot of women have been hurt by their husband’s pornography use and/or masturbation habits. Others had specific questions about how to develop intimacy in their stage of life. Here, Dan gives his thought on pornography, ways to develop intimacy in any situation, and what you can do when your spouse is not committed to improving. 

Questions From Women

Q: What is your stance on watching porn with your spouse?

A: My personal choice is to not watch pornography, whether alone or with my wife. 

But let’s talk about what pornography is: it’s usually hired actors and actresses following a script designed to gratify, arouse, and excite the viewer. There’s also quite a wide range of pornography, from soft-porn and sex depicted in romance TV shows, all the way to the other extreme of depicting violent and dehumanizing sex acts. In other words, not all porn is created equally. The industry can be suspect at times (such as cases with child pornography,  pornography and violence, or encouraging human trafficking).

Most of the sexual scenes depicted in pornography are unrealistic and manufactured. Porn has been likened to the Cheetos snack: a highly engineered processed food designed to have the right amount of salt, crunch, and sugar to light up all the pleasure centers of your brain so that you’ll want to keep eating Cheetos.

I get that pornography is very appealing and entertaining because it calls to our erotic nature. Sometimes watching a pornographic scene can get you very aroused (and in the right context, feeling lots of sexual arousal is a good thing).

I’d encourage you to consider these things, weigh the pros and cons of watching porn together, and make the best decision for you.

Q: My husband masturbates to other women, caught him doing it, I’m at a loss for what to do.

A: I’m so sorry to hear this. I can only imagine the feelings of heartache and distress you must be going through. I’d like to learn more about your situation and marriage dynamic so that I can offer better thoughts, whereas I’m making assumptions as I respond to this on Instagram.

I’m assuming that you love your husband. As much as it hurts, I’d get curious to find out what he thinks he gets out of this behavior. What is it doing for him? Why is he choosing it? Why does he try to hide it? Also get clear on where you stand with things, and express them honestly and openly. If you would like more specific help, reach out to try a trial coaching session!

Q: Struggling with viewing myself as sexy while recovery of husband’s porn addiction

A: Thanks for this question. I’d pay close attention to the thoughts that zoom by like a bullet train when you feel this way. See if you can slow them down and see what’s going on!

Is it because you are comparing yourself to the women your husband viewed from pornographic material? If your husband never chose to use pornography, would you find it easier to view yourself as sexy? Why is that?

“Sexy” is really a state of mind and has little to do with body shape or anatomy. People who view themselves as sexy find confidence in their strengths and what makes them unique, not based on what others say is “sexy” or not. You can be a goofy, silly person that’s also creative and apply those strengths into the bedroom and it will be really sexy, I promise!

Q: What do you do when only one spouse wants to fix the sex/intimacy part of marriage?

A: You’re not alone! So many people feel this way. We have entire podcast episodes dedicated to this very issue (such as episode #70: What To Do When Your Spouse Isn’t Interested). We also have a detailed post about this on our website here.

One thing I learned the hard way from my own experience is that the only person I really have control over is myself. I also used to think I didn’t have any choices, which only perpetuated victim thinking and left me powerless. I realized that I always have a choice, and that was empowering.

q: Any tips for keeping intimacy alive while [my] spouse is traveling for a few weeks for work?

A: I’m glad you want to prioritize intimacy while apart! You can definitely get creative. There’s the basics, like try to call often while apart to catch up. If you’re interested in ideas to keep the sexy part of your relationship alive while apart, here are three:

  1. Create A Story in a Shared Google Doc. I got this idea from my brother in law and his wife while he was deployed in the military for a while. They created a “for your eyes only” steamy love story that they would each add a line or two to regularly.
  2. Use the Just Between Us app. It’s secure and encrypted, designed for couples that want to share intimate messages while apart. You can send photos and short videos to each other too! We recently added a “Send Later” feature where you can take photos to send at a later time.
  3. Build up the anticipation for his return. As his return draws closer, you can up the anticipation by playing “Would you rather” or “Choose Your Adventure”. Make up a sexy scenario and ask him what he would choose to do next!

We did a podcast episode about this (#56 Commuter Marriages) that might have more ideas for you. Good luck and I hope he has a great trip and returns safely!

Q: Thoughts on BDSM?

A: BDSM stands for Bondage, Discipline, Sadism (finding pleasure in inflicting pain on others), and Masochism (finding pleasure in others inflicting pain on you). I DO NOT support the idea of finding pleasure in inflicting pain on others – especially your spouse!

Good sex is wholesome and whole-hearted. Regardless of the sexual activity, I recommend you commit to only engage in what’s connecting and pleasurable for both people. The fruit of your activity should bear closeness, intimacy, fun, and a healthy way to express your innate sexuality. 

Big parts of any type of intimate play are communication and consent. It’s really important that both of you are enthusiastically on board with any sexual activity and spend sufficient time talking through exactly what you will do. Both of you should agree on a safe word or gesture ahead of time, and commit to immediately stop if one of you gets uncomfortable.

The specific sex act alone isn’t what makes sex great. Do you find it exciting and connecting? For instance, a couple could be doing “vanilla sex” yet use sex to emotionally disconnect from each other or worse, emotionally abuse the other. On the other hand, another couple could find some more *playful* forms of BDSM extremely connecting, trust-building, bonding (no pun intended), and connecting.

We recently wrote a post all about playful bondage that might answer more of your questions here.

Q: Best tips/exercises for newly weds!

A: Congratulations on being recently married! This is so exciting! A lot about being a newlywed is adjusting to life together, which can be really exciting and challenging at times. Keep an open mind and a sense of adventure. Perhaps I can answer this question from my own experience with one thing I think we did well and one thing I wish we would have done better:

One thing I think we did well is we were deliberate about what rituals and routines for connection we wanted to establish in our marriage. We even got nerdy and wrote out a mission statement which we still hang in our home today 🤓An example of a ritual is we made an effort to go to bed together and wake up together (and both decided against wearing pajamas to bed. Oo la la 😊)

One thing I wish we would have done better earlier on was to have more courage to have uncomfortable conversations rather than avoiding them. This was apparent in the realm of dealing with finances, sex, and a number of other areas in our marriage.

I have “nice guy” tendencies where I would shy away from being fully honest about my thoughts and feelings because I was worried about how it might make Emily feel. As a result I would spend my energies trying to manage her feelings. This would lead me to be either resentful or untrustworthy because she was left wondering if I was sharing what I really thought, or if I was just telling her what she wanted to hear. This pattern wasn’t good for our marriage long-term.

One exercise I recommend you do is to spend time regularly hugging or eye gazing for a long time (like 10 minutes). Learning how to calm yourself down while in the presence of someone that matters a lot to you. This builds the crucial skill of learning how to work together as an intimate team throughout your marriage. 

For more tips, check out our post Learning How to Have Great Newlywed Sex where our content writer Amanda shares lessons she learned in the first year of her marriage. 

Q: Suggestions for cleaning up down there?

A: By “down there”, I’m assuming you’re talking about keeping your vulva clean! It’s OK to call it what it is on this page. And vulvas are special, beautiful, and wonderful.

Vulvas and vaginas are generally self-cleaning. You generally don’t need to do much more than just wash with water (don’t use soap). If you choose to, you can trim the pubic hair a bit to keep things tidy. Vaginas are pretty tough and made to go through a lot (think: childbirth), and are quite resilient by design.

Some women are self conscious of their scent. Remember that vaginas are supposed to smell like vaginas. If you have an extreme odor or strange discharge, you might want to call a doctor to rule out an infection. 

For more Question and Answers, follow us on Instagram @getyourmarriageon

Remember that you have a choice. No matter what your spouse does, you get to choose how you react. Sometimes it can take hard work or maybe some outside help, but I believe your marriage can become better than ever!

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<h3>Amanda Severson</h3>

Amanda Severson

Hi, I'm Amanda! I'm a grad student on her way to becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist. I'm a wife and a sex enthusiast. I am a psychology nerd whose life goal is to help every couple find the absolute joy of sharing your life with someone else.

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