Laurie Watson: We’re back today with our first mailbag with George Faller. What’s up? Hey, you’re listening to Foreplay Radio for Couples and Sex Therapy, and I’m Laurie Watson, your sex therapist.
George Faller: And I’m George Faller, your marriage therapist.
Laurie Watson: We want to take a wide lens on sexuality, and talking with you about what we’ve learned as experts in the field on how you bring your body, your mind, and your brain to the sexual experience.
George Faller: We want to expand people’s perspective of just talking about sex. But it’s not something to be avoided, it’s actually something to embrace into leaning into, with an openness to be changed by what you hear.
Laurie Watson: So George, we have some questions, and our listeners are pretty interactive with us. This one is about porn, and her husband replacing sex with porn. So I’d like to read it to you, and then we’ll talk about it. She says, “I just found your podcast. I have a problem with my husband looking at porn. I’ve known it for years and tried not to think about it. Now we may have sex maybe once a month, if that. I’m very willing and want to play, but I can’t get him aroused. He’s told me he doesn’t want the pressure to perform. I found out that he pleases himself two to three times a week. He’s basically replaced me with porn. I’m 59, and I don’t want my sex life to be over.
Laurie Watson: “We’ve talked about it, and he says, ‘We’ve been together for 20 years. Porn is exciting and new.’ It’s hard for him to have sex anymore. He is 62. He likes to watch the real everyday people, usually younger women, not porn stars that are acting. I’ve suggested we watch it together, but he’s uncomfortable with that. This makes me feel unattractive and insecure. We have had a good loving relationship. But without sex I don’t feel like I continue this anymore. I need help.”
George Faller: Whew. Yeah, that sucks.
Laurie Watson: That sucks.
George Faller: Yeah.
Laurie Watson: Totally.
George Faller: And just talking about last time sexual pursuer, the pain of wanting something healthy, and one thing to not get it at all, but to see your partner going elsewhere. It’s…
Laurie Watson: Yeah.
George Faller: Well, when I think about porn, I don’t come at it from a moralistic point of view. To me, it’s does it serve a function to strengthen a couple’s emotional bond, or does it create more distance? So in this case, if you have a couple who want to spice it up and they’re focusing and they putting on a pornography, a movie, and they’re using that to get more engaged, to me, the proof, the rubber hits the road when, does it increase levels of engagement and presence within the relationship? But if I have to have an orgasm when I’m with my wife, I’m thinking about some porn show I watched, and I’m not present in a moment with my wife, then that porn’s actually getting in the way of the engagement.
Laurie Watson: Then it’s a wall, not a bridge.
George Faller: It’s a… Beautifully. I read somewhere, a priest said, “What’s wrong with porn is not what it shows, but what it doesn’t show,” right? It so focuses on the physical and that hot lust, desire, it leaves out all of this stuff around safety in it and emotions and connectivity and spirituality. There’s such a beauty that’s left out of it. So it’s sad to hear that this is a familiar story, that people are turning towards something so mechanical and so distant, and they’re turning down the real thing. So that’s a problem.
Laurie Watson: This is a woman open to wanting it, expressing this, and he’s saying, “I don’t want the pressure to perform. I’m not as turned on.” And he’s clearly turned on. And I think an injury, a woman at 59, and having your husband look at younger women, it’s like, “I’m not getting any younger.”
George Faller: Well, then it’s like an affair.
Laurie Watson: Yeah.
George Faller: Right? You’re turning elsewhere to get your needs met, and you’re not heading towards me.
Laurie Watson: It’s-
George Faller: And this person is getting 90% of your engagement and your passion and 10% of your time, where I get all the time and none of the engagement as the wife, which is a pretty bum deal.
Laurie Watson: Right. I like the way you’ve talked about porn is what’s missing. I think for some of our listeners, there are moral issues here that they feel this could represent adultery. I mean, I’m sure you’ve come across this as I have, people who come in and say, “I found out my husband’s watching porn and that’s it.” And it’s like, “What? You’re going to trash everything?”
Laurie Watson: And maybe that’s really all it is. I know I had one couple who… He thought about looking at porn, and he told her that. And that was kind of it. I mean, some people are more rigid about it than what you’ve described, but I think that we also have to see it as something as part of our culture. I mean-
George Faller: Absolutely.
Laurie Watson: … when I was starting in therapy, there was no internet. If you wanted to look at porn, you literally had to go down to the corner mart and buy a magazine. So that meant-
George Faller: Sunglasses on.
Laurie Watson: … facing embarrassment. Yeah. And now it’s everywhere and it’s on their phones.
George Faller: So accessible.
Laurie Watson: It’s so accessible.
George Faller: And it’s scary to see the younger generations that are getting this so much time spended that stimulation. And, well, you could have a different person and multiple people. I mean, there’s so much that you could have to just fill that lustful need, that when it comes down to the real thing, it’s a lot more challenging, and it’s risky because you have to show up in a vulnerable way. Right?
George Faller: So before you know it, those neurons have fired together, wired together, and the brains are getting set in a direction of porn is the easier, more fulfilling way, which is tragic for our culture, tragic for relationships, tragic for kids being born in families like that.
Laurie Watson: Exactly. We don’t even know yet what it’s going to be like, but we’re starting to see that the next generation coming into sexual experiences, brand new, with an idea about what it should be that is so distorted. I mean, I do think, and what I’ve told my sons, and I’m sure all my sons have looked at porn, but I mean, I’m not naive. But what I’ve told them is, “Please reserve something so that the first sensual experience you have is your own.”
Laurie Watson: I mean, there’s just nothing like a lover touching even your hand for the first time. I mean, just the electricity of that, and I just worry about a culture that is so jaded by all of this that they won’t experience the other thrills that are essentially based. But okay, back to this woman.
George Faller: Well, I think we also want to reinforce to this lady that what she’s wanting, that she has a right for that, right? That if you look at couples that have the greatest sex, they all describe the same thing, regardless. And Peggy Kleinplatz’s work, right? That’s-
Laurie Watson: Optimal sex.
George Faller: Optimal sex. What is it talking about? High levels of engagement, vulnerability, intimacy-
Laurie Watson: Presence.
George Faller: … a sense of transcendent presence, all of these things that it is about being with, fully engaged, the person you’re with, right? If we’re not getting that, how can sex be so good? So what she’s describing is that distance. And we’re not trying to pathologize this man. He’s just learned to survive in the world he finds himself in, that it’s just a lot easier to head towards this more physical release of an orgasm than it is to open up your heart and be more present with your partner. Right?
George Faller: So I really want to give her permission for a good fight, that she’s standing up for something that’s so important, right, and not shame her husband. But he needs to do something differently. He’s settling in for the crumbs or the superficial appetite when there’s this main course that he doesn’t know how to be present with.
Laurie Watson: Right. So let me tell her. You got a good fight on your hands. I love that. Sometimes people need to be encouraged, that they need to stand for their relationship in a way that it’s going to take conflict. So many people… I know one of our listeners writes in regularly and says, “What if they want to engage with you?” but also openly admits that he will not have conflict with her.
Laurie Watson: It’s like, sometimes conflict is important. I think, especially sexually, the idea of just the fusion I think is out there in terms of a concept, where people get along and don’t raise issues, and they have a placid relationship. But if you’re placid, you cannot have sparks. And I think this woman needs to say, “Okay, I got to throw it down here. This one is a fight.”
George Faller: And she’s got to head towards him and get him. And what’s wrong with him watching porn with her? Let’s try to see what happens to this man. What is it about the porn? What is it about masturbating? Maybe they can just do that together and see what happens. I mean, we got to start getting them facing each other instead of… I think the biggest problem with what she’s describing is the massive amount of distance that’s happening between them. Right? And it is about bridging that distance one inch at a time.
Laurie Watson: And we don’t know necessarily what else is happening here. I mean, it could be a complicated stew of stuff. They’ve been married for, I think they said, 20 years.
George Faller: Just to reiterate, I think it’s important not to come from a judgmental, moralistic stance that says, you’re right and you’re wrong. Right? I think that really starts to create more polarization and shuts down communication. I’m really coming from a point of view that’s saying what’s proven to work, right? Couples that can strengthen their emotional bond have better lives and have better sex. Right? So this couple, the proof is in they’re not having sex with each other, very limited, once a month.
Laurie Watson: The proof is not in the pudding.
George Faller: So, again, it’s trying to get this guy to start looking at himself. But we’ve been spending weeks talking about these emotional, sexual withdrawers, that they’ve played it safe and they’ve found something that’s easy. But in the easiness, they’ve lost the depth and the genuineness of a really more whole sexual encounter. So yes, it’s easy, but do they recognize the cost of that easy is the vitality they’re not finding in their lives?
Laurie Watson: Yeah. Let’s come back and talk about what he might be going through to help her with some clues about how to approach him softly and with vulnerability, imagining what he’s going through.
George Faller: Right. My sense is the porn’s a sure thing. It’s not asking anything. There’s no performance. He’s not going to fail. He don’t even have to be seen. It’s a physical act that’s just focused on a little release of tension. And that sense of, “If I actually were more vulnerable, I might get rejected. I might not like myself. I’d actually have to face things that I spend my life avoiding.”
George Faller: So what he’s doing sexually is what he’s doing emotionally, probably, across the board. So this is just a symptom of what walls do to keep out the bad, they also keep out the good. Right? So it’s a lot easier if you have a wall up to just peek your head over, see a little stimulation, get a little release, and that’s all you get. Right?
George Faller: So it’s her ability to empathize with the good reasons he’s learned to put up walls and how this serves a function. We are bonding creatures. If we don’t bond in healthy ways, we will bond in other ways. We’ll turn towards porn or drugs or shopping or money. That’s just our nature. So-
Laurie Watson: Any kind of addiction.
George Faller: Any kind of addiction.
Laurie Watson: We gravitate towards something-
George Faller: We need something.
Laurie Watson: … that fills us.
George Faller: Fills us up, exactly.
Laurie Watson: And the healthiest part is when we turn to another [crosstalk 00:11:44].
George Faller: The Irish have a great saying, “Everybody focuses on the drinking and not the thirst.” Right? So what I’d want to get this man is to really start to… How does the porn does… How does it work for him? What thirst does it meet? Then he could figure out how to find a healthier way. I mean, he’s settling for some drops of water when he could have an amazing bottle of wine with his wife.
Speaker 3: Speaking with certified sex therapist, Laurie Watson, from Awakenings Center for Couples and Intimacy. Laurie, what is an intensive?
Laurie Watson: So an intensive is 12 to 14 hours of therapy all in one weekend. And it’s a way to really make fast progress compared to weekly therapy. I mean, there’s just so much more you can get done when you have a chunk of time.
Speaker 3: Overcome the challenges in your relationship and your sex life. Learn more about intensives and Awakenings Center’s other services at awakenlovingsex.com.
Laurie Watson: Hey, I want to let you guys know all about George. He’s written and contributed to several books, and I’d especially like to draw your attention to his book Sacred Stress: A Radically Different Approach to Using Life’s Challenges for Positive Change. His book is about a mission on how you adopt new strategies and turn stresses into a positive force in your life. And who among us doesn’t live with a lot of stress these days?
Laurie Watson: We’ll keep you posted as to all he’s doing. But George and other EFT therapists, all around the country and the world, hold couples retreats called Hold Me Tight, which is developed by Sue Johnson, and it helps secure your own relationship. If you’d like therapy with George, find him at georgefaller.com.
Laurie Watson: Hey, we’re back with a second question. It’s about ED. And this gentleman says, “My wife of 17 years and I are in a very bad place, due to not only our lack of intimacy, but my ED issues. I’ve been to the doctor and have recently been changed over from Viagra to Cialis that I have not yet tried.
Laurie Watson: “I want to satisfy her more than I can express in words, but I just seem to go limp right after we start or halfway through. Last night, the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time. I almost had her to the point of finishing and then I started to feel like I was going to finish. I started thinking I just needed a little more time to get her there, because I can’t keep failing, and instantly softened up.
Laurie Watson: “My wife is at her breaking point and I really need some help. I have to find a way to not self-sabotage. My doctor actually told me about your podcast.” Thank you, doc. “I’ve listened to a few podcasts. I don’t know what to do. I’m reaching out for help. But part of the problem from her side is that I don’t care because I should have tried to fix this years ago. I do understand her frustration. I just don’t know how to fix this. I’m open to any advice.”
Laurie Watson: Take the Cialis. Right? I mean, one of you-
George Faller: I always remind myself, you can get weighted down with all of these stresses and pressures. And what is this man looking for? He wants to love his wife better. It is coming from a beautiful place.
Laurie Watson: It is. You’re right.
George Faller: All of these problems that we have are only problems because the other side of the coin is these natural, healthy, beautiful desires that we all want.
Laurie Watson: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You’re right. As a sex therapist, I want to know a little bit about them now. There’s 7% of women who climax through sexual intercourse. So I’m asking myself, “What are the odds that his wife is one of the 7%?” Because I think what happens to women, oftentimes with ED in their male partner, is not that they’re so disappointed that he goes limp, but that he doesn’t finish.
Laurie Watson: And so he’s with her. He feels such humiliation about this, that he withdraws in the moment. And that is what is often so painful to her. It really isn’t about performance. If he said, “Nope, not my night.” And he finished her, and he said, “I love you. You’re so great. You’re so sexy. I love being with you. It didn’t work for me tonight, but that’s okay.” I mean, oftentimes, she would feel held both physically and emotionally in a way that… But it’s this humiliation that… I mean, obviously I can just feel it jumping off the page, I-
George Faller: It’s so instantaneous that he says, “The moment I think I might fail her, I lose my erection.”
Laurie Watson: Right.
George Faller: It’s the power of what that pressure and that shame or that fear can instantaneously do. So it triggers our fight or flight response. How are you supposed to get turned on when you’re thinking you might die or be rejected or humiliated?
Laurie Watson: Yeah, and there’s clearly a psychogenic part, right? Because he’s doing fine-
George Faller: Absolutely.
Laurie Watson: … he’s doing fine, and then he gets anxious and says, “Maybe I’m not going to get there.” I mean, maybe his wife is, because she says, “I almost had her there,” but-
George Faller: Laurie, backtrack a second. What’s so important about doing podcasts like this is just the change, the belief system in a culture that has so many things wrong around sex. And there’s so much pressure that this man has, that men in general have, about performing and pleasing their partners. If only 7% of them are going to climax through the intercourse, that just blows… The majority of men have no idea. They’re going to think that if they don’t produce an orgasm, that they’re failing-
Laurie Watson: Oh, yeah.
George Faller: … that this sense of, it’s not the size of the boat, it’s the motion in the ocean. I mean, it’s all of these messages that we hear that are just really confuse men and get them heading in a direction that’s set up to fail.
Laurie Watson: Yeah, exactly. And I think it is so true that men don’t know this. I mean it’s so hard to get through to them, and this is true.
George Faller: Oh, and I would say the majority of women don’t know this either.
Laurie Watson: Well, I would say the majority of women come in and say, “I don’t climax the real way.” And the real way is what they’ve been told, what they’ve seen on porn, too, what’s been advertised on the movies. She’s in bed, nobody touches her, really, and she climaxes miraculously in a 30 second clip. And that’s what she thinks she should be doing. I also think women think they’re failing because they’re comparing themselves to the male pattern. It’s like, “He can climax like that. That’s so darn unfair.” But-
George Faller: But because of this lack of sex education, both of them are heading into the account with faulty assumptions. And then when it doesn’t work, they both blame themselves like something’s wrong.
Laurie Watson: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah, and you can feel his shame as he talks about it. He has gone to the doctor. And this is an interesting phenomena that I see a lot, that men go to the doctor, they get a med to help, Viagra or Cialis, they work a little differently. But either they don’t want to try it, because somehow or another trying it says something to them. “I’m still a failure.”
Laurie Watson: Trying a med that is going to help them stay erect, they still are dealing with that, “But I didn’t produce this myself. Therefore I’m still a failure.” They won’t tell their partner when they try it and when they don’t. So she has no idea.
George Faller: This is the part that excites me, that what this male is saying, “I must be self-sabotaging,” and we have all these judgmental ways of beating ourselves up and only putting more pressure, that there’s a doorway to that, that that is going directly into his vulnerability. For good reasons, he wants to avoid this, taking the medication, all of these things. He has to head into those places of his own vulnerability.
Laurie Watson: In order to even take the med. Right?
George Faller: Well, if I don’t take the med, I always have an out. I always have a possibility. I always have something that I could look forward to. For me to head towards that medication, I have to face this part of me. “What if it doesn’t work? What is that going to mean for me?” Right?
Laurie Watson: What will I feel?
George Faller: What this guy’s describing is avoidance across the board I don’t want to face, because a lot of men don’t get help putting words to their more vulnerable sides. They’re afraid that if they touch them themselves, they’re going to be exposed, that then they’ll get confirmed. And where is that going to leave them?
George Faller: So the best thing they could do is just go in a corner and weather the storm. So again, to me, this man is following the rule book that he was given in life. And it’s not working because it can’t possibly work that if, “When I need to be engaged, I actually hide parts of who I am.”
George Faller: So that’s what I mean I get excited. It’s like he’s right on the edge. He’s tapping into these places he normally avoids in himself. And if we can just give them that push to go a little bit further to understand who he is, now that’s so… Because those walls to keep out the bed are also keeping on his vitality. Right? So it’s such a chance for just to have that burst of energy.
Laurie Watson: To open it up.
George Faller: Opening up, right.
Laurie Watson: So in your experience, what do you think he’s telling himself? What is that painful place? It’s that, “I’m a failure. I’m not a man.”
George Faller: “I’m not a man. I’m pathetic. I’m weak, I’m gross.” There’s so many of these tapes that start playing that we try to project ourselves as strong and vibrant and in charge, and there’s more insecure side. Nobody wants to see it. It’s a turnoff. “People are going to leave me if they see it.” There’s no room for it.
Laurie Watson: “I cannot possibly tell the woman I love about this place.”
George Faller: Right, because she’ll say, “No thanks.”
Laurie Watson: Or she’ll say, “Yeah, you are pathetic,” or something. I mean, worse, right? “She’ll reject me too.”
George Faller: I can feel as like a knife in a heart. If I say my worst fear is I think I’m not enough, and then my partner says, “Yeah, you’re right.”
Laurie Watson: Exactly.
George Faller: How do we bounce back?
Laurie Watson: Exactly.
George Faller: Especially when our best attempts to show ourselves are coming up short, why would we show our worst parts of ourself? So it’s so counterintuitive. But what men don’t recognize is, in protecting themselves by hiding, they’re keeping out the very thing they need for healing. This man, if he could heal those places inside himself, he can engage in a much fuller way. It’s hard to have great sex when most of you is left out of the bedroom.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. When you’re hiding and you’re anxious and you can’t bring yourself. I mean, if he could work this through and get through whatever the fear is, he could show up and-
George Faller: Exactly. And he needs us to do that. He needs people to be his champion and say, “It’s not your fault you’re hiding. You were taught how to do this. Right? But we know where this leads. This leads to a small life with lots of blocks and lots of feeling bad about yourself. But I’ll grab your hand and you can follow us. You take a couple steps into this darkness, we carry a light, that your whole world can change, right? And these, these things that you thought were so bad…”
George Faller: Actually, when you’re loved in places… Like, when my son, I coach my sons in football, when they score the winning touchdown, that’s easy. It’s easy to love this guy when he has an orgasm with his wife. But what about when he can’t, when he goes to dark places, when my son drops a pass and they lose the game, that’s where we need to love the most, and this man is not getting it. So I get excited, because I know if he could take the risk to go there, and his wife could show up for him, a lot of these ED problems take care of themselves.
Laurie Watson: Yeah, I love that. I think you’re absolutely right. And I think that oftentimes she probably already suspects that this is rooted in his fear of failure, and just wants him to tell her, to talk about it. The frustration for most women is that it’s the turn away. It’s when he turns away, either in bed or later, and doesn’t open up, doesn’t talk about this. And there’s so little talking. He went to his doctor after so many years, but maybe he hasn’t talked to her about what his anxiety really is and what they might do about it, because there can be a myriad of things they could do sexually to resolve this tomorrow.
George Faller: Perfect.
Laurie Watson: Tomorrow. I mean this is not the end of the world.
George Faller: Right? I want to echo what you’re saying that wives pursue in this situation. You get a chance to be the one person on this planet who responds to your husband’s vulnerabilities. And if your husband has success in those places, why would he want to go away?
Laurie Watson: Exactly.
George Faller: Right? And if he could try to talk to-
Laurie Watson: Why would he turn away?
George Faller: He wouldn’t turn away if he had success. And you get to be the person who delivers that. That’s pretty cool.
Laurie Watson: Yeah, and if he doesn’t have to turn away-
George Faller: Both people win.
Laurie Watson: … both people win.
George Faller: All right. I like that. Both people win. Good way to end.
Laurie Watson: You’re listening to Foreplay Radio, Couples and Sex Therapy. Hi, Foreplay fam. The biggest support you can give us as sharing our podcast with a friend. You can find also on socials, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and we’d love your questions and feedback, and really do use these to guide our show. We’d also love it if you’d rate and review us. If you’re interested in learning more about us and our mission, look us up on our hot new website, foreplayradiosextherapy.com.
Speaker 3: Call in your questions to the Foreplay question voicemail. Dial 833 my-4-play, that’s 833, the number 4, play, and we’ll use the questions for our Mailbag episodes.
Speaker 3: All content is for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for therapy by a licensed clinician or as medical advice from a doctor.