Could erectile dysfunction be wrecking your husband’s sex drive?

This week I’ve been writing for higher-drive wives, and today we’re turning to another reason why a husband’s sex drive might be sub-zero: If he’s suffering from erectile dysfunction. Yesterday we looked at how porn kills a man’s libido, and today we’re going to look at the further effects of sexual dysfunction.

Good Girls High Res 250 - Is Erectile Dysfunction Killing Your Husband's Libido?When I did research for erectile dysfunction for my book The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, here’s what I found:

According to the National Institute of Health, chronic erectile dysfunction (ED) affects 4 percent of men in their 50s, 17 percent of men in their 60s, and 47 percent of men over 75. Transient, or temporary, ED affects about 50 percent of men between 40 and 70.[i] About 70 percent of chronic ED has physical roots, while the rest has psychological and emotional roots.

[i] “Erectile Dysfunction (ED) Overview, Incidence of Impotence,” Remedy Health Media, http://www.urologychannel.com/erectiledysfunction/overview-of-impotence.shtml.

So 50% of men will experience ED erratically between the ages of 40 and 70. And quite a few will before that age, too! As we looked at yesterday, that’s often due to porn use, even if the guy quit pornography years ago. Because porn rewires the brain so that what’s stimulating is an image, rather than a person, and because porn use is usually accompanied by masturbation, a man can get used to needing a lot of stimulation to maintain an erection. Being with the same woman doesn’t always do it (because he’s retrained his brain so that sex is not about intimacy, as it’s supposed to be, but about variety).

And erectile dysfunction is not the only sexual problem, either. Premature ejaculation, where the man ejaculates within 2-3 minutes of starting intercourse, affects quite a few men, too. I’ve had so many frustrated women comment on the blog lately about how sex doesn’t feel very good, and from their comments it’s quite clear that it’s not lasting long enough for them to get aroused. Sometimes women don’t always realize that this can be a sign of sexual dysfunction, since men should be able to control themselves and go for longer. If they can’t, there could be neurological or chemical issues that doctors can help with, or they could have a porn problem.

Here’s more information on premature ejaculation.

Nevertheless, not all erectile dysfunction (or premature ejaculation) is due to pornography.

Erectile dysfunction largely stems from four things:

  • Health issues or medication issues (which exacerbate with age)
  • Emotional problems or relational problems
  • Performance anxiety from previous problems (the vicious circle of ED)
  • Pornography

Until relatively recently, ED was thought of as an older man’s issue, and health problems would have been the #1 reason. That’s what Viagra was created for!

But more recently that hasn’t been the issue. A large scale study out of Italy when I was writing The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex found that most new cases of ED were now of men under the age of 40. It’s not a physiological issue. It’s a porn issue.

So let’s just separate these two issues for a minute.

While usually women suffer from low libido, sometime men can suffer too! Here's how erectile dysfunction can become a problem in your marriage and what you can do about it.

When Erectile Dysfunction Has a Physical or Emotional Cause

If erectile dysfunction is transient (like it comes and goes and only happens occasionally), and it seems to stem from either stress or some health issues, then watch how you react. What you don’t want to do is to feed that vicious circle that comes from performance anxiety! Just be matter of fact about it. “This happens sometimes, it’s not a big deal, it’ll be fine next time we try, let’s just watch a movie instead.”

If it does happen more frequently, do see your doctor. It may be an early warning sign of a more important health issue that needs to be dealt with.

And don’t be afraid to try Viagra. It doesn’t make him less of a man or make him a failure. I need glasses because my eyes aren’t perfect. If you need something to give you a boost because your body isn’t perfect, that’s totally okay.

Most erectile dysfunction with physical or emotional roots, though, occurs in slightly older men. Most of you reading this blog are younger. And so I’d like to talk about the most common cause for you, which is:

Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED)

But then there is porn induced impotence, or PIED, which is becoming increasingly more common. Covenant Eyes has a great in-depth FREE download on PIED, that goes into the biology of it, and has quite a few stories of what it’s like facing this and how you can defeat it. I read it this week and was really impressed. One woman wrote:

“My husband could not keep an erection, and it was very difficult for him to climax right from the beginning of our marriage. For the next six years our sex life suffered until he confessed that [he] had been addicted to porn since he was very young.”

They also included a story from Noah Church, who now runs a porn-recovery website. He doesn’t come from a Christian background, but honestly, this story is pretty much like so many that I get in emails:

“I found myself as one of the first people to grow up in the age of the Internet when it was common for homes to have a computer with Internet access. Starting at around age nine or ten, I was using porn most every day, one or two times a day, sometimes more.

I started to escalate to types of pornographic content that really didn’t jibe with my natural sexuality. They were extreme and shocking, but I found that as time went on, I needed those more extreme stimuli to get the same amount of arousal that I was getting before.

By the time I was 18 years old, I was with my first serious girlfriend, and we decided we loved each other and wanted to experience sex together. This was something I had been looking forward to all my life.

I was really attracted to her. But, when the time came [to have sex], she was naked in front of me, and I just didn’t have any physical response.

I was shocked. I thought of myself as a person with a high sex drive. I always thought about girls and was masturbating most every day, so I was really confused and shocked about what was going on in that moment. I thought it might just be nerves because it was my first time, so we tried many more times and it just never worked.

I turned to Google for help, searching for phrases like ‘young man can’t get it up’ or ‘erection problems,’ and most sites indicated that it was either performance anxiety or some biological problem like blocked arteries. I pinned it on performance anxiety because I had no trouble getting an erection while looking at porn (which excluded the biological problem as an explanation).

[After a few years] I thought, ‘Maybe I masturbate too much.’ So I’d stop for a few weeks and quit looking at porn too, but that didn’t work either. Man, this wasn’t just a sex issue, because it was devastating on my self-esteem, my self-confidence, and my sexual identity. Because I couldn’t have sex, I was sexually broken.

My emotional health was a mess. Because I was feeding my brain so much dopamine through watching hours of porn, my brain craved more and more stimulation. And, unlike drugs–where there’s a rush of neurochemical activity giving that ‘high’ and then it’s gone–with porn, I was able to keep that dopamine level raised for hours clicking from video to video. We call it ‘edge’: delaying orgasm so that I could keep watching porn. Over years of doing this, my brain figured out that nothing in the real world could compete with the porn rush. Everyday things just became less stimulating. My friendships became less interesting. I didn’t want to do homework, because compared to porn, who wants todo homework?

I was numb to the world. From the age of 10 to 22 or maybe 23, I didn’t cry a single time.”

Read Noah’s story, and how he recovered, in Covenant Eyes’ FREE book.

There’s so much in that story that we’ve talked about yesterday and today–how porn causes men to be cut off from their feelings; how it makes sexual arousal with a person so difficult; how porn makes one self-absorbed and you miss out on real life and real community.

But what I’ve also found is that many Christian women have no idea that what their husbands are going through is not normal

Because we value waiting until marriage to have sex (and I totally, completely believe in that), and because sex is often difficult to talk about, and because many of us are in communities where it isn’t talked about, we don’t know what “normal” is. And I’ve received so many letters from women who talk about how they just can’t reach orgasm and sex doesn’t feel very good, and then only later do you figure out that he’s reaching orgasm within 2 minutes of starting. Or I’ve had emails from women who are married, and sex isn’t working, and only after some prodding do you realize that he doesn’t actually have an erection. Because she didn’t know what to expect, she didn’t know how to describe what’s wrong.

Porn-induced erectile dysfunction is increasingly common, but it’s also something that can be beaten by quitting porn and masturbation, getting in a recovery group, and learning how to get in touch with your feelings and with intimacy again. It takes some serious work of the Holy Spirit, but this is the kind of thing that God loves doing. He is the God of healing and reconciliation!

Ezekiel 11:19 says:

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,

God wants us to feel again. He wants us not to be cut off from each other, but to be tender to one another. And He will do this, when we submit to Him.

James 4:8 says:

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

It doesn’t happen automatically. We have to choose to draw near to God; we have to choose to cleanse our hands (which means quitting porn and masturbation!). But if your husband does this, God will change him.

Want to learn more about how to recover from PIED? Check out Covenant Eyes’ free ebook, recoverED.

Now let me know in the comments: have you ever dealt with this? Share your story!

SheilaSidebarAboutMe - Is Erectile Dysfunction Killing Your Husband's Libido? Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 26 years and happily married for 21! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature "Girl Talk" about sex and marriage. And she's written 8 books. About sex and marriage. See a theme here? Plus she knits. Even in line at the grocery store.
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