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Ep 30 Joe Molinari | When Stress Messes with Sex

An interview with Joe Molinari, a certified sex therapist who specializes in helping people heal from sexual trauma and find ways to move towards pleasure.

He also helps couples develop deeper intimacy with each other and navigate some of the common problems that can come up in sexual relationships, and that’s really what we focused our conversation around.

This last year has been A LOT.  And as people are dealing with more stress and anxiety, it can have an effect on our sexual relationships.

We talked about what to do when couples just aren’t on the same page sexually…maybe one person is feeling less interested in sex than they used to be…and he gives some really great tips for moving through these road bumps together and having more connected conversations about it.

Another common issue that can come up is erectile dysfunction, and he provides some context for what treatment for that can look like.

This can be a tough subject for couples to talk about, and we talk about some of the mental baggage that goes along with it and an important first step that he recommends people take if they’re dealing with erectile dysfunction.

Overall, Joe uses a lot of mindfulness techniques in his practice and he talks about how using some of these techniques can help people make that mind-body connection, get more in touch with body sensations and recognizing thoughts and thought patterns.

This episode is great for anyone who’s feeling frustrated with their sexual relationships right now, couples who are feeling like they’re in a rut or not on the same page, or anyone dealing with erectile dysfunction and curious about what support and treatment for that can look like.

You can connect with Joe on his website at

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[00:01:08]In this episode, I sat down with Joe Molinari, a certified sex therapist who specializes in helping people heal from sexual trauma and find ways to move toward pleasure. He also helps couples develop deeper intimacy with each other and navigate some of the common problems that can come up in sexual relationships.

[00:01:28] And that’s really what we focused our conversation around in this episode. This last year has been a lot. And as people are dealing with more stress and anxiety, disrupted routines and households, it can have a real effect on our sexual relationships. So we talked about what to do when couples just aren’t on the same page sexually, maybe one person is feeling less interested in sex than they used to be.

And he gives some really great tips for moving through these road bumps together, and having more connected conversations about what’s going on. Another common issue that can come up is erectile dysfunction, and he provides some context for what treatment for that can look like.

[00:02:15] This can be a tough subject for couples to talk about. And we talk about some of the mental baggage that goes along with it, and he recommends a really important first step for anyone that’s dealing with erectile dysfunction. Overall, Joe uses a lot of mindfulness techniques in his practice, and he talks about how using some of these techniques can help people make that mind / body connection, get more in touch with body sensations and recognizing thoughts and thought patterns that come up.

[00:02:46] This episode is great for anyone who’s feeling frustrated with their sexual relationships right now, couples who are feeling like they might be in a rut or not on the same page or anyone dealing with erectile dysfunction and curious about what support and treatment for that can look like.

[00:03:07]Lilly: So I am here with Joe Molinari welcome to the show, Joe.

[00:03:12] Joe: Thanks for having me.

[00:03:16]Lilly: Let’s get started by just hearing your story of, you know, how you got into this work, what drew you into this field? Because I think it’s just always so interesting to hear why people do the things that they do. So will you share that with us to get started?

[00:03:33] Joe: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I knew I wanted to be a therapist probably when I was 16, 17, something like that.

[00:03:42] So going into college, I had that figured out, I didn’t quite know the path. But as I started to study sexuality a little bit in college, that became a bit of a passion, but I got redirected. When I went to grad school, I really started getting passionate about trauma. And then my career started in the Fort Apache reservation, Arizona, were so much of what I was learning about and caring for, with sitting with people was about trauma, historical trauma, sexual trauma, um, And the whole gamut.

[00:04:15] So a lot of my focus on study shifted towards that. I guess in essence, I was doing some sex therapy cause I was doing sexual trauma work. But I really continued that path. How do I really sit with the numerous forms of deep suffering that we all can encounter in different ways? And then when I moved into private practice, it was almost five years ago now,

[00:04:42] I had this realization that no, I can really shift my focus into something that I originally thought I wanted to do. The shift out of public health meant I wasn’t only working with the people who walked in my door, um, that I could kind of start to market myself a little bit differently towards things that I was particularly passionate about.

[00:04:59] So that continues to be trauma. And then I started to refocus my training a little bit towards moving towards pleasure. And combining those things. So a lot of what I do now is related to supporting people in finding their own healing through traumatic experiences, um, and mending relationships and finding erotic pleasure.

[00:05:24] Yeah.

[00:05:26] Lilly: Well, so what does that look like when you’re working with clients? Do people come to you? Mainly because they’ve. Had some trauma in their past that they’re trying to work through

[00:05:37] Joe: Yeah. It’s, it’s all over the map. Um, I think in the sex therapy world, But I tend to get a lot of specific referrals around male identified folks with penises who are struggling with something to do with erections or ejaculations. I also get a lot of couples or people on their own thinking about non-traditional relationships.

[00:05:58] Non-monogamy, couples with differential in desire, and then trying to figure that out, people exploring gender and sexuality identity. But then certainly also, still people will come through. Um, who’ve had violent and sexual trauma. And sort of seeing that as the main focus of the work. Yeah. So I often also say that when people are coming in struggling with their relationships, I take an attachment lens.

[00:06:25] So I’m helping people move more towards feeling secure in themselves and their relationship. And so often the things that can throw off our attachment experiences are developmental hurts or traumas. And so somebody might not be coming in initially saying I had this traumatic experience growing up, but when we really slow things down and get into it, there’s an old hurt there that could really use some, some healing.

[00:06:49] And so we ended up doing that work. Yeah.

[00:06:53] Lilly: And can that come up in the middle of a relationship too? Because I think, you know, as people get into early stages of a relationship, you know, things are maybe different and then all of a sudden something changes. What does that look like for people?

[00:07:06] Joe: Yeah, for sure.

[00:07:08] I mean, I talk about NRE all the time, that new relationship energy that can stick around for weeks to a couple of years, for some people, people call it the honeymoon stage too, but certainly as we start to move out of how we might show up. You know, showing our best all the time and having that energy to do that and falling more back into maybe who we are and how we are day to day.

[00:07:34] We can start to push each other and rub each other in harsher ways, sometimes things that bring up conflict and cycles that feel more splitting. And so it’s often in those cycles that I find that there are real attachment hurts and needs that could be expressed under the stuff that we just see on the surface.

[00:07:52] Yeah.

[00:07:53] Lilly: So how do you help people with some of these things? What kind of tools do you use and what does it look like to work with you? Is it mainly, I think like people thinking about therapy from the movies and if you haven’t experienced it before, I just think about like someone, you know, talking to a therapist, and that’s really, it.

[00:08:15] So, would you share more about like the different tools that you use and what that looks like?

[00:08:19] Joe: Totally. Yeah. And it completely, you know, this will differ from therapist and it differs for the client who is coming in. But for me, there’s definitely a good mix, especially around sexuality and trauma of information, giving, um, so explaining what happens to the body and brain with trauma what’s happening, even in the moment as we’re working through something.

[00:08:37] So people have a good sense of this is the process we’re in with sexuality and some people might come in with a lot of ideas that are really socially constructed around penis size or what should my vulva look like? Or what kind of sex should we be having? A lot of shoulds, right. So a lot of my work is breaking down the shoulds and come into what is, and I’m working towards acceptance and knowing of that, but on a deeper level, what I’m really most passionate about is and in most of my training, these days is focused on this in one way or another.

[00:09:08] It’s how do we slow this down enough? So whatever conflict you’re having in your relationship or some avoidance you’re noticing you’re having in your life or a pull I keep reaching for alcohol or keep reaching for porn, whatever it is, how do we slow that down to expose implicit or explicit experiences of old hurt?

[00:09:29] That might be brewing in up cycles of conflict, defensiveness, avoidance of pain, depression, and finding those pain points so that we can go back and really offer a different experience to something that might’ve felt stuck or hurt for a long time. So that can look like a lot of meditative experiences, certainly early in therapy.

[00:09:52] There’s a lot of, um, just skill-building in that way. How do I slow down? How do I connect to my body, my emotions? How do I communicate from that way? And a lot of my sessions work really slowly with my voice. I think I have a bit of a therapy voice and that I slow down a lot from where I am now. And we just take time to notice and be aware of what’s happening in a relationship.

[00:10:14] And what’s happening behind the surface of arguing about the dishes or within oneself, what’s happening behind when I start to feel panic. What’s happening before that. And a lot of these things we don’t really know when we get trapped in these cycles that we get so spun out and anxious that we can’t really see or feel what’s happening under the surface.

[00:10:37] So that’s something that I’m really, yeah. Invigorates me to be in those processes, we’re really in it. We find some flow of being able to expose what’s really there and find a manageable way to stay with it and have a new experience.

[00:10:51] Lilly: Yeah. So does this, happen mostly in sessions with you or do you, have kind of like homework for people as they go about their life and kind of bring it into their life?

[00:11:04] Do you bring in any kind of like mindfulness practices for people or tools for them to, try to explore it on their own in between sessions with you?

[00:11:12] Joe: Ideally both. Ideally. My general M-O is anything that we try in session. You’re going to notice this, this is going to be more accessible and in your back pocket, if you’re doing just a simple, slow, deep body breath.

[00:11:29] If you do that for five minutes every morning, even to start or a few times the first week after we see each other, that’s just going to start to allow this to be more accessible. Well, and I’m also urging people. Don’t just use this when you’re feeling really stressed out because the truth is you’re probably going to learn.

[00:11:44] It doesn’t work because you’re trying too hard cognitively to figure out how to use something you’re not used to while you’re already stressed out and it may make it more stressful.

[00:11:53] Lilly: Yeah. Do people respond similarly to this or do you feel like there’s people that are like, okay, I know I need to slow down and I know I need to do some of these practices, but they don’t actually…

[00:12:05] they have trouble actually doing it or actually implementing it?

[00:12:08] Joe: Sure. Yeah, I think, yeah. Yeah, both. I mean, some people come to me already having some of these practices, they already have a deep meditation practice or other ways that they’re able to engage with themselves. Um, even people who have had martial arts training I’ve had in the past, um, or military training had know something about breath work and slowing down to focus and we have something to work with.

[00:12:27] Um, but for various reasons, Often when we’re touching closer and closer to someone’s vulnerability, it can be more difficult to slow down and really be with the present moment. Um, and so we just simplify it. What is possible, right? If, if this feels like too much, then how do we back up and find something that’s really simple.

[00:12:43] I’ll do something like, you know, holding a ring, just notice this in your fingers. Can you feel the sensation on your fingers? So some people will say, no. Okay. So what have you press a little for it? Like if you really press it, can you just feel that sensation, you know, or can you hold an ice cube in your hand and feel the cold?

[00:12:59] Okay. There’s somewhere, you know, like we’re just starting. So where can you feel? Sensation and hold your focus there and then we’ll keep moving along from there.

[00:13:08] Lilly: How do you see results differ when you take this approach and this like body fullness approach to things and really getting in touch with body sensation.

[00:13:20] Maybe you’ve done this all along and you haven’t seen a difference, but I feel like there’s people out there probably that just kind of focus on the mental, the cognitive, and like, do you want to speak to the difference between like, just. Understanding something maybe intellectually or mentally. Versus actually being able to get in touch with your body and sensation and, kind of bringing it in to like day to day life too

[00:13:49] Joe: yeah. And I would say that I’m maybe just over the years, increasingly understanding and focusing on the body and other parts, that’s not the only part to focus on. And some people really aren’t ready to be with the body yet. And that’s okay. Um, I would say that there are some therapists and practices where it is more of a cognitive approach um, kind of switching the thoughts and things like that, and there are coaching models that do that.

[00:14:13] And that can be effective too. Um, I think for the work that I’m specifically interested in around shifting out of old patterns that we know and understand are created from old hurts and wounds that I want their whole system to experience something different. I want it to feel integrated in a different way.

[00:14:33] I want their brain to really be able to open up plasticity to, to create a shift. Um, So, and I think it’s also just, it’s this knowledge for myself, that me creating a cognitive shift, isn’t going to give me this long lasting healing that I’ve looked for and that I’m, I’ve experienced that I’m experiencing, um, Yeah.

[00:14:58] And I think generally I see clients who want something a bit deeper and that’s part of my intro spiel. When I talk to people is that, you know, like if you’re looking for a therapist to kind of help you think this is okay, where you used to think it’s not okay. And just make that daily shift, I can probably refer you to somebody better.

[00:15:12] I’m more interested in helping people get into that experience that they feel through their body, that they really feel like this is a shift and they can. It’s like the cognitions, the thoughts come through that full systemic feeling. Yeah.

[00:15:31] Lilly: Powerful. So I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about some topics that people may be experiencing, especially this year and with everything that’s been going on, kind of at the national level and with the pandemic and people being, um, you know, kind of.

[00:15:53] Cooped up with the people they live with. Um, maybe feeling like, you know, they don’t have the social outlets that they had before. It’s been a big disruptive year in people’s lives, obviously. Right. So there’s a lot of issues going on. Um, but what are you seeing as maybe some common issues that couples are facing as a result of these kind of macro stressors?

[00:16:20] Um, And yeah, what are, what are some of the issues? And then maybe we can take each of them and talk through them a little bit more just to help people that may be out there thinking, okay, we’re going through this? What could we maybe do to start just on our own, if they don’t feel like, you know, they’re ready to go see a therapist, right?

[00:16:40] Yeah.

[00:16:41] Joe: So the issues. For a lot of people. What I’m seeing is that those cycles that might happen between folks outside of the pandemic and thinking about people who might be living together, um, I’ve seen for some people that become more front and center because it’s harder to take space. And a lot of people aren’t just seeing that space happens.

[00:17:02] So, um, you know, if we used to argue about the dishes all the time, now it’s just that much more pronounced. And I would say that this isn’t for everybody. I think some in some situations I’ve also seen couples finding renewed appreciation for seeing what each other do. Mm, I didn’t know the work that you did when you were in the office, or I didn’t know the work that you did around the home.

[00:17:23] I didn’t really see all the little things that you’re doing and now I do. Yeah. So that’s a positive shift that I’ve also seen. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:17:31] Lilly: And it’s good to call that out.

[00:17:32] Joe: Yeah. I really want to, um, some couples are rocking it with that and, and consequently, I think there’s something to learn in that about how we can do things differently.

[00:17:42] But I do see for some people, those cycles of conflict can become. Maybe a bit deeper and more splitting and it’s just, it’s harder for people to feel like they have their own lives. Right. It’s harder for people to feel like I can feel a bit more free in my life and active. And um, so a lot of folks stress is going up in general and a lot of people aren’t feeling safe for valid reasons.

[00:18:05] And so that sense of safety goes down, which generally means we might react to them.

[00:18:11] Lilly: Yeah. And I feel like there’s probably instances of couples reacting in different ways to this too. And maybe this causing people to be on different pages sexually than maybe they were before all of this. So, let’s talk about like, how can couples have better conversations around this?

[00:18:33] If they are finding that they’re suddenly not agreeing on what they need. From their sex life right now, you know?

[00:18:41] Joe: Yeah. Well, I’m always going to give people a push to be really direct. So, so, um, I think, uh, in Minnesota might be a little bit known for kind of beating around the bush and passive language.

[00:18:54] And, um, but, but this is a growth area it’s never really just Minnesota. I think it’s all over, uh, that, uh, that it can be challenging to speak so directly around sexual wants and needs and use words around the body. Um, so that’s one thing is starting to be able to even directly say, I really like to have a conversation about our sex life, what we can fall into, like with other things, there’s a passive comment here and there.

[00:19:24] And think I keep telling my partner this one, are they getting it? But what if we actually plan, like, is your partner open to something like. Saying something like, um, Hey, I know we have some free time on Thursday. I’ve really been thinking about our sex life a lot. Can we really sit down and talk about it?

[00:19:41] Um, and then you get to just move into what’s happening for you two Is it that, um, you’ve noticed sex taper off? Is it that you feel less connected? Is it that you’re not finding pleasure? Um, is it that you’re wanting something different? You’re noticing a new part of yourself emerge. I really encourage people to think about what is it that, that feels most important to talk about and start there, start with openness and curiosity and direct language.

[00:20:11] Lilly: Yeah. I mean, it’s easy to say that. So let’s also talk about, how can we help people do this? So like, thinking about, Let’s put out like a scenario of one partner, maybe feeling like they don’t want to talk about it and they kind of just like push away or maybe, just feel uncomfortable talking about it.

[00:20:36]What’s maybe some language that the other partner could use to help like ease into that conversation more, or what’s a better way to approach it?

[00:20:49] Joe: Yeah. So, one thing that I get curious about there is, is what’s uncomfortable. Um, this is a question that sometimes I’ll find couples in my office where this has been the scenario in or out of the pandemic where well know online during the pandemic.

[00:21:06] But generally that idea that one person has been asking for something for a long time and the conversation just hasn’t been able to happen. And I think maybe one person often does everything they can and. You know, we see, we ultimately only have control over ourselves. We can do the best we can, and our partners still might not be willing to have the conversation.

[00:21:24] So sometimes that’s where I, or another therapist can come in to kind of help figure out what’s under that. But there might be some room for you to do that at home too. So I get curious around, you know, I’ve been trying to have this conversation for a few times and, um, and I’m curious, what’s, what’s challenging about it.

[00:21:42] I know you said that you don’t want to have the conversation. Can we. Can we be curious around what feels challenging? What feels hard? Some ideas could be, some people are, have never had the experience of talking about sex directly. Some people will experience a lot of shame around it. Some people have embarrassment about something that’s going on.

[00:22:03] Right. So I, I do think that that can be a really tender area, but if you can stay with curiosity, then there may be some room, right? Like rather than just getting. That automatically. I think we could get pretty pissed if that conversation keeps not happening, but what we shifted to what’s happening here, what’s happening for you?

[00:22:21] How do you feel when I ask you about our sex lives? Maybe there’s some information there and if there’s not any, keep trying, get ahold of the therapist.

[00:22:31] Lilly: Yeah. That makes sense. Yeah. what about if people are finding themselves on different pages? Like. Let’s say one partner is suddenly feeling like they are just not as easily aroused or not as interested in sex as they used to be.

[00:22:48]And the other one is feeling frustrated with that. I think this can come up, you know, with the pandemic, but also things that may trigger this are like having a child it’s kind of a common issue for new parents. So, what advice. Do you have for people that may be finding themselves in this situation and want to try to kind of handle it on their own before they go see someone for support.

[00:23:11] And then at what point does it make sense to go get support.

[00:23:15] Joe: Yeah. The first thing that came to my mind with that was defining what sex is. Um, so what are people looking for? So is it that I’m missing intercourse or is it, um, that I’m missing a certain type of kinky play that we used to do? Um, is it that I’m missing touch?

[00:23:32] Is it that I’m missing a way that I felt inside when we were together? Um, so even starting to get specific around being curious about that within yourself, if you’re the one bringing up the conversation, I think could be helpful. Because for example, maybe there’s something’s happened. Maybe there has been an injury.

[00:23:47] Um, maybe, um, somebody is going through some high stress around everything that’s been happening. Um, maybe like you said, this is something after pregnancy and I’m always about how do we step towards each other. Because if it’s that. Okay. I know that you’re not in a sexual space right now, and maybe there’s just some space to wait around.

[00:24:06] Sometimes there is, but is there something that we can find around intimacy? Is there something around touch that we’re missing that actually seems accessible? Sometimes there’s some wiggle room there because the other person might actually feel a lot of pressure that I need to show up. Um, and in this very specific way, around this very specific idea around sex, and because I don’t want to do that, I’m going to back away even more because of that pressure.

[00:24:26] Shifting from release the tension and pressure and move towards what really matters. A lot of times there’s room for connection. Maybe you missed kissing your partner and that’s really available right now. Maybe there’s a different position that can be tried now because there’s some pain somewhere for intercourse.

[00:24:43] Maybe there’s a different kind of play you can do. Maybe there’s a different way. You can talk to each other and make space for each other at night. If you’re missing a certain form of intimacy or attention, um, So all those things, I think are ways to just sort of step toward each other. And then for the person who might notice that they’re leaning away or from intimacy sexuality, I would also encourage people to think about how you can step towards not in a way that feels like you’re breaking your boundaries.

[00:25:09] Or that you’re doing something that you don’t really want to do, but rather, is there something that you’ve been unsure about, or you’re not sure if you’re comfortable yet, but you can kind of find safe space with your partner to allow some area for exploration. I haven’t been touching because I haven’t been sure if that feels good because of something that’s happened that can we start to hug each other in bed to cuddle a little bit.

[00:25:31] Can we try with a kiss and just see how that goes and keep talking about it? So there’s that idea of how you can start to step towards each other just a little bit without expecting this very specific version of what you want.

[00:25:43] Lilly: Yeah. That’s really great advice. Yeah, cause I, I just. As a newish mom, I have a four and a six year old. I’ve got a lot of mom friends, and a lot of people that I know that have gone through this big transition. And I’ve just heard from different couples that there’s lots of different issues.

[00:26:01] There are so many.

[00:26:02] Joe: Yeah. And there’s a completely different discussion for each one.

[00:26:05] Lilly: I love the idea of like, just really giving yourself space from like what our sex life was to now. Like where could we start? Just. Over again,

[00:26:18] Joe: that’s a really good way to put it. And then so often we’re talking about a new sex life, like in many relationships and talking to people about a new relationship after a big change.

[00:26:27] Um, yeah. Stop trying to find what you used to have and try to figure out what’s happening now with the body you have with the world that you live in with the job that you have, the household you have, what’s possible in this moment, you

[00:26:40] start

[00:26:40] Lilly: there. Yeah. And I definitely know couples who, where it’s gotten even better than before.

[00:26:47] So like that’s also possible. Right. Um, but there’s a very wide range of like what’s normal and happening, you know, and it’s all. Okay. Um, so yeah, I really love that. Just being able to kind of step back and, and think about that connection in a different way. So yeah. Thank you. Let’s talk about another example.

[00:27:10] I know you work with people, um, on erectile dysfunction. If that’s something that a couple is experiencing right now, what do you, what kind of advice do you have for those couples or what do you want them to know about as they’re dealing with this issue? Sure.

[00:27:27] Joe: First go see a doctor. Um, and, uh, see a urologist see your GP.

[00:27:32] Um, but, but. Get checked out for anything metal like medical that could be going on. And that’s what I have all my clients do before they see me, because it would suck to be working on something that might be more psychological. If actually there was something that was happening medically that we were just, weren’t seeing the whole time.

[00:27:50] Um, And I would say that most people end up working with, um, we’re not working in the medical condition though. Even if you have a medical condition, probably some work you could do, um, psychologically and body based too. And a lot of my work, um, for guys who come in, when we discover that really feels like this is something that’s more, um, kind of a mind, body relationship issue and something medical.

[00:28:14] Our work towards turns to guess what, how do I connect to my body more and more? Um, so one of the first questions that I ask people around erectile dysfunction and other things around this, I don’t love this word dysfunction, but that’s the word that a lot of people use. Um, uh, you know, be curious about where your head is, where is your head when, um, when you were in some form of sex before sex, after sex?

[00:28:42] When you’re flirting, when you’re masturbating, watch your mind. And if that’s hard to do, then we come back to, how do we start to develop practices that you can observe your mind? You can pay attention to it, and we can start that really simple. Um, But I would be curious about that. What’s going on? Um, one of my mentors in my life has Nelly Canon has asked the question, who’s at the foot of your bed. I’m like, who’s there. Do I have old messages there? For some people? I say like, my, my parents’ old messages about sex is right there. And it really is distracting off putting, um, the old messages I got from, uh, an old priest or whatever it was, right.

[00:29:19] That, that that’s kind of in the bed with me still. Um, so I encourage people to pay attention to that. And then with erectile dysfunction specifically, I’m really helping people go through a series of. Being focused on your body or genitals and new ways. So that can be mindful touch in the body mindful showers, where you’re giving yourself a gentle massage or in the bath.

[00:29:44] Um, not just noticing your penis, but noticing your shoulder, your, um, upper lower arm, your knees, wherever, and just noticing sensation in your body and noticing where your mind is. So I noticed the mind, I come back to sensation. Like a meditation. I noticed the mind to come back to my breath and then with that, we can work with mindful masturbation.

[00:30:07] So very similar process. You’re masturbating and you’re noticing sensation your penis then beginning to sort of shift that focus, not just to sensation, but to pleasure. What does pleasure like? Um, and then if somebody is partnered, I have, I really encouraged them to do with that with their partner after this, starting to get a sense of it with themselves.

[00:30:28] So you can do this mindfulness exercise with a partner. Um, you know, and Oh, and the other big one that I have people do is when you’re masturbating and with, when you’re with your partner, intentionally letting erections go, because it’s actually quite natural for erections to go away. And by the way, like, I mean, by age, I think by the time you’re in your forties, something like 80 to 90% of men have experienced losing erections.

[00:30:51] So this is also a really normal thing. And I think this is something that scares, um, specifically male-identified people a heck of a lot to lose an erection. There’s a whole lot of ego and Manliness built up in an erection and it’s really, really normal to see them go away. Sometimes that’s biology. So allowing yourself to see them come and go as a part of biology and taking off that edge of stress of that over time is a really helpful thing.

[00:31:19] Because even if you lose an erection in sex, for some people, they feel like sex is over, but again, what is sex? Is it just intercourse or can it be other things? Can you focus on a different part of pleasure on yourself or a partner? Um, can you slow down and take a break for a minute and do something else that just feels rested and come back.

[00:31:38] There’s a really, a lot of options. And that comes with a conversation with your partner and with yourself around what is sex to me? What is it right now? And how could it be expanded to all these versions of what is pleasure and connection? Yeah.

[00:31:54] Lilly: Well, it sounds like in general, people are dealing with this. It’s good to seek help and get that support, right? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It’s probably something that’s hard to do on your own. I’m guessing

[00:32:04] Joe: it’s a really good book that I always, my clients who read it, um, always say they have just, I just see them work through this more quickly.

[00:32:13] Um, Coping. Yeah. Coping with Erectile Dysfunction by Barry McCarthy, um, is a really good, very easy to read, um, book that goes step by step. And I always encourage people to not blow through it, but really, um, you know, just read an exercise at a time and work with it as you go.

[00:32:30] Lilly: Yeah. We can include that in the show notes of this podcast, too, for people who are curious.

[00:32:36]Well, thank you. So do you circling back to conversations between couples? Do you have any like ground rules or  We talked a little bit about, you know, that curiosity piece approaching a conversation with a partner about, from a place of curiosity. Is there anything else you want to share around like having conversations about some of these issues that couples might be facing for the first time are kind of hitting that first road bump in their relationship, um, to really approach it from a loving way and in a loving way.

[00:33:11] And, um, To just have a more productive conversation and maybe minimize the, the tendency for one person to pull away.

[00:33:23] Joe: Yeah. I think a really good guideline that any couple I work with knows about, um, and something easy to look up or John Gottman’s four horsemen of the apocalypse. Have you heard of those? No. Oh, that’s a great guide So if you’re thinking about anything, that’s tough to talk about. If you’re noticing that you’re a little flustered or you want to go into a conversation, these are things that we all do. Criticism contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Um, and all of those things mean that we’re getting in some way overwhelmed.

[00:33:56] Um, and they’re all things that can split conversations in a way that you’re going to go nowhere. So it’s a really nice guide when you’re thinking about. How to have, um, a fight that maybe is productive, uh, you know, an argument, um, or even just anything that feels sensitive. It’s a great way to live your life.

[00:34:16] I think too, to watch out for those things, um, because if I do any of those things, it’s going to push the person in front of me further away. Um, so I generally have people look at that and then also look at the alternatives for that. How do we frame things, starting with my experience, my feelings, rather than you always do this.

[00:34:34] Right. How do I be open to hearing and staying curious rather than moving quickly to a defense? If I notice myself shutting down, go into one or two word answers or feeling like I need to go. That means I’m overwhelmed. And I need to sooth my own nervous system to stay in the conversation. If I feel any of those things happening in my mind before I go into a conversation, but I probably need to soothe myself.

[00:34:57] Yeah. That’s a good starting point. Yeah.

[00:35:01] Lilly: And what does soothing yourself look like for someone that’s like

[00:35:06] Joe: taking. As many long, deep breaths as he needed to and feeling it through your stomach, your chest, feeling the air, moving through your body, taking a walk around the block, um, doing some light exercise, everybody’s going to have a different version of this.

[00:35:22] That’s something that you feel like slows down your heart rate, relaxes your shoulders on down. Um, Can maybe help you see your thoughts more clearly. Yeah. Listening to some soothing music.

[00:35:38] Lilly: Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Well, one last topic I want to get into a little bit before we wrap up is intimacy because you also help couples develop deeper intimacy with each other.

[00:35:51] So we’ve heard of like intimacy issues. What does that look like in a relationship? Um, and how can, what are some ways that couples can develop deeper intimacy?

[00:36:02] Joe: Yeah, sure. One thing that I noticed is so many people who say that to me, coming in to talk to me, they’re, they’re often talking about sex, but again, it’s, sometimes we’re uncomfortable talking about sex directly.

[00:36:13] So we say intimacy. Oh, thing to call out. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:36:19] Lilly: I’m thinking of it in like a broader way.

[00:36:22] Joe: Right, right. No, I, I figured that. Yeah. But, but I say that just because I imagine listeners I’m sure. Think of it differently. Um, and sex can be a part of intimacy for sure. Um, but I think that’s something that I often bring up in our first conversation with couples, as we’re talking about sexuality and intimacy is distinct distinguishing those a couple of what does each mean for them?

[00:36:42] Cause intimacy in its most general sense means closeness, but really everybody could have a much broader definition for themselves and what that means. Um, but when we’re looking to build intimacy, That could certainly be around sex, but it can also be around the everyday experiences. We have someone, um, I know so many people will come to see me have seen or read the love languages book.

[00:37:07] So a lot of people come in with that, that language already. Um, and that could be a helpful guide for some people. I think, I think it’s a fun read. Um, But the path that it’s really talking about is tuning into how do we experience intimacy? Right. So, um, for me it might be touch. It might be sort of noticing if I do all the dishes, whatever it is.

[00:37:26] Right. Um, so I think another important thing to focus on is if you’re looking to build relationship. If you’re looking to build intimacy in your relationship, being curious about what that actually means for yourself, but also for your partner. Maybe I think, you know, I’m, I’m giving my partner a shoulder rub, um, As often as I think of it.

[00:37:49] And I think, Oh, she must really love that because I love that. Well, maybe that actually doesn’t mean anything. Um, or maybe I’m getting flowers and that doesn’t mean anything. Um, we’re doing all the dishes and that doesn’t mean anything. So being curious, this is another place to have direct conversation.

[00:38:05] When do you feel most connected? When do you feel most close? What helps you feel like there’s trust and understanding between us and focus on those things? It could be doing little things for your partner every day. It could be a long snuggle. It could be taking the time to have a conversation where you’re deeply listening.

[00:38:27] It could be planning events and making, helping your partner know that you’re really taking the time to think ahead for the both of you. So it’s another place to have a lot of curiosity. And my other favorite word and therapy is intention. Be intentional about these things. Don’t let them be passive. Be present and plan.

[00:38:47] Yeah.

[00:38:49] Lilly: Yeah. So for anyone that hasn’t read the love languages book, you, you touched on what those love languages are, but it’s like touch. Acts of service. You remember them all?

[00:39:02] Joe: Yeah. I don’t even sure that a gifts gift giving gift

[00:39:05] Lilly: giving.

[00:39:07] Joe: Right. And there’s one other one. Is it, um, affirmations or something around it?

[00:39:12] Yeah.

[00:39:12] Lilly: As verbal affirmations, like yeah. But yeah, that’s definitely, that’s really interesting. And just defining what into intimacy means and what makes each person feel closer to the other, right? Yeah. Love that. Awesome. Well, is there anything else that you want our listeners to know about what you do or, um, kind of how to navigate these times right now?

[00:39:43] Joe: You know, be curious with each other, ask each other questions. So often when I meet people, we’re we all experienced this in some way we can hold so much inside and not even notice that we’re doing it. We’ve got to be honest with ourselves before. We can be honest with our partners. Start to live more of a mindful life.

[00:40:01] Be curious about what’s happening within yourself, within your mind, within your body. Are you feeling tense around your partner? Are you feeling tense in general, in life? Are you noticing you’re feeling more anxious or stressed, be curious what that’s about. Can you have a direct conversation with your partner about that?

[00:40:16] Can you let them in on what’s happening? And can you just have an open dialogue of curiosity around needs around that? Maybe it’s not the things that we mentioned that you need, maybe you need space and you figure out how do we do that in the pandemic? It can be hard, but things being hard doesn’t mean they’re impossible.

[00:40:32] I’ve seen people find really creative ways to find the space they need. Um, and that is another thing I was thinking about. And one of our questions is that, you know, another way to build intimacy for a lot of people is building mystery Esther Perel talks a lot about this. Um, and the idea that. You know, it, it can be hard when we know exactly what our partner is doing all the time and we’re, we’re trapped in monotony around the pandemic.

[00:40:58] Um, that matters more for some people than others, but I do encourage couples to build a sense of mystery. And right now that could be reading a different book and have any conversation about knowledge that you have or a story you have in your mind that your partner doesn’t. And having a different conversation about something, um, that could be taking your kid on an adventure where your partner isn’t there and just doing something different, you know, and coming back and having something new to talk about.

[00:41:26] Yeah. That could be introducing something different to how you express intimacy or sexuality. That could also be you taking a weekend trip or you were taking on a new craft or a project, but find ways to be in yourself, differentiate yourself, allow yourself to be your own person, your own parent, and also come back to the partnership.

[00:41:52] So that you can keep discovering each other. And with that also keeping curious about your partner, what is there to learn? What am I, what am I assuming that maybe I’ve been assuming for a long time and might might’ve changed and what also might be new? How can I look out for that? And the other thing that I think that comes through practices of gratitude, the more gratitude that we have in life, I mean, in general, the better we feel about ourselves and in life, but that turns to our partner as well.

[00:42:15] What can we notice? What can we look out for that we’re grateful for? And let them know and let ourselves know.

[00:42:23] Lilly: Yeah. I love that. Well, thank you so much for sharing all of your knowledge and wisdom around this important topic. Can you tell people, how can they connect with you if they are listening and really feeling connected to your approach and what you’re doing, and maybe they’re feeling like they need some support?

[00:42:44] What, what can they do to work with you? What are your, offerings right now?

[00:42:48] Joe: Yeah. Yeah, you can find Um, I’m sure we’ll put that link in. And, um, I always suggest people email me rather than call, just cause you’re going to get a quicker response. Um, but yeah, feel free to reach out. Um, that’d be happy to chat with you.

[00:43:03] Everything’s virtual right now. So you’d be meeting with me online for the foreseeable future.

[00:43:08]Lilly: All right, well thank you so much.

[00:43:11]Joe: Yeah. Thank you. It’s fun.

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