Brooks Laich Taking a ‘Journey’ to Explore His Sexuality Amid Marriage Trouble with Julianne Hough

Amid troubles in Julianne Hough and Brooks Laich‘s marriage, the NHL star is focused on learning more about each other — including their sexuality — in the year ahead.

Opening up on his podcast How Men Think with Gavin DeGraw on Monday, Laich confessed that he doesn’t feel “100 percent fully expressed” in his true sexuality and that he is now taking a “pleasure first” approach to his life.

“One of my goals this year is to really explore like, learning about sexuality,” said Laich.

“People think that sexuality is just the act of sex, of just having sex and there’s so much more to it. Here’s a question. This is an honest question for everybody in this room, and every single person listening: Are you fully 100 percent fully expressed in your true sexuality? With your partner? With everything? You could not imagine having a better sex life? Are you truly there?” he asked. “I’m not either. So that’s what one of my goals this year is to really dive into. So then we’re all essentially, that’s a state of suffering.”

He continued: “We’re not 10s of 10s. It doesn’t mean you’re the best performer. It just means, ‘Are you fully expressed?’ Do you even know who you are sexually? And I truly, to my core, do not. But I’m super excited about that journey to really learn about sexuality and also get better at the performance of it, but also just the understanding of who I am, who my wife is, that sort of dance.”

Earlier this month, multiple sources confirmed to PEOPLE that the couple has hit a rough patch in their marriage, with one source saying that Hough, 31, and Laich, 36, — who have been married for two years — “have been having problems for months.”

Julianne Hough and Brooks Laich | Frazer Harrison/Getty
Julianne Hough and Brooks Laich | Frazer Harrison/Getty

“She’s very independent and a free spirit, and that’s been tough for Brooks and their marriage,” said the source.

Meanwhile, a second insider said that the two “are not giving up, but also not talking about [their issues publicly].”

“They want to do this their way,” the second insider added. “They don’t want to discuss their marriage. They have been having problems, but many people do.”

Neither of their reps have commented.

On New Year’s Eve, fans noticed that Hough did not wear her ring while co-hosting NBC’s New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly. Before then, Hough posted a video of herself ringless on Christmas Eve. On Jan. 2, Laich posted a workout clip wearing his wedding band.

“Maybe it’s just a phase, maybe not,” an insider said then. “But either way they are not going to address it publicly right now.”

Soon after reports of split rumors, the two reunited at the airport. There, Laich wore his ring, while Hough was seen without it. A TMZ video showed Hough excitedly hopping out of her Tesla to greet Laich.

Julianne Hough and Brooks Laich | Clint Brewer/BACKGRID
Julianne Hough and Brooks Laich | Clint Brewer/BACKGRID

RELATED ARTICLE: Julianne Hough’s Husband Brooks Laich Teases a ‘New Chapter’ in 2020: ‘It Feels Right’

As for his new “pleasure first” approach in life, the former hockey star pondered on his Monday podcast about how his new perspective would impact his day-to-day life.

“What would the quality of my life be if I woke up prioritizing pleasure as the absolute most important thing in my day?” he asked.

“You are more loving, more kind, more patient, [there’s] more gratitude for everything,” Laich continued. “Pleasure first is a new concept that I’m trying to explore in my life because it has not been. It’s been almost last in the course of my life.”

Like Laich on the podcast, Hough has also been open about her sexuality in the past. Speaking with Women’s Health last year, the dancer said she worried Laich wouldn’t understand her fluidity.

“I was connecting to the woman inside that doesn’t need anything, versus the little girl that looked to him to protect me,” she said. “I was like, ‘Is he going to love this version of me?’ But the more I dropped into my most authentic self, the more attracted he was to me.”

She recalled telling Laich, “You know I’m not straight, right?”

“And he was like, ‘I’m sorry what?’ ” she continued. “I was like, ‘I’m not. But I choose to be with you.’”

Julianne Hough and Brooks Laich | Ali Buck
Julianne Hough and Brooks Laich | Ali Buck

RELATED: Julianne Hough’s Husband Brooks Laich Teases a ‘New Chapter’ in 2020: ‘It Feels Right’

After that conversation, Hough said the two forged “a more intimate relationship.”

On the podcast Monday, Laich also spoke candidly about having kids and wanting to be “an actively involved dad” — though he could never see himself as a stay-at-home dad.

“I couldn’t do that,” he said. “I want to be an actively involved dad but to just stay at home … I would love my kids but I think my soul would somewhat die doing that. I will go crazy if I don’t do something.”

Also speaking about having children, Laich added that he would want his children to know him and his wife as “a unit” and never hear about their past relationships.

“My mom and dad don’t tell stories of exes,” he said. “I love just the notion of looking at my mom and dad as a partnership. I hope when I have kids that they know me and my wife as their mom and dad, as a partnership, as a togetherness and not know other stuff about our past.”

When asked to rate his happiness from one to 10, Laich picked an eight, citing his excitement about retiring from hockey and heading “into a new stage of my life.”

“In my life, there’s a lot of things I’m really working towards. I want to step into a new stage of my life,” he said. “There’s things in my life I really want to improve and work on but, like, I f—ing love my life. There’s good days and there’s bad but I love my life.”

Hough and Laich married in July 2017 and got engaged two years prior. They had been dating for a year and a half. Both have been open about trying to get pregnant via in vitro fertilization.

The former Dancing with the Stars judge, who lives with endometriosis, froze some of her eggs in 2018.

“The commitment that she made to us having a family is something I’ll never forget,” Laich said on his podcast in July 2019.