Dear Dr. Archer,
I'm a 23 year old male who has been dating a girl I truly love for seven months. I feel amazing when I'm with her, even though she has gone off for a year on a compulsory trip abroad. We see each other as regularly as possible, but it's difficult.
The last time I went to see her was about a month ago. She said she thought the passion was leaving our relationship, and when we've gone to bed together, it has not gone so well. We have had to stop half way through on a couple of occasions, and we've both ended up depressed, and even came close to breaking up once.
She says I need to change when we're in bed and become more leading, but now I think about this during our lovemaking, and I cannot perform, leaving us even more unhappy. I love this girl so much, and do not want to lose her; however, I'm afraid of having sex now, because this seems like a real possibility.
Every other part of our relationship is perfect, apart from this. I don't understand! Any advice would be great, psychological or otherwise. I want to enjoy our sex like we did at the beginning. I feel like this year abroad is killing us. How can we get through it? Thank you so much.
Performance anxiety is an anxious feeling when we have to perform whether it be in the bedroom or the stage. This can happen to anyone, Harry, despite age or gender.
It can mess with your head, self esteem and self worth, and can continue until your confidence is shattered. It often begins with one little, tiny thing. We’ll discuss performance anxiety in the bedroom, but the principle is the same for any performance.
When danger is perceived, your brain switches to high alert. Your eyes and ears become more acute, muscles become taut, ready for fight or flight, and even your digestive tract shuts down into standby mode to free up extra blood for the muscles and brain.
That's all fine and dandy if you're in bed with an intruder hovering over you, or if you're on safari and facing a lion. It's NOT fine when you're in the bedroom with your lady.
Whether good or bad, we live in a sex-obsessed world, and many men face what you bring up. Your brain is warning you there might be a problem if you don't achieve an erection; thus you can't get an erection because of the warning/anxiety your brain is feeling. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Your best bet in overcoming this anxiety is to (1) make sure you have an understanding, loving and supportive partner; (2) allow yourself to be human (which means you're not perfect, just like the rest of us); and (3) let go of the fears so your mind and body can do what comes naturally.
So, with that in mind, Harry, let's see if we can offer suggestions to help alter how you think once that moment is at hand:
***Avoid alcohol before your lovemaking. Both overeating and alcohol interfere with achieving and maintaining an erection.
***Get plenty of sleep and exercise. This helps you get healthier which helps performance.
***Please realize that failing to achieve an erection is occasionally an issue normal for every man. Telling yourself that this is a disaster will only worsen the situation.
***Avoid masturbation before the two of you get together. You want to be maximally aroused.
***Avoid Stress. This can have a direct effect on anyone's sexual performance. If she makes it a big deal, then it's a big deal for you. If it's a big deal to you, with so much riding on it, it will be a problem.
***She says you need to change? To become more leading? What does that mean, exactly? Did she tell you, or was it a general statement? Are you with a woman who's a lady out in public but a freak in the bed? Is she a bad girl who wants to be turned into a good girl by a super penis with super abilities?
Not to make light of a situation, Harry, but if she's going to tell you things she wants, then she should clarify. So, talk it out in detail and also let her know how you’re feeling.
***Consider a counselor. Even though I'm sure you'd rather go to the dentist, a therapist can help you through this, although I am inclined to think you won't need to go that far.
Bottom line is this: If you love this girl, be yourself with her. I would think that tensions are higher since she is abroad and you're not able to get together on a regular basis. If you're both patient, the trip will be over soon and you can get back to your daily lives, without all the pressure of the distance between you.
Good luck, and I wish you both a great new year.