Understanding Intimacy | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Understanding Intimacy

Got no confidence

Dear Dr. Jane,

I'm a 47-year-old man who's been divorced from my wife for two years. Our 20-year marriage was pretty much sexless for the last five years. My problem now is sexual confidence. I want to date, but after so much sexual rejection, my self-esteem is shot. During the marriage, I had some problems with erectile dysfunction, but now, it's even worse. I'm on dating apps and I've met some nice women. The problem is that I'm really worried about my sexual performance, so I never take it to the next level. I did have one proper date, and it was a total disaster. I don't know if I just got in my head or if it was something more serious. Can you help me?


Got No Confidence

Dear No Confidence,

Thanks so much for reaching out about this very common problem. Many men experience a lack of confidence after a divorce — particularly when the marriage has been sexless for years. Not a week goes by without this discussion in my office. One thing to know right from the beginning — anxiety is an erection killer.

Here's what I recommend:

Tip #1: Focus on pleasure

This is the most important advice I ever give about sexual intimacy. When you come into a sexual experience hoping to be present without an agenda or expectations (including about your erection or sexual response time), you're very likely to have a very positive sexual experience. Embracing the moment, greeting your partner, letting yourself fully experience all the sensations, tastes and smells in a moment, is a sexual gift that you'll give to yourself and your partner. It may seem difficult to let go of worry that your partner isn't enjoying the experience, but the more you fully allow yourself to truly see them and enjoy them — even worship them – the more you'll both relax and feel connected, no matter what happens with your penis. We tend to call this foreplay. In my view, being present is the whole thing. Being aware and connected to your sensations and to your partner in every moment is the key to satisfying sex.

Tip #2: Communicate openly

I know that it's very challenging to talk with a new potential partner about these very sensitive concerns. I don't recommend that you share such personal information on your first coffee. Instead, get a sense of how open and communicative your date is more generally about lots of things — not just physical intimacy. Clear and honest communication about many aspects of life is the key to a good relationship overall — not just in the bedroom. If things get to the next level, and you're both open to physical intimacy, take your time so that you don't feel overly anxious about your performance. You may find that you're very well matched. If you have problems with your "performance" at the time, it's good to tell your partner that this is something you're working on and that it's not about their attractiveness.

Tip #3: Get checked out

If you've done these things and you're still having problems, see a medical provider. They'll most likely reassure you that everything's normal. Your provider will be looking at things like your hormones, medications you might be taking (including SSRIs, beta blockers and other blood pressure meds) as well as cardiovascular or diabetic problems. Some things that your provider might ask you about include whether you get morning erections and if you are able to self-pleasure successfully. You might see a pelvic floor physical therapist or myofascial release provider to check for abnormal pelvic floor tension as well.

Your provider may offer you medications for erectile dysfunction. These can be helpful to get you over the hump with a new partner. Some men worry that if they take the meds, they'll never be able to function without them. This isn't true. Often these medications are fixes to temporary concerns.

I know that this is one of the most difficult challenges any man faces. But, if you follow these three tips, I know you'll be on the way to a great feeling of connection in your next relationship.

You got this!

—Dr. Jane

—Dr. Jane Guyn (she/her) is a well-known relationship coach who received her Ph.D. in Human Sexuality and is trained as a Professional Sex Coach and Core Energy Coach. Send her your questions at [email protected].

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