I'm 25 and can’t perform with a woman

Tell Me About It


Q I’m a 25-year-old man, on my own after breaking up last year with my girlfriend of five years. I was hurt when she said that our sex life was inadequate. W e tried to stay friends but have since drifted apart. One argument we had was over my liking for pornography during sex, which she thought meant she wasn’t enough for me. I can perform on my own no problem, but not with a woman . I’m afraid to ask anyone out because I might embarrass myself.

A People say hurtful things when breaking up, and if you still had feelings for one another on parting, I’m sure the sadness lingers. Your fear is possibly making the problem worse than it is, and you’re brave to ask. Many men will be secretly thanking you, considering that 40 per cent experience erectile difficulty by the age of 40.

“My clinical experience would suggest that erectile difficulty is now becoming common for men in the 20-30 age bracket,” says sex therapist Teresa Bergin. Stress, fatigue and alcohol can cause erectile dysfunction, so a healthier lifestyle could turn things around. Consult your GP in case there is a medical cause.

“For this particular man, erections are possible during self-pleasure but not with a partner, and this may indicate anxiety as one of the causative factors. Often, it can take just one experience of erectile dysfunction to set the wheels of anxiety and worry in motion, and to negatively affect subsequent attempts at sexual arousal. Thus the problem becomes compounded,” says Bergin.

“It seems that this man’s confidence has been dented by both the erectile difficulties with his partner and by the break-up of his relationship, and he is now understandably anxious about further sexual encounters.

“The distress that erectile dysfunction creates cannot be underestimated, particularly as it’s difficult to talk about. There is much that he can do to recover sexual confidence and control through relaxation, cognitive techniques, and specific exercises to improve erectile strength and control. If he has concerns about pornography, he may find it helpful to take a step back from it or cut down on his usage.

“Talking with a qualified sex therapist would help him understand the particular factors behind his own experience, and he would be guided through a programme of treatment to alleviate the problem to prepare for when he is ready to be sexually active again.”

Q My partner and I have always socialised with the same group of couples, who we’ve mostly known since college. We’re not exclusive, and all socialise in other ways, but we have always been comfortable with one another and in each other’s homes.

We were devastated when one of the couples broke up a few months ago, and we haven’t got together since then. The women in our group talk to the wife, and the men talk to the husband, but we haven’t got together as a group since the split. We don’t know which one to invite and we don’t want to be disloyal to either one.

A Many times I have heard separated people complain they feel written-off socially because they’re a threat, or rejected by friends who took sides, or treated as though divorce is contagious. Your friends are fortunate to have people like you who care about them.

So far, you’ve done what most people do in this awkward situation – the men circle the husband and the women support the wife. It’s not a bad first stage but it can’t last.

The “separation team” at Relationships Ireland advise that your group moves on and finds ways to socialise with each “ex” by mixing the genders.

One suggestion is for one of the couples to invite the separated husband or wife for a coffee or a drink. This way you can begin to avoid the classic dilemma of getting caught up in the “innocent victim” situation, where one or other party to the separation seeks to recruit friends and family to their position. Even in what appear to be fairly clear-cut situations, such as an affair, things are rarely straightforward. No one in the group can know the full story, so resist the temptation to take sides. Remain sympathetic, but avoid the blame game or you may end up with ruptured friendships on all sides.

When the initial raw emotions have passed, you might suggest that one of them come to the next social gathering and the other the following time. As time heals, the couple may come to the group at the same time.

Email your questions to tellmeaboutit@irishtimes.com or contact Kate on Twitter @kateholmquist. Selected entries will be published on an anonymous basis only. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into

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