What to do when faced with performance anxiety in the context of a casual relationship?
December 29, 2008 3:15 PM   Subscribe

Complicated question about performance anxiety, casual relationships and how to deal with it within that context. NSFW.

MeFi, I need your help sorting this out in my head. Please bear with me on this one. I'll try to keep it simple and not overload it with details.

Almost four years ago I dated a friend I've known since we both were 15 (we are now 30) for about 2 months. When things started getting serious, he decided he didn't want to pursue the relationship further, so we broke it off. It totally broke my heart, but I got over it. During these said two months we kept having great, amazing sex. It was never a problem in any way whatsoever.

In the years following this brief relationship, we've kept in contact here and there, since we have many friends in common. He had a serious relationship, which he broke off about 10 months ago. I had 4 rather not so serious relationships, not ever lasting longer than 6 months.

A couple of weeks ago I went over to his place for a chat and a bottle of wine - which sometimes happens - but over the course of conversation, we decide to extend the friendship to a friends-with-benefits package. I tell him clearly I do not want a relationship at this point, he says the same, we shake on it. We were about one and a half bottles of wine into it, too. So, we have sex. It goes well, it feels fine, he performs just fine, orgasms, tells me "it was so much better than I remembered, and what I remembered was pretty damn great". After the moment of awkward silence I took to think that I could never say that back because it really wouldn't be the truth, I tell him I can't come right now because, quite frankly, I'm a bit drunk and alcohol stops me from being able to reach orgasm (I'm female, by the way). We agree on going to sleep and going at it again in the early morning, before leaving - he had a plane to catch and I had to swing by home and then work.

Morning comes, we wake up. We start getting hot and heavy, but after a while it became evident he couldn't keep an erection. Of the eight guys I've slept with, 3 of them have had performance anxiety issues, so it's not like I've never seen it before. I tell him it's alright, no big deal at all, he says maybe he's just stressed, with the trip and Christmas and whatever. We get up, he gets in the shower, and off I go.

Saturday (about a week and a half after that) he starts texting me, and we make plans for the night, at his place. I go over, we talk for a while, you know, that awkward thing before someone makes the move. We start making out, and it's great. We click this way, it's easy. I think of how better it feels without the alcohol. We move things over to the bedroom, it's all still great, he definitely has an erection - up until the moment he reaches for the condom. Again, I say it's ok, we have time. So on round 2, we actually have sex. Until I move over on top and he looses it. This time he tells me he doesn't feel like it's going to happen now. I reiterate it's ok. We go to sleep after we cuddle together a bit - I meant to leave, but out of nowhere came a thick fog that made driving actually dangerous, and he told me to stay over. I wake up, wake him up gently, but he never even faces me, while he tells me he plans to sleep some more. So, I grab my clothes, get dressed and go.

Now, I feel terrible he feels like crap, which I'm sure he does. I don't get why this happened either. Performance anxiety after having had sex with me dozens of times in the past, and one time *while on alcohol*?

Finally, my questions:

- Do you have any insight? Anecdotally, historically, whatever. I just think it's weird, because I've definitely seen guys fail, but it's usually a right-off-the-bat type thing.
- I'm thinking of texting him... something, just to make him feel better. I have no idea what, though. Should I say something, or is this one of those cases where less is more?

Throwaway e-mail in case you don't want to go public: askme.me.me@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

It's different for different people, and I think for some men alcohol gives them the bravery / lack of inhibitions to be able to get it up.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:07 PM on December 29, 2008

That moment of silence. He's built up something in his head over the intervening years and you crushed it. That, or Meatbomb is right. Try drinking again to see if that is the catalyst.
posted by purephase at 4:16 PM on December 29, 2008

I think that you need to either hook up more often, or less often -- you might be spacing your encounters just far enough apart to ratchet up the tension fully (and more stress = more floppy). More frequently will allow you to get comfortable with each other and relax; more seldom will allow you to develop other interests and lessen the fixation on each other.

I'm thinking of texting him... something, just to make him feel better. I have no idea what, though. Should I say something, or is this one of those cases where less is more?

Oh god, please don't text him something about his erectile problems. Can't you just imagine him out at the bar with his friends, he goes off to the restroom, and the phone he left on the bar makes the "you have a text!" beep. "Hey, let's see who's texting him," says his helpful friend...

But do call (or text or whatever) something about looking forward to seeing him again soon, as much kissy-kissy as is within the boundaries of your FWB situation. If there's talking about this needed, it should be in person, not on the phone; for now, just give him a nice little reminder that you've enjoyed yourself and want to see him again.

And definitely give it more than two nights before you declare a crisis. Sometimes it just takes a few tries to get your bodies fully in sync, or to figure out that maybe his new blood pressure medication or anti-depression pills are causing some problems.

I just think it's weird, because I've definitely seen guys fail, but it's usually a right-off-the-bat type thing.

Nah, erections can fail in all kinds of ways. You've mostly seen them never happen, but sometimes things just fizzle out partway through (and condoms can make this more of a problem), or it sort of comes and goes, as it were. Or you can be all hard, but realize that you are not going to be able to come. I think it's pretty normal, but you are not yet at the point of requiring medical intervention or declaring this a disaster.
posted by Forktine at 4:59 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Probably just nerves. It has to be a bit strange for him to be sleeping with you, his major LTR so far, after the break. When I've done this, it blew my ex-bf then FWB's mind a bit more than it blew mine. He told me that the strangest thing was that I was so familiar, but was doing different sorts of things in bed that I'd discovered through sleeping with other people, so it was like sleeping with a different sort of me. Weird, but it made sense. We're still friends, though without benefits. Nothing to do with the sex, just to do with life.

The booze and horniness could have helped him get over the awkwardness last time. It will get better, if you decide to continue on with FWB.

Seconding Forktine on the no text thing. Some things just need the right tone of voice and facial expressions to come across as accepting-supportive instead of icky-Hallmark card-supportive.
posted by Grrlscout at 5:35 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Memories of how it used to be - how good it used to be - might be playing on his mind.
posted by fire&wings at 5:39 PM on December 29, 2008

As a former lover (and continued best friend) once told me, bodies make bad pets. There's no telling when things are going to work as hoped and when they're going to, um, leave you hanging, as it were. When it comes to getting all sexy-like, any number of things (i.e. stress, diet, sleep, wondering where you lost your cell phone last night, or no good reason at all...) can make a royal mess of your plans.

Sometimes you've just gotta shrug, laugh, and resolve not to make a big deal of it. After all, being sexy doesn't require being hard.

(And if you're going to text the guy, keep it along the likes of "Hi! I had fun last night. When are we getting together next?")
posted by fracas at 7:00 PM on December 29, 2008

It may not just be bodies going awry. "Friends with benefits" arrangements can have hidden underlying currents that mess up the single-minded focus needed to keep things woody. So it might come down to something that he is thinking or feeling that is distracting him away from the hot and heavy stuff.
posted by storybored at 8:41 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm not an expert, but it seems odd to me that the sex play would stop just because he can't get it up. He has other methods at his disposal for getting you off, right? So have him do that. His orgasm is his problem.

Of course, do what you can to help him solve it, but the gist of all this is that if you are happy and satisfied from the sex (via oral, toys, whatever), then the pressure is off him. He's a successful lover no matter what his penis decides to do. I wouldn't be surprised if once this pressure is off, then, as if by magic, his anatomy springs to life once more.
posted by kprincehouse at 1:53 AM on December 30, 2008

penises are weird. there's no telling sometimes how they're gonna behave, any number of things can get in the way: alcohol, stress, distractions, having feelings for your "casual sex buddy", etc.

regardless, it is embarassing and worrying about it is the best way to make it happen again so whatever you do dont go out out of your way to "reassure" him that it's ok. let him know you want to see him again and just act normal.
posted by swbarrett at 1:12 PM on December 30, 2008

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