Getting it up since the divorce
December 12, 2005 10:33 PM   Subscribe

Since my separation and divorce from my wife of five years, I've had a really hard time maintaining an erection during sex with other women.

I'm only 29, and really don't want to start taking Viagra, although I am curious if there are herbal supplements/remedies that could help me maintain.

I can get an erection and ejaculate normally - I just can't maintain a hard-on very well during sex, they come and go, come and go, and nothing a woman does really seems to help. I try and focus on them, but it's like there's no feeling in my penis.

This is causing me a lot of anxiety. My wife was my first long term sexual partner, although not my first. It's been a year since we separated and ten months since the last time we had sex. I had no problem making love to my wife and was often able to last an hour or more. But it's been totally different since then.

I know a lot of it is due to loss of confidence. What can I do, mentally and physically, to help get that back?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total)

If you're depressed, and even if you're not - get exercise most days if you can. Hit the treadmill for a 5K a few times a week, hit the weights, etc. It should help your mood and your, er, physical traits - not just for looks but to give you that little kick over the hill that you're having a hard time with.
posted by kcm at 10:44 PM on December 12, 2005

Erections begin in the mind, not the pants, as you have noticed.

Consider short-term interpersonal psychotherapy.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:47 PM on December 12, 2005

Oh, just take the damn pills until you're more comfortable with everything. It's a vicious cycle of anxiety causing lack of performance which causes more anxiety, etc. Draw a little flower on them and tell yourself they're herbal if that turns you on.
posted by trevyn at 10:54 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

Not to imply anything, but cut out all self pleasuring for a couple of weeks.

Delay of gratification is an amazing thing. Also, one night, with your partner, do sexy things, but make a pact not to have sex no matter what. Do this for a couple of nights, and you may think someone slipped you a Viagra micky.

Then, when you do have the amazing rock-hard sex after this couple nights of delayed gratification, you may regain the psychological edge you need to perform as usual. Erections are definitely all in the mind. (barring any other physical ailments).
posted by Dag Maggot at 10:55 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

Second ikkyu2's therapy suggestion - you need treat the big grey thing between your ears, not the small dangly thing between your legs....
posted by forallmankind at 11:01 PM on December 12, 2005

I'm sure the above poster didn't mean to imply that you are small. After all, 90 percent of this guy's problem has to do with ego and emotion.
posted by Brittanie at 11:10 PM on December 12, 2005

I'm 33 and recently out of two long-term relationships and am experiencing this exact same thing. Theseadays I'm getting lots of play (thank whatever higher power is listening) but thankfully I'm damn good at oral, so none of these liaisons have been trainwrecks. ;)

I tried viagra (regular pill, not the quickrelease), it *did* kinda work, but only for maybe 15 minutes. I'm setting up a doctors appointment this week or next for cialis.

Damn, dude... I honestly feel your pain. I'm in the same boat and looking forward to seeing more replies here....
posted by starscream at 11:20 PM on December 12, 2005

The feedback loop of your situation is often the biggest problem. As soon as you have a hint of an erection, you'll get excited, then wonder if you're going to lose it. As soon as you lose it, you'll get embarassed or angry, and then it will really be gone.

Eventually, you need to short-circuit this loop. I highly recommend that you meditate on the sexual success you have had, and try to reach a deep-seated realization that your body functions just fine. If you take the proper perspective, then the mishaps you're experiencing can even seem funny: the silly antics of a self-obsessed mind. In a way, the erection is the physical manifestation of the electrical storms that take place in your brain. In almost all other situations, these are abstract phenomena, but with erections, they're boom or bust in a very physical sense. Have a sense of humor about your poor, overwrought ego. Go to bed with a very experienced woman who has seen it before and may have a sense of humor about it as well.

Nothing succeeds like success, though. Especially in your situation, where you have never had continued success except with one woman (with whom you now have associations of anguish and the failure of a relationship) it will be difficult to just break the ice and move forward. In such a situation, relying on some cock pills for a short time can really shove the psychological crap out of the way long enough to let your body perform. Once your body demonstrates its ability to perform, you will feel better about it. Once you feel better about it, it will continue to perform.

In this regard, my decidedly un-professional opinion is to avoid therapy at all costs. Nothing will drive the sense that you are damaged and dysfunctional deep into your brain like regular sessions with a shrink. I don't mean to devalue their work, but I really don't think you need their help. You've got a 90-minute stiffy in you, as studies have shown. I think your mental issues really are probably trivial emotional low-clouds just waiting to be burned off.

I think you're correct to avoid the cock pills if there are other alternatives, but you should also consider that they might get you out of this hole, and the more time you spend in this hole, the deeper it's getting. Perhaps it might help just to know that if you do reach a point of insurmountable frustration with your mental round-and-roundabout, that there is a pharmaceutical weapon of last resort available.

Good luck. You'll get over this. You'll remember it with a sobering humility, but you'll get over it. Enjoy.
posted by scarabic at 11:21 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

I guess one other note is that it might take more than a year to get over your five-year marriage. Maybe you're not ready yet. Or your body isn't, anyway. This is a slow schedule when you're the one who has to wait through it, but trust me, it's not all that inordinately long.
posted by scarabic at 11:24 PM on December 12, 2005

For me, delayed gratification is a bitch. It either really works or it really doestn't.... with the ratio of "doesn't" going downhill as the weekend progresses.
posted by starscream at 11:24 PM on December 12, 2005

IANAD but you should contemplate seeing your physician because this kind of thing could be related to an actual physical problem, and the timing (wrt your divorce) could be only coincidental. Do you ride a bike? Have a family history of cancer?
posted by popechunk at 11:53 PM on December 12, 2005

although I am curious if there are herbal supplements/remedies that could help me maintain.

Short answer: no. Real results require real pharmaceuticals.

You are focusing way too much on your erection and not enough on just having fun. This sounds ridiculous, but: how's your self-esteem? Are you in good shape? Getting enough exercise? I cannot stress enough how much of a difference it can make.

Secondly: why are you having sex? Is it because you really dig them and you find them really attractive, or are you just trying to get back into the game? Are your thoughts wandering? are you thinking instead about your ex? If the answers are "the latter, yes, yes," well, as much as I hate to say it, you might want to take a break and focus on yourself for a while.

However: you are getting older. Just to make sure it's not physical, see a doctor first.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:51 AM on December 13, 2005

If you want to fool with herbal supplements, go ahead and try Yohimbe, Kava-Kava, and/or Damiana (all available as tinctures from your local health food store). But you might want to reconsider the wisdom of messing with herbal supplements that haven't been tested and approved for anything by any certification body, versus trying a pharmaceutical that has been, and has been used by millions of men in the field. Like Optimus Chyme ;) (kidding!)
posted by scarabic at 6:37 AM on December 13, 2005

Regular exercise is good.

Viagra and Cialis are good. They should work for more than 15 minutes. Make sure you have an appropriate dose and that you aren't taking it with a meal (the latter is especially important with Viagra). As people said, break the cycle, relax, have fun.
posted by alms at 6:55 AM on December 13, 2005

I have an amazing relationship with a really hot younger girl. We have lots of sex. However, there was a couple of times when I was unsure about the relationship and way caught up on if she loved me or not and it caused me soooo much stress... and 2 or 3 times it was an issue. I got caught up in the cycle of, "gotta keep it up, oh no it is not staying up, gotta keep it up, etc, etc.." and the result was that I totally lost the hard on. You get frustrated and try to will it hard, which doesn't work. So, the point is that I have shared your expereince. The most helpful part of it was that she was really cool about it. So, if you are expereincing this, just say it, rather than panicking and beating yourself up. Chances are your partner will be cool and that will help. Also, get a vibrator. That way, when you are having issues you can watch your girl take care of herself. This helps because then you know she is satisfied (thereby making you feel ok on a subconscious level), and it is hot to watch, which helps on a not-so-subconscious level. Also, I found that not applying meaning to it liberates you. I know this is easier to say than do, but what happened was you had some stuff on your mind and you lost an erection. This means nothing about you or her or your sex. It just is. Getting upset about this is like getting upset because your heart is beating fast during a rollercoaster ride. So, if you can find a way to really adopt this attitude you'll be ok. Now, it might help to go to the doctor to be sure you are OK... plus he may give you some viagra. You don't need it; what you need is to clear up the stuff in your head. However, once that is cleared up it will still be fun to have viagra laying around :) . I, too, would avoid therapy for this issue unless it turns into a lifelong pattern and wrecks relationships. Therapy tries to "fix" things. You aren't broken (it sounds), just human. Plus, therapy jsut gives you A LOT of time to concentrate on the problem, which you are already doing, and that is part of the problem.
posted by pissfactory at 6:55 AM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

Something that has worked with me when I've had performance problems (with anything, but including a situation similar to yours), is to visualize success. Kind of like the first half of scarabic's comment. You just mentally walk yourself through a successful encounter, and visualize the steps and you performing well in each step. You then build upon those visualizations to convince yourself that you will succeed. This two step process of visualizing success and then actually believing it will happen as I envisioned, has worked amazingly well for me.
posted by forforf at 6:59 AM on December 13, 2005

Assuming that a part of it at least may be physical which may not be the case, but here is some advice on that end.

Re: Herbal supplements. As I am in my mid-forties and have had this problem cropping up, I *can* vouch for arginine. It apparently works on the same systems that Viagra works on. Fewer side effects and you may have to take it every day for a few weeks, but it certainly helped me. Only supplement that seems to even come close to the hype.

I second exercise. I rather pooh-poohed it as a Yuppie cure-all but I can also tell you that for me at least, it worked. Plus it als helped me with my depression which waked up my libido something fierce.

Also, apparently, for overweight men, (as told to me by my urologist whom I went to for this problem) the beer belly can sometimes begin to release its own estrogen, and because estrogen and testosterone are actually quite similar, the Big E often replaces the big T in your endocrine system. I was skeptical, and I can't really tell you that my increased libido is more due to increased self-esteem from losing a large part of my gut and love-handles, but frankly I don't really care.
posted by xetere at 7:26 AM on December 13, 2005

I'm not sure that the emontional state of being ten months out of what was probably a six-year-ish relationship constitutes just "trivial emotional low-clouds."

You may not need therapy for dealing with the physical issues, but I'm guessing there are more than just "minor annoyances" clouding your brain. I'm a woman, so I know the timeline may be different, but I've often been totally uninterested in any sort of sexual relationship for five, six, seven months after a breakup of a much shorter relationship -- I can't imagine all the things that would come up (uh, no pun intended!) when trying to date again after a marriage.

I don't mean to say "You're obviously depressed and confused!" because maybe you truly have dealt with the divorce aftermath and are ready to go emotionally. But even if you don't want therapy, or want to dive head-first into exploring any emotional turmoil that may be hanging around on your own, I think you may need to at least give yourself permission to be off your game for a little longer.

You went through a big thing. That's allowed to affect you.
posted by occhiblu at 7:33 AM on December 13, 2005

I had much the same experience: 10-year marriage, then dating for the first time as a grown up, at 31. No problems with my first post-divorce lover. A few problems with my second, then *BOOM* major problems with my third. Part of the problem was that the woman was very forward in her advances, quite demanding, and wasn't much for foreplay. She expected me to drop trou and go to it, pretty much. Since I'd never really experienced such a thing, I guess I was intimidated. I wasn't really that into the woman, so I dealt with the problem by breaking up with her, pretty much. Never had the problem since.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:00 AM on December 13, 2005

Are you taking any medications? Some antidepressants and other medications can affect sexual response. Long term, it may be more important to address depression, so temporary use of Viagra or Cialis might be a useful approach. If your health care provider is not helpful, seek other help, but do visit your health care provider.
posted by theora55 at 8:24 AM on December 13, 2005

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