[Two Pronged] Performance anxiety
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer:
Here's the story. My girlfriend, now my wife, was a single mom. We had great sex until such time that I couldn't sustain my erection. I somehow think that it's psychological because when we have fights, she resorts to degrading comments, like her ex was better, and that I can easily be replaced.
About a year before we got married, I caught her somehow flirting, chatting with a foreign guy on Instagram. Deep inside I rationalized that it was just a chat, but I couldn't help but get angry about it. We eventually worked it out, but in between there are still fights and she resorts to name-calling again, saying things that degrade me as a man and as a person. I again rationalized that she says those things out of anger. She has admitted she's wrong and I appreciate that, but the degrading remarks have not stopped.
It reached a point when we would have sex but I wouldn't get the erection that I used to have, because I can't help but remember some things she said that hurt me deeply. Now that we're married, I can't perform the way I did before.
All I ask from her is that she stop degrading me, because it hurts my ego and it is already affecting my erection. She's aware of this but I don't know if she understands the gravity of it. She dismisses it by saying that I'm just OA, or that I'm too dramatic.
I've tried taking supplements to improve my blood circulation, and hopefully improve my erection. Can I remedy this by taking medication that improves performance since I'm just 29?
Thank you for your email.
According to your account, you used to have great sex with your wife (let's call her Jean) before you got married. However, you developed problems with your erections which you attribute to Jean's sexually demeaning remarks. Compounding this, you caught Jean flirting with someone else on Instagram. Despite this history, you went ahead and married Jean, since when the problem has persisted.
Well, this sorry story is not exactly replete with details. You give no reason why you should have wanted to marry this woman in the first place, let alone after she embarked on her persistent campaign of denigrating your sexual performance in such an inconsiderate and unfeeling way. You give no hint of what Jean thinks about your erectile problems, other than as grist to her mill of further humiliating you. You also give no hint as to why she consistently ignores your pleas to stop behaving in such a damaging fashion.
Maybe Jean is happy with your sex life as it is, maybe she's happy humiliating you sexually so that she can dominate you in other ways as well, maybe …….. well, we just don't know. What we do know however is that you are not happy with the situation and nothing you have done to date has made a significant difference.
What can you do that will improve your life? You say that when you discuss her degrading comments, Jean is "aware of this but I don't know if she understands the gravity of it." It sounds as though it's time you made it crystal clear to her, to give your marriage a chance of survival. This will include discussing the future if she doesn't change. However, you must be prepared to act on any threats that you make and of course the ultimate threat is to press the nuclear button and leave her.
Best of luck,
Thank you very much for your letter.
My initial reaction upon reading your letter was to reach out for Dr Helen Singer Kaplan's 1983 book The Evaluation of Sexual Disorders: Psychological and Medical Aspects. I am quoting her now because, while many might consider her body of work outdated, she is still one of the brightest and wisest therapists who ever lived. She seemed to describe your partner to a T when she wrote: "It has been postulated that aggressive female demands of the 'new liberated woman' has caused an epidemic of the 'new impotence.' But this is not true…The wives of impotent men often pressure their men for performance but because they are hostile, neurotic or insecure – not because they are liberated.
"The partners of impotent patients frequently are traditional, sexually passive women who will not accept clitorally induced orgasms and expect the man to take full responsibility for the sexual interaction. This puts these men under enormous pressure. Impotent men in such relationships improve when the partner become more liberated; i.e., learns to be more active and stimulating and sexually responsible during the course of therapy."
However, as Mr Baer states, "this sorry story is not exactly replete with details... You also give no hint as to why she consistently ignores your pleas to stop behaving in such a damaging fashion."
Besides, it would be foolish (not to mention unkind, rash, and unprofessional) to agree with the above "diagnosis" without having so much as met her and with using nothing more than a description provided by someone who may have a personal stake in her being described as the main reason for his sexual problems.
Upon rereading your letter, I cannot help feeling that you, possibly through no fault of your own, might have misrepresented Jean. One can hardly be objective about one's own sexual problems. Thus I do not blame you for the subjectivity that may have crept/snuck in when describing your problem, her reactions to it, and your reactions to her reactions.
Instead, I suggest you go for therapy immediately. A good marriage is a bad thing to waste and I feel, perhaps against all odds, that yours has the potential of being a very good marriage.
After all, you stuck around despite what in your mind was Jean's consistent failure to be an understanding, supportive sexual partner. Once the recrimination and silent judging from either/both side/s are dealt with, I cannot help feeling there will be a lot of pleasure in many of your future encounters – both in the sexual and other arenas. Fingers crossed I am not too way off the mark here.
All the very best to you both,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.