If you’ve tried to tackle your PE but without success, keep the faith. I’ll explain why the things we try don’t work, and what to do about it.
Martin’s story: how did that happen?
Martin remembers this one night, early in his relationship with his wife Sarah. He’d been working long hours at the office. Sarah picked him up and suggested they drop by a local bar. They talked and laughed for a couple of hours, and on the way home they pulled up in a quiet spot to enjoy the sunset.
Martin and Sarah had epic, spontaneous sex. Martin will never forget the thrill of that night, and one particular thing sticks in his mind: he lasted for ages. There seemed to be no end to his stamina, and Sarah was loving it too. Sometimes, just between themselves, they smile and mention that night parked up in the lane.
Much to his disappointment, Martin never felt able to recreate that performance. And it wasn’t for want of trying. He had a couple of cocktails that night, so he tried downing the very same drinks before sex. He was tired that night and maybe it helped him relax, so he deliberately made moves on Sarah after a long day’s work. He tried to seduce Sarah in the car, but this time it felt uncomfortable and lacked spontaneity.
That night, Martin caught a glimpse of how sex could be. But he hadn’t been able to last that long again, despite all his efforts to reproduce the magic formula. He felt like he was running out of ideas and he’d never be able to satisfy Sarah in this way again.
What’s going on?
Martin was trying to recreate the experience, and that’s perfectly understandable. But he became despondent when the same factors didn’t produce the same outcome. In some ways, Martin became caught up in the detail. With our logical, problem-solving minds, this is a trap that guys can easily fall into.
Our experience forms us in all aspects of life, including the development of our sexual selves. In Martin and Sarah’s moonlight adventure, there were so many factors at work: the spontaneous, unplanned scenario, the chemistry between them, their expectations (or lack of them). This is to name just a few.
When we struggle with PE, we might become desperate to find the missing link, the special remedy, the magic fix. Our confidence is boosted by glimpses of how sex could be, but it drains away when sex is not so good on subsequent occasions. Sex, and our ability to make it last, isn’t something that fits an exact formula.
In trying to fit himself into a formula, Martin was making it all about himself. He was convinced that something about him that night made the sex last longer. When intercourse was quick, he took himself to task over it. But sex is a shared experience, a joint-enterprise with Sarah. If the guy is struggling with premature ejaculation, the rapport and communication of the couple is essential for anything to change.
Some men find that alcohol (in moderation) helps them to relax and last longer in bed. If it helps, that’s a useful resource right there. But we don’t need to rely on alcohol, or weed, or certain foods or supplements, to get the best experience from sex. Again, it takes away the spontaneity if we feel we need to prep ourselves in this way.
What works better?
If you’ve had a similar ‘OMG how did I do that?’ experience, it proves that your body can do it. One way or another, you experienced sex in a different headspace, free from anxiety, expectation and overthinking.
Takeaway tip: Yes, learn from the experience. Maybe you found that a drink helps you to relax. Maybe you found a lube or spray that helps, or a position that works really well for you both. Try these things again, but don’t get hooked up on repeating the same formula.
And most importantly, don’t despair if things don’t go to plan. That will only ramp up your anxiety levels, sexual perfectionism and self-consciousness. This is a dead-end of PE despondency.
When I work with guys who struggle with PE, they often have a ‘miracle’ memory just like Martin’s. We use the memory to extremely positive effect by recalling the feelings of confidence, awareness and connection. We tap into the memory of that flow state and vividly rehearse it for the future.
Some guys can’t recall a recent ‘miracle’ experience, or any memory of confidently enjoying sex. And that’s fine – we have techniques for easily accessing a relaxed state and we build a positive vision from there.
There’s a proven technique for rehearsal called Guided Imagery. It’s hugely effective in sports and athletic training. For example, before a sprinter steps up to the start line, he will have taken time to mentally visualise his previous bests in vivid detail. The stronger his vision, the more likely he is to summon his strengths on the day and experience ‘flow’.
When it comes to sex, we can all benefit from rehearsal and creative, relaxed imagination. When we do this in an assured state of low emotional arousal, the essential neurological work takes place.
And it’s not just a matter of imagining the sensations of intercourse. Managing our sexual excitement requires looking outwards from ourselves to give and receive pleasure. All of this can be visualised and rehearsed for closer intimacy and awareness of the shared experience.
With a little guidance and effort, we can truly override our perceived sexual limitations and struggles.
As psychologist and performance coach Jim Taylor, Ph.D. says:
The most powerful part of mental imagery is feeling it in your body. That’s how you really ingrain new technical and mental skills and habits.
What did Martin do? Rather than giving up on the memory of that night as an elusive, one-off fluke, Martin was helped to tap into the memory and project it into future sexual encounters with his wife. The feeling of confidence, intense pleasure, observing himself ‘in action’. The body memory is there, let’s make use of it.
We stacked up his many resources; his resourcefulness, his determination to succeed at work, his close relationship with his wife. We identified that Martin had a strong visual imagination that he had sometimes misused, searching and obsessing over the elusive formula. Instead of generating frustration and despair, Martin learned how to use his imagination for real, positive change.
Combined with some practical advice on lowering his anxiety and broadening his sexual repertoire, it wasn’t long before this approach got results. Martin and Sarah could get to work on creating more memories of spontaneous and satisfying pleasure, no formula required.