If you’ve had male sexual partners, chances are you’ve come across a guy who struggles to last and worries about his performance.
If you’ve been there, you’ll know what a delicate situation this is. I get comments on my blog along the lines of ‘how to help my husband with performance anxiety’ or ‘my boyfriend lasts 30 seconds’.
Whether you’re in a short-term, casual relationship or you’re married, this can be a major stressor for you both.
Now I work mostly with guys themselves, but I do sometimes speak with partners who find themselves having to navigate this sensitive issue. And when they love him and are invested in the relationship, the last thing partners want to do is apply pressure or make the guy feel bad about his sexual abilities.
But putting up with underwhelming sex, and sometimes all the mood swings and apologies that go with it, isn’t sustainable either.
So there’s a balance to be struck between compassion and understanding and addressing it somehow. And this all starts with communication.
So here are a few practical tips to help your partner with premature ejaculation and performance anxiety:
1- Help him to get proactive
His instinct, especially if he’s always struggled in the confidence department, might be to dodge the issue or just keep getting by with the same sexual routine.
And that’s a natural response – he’s probably experiencing significant levels of anxiety here. He feels exposed and scared, he might be terrified that he’s going to lose you.
He might have been trying to feel more confident or last longer and it just hasn’t worked, leaving him even more frustrated at himself.
So encourage him to get a medical checkup – just to rule out any prostate problems or anything like that – and to consider talking with a therapist.
It could be that his anxiety levels are running high across other areas of his life, so his PE is a symptom of stress OR his stress levels are preventing him from properly addressing it.
Guys don’t tend to jump at the idea of seeing a therapist, I know. But having a chat with someone neutral could really help him gain perspective and some new ways to manage his stress levels.
He doesn’t need to go into therapy. Just a chat and getting some initial pointers can make a difference. And or there are good self-help resources out there, including my accessible course for men.
And let him know that he can always talk with you too, and that you recognise just how common this problem is. Offer him your full support and understanding, in return for him taking some steps. He has the opportunity to open up to a bit of personal development here.
2 – Pick your moment to talk
If this isn’t something you’ve really discussed with your partner, just mentioning what you’ve observed and how you’ve been feeling can be tricky.
I say: pick a time when it’s just the two of you, feeling relaxed together but not sexual. Over dinner seems to work well, for example.
If you mention it before sex, that’s a whole load of pressure. During sex is probably worse timing. And if you raise it right after sex, you risk feeding into the fears and insecurities he’s probably already feeling.
As for what to say, positive and shame-free is way to go. You’ve noticed that sex doesn’t last as long as you’d both like, maybe you’ve noticed some nervousness or difficulty, and you’d really like to explore how both of you can enjoy your connection more.
And as well as indicating that things could be better for you both, take this opportunity to tell him what you want. What you enjoy in bed, what you’d like more of, what you’re not so into perhaps. So many couples, including couples who’ve been together for decades, don’t communicate these things.
If this dialogue has been absent from your relationship together, and if he’s watched porn (which he has), he might assume that that’s the kind of sex you’re expecting. This will only add to his self-imposed pressure. So tell him what you want.
3 – Get him used to the idea of good enough, day-to-day sex
I often see guys with an amped up perception of sex. In their minds, they put sex (and sometimes their partners) on a pedestal.
This might come from their formative years: wishing they were getting laid, watching porn and feeling the hormonal rush of excitement and anticipation.
The prospect of sex, even with their long-term partner, takes these guys’ excitement levels from 0 to 100 too quickly. Add in the awkwardness and maybe some avoidance, and sex becomes less frequent. This ramps up the pressure even more.
When sex is a rare, special occasion, we’re even more prone to feel pent-up excitement, anxiety and pressure. Then time passes before sex happens again and the problem goes on and on.
One way to remedy this is to work with him to plan and schedule sex. Talk about how often you both like to have sex and meet in the middle somewhere.
Understand how often you both desire sex, and at what times of day. If possible, afternoons and lunchbreaks can work better than the high-expectation of Saturday night.
As sex columnist Dan Savage says: if you have date nights lined up, have sex before you go out, before dinner. Then enjoy the occasion basking in that after-sex glow together.
Yes, planning for sex is more day-to-day. It might even feel mundane. But that’s intentional, and it makes sense on many levels. Planning gets you both on the same page. It removes the pressure of guessing and mind-reading. And it might reshape his perception of sex to ‘a fun, regular activity I do with my partner‘.
It’s a reality check in a positive sense. Communicate and plan together with a light-hearted touch.
4 – Know that he’s not just being selfish
If you’ve had partners who didn’t struggle with lasting – who didn’t even give it a second thought – then experiencing a man who does can be disconcerting.
Why can’t he self-control? Is it something about us or me? Is a part of him trying to get sex over and done with as quickly as possible? Will he always be like this? Is he just being lazy or selfish, what about my needs?
A whole bunch of questions and frustrations there.
Early ejaculation can be a uniquely challenging problem. Guys are trying to do an action, an activity, that requires effort and arousal and to prolong this action for as long as they can. The movement and awareness and balance required isn’t something all guys are just born with, and they certainly weren’t taught this in sex education.
Whether a guy has always struggled for as long as he’s been sexually active, or difficulty lasting has cropped up for some reason, or it comes and goes, there are quite a few potential causes.
It could be his body’s natural wiring; there is a genetic component to PE . His predisposition to worry and stress, his physical health and sleep patterns, his sexual history, and yes – sometimes factors in the relationship too. Hence getting some support from a therapist, potentially a couples therapist, can really help.
And know that everyone has their stuff, their hangups. Guys who don’t worry about lasting might have the opposite problem, and struggle to stay aroused or even to reach orgasm. Worry and performance anxiety exacerbates all problems, making us feel even more stuck. So lifting some of this pressure is essential.
So he’s not just being selfish or rubbish. If he doesn’t want to talk or he won’t take your needs seriously, then that’s another matter.
But most guys just need a bit of support and time to get to work on their missing skills.
5 – Be open to experiments
If your partner steps up, give him due credit. If he researches ways to overcome PE, maybe sees a therapist or goes down the self-help route, he’s going to have some form of training to do, some homework.
Often guys want to work on their own, using masturbation to build their sensation awareness and movement and relaxation techniques. Give him time and space to do this. And there may be a couples component to this; couples are encouraged to enjoy experiences where intercourse isn’t the main event.
Light touching, foreplay, taking things slowly and building up your confidence together. Maybe positions that neither of you have tried before. There’s a whole world of deeper connection, synchronised breathing and tantric learnings that you could discover together.
It’s all good stuff, but exotic couples work isn’t always necessary for great, satisfying sex. You and your man might just need to get some fundamentals in place.
Therapists like me try to make these skills as fun as possible, but it can sometimes feel tedious or just not as compelling as regular sex. Feelings of ‘why are we doing this’ and ‘is it working’ are all part of the growth process.
Sometimes things don’t go quite to plan and he experiences frustrations – that’s inevitable. But the effort and time is usually well worth the investment for you both.
And finally, enjoy every aspect of your relationship. Sexual intimacy is important, and you both deserve to enjoy your own unique connection to the full.
There are plenty of ways for him to overcome sexual performance anxiety, and for you to be right there with him.