Ben’s story: positive avoidance
Ben was stuck with his premature ejaculation. He’d been with his girlfriend Ellen for just over a year and it was the best relationship he’d ever experienced. Ben and Ellen were very much in love. But whenever they had sex, he came within a minute.
And every time, Ben felt terrible about it. He promised himself that this was the last time. He would find some way to last longer. No more apologising after sex. No more excuses about being tired, too pent up or too turned on.
“Ellen didn’t say or do anything to make me feel bad”, Ben explained, “but I could always sense the anticlimax. This was like the one thing missing from an otherwise awesome relationship”.
But no matter how determined Ben felt in these moments, he didn’t do anything about it. If Ellen tried to come up with helpful ideas (toys, cock rings, trying to relax more) he became annoyed and tetchy. This made her feel guilty and somehow responsible for the problem, so she gave up trying.
When sex came around again, Ben would tell himself that it would be OK this time. Inevitably, it wasn’t OK and the problem would go full circle once again. His insecurity around the problem was on the increase, but still he didn’t do anything about it except apologise, ruminate and hope.
Ben and Ellen were resigning themselves to an unsatisfactory sex life together. Sex got pushed further down their agenda. Deep down, they both knew that this wasn’t sustainable.
What’s going on?
Don’t get me wrong – a bit of optimism goes a long way. And Ben really hoped to last longer next time. But when a problem keeps repeating over and over, hoping isn’t enough. It’s a ritual of avoidance.
When Ben tells himself that next time will be OK, he’s glossing over his insecurities and fears. This is a natural response, a coping mechanism, and I encounter it all the time when guys tell me about their previous struggles with PE. We get stuck in a loop of apology, frustration and minimising until we need to face it again.
One of the reasons why sexual issues play out this way is pain and pleasure recall. When Ben thinks about his sexual relationship with Ellen, and probably his previous relationships too, he experiences a mix of pain (embarrassment, frustration at himself) and pleasure (sexual stimulation, orgasm, even the selfishness of getting there first). Such a confusing mix of emotions results in avoidance. Psychologically, we don’t want to go there.
When Ellen tries to make suggestions, Ben feels like he’s being forced to go there. A part of him knows that Ellen just wants to help, but the pain and pleasure recall shuts him down. Another part of him just wants to be left alone to hope it goes away.
Ellen might not be too bothered about long sessions of intercourse. There might be other ways she’d like to enjoy sex with Ben. But Ellen isn’t enjoying the apologies and excuses, or feeling guilty for trying to talk about it. That gets old fast.
This is how a sexual connection breaks down. Too many hollow experiences, disconnects and elephants in bedrooms. When couples can’t even offer each other support, a quiet despair sinks in.
When the couple has a great relationship in all other respects, sexual problems can be even more prolonged and confusing. Everything else is good, we’re so compatible, so why can’t we make sex last? This made it even more difficult for Ellen to call the problem out. She had no desire to upset Ben or rock the boat.
We face an onslaught of stresses in our daily existence: jobs, finances, health and family affairs. We might try to tell ourselves that sex is lesser priority, a now-and-again thing to work on when we have more energy. But the longer this goes on, the more difficult it becomes to address the problem.
Ben wasn’t being lazy, he was confused and afraid. He had missing skills, but didn’t know where to start. And what if he actually tried to improve his sexual confidence (by reading a book, googling the problem, talking to someone) and it didn’t make any difference? How could he hope for better then? No wonder he was inclined to dodge the issue.
Sometimes men have deeper-routed issues with intimacy, and PE is a way of minimising their exposure in relationships. This calls for a conversation with a professional. Abuse, trauma, terrible experiences, phobias – all of these can be addressed. But for the vast majority of guys who find themselves stuck and avoiding, this doesn’t apply. They just don’t really know where to start.
What works better?
Ben has every reason to be hopeful; he doesn’t need to have an existential crisis over this. But he does need a plan.
If you can relate to Ben’s situation, remember that avoidance was your natural protection system at work. It was trying to protect your self-esteem, your pride, your relationship and your hopes for the future. It was a way of getting by.
Don’t get hung up on past failures and frustrations. It’s never too late to fill in the gaps in our sexual skill-set. Waking up to this reality and positively addressing your fears is the most masculine, true thing you can do.
Takeaway tip: I remind clients of the benefits of taking small steps forward. Many PE advice products take advantage of the impulse buyer, the guy that has finally decided to take action. Mitch Master’s ‘Ultimate Control Method to Give her Nuclear Orgasms Tonight‘. Don’t fall into this trap; it will lead to disappointment and more avoidance. There’s much we can do, and building real sexual confidence won’t happen overnight. You and your partner can enjoy every step.
Ben and Ellen didn’t stop having sex. But Ben checked his expectations and was realistic about the things he could change right away. And he became more aware of the positive changes he could make over time. There was energy back in the sexual relationship already. Ben and Ellen’s connection was alive.
They talked things over too. It turned out that Ellen wasn’t as fixated on timings as Ben was, but she did want to experiment (oral and more spontaneity, for starters). She gave him a steer, and was happy to support Ben every step of the way. Ben was encouraged to take these ideas on board without feeling threatened or pressured, and Ellen massively appreciated his new openness.
Ben maintained a positive outlook based on application rather than blind hope. He ditched the excuses and apologies, even when things didn’t quite go to plan. Ellen stopped dreading that every sexual encounter would end in this way. For the first time, their sexual understanding was in sync with the rest of their awesome relationship. They had something to work with and look forward to.