A guy tells me that he has found a solution to dating anxiety. I'm interested in the solution, I really am. But first, of course, want to know
Why should a guy have dating anxiety?After all, there are two single women for every single man, probably three. A man can have six eyes and he'll still be a hot property in certain circles.
Hold constant (control for) any predisposition toward anxiety, anxiety disorders in the past, anxiety disorders in the family, post-traumatic stress disorder, child abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder; hold all that in abeyance, and there's still a likelihood, or so I'm hearing, that dating is scary as hell.
I don't mean to be glib. I understand why people are anxious about dating. It's the rejection that's terrifying. Rejection hurts, and the chances of being rejected after a first date are rather high, actually. This we understand.
What's confusing is not the anxiety, but what men are doing now to resolve it. To resolve dating anxiety, men are taking Viagra. Young guys. We're not talking just the Medicare set.
Apparently they're sure that women expect a really good performance in bed. Nobody's watching Oprah or Dr. Phil, or Dr. Laura or Dr. Ruth, not as much as we once thought. If they did they would know that a good sexual relationship does not depend upon a good performance by anyone.
On television, thankfully, and even in most of the books in the self-help section at the book store, we learn that a woman is supposed to be responsible for her own sexual satisfaction. If she's interested in this, sexual satisfaction, and she should be, since this is great marital glue (don't get me started, I don't know if it works as glue if you're not married)
(a) she should try to connect with her partner while she's alert, not about to fall asleep,
(b) both of them should focus on their sensuality, wake up the brain, stimulate all five senses,
(c) she, especially she, since he's had his sexuality in his hand since he learned how to urinate, but she should get to know her body, understand what makes her happy (I know, I know this is an unpopular suggestion, especially for some people who have religious concerns, one day we'll give it more time) and
(d) if she wants him to feel he's doing something, then she has to tell him what to do to pleasure her.
True story. Guy calls me for marital sex therapy. He says,
“She’s too small. Maybe we need a pelvic floor therapist, or maybe you. The doctor thinks we probably need a sex therapist like you, but I think a pelvic floor therapist.”
I haven't a clue what this is, a pelvic floor therapist, am hoping this is a sex therapist. This young man has called me many times before, but we've never met. He's never satisfied with my telephone assessment of the situation, yet I still hear from him every six months or so, feel we're old friends. (He could be a she, or maybe an avatar, we're not outing anyone here).
“There’s no too big or too small. You need a relationship therapist, one who understands sex therapy, or a sex therapist who understands relationships.”
“No, she’s too small.”End of conversation. No too big, no too small. At least one of us is clear on this.
That had to be said, that there's no too big, no too small. A couple has to manage with what they have and can, should, try to enjoy the process, try to figure it out. Somehow.
So if size doesn't matter, then what does?
You guessed it:
(2) discussion of mechanics and myths about sex,
(3) practice at home, and
(4) resolution of emotional interference.
Why would anyone think that you can have all that, and what you don't have can be resolved, all on a first date? Surely it takes a long time to get any one of the four right, let alone all four. Most couples who come to a sex therapist have been working at it a long time and have given up. They've already spent a few years getting to know one another, getting to know one another's likes and dislikes, exploring and talking day after day, year after year, and even then, it just isn't working. They know there's baggage, too, that is in the way, even secondary trauma. We'll never get it right! There's something really, really wrong here!
This isn't second nature, really, a sexual relationship, or any other kind of relationship, to tell the truth. But we'd best focus.
Sexual behavior as a couple is learned, and it is learned in process, from one another, since there are two of you. And you both have baggage, attitudes, histories. It can years to learn to communicate in certain areas, about certain things, without fear, embarrassment, or anxiety, for some of us. And people get so angry at one another! When we communicate anger, intimidation, power, or dominance it can be a huge turn off (I know, I know, the exceptions).
And there are many of us who are depressed, and nothing kills libido like depression, nothing; and past traumas, too, like incest, or other sexual abuse, abortions, not sexy. Really not.
Then there are the mechanics of sex, the how-to's, and these are, perhaps should be, trial and error, too, and there's a lot of room for error, so it can take years, without direct communication, without straight talk, honesty, to develop a mutually satisfying sexual relationship. The joy is in the process, really.
Then there's that whole trust thing. Sex and trust go together. How are you supposed to have that on a first date? A second date? Surely you fool yourself, you say, Oh, this person's had that vasectomy, and then, surprise, he was kidding. Or she says, You're the only one, and she's checking her phone. You get hurt and your trust issues get worse, not better.
This is why people like me don't even feel it should be happening without commitment, sex. Crazy, I know, and so unpopular, so unreasonable, that this is likely not going to catch on. But it's too important, sex, too integral to what makes a healthy couple healthy, content, establishing a good relationship while naked. The reality of sex is that it exposes us. Who wouldn't be terrified, seriously?
Let's draw a parallel to aggression to explain this phenomena, the pressure to satisfy the girl, the pressure to have sex in general, no matter the status of your relationship.
It's compelling that the Saw movies are in their seventh year. Every year there is another one of these very, very violent, horrible, graphic movies. People go to them, we think, to master their fear of violence. If you see the film often, or you see a new one every year, eventually it doesn't upset you, the thought of cutting off your own leg, and well, you're tough. You're strong. You've desensitized to your fear.
Some of us would disagree, however, that this is what makes a person strong. If this is what makes a person tough, seeing violence and not feeling anything, not being affected, then that person's definition of strong is perverted.
The corollary is sex. We can regard this fascination with sex, this insistence upon it, because it is supposed to be a loving act, the flip side of violence. And we can see the obsession with it in the same way. Have it often, have many partners, do it perfectly, and at some point you will be immune to the anxiety, the embarrassment of taking off your clothes, of someone seeing you for who you really are.
That's pretty sad, isn't it? In a good relationship, one that is trusting, loving, caring, and kind-- taking off your clothes might still be embarrassing, but it's a good kind of embarrassing, a shy kind of embarrassing, even, an intimate one.
You might say, for example, "I've gained five pounds this winter," and your spouse will say, "Don't ever lose them! I love them! I love these pounds!" For he knows that you are responsible for your own weight, too, and he doesn't want to work your program, he just wants to make love. And he loves you.
And in a good relationship, one that is committed, you are staying the night, so staying the night isn't even a question, it happens all the time, it's not a big deal. So theoretically, if you have that, commitment, you can roll over when you're both a little tired of sex play, and say, Goodnight, even if everyone's not completely satisfied, and it's okay.
But not anymore. Oh, no. Committed or not committed,
NO! YOU (I) MUST BE SATISFIED OR FORGET IT! WE CAN'T POSSIBLY CONSIDER GOING TO SLEEP YET!
Where are people learning this?
This dysfunctional pressure to reach orgasm is perhaps a reaction to what could have been the rule, perhaps even as recently as forty years ago, a covert rule that men didn't need to concern themselves with female satisfaction. Nice girls didn't like sex. So slam-bam, thank you ma'am, theoretically ruled. But perhaps that whole thing was a myth, that men who loved their women ever even did the slam-bam, thank you ma'am thing. Yet the reaction formation for sure is alive and well.
Now, men have to perform, their needs are important, but hers are, too, and she's demanding a performance, or so some of the guys feel. The guys are thinking they have to be studs again. THEY have the secrets to female satisfaction, and if they don't, well, no second date. So of course they're anxious, because in their minds, and apparently in hers, too, what makes it great, sex, is that erection.
Zachen v'aitzen Columbus. (Yiddish for, What in the world is wrong with this picture? Don't ask me for a direct translation. Find my mother, ask her.)
This is fantastic news for the makers of Viagra and Cialis. Forget that only one woman in five has orgasm during intercourse, anyway, with or without these drugs. Forget that without an intimate understanding of a partner's arousal, physiology, and how much he or she had to eat, meaning how extended, distended, in other ways one might be, that there's no way one partner can help the other achieve orgasm. Forget that foreplay should take a half an hour, intercourse maybe five minutes, maybe ten, or it's going to hurt, certainly will irritate her. None of this matters. It's all about Mr. P.
It shouldn't baffle us that the importance of sex has taken on such magnitude that a man will take a medication that could be dangerous, just to be sure to please a date. This is horrible and is indicative of a related issue, that we have grown accustomed to instant relationship gratification (hand me my phone, please, I need to read my email NOW). She wants it now. Or so he think. Why waste time?
Nobody's taking the time to nurture the relationship.
And the joke is that people think they can nurture their erection, their arousal, without it.