Written by Sexual Wellness Institute Therapist, Eric Anfinson, MS LMFT
Lost your erection? Let's talk.
Have you or a partner ever lost an erection during sexual intimacy? This can be an incredibly nerve-wracking experience and can sometimes ruin your whole evening. Today we're going to look at why this can happen and why it doesn't have to be this way. By improving our understanding of how erections function and learning some tools to help us, it can be easy to knock this problem out.
"It's not you, it's me."
The first thing we want to understand is that erections are complicated. This isn't as simple as seeing a person you're attracted to and getting an erection. I like to think about erections as the result of a simple equation: Turn-ons - Turn-offs = do you have an erection? A positive number means yes and a negative one means no. So, let's look at where people most often get confused, scared, or even hurt in dealing with the loss of erection. It can be easy to jump to feeling broken, or for a partner to feel that you're not attracted to them. Most people look to the "turn on" side of things for a solution. They stop masturbating so they're more excited for sex, buy some lingerie so they'll be sexy enough to give their partner an erection, or even seek out medication. But people still consistently end up in my office looking for help with erections because most of the time these things don't work. They're addressing the wrong part of the equation. The number one killer of erection is "turn offs", and the most common one is anxiety.
Erections: Under Pressure
As a culture, we put a ridiculous amount of pressure on getting an erection. We imagine it's a simple result of wanting or being attracted to your partner. We see it as a symbol of masculinity and virility. We laugh at men who struggle with erections in the media we consume. Even this year's smash hit "House of the Dragon" contained a negative plot about the main character not being able to get an erection. So, with all of this pressure building up on the turn-off side of the erection equation it's no wonder so many men feel anxious about getting one.
Erection Anxiety is a Vicious Cycle
Once it happens a single time, the anxiety sets in even more strongly and can begin a powerful negative cycle. This sounds something like "I lost my erection last time and it ruined our night, what if that happens again?" and the anxiety builds. "What if my partner thinks I'm not attracted to them?" and the anxiety builds. "What if they leave me because I can never get an erection again?" and the anxiety builds. This leads to an equation where the "turn-offs" powerfully outweigh the "turn-ons" and so the cycle continues and gets stronger.
So what can you do?
There is so much we can do to alleviate this stress. This problem doesn't have to haunt you forever. Let's look at some things to try, and if these aren't cutting it, our Plymouth, MN based sex therapists are always here to help. First, let's look at this big ball of anxiety because without moving this it's going to be hard to reach your goals. A fantastic way to start can be talking to your partner about what's happening. Knowing that your partner understands that your equation is unbalanced by anxiety immediately releases a lot of anxiety. This means they know you're not broken, they know you're still attracted to them, and they know you're taking steps to move forward. I would say feeling this understanding and support from your partner is the most powerful factor in releasing anxiety. Another great way to move away from the anxiety is to have good sexual intimacy with your partner that's not focused on erections. Have a fun night focusing on using toys or oral sex. You can even have a positive night where you focus entirely on giving your partner pleasure, where your erection doesn't even come into things. The more positive experiences you have when your erection goes away or doesn't even show up, the less scary it is in the first place. And this is key, if you're not afraid of losing it, you probably won't lose it in the first place.
Mindfulness Can Help
Next, it's important to remember that your "turn-ons" are still there, the anxiety is just really good at getting you to focus on it instead. One helpful tip can be to bring mindful focus to simple and straightforward sensations. As you touch and are touched, what sensations do you notice? What temperature, pressure, and texture can you feel? By focusing on these things, you can not only shut out negative thoughts, but you are keeping yourself present with something that is arousing. This can be tough, and I often recommend people practice general mindfulness meditation to improve those skills.
Erections Ebb and Flow: Let Intimacy Grow
Before I end, I want to mention that there can be natural ebbs and flows in erection throughout a session of intimacy. If you're doing mutual touch with your partner as foreplay and have an erection but then lose your erection when you begin performing oral sex on your partner, this is normal. If the penis isn't being actively stimulated, it's totally normal for there to be a loss of erection. Many different scenarios can lead to this. If you can remember what we've covered here today, to not freak out, to not let the anxiety take over, and to stay present with the positives in the moment, you can go on to enjoy the rest of your time with your partner. Life is too short to waste good intimacy.
Want to Improve Your Intimacy? A Minnesota Sex Therapist Can Help.
I know these are difficult topics to talk about, but talking is the first step. Our sex therapists want to help you address sexual concerns and deal with addiction in Minnesota. You can begin t0 overcome problematic sexual behaviors, heal, reconnect and thrive in your relationship through these simple steps:
Other Sex Therapy and Couples Counseling Services in Minnesota
In addition to sex therapy, our LGBT & polyamory friendly sex therapists provide a wide range of mental health services at our Plymouth, MN counseling office. Other services include therapy around sex and substances, couples therapy & marriage counseling, EFT, evidence-based couples therapy, EMDR & sexual trauma therapy, as well as, teen therapy. In order to help serve the mental health needs of all those living in Minnesota, we also offer online counseling & sex therapy. We also provide a variety of helpful tips on our mental health blog. Please feel free to reach out with questions, or if you would like to schedule an appointment to begin working with a skilled sex therapist! Your sex life can be amazing. Sex therapy can be a part of that process for you.
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