Relationship

My girlfriend says I don’t satisfy her as much as her exes did


I’m a 27-year-old man in a six-month relationship with a woman who I adore in every way. It’s something of a fairytale “love at first sight” romance and by far the most meaningful and fulfilling relationship I’ve ever had. Except when it comes to sex. She’s far more sexually experienced than me, and has been open and honest enough to admit that I don’t satisfy her as much as her exes. I often feel nervous or anxious about our sex life, and have had numerous occasions where I can’t get or maintain an erection, or ejaculate too soon. This has led to feelings of deep inadequacy, emasculation and shame, to the point where I actively avoid having sex with her. These issues are compounded by my already low self-esteem, which I’m trying to resolve through therapy.

Leave your fairytales where they belong – on your bookshelf. Or rewrite a tale for yourself where you are able to accept imperfections within yourself and your partner, and take a realistic approach to solving your issues. A real-life, truly loving, partner does not compare you unfavourably with her exes. Remember that you deserve to be appreciated and supported, and expect no less from your partner. From what you have told me, there is a danger that you may be using normal events such as occasional erectile dysfunction to confirm negative beliefs you already had about yourself. Sex is supposed to be fun, but your goal seems to have become to “perform” well and compete with her exes. This approach will fail. Let go of any goal, and simply allow yourself to honestly give and receive pleasure.

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Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to private.lives@theguardian.com (please don’t send attachments). Each week, Pamela chooses one problem to answer, which will be published online. She regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

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