I was working with a client a while back and he described two different “phases” to me as he was getting sexual with his new wife.
Phase 1, as he described it, was the make-out, arousal-building phase. Everything they did together was hot: the way they touched each other, how they looked into each other’s eyes, the feeling of heartfulness, spiking turn-on levels…. “We’re totally present with each other,” he gushed. “It’s exquisite.”
Once their clothes came off, they headed toward Phase 2. For him that meant more explicit sexual contact, culminating in intercourse.
That’s when his issues began to appear.
In Phase 2, his erection would lose its vigor. He would often struggle to reach an orgasm. His wife had no complaints about their lovemaking, but he couldn’t figure out what was happening, and he was getting increasingly frustrated.
I asked about various factors that might be in play: stress at work, change in medication, and so on. No traction there.
I inquired more deeply into what was actually happening in those moments as he shifted into Phase 2, and I realized that the switch itself might be the issue. That by labeling the sexual contact “Phase 2,” he was anticipating a different set of experiences.
“What if there was no Phase 2,” I said. “At least as far as your mind is concerned. You can continue to get as hot and heavy and sexy as you wanna be, but keep the mindset of Phase 1 during the entire sexual session.
“That means you can set your performance pressure aside. Whatever you’re doing in Phase 1 is working. Just keep going with it!”
The suggestion worked for him. It took a bit of time, because his old habits sometimes made a comeback, but eventually he could keep the Phase 1 state of mind throughout an entire lovemaking session.
(It also helped that he could share all of this with his new wife, and that she supported him in tracking his experience during their sex.)
What about you? Do you shift into another mode as you move from sensual to sexual contact? Is that mode supporting or hindering your — and your partner’s — experience?
I’m curious. Drop me a line and let me know.
In Part 1 above, I wrote about how to prevent the anxiety in moving from Phase 1 (making out / foreplay) to Phase 2 (explicit sexual contact / intercourse). The solution, as I stated, is to keep doing whatever you’re doing in Phase 1 as you escalate the erotic experience.
Apparently that was not enough information.
I received more mail about this post than any other article or blog I’ve written in the past couple of years. All of the email was from guys who said something like, “You’re describing my experience exactly. Please write more about specific steps I can take to accomplish what you’re suggesting.”
So here we go!
You have left the premises
When you’re making out or petting (as we called it back in the day), you’re probably resident in your body. You’re experiencing the sensation of lips touching, of your hands touching soft places, of receiving touch on your body…. It’s quite the turn-on.
Then there’s the moment, as you move from sensual to sexual, when you are no longer embodied or present in the experience. Here are a few ways that might manifest. Does one of these ring true for you?
- You dissociate: You have drifted away and are a bit removed from your experience.
- You get anxious.
- You begin to strategize; that is, you start to map out your next move. Usually this is to forward the action to your ultimate goal of ejaculation.
There may be other kinds of disembodiment, but you’ll probably land on one of the examples above. You can also combine them. For example, my go-to sequence is to dissociate, then apply a technique — usually to give her pleasure — to cover up the fact that I’m no longer present.
Now that you’ve determined how you become disembodied, consider when it’s most likely to happen. For each man that moment is a little different. Here are some examples that I’ve heard from guys I coach:
- When clothes come off
- When she makes a comment about my body
- When she starts to go down on me
- When I start to go down on her
- When I am about to enter her
- When I begin to actively thrust
- When she wants me to do something (ie, thrust harder or faster) that I can’t or don’t want to do.
These two steps — knowing how and when you leave your body — are critical for you to track if you want to solve your habituated departure from presence.
Overriding your pattern
Once you’re aware that you’re no longer fully present in the erotic situation, it’s time to make a shift. As soon as possible, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and track back in time see when you stopped fully being there with her.
Once you’ve found that moment, ask yourself: “Now that I know what happened, what do I need right now?”
The answer to that question will be unique to your situation. It could look like:
- Switching the action that’s making you uncomfortable to some other kind of physical experience. For you “silent types,” this option doesn’t require any words!
- Telling your partner “Let’s take a break.” Go to the bathroom. Have a glass of wine. Reset the action.
- Setting a boundary. If there’s something she did that you’d rather not have her repeat in the future, let her know.
- Or — and this may sound crazy vulnerable to you! — actually admitting your dissociation or anxiety to your partner in a matter-of-fact, non-collapsing way. For example: “Zoë, those tugs on my balls just now were too intense for me, especially after my prostate surgery. When you did that, I noticed I stopped being present, even though I didn’t say anything in the moment.”
I hope you get my point: Don’t “soldier on” and tough it out when you’re no longer present to enjoy the loving. No one wins when that happens.
Even if you’re not sure why you’ve “left the building,” you can still say something. There have been times during sex when I’ve said, “I need to stop,” and when my partner has said, “What’s going on?” I’d say, “I don’t know,” or “I need a minute,” or “Something’s going on, but I’m not sure what.”
Honesty, delivered vulnerably without blame from a stance of self-love, always carries the day. Even if your partner has a negative reaction (“I can’t believe you stopped right before my orgasm!”), at least you didn’t abandon yourself. It’s a lot easier to repair her complaint when you know that you did a great job taking care of you.
Truth, ultimately, is sexy. It’s one of the pillars on which amazing lovemaking is built.
My wish is that you have the courage to speak the deepest level of truth that you’re capable of in the bedroom.