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I am beginning to notice a chief complaint amongst both men and women is performance anxiety. Yes, you read that right… men AND women. Someone gets too worked up, someone has one bad experience due to too much alcohol or trying something new too quickly – anxiety. The anxiety then snowballs downhill like a caricature and now sex becomes a bad, even dreaded, experience. All it really takes is one experience perceived as bad, and that mistaken perception can bleed into subsequent endeavors. The anxiety looms larger than life, and the person suffering becomes avoidant.
I know it sounds like a cliché, but it is all in his/her head. Literally.
So, what can you do? Well, I will offer a few suggestions used with clients that can assist with performance anxiety.
- Visualize your success. People who visualize their successful endeavors first tend to be able to carry out said endeavor. You actually have to believe you can to be able to do.
- Believe in catastrophizing. Imagine the absolute worst case scenario in your mind for the next time you attempt sex. Worst possibility – sex doesn’t happen, right? Ok, that sucks. However, is it the end of the world? Can you and your partner do other things that will be enjoyable and pleasurable to you both? Yes. Sex doesn’t have to end with penetration and ejaculation. Be creative! Think outside the box.
- Get zen. How do you manage other stressful situations in your life? Do you head into a presentation completely unprepared and a ball of nerves? I don’t. When I am getting ready for something stressful, I subscribe to whatever behavior helps me manage that anxiety. Try music, meditation, or any other behavior that helps prepare you for sex without added to your stress.
- Have fun. Don’t focus so much on the end game. Sounds like what you might tell a kid, right? It’s not about the winning/losing, but about the game and sportsmanship…. Well, why do we lose that when we get older? If sexual activity were to cease being a race to the finish line, then maybe we could just focus on experiencing the pleasure of participating. Enjoy the in between by extending foreplay, or removing orgasm off the table for the night completely.
- Laugh. Taking oneself too seriously just leads to disaster. I’ve also written how important it is for couples to be able to laugh during sex. Things will happen that are not according to plan. Is one minor thing going to really ruin a whole night of sex for you two (excluding pain, etc, that prevents performance)? Make laughter part of the experience. Tickle each other – it actually helps lower defenses and laughing will release those feel good chemicals that will put you in a better frame of mind for sex. Plus, it’s kind of hard to be freaking out and worrying about what’s about to happen if you’re too busy laughing.
Post by Karen Washington, AMFT. Check out Karen’s bio for more information and how to contact her.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Some thoughts from Karen Washington, AMFT, Sex Therapist:
Following all of the recent hype around the release of the 50 Shades of Grey movie, and its related products (i.e. OPI released the 50 Shades of Grey nail color line, Sephora has a few 50 Shades of Grey makeup packages, your local sex shop has a variety of toys and accessories as seen in the book/movie), I got to thinking about Valentine’s Day – about couples, intimacy, and sex. 50 Shades had women (and probably some men) all over the world contemplating their current sex lives, and the sex they were reading about. I wonder – Why not go one step deeper this year?
Media and retail tell the same story every year at this time – chocolates, dinner, and lingerie. It is all very basic. I can be a huge fan of the basics, as they provide a great foundation. However, this Valentine’s Day, I would like to challenge our readers to venture behind the veil of their current sexual play and explore new levels of intimacy.
Have you or your partner ever expressed sexual desires or fantasies that have yet to be attempted? Have you or your partner been promising to do something sexually, but it just keeps getting postponed? If you answered yes, then this is for you… Why not this time? Think of it this way – if you try it for a holiday and it doesn’t work out so well, you at least tried it and have broken the proverbial ice for future endeavors. While not everything is for everyone, sometimes, practice just makes perfect. Let this Valentine’s Day be a chance for experimentation to see what you can add to your sexual repertoire.
Here are three suggestions to help you and your partner step beyond the norm and add a new twist. Some are going to be more beginner level, some will be a step into new territory, and for others this just may be a reminder of ways to spice things up.
Instead of hitting Victoria’s Secret up this year for another teddy or garter skirt/corset combo, have you considered dressing up for role play? A very naughty chef/server serving dinner, or a man in uniform delivering flowers could be a great way to introduce a little role play fun into your life. Maybe you both want to be in character – explore some of your fantasies and find some overlap, or a scenario that you both don’t mind participating in and see what happens. Or, perhaps you could pretend to be strangers at a bar meeting for the first time all over again.
Dining out versus Staying In
I take inspiration from all sorts of places. If you happen to want to stay in but want to add some flair to the meal, try one of these two scenes. #1. Pretty Woman – Julia Roberts had room service waiting wearing nothing but a tie she picked out for him and stilettos. ‘Nuff said. #2. In the Book of the Courtesans, there was an excerpt about a woman – she had dessert prepared on her body, and was wheeled out to the dinner table to her man. He was provided no utensils. While you may not have the funds to have a chef prepare dessert on top of you and then staff to wheel you on a serving tray to the dinner table, you can be creative here. Turn yourself into a small buffet. No utensils necessary… just hands and mouth.
Kink is defined as a person’s sexual tastes; a taste for sexual behavior that is considered unusual. I firmly believe in kink being accessible to all levels of people’s sexuality. Again, not everything is for everyone. However, different levels or varieties of kink can appeal to most people. While I would never encourage my readership to go so far outside their realm of comfort that he/she can no longer find it enjoyable, I do ask you all to challenge yourself just a bit. You never know what you might find enjoyable…. I am saying that if you two like toys, or have maybe had some exposure to them, perhaps you can try out a new couple’s toy for the holiday. Lelo makes a Bluetooth capable vibrator that works wonderfully for couples. The vibrator slips inside a pocket in the included underwear, and it can be controlled from any smart phone with Bluetooth. Great for staying in and playing around the house…. Or for the more advanced couple, perhaps wearing it out to dinner to increase anticipation until you two return home might be more fun.
For more sex toy ideas, visit: http://www.kinkly.com/sex-toys/couples
Whatever your hearts’ desire, whether it be new positions, enacting fantasies or a new toy – Make this Valentine’s Day about actually trying new things to take your intimacy to the next level.
– Karen Washington, AMFT