Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Help, My Divorce Has Left Me With Erectile Dysfunction!

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a relatively recent divorcee (about 6 months post D-Day) and I’ve had some trouble getting into the swing of being intimate with new partners. I’ve read your blog for a while and have found it quite helpful with dating advice and with self improvement. So I figured maybe you can help me out.

So a little background to explain my situation. I got married very young (I was 20 years old!). And we were married for about 9.5 years. We have 2 awesome little guys together and are good co-parents. My ex and I decided a couple years before we got divorced that we would try polyamory. We had both been interested in it for a while before hand and thought it would bring us together like it had with some friends of ours. We probably should have realized that we were more interested in being just friends with each other but that’s water under the bridge. Eventually we realized that the romance and attraction was gone in the marriage and saw a couple marriage counselors before deciding to file for divorce.

Now to the heart of the matter. I have actually been really successful with dating in my opinion. I’ve actually been mostly focusing on finding myself and living my life for myself and my kiddos. Also on being the fun persons I’ve always wanted to be. I’ve mostly stuck with online dating because it’s the easiest option for a now single dad. I’ve met a few girls I’ve liked and discovered a problem. When it comes to sexy time I panic and get out of the mood right as things are about to get fun.

More specifically I met two girls who wanted to sleep with me and with both of them the time got ruined by my own brain. In both cases things started out okay with foreplay but I just couldn’t get over a fear of being impotent and panicking about how I was going to have another failed relationship. The first girl I wasn’t that physically attracted to so I thought maybe it was that combined with the newness of being single after so long. The second girl I’m really really attracted to not only physically but she and I really hit off when we are hanging out. This time I also panicked because I hadn’t felt a connection like this in a really long time and I thought I must be falling for this girl way too fast.

So I’ve been seeing a counselor for a bit related to depression/anxiety but otherwise I am in pretty good physical health (I’m 30 and ran a marathon this past fall and have started training for more races this year). Do you have any advice for men to help get over the feeling of impotence and the fears surrounding this touchy subject. I love you blog and I hope that maybe this can help not just me but other guys out there struggling.

Yours truly

Single Dad Looking for Help

DEAR SINGLE DAD LOOKING FOR HELP: Dude. DUDE. Go easy on yourself, man. You’re only six months out of a nearly decade long relationship. Even in a mostly amicable divorce, that’s going to do a number on your brain. You need to recognize that you are still in a state of transition. You have ten years worth of habits and behaviors built up like the relationship equivalent of muscle memory, only now half of those muscles aren‘t there anymore. Relationships change our identity at a fundamental level. We don’t just become two people who live together, we merge into a single gestalt entity like a fleshy Voltron that can’t agree on what to eat on Saturday night. Only now part of you is gone and there’s a part of your brain that’s kinda freaking out at that while it heals and you rediscover who you are now.

So you need to give yourself a break here. I’m not saying “don’t date”, but I am saying “turn down your expectations”. You wouldn’t expect to run a marathon three months after having busted your ankle, would you? You’re still in the break-up equivalent of physical therapy; it’s going to take some time to get back into competitive shape again. Rushing things because you “should” be ready is a great way to re-injure yourself.

Here’s how you deal with these issues you’re having.

First: you quit worrying about the future. The only thing you should be interested in with these girls is “right now”. Maybe things won’t work out with them. That’s fine: that’s for the future. You are just going to enjoy what you have right now. Right now, you’re realizing that women still think you’re damn sexy. Right now, you’re remembering that you have options and that being divorced isn’t the end of the word. Right now, you are just going experience things to their fullest without worrying about what may happen later on. The future will take care of itself. You can enjoy what you have right now.

Second: Take your penis off the table. The great thing about sex is that there’s more to it than your junk and hers. If your penis won’t get hard, guess what? You still have two hands. You still have a tongue. You know what never goes soft at the wrong moment? Your fingers. Sex toys. Your mouth. So don’t put pressure on yourself to perform with your penis. Penetration is off the menu for a bit. Make out like teenagers without the expectation of f

king. Use your fingers and your thumbs to get her off. Use sex toys. Go down on her for so long that you grow gills. Learn – really learn – how much you can give someone pleasure without needing to make your cock the main event. The less pressure you put on yourself to have Magic Penis, the less likely that anxiety is going to rear it’s ugly head and deflate things like the saddest pool-toy.

Third: this one is important, so I want you to pay attention. You ready?


Stop referring to your marriage as a “failed relationship”. Tattoo that backwards on your forehead so you see it in the mirror when you wake up. Shave your head if you need the room.

Your relationship didn’t fail, your relationship ended. There’s a difference. Not every relationship is going to last forever, and not every relationship should. Not every relationship is going to be an epic love story. Some are going to be short stories. Some are going to be dirty limericks. And that’s fine.

You’re not a failure because you or your wife didn’t die in the saddle. You were together for ten years, you have some awesome kids and you are able to co-parent successfully? That’s f

king impressive, man. The fact that you and your ex-wife are able to work together to raise your kids, that you have this core of, if not affection than at least respect for one another and that you don’t look at each other and wish you could just flay the skin off the other and throw them into a vat of tequila? That’s a sign that your relationship was a success. All that happened is that your relationship came to its natural end. That’s not failure by any stretch of the imagination.

So give yourself a break, SDLFH. You’ve got a lot going for you, but I think you’re expecting too much all at once. Take some time. Enjoy the present without worrying about the future. And realize that yes, your marriage may have ended… but it was still a success for what it was.

Good luck.

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