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A question of performance

Four days later, I was still feeling embarrassed by what occurred (or in my case did not happen)

Love Letters
Love Letters

Q. This is an embarrassing topic, but I am sure some of your male readers can relate. I recently met a woman and we seemed to have many connections, which made dating her feel relaxed. We would communicate often, and I was transparent with my existing marital status (separated, though no divorce paperwork filed yet), which she readily accepted. We are also in our early 50s.

A few weeks ago, I demonstrated an inability to perform, which caused our evening to wind down rather quickly. As we both worked the next morning, I went home only to ruminate on the events of the evening. Four days later, still feeling embarrassed by what occurred (or in my case did not happen), I reached out to her to explain that while I enjoyed her company, this might be an ongoing problem.


My doctor and I discussed this subject matter a few years back, and even medication was not helpful. The question I raised to this woman was how important that part of our relationship was, and I asked if we could discuss it together. She responded the following day by saying she was very concerned over what occurred and was contemplating her concerns since. She agreed we needed to discuss this issue together because it is an important part of a relationship — one she wanted to continue having — but needed some time. I thought her giving me days during the following week when she was not working meant she would welcome any overture from me but that was not the case. We went from talking daily to complete silence since, which has me thinking she made up her mind and placed a priority on sexual activity. When did this become an all-or-nothing relationship? And why is this still weighing heavily on me?



A. It’s weighing heavily on you because you’re hurt. Disappointed. Which is understandable, right? You were hoping this could be a discussion, but it turned into a full stop. I understand that she wanted time to think, but I don’t know how she could do much pondering without more information. More discussion would have been nice.

But ... better to know her limits now. If she’s not interested in making adjustments for the kind of sexual relationship you offer — for now, at least — you can move on without many questions. That’s her prerogative. Her choice.

You don’t have to feel great about it, though. You’re allowed to miss her. I do think it’s worth talking to a doctor about other specialists who can talk about your sex life, as a greater concept, as opposed to the yes/no question whether you can perform. Please continue down that path for help as you seek out someone new.

If this woman shows up days from now, hear her out. But remember that this was a new relationship. It could have ended for 1,000 other reasons, at any point. You’re learning about her, too — how she communicates, shows empathy, etc. If she told you she wanted to talk and then disappeared, that’s something to know. You want a person who can take space without making you feel left behind. That’s OK.



You need to be with someone who will be patient and understanding, and that’s going to mean finding someone new. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed, and don’t let it impact your confidence. Good luck.



“I went to the doctor one time for this issue and I don’t feel like going again so how would you like to settle into a sexless relationship with me, a person you just met?” Sorry, but doesn’t sound great to me either.


She doesn’t want to talk to you about it because she doesn’t want to make you feel bad about yourself. You have a problem and she doesn’t want to make it her problem. There are plenty of women for whom sex is not a deal breaker. But for her, it is. I’m sorry.


What you need is a partner who’s going to work with you, and she showed you that it’s not her. Nothing wrong with wanting sex in a relationship, but [this problem] doesn’t respond well to being shut down. That is not how your performance anxiety gets reduced. Keep looking for a partner that won’t respond that way.


Send your own relationship and dating questions to loveletters@globe.com. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.