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Eros and Aging - Page 5

Psychosexual Skill Exercises

Good Enough Sex (GES) therapy doesn't attempt to have the couple talk through their sexual impasses. Instead, it uses psychosexual skill exercises designed in session to eliminate performance demands on each partner: in this case, for Bill to get an erection and for Cynthia to get him hard.

In therapy, Bill and Cynthia learned how to build comfort with touch, both inside and outside the bedroom, how to take turns being stimulated, how to make verbal requests of each other, and how to "let their fingers do the talking." They explored Cynthia's patterns of receptivity and response. They created opportunities for Bill to "piggy-back" his arousal on Cynthia's—a totally new experience for him. At each session, they discussed the exercises they'd done at home and then helped formulate one or two additional psychosexual skill exercises to be tried as a team that week.

Like all men with erectile dysfunction we've seen for sex therapy, Bill disliked the idea of doing exercises that not only permitted but required him to lose his precious erection—to let it wax and wane—while he and Cynthia focused on pleasuring skills. But once the performance anxiety was removed in this way, he grew to enjoy the playfulness of sex and learned not to panic if his erection "took a break." He came to realize that if he stayed relaxed and open to sensual stimulation, his erection would generally return within a few minutes. Both Cynthia and Bill found the emphasis on intimacy and giving each other sensual and erotic pleasure to be a positive experience, which helped them feel like an intimate team again.

Because most men consider sex a highly predictable course of events—erection, intercourse, and orgasm—they often find it hard to get comfortable with a more flexible approach, and Bill couldn't have done it without Cynthia's support. Like most women, she'd learned a model of sexuality fundamentally different from that of men: viewing sex as an intimate, interactive, variable process. She and Bill were, in effect, learning together to practice a more traditionally integrated, balanced, "female" style of sexuality, which would age far better than his young-stud approach.

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