Dating A Guy With Performance Anxiety: Why It Happens & What To Do

Sex is one of the most enjoyable parts of a romantic relationship, but when you’re dating a guy with performance anxiety, it can turn into an absolute nightmare. Not only can it be a serious blow to a man’s ego, but it can cause tensions and issues between you that are difficult to navigate and could lead to a breakup. Below, we detail what you should know about this increasingly common problem and how to deal with it.

What is sexual performance anxiety and why does it happen?

Sexual performance anxiety is when men are so nervous or stressed about sex that they cannot enjoy it or, in some cases, can’t bring themselves to have it at all. Men who suffer from the condition may experience a number of different issues in the bedroom including erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, low libido, and difficulty reaching orgasm (via

The cause of the anxiety (and, by extension, the inability to perform), varies. For instance, it could be due to the pressure men feel to pleasure their partners in bed. It could be down to stress in other parts of their lives, such as at their job or with their families, that is carrying over into the bedroom.

Research performed in 2019 by Anna Kessler at King’s College London discovered that young men have erectile dysfunction in high numbers. In one study she cited, 35.6% of men between the ages of 18 and 25 had experienced ED, which Kessler believed could largely be caused by “psychological factors” such as sexual performance anxiety. In other words, it’s more common than you might think.

What it’s like dating a guy with performance anxiety

  1. He gets frustrated, angry, and embarrassed when he can’t get it up. When he can’t get or maintain an erection, he becomes frustrated and embarrassed. This leads him to either snap at you in anger or completely withdraw, shutting you out and putting distance between you. While an understandable response, it’s also upsetting to deal with.
  2. The throes of passion often end in disappointment. While it’s not his fault, it can be disheartening to be ready to go in bed, only to have to cut things short when he can’t complete the mission, so to speak. And, while you could keep the experience going in other ways, the first thing on this list often stops things dead in their tracks.
  3. You often feel bad or at a loss about what to do. When the guy you’re dating has performance anxiety in the bedroom, it doesn’t just affect you. While it’s discouraging from a sexual standpoint, especially if you have a high libido or simply want to connect in this way, it’s also tough to see someone you care about struggling. However, you know there’s nothing you can do or say to make it better, which leaves you feeling helpless.
  4. You often get rejected when you try to initiate sex. Because he worries that he won’t be able to get or keep an erection, he might avoid sex altogether. This means that even when you try to take charge or get close to him in bed, you’re immediately shut down. He claims he’s tired or not in the mood, but you know the real truth.
  5. He gets overly defensive when you mention sex. When you try to talk about sex or intimacy, he clams up. Even if you’re not referring to your own sex life or his performance anxiety, he just doesn’t want to talk about it. He turns it back on you, calling you needy, unreasonable, or rude. He doesn’t want to confront what’s really going on.
  6. Your own confidence begins to take a hit. Eventually, this takes a toll on your self-esteem too. You begin to worry that you’re not desirable enough or that he’s no longer attracted to you. While that’s unlikely to be true, it still hurts. You can’t even seek reassurance from your partner on the matter, which makes it even harder.

What to do about it

  1. Give his ego a boost. While he may not internalize it right away, compliment the guy on all the wonderful qualities he has. And while you should value non-physical things about him, be creative. If he has sexual performance anxiety, he’ll be feeling bad about his bedroom prowess. Compliment him on how good he is at oral sex or other acts to boost his ego.
  2. Address the underlying issues in your relationship. If there’s a problem in your relationship that could be causing his issue, talk about it. Getting him to open up might be hard, but it’s worthwhile. The health of your relationship depends on it, as does the success of your sex life. Don’t brush your problems under the carpet. Address them head-on.
  3. Think outside the penetration box. Even if he’s struggling to maintain an erection, there’s more to do in the bedroom than p-in-v sex. Focus on oral for a while or pleasing one another with your hands. Make an evening of foreplay alone. Try different things that don’t require him getting hard. It will help you feel close and also reduce his frustration.
  4. Talk about his feelings. It’s understandable for him to be anxious, depressed, or angry about what’s going on. However, bottling that up inside won’t help. Encourage him to talk to you about how he’s feeling, no matter how bad. Getting it off his chest and being heard can make a big difference to his mental and emotional health.
  5. If all else fails, consider seeking professional help. Consider talking to a therapist if need be. There are counselors trained in sexual performance anxiety that can help. They work with your partner to get to the root of his issues. They can also give him suggestions for conquering the issue altogether. Attending a few sessions as a couple might also be worth considering.
Jennifer has been the managing editor of Bolde since its launch in 2014. Before that, she was the founding editor of HelloGiggles and also worked as an entertainment writer for Bustle and Digital Spy. Her work has been published in Bon Appetit, Decider, Vanity Fair, The New York TImes, and many more.