Our friend shares a story about all of the issues that surfaced when he and his wife stopped using condoms and started trying to conceive. A tale about performance anxiety while making a baby.
Straight / Male / 32–36 / North America / Married
“Billy and Lisa, sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G”
“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage!”
We all know the song. We sang it and did everything we could to avoid having it sung to us. At least as children. Then as we grew up, we explored ourselves and our desires. We kissed people. Some of us even got married.
I did. In 2013 I married the best woman I have ever known.
Before we married, my wife was my longtime friend. One day, when I was 27, I realized that I wanted her to be more than that. I was at lunch with another friend when I started talking about the attributes I was looking for in a long-term partner. I was hit with an immediate realization that I needed to marry her. I immediately threw some money down and told my friend I had to leave and take action.
Even though it sounds like a Hollywood moment, it wasn’t exactly that. Four months later I was still stewing over whether I should ask her to marry me. She was a good friend and I was freaking out about putting our friendship at risk. Yet, I had feelings for her and I felt like I had to take them seriously. I also had fears. My parents divorced, so was I going to be following in their footsteps? I was only 27, was I ready to get married?
My friends were the ones who eventually pushed me over the hill. They reassured me that she was awesome and that I had to make a move. One of my Aussie buddies told me, “Mate, you have to go in guns blazing.”
And so I did.
When we first kissed, it was both electric and nerve wracking. How could I ever kiss someone who had been such a good friend of mine? She was someone I confided in and trusted with some of my deepest secrets. The fear of losing the friend I valued so much was constantly playing in the back of my mind. But I overcame it, reached over and put it all on the line. Thankfully, she met my interest halfway, and our fate became forever intertwined from that moment on.
Intimacy was never a problem after that. Once I found that she was open to a romantic relationship, it became easier and easier to romance her. Long walks turned into drinks turned into late nights turned into coffee in the morning. Our sexual chemistry was strong, born out of the closeness of our friendship. That’s right, I said our sexual chemistry was born out of the closeness of our friendship. We both expected it to be awkward, so we let it happen organically and would proceed only when it felt right for both of us. There was a lot of trust and communication, which allowed us to relax so it didn’t end up being awkward at all.
She made me feel seen, like I could connect with her physically in ways I never thought possible. The trust we built created an ability to take risks that I only previously found in one night stands where the anonymity removed inhibitions. I couldn’t please prior women in the way I could please her because I either didn’t care to be considerate or exploratory or I was experiencing fear around talking about what my partners liked. With prior women, I was an athlete who was holding back his best effort, but with her, I would leave it all on the field. All to connect. All because we could laugh off the moments when a position or a move worked out more awkwardly than I had envisioned. Of course, all with contraception.
Then came marriage. We walked down the aisle and merged our families.
Over the first year, we had a great time. Now that the last barrier of commitment was removed and we had pledged ourselves fully and completely to each other, we took our intimacy to the next level. We tried new positions, new locations, new toys, and new times of day. Why not? If it didn’t work out, we would still be together. If we got caught, we would be caught together. If one person discovered an unforeseen fetish, it was something we discovered and explored together. We could not have been more excited to come home and explore our new married intimacy, within the safe space of birth control so that we could still focus on our careers without surprises.
A year later we decided it was time to be open to kids. It was not something I took lightly. I wasn’t necessarily against it, I just had a massive anxiety towards the idea. Were we stable enough financially to have kids? What kind of father would I be? My father had kids with different women, and I was worried that his inability to make a marriage work after kids was my destiny. Was I going to mess things up?
At some point, I decided it was something I was willing to risk for the benefit of having a child with a mother like my wife, and we decided to no longer use protection or birth control. I still remember the first time we had sex after that decision.
I was filled with anxiety and panic and finished prematurely. As I lay on my side of the bed in a pool of confusion and sweat, my wife asked if everything was ok. She could tell something was up, but I told her it was fine and time to go to bed.
The next time we had sex, the same thing happened. Then again. And again. I started seeing a pattern but didn’t know what to do about it. All I could do was wonder what was wrong with me?
I figured that when I had problems, I usually talked them out with a friend, so I should do the same here. I turned to my wife, my friend, and started blabbing. I told her everything that was going through my mind. I felt scared. I felt inadequate. I felt overwhelmed. I felt a lot of things I tried to put into words and talked for about 10 minutes straight before she could get a word in.
As I spent the next day processing the conversation, I started dissecting what was going on in my head. I found there were three things:
1) I was overwhelmed with new sensations of not using condoms
2) I was freaking out about having kids
3) I was hearing the wrong voices in my head
Prior to trying to have kids, I sparingly had sex without a condom, and I generally got used to sex with a condom. My mental stamina to hold off orgasm was immediately overwhelmed when I started having unprotected sex with the best partner I have ever had. I chalked this up to overwhelming sensations and figured it would get better over time.
And yes, I was freaking out about having kids. Every time we lay together, I would start thinking “oh my God, what if this is the time? What if we stop having sex because of this moment? Am I even ready to be a father? Will I be a good father? What am I doing?!?!!” These thoughts distracted me from the moment at hand and were rattling around in my brain and triggering me to sweat and panic.
In addition to my own voice speaking up in doubt and fear, I realized I was also hearing my parents’ voices. As a child born out of wedlock, and a very social person from a young age, I heard my mother tell me “you better not get anyone pregnant!” many times over the years.
As an African-American man, it is a statistical win if I made it past 25 without a child or a conviction.
I accomplished both. But I was still hearing my mother tell me about how hard it was for her parents to have a bunch of unplanned kids, and how hard it was for her to have an unplanned kid as well, and how hard it would be for me if I repeated the pattern. For 30 years I had been actively avoiding getting anyone pregnant, and here I was trying to get my wife pregnant. How could I possibly unprogram that much fear conditioning?
Here’s what helped. First — I talked to my wife. We laughed about all these things, and she empathized with my concerns. As my best friend, she already knew the fears I had about fatherhood, and was willing to be patient. She offered to wait and empowered me to make the decision of when I was ready to face those fears. She also had a good laugh about all the voices in my head and reminded me about a time in counseling when we learned that although the only people who should be in our bedroom are us two, often parents and other people can make their way in there through our minds.
We started applying some of the tools we learned in therapy to kick the voices out of our bedroom. This involved scheduling time solely focused on being intimate with each other in a space where we are detached from technology. It also involved actively acknowledging and having a conversation around the things I was fearful about. We would write our fears on a card and then mimic pulling it out of our hearts and throwing it away. It may sound crazy, but it totally worked for us.
I also talked with a couple of married guys I knew who recently had kids. I opened up and asked them if they freaked out when they first started trying. Luckily, the answer was pretty frequently “hell yes” and we bonded over this rite of passage. Knowing there were other people out there freaking out that they had just purposefully not pulled out helped me feel less alone and more like a normal person going through normal feelings.
Fast forward a couple years to present day and my premature ejaculation has been reduced significantly. I’ve come along way from the days of feeling very weak and incapable in the bedroom to now, what I consider my ‘normal’ performance. This used to be 100% of my issues, and now it’s sitting at closer to 10%.
This wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t face my anxieties head on and talk openly about this with my wife and friends. My wife ended up having a ton of empathy for me and my friends were comfortable sharing their struggles too. My wife and I are very happy with our sex lately, and though we have not had kids yet, it certainly has not been for lack of trying…
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