"I Can't Turn Him On"

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The Counselor's Turn

Performance Anxiety

"I suspected that the cause of Lane's erectile dysfunction, or ED, was purely emotional. Medical reasons for ED in young men are not unheard of, but for Lane, the evidence strongly pointed to a clear-cut case of performance anxiety.

"My goal was to address four key issues that I thought might be linked to Lane's dysfunction: his feelings about his job, his regret over not having pursued his music dream, his ambivalence about fatherhood, and Angela's tendency to pressure him about issues such as sex and children. 

"First, we examined Lane's job situation. He rarely discussed his work with his wife, so she had assumed things were fine. But in my office, Lane blurted out his feelings. 'I'm in this job only to pay the bills,' he said. 'Music is what really makes my life worthwhile. I just know I'm going to make some huge, costly mistake at work someday, and I can't stand the idea of letting my dad down -- especially since my brother always does everything right.' Angela was stunned to realize how much pain her husband was in.

"Lane went on to mention his fear of becoming the sole supporter of the family once they had children. Again, Angela was taken by surprise. 'I wouldn't want to quit work if we had a baby!' she said. 'I thought you knew that. Staying at home is fine for your sister-in-law, but I'd be bored.' 

"I encouraged the couple to keep talking about these issues and try to come to some kind of agreement. Angela suggested Lane become an at-home dad, which would also give him the chance to pursue a music career. Lane was moved by her support, but admitted that this scenario didn't appeal to him, either. 'I wouldn't want to turn my music into work,' he said. 'I guess, down deep, I don't hate my job that much.'

"It sounded like what was really bothering Lane was the sense that he had to please his dad and compete with his brother. I suggested that we put his actual performance on paper: which deals he had closed and how his work had affected the company's bottom line. For the first time, Lane realized that he really wasn't as inadequate as he'd feared. In fact, he'd made almost as many significant deals as Kyle had. 


"We talked again about parenthood next. Apart from the financial issue, Lane was reluctant to sacrifice his freedom to do things he liked. His parents and brother had centered their lives around their children, so he assumed that all parents did. 'Kids do change things,' replied Angela, 'but I'd never want to give up our couple time. My parents had dates every Friday night, and they sent us kids to our grandparents for two weeks every summer so they could travel.' Lane was delighted to learn that she felt the same way he did.

"On further discussion, Angela realized that she didn't really want to start a family right away -- it was just that seeing her friends getting pregnant had made her feel that she ought to. Lane agreed that he would be more prepared for parenthood in a year or two.

Continued on page 5:  The Counselor's Turn, continued


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