I’m Zachary Zane, a sex writer and ethical manwhore (a fancy way of saying I sleep with a lot of people, and I’m very, very open about it). Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of sexual experiences, dating and sleeping with hundreds of people of all genders and orientations. In doing so, I’ve learned a thing or two about navigating issues in the bedroom (and a bunch of other places, TBH). I’m here to answer your most pressing sex questions with thorough, actionable advice that isn’t just “communicate with your partner,” because you know that already. Ask me anything—literally, anything—and I will gladly Sexplain It. To submit a question for a future column, fill out this form.
This is the transcription from last week’s “Sexplain It Live,” which was recorded on Men’s Health‘s Instagram. I was joined by NYT-bestselling author and podcaster Allison Raskin—to answer a bunch of your sex and relationship questions.
How do you move on from a breakup that didn’t give you any closure?
AR: For me, it’s recognizing that some questions just don’t have answers, and that’s okay. You can really do yourself a big disservice by trying to find an answer because I will never really know exactly what happened [with my ex-fiance who left me unexpectedly]. I have my theories of what happened. I have my ideas of what led him to make the decisions he made in the way that he did. But ultimately, I have to find closure within myself. And I think I am able to do that because I know that I tried. I had committed fully to that relationship and to what I thought was going to be a marriage. And at the end of the day, that’s all that I can do. Knowing that I have the ability to do that has been really helpful—that I am capable of making that commitment. That [a relationship] is something that I want in my life, and I’ll continue to pursue it, and [end up with] someone who ultimately feels the same way.
ZZ: Yeah. I think closure is such a weird thing, but honestly, my opinion on closure is that it’s bullshit. Or getting closure from someone else is. I was gonna say you have to get closure from yourself. But I think of the number of times I’ve had friends be like, “I’m going to talk to my ex-girlfriend to get closure.” Then they go—and either they get back together and it’s terrible for three months and they break up—or they use closure as this excuse to then reconnect with someone that they should not be reconnecting with. It’s closure because this chapter of your life is closed. Period.
I’ve been seeing this new guy, and things are going well. He’s easy to talk to and I don’t feel nervous around him like I do sometimes with guys I’m dating. The only thing is he seems eerily similar to my last boyfriend—same profession, same OCD tendencies. Since we first hooked up, his penis has been out of action because of some sensitivity issues, so whenever we’re doing other stuff in bed, I start thinking about my ex. I don’t know if this is a situation I should be running away from, or if I’m just being paranoid and self-sabotaging myself.
AR: Every relationship that you have, you’re gathering information. You’re figuring out what works for you. You’re figuring out what doesn’t. I think that it’s really helpful to make a list of things that are deal-breakers and things that are requirements. And I’m not talking about makes this amount of money. Well, that could be on your list, but it’s things like, respectful of my family and shares political values. Things that are really important to you. Sometimes you are going to be drawn to someone similar to a past relationship, but hopefully, you’ve done the work to figure out why that past relationship didn’t work. So if some of the similarities are the reasons why that past relationship didn’t work, then you kind of have to make some tough decisions and say, “You know, maybe I am repeating something that I already know doesn’t serve me.”
ZZ: That’s similar to what I was going to say. I’d ask, “What were the reasons things didn’t work with your ex?” And if those are the similarities, then you have a problem. But if you’re just like, “Oh, I only date guys who are kind, sweet, and a little nerdy.” It’s like, okay, that’s a good type to have. They can remind you of your ex in that way. Those are positive characteristics. But if you’re having the same compatibility issues or he’s too needy—and that’s why you broke up with your ex—[then that’s a problem].
So I think that answers the first half of the question, and the second half is: I’m thinking of my ex while we’re having some form of sexual interaction, while he’s having some penis issues. What do I do about that?
AR: I mean, that stuff happens. I understand that it can be difficult if it’s happening early on in a relationship. [It’s important] being able to recognize that this is probably something going on with them either mentally or biologically. It’s not a reflection on you. But I will say that it is not unhealthy to think about your ex. That is a normal thing that happens. It’s really more, what is the content of those thoughts? So if you are constantly comparing the two of them, or if you were wishing you were with your ex—
ZZ: She’s imagining having sex with the ex while hooking up with the new guy— that’s what I got! So What would be your response to that because that was what I gathered from the question.
AR: I think when I was younger, I used to have very black and white thinking about this kind of stuff. And it was like, if you’re not thinking about your partner while you’re with them, then it’s wrong and it’s not a good relationship. But I think that sex for people is complex and complicated. But to me, it feels like there is a lot going on in this relationship for it to be a new relationship. Good fits shouldn’t be so much work and there shouldn’t necessarily be so much concern early on. It feels like the writer is searching for the safety that came from that initial relationship versus actually being with this person because of the unique connection that they have.
ZZ: Yeah, if you’re dating for two months and you’re having a ton of problems—that does not bode well. You should be in the honeymoon stage. You should be having sex like jackrabbits. You should be enjoying getting to know each other before all the reality and tough stuff hits.
AR: And some people do struggle with ED and that’s going to be regardless of where they are in the relationship.
ZZ: I will say a lot of men, in the beginning of a relationship, if they really like someone, will get erectile dysfunction. And usually, I hear from those men, asking, “Hey, what do I do?” And my response is just be honest. Say, “Hey, I really like you. Sometimes when I really like someone, I have some trouble with ED. I typically get over it. But for the beginning, let’s just do some other stuff.” As long as their partner’s response is like, “Yeah, that’s completely fine. And now you’re going to eat me out for six hours and I’m going to come.” There’s no problem there. That’s completely fine.
But at some point, he has to get this resolved. Whether that means he gets into therapy to work on his ED issues, or he addresses it better with his partners, so he feels most secure. It’s so easy to get viagra now with Hims and Roman online, and they literally send them to you like candy. You can use that as a stop-gap measure or get a beta-blocker prescribed by a psychiatrist to help with nerves. He has to be like, “Hey, I know I have ED, but I’m working on this to get better.”
But to your point, potentially break up with this person. You know what I mean? if you’re having these all issues, you’re thinking about your ex, and he can’t get hard [just break up]. And I know therapists wouldn’t say this point-blank, but I’m not a therapist. I’m a sex advice and relationship columnist.
AR: Right, and I think you really touched on something important, and it’s not that people are going to go into relationships with zero issues or zero areas where they need to work on themselves, but are they willing to put in that work?
AR: So like you said, with this ED issue, is it something that they’re willing to talk about, willing to acknowledge, and willing to get help for? With the OCD tendencies, is that something that they’re working through? I think it is really helpful to go to your partner and say, “Look, I know that this, this, and this are things that are interfering with our relationship, but let me tell you, I’m taking care of them. I know what work needs to be done. I’m willing to put in that work. I’m willing to communicate with you about it.” That takes so much pressure off of the partner because you know they don’t feel like it’s your responsibility to fix the problem, and they can’t talk to you about it. But if you feel that your partner is very resistant to those things, doesn’t think that they help, and shuts down when you talk about it, that’s really not good. That’s a really big red flag, especially early on.
Watch the full conversation here:
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