Q&A with J: “He Goes Hard and Then Soft”

Today’s question is an urgent one, from a wife recently married:

My husband hasn’t entered me yet, not for a lack of trying. I feel so worried because it’s not as easy or as straightforward as I thought. It feels like he just can’t fit in me (is that possible?). He inserted his finger into me and wiggled it around and that worked ok. So far he also isn’t able to stay hard for very long to get in me…he goes hard and then soft, and then hard, then soft. We also haven’t found a comfortable position and maybe that’s part of the problem.

He really wants to consummate our marriage and he really wants to be inside me…I wish that I could make it happen. He’s so kind to me and we’ve been exploring each other’s bodies and he’s been stimulating me with his fingers and I’ve been helping him finish with my hands.

Is any of this normal? Does anyone else go after the wedding without sex because they can’t make it work?blog post title + row of straws ranging from straight to bentI actually emailed this newlywed wife back with some suggestions. Knowing that this frustrated couple isn’t the only one out there who has struggled to consummate, let me share those tips here:

  • He’s probably going hard then soft, hard then soft…because his concentration is wavering. I suspect he’s aroused then worried about you…aroused then worried, etc. At this point, his part doesn’t really concern me too much. I don’t think you’ll know how his erections really respond until you get the main issue worked out.
  • Are you actually in pain when he tries to enter? If so, you need to see a doctor, like a gynecologist. Have the doctor check for any structural issues and ask about vaginismus. Sheila Gregoire has several great posts on that condition. And please don’t worry about the delicacy of the topic: Doctors hear all kinds of things. Most are quite willing to answer your questions. If you do get blown off, then find another doctor.
  • You may need more time to stretch. If he can insert one finger, then have him move up from there: two fingers, three fingers. No, he’s not going to put his whole hand in there. 😉 But he can help to slowly but surely stretch your muscles enough to receive his penis. You can also do this yourself with your own fingers. I have a good friend who was advised by a doctor to stretch herself out a little on her own before her wedding night, so that she—a virgin—would find sex more comfortable, and it worked.
  • Have you tried you on top? Sometimes this helps, because you can be more in control of the pacing, angle, etc. Christian Friendly Sex Positions has quite a few ideas for wife on top. Be careful, however, of leaning so you don’t cause a sex injury (see “penile fracture”).
  • Are you on birth control? Do you have allergies? How are you lubricating? These issues deal with how your body is responding to what’s happening. You should get fully lubricated, and your inner vaginal lips should swell to 2-3 times their regular size before he enters. If your body isn’t responding to arousal this way, then you might have physiological issues that need looking into. For instance, oral contraceptives can change your hormones such that your body doesn’t have the right amount of estrogen to perform properly. And allergies can be an issue; just ask Jennifer Smith of Unveiled Wife.
  • How’s your mental focus? Are you enjoying what’s happening? You say he really wants to be inside you. What about you? Do you embrace your own sexuality fully—knowing that it’s a God-given gift for your marriage? Sometimes it’s hard for us Christian gals to flip that switch from virgin to lover, so if you’re struggling, honestly my best advice is that you pick up a copy of my book, Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage, which specifically deals with how we view our bodies and our sexuality in light of God’s Word.

That’s a very brief run-down, but hopefully something there sparks an idea.

As for how normal this is? It happens more than you’d think. Breathe easy and realize that you two just vows to spend your lifetime with each other. As much as you want it all to happen right now, you really do have some time to figure this out. Work toward a solution, but also enjoy the journey and the arousal, excitement, and intimacy you experience along the way.

♥     ♥     ♥

But here’s something y’all rarely get to see. This young wife emailed me back with more information, including this tidbit:

No, I’m not in actual pain…he hasn’t been able to enter me because as he tries to enter, he goes soft.

Hmmm. I kinda take back my first point — because this is an issue worth addressing. And it happens to more than newlyweds.

Sometimes a husband struggles to keep an erection, and some men particularly struggle with maintaining the erection for intercourse. Why might a husband struggle with being hard and then going soft, just as he’s about to enter or even after he’s inside? Let’s talk about several possibilities.

Health Issue

In order to maintain an erection, you need strong, healthy blood flow that can reach and remain in his penis. Some medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, interfere with proper blood flow. A husband might be able to get hard, but can’t hold onto it. So erectile dysfunction may not merely impair the marriage bed, but could be a symptom of real health problems.

Get thee to a doctor! Yep, you should start with a call to his physician to check his total health and make sure there are no health issues interfering with his ability to maintain an erection. Be insistent about making sure everything is a-okay. And if it’s not, address the issue with treatment, management, or whatever else needs to happen.

Drugs, legal and illegal

Some prescription drugs can affect the intensity of an erection. If he’s on medications, talk to the doctor and/or pharmacist about side effects to see if that’s one of them. Sometimes you can change to a different drug that won’t have the negative side effect for you.

Alcohol is another substance that affects ability to perform. Drinking too much really can make a penis go flaccid. If he’s drinking alcohol before sex, eliminate it for a while and see if that makes a difference.

Illegal drugs can have terrible consequences for many parts of your life, including the marriage bed. Plenty of users cannot perform. Now, most of the spouses I write to here are not dealing with this … but some of you are. If you’re the one using, you’ve got to stop. If your spouse doesn’t know, it’s time to fess up, get help, and be accountable. If you suspect your spouse is using, it’s time to confront (lovingly) and set some boundaries.

Masturbation

Our minds are powerful things, and they embrace patterns. When a man establishes a pattern of becoming sexually aroused and satisfied through self-touch, he can have difficulty becoming aroused and satisfied in other ways. Sometimes masturbation has been a tool men use prenuptials to deal with their high libido until they can have sex in marriage. But then they’re shocked to find that what helped them keep their sex drive in check before marriage has made it hard to enjoy what they waited so long for.

Some married men do this as well. They masturbate too often and thus deprive their wife of the sexual intimacy marriage should have. Sex becomes a self-focused activity, with a feedback loop that masturbation easier than interacting with another person. Obviously, the answer is to stop jerking the gherkin! No masturbation. None, zero, nada. Your mind and body need time to reset so that you can adopt a new pattern of being fully engaged with your beloved.

Porn

More men report experiencing erectile dysfunction these days. One of the reasons is the prevalence of porn. Where you used to have to seek porn out, now you have to keep it out … or it comes and finds you. Consequently, we have a much higher percentage of men who have seen and engaged with pornography. Again, since our minds are creatures of habit, porn can become the way he gets and stays aroused. So even if the guy can get hard, he can’t keep it unless it’s accompanied by sexual imagery.

What’s tough for the wife is finding out if this is the issue. You want to know so you can deal with the problem, but you also don’t want to (1) accuse him of doing something he isn’t doing or (2) discover that your beloved man has been looking at naked women behind your back (the selfish pig). Now I know you men who have struggled with porn just cringed at that last parenthetical, but this really is how it feels for most wives.

At the end of the day, though, you have to ask questions, show support, and realize that your husband isn’t the enemy — porn is. And if you’re the husband watching porn, confess your sin, ask for forgiveness, comfort and reassure her, and then get to work fighting the enemy. Shove off sin and embrace the real and beautiful sex God wants you to have instead. After a while, your erections should come back.

Guilt

We talk plenty about the issue of Christian women who worked so hard to maintain their purity before marriage that they struggle becoming sexual in marriage. The same can happen to men. A husband can really, really want to have sex, but when it’s showtime, deep-seated guilt comes roaring in and it goes limp. He may not even been consciously aware that’s what’s happening.

So the answer is to dig deep into what you think about sex. Do you believe 100%, with every bone and fiber of your body, that sex is a God-given blessing for your marriage? Are you tensing up when met with the opportunity to have sex? Do you feel a part of you holding back, worried that maybe this isn’t beautiful or spiritual after all? Again, my book, Intimacy Revealed, while written for wives, has a lot to say about a healthy theology of sex. You need to replace your personal guilt with God’s truth. And your body will follow.

Performance anxiety

Pure and simple, performance anxiety is often the issue for men experiencing erectile dysfunction. Especially a man who enters marriage as a virgin. This is his first go-round, and oh my goodness, the pressure! Hey, grooms get nervous about the honeymoon too. Or nervous well after the honeymoon is over.

Husbands can ruminate through a series of questions in the middle of making love: Is this good for her? Is my penis big enough? Is it too big? What if she doesn’t climax? Am I doing this right? Why isn’t she wetter? Is she ready for me to enter? Does she really want to be here, or is she just here out of duty? And on and on. What’s worse is that once he’s had erection difficulties, the big question that could be flashing in his head is: Am I going to be able to keep an erection this time? Again, pressure!

Look, erectile dysfunction happens to almost every man at some point in his life. If it hasn’t happened yet, just wait until you’re older and have a frustrating moment of your brain being totally engaged while your penis lazily hangs there in total opposition to your plans. Give yourself a break. The truth is that sex in marriage is a marvelous thing in that not everything relies on getting it right this one time; you’ve got a lifetime of lovemaking. You really can take your time, figure out how to arouse and pleasure one another, and rest assured that your penis can get the job done. If not this time, then next time.

Since this post is now rivaling Santa’s list on length, I’ll cut off there. Even though I could say more. Stop laughing, hubby. (He thinks I could always say more. 😉 )

Now to my readers, what words of encouragement or wisdom do you have for this couple or others who have experienced difficulty with maintaining an erection?

30 thoughts on “Q&A with J: “He Goes Hard and Then Soft”

  1. Anonymous

    Just know you’re not alone! Husband and I have dealt with this on and off for the past year. It’s frustrating and disappointing when you build up to something and have nothing to show for it. It all goes…. well, flat!

    For my husband, he’s being seen regularly by a doctor to help try to address the problem. I’m so sorry you’re going through this but there is light at the end of the tunnel

    Reply
  2. Amber W

    It took us three weeks to consummate our marriage. Both of us were virgins… No health problems, no porn, nothing. It just took lots of time and patience.

    Reply
  3. Nick Peters

    My wife and I had a hard time, but it was because of Vaginismus and not anything on my end. It took us some time to get past it, but now it’s not even an issue. The best thing this young bride can do, as hard as it is, is to just enjoy any kind of intimacy with her husband for the time being and be building up that relationship until it can be expressed through sex. The last thing they need to do is to be blaming and pointing fingers and accusing one another of being the problem. Not saying they’re doing that, but it is a temptation.

    Reply
  4. sunny-dee

    Two small ideas:

    1. Lube — lots and lots of lube. It’ll make it a little easier to, ahem, slide on in there, and once he’s there, the friction should help.

    2. Try propping your hips up on a pillow (assuming you’re doing missionary) so there’s a really easy angle. Or try doggie style (if you don’t object to it). Make it a super easy angle for entry.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  5. Mike S.

    First, she implied that she is able to finish him manually, so that points in a couple of directions. It may be performance anxiety. If he has never penetrated, but only masturbated, or they mutually masturbated before marriage, he could be worried, or guilty about it. J was getting at this.It is very hard to have truly open conversations about your sexual past with your new mate, but this is a perfect opportunity for each of them to lay it _all_ out there. At least as much as their mate can bear. Perhaps it isn’t him, but he feels very wary of her history as a virgin/good girl, and unsure of her reaction, and how he will react to her reaction.

    Also, I have read that some men, usually oder with heart problems, can maintain/get an erection better while standing, or with the heart well above the penis. Perhaps a position like her laying on the side of the bed and him standing would work better. Or one where he is kneeling in the bed and she is propped up. If that works, since he seems to be a young man, he needs to get to a doctor right away I would think.

    Until I read these blogs I hd no idea so many people had trouble on their honeymoon actually having sex. Unfortunately, my problem before marriage/early marriage was the opposite, and we hd to work through that as quickly as we could.

    Reply
  6. Avery

    We had a similar issue, but I WAS in pain and it affected him. The same thing would happen- hard, soft, hard again, etc. But even after we did finally fully consummate our marriage (almost 3 months later, mind you…and it took almost 6 months for it not to hurt at all) it would still happen often. He had a high stress, exhausting job and it really affected him in the bedroom. Once we figured that out we could work on expectations and strategies. It really took us a solid year to get our groove. Just be patient and try different things and communicate. You’ll get there, but you are not alone!

    Reply
  7. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    I’m not sure if this will help, but from a guy’s perspective…orgasm always felt awful, and made me feel physically ill.

    I should have seen a doctor, but never did. I assumed it was somewhere within the bounds of normal.

    Intimacy became something I dreaded, for that reason.

    Too late to fix it now as I have pancraetic cancer, but if this can help someone, it’s out there.

    Reply
  8. Anon

    My husband struggled to enter me the first week of our honeymoon and it took a lot of gentle talking for him to admit his foreskin was very tight and as he tried to enter it pushed it back and was extremely sore for him and remained sore until he was able to pull the foreskin forward again which sometimes could have been 10 mins or more. I have just realised writing this that as we are in UK where circumcision is very rare that this is prob not as big a problem in the US. However it may help someone else. As a new virgin bride I expected sex to be painful for me the first time or two but neither of us expected that the man would be sore instead.
    We overcame this in the early days by using condoms even tho we didn’t need contraception but they stopped his foreskin being pushed back as he entered me. We later discovered that plenty of lubrication was our friend. And still is after 16 years.

    Reply
  9. R Peters

    My hubby and I have just started to uncover some of the real issues that men have but are incredibly frightened to talk about. Even after 21 years of marriage, the subject of penis and performance and size was a very delicate conversation. Men in general have many fears some of which include what if I’m not big enough or will she like my penis or even memories of being made fun of in the locker room. This discussion is necessary for uncovering how our hubbies feel about their sexuality. Men need to know that their wives are pleased with their package. They need to be affirmed. They need to know that no matter what, how they perform will not affect our love for them. They need to know that we think the world of them in their sexuality. Talk. Talk. And then talk some more.

    Reply
    1. John

      Agree. My wife refuses to rouch me with her hands, and as to oral sex for me, “not interested” (but of course she is interested for herself, which I am very happy to do).

      She has no concept of how devestating this is, even when I directly told her so. “It really shouldn’t be that big a deal” I was told. “If you really loved me, you’d stop asking”

      So devastated.

      Reply
      1. J Post author

        I’m sure this feels like a rejection not simply of your body, but you. And I doubt she really has any true idea of what you’re experiencing when she says no. It’s hard sometimes to understand that, but I know it’s true for many wives: They really, truly don’t get it.

        I’m saddened by what you’ve experienced, and I encourage wives to learn how important it is to accept his body and his desire for sex. This is a great post to start: “Needs More Vinegar” from The Forgiven Wife.

        Reply
  10. Mike

    Without knowing all the background info that you eluded to as possible issues, I’m going to go on exactly what was written. If porn, masturbation, guilt, health problems, etc. aren’t the issue; I’m going to assume either frustration or performance anxiety is. In that case, his frustration with not being able to get it in may be causing the loss of an erection. Sunny Dee said it above, but I want to repeat it again….Lube, lube, lube! I wish someone would have told my wife and I about lube before our wedding night. I couldn’t get it in either, but my problem was that I came too quickly. It was our 3rd attempt on our honeymoon week before I could get it in. After 20 years of marriage, I’ve found that with lube, you can even be somewhat limp and still get it in. I think once he is able to get it in and finish once, a lot of the anxiety will go away.

    Reply
  11. Four Under Four

    My husband did not have this problem, but I will say that it took he and I some time to actually consummate the marriage, and both of my sisters had the same experience. It’s a marriage tho, not a hook up, so there’s lots of time. Sometimes, I’ve felt that a woman’s struggle to adapt to sex and learn to enjoy it is a bit unfair, while men seem to have it so easy (although not so, in your case), but it really did help us draw closer when we had to work through different issues such as me being too tight, him finishing too quickly, etc. It was very bonding. We ended every experience, good or bad, holding each other and reminding ourselves of our vows “for better or worse, in sickness and in health”. Hopefully, as you and your husband work through your own issues together you draw closer in the process, and these early days of struggle will just be a sweet memory soon.

    All that to say, I do think it is normal to have e in the beginning, just fyi 🙂

    Reply
  12. Andrea

    It took my husband and I nearly four months after our wedding to be able to engage in intercourse. It was terribly embarrassing and isolating. It didn’t feel like anyone else could have possibly struggled with something as simple as sex (since no one told us before marriage that sex isn’t as simple as you’d think). We went to a doctor after I got over the idea that I would be the most ridiculous patient she’d ever seen. She was great with me and had a private talk with my husband. She was so helpful to our cause. When we were finally able to consummate our marriage, I was in horrible pain, and he wasn’t able to finish. The loss of erection business for my husband seemed to be seeing me in pain or thinking that he was hurting me. It continues to happen after five years when we forget lube or are in too much of a hurry. I make a pained face, and he loses his erection. The biggest thing about all of this is that you need to remember that you’re married and have your whole life to figure out sex (like many people have mentioned). You also need to find people you trust to talk with about it. We isolated ourselves because I was so hurt (feeling like I was being punished for some reason, even though I was a virgin and hadn’t kissed anyone until I was engaged); he was so hurt (thinking that one or both of us was broken); and thinking that there couldn’t possibly be anyone else in the world struggling like this, so we’d sound insane asking for help. The isolation really damaged our marriage. I’m glad she’s seeking out this blog and learning that she’s not alone in this issue. Oh, how I wish that I had known I wasn’t the only one when it was happening to us. And… When I finally talked to people about it, after everything was worked out, all sorts of people said, “Oh, yeah, it took us several days, weeks, months to be able to have sex after the wedding.” Seriously!!!???! Couldn’t we try to be a bit more honest with people about to get married? Now we share our experiences with anyone who asks, and we know for a fact that two other couples dealt with this issue and were benefitted by hearing our story.

    Reply
  13. Nick Peters

    Here’s one message I’d love to give to people who are virgins and about to marry.

    You know all those sex scenes you see on TV and in movies where the couple just eagerly rips each other’s clothes off and goes straight into it with no problem?

    Yeah. It’s not like that at all. Don’t get your ideas of sex from popular culture.

    Reply
  14. Louisa

    Another simple fix that may or may not help those out there is temperature. J has often said that a woman will have a hard time coming to orgasm if her feet are cold…I can relate to this. But my hubby will often lose all drive if he gets too hot. He also has a back injury which at times inhibits intimacy, but mostly we can work around that.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Wow, that’s so true! And you know, I should write a whole post about sex and temperature. (Because mine has changed lately with perimenopause, and it’s really messing with my focus in the moment. ; ) )

      Reply
  15. Anonymous on this one

    It was months and months before my husband was able to enter me. I had no experience, he was a widower, so I thought he would just ‘do it’. However, it wasn’t like that! My impression was that the man just pushed it in but that really isn’t enough. Being on top has helped. He is an older man and the biggest problem, though he seems unaware of it, is that he gets soft and I am actually just manually pushing the head in as far as I can get it. Sometimes he’ll tell me this makes him sore, and I can understand why! However, it’s been a learning experience and we’ve had a lot of fun and joy together (though I was puzzled in the beginning of our marriage and had no one to ask).

    Reply
  16. Stuart Tutt

    I believe you covered all the bases on this one J.

    I would recommend that he spends time taking in her beauty, touching and kissing her, as this will give him time to “NOT” think of performing right off the bat. If it is an anxiety issue of performance.

    If it porn and masturbation then yes…STOP! Both can wreck havoc on an erection.

    I will be praying for this couple as they work through this.

    Reply
  17. Mike

    You mentioned that every man will at one time or another have trouble maintaining an erection. As an older couple I lost my erection 25 years ago and had a sexless marriage until 2 years ago. I finally went to doctor who gave me testosterone. Then we tried Viagra, but that did not work. I was reading about a penis ring, and that helped keep an erection. Also, I tried a vacuum pump with the ring and that helped somewhat. I also have a vibrator, and at times I have to stimulate my prostate. It is a lot of work, time and effort to find solutions to a sex problem, but it is worth it in the end. My wife and I have the greatest sex of our lives.

    I just wish that I had sought out help earlier, because I missed out on 25 years of great sex. It is somewhat embarrassing to ask the doctor at first, but then I got comfortable talking to my wife and doctor about sex. The only other persons I talk to are you and a couple of other bloggers anonymously. It is difficult to bring up these problems at church, Bible Study, or in casual conversation.

    BTW there was not much help out there 25 years ago. It was not until about 15 years ago that you and others starting blogging about sexual problems and their solutions. So, keep up the good work! There are many of us “old dogs out there that need to learn new tricks.”

    Reply
  18. Pingback: My Favorite Feeling During Sex (And It’s Not Orgasm) | Hot, Holy & Humorous

  19. Paul Henry Byerly

    J – Great post! One other possiblitity is the man is fearful about hurting his wife. If he got the message that the first time is torure for a woman, he may be suconsiouly keeping himself from causing her this pain.

    Reply
  20. Anna

    We had the same issue. It took 4-5 days. For me it was a but painful when he entered and because i expected to be at least bearing i had to stop him. It still enteres quite hard even after 2 years. Sometimes it gets 1 min to have him fully entered. Not to mention for me there is not much pleasure in this… I still wonder if this is ok or not… But once he enteres quite slowly the first time and we want to change positions, the second time is so easy. This is how i would actually expected it to be from the first attempt of him entering me when we have love. Ia this normal?

    Reply
      1. Anna

        I was reffering that we as well, being newlyweds, experienced the fact that sex was not that easy. It took some days, as other people mentioned around here.regarding the 2nd part, I am not sure i have a problem or not. This is what a try to find out. Do any other women experience that the full entrance takes a long time because it feels so tight? Even after 2 years is still the same… We cannot have “passionate” sex because of all this:lubrication and entering slow very slow.

        Reply
        1. J Post author

          If you’re still that tight and it’s difficult, I would definitely talk to your doctor. You might be low on estrogen or have another hormonal or physiological issue.

          Reply
  21. Anon

    I would like to tell this woman she is not alone. Sex, after the wedding, can be tough, I’ve realised as a newlywed myself. In the first few months, this happened some times with hubby because it happened one time (for some unknown reason) and the time after he was worried about that. And the next time he would worry it happened 2 times. And so on… snowball effect. The same way it took him some patience some areas, it took me some patience, lots of encouraging words, reassurance that he was still very manly and attractive. I don’t know if that’s the case for her husband, but it could be.

    Reply

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