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The question

I've been dating a great guy for about three months. There has been some nervousness especially on his part in the sexual department after one night when it "didn't work" and so, although we have been intimate, he has been having a lot of anxiety when the situation comes up. I have asked him about his history with this and he seems to have not had much of a libido in the past. Despite this I feel a great chemistry between us - we are very affectionate with each other.

However, I was having a text conversation with my best friend with whom I share just about everything, and sent a text saying everything was great with him except he can't perform - only the text was accidentally sent to him!

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He has basically shut me out since then. He says he's not angry but needs some time to think, which I understand. Is there any hope for me in getting him back and gaining his trust? And as for the other thing … what should I do there?

The answer

Let's deal with this text-message thing first.

I've always felt that if a relationship is going to go anywhere, there's a crucial point in the early going where a transfer of loyalties is made: from you-and-your-friends-vs.-the-world to you-and-the-object-of-your-affection-vs.-the-world.

As a female friend of mine put it to me recently: "I knew I was serious about John [now her husband and the father of her child]when I stopped telling my friends about our sex life."

Let me tell you, we men appreciate when that happens.

Of course, I understand as well as anyone the need to "vent," and solve problems through talking about them with other people.

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But if you're serious about a potential romantic partner, then I believe that even if you have a best friend with whom you "share everything," you should draw a veil of tact and discretion over the events that occur beyond the entrance to your bedroom.

True for any relationship, in my humble opinion. But triply true in this case! Because the matter of which you have spoken, madam, is an extremely ticklish one for us men. You have no idea how ticklish! It goes to the very core of what it means to be a man, of our sense of self. We're supposed to be these hair-trigger horndogs, ready to go at the drop of a hat, anxious to do it with all the creatures in the vicinity, even if we're hanging upside down by our ankles, even if our hair's on fire, even if one of our limbs has been sheared off by flying shrapnel.

When something like what you've mentioned happens it becomes clear it might be a little more complicated - and we hate that!

Now, as a responsible advice columnist, I should mention that the object of your affection's problem could be a medical matter. It could be the side effect of drugs, alcoholism, medication, depression or another illness.

If you think this might be the case, obviously urge him (with whatever clout you may have at this point: maybe wait a little longer for him to finish licking his wounds) to seek medical help, post-haste.

But let's assume for the moment it's a garden-variety case of limpus noodleitis .

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The first thing you need to know is: It happens, to just about every man. The second thing is: You shouldn't take it personally.

In fact, the times it happened to me (back in my bachelor days), it was more often than not with the women I was most attracted to, interested in and serious about.

And I would just stare in amazement at this mysterious, mercurial and, upon this occasion, non-performing organ and think: "Really? After all the stray promptings, demonic urgings and tyrannical, terrorist-like demands, you're going to choose now to play possum? What are you doing to me?"

The penis is an organ of mystery, surprise and occasional horror for its owners, ladies. "The heart wants what the heart wants," Woody Allen once said, with a shrug (defending his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn). How doubly, triply true of the little generalissimo, the rogue dachshund, the 21st digit that rages and fumes in a man's pants!

If this is indeed a garden-variety form of non-performance, what you need to do is create an atmosphere of non-judgment.

If you are able to lure this fellow back between the sheets, create a comfort zone of non-pressure and non-performance. Establish an atmosphere of security, cuddling and snuggling under the duvet.

Don't even talk about sex. Just "fool around" until he comes around. Be sexy. Tease him a little. I'm sorry if it sounds sexist and retrograde, but many of us men like to pursue that which retreats from us (as do many of you ladies, I believe), that which twirls and laughs and offers glimpses and flashes of the naughty treats in store for us if we succeed.

Also, assure him there will be no further discussions, with anyone, via phone, e-mail, text, or what have you, of what happens between you two in intimate moments.

Do all this, and soon enough I predict (barring some serious medical issue), his little generalissimo will salute at the mere sound of your voice on the phone.

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad. Damage Control, the book, will be published in the spring of 2010.

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