Support for Men with ED – Interview

Jennifer interviews Robert, a prostate cancer survivor dealing with erectile dysfunction, about his treatment and the support he has received from his doctor and his coach.

20:00 minutes



Jennifer Stephan is an Intimacy Coach hell bent on moving people forward so that they can have a better quality of life. Yes, she is certified in coaching from a reputable establishment. She truly believes that intimacy is a blending of mind, body and soul. Communication is also key. She is a tiny tornado seeking to destroy sexual barriers, unlock the doors for those that feel shame and defender of rights for all.


Resources for men dealing with Erectile Dysfunction

Read Robert’s guest article, Sex After Prostate Cancer

Erectile Dysfunction and Sex

You have questions, many of them. Not just questions but feelings and you have no idea who to ask or where to look for help. Your main focus was recovering from surgery, survival because let’s face it that is instinctual. Your questions range from “When will I get an erection” to “Will I ever get an erection again” to “How do I have sex without an erection” and many in-between questions.

It easy for others to tell you it is just a matter of time or that there are drugs that can “help”. The fact of the matter is that there has been a very real change that has occurred with your body. You have a right to be worried, angry and confused. It is also important to understand that there are things you can do to improve your situation. Like all things in life there are steps to go through. The first one is understanding that this is happening to you. Everyone experiences it differently but you are not alone. The second is understanding that you are a sexual being.

It is not unusual for people to confuse sex and sexuality, intimacy with the need to want to have intercourse. Sex and intimacy are difficult for most people to discuss. As a society we have decided we will only talk about it behind closed doors. We find it difficult to talk about it with our partners, friends and often our doctors. Often it becomes a taboo subject therefore making us feel ashamed.If you are a man that has had prostate cancer, has a heart condition, diabetes or takes medication you understand that erectile dysfunction can be a very real problem that effects many aspects of your life. Your relationships, how you view yourself, and how you interact with the outside world.  For many men it isn’t even something discussed with their medical professional prior to treatment. It comes as a complete surprise leaving them feeling ambushed.

As human beings we all desire human contact. Understand that regardless of what has happened you are still capable of intimacy as well as sexual gratification. Sex is the actual act of intercourse. Sexuality is the mind and soul. It is your ability to be fluid in your body. You are not just a single part, but a whole being.   Therefore you are capable of many things. While your penis may not be erect you are still able to feel sensations and will enjoy being touched and stroked. You are also capable of stimulating your partner.

Intimacy is communicating. It is sharing thoughts and ideas. It is creating an environment in which you feel safe to share your body, mind and soul. It can be an incredible experience to allow yourself to be that vulnerable. So how do you do all of this? It takes an open mind. It takes hard work and a willingness to explore.

For men with ED issues there are options. I am sure you have researched them in depth but for those of you that haven’t.

  • Viagra/Cialis
  • Suppositories
  • A pump specifically designed for men with ED
  • Injections
  • Penile Implants

There are also counselors, therapists and coaches that specialize in sexuality. It is important to find someone that you feel comfortable with and that understands your needs. There are also many forums and discussion groups online where you may find some support and find a community of like-minded men.

I am not here to blow smoke up your ass. It is a long journey and not an easy one. What you have been through is difficult and the changes suck. Men in particular often are overlooked when it comes to things of this nature. It is a big deal and I get it. The road is long but believe when I tell you that there are things you can do and you are a sexual beast. If you have come this far then nothing can stop you now. Things are going to be different but that doesn’t mean it won’t be incredible.

If you are experiencing ED start being sexual with yourself now. Let your thoughts wander and appreciate your body. If you feel comfortable ask your partner to explore with you. Don’t put pressure on yourself for anything else. Just start there and enjoy your thoughts and take it from there. It is a journey, one step at a time.

Jennifer Stephan is an Intimacy Coach hell bent on moving people forward so that they can have a better quality of life. Yes, she is certified in coaching from a reputable establishment. She truly believes that intimacy is a blending of mind, body and soul. Communication is also key. She is a tiny tornado seeking to destroy sexual barriers, unlock the doors for those that feel shame and defender of rights for all.


Resources for men dealing with Erectile Dysfunction

Reclaiming Intimacy after a Major Life Change

You are a male and you have a penis. Let’s assume you have had said penis since birth for arguments sake and the purpose of the article. Everything you know about sexual intercourse, intimacy and pleasure of a sexual nature is in some manner tied up in your penis. This is not an accusation. It is an appendage that you have touched, that has been touched, that has been stimulated throughout the years and let’s be honest, has brought you as well as others great pleasure.

You have aged and now found yourself in a place where there is a possibility your health has affected you. Possibly a heart condition, prostate cancer, diabetes or an accident. There is a great deal of information on these conditions. Medical doctors that can treat you and aid you in recovery. Yet there are after effects of these conditions that linger. I am not a doctor but I do know that intimacy and the information needed to relearn intimacy are necessary in order to have a better quality of life.

How does one deal with something of such magnitude when they are already vulnerable? It is a very difficult situation and not one to be taken lightly. So much has already occurred and now there are more challenges ahead. Understanding that you are not alone, that there is help for you is essential. I realize it is frustrating to have had surgery or have had something happen to you beyond your control and have to face such a daunting task but you are worth it and should know that everything you want is possible if you are willing to make it happen.

It is possible to have a warm, crazy, loving relationship filled with passion and erotic moments. It is just a matter of being patient with yourself and letting go of what was, so that you can enjoy what can and will be.

Intimacy is far more than the connecting of bodies but we have been conditioned to believe that. Men are taught from an early age their penis is a symbol of vitality and masculinity. It is what makes them a man. Sperm is released through the penis, it is how they procreate. So what happens if your penis is no longer viable? Intercourse is but one way to connect. In many cases men that have been treated for prostate cancer are no longer able to achieve an erection. Yet they are still capable of feeling arousal and achieving an orgasm. Is it the same as ejaculating in the typical fashion? No, there is no semen, no erection, but there is pleasure.

It is necessary to relearn the art of intimacy. Touch, communication, to be open to exploring new options. Understand that like all things it takes a commitment and a willingness to achieve what it is you want.

In the case or prostate cancer as well as other conditions there are some options that can improve one’s sexual life. There are penial implants. It is a relatively short surgery in which an inflatable device is placed in your penis and scrotum. It can take four to six weeks to heal and antibiotics will most likely be necessary. Oral medications such as Viagra, Cialis or Levitra can be prescribed as well. Other options include a vacuum device that is used a few times a day to help the blood flow in the penis. Another option is a medication injected into the side or tip of your penis allowing the blood to be trapped and thus maintaining an erection.

Yet all I have given you so far are facts you could have gotten yourself. What I want to give you is more. I want to give you hope. I want to give you the skills and ability to see and feel things in a different way. To have the courage to acknowledge that yes, your body has changed yet you have the ability to feel deep passion and intimacy regardless of all else. That you have survived something that could have been tragic and yet here you are. Producing sperm does not in fact make you a man but is just a physical by product of arousal. You can still be aroused and feel pleasure as well as climax.

When you touch yourself or someone else, do it with renewed life. Don’t just touch, feel. Allow that feeling to enter you. You can feel warmth, you can feel the way another body or even your own reacts to touch. That is the beginning. It is allowing yourself to absorb everything. Understanding yourself will allow you to share with a partner. Climaxing was never what came out of you, it was always about what was in you, the feelings that were created, but we are so conditioned to pay attention to the outer that we lose site of the inner.

Do you want to be intimate? Do you want to find sexual satisfaction? If so are you willing to explore other options in order to achieve sexual satisfaction? You didn’t ask to be put in this situation but here you are and you need to decide how you are going to handle it.

Jennifer Stephan is an Intimacy Coach hell bent on moving people forward so that they can have a better quality of life. Yes, she is certified in coaching from a reputable establishment. She truly believes that intimacy is a blending of mind, body and soul. Communication is also key. She is a tiny tornado seeking to destroy sexual barriers, unlock the doors for those that feel shame and defender of rights for all.

Sex after Prostate Cancer

I am a prostate cancer survivor.

My story is unusual. After my diagnosis, I underwent radiation treatment, which failed to eliminate the cancer. Few surgeons will attempt to remove the prostate after radiation, because the treatment creates scar tissue that makes the surgery very difficult.

Fortunately, I found an excellent surgeon, Dr. Jonathan Eandi, who has performed several “salvage” prostatectomies, and was willing to undertake the procedure. The surgery went very well. Now, with the help of my partner, I am recovering and dealing with the side effects.

Before my surgery, Dr. Eandi spent a lot of time discussing the side effects (and they are so severe that I seriously considered not having the surgery). A diagnosis of cancer is very scary, and it’s hard to digest all the information and make good decisions.

I was very fortunate that my partner was with me throughout the process. Because I was so stressed, I often didn’t hear or forgot what my doctor said. By coming to the appointments, she was able to able to understand all our options, and remind me of things the doctor said.

Unfortunately, based on my reading, most doctors do not adequately prepare their patients and their partners for the full impact of the surgery, making the effects all the more difficult to deal with.

The Impact of Prostate Cancer Treatment on Your Sex Life

The effects of a prostatectomy are apparent immediately after surgery, while the effects of radiation treatment may occur months or years later, as cells continue to die from the radiation exposure. In either case, the effects can be severe, and may include:

  • Incontinence (uncontrolled leaking of urine)
  • Erectile Dysfunction (the complete inability to get an erection, even with oral medication)
  • Shrinking of the penis (in both flaccid and erect states)
  • Inability to have orgasms

Without proper care and treatment these conditions can become permanent, and even in the best case, recovery can take 6-24 months.

In my own case, I’ve experienced incontinence and ED. It’s important to realize that these conditions are not permanent, and there are treatment options. It’s also important to discuss these issues with your partner, and have his or her support.

Sadly, very few doctors are trained in “sexual rehabilitation” – once the cancer is treated, they consider their job done. Even when sexual rehabilitation treatment is available, there is usually no psychological support, and patients often suffer from anxiety and depression.

If you are facing or have recently undergone prostate cancer treatment, I strongly recommend that you find a urologist who specializes in sexual health and rehabilitation, and a coach or counselor to provide support to you (and your partner).

In the following sections, I’m going to tell you a little bit about the side effects, and treatment options. You’re going to want to know a lot more, so Jennifer has provide some resources for further reading.

Incontinence after Prostate Cancer

Following prostate cancer treatment, you will probably experience urinary leaking. Right after surgery, this may be a pretty constant flow. After time, it will decrease, and will probably only happen when there is physical pressure, which could include standing up / sitting down, coughing, lifting things, etc.

Urinary leaking can also happen during sex, which can have a big psychological impact on you and your partner.
For most men, incontinence lasts 6-12 months.

Practical Advice

  • To recovery as quickly as possible, practice Kegel exercises several times each day. Some doctors recommend starting two weeks before your surgery.
  • To deal with leakage, I recommend Depends Real Fit incontinence briefs for men. These briefs look and feel much like regular underwear. The built-in absorbent pads will wick away urine without feeling wet.
  • Remember that urine does not contain bacteria and isn’t a health problem.

Erectile Dysfunction after Prostate Cancer

After prostate cancer treatment, most men (like me) will experience the complete inability to get an erection, even with oral medications like Viagra or Cialis.

Initially this is due to damage to the nerves that trigger erections. Even with “nerve sparing” surgery, the nerves will be bruised and damaged, and recovery will take six to twenty-four months.

But this isn’t the only problem. The erectile tissues in the penis – the tissues that become engorged with blood – actually require blood flow to stay healthy. This blood flow comes from regular erections (most men have 2 or 3 erections while sleeping each night). Without this regular blood flow, the erectile tissues will be permanently damaged. In other words, if you can’t have an erection, you may permanently lose the ability to have a normal erection.

Finally, there is a psychological “catch 22.” Men who have problems achieving erections experience stress, which releases adrenaline… and adrenaline relaxes the erectile tissues, making it impossible to achieve or maintain an erection.

For most of us, the ability to get an erection is central to our sense of masculinity. Although there are treatment options for ED, it’s very hard to avoid feelings of inadequacy and depression. I am fortunate to have a very understanding partner to talk to, and we are working together to find ways to maintain our sex life. If you’re not comfortable talking with your partner about these issues, it’s important to get help from an intimacy coach or counselor.

Practical Advice

  • There isn’t much that can be done to hasten nerve healing, but it’s very important to prevent long-term damage to erectile tissues. Studies have shown that taking a small daily dose of erection-enhancing medications (Viagra, Cialis, Levitra) will produce enough blood flow to preserve healthy tissue. Another option is to use a penile injection of a drug like alprostadil to produce an erection at least three times per week.
  • It’s important to understand that complete erectile function may never return, but most men will eventually be able to produce an erection with a full dose of Viagra or similar drugs. In the event that this can’t be achieved, you may need to consider options such as regular penile injections, a vacuum pump, or a penile implant.
  • Whether used short-term or long-term, many men find that they are able to achieve a serviceable erection using a vacuum pump device. This certainly takes the spontaneity away from sex, and I can state from personal experience that the use of a pump can be uncomfortable or even painful – though not all men experience problems. I recommend the Pos-T-Vac manual vacuum pump. It’s inexpensive, and the manual pump gives you more control than electric pump models.
  • Sexual rehabilitation coaching or counseling may be needed, for you and your partner, to reduce stress and feelings of depression, and to encourage intimacy during your recovery process.

Shrinking of the Penis after Prostate Cancer

Several studies have shown that following treatment for prostate cancer, even after recovery, the size of a man’s erection may be smaller. Surgery does not directly cause this, so doctors believe that it’s due to damage to the erectile tissue.

Practical Advice

  • Maintaining blood flow in the penis preserves healthy erectile tissue, and is believed to prevent shrinking of the penis.
  • Regular use of a penile extender traction device (several hours per day over a period of months) has been shown to maintain or even increase both the flaccid and erect length of the penis.

Lack of Ejaculation (“dry” orgasms)

Two organs – the prostate and the surrounding seminal vesicles – produce the semen that is ejaculated during the male orgasm. When these organs are surgically removed, or damaged by radiation, no semen is produced. Men can still experience an orgasm, but no “ejaculate” will be produced.

For some men a so-called dry orgasm does not feel as satisfying (though a small number of men say that orgasms are more intense after treatment for prostate cancer).

In other cases the lack of ejaculate can be psychologically damaging.

The lack of semen production is permanent; there is no treatment for this condition.

Inability to Have Orgasms

Many men are surprised to find that they are able to stimulate the penis and achieve an orgasm even without an erection. This can be a good way to preserve a sexual connection with a partner.

However, some men find that they are unable to have an orgasm, even if they achieve an erection using oral medicine, injections, or vacuum pumps.

There is no physical reason that prostate cancer treatment should prevent orgasms, but there is a great deal of psychological stress for most men. Overcoming a lack of orgasms will therefore require counseling or coaching.

Treatment Options

As described above, restoring the ability to have an erection depends on maintaining blood flow through the use of low-dose oral medications or injections. It’s important to start this soon after your cancer treatment, and continue with daily doses.

In the interim – and possibly permanently – options for achieving erections include penile injections and vacuum pumps. I personally found the vacuum pump to be uncomfortable, and it did not give me a satisfactory erection.  I have started using an injection of “bi-mix,” prescribed by my doctor, and I’m pleased with the results.

If erectile function cannot be restored, it is possible to surgically implant a device that can be inflated (using a small pump in the scrotum) to achieve an erection.

The important thing to remember is that there are options to restore your erectile functions, although it may take some time. You should also explore ways to achieve sexual intimacy with your partner without having an erection. This is another area where sex therapy or coaching can help.


The side effects of prostate cancer treatments – both physical and psychological – can have a severe impact on your sex life and intimate relationships. There are treatments and techniques that can greatly improve your recovery process, but it’s important to understand that it will take time and effort.

Studies have shown significant benefit from early steps, such as the use of low-dose oral medications, penile injections, or vacuum pump therapy.

Most men (and their partners) will need advice, support, and counseling that are not usually available from urologists or other medical practitioners.

Coaching or counseling will help you to:

  • Understand options and find resources to help
  • Keep a positive outlook and avoid depression.
  • Stick with your recovery program and exercises.
  • Communicate with your partner and have an active and intimate sex life during your recovery and after.

If you’d like to explore how coaching can help you and your partner, please contact Jennifer.


I know my worth, and I haven’t always been able to say that.

My value isn’t in the external. My value is the man I am inside. It’s my ability to grow and to change, my enormous capacity for love, my supportive and encouraging nature, a generally positive outlook, and a tenacity in achieving my goals.
There have been times in my life when I’ve lost sight of these attributes. It happens to all of us. We get sidetracked with careers or goals or other ambitions. We work to climb the corporate ladder, get a bigger house or a nicer car of whatever else it is that motivates us.

Today, I’m thinking a lot about my worth and value, and I’ve been reminded that I’m doing things right. Oddly enough, the reminder that I’m doing things right is that there are some challenges to navigate.

I made a conscious decision several months ago to change some things in my life. And while I got thrown some curveballs in the process, I know how to navigate the temporary frustrations to get to where I know I want to go.

It’s almost funny to look at myself in the mirror and recognize this attitude. I lost it a while ago, and it took me doing some things for and by myself to regain this confidence. But seeing it here, I can easily fall back on my experiences to know how and why I feel this way.

Not that long ago, I had a successful career working for the Federal Govt. I was married, had a young son, a house, a yard, an honest-to-god picket fence, and a dog. I had two cars in the driveway, and I was putting myself through college. I was living a kind of American Dream, but it wasn’t _mine._ Still, I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish at that point. It’s amazing, thinking back on it.

But I had the courage to take a leap of faith and pursue a very different dream. As my marriage dissolved, I moved to California for grad school. I got an MFA in creative writing, began a new career as a college professor, and moved to a rural mountain-top retreat. When I was immersed in the earlier married life, there’s no way I could Have forecast the life that was waiting for me. I’d have scoffed if you’d told me I could have the life I’m living now.

And right now, the life I have is so much happier than anything I could have imagined. On the way here, I’ve had a lot of turns, and I have to say they’re positive, because they lead me to this point. There were periods in which I wanted for nothing materially. I lived with a multimillionaire and by all accounts had no worries. But I wasn’t fulfilled. It’s nice to not have to worry about some things, but if I’m unhappy or lonely, what’s the point of that lack of material worry? I’ve also been on the other end of that spectrum, struggling to make ends meet. While the latter can be challenging, it’s really more of a temporary frustration.

I know how to get back out in front, having done it a couple times in my life already. It’s easier when I know what I want and what I won’t compromise.

And that confidence comes from my childhood. We mimic what we see, And we’re comfortable when we find things that recall our formative experiences. My family is deeply flawed, but I never doubted that I as loved. In fact, love was the foundation of everything we had. We were dirt poor, but I didn’t know that. I worked with my dad in the garden every day. We went fishing and hunting and camping. My mom was always cooking and canning and baking. My parents read me stories every night.

There was no TV, so we played games. During the days, I was outside. I was active and encouraged to be creative. And when my parents separated, they ended up getting remarried to each other a few months later.

I learned that material things are nice, but they don’t last. What matters are the people in our lives; genuine people who care and support. I learned the pleasure of giving that care and support in return.

  • I learned to value real, personal interaction.
  • I learned to value forgiveness.
  • I learned to value love, both giving and receiving it.
  • I learned to value hard work and perseverance.
  • I learned to value connection.
  • I learned to value working together.
  • I learned to value growth.

All those things that I loved were the product of us not having alternatives. We gardened because we couldn’t afford to go to the grocery store for everything. Mom cooked the way she did and canned to stretch things longer. We bonded because we couldn’t afford distractions. And we relied on each other because what mattered most …what we truly valued, and knew would last… were the bonds we shared.

The truth is that there always will be challenges to face. What matters is not letting ego or pride get in the way of leaning on the people who genuinely care about me. What matters is showing up and being present. What matters is my positive attitude and belief that things will always work out for the best; that challenges are temporary. What matters is staying open and loving and supportive. What matters is keeping this great big heart vulnerable and open both to giving and to receiving the love it deserves.

Life is hard sometimes, but I’m up to the challenge. I’ve worked hard to be able to say that. And I feel good being able to recognize the man I truly am. I may have challenges to face and overcome, but there is joy and strength in doing the hard work necessary to do just that. So today, I’m grateful when there are struggles. It means I’m doing things right, and I’m on the right path. My eyes are open, and so is my heart. And I’m proud of who and what I am.

Robert F. James is a lecturer in creative writing at San Jose State University. He’s been a professional writer his entire adult life, and his writings primarily focus on the challenges of modern masculinity. He lives on a small hobby farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, where he raises chickens, rabbits, and ducks while managing a small garden. He’s been a Sailor, a pastor, a television and radio personality, and a professional piercer. His eclectic background lends itself to an exploratory aspect of his writing. His work is an authentic reflection of the issues he puzzles over on a daily basis, and he spends a good deal of time outdoors to process them. A large herd of deer on the property seem to respond favorably to his ramblings.

Why We Fight

Once upon a time, I fell in love.

And god, she was beautiful: tall, long-legged, and an amazing sense of humor. Her red hair was the color of a sunset, and falling asleep in her arms was heaven.

The problem was she was my mother, so marrying her and spending the rest of my life with her was a long shot. So that meant I had to find “the one” on my own. The problem is that I was never convinced there was “one” out there for me. Simple statistics means it’s pretty improbably that out of all the billions of people on the planet, there is only one who is ultimately compatible with me, and I’m on some sort of search for her.

It’s like Quest for Fire, only for a girlfriend.

So, I came up with an analogy for what I was doing with my approach. Because of everything I was doing, the one thing I didn’t want to do was to waste time in dead-end relationship or dating women who just weren’t right for me. I’m thankful for all my experiences, but I was always a little goal oriented. So I imagined that each date I went on, each failed relationship, was analogous to me painting a portrait of the woman I’d fall in love with.

Each person in my life added a brush stroke or two to the portrait.

And I figured that if I had enough brush strokes on the canvas, then I’d recognize her when I saw her. That’s a great romantic ideal, but I’m not sure that analogy makes much sense, either. But what it did do was give me something to think about when it came time for me to decide “do I stay and fight for this, or is it time to pull up stakes and go?”

How on Earth do I know when to fight for something?

You know, there really are two answers to that question: macro and micro. I’ll start with the first.

what-is-worth-fighting-forExperience showed me who was worth fighting for and who I could cut loose. That sounds mercenary, but it’s certainly true. By knowing what I truly want (through trial and error), I was able to know when it was time to divorce my first wife. I was able to know when it was time to move out from living with a woman who was perfectly fine and safe and stable, but not at all a person who would allow me to grow and be the man I wanted to be. And it allowed me to not go chasing after a woman I cared deeply for, but who dumped me after a few months because she was scared of commitment.

It also allowed me to stick it out with some relationships that might have ended too soon had I not know it was someone worth fighting for. Because the truth is, not every relationship is for a lifetime, but each relationship has something to teach me, and I want to make sure I’m there long enough to learn my lesson. That also sounds mercenary, and it isn’t. If I back off and just focus on being in the moment, then I’m not worried about the long-term. I’m here and I’m present. It helps me recognize when I’m good, and it helps me recognize when things are off. And when things are off for enough “moments,” I am confident enough to not fight for something that isn’t healthy for me.

Last night, I asked my partner what she thought of that question: How do you know what to fight for, and her answer surprised me. She said simply that if she met someone new, she was looking at his entire life; wondering if she could picture herself folded into his life.

To illustrate the point, she used the example of her ex. In this case, he is someone whose life revolves around counterculture events like Burning Man. He hosts house parties where alcohol is the centerpiece. And wine and fine dining are the cornerstones of his life. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, other than the fact that my partner is sober. So when she looked at her ex and saw the life he leads and the social circle he’s constructed, there simply isn’t room for her in it. There’s not a logic to weaving herself into that existence.

So that’s the macro. Is it worth fighting for? There’s no real formula, but it starts with knowing yourself enough to know what you want and how you would fit in with a potential partner. The more yesses that appear, the more worth the fight it really is. And ironically, that’s how I’ve managed to stay fighting for my partner, through her own battle for sobriety and personal growth. I can see a future with her. Is it my only future? Absolutely not. But I like the one that could develop. And that makes that life well worth the effort right now.

But that still leaves the day-to-day decisions about what is worth fighting for and what is worth walking away from. And one of the easiest things I do is to just stop and think before I speak. When a situation arises, such as her using something to push me away or to create distance, I stop and really question my motives.

Is this something that really has to be said?

Is it something that has to be said right now?

Am I the person who needs to be the one to say it?

Those three questions have saved me so much hassle and headache. Because when I start worrying about saying the things that aren’t necessary to say, or that aren’t required for me to be the one to say them, then I avoid the unnecessary conflicts when I’m just trying to be right, prove a point, or convince her of something. Rather than jumping into speech, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut, which is a tall order for someone who makes a living with words.

But it’s a lesson important enough not only to learn, but also to practice. And if you think about it, I have time to think about it day in and day out, not only in my romantic relationships, but also in my platonic interactions. I can’t describe how much I’ve alleviated stress just by learning to listen rather than trying to solve every problem around me. And I got there by finally admitting that not everything is my responsibility. Absolved from problem-solving duties, I am free to let other people fix their own problems, which means far fewer disagreements and arguments.

When there is an argument, I’m much likelier to be expending that energy on an issue that is truly important, such as figuring out a budget, or expressing my emotional needs or wants, or deciding who is doing dishes that night. The big stuff like that.

In the end, it’s down to the individual to decide how to manage the fight instinct. But management is healthier for everyone involved. And that kind of peace of mind along with less conflict is something truly invaluable.

Robert F. James is a lecturer in creative writing at San Jose State University. He’s been a professional writer his entire adult life, and his writings primarily focus on the challenges of modern masculinity. He lives on a small hobby farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, where he raises chickens, rabbits, and ducks while managing a small garden. He’s been a Sailor, a pastor, a television and radio personality, and a professional piercer. His eclectic background lends itself to an exploratory aspect of his writing. His work is an authentic reflection of the issues he puzzles over on a daily basis, and he spends a good deal of time outdoors to process them. A large herd of deer on the property seem to respond favorably to his ramblings.


I remember the heady days of high school when I was first able to “date” on my own. Let’s face it, having a car or at least a license to borrow mom and dad’s opened up a whole new world. Rides to school. The hallway meetings hurrying between classes. The long lunches spent cuddling up and making out. It was all about connection. I certainly had no real social graces when it came to dating. I did what everyone did: dinner and a movie.

Dinner usually consisted of fast food.

Movie was whatever was starting at 7.

The funny thing is, I don’t remember any of the movies I saw during that time when I was out on dates. The movie was just the excuse. We wanted to be together. We wanted to be connected. And that last word is something that I tend to forget in the midst of my more “mature” relationships.

There’s all this amazing chemistry at the outset of a relationship. “New Relationship Energy.” It’s great being in this kind of honeymoon phase. It feels like it felt in high school. But unlike in high school, there’s all this other stuff that I have to pay attention to. I have to get up and go to work. I have to take care of my home. I have to pay my bills, fix my car, and keep up my obligations and appointments. Time is a commodity, and it doesn’t take long for life to take over from the rapture of being with someone new.

Unfortunately, though, chemistry isn’t connection. And chemistry, while it can always be present, isn’t the same as being grounded together and fostering that deepening bond. Also unfortunately is the fact that somewhere along the line, we stop being satisfied with just spending time together. I, for one, start relying on things that are more monetary in nature. I’ll send flowers. Or maybe I’ll take her out for dinner. And while those things are nice, they’re different from the things that are connecting.

Going to dinner is fine, but it doesn’t always have to be something extravagant. What about cooking dinner for her instead? What about making sure she has the things she likes always on hand? Try being attentive, because I get much more mileage out of genuine presence than I do the “things” I give to her.

It’s time.

And more than that, it’s quality time.

The things that stand out most for her? The days we went to the beach and just laid there watching the waves come in. Hours we sat there. We laughed. We talked. And it created an easy kind of rhythm for the afternoon, even giving us the opportunity to joke about the windburn we shared, or how much we had to pee by the time the afternoon was over!

There was a time we went hiking, and on a whim, I’d bought a dollar thing of bubbles. And we walked with her using the wand and blowing bubbles the entire time. She wasn’t in the best of moods when we first started. But it sure didn’t take long for things to get fun and silly and lighthearted; for her mood to ease, and for the afternoon to dissolve into tenderness. Because bubbles make everything fun. Go ahead. Tell me I’m wrong.

It’s funny. The things I enjoyed most as a kid: going for walks, playing games, watching movies, getting ice cream, sitting by the fire and making s’mores, going to the beach, or just hopping in the car and driving with no destination: those are the things that are some of the most enjoyable memories I have now as an adult.

Connecting starts with a foundation of time. And that requires both people to make time. Especially when both of us are busy, we make sure we make dates. We start talking about it days ahead of time. And sure, there’s sexual tension. We both enjoy each other sexually, and we talk about it as a way to amp up the tension. We send each other pictures and text messages, egging each other on. But it’s not just about showing up for the physical intimacy. It’s making time and just being present without some sort of agenda or routine.

Robert F. James is a lecturer in creative writing at San Jose State University. He’s been a professional writer his entire adult life, and his writings primarily focus on the challenges of modern masculinity. He lives on a small hobby farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, where he raises chickens, rabbits, and ducks while managing a small garden. He’s been a Sailor, a pastor, a television and radio personality, and a professional piercer. His eclectic background lends itself to an exploratory aspect of his writing. His work is an authentic reflection of the issues he puzzles over on a daily basis, and he spends a good deal of time outdoors to process them. A large herd of deer on the property seem to respond favorably to his ramblings.

When We Close the Door to Happiness

The attraction is there. You’re certain of it. It’s a palpable, tangible, absolute force. Every single part of you wants to connect.

Smart. Attractive. Compassionate. You been waiting months, years—perhaps your entire life—to connect with someone who has all the attributes you’ve been looking for. Thrilled doesn’t begin to describe how you’re feeling. You’re over the moon. Ecstatic. It’s as if you just heard your heartbeat for the first time. You’re Dorothy opening your door to a world of color.

Then you slam the door closed. No rhyme nor reason.

“It’s not going to work,” you tell yourself. “It’s just not going to work.”

How many times have you cheated yourself of happiness? How many people have been left gazing upon that door? A door that represents fear, lies, anger, pain and causes others to doubt themselves and their ability to love?

How many nights have you lain awake in bed, once again alone, remembering moments spent together? Laughing, talking, sharing and creating something that could last forever? You start to rationalize, tell yourself it was better to end it before it became to serious, this way you won’t get to invested, less chance of being hurt.

They didn’t have the same political views you did; you really didn’t understand their religious choices. You couldn’t stand the thought of getting up early to listen to the birds or climbing mountains just doesn’t appeal to you. Maybe someone better will come along. You start to come up with every excuse possible and yet there is still that dull ache residing within your heart.

You want to move forward yet here you are, always in the same exact place. Your Yellow brick road will never lead you to Oz. Have you truly asked yourself why? Is it always the other person’s fault? Are you a blamer? Do you blame yourself in ways that still allow yourself to hold yourself back because they allow you to hide behind your fear? Do you use what you consider to be your shortcomings as an excuse to terminate relationships before they have had a chance to begin?

“We all build walls.” It is an age old, time worn excuse. We want to protect ourselves from harm. The ache that seems as if it will never leave us when we lose someone that we thought would always be with us. We forget the moments we smiled and laughed. All we remember is the pain, the fact that they are gone. We promise ourselves we will never love again. We literally are willing to deny ourselves this indescribable pleasure because of fear.

From the moment we are conceived we are connected to another. There is a heartbeat not belonging to us that echo’s through our very being. It is that connection, that intimacy we go throughout life wanting. That miraculous sound assures us that we are not alone, that we do not have to face our fears without someone beside us. We are created to be connected, so we search for that connection.

Men and women alike need and want love and intimacy. We see it everywhere we go. The thing is love isn’t like it is in the movies and we expect it to be all about us. Love me the way I want to be loved, when I want to be loved. Love can be messy and difficult but there is a beauty in that and it brings strength and courage and takes commitment and passion.

It is complicated and complicated dictates messy at times. This is when you need to know how to communicate with one another and realize that if this is what you want you are going to have to put energy, time and thought into this relationship. So that first moment, when you thought, “This person is perfect for me” well, you are going to have to keep those reasons alive.

Remember the reason why you fell in love, their smile, the stupid jokes, the way they looked at you and you forgot to breathe, when they stood by you when everything was falling apart. When you begin to put that wall up or want to push them away you are going to have to ask yourself, “Can I walk away from this person?” What can I offer this person? Tell yourself that you can and do love this person the way they deserve to be loved and that you are worthy of the love they give you in return.

Love doesn’t have rules. There is no handbook that will tell you what to do and how to do it. You are going to have to get in there and feel!

Being with another person is wanting them to be happy, it’s being willing to take risks. That doesn’t mean you push your happiness aside or stop being who you are it means you take the time to know them, the first thought in your head isn’t me or I. You begin to realize that their happiness and well-being is an extension of your own.

Don’t shut the door to your own happiness. Don’t allow fear to rule your heart. Follow your Yellow brick road with an open mind, open heart and a willingness to truly experience what love has to offer. Love yourself deeply, love another with all you are and know that regardless of the outcome nothing is more painful than not knowing what could have been.

What’s the Difference Between a Coach, a Mentor, and a Therapist?

Recently I was at an event and someone asked me “What do you do?”

Excitedly I said, “I am a coach!”

I had his attention.

“That’s awesome! What kind of team do you coach?”

This was my big moment, I moved in a little closer and said “I coach Team Human Kind.”

He had no idea what to say but I had a few minutes to explain. I am a Relationship Coach. I help people to create outcomes for themselves by setting goals, intentions, and accountability. Coaching is action-based and focused on the future.

Now you may be asking yourself how this differs from Therapy.

A therapist helps to heal the hurt from the past. They will delve into the dysfunction of relationships and your past and resolve any issues that may be preventing you from moving forward. Therapists are medically trained to help with psychological issues and help people to function in a heathier way. A therapist can make a diagnosis and give advice.

A coach is typically involved with a client that is looking toward the future. We work with specific action oriented outcomes helping them initiate change on a personal or professional level to reach what it is they consider to be their objective. We do not offer advice nor do we offer medical opinions unless we feel a client should speak with a medical professional.

A mentor is someone who advises based on their own expertise and experience. They give advice and guide and may also coach. As a coach we do not advise, our primary focus is our client’s agenda. We provide support and help create structure based on what the client’s wants and needs are.

Consultants can differ but typically a consultant will be called in to determine what the issue is. They will either offer suggestions on how to fix the problem or implement a solution. A coach on the other hand gives the client the means to discover the solution within themselves by providing them with the tools necessary for self-discovery.

A sports coach! I love this one because I am a huge football fan! A sports coach is an expert in their field. They know what you have to do and when you have to do it. They strive for excellence, precision, dedication. Their focus is solely on their team or an individual. A sports coach controls the players with calls, rules and regulations. A coach, whether it be a relationship, sports, corporate, health, wellness etc. coach only ever has the client’s agenda in the forefront of its mind. As coaches we know that no one knows our clients like they know themselves.

So what do you want to look for in a coach? Look for a coach that is accredited.

Do your research. Many coaches will offer a thirty minute free consultation, take it!


Clearing Obstacles

A few weeks ago, a violent windstorm tore through the mountains where I live. I spent a good portion of my day clearing downed limbs and debris from the drive. The trail, where I walk each day and meditate was particularly hard hit. About a mile and a half in, a massive oak had fallen across the path, blocking it.

The first time I walked the path, I got to the tree and turned around. After all, there was an obstacle in my path.

The second time I walked the trail, I found a way around it. On one side, the drop off was too steep, and there was no way to cross. But up on the hillside by the root ball, I could scale up and over. It wasn’t easy. And I returned the same way.

It wasn’t until the third time walking the trail that I realized I could just step over the tree. It really wasn’t that tall. I just saw it as an obstacle, and it felt like the way around had to be more complicated. When I did step over it, I laughed at myself.

There’s a couple I see walking the trail from time to time. I don’t know their names, but they always smile and say good morning and ask how I’m doing. We are never walking in the same direction, so we only have time for one joke. I say something my dad would say: “We should pack a picnic lunch for next time!” Something cheesy and silly that gives us a laugh.

The funny thing is, after I had learned I could just step over the tree, I saw them out there walking back from that direction. The woman said “There’s a tree down. The trail is blocked.”

I was puzzled. I just said “I just step over it.”

She looked equally puzzled. “Are you allowed to do that?”

In hindsight, it’s a silly question, but it’s too often true. When we see an obstacle in the path, we just assume either we can’t go around it or else we’re not supposed to. So we just give up and turn around. I’ve been guilty of that, far too many times in my life.

Then, I figure out I can find a way up and over or around the obstacle. But even then, I get used to the obstacle being there. When the rangers showed up last week with their chainsaws to hack the tree out the trail, I made a joke as I walked past: “I’m going to miss my obstacle.”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized that this, too, was a metaphor for how so many of us behave. We expect things to be hard. And we get used to defining ourselves by the obstacles we have to navigate. We don’t think we deserve a clear path.

But now that the obstacle is removed? I don’t actually miss it at all. I get to walk a trail that is open. I get to walk with purpose, and I don’t have to figure out a way to navigate around it.

The past few months, I’ve been busting my ass to remove the obstacles that prevented me from living the life I wanted. I’ve grown stronger. I’ve left personal interactions that were holding be back. I’ve claimed parts of my life and started fixing things that needed fixing, not avoiding them. I’m not the man I was, and I’m only getting stronger and more whole.

I realize I’ve been attached to all these obstacles in my life. I’ve used them as excuses. But now that they’re out of the way? Well, now there’s nothing preventing me from claiming the life I want. That makes me a force to be reckoned with. I’m stronger than any doubt; and I’m confident in my ability to do whatever it takes to succeed.

I’m not the man I was just a few months ago. I know what I’m worth. I know that I won’t settle.

I’ve already let go.

The path is clear.

I’m walking with purpose.

And I won’t stop.

Robert F. James is a lecturer in creative writing at San Jose State University. He’s been a professional writer his entire adult life, and his writings primarily focus on the challenges of modern masculinity. He lives on a small hobby farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, where he raises chickens, rabbits, and ducks while managing a small garden. He’s been a Sailor, a pastor, a television and radio personality, and a professional piercer. His eclectic background lends itself to an exploratory aspect of his writing. His work is an authentic reflection of the issues he puzzles over on a daily basis, and he spends a good deal of time outdoors to process them. A large herd of deer on the property seem to respond favorably to his ramblings.