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Not all healing is pure. A journey of Viagra, lies, and cheating to get there.

There are three types of emotional wounds: Those that heal quickly, those that take a long time to heal, and those that remain with you until you die. Or so a famous Japanese writer said.

Emotional wounds are often subtle. The problems build up, little by little, until one day, something goes wrong. And you’ll have to face it.

I was forced to examine my emotional wound when I couldn’t keep my penis hard during sex.

It was my first Tinder date. We ended the night at my place, but I couldn’t perform. She didn’t mind. We talked, kissed, and watched the dwindling highway traffic through my window as we fell asleep. I wasn’t worried. Every guy experiences this once in a while, right?

But then I kept failing. Once is excusable. Twice, tolerable. Thrice? Three separate nights, and each time a failure. I was amazed the Tinder Girl continued to meet me.

Even Google didn’t help.

Men “as young as 30” can have this problem, it said.

Which wasn’t very encouraging since I was 23 at the time.

So I visited a urologist, suffered his assistant’s thinly veiled shock when I revealed my age, underwent a check-up, and finally had my suspicions confirmed.

“Your problem is psychological,” the urologist concluded. I wasn’t surprised. I was fit and running marathons.

He prescribed the infamous erection pill to help me “get the momentum going.”

More than a year before I met Tinder Girl, I broke up with my five-year girlfriend.

We were deeply in love. For more mature lovers, five years may not be much. But to a guy in his early twenties, it’s his entire adulthood.

I was secure with our relationship. I smugly looked down on couples who couldn’t solve problems that my girlfriend and I successfully conquered in the past.

Then she met a guy at a bar. She’s met many other guys in many other bars, but this one was “different.” They clicked, connected, and exchanged phone numbers.

“I normally give the wrong number when guys ask. I don’t know why I gave him my actual number,” is what she told me later.

He seemed sincere, she said. And “harmless.”

Maybe I should’ve seen that as a red flag. But I wasn’t the jealous type so I let it pass.

In less than a month, the feelings she had with me for five years were suddenly transferred to the other guy. Four months later, we broke up.

I was deeply hurt and utterly confused. It didn’t make any sense!

Can a person in a serious, committed relationship really fall out of love that fast? Maybe she wasn’t genuinely in love with me?

Or is love so fickle and fragile that half a decade’s worth of emotions and memories, shared and invested, can be undone by a random meeting of strangers?

How could she fall out of love, when I couldn’t even imagine not loving her?

People say time heals everything. And I thought time would eventually close the gaping wound left by the loss of my trusted partner in life.

But loss is complex. And untended emotional wounds fester, not heal, over time.

A year after the breakup, I hooked up with several girls. It all went well. I thought I was moving on for good. But I met Tinder Girl and, suddenly, I can’t keep it up!

At first, I blamed my hectic work schedule. Then, I thought, “Maybe I’m just not that attracted to her?” It was easily disproved when I saw her step into my condo in her short shorts.

After my urologist visit, I had to face the glaring truth.

Tinder Girl was different from the other girls I slept with: She’s the only one who is single.

The trend started with “Athena”, who’s fond of posting biblical and inspirational quotes on Facebook and artsy, motivational photos on Instagram. She spends the weekends with her church group, weekdays at a desk job, and extra free time with her boyfriend. I don’t subscribe to stereotypes, but this religious girl was shockingly spirited in bed.

Next was “Kara,” the sheltered, 22-year old virgin. She was just a few months in her first serious relationship. She and I have known each other for some time, so I suspected her lack of experience. I confirmed it later as we lay in bed at a seedy motel. She didn’t even know how to kiss. I might’ve touched more than her virginity.

In an even seedier motel, “Alice,” who claimed to have never cheated, declared her love for me as she climaxed. I know her boyfriend. Decent guy, amazing artist. They’ve been together for several years.

I was dry humping a newly engaged woman at a bar when I noticed the pattern: The appeal of demonizing a religious girl; the deflowering of a virgin at a seedy motel; the orgasmic, L-word moaning of a first-time cheater; the thrill of publicly humping somebody’s fiancé.

Before the breakup, I never would’ve imagined myself capable, much less wanting, of this debauchery.

I was dry humping a newly engaged woman at a bar when I noticed the pattern: The appeal of demonizing a religious girl; the deflowering of a virgin at a seedy motel; the orgasmic, L-word moaning of a first-time cheater; the thrill of publicly humping somebody’s fiancé.

I used to respect the “sanctity” of a relationship. I even kept a “gentlemanly distance” from committed people. But now, I couldn’t keep it hard if the person isn’t cheating on someone by sleeping with me.

Something changed in my core. Some deeply held personal value was shattered.

And I think making my sexual partners cheat became a subconscious validation of my experience.

It was my way of answering the questions I repeated over and over to friends during my post-breakup-drinking phase:

Could sensible, committed, in-love people really fall for a bunch of cheap tricks conjured by a random dude at a bar? Maybe even I could do it?

It was difficult to adjust after the breakup. I no longer knew how to be single.

I’ve been in the warm hearth of a relationship for too long. I didn’t have the tools to thrive in the cold wilderness of single-hood.

So I consulted an old, NY-Times Best Seller dating guidebook for the tricks of the trade. It provided social exercises, briefings, stories, and more that helped men improve themselves and, consequently, their dating lives.

Years later, I’d realize that I was perpetuating the cycle of pain by following the dating guidebook’s advice. But looking back, I also had to go through that.

It’s kind of like how college kids have a “hoe phase” before turning into stellar adult citizens.

Anyway, the guidebook was infamous for its “routines”; canned and scripted material that pick-up artists use to pick up girls. I was surprised that those tricks even worked.

I particularly found the “kiss close” routine great at eating away a girl’s supposed moral resolve.

It’s the routine I used to convince Athena, the religious one, into giving me a few “harmless” kisses, which opened the gates to more risque explorations.

“There’s no routine that will make a woman kiss you if she doesn’t want to already,” posited the dating guidebook. “The only point of a kissing routine is to bridge the gap into intimacy comfortably, without triggering her auto-pilot lip-deflection response.”

I initially found the routines and social exercises stupid.

Actually, I found the entire concept stupid. All the manipulation and mind games felt insincere. Depth-less. Cheap. I found it unbelievable that a sensible person would fall for it at all.

But the one I loved, admired, and respected — this lady whose judgment I trusted to smell bullshit tricks from a mile away — fell for those very tricks.

It was a mockery to my belief that genuineness is the key to attracting, building, and maintaining a happy, lasting relationship.

Ironically, these cheap tricks were more effective with intelligent people.

“The smarter a girl is, the better it works.” The dating guidebook said.

“A more perceptive, worldly, or educated girl will listen and think, and soon find herself ensnared.”

As I slept with more not-single ladies, I started to wonder what drove them to cheat. Google showed me many answers. But my experience taught me a simple hypothesis: People cheat because they’re in denial.

It’s amazing how someone becomes more transparent, more honest with their feelings and thoughts when they’re stripped and made vulnerable in bed.

Athena repressed the dark appeal of breaking her dogmatic values and principled upbringing. Kara ignored the creeping thoughts that she might not be genuinely in love with her first serious boyfriend. And Alice had too many unresolved emotional wounds to be in a stable, exclusive relationship at all.

I was hit by the overwhelming denial of insecurities, weaknesses, fragility, and shallow commitment. And it made me realize that I was in denial too.

My 5-year relationship was bound to end one way or another.

We had deeper problems, as individuals. The guy at the bar was just a trigger. And I couldn’t accept how insensible, how illogical, love can be.

I popped the Viagra on my fourth night with “G,” the Tinder Girl. But I took it too early and, by the time we reached my condo, the pill’s effect had subsided.

We succeeded that night though. I would also perform successfully many times later, without any pill.

Lying together in the languid afterglow of our successful session, G quietly admitted that she had an abortion — twice.

The first during the latter half of her most recent relationship and the second, a few months after they broke up.

It came out of nowhere. It started with, “I want to tell you something, but you might judge me,” followed by an exchange of confidences and concluded with a confession.

Moving on comes in many forms. Some exercise. Some drink. Some cheat on their partners.

She said it’s her first time having sex since the incident, and that it’s her first time doing it with a guy like me, someone she has pretty much just met.

“Quite a number of firsts for you,” I replied.

She shrugged. “Sometimes, we change in ways we don’t expect. Pain changes people.”

“Did it change you for the better?” I asked.

She looked at me. “Did you become better?”

I thought for a while, and then I told her I no longer knew what “better” meant.

Perhaps that’s how it is.

Moving on comes in many forms. Some exercise. Some drink. Some cheat on their partners.

They’re all a step in the non-linear, unpredictable process of our growth. It’s a cycle of being wounded, changed, and rebuilt.

Hopefully, after several cycles and repetitive mistakes, we emerge as something “better.” Maybe less fucked up. Happier.

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