By: Margarita Holmes
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer:
My boyfriend of 4 yrs and I are not active in sex because of him. At first, that was ok for me: he is a good man and I know he loves me. On our 4th year, I blew up. I blamed him. If we have sex once in a year, I am lucky. Now I find out he has a problem–erectile dysfunction. I don’t know if I can stand this my entire life. We’re planning to settle down soon, I am of two minds. Please help. Pam
Thank you for your email. Two things in particular stand out in your account of your problem.
First, you make no mention of your boyfriend (let’s call him Raul) seeking treatment for his erectile dysfunction (ED). ED can be a physical and/or a psychological problem, often caused by heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and is definitely treatable in most cases, whether through medication, surgery or even natural remedies. Where ED has psychological origins, these can be addressed by therapy. It therefore sounds as though you should suggest to Raul that he be proactive in getting treatment if marriage is to be on the cards.
Second, you seem to equate sex solely with penetrative intercourse. Raul’s ED could affect only erections, leaving all other parts of his body and of course all those of a woman’s totally unimpaired. A woman has many erogenous zones. Raul can employ his hands and tongue, even sex toys, with which to stimulate them. The full range of sexual delights, with the exception of penetration by a living penis, is available to a couple, even if Raul suffers from a form of ED that is impervious to treatment.
The bottom line, Pam, is that modern medicine, including psychiatry, should be able to deal with Raul’s problem and that in the unlikely event that it cannot, a little imagination (or research) should provide you both with eminently satisfactory alternatives so that you enjoy a rich and rewarding sex life. Best of luck – JAF Baer
You are right to be of two minds about settling down with Raul, and that is not because of his erectile dysfunction either. Erectile dysfunction is one of the most distressing sexual dysfunctions any man can experience. However, in this day and age there are so many treatment options available to men.
Mr Baer has mentioned that there is more to sex than penetration, and research and clinical experience back this up. We must also remember that, when it comes to penetrative sex for heterosexuals, a penis in a vagina is not the only option: there is are fingers, vibrators, etc. that can be inserted in vaginas and those very same things inserted into the anuses of both women and men. Not to mention many men’s favorite, fellatio.
Before people decide to settle down, they feel they know each other well enough so that neither gets any nasty surprises from the other. The decision to settle down implies that, among all the other people one knows, s/he is the one that suits you best.
Of greater concern than his erectile dysfunction is that it took him so long to share this with you. He did this only under duress. You, too, took 4 years before you shared your feelings.
Relationships are better if they are founded on trust, which results in greater intimacy between you. What separates an acquaintance from a friend/lover is how much each willingly self discloses to his other.
If this encounter drew you closer instead of making you both more defensive, that is a very good sign. It proves that your relationship can survive fights; which not every relationship can.
However, the best news is if your relationship not only survives, but thrives with both disclosures, thus proving you can share something deeply personal with each other, and the other will still love you. Best wishes—MG Holmes