Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Is My Husband Impotent?

As the first year of our marriage progresses and our sex life didn't seem to improve I became more and more desperate for help.  I did find a long list of possible causes of erectile dysfunction so I got started attempting to eliminate the ones that weren't factors and get to the bottom of what really was the cause.  (Have I mentioned I'm a fixer?)

Unfortunately I believe this put a lot of pressure on my husband.  Although I was trying to help and it was an issue that definitely needed to be dealt with my constantly bombarding him with questions was possibly not the best rout to take.  Though I do believe that if I didn't put SOME pressure on him to work on the situation he would have avoided the topic entirely and nothing would have improved, I now know that I could have handled things a bit more delicately.

So, how should we as wives help our husband best overcome a season of erectile dysfunction?
  • Watch your language.
This is I think the most important piece of advice for you.  There will be times in your marriage where your husband will loose his erection unexpectedly.  If it hasn't happened yet then be ready, because at some point it will happen.  The important thing is not to make a big deal about it.  Tell him that it's okay.  Let him know that it happens to every guy.  Remind him that you love him.  At that moment he does not want to hear, "What's wrong?" "Why isn't it working?" "What's the matter with you?"  For one thing, it is a natural and common thing to have happen once in a while so jumping to conclusions can only make things worse.  One of the causes of ED is emotional, so it involves their self esteem, ego and thought process.  Speaking to him in a derogatory or negative manner WILL make things worse.
  • Don't make it about you.
This can be the hardest part of dealing with a husband with erectile dysfunction.  Especially if you have some self esteem or body image issues (if you don't then I would like to hear how you do it, SERIOUSLY, how do you do it?).  I know from experience that this can be the most hurtful part about having problems with your sex life.  I have been rather insecure about my looks for much of my life (and I know I'm not alone), so when your husband has trouble maintaining an erection the first thought in your head will most likely be something negative about yourself.  I am going to be spending a lot of time covering this topic in other posts but for now I just want to assure you that THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU!  I know you don't believe me so I will say it again.  THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU!  It's not about how pretty, skinny or sexy you are.  No amount (or lack of) lingerie, makeup, diet, exercise or even plastic surgery will fix your husband's issue.  I know you might think that's easy for me to say and much harder to believe in the situation and you are right.  When I was in the midst of these issues I did believe I was the cause and I made so very many mistakes that could very easily have been irreparable because of it.  I promise you that in the long run you will discover I am right and even if you don't believe it, please act like you do.  Don't ask your husband if he finds you attractive.  He is dealing with a lot of insecurity, social ideas about what a man is and frustration with his own body.  He may be feeling angry (with himself) and looking for a way out.  If you ask him if it's about your attractiveness he might just jump at the chance to shift the blame off of himself and onto you simply to alleviate some of the pressure he's feeling.  You do not want that because for one thing, (again) IT'S NOT YOU, and this will only drive a wedge between you rather and allowing you to lean on each other to get past this.
  • Take a break before you talk to him.
If you have tried a few times and loosing his erection starts to become a common occurrence then set aside a neutral time to sit down with him and talk about it.  It's always best to take a breather so you can both calm down and be a little more rational.  Also, trying to have a conversation while you are naked and in the moment he will feel like you are attempting to fix it immediately and cause him continued pressure to perform.  He will most likely shut down and not talk to you about it at all.  You need to be a safe place for your husband to fall.  He needs to be assured that you love him regardless of how he "performs".  He needs to know that you are committed to sticking with him and walking along side him to make your marriage the best it can be.
  • Know the possibilities. 
There are only two possible causes of erectile dysfunction.  Medical, or Emotional.  Though they can take many forms, when it comes down to it there are only 2 causes.  If you have had a fulfilling sex life and now it seems to be changing you can come to your husband (again, at a neutral time) and ask him if anything has been bothering him lately.  Look for signs of stress, pay attention to what might have changed in his situation, ask yourself if he seems like he might be somewhat depressed recently.  This might not be something that he would have talked to you about on his own but if you give him an opening by asking him how things are at work, or saying that he seems stressed and asking if there is anything you can do to help alleviate that stress. 

There is also the possibility that the cause is medical.  Even if this is the case there will most likely be some emotional aspect to his issues since having problems sexually is a big blow to a mans ego and that can compound the problem by causing him stress, worry and depression in and of itself.  Mayo Clinic states that most cases of erectile dysfunction are caused by something physical.  There is quite a number of possible causes for this.  They list:
  • Heart disease
  • Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome, a condition involving increased blood pressure, high insulin levels, body fat around the waist and high cholesterol
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Low testosterone
  • Peyronie's disease, development of scar tissue inside the penis
  • Certain prescription medications
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse
  • Treatments for prostate cancer or enlarged prostate
  • Surgeries or injuries that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord
If your husband is not big on going to the doctor (I think this is a pretty common trait in most men) then it might be difficult to convince him that he should see one.  I do believe though that when faced with the idea of prolonged erectile dysfunction they might be willing to do whatever it takes to find the cause.  You could maybe remind your husband that most issues with loosing an erection just symptoms of a different medical issue.  Even if he doesn't want to talk to his doctor specifically about loosing his erection he could simply have a physical.  A routine physical should be able to catch many of the items on this list.  I did have a conversation like this with my husband, and he is definitely one that avoids doctors at all costs but even he was willing to go in for a check up.  Further down the line he even when back to his doctor for a more thorough examination where he had a blood test done to determine testosterone levels.  In his case there was no medical cause for erectile dysfunction but apparently this is true in the minority of cases.  Chances are there is something a doctor can do to help. 

I just want to remind you that this is a very delicate and frustrating time for your husband.  He might not be acting like "himself" and could be treating you with anger, resentment and indifference.  It is important to have extra patience and sensitivity with him.  Lashing out will make the situation worse.  If you need a place to vent your frustration please do it in a way that will not come back to him.  You do not want him to hear from a friend that you have been telling everyone all over town that he is having issues.  That could cause him a lot of embarrassment and shame and that would be wrong of you to be unsupportive in that manner.  If you do need to talk to someone make sure it is someone that you can really trust not to spread it around or someone who is completely outside of the situation as long as that person is NOT MALE!  There are quite a few reasons for this piece of advice that I won't get into now but this is a VERY important point that I can't stress enough.  Do not, under any circumstances talk to another man about your husband's sexual issues!  Ideally you should talk with another Christian woman who understands not only the importance of marriage but also the importance of your relationship with God and will be able to pray over you.  I was able to speak with my pastors wife during this time but if that is not an option for you, feel free to contact me.  At least then you will know I understand where you're coming from.  Things might seem bleak, but know that my marriage was able to recover even with fairly extreme circumstances.  I have faith that yours can too. 


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