Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Overcoming ED

In my post entitled Is My Husband Impotent I talked about how there can be two causes of erectile dysfunction (ED).  One is medical and the other is emotional.  I spoke of how your husband will need to rule out or take care of the medical causes of the ED.  That is the first step.  However I didn't really talk about the second cause or how to get your sex life back on track.

At the beginning of our marriage when we were experiencing a lot of trouble with our sexual relationship I hoped that a medical cause would be found.  My husband did a few physicals and blood tests and each time we would wait for the results I would actually hope that something would be wrong.  This might sound so terrible but to me that seemed like the far easier option to fix things and, in my opinion, it was a whole lot less about me.  After all, (in my head) if the cause of the ED was emotional then it was all my fault.  It seemed like that cause meant I was unattractive, frightening, unapproachable and a downright terrible wife.  Right? 


When all the tests came back fine (he even had a higher than average testosterone level) it was time to face the facts.  There was some mental block to our intimacy and I was going to find it!  I wanted answers.  I must admit I became a bit of a pest.  I would ask him questions incessantly.  I would ask if anything happened to him in his childhood, if he thought it was possible that he was abused, if I was just not attractive enough (I didn't tend to believe him either when he said I was) and I asked for details about any sexual contact he had ever had.  I even (now I don't recommend this at all) asked him if he thought he might be gay.  I know, bad idea!  But I was desperate and frustrated, both sexually and emotionally because I felt like he was holding back with me and leaving out that one important detail that would explain everything.

If a man has been abused or is struggling with his sexual identity that will definitely be obstacles to your relationship.  Though it is something that you should know about him, you might not need to know every gritty detail.  For his own sake as well as that of your relationship he needs to speak with a Christian counselor.  There could be some parts of his past or what he's feeling that he might fear would change the way you see him.  His image and ego are very important to him and he might not open up to you out of the concern that you would look at him differently.  If there is something that the counselor feels that you should know they will encourage him to talk to you about that.

Men aren't exactly known for their love of opening up and talking about their feelings.  I know you might think that there is no way you will be able to convince your husband to see a counselor.  If he is having trouble with ED though, and medical causes have been ruled out, that only leaves emotional issues as the cause.  He might find that faced with the prospect of indefinite ED, seeing a counselor for a while might be a good option.  I for one, was quite shocked at my uncommunicative and reserved husband's willingness to see someone. 

There were actually a few times in our marriage that we attended counseling.  We saw a marriage counselor (who wasn't very good) for a while, we saw a sex therapist (who was somewhat helpful but glossed over some very important aspects of our sexual relationship), we saw a much better counselor a few years later in our relationship and my husband also saw her one on one for a while.  If you ignore issues in your marriage and don't make efforts to fix them then your relationship will continue to grow more and more distant.  I was lucky that my husband was willing to see someone and that he showed immense patience and understanding for my hounding and pestering him about our relationship.  You can't force anyone to do these things against their will but you can communicate to them how important it is to your future that you work on your relationship and the way to do it is through dealing with issues head on. 

When you know that the blockage he is facing is an emotional one it can create some extra stress for you too and all that worry you have about how much of his issues pertain to you might just come bubbling up and spilling over in a big outburst that has a lot of potential for making the situation worse.  His ED is a symptom of his inability to dispose of all his mental baggage, so heaping your insecurities, accusations and anger on him will only serve in making his pile bigger.  I know how terrifying it might seem to talk with your husband about what might be going on with him!  My fear was that he would confirm all my deepest insecurities.  I worried that he would rage at me and blame me for the ED even just to escape the accusations.  Thankfully my fears were never realized in that way but he very well could have reacted much more poorly than he did.  There was the potential for things to have gone very, very badly when the conversation was opened up.  The one way I was able to keep some safety and distance for myself while still attempting to open conversation with my husband was to write it in a letter.  To some this might seem like a bit of a cop out and not conversation at all but there are a number of reasons I believe this to be the best option.

For starters, a letter allows you to not get sidetracked by any number of different arguments.  It makes sure you make all your points.  Secondly, you can word things properly.  Speaking to someone, off the cuff, about sensitive and emotional subjects has the potential for going terribly wrong.  Conversation can very quickly get heated and hurtful.  With an emotional issue, the last thing you want to do is add more emotional pain.  In a letter you can take care to word your concerns in a kind and sensitive way that has a much better chance of being received favorably.  Thirdly, when you write a letter, you know that you have been heard.  With some people, (there are a few in my life) I know that almost every time we have a discussion they aren't really listening to what I'm saying.  Many people have a tendency to hear the first few words of what you are saying, invent in their head what they think the rest of your point is, and spend the rest of the time you are talking to them thinking about how they will respond instead of really listening to you.  In short, they miss the point.  Letters are less easy to ignore and they can spend as much time as they like going over it and thinking about how to respond without the pressure of you standing right there waiting for an answer.  You can then come to them at a later time to discuss what you wrote and their response to it.  Do your best to be kind, considerate and try to give them the chance to be heard by truly listening to them. 

I will cover some of the physical steps to recovering your sexual relationship in a follow up post but overcoming ED is a step by step process that takes time and patience.  The first step was eliminating the physical causes, step two is emotional recovery.  This is the most delicate portion that takes the most patience and where the most can go wrong.  Try not to rush it and force faster healing.  Your husband will need to be the guide during this portion of recovery since only he knows what is holding him back.  Though it is frustrating to have so little control over a situation that effects you so much, your patience and understanding will be appreciated and are your best tool for helping your husband recover.  If you need to vent at all, remember to do it with a safe person.  My rule for finding a safe person is that they be very trustworthy and, if at all possible, outside the situation.  This means that they don't know your husband (in that case I would be very willing to hear your venting).  The most important rule I have is that the person you vent to must NOT be of the opposite sex!  This is a must!  I did not stick to this rule and it very nearly ruined my marriage and potentially my life.  I promise to talk more about this later.

Best of luck and I pray that you are able to help aid your husband in his healing.

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