After 15 years of marriage, a husband’s massive problem in the bedroom is causing major issues with the couple’s sex life.
Welcome to Relationship Rehab, TNR’s weekly column solving all your romantic problems, no holds barred.
This week, our resident sexologist Molly Boonyawong tackles a husband’s erection issues, a girlfriend who prefers her boyfriend when he is drunk, and a woman who is struggling with loneliness during St Valentine’s Day.
I CAN NO LONGER KEEP AN ERECTION, HOW DO I GET MY SEX LIFE BACK?
QUESTION: I’ve been with my wife for 15 years and I love her a lot. When we first got together we had a great sex life, it was fun, spontaneous and satisfying. Then things slowed down, as they do, but we still had sex around once a week. Then a few years ago I started to lose my erection before the deed was done, then it got so bad that I’d lose it during foreplay. The stress around sex became too much and somewhere along the line we stopped having it. I can keep an erection and climax when I’m on my own, just not when I’m being intimate with my wife. She’s taken it personally and thinks it’s because she’s “fat and old”, which she isn’t in my eyes. What can I do? Is this normal and how do I get my sex life back?
ANSWER: Erection issues are more common than we might think. Most men will experience erection challenges at some point in their life.
By the time men reach 50, they have a 50 per cent chance of experiencing erectile dysfunction, this increases 10 per cent for every decade of their life.
There are many reasons you may have lost your erection initially. Causes of erectile dysfunction include:
• Anxiety or depression
• Over indulgence on alcohol or drugs
• Performance anxiety
• Relationship issues
• Poor health/health issues
Anyone experiencing erectile dysfunction is recommended to visit their GP for a full check up. Erectile dysfunction can be an early warning sign of serious health issues such as heart disease and diabetes.
For many men, once they’ve experienced erectile dysfunction once or twice, the anxiety they experience about it happening again essentially ensures that it does happen again.
In your case, what you’re experiencing is ‘situational erectile dysfunction’ — erectile dysfunction that only happens in certain situations. This is really common. I would need to do a full assessment to be certain, but my guess is that your erection difficulties in this case are due to psychological factors like the extra stress of worrying about how your wife will react, embarrassment and performance anxiety.
So what can you do about it?
Seeing your GP to get a prescription for medication is an option. You can get medications to take daily which means more flexibility (and less forward planning) around the times you choose to have sex.
Research shows that you’ll get the best results (a more satisfying sex life and happier relationship) if you use the combination of both a therapist and medication.
It’s common for people to take their partner’s erectile difficulties personally — although it rarely is. By working together with a therapist, you can also address the underlying insecurities your wife feels, build your intimate connection again, improve communication and find ways to make sex more enjoyable for both of you.
I PREFER MY BOYFRIEND WHEN HE’S DRUNK, WHAT SHOULD I DO?
QUESTION: My boyfriend drinks a lot, doesn’t have a proper job, suffers from depression and anxiety and is generally very grumpy. When he’s drunk he’s great — confident, social, fun and sweet. When he is not drunk or drinking, he’s a very hard person to be around. I really like him and I see the beauty and sweetness behind it all. He doesn’t seem to want to change. It should be an initiative that comes from himself, I know, and he is ruining his life. How can I help and what should I do?
ANSWER: You’re right when you say it’s something he must initiate. We can support the people we love, but we can’t make them change unless they want to themselves.
Unless your boyfriend is willing to make some significant changes (and get help), his drinking, anxiety and depression will continue — likely getting worse.
Let your partner know that you’re concerned for him — but also let him know how his behaviour affects you. Consider yourself and what you want for your life. Set boundaries around what you’re willing to accept in terms of his behaviour and what actions you need to see him take to stay in a relationship with him.
Sometimes by staying with someone and accepting their bad behaviour, we’re actually enabling it to continue.
QUESTION: I’m really worried about St Valentine’s Day and being alone. I’m single and would love to find a partner but don’t seem to have any luck in that department. I normally see my family but can’t this year because of international borders being closed. How do I stop the deep sense of loneliness setting in?
ANSWER: I really empathise. This is a hard time of the year to be single and to be away from your family. For single people big celebrations can be a stark reminder that once again they’re spending it without a partner.
Here’s what I suggest:
• Be gentle on yourself. Understand that feeling heightened emotion is normal at this time of year.
• Make use of the technology we have to reach out to your friends and family in the lead up and during the festive season.
• Plan something nice for yourself. See if any of your friends are free. Don’t be afraid to ask for an invite — it’s a time of year people are happy to make others feel welcome and there will be many people in a similar situation to you this year.
• If you still can’t find something to do that feels good for you, consider volunteering at a homeless or food distribution charity. There will be a lot of people doing it tough this year. Doing something for others can help us forget our own challenges and help us feel good.