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My Husband Struggles with Impotency

What can I do to reassure him?
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Dear Dr. Langberg,
My husband's frustrated—and I'm frustrated—because he's having a problem with impotency. I miss the intimacy of sex, and my husband's upset he can't "perform." His job is stressful, so I wonder if that's having an effect on him. How can I reassure him I still love him and get us some help?

Sex is a vitally important area in marriage, so it's worth facing this situation head-on. Your husband needs to get a complete physical, even though he may feel too embarrassed to tell his physician what the problem is. Don't assume stress is causing your husband's impotency; a physical disorder such as diabetes mellitus or a hormonal imbalance are possibilities that need to be ruled out. Various medications such as some antidepressants, antihypertensives, or diuretics, as well as excessive alcohol consumption, also can cause impotence.

In the majority of men, however, impotence is triggered by psychological factors—stress, fatigue, depression. If that's the case, your husband will have to find healthy ways to reduce or cope with his stress. If depression is a factor, he may need counseling.

In the meantime, don't allow impotency to eliminate your physical connection. If you abandon loving touch, you'll feel more alienated from each other, which only increases stress levels and irritability. But take a break from attempting intercourse so you're not caught up in a continuing sense of disappointment, failure, and frustration.

Clifford and Joyce Penner's book, The Gift of Sex, contains techniques that have helped many husbands and wives resolve impotency. If you follow their instructions carefully, you may be able to solve the problem on your own. However, many couples find learning these techniques is best done with the guidance and support of a counselor. We're all vulnerable to hurt when it comes to dealing with sexual intimacy and our body, so it's important to know how to respond to each other's feelings gently and lovingly.

Remember, there's a great deal more to your marriage than intercourse. Nurture those aspects—affirm them. They'll help you maintain a proper perspective and the emotional energy you'll need to work through this situation.

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November 19, 2013  5:58pm

Very good article. My husband and I struggled with intimacy following an accident in which he lost his ability to keep an erection. We found a little book called "Impotent Not, Electrifying Sex With Physical Challenges, Our Expert Tell You How" by Derek Clontz. It's frank but gentle and interspersed with just enough humor to keep you smiling while discussing some very sensitive issues with your husband. It changed our lives. I recommend it. I also recommend that all husbands and wives take their love lives seriously. I don't care how embarrassing it can be to talk about impotence. You have to if you want to keep your marriage strong.

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November 03, 2013  4:44am

I think there are other things which need to be addressed. Many Christian Doctors are aware that fulfilling God's wishes in the bedroom is an important part of loving and God's word. I am sorry if I am so blunt. I think that research has clearly shown that Testosterone needs to be checked beginning around 25. There are. Total testosterone, Free Testosterone. When this is simply in the average range, it may not be enough. All hormones should be checked regularly. Without testosterone, this loving method of expressing God's care for us becomes more difficult.

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February 05, 2011  5:40pm

I suffer from ED and can tell you a lot of it is psychological. Like the famous experiment with the fish in the aquarium bumping into a glass wall that blocks access to one half, once the wall is removed, it never ventures over there. Years of very minimal interest in sex on my wife's part, being constantly rebuffed in my advances and her fight with obesity have all contributed to me not thinking of my wife in sexual terms. I have a normal strong desire, constantly stimulated by the culture around me, and therefor being forced or "trained" to squelch my desire for lack of a legitimate, God-approved outlet. Is it any wonder that on those rare occasions my wife seems willing that I find it difficult to rise to the occasion?

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