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My Husband Struggles with Impotency

What can I do to reassure him?

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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