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.

My boyfriend and I are both Christians and take our faith seriously. We've finished college, have careers we love, and feel God's brought us together. The problem is, whenever we start talking about marriage, he becomes scared because everyone in his family is divorced. What can I do to reassure him?

Your boyfriend's fear is understandable. He's aware that what he's seen and lived with does impact him. But he doesn't need to be governed by that fear.

Why don't you and your boyfriend talk—either alone or with a counselor or pastor—about the different divorces in his family and how they affected him. He might also want to explore which parent he thinks he's like, what he learned from his parents about how to be a husband, how to handle conflict, etc. The more clearly he understands these things, the more alert you'll both be to any early warning signs.

Though it's wise to understand the past and how it can influence the present and future, remember that as believers you're not doomed to repeat the past. Your boyfriend has been redeemed and is indwelt by the Spirit of God. It's this relationship that will transform him daily into a greater likeness to Christ—rather than sinful parents. In these truths there is great hope!

If possible, put yourselves under the wing of one or two spiritually mature Christian couples who have a strong marriage. Share some of your concerns with them and ask them to mentor you as individuals and as a couple. These relationships can provide a healthy example to replace that which your boyfriend had in his own family.

My wife and I have been married for seven years, and she's a stay-at-home mom to our two children. Lately she's become jealous of my close relationship with a female coworker. Even though I've assured her there's nothing more to our relationship than work, she's worried about my being around an attractive woman in the workplace. How do I handle my wife's fears?

The bottom line is, you have a lifelong priority commitment to your wife. For some reason, she feels that's being threatened. So find some uninterrupted time with her and tell her you want to hear more about what she's feeling. Don't defend yourself or explain anything; just listen. Try to understand what your relationship with this coworker looks like in her eyes. Has she heard you say things she finds disturbing? Is she feeling negative about her own appearance? Does she feel this woman is getting a better slice of your time than she is? While you may not entirely agree with what she's saying, you need to understand it.

Keep in mind it's not unusual for stay-at-home moms to struggle with their husband's relationships in the adult world, especially if those relationships include women. It's also easy, during this busy season of childrearing in marriage, for couples to drift apart, so it's crucial to actively nurture your relationship.

Ask your wife what she'd like you to do. What would help her feel less threatened? You'll need to look at what's necessary job-wise and what isn't as far as interactions with this woman go. This will require some serious soul-searching on your part, for it's easy to convince yourself your relationship isn't a big deal, that it's strictly about work—and be deceiving yourself.

Then renew your commitment to your wife through your words and deeds. It's vital you take the time to figure out what you can do to make her feel loved and esteemed. No matter how invalid you may think her jealousy is, guard your marriage. If your wife sees your commitment to her demonstrated and her feelings given credibility, her jealousy will abate and your marriage will be strengthened.

I'm dating a Christian man I really like, but I can't stand his friends! Some of the guys he hangs out with seem very immature spiritually and emotionally. I'm not even sure they're Christians. When we're with them, he acts differently—sometimes telling off-color jokes, being a little brusque—but when we're alone, he's sweet and kind. Should I be concerned?

Yes, you should be concerned. A person's friends tell you something about him, and that message is important. For the most part, we tend to choose as friends people we're most comfortable with. Usually those with whom we keep frequent company are those who are like-minded.

It's possible these are friends your boyfriend's had since before he became a Christian. Perhaps he hasn't considered his friendships as something he needs to bring before God. Maybe he's never been taught God is concerned about the company we keep and the influence that company has on us.

It's also possible these friendships reflect where your boyfriend's heart and mind are centered. He may be presenting a certain front to you, his "dating self," when in fact he's quite different. These relationships may illustrate his real attitudes toward women and God. It's vital you discover what's really going on.

Ask your boyfriend how long he's had these friends and how they became friends. What does he like most about them? Is he aware that he's different when he's with them? Don't just fire these questions at him one after another—weave them over time throughout various conversations, if possible. They're tools to help you glean information and understanding.

Scripture tells us that "he who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm" (Prov. 13:20). We're influenced by the friends we have. Your boyfriend is no exception. Whatever the outcome of your conversations, you'd be wise to pray for him and those who influence him.

Diane Mandt Langberg, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and author of On the Threshold of Hope: Opening the Door to Healing for Survivors of Sexual Abuse (Tyndale).


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