Keeping Love Alive

What to do when impotency impacts your marriage.

Flip open a magazine, turn on your television, or go online, and sooner or later you'll be confronted with an ad, commercial, or e-mail for Viagra, that "little blue pill" that enhances sexual performance. Although marketing for drugs to overcome sexual dysfunction crops up everywhere, the topic remains a sensitive one. And for couples struggling with impotency, it's a very real and heartbreaking problem. In a recent poll on our website (Todays, we asked how many of you have dealt with this issue in your marriage. To our surprise, 46 percent responded "yes" to this informal survey. We hope this candid story will provide insight and comfort to others in the same situation.—The Editors

What happens if sex is suddenly removed from the marriage equation?

Fourteen years ago, that happened to us. At 47, my husband, Phil*, lost his ability to perform sexually. Years of medications for Type 1 diabetes and poor blood-sugar control had combined to take away this one area of marriage that had refreshed our love regardless of life's circumstances. At 46, I no longer could have sex with my husband.

Initially, Phil's ability to maintain an erection became briefer. He mentioned this change to his physician, who explained how diabetes affects blood flow to the body's extremities, including during sexual arousal. He mentioned we could consider medical options such as the use of a vacuum device, injections, or a penile implant. Since we still were able to have a measure of sexual satisfaction, we chose to ignore what we perceived as mechanical intrusions into our lovemaking. Several more months passed—then came the night when Phil was completely unable to have intercourse.

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May 25

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