Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
Could you please help me? I don’t know what I am going to do anymore. My boyfriend and I have been together for 4 years. We are not active when it comes to sex because of my boyfriend. At first, that was ok for me because he is a good man and I know he loves me.
But on our 4th year, I blew up. I blamed him because we were not having sex. If we have sex once in a year, I am lucky.
Now I find out he has a problem. He has erectile dysfunction. I love him, but I don’t know if I can stand this my entire life. Since we’re planning to settle down soon, I am of two minds.
Please, please help me.
Thank you for your email.
While I entirely sympathize with your predicament — facing marriage with the prospect of sex once a year at best — two things in particular stand out in your account of your problem.
The first is that you make no mention whatsoever of your boyfriend (let’s call him Raul) seeking treatment for his erectile dysfunction (ED).
ED can be a physical and/or a psychological problem, often caused by heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and is definitely treatable in most cases, whether through medication, surgery or even natural remedies. Where ED has psychological origins, these can be addressed by therapy.
It therefore sounds as though you should suggest to Raul that he be proactive in getting treatment if marriage is to be on the cards.
The second is that you seem to equate sex solely with penetrative intercourse. As far as I am aware, ED only affects erections, leaving all other parts of a man’s body and of course all those of a woman’s totally unimpaired. A woman has many erogenous zones and a man can employ his hands and tongue, not to mention sex toys, with which to stimulate them. This means that the full range of sexual delights, with the exception of penetration by a living penis, is available to a couple, even if the man suffers from a form of ED that is impervious to treatment.
The bottom line, Pam, is that modern medicine, including psychiatry, should be able to deal with Raul’s problem and that in the unlikely event that it cannot, a little imagination (or research) should provide you both with eminently satisfactory alternatives so that you enjoy a rich and rewarding sex life.
All the best,
You are right to be of two minds about settling down with Raul, and that is not because of his erectile dysfunction either. Erectile dysfunction is one of the most distressing sexual dysfunctions any man can experience. However, in this day and age, there are so many treatment options available to men.
Mr Baer has mentioned that there is more to sex than penetration, and research and clinical experience back this up. We must also remember that, when it comes to penetrative sex for heterosexuals, a penis in a vagina is not the only option: there are fingers, vibrators, etc. that can be inserted in vaginas and those very same things inserted into the anuses of both women and men. Not to mention many men’s favourite, fellatio.
You mention your plans to possibly “settle down soon.” Usually, before people decide to take this important step, they feel confident that they know each other well enough not to get any nasty surprises. This is because the decision to settle down with someone implies that, among all the other people around that you know, s/he is the one that suits you best, and you trust him/her enough to share your life (for however long) with him/her.
Thus, of greater concern than his erectile dysfunction per se is that it took him so long to share this with you. In fact, he seemed to do it only under duress. You, too, took almost 4 years before you shared your strong feelings, and then only because you were so frustrated.
Relationships are much better if they are founded on trust, so that there is greater intimacy between you. After all, what separates an acquaintance from a friend/lover is how much you willingly self disclose with each other.
However, if your latest encounter — even if it included your blowing up at, and blaming, him — drew you closer to each other instead of making you both more defensive, that would be a very good sign indeed. It will prove to you both that your relationship can survive fights, which not every relationship can.
The best news, of course, is if your relationship not only survives, but actually thrives with both your disclosures — his that he suffers from ED, yours that you are not a happy bunny when sex is at what you perceive to be starvation levels — proving to you that you can take a risk, share something deeply personal with each other, and the other will honor your confidence and, indeed, love you more because of this greater intimacy between you.
Good luck and best wishes,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.