Impotence Imposes on Relationships
How Couples Approach the Problem
Some couples are what Lipsky calls overcomers, with a strong
desire to resolve ED. Others are resigners, who admit there is a problem but
decide not to seek treatment to resolve it.
Then there are avoiders, couples who refuse to admit and
discuss ED, and, finally, alienators, women who feel so angry that they not
only withdraw from their relationship, but may even demean their partner or
seek intimacy elsewhere.
When women are angry, says Karen Donahey, this anger is
frequently present before the sexual difficulties have begun. In such
instances, says Donahey, marital therapy, as opposed to sexual therapy, may be
in order to get to the underlying cause of the anger.
For a woman who wants to help her partner -- as most do, says
Donahey -- understanding why ED occurs can help ease her concerns as well as
allow her to help her partner confront the problem, something many men are
hesitant to do.
Being able to talk about it is the first step. "Opening the
lines of communication is paramount" in resolving ED, says Marian Dunn,
PhD, clinical associate professor and director of the Center for Human
Sexuality at the State University of New York Health Science Center. "ED is
not initially easy to talk about. But not talking about it can seriously damage
Sandy (also not her real name) has been in a relationship for
six months with a man who suffers from ED. "We've worked hard on handling
it," she says, "and we talk about it all the time, which really
helps." In addition to encouraging her partner to see his doctor for a
physical exam, Sandy says that being able to talk about the situation has
actually brought the two closer together.
"It defuses whatever anger and frustration there may
be," she explains, "so that it doesn't carry over into other aspects of
the relationship, and it has shown us that we can work on this
"Women don't need to take responsibility for their
partner's ED," says Dr. Janice Lipsky. "But many women can and do play
a critical role in supporting men to seek treatment."