During the drug intervention trials, I interviewed a number of men and women, not only to gauge the physical effectiveness of the medication, but to get an idea of the psychological impact on them both.
The most immediate effect was on the men’s renewed perception of themselves as fully functioning sexual beings. Story after story bore this out. One often-voiced comment was that the ED medication allowed men to bring their own personal style to their sexual encounters. With their confidence restored, they could relax and, sure that their erections wouldn’t fail them, shift part of their focus to the pleasure of their partners.
One forty-one-year-old man who had injured himself in the gym and was unable to have sex for ten months told rne, “I feel liberated. That’s the only word for it. And because I was ‘damaged’ while exercising, I haven’t been back to work out. I used to be so proud of how I looked; but once I was hurt I didn’t care anymore. Now I feel whole again and I’m no longer fearful of the machines. I’m taking care of myself once more and I’m just so relieved that my lover didn’t lose interest in me. Because of that, and the fact that I can perform again, I feel that he and 1 have something even better.”
This man’s story had a happy ending because of a supportive
partner. Sadly, that is not always the case. For many men whose erections have been lost, especially for a long period of time, suddenly being able to achieve intercourse may not be the solution to a disintegrating relationship. “It’s not just a matter of having an erection and saying, ‘Let’s go for it, honey,’” says Robert Broad, a New York psychologist who treats many patients with sexual dysfunction issues. “First and foremost, the patient must honestly assess the general health of his sexual relationship and determine whether he and his partner are in sync and ready to work together toward the same common goals.
“Oftentimes, when the male is restored, new pressures are exerted on the relationship. Making the assumption that both partners are interested in intercourse is often a false one,” says Dr. Broad. “Many men are surprised to find that their partners are not happy to resume intercourse on a regular basis. What I often hear from female patients whose husbands have been successfully treated for ED is, ‘Why do I have to have sex all of the time now? I was happy the way it was.’
“There are also some women who have never viewed themselves as sexual—and prefer to stay that way. Many women are readily able to accept a partner’s ED because it is more in keeping with their own sexual appetite. Some are not sympathetic to their husband’s frustration at the loss of his ability—and they are not at all excited at its restoration.
“I find that the best interpersonal relationships are built upon constant communication between partners,” Dr. Broad states. “Sex is not just about being good in bed or having a hard erection; rather it has to do with two people caring, caressing, and accommodating changes in the area of physical abilities. It also has to do with accepting, rejoicing in, and celebrating the all-important gender differences, recognizing, too, the uniquely different sensibilities that men and women bring to lovemaking.”
People who have suffered with ED often lose sight of this, solely and unfairly equating ED with a loss of manhood. When this viewpoint is stuck in place, it is the erection—not the relationship—that becomes more important than anything else. In some cases it can irrevocably lead to an inability to trust any sexual partner, with the idea of sustaining a relationship a distant dream.