Impotence and Fear of Intimacy
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Sex in Marriage Sexual problems are common in many relationships. This section is for discussions about sexuality. Please limit discussions to those asking for help with a problem and those offering advice. Any other threads may be deleted.

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Old 11-14-2011, 12:37 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Impotence and Fear of Intimacy

I am engaged to a man I love dearly and deeply, but as the thread title suggests. He is impotent. The first few times we were togehter, I noticed that he had trouble achieving and maintaining an erection, but didn't think too much of it....put it up to age... he is about 7 years older than me andhe made it up for it with other skills. . We were fairly active sexually for about a year and then any sexual contact stopped.

Anyway, after numerous discussions, he admitted this has been a problem with him in long term relationships. Whenever he becomes close to someone and begins to care, he becomes impotent. We are both in counseling, separately trying to figure this out.

Can any man here please give me some idea of what you might think he is feeling and why this happens. My couselor won't comment...he doesn't know my finacee and my fiancee just says he doesn't know why.

Any ideas on what I can do to help him get past this? His therapist has suggested that we need to just "fool around", without worrying about what happens in the end, but he has been reluctant to take it further than just kissing. Should I initiate something more? And if so, how?

Appreciate any insight or advice. I love this man with all my heart.
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Old 11-14-2011, 01:00 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Impotence and Fear of Intimacy

You don't cite his age.

Would suggest he get his testosterone levels checked.

And for your benefit, keep in mind there IS a distinct difference between lack of ability to achieve an erection, and lack of desire.

Not being able to have an erection is humiliating. It can wear you down. Potentially to the point of being anxious about any sexual contact.

I have struggled with ED, as a result of medication I took for a long time and yep ... I've been mortified. But ... I've never fully lost my desire.

Would encourage you to have some very frank, very caring discussions. Particularly, does he masturbate? Is he able to achieve an erection and have an orgasm that way?

If so, try co-masturbating. Basically, the suggestion to start at the shallow end is a good one.


I have a thread on hormone replacement therapy as well. Will edit it in later.
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Old 11-14-2011, 01:31 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Impotence and Fear of Intimacy

Thanks for the response. Yes, he has had his testorone levels checked. He is in his mid-50's, but this has been an on-going problem for him his whole adult life.

As far as masturbating...he can get an erection with porn and masturbating by himself...but not with someone else.

I am fine with starting in the shallow end...just not sure how to initiate it.
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Old 11-14-2011, 01:44 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Impotence and Fear of Intimacy

Since it appears that all of his equipment 'functions', just not when he would like it to, perhaps he has severe performance anxiety.

You don't mention what kind of a counselor he goes to, but it might be worthwhile to check out him seeing a sex therapist - a counselor that is versed specifically in sexual issues.

The other thing that I have seen suggested before, is short-term use of something like Viagra (if his doctor okays it for him) in order to get him over his performance 'slump'.

Best wishes.
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Old 11-14-2011, 02:00 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Impotence and Fear of Intimacy

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Thanks for the response. Yes, he has had his testorone levels checked. He is in his mid-50's, but this has been an on-going problem for him his whole adult life.

As far as masturbating...he can get an erection with porn and masturbating by himself...but not with someone else.

I am fine with starting in the shallow end...just not sure how to initiate it.
How much porn and masturbating does he do?

When this happened to my husband I found out he was masturbating and viewing porn 4+ times a day. So his erection during sex was not up to par so to speak from what it was prior to this spike in masturbating. He had no problem getting a full on erection masturbating (by himself) to porn but had a hard time getting one to have sex with me. It got so bad that he admitted to viewing porn before trying to have sex with me so he could get hard. Well this crushed my feelings and made me very self conscious and our sex life came to a halt cause every time he tried to touch me all i could think about was did he look at porn to get in the mood and why wasnt i enough etc. When he gave up the porn and masturbating I could tell right away the difference in how hard he was. After that he hasn't had any issues getting an erection and keeping it. Sometimes his erection will still be there for a while after we are done having sex which hasn't happened in a long time.
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Old 11-14-2011, 02:04 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Impotence and Fear of Intimacy

square1 brings up a good point.

Here's an article in Psychology Today about this if excessive porn/masturbation is a suspected culprit:

Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction Is a Growing Problem | Psychology Today
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Old 11-14-2011, 02:19 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Impotence and Fear of Intimacy

I appreciate all the input, but I don't really think that is it. I am sure it doesn't help the situation, but his issues go much deeper. Like I said this is something he has dealt with all his life...as young as 20. When he was dating casually, no problem. Problems start when the relationship becomes more emotionally intimate and close.

Guess I am just trying to understand why that would happen to a man.
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Old 11-14-2011, 03:56 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Impotence and Fear of Intimacy

Well how long were you with him before having sex? Because you said he admits to this being a problem in long term relationships but you also state that the first few times you were together you noticed the problem. So to me unless you waited a year or more to have sex with him while still in a relationship with him it didn't seem to be long term when you noticed the problem. Not sure of what his/your definition of long term is.

Maybe he loses the excitement of the new relationship and that causes the problem but he can get it with porn and masturbating.

@Enchantment: thank you for the link. As my husband has recently come to accept this as a real problem and is working on it everyday. I think he might like to read that article.
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Old 11-14-2011, 04:41 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Impotence and Fear of Intimacy

Look up inhibited ejaculation. It is very difficult to solve. But he needs to stop porn and masturbation if he wants to address this. Most men balk at that idea.

How long have you been together?


If you take this personally and feel bad about yourself because of his issue, I would get out now. It really is unlikely to improve I am afraid.
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Old 11-15-2011, 08:05 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Impotence and Fear of Intimacy

We have been together almost 3 years. It may come to the point that I make a decision to leave. I don't take it personally, because I know that it is his issue, but neither do I want to be celibate the rest of my life.

I know the porn and masturbation don't help. I know he needs to stop, but right now I wish I had some insight into what is going through his head.

He knows, through some intense therapy that it is an extreme fear of intimacy. In every other regard, we are very intimate emotionally. He is very good at making me feel loved and cherished in every way but physically.

For some reason, I think the intense emotions that can come with making love with someone you love are more than he can handle.
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Old 08-14-2013, 10:44 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Impotence and Fear of Intimacy

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Originally Posted by priclesspearl View Post
I am engaged to a man I love dearly and deeply, but as the thread title suggests. He is impotent. The first few times we were together, I noticed that he had trouble achieving and maintaining an erection, but didn't think too much of it....put it up to age... he is about 7 years older than me andhe made it up for it with other skills. . We were fairly active sexually for about a year and then any sexual contact stopped.

Anyway, after numerous discussions, he admitted this has been a problem with him in long term relationships. Whenever he becomes close to someone and begins to care, he becomes impotent. We are both in counseling, separately trying to figure this out.

Can any man here please give me some idea of what you might think he is feeling and why this happens. My couselor won't comment...he doesn't know my finacee and my fiancee just says he doesn't know why.

Any ideas on what I can do to help him get past this? His therapist has suggested that we need to just "fool around", without worrying about what happens in the end, but he has been reluctant to take it further than just kissing. Should I initiate something more? And if so, how?

Appreciate any insight or advice. I love this man with all my heart.
Ever since I started dating as a teenager I found that after 3 or 4 sexual encounters with the same woman, no matter how I felt about her, I would suddenly shut down sexually, unable to perform experiencing various sexual dysfunctions. For many years I attributed this to being easily bored sexually and when the sexual dysfunction symptoms would crop up, I would simply break off the relationship and move on to another until the pattern would repeat and I would move on again and again. None of these relationships ever lasted for more than a few weeks, at most a couple of months depending on the frequency of sexual relations.

I was mainly concerned with building a career in my 20's and 30's so the lack of any kind of romantic relationships didn't bother me. As long as I could have sex a few times a month I was satisfied. Luckily I was fairly good looking so never had a problem getting women to go out with me.

It wasn't until I married at age 40, wanting to have children and be part of a family that this loss of sexual arousal after just a few times having sex began to complicate my life. It happened while dating my wife and although I wasn't going to tell her it was because I was bored with her sexually (what I believed was the cause) I played dumb and and told her i didn't know what the problem was that was causing me to be unable to get an erection during sex with her.

My soon to be wife, ever the optimist, said not to worry that we would seek therapy after we married. We did just that but the months of therapy turned into years and one therapist turned into three all of whom threw in the towel as did my wife who found the various treatments and exercises the Sex Therapists gave us (what they called "homework") to be frustrating and very damaging to her self esteem. This was because after awhile, with therapy obviously not working, she began to blame herself and her own sexual attractiveness. So after three years in an unconsummated marriage my wife gave up on therapy and settled into a sexless marriage the best she could.

I continued on in therapy with various psychologists and a psychiatrist but again none of them could figure out what the problem was. My sexual functioning was fine when I masturbated alone. And I did have two very brief affairs in those first 5 years of marriage and again the functioning was fine until after less than a half a dozen sexual encounters with these women then again I would lose sexual arousal and be unable to perform and I broke off the relationships.

In our 6th year of marriage we decided to seek fertility treatments so we could have children. The fact that I could have success masturbating alone meant we were able to have artificial insemination which worked great and we had two children in the space of 4 years.

After the last child was born (he is now 17) we never spoke of our sexual difficulties again and the marriage has now been sexless for a quarter century.

I really miss skin to skin sexual contact with women but after my kids were born I gave up on affairs and accepted I probably would never have sex again for the rest of my life. To me keeping the family together was more important that having sex although I was (and am) angry that it has to be one or the other. This despite a strong sex drive that hasn't grown any less as I got older. Masturbation alone has been my only sexual outlet. I'd love to be able to seek sex outside the marriage.

A couple of years ago I read an article about intimacy anxiety and how a childhood full of trauma and family of origin dysfunction (my parents were violent alcoholics who hated each other and fought constantly) can cause what is called an "attachment disorder" which in turn causes intimacy anxiety. At first I was skeptical because I never felt any conscious anxiety at all when having sex, even when I was dating and would suffer from an inability to get an erection with a partner. Thinking it was simple boredom I would apologize, get out of bed and never see the woman again. Apparently, according to my research, this is a fairly common problem for adult children of alcoholics who have been traumatized while still very young.

But the article I read went on to say that often intimacy anxiety is subconscious and any time I began to get close to a woman in a relationship my intimacy anxiety alarm bells would go off causing my body to release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that shut off sexual arousal like a light switch.

Sexual boredom was all I ever thought it was but after reading more on intimacy anxiety I now feel that this is what was causing my sexual difficulties and what has caused my marriage to remain unconsummated and sexless for so many years.

I simply cannot function sexually in a relationship unless I can keep the partner at arm's length emotionally. Something that is impossible when you live with someone in a marriage. I talked to my wife about having an open marriage explaining there was no way I would ever have any feelings for my extramarital sexual partners because if I did it would mean total sexual shutdown physically and mentally. But she would have none of it and refused dooming us both to not having sex for the rest of our lives.

It is too late for anything to be done as I am now in my 60's. But I hope my story might cause someone else who suffers from this to take this information with them to their Doctor or Therapist.

Last edited by Mr B; 08-15-2013 at 04:29 PM.
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Old 08-14-2013, 10:53 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Impotence and Fear of Intimacy

Some men have a problem with the sexual energy and arousal due to loving a person and not objectifying them. I guess the caveman saw sex, he didn't analyze it out he didn't rationalize the rules or anything.
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Old 08-14-2013, 11:28 PM   #13 (permalink)
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No No....that's the other part of the story. I've never been in love with anyone in my life...ever. People with intimacy difficulties consider falling in love like leaning into a punch......they'd be insane to do it. It is simply too emotionally dangerous, stressful and unpleasant to contemplate.
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Old 08-14-2013, 11:55 PM   #14 (permalink)
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No No....that's the other part of the story. I've never been in love with anyone in my life...ever. People with intimacy difficulties consider falling in love like leaning into a punch......they'd be insane to do it. It is simply too emotionally dangerous, stressful and unpleasant to contemplate.
Unpleasant because your worried about the potential negative repurcussions? Or in your world is being in love mutually a bad thing?
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Old 08-15-2013, 06:42 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Impotence and Fear of Intimacy

I had this kind of problem in my first serious relationship. I can tell you why it happened to me.

I was a young musician playing in bands, and found myself, at 16, playing with some older men in VFW and American Legion clubs.

Being an only child, I was "mature for my age" and found PARTIAL acceptance amongst my elder peers in that environment. I was accepted for my musical talent and knowledge, but rejected for
sex.

My male friends were scoring the groupies who were old enough to know better, but I was quite unsuccessful. This hurt deeply. I began to understand that there was something "wrong" with me.

When I was 17, an older "cougar" started pursuing me as a conquest. I was not really attracted to her, but one night, in my drunkenness, she succeeded to get me into the back seat of my car. Between the moonshine and my "first-time" fears, I was unable to get erect.

The next night, I was being laughed at by many of the people in the "close circle", being teased and ridiculed about "can't get it up".
The woman had made a laughing stock of me. I was completely mortified. I didn't try any girl again for more than 2 years.

At 19, another woman came to the bar where I was playing. However, I WAS attracted to her. She was 24 and divorced twice already. Tell you anything? Well, it didn't tell me squat. But it should have. She took me home - and guess what? Mr. Happy wouldn't get happy.

I tried pursuing her after the first encounter, but Mr. Happy still didn't get happy. She dumped me in couple of months because of it. Even though she said it wasn't because of my inability, I knew that it was and that she was only trying to protect my feelings.

Half-year later, here comes girl. Nice girl. Good girl. Same age as me, never married. However, I didn't feel attraction toward her sexually.

However, she hung in there through a couple months of unsuccessful sex, although she had no "therapist" telling her anything, she "took the pressure off" and loved me anyway. First thing you know, Mr. Happy was happy as hell and hard as a rock.

Then, I made the worst mistake of my life when the 24-year-old divorcee came back wanting me again. But, that's another story for another time. God, do I ever regret that, even though it was 41 years ago. Mr. Happy stayed happy but that was the only thing happy.

Fast forward 11 years. Divorcee and I stayed together for 11 years. She wouldn't marry me. I left. I found another woman
who wanted marriage. However, during the engagement, she compared me unfavorably to her ex-husband. He was better-looking, had a bigger penis, could "last longer". Mr. Happy was unhappy again. We went to a counselor for premarital counseling
and he told us that we should marry, that we would never solve our problem until we were. BAD ADVICE.

"starting at the shallow end" was something she was not willing to do at all. 3 months into the marriage, she started to have affairs. She didn't see that her critical and condescending spirit, and her anger at my impotence, was being part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Gradually, I got over it and Mr. Happy began to work again. However, Mr. Happy's owner wanted nothing to do with her anymore. Her angry, condescending spirit about it chopped away at me until there was nothing left.

Last edited by TJW; 08-15-2013 at 07:32 AM.
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