About four years ago, my husband Bill began having trouble maintaining an erection. Since both of us enjoyed sex—a lot—we were quite dismayed. Bill loved watching me as I became aroused, especially since I have always had a highly charged libido, but even so, his erections began to peter out before I could achieve orgasm, or worse, he wouldn’t be able to get hard at all.
We had no idea what on earth was going on. I thought it was my fault. Bill had always gotten a big kick out of the intensity of my sexual desire for him. He’d even joked that I’d broken his dick—twice. (I’d gotten a little carried away in our lovemaking a couple of times, and his equipment couldn’t handle it.) What if I had actually broken it?
Or what if I’d simply scared Dick? Bill said, “No way!”… but I wasn’t so sure. I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d been putting too much pressure on him to have sex. Sometimes I worried that since I was older, perhaps he no longer found me attractive. But that wasn’t it. I knew Bill wasn’t interested in other women. He wanted only me. So why were his erections deflating before we’d had a chance to enjoy ourselves?
Over the course of time, Bill grew completely impotent. His sexual desire flagged to the point of nonexistence. I admit to feeling guilty, greedy and depressed over the lack of sex, but it was a difficult adjustment for both of us. Bill told me he still found me attractive and wanted to make love to me, but his dick won’t cooperate. I wondered if we’d ever have intercourse again. I began to think that if I wanted to fuck, I would have to find a lover, but I really didn’t want anyone other than my husband. There had to be another solution.
More Than a Little Blue Pill
The Mayo Clinic describes erectile dysfunction as “the inability to obtain an adequate erection for satisfactory sexual activity.” The cause may be physical or psychological. These men cannot achieve an erection without medical treatment. There are many online sources available for couples seeking help with erectile dysfunction, including the Mayo Clinic, The National Institutes for Health, and the American Medical Association. Men and their partners may also find erectile dysfunction support groups on the web or in their communities.
Common causes of erectile dysfunction include heart disease, clogged blood vessels, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome. Prescription drugs, alcoholism, drug abuse, smoking, treatment for prostate cancer, Parkinsons disease, multiple sclerosis, hormonal disorders such as hypogonadism (low testosterone), Peyronie’s disease, and surgeries or injuries that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord can also be to blame. In addition, psychological conditions, such as depression, anxiety, stress, fatigue, and poor communication or conflict with one’s partner can contribute to erectile dysfunction. The physical and psychological causes of erectile dysfunction often inter-connect, making the condition more chronic.
My husband and I decided it was time to see our family doctor, who prescribed testosterone gel. He told us that one of the possible side effects of this treatment was aggression, so we needed to be on the lookout for that.
Within days, Bill began to snap at me—something he had never done before. He also drove aggressively, barked curses at passing cars and drove over the speed limit. I’d never seen him behave this way, and it scared me. Bill went from a mellow guy who sang (off key) techno tunes playing from our car’s CD player to a road rage maniac surrounded by several thousand pounds of black Swedish metal. I preferred the man whose singing voice sounded like a moose in heat to the nutcase who took over Massachusetts highways. The worst of it was that the treatment did nothing to help Bill’s erectile problems or increase his sex drive. I asked him to stop using it. He said that he could feel the Dr. Jeckyll to Mr. Hyde transformation, and he didn’t like it, either. That was the end of the testosterone gel.
That left pills to try—although we weren’t really keen on them once we’d learned about the side effects. Besides, we’d always made fun of commercials that guy named “Bob” on the commercials who became an unlikely sexual powerhouse thanks to popping chubby pills. We never expected Bill to end up taking them. Our physician prescribed Cialis, but again, the side effects were dreadful. When Bill took the medication, he started having lower back pain and headaches—neither of which paved the way to sexual bliss—and he did not get an erection. Strike two.
One thing that we didn’t try was a penis pump. To use this gadget, the man inserts his penis into a hollow tube, then pumps away with hand pump until he reaches a level of suction that feels comfortable. The suction from the penis pump draws blood into the penis, helping it to become erect. Once the man has achieved an adequate erection, he slips a dick ring around the base of his cock to restrict blood flow out of the penis. Then, armed with a handmade hard-on, he may have penetrative sex with his partner. Typically, these erections last long enough for one bout of sex play.
But Bill said he didn’t want to be treated like a “meat dildo.” He did not want to pop a pill or prime a pump to get an erection, only to have me hop on him like he was a quarter-a-ride drugstore pony with a ticking timer. I agreed with him. I did want to have intercourse with him, but I certainly did not want to feel like I was masturbating with his dick while ignoring the rest of him.
Sex Minus the Hard-On
We needed to shift focus from his penis to the entire act of sex itself. During one conversation about our sex life, Bill began to detail some of the things we’d done when we made love. To our amazement, we brought each other to orgasm without him having an erection. It was a light-bulb moment.
Since Bill no longer could no longer get it up, we had to learn to look at sexual stimulation beyond penetration. There’s no question that a penis can be very satisfying. The length and breadth of a hard dick can stimulate areas that are out of finger reach, but you really can do quite a lot with your fingers and tongue. Simple erotic touching to create extended foreplay can drive your partner wild.
Sometimes people take their bodies for granted. One way for couples to reacquaint themselves with their own bodies and the bodies of their lovers is to give each other a massage. Scented oils, such as peppermint, orange and grapefruit are invigorating and enhance physical pleasure. Give each other oral sex. Scratch one another’s backs and heads. Masturbate each other. Take things gradually. Don’t rush. There are countless possibilities for great sex without intercourse.
Instead of using a meat dildo, how about trying an interactive dildo (or two)? With a dildo in hand and you between your partner’s legs, you have complete control and have full “situational awareness” of what you are doing. If you like, you can introduce an anal sex toy to the party, to bring a little extra oomph to your sex play.
Prioritize Your Pleasure
When lovers are already communicating well, good sex follows. Some men and women focus too much on the goal—the orgasm. They don’t take time to enjoy one another’s bodies as they make love. Learn to enjoy giving pleasure to your lover. One of life’s biggest turn-ons is seeing your lover aroused. As you explore your lover’s body to learn new ways to arouse him or her, you too will become aroused.
Be very aware of the here and now. Don’t allow your mind to become distracted by job woes, car problems, the phone ringing, the cats hissing at each other, or other stressors. Banish such erotic-killing thoughts from your mind, and focus on your own body’s sensations as well as your lover’s.
Sometimes you have to plan for sex. Pack up the kids with the grandparents for the evening. Rent a room at a fancy hotel—preferably one with a spa—and spend a sexy evening or (better yet) weekend away from home. Buy some sex toys and plan an evening at home with your fun, new gadgets. My husband and I love foot massages, and we use massage candles and massage oils to tend to each other’s feet while watching endless reruns of Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares and Law & Order.
There are numerous possibilities for couples to have great sex that far outnumber mere penetration. While Bill and I no longer engage in conventional intercourse, we enjoy each other very much. I’ve learned to use clitoral vibrators to achieve orgasm without penetration, but when I do want something inside me, we use some of my favorite toys, such as a rabbit or thrusting vibrator. The trick is to simply enjoy what you have together. Once you get used to the idea of sensuality as a normal and enjoyable part of everyday life, you will find that you appreciate sensations that are not necessarily connected to the sex act—and as a result, your sex life will be greatly improved.