Letter to Amy regarding E.D.

Elizabeth, on June 4th, 2009 at 5:30 pm Said:

I would like to explain our situation and ask questions too.

My husband had prostate surgery and radiation in 2000. He has not been able to have a erection to this day. He has taken some of the erection pills without any help. He does not want to be intimate at all. He says, “What is the use?”

I keeping telling him that I can be satisfied just hugging and kissing some times. Is there any help for restoring the damaged veins that the blood flows through to the penis? I love him very much and I have tried to explain this to him. I have been very depressed about this. He will not go to counseling. I am thinking about going just for myself.

Thanks
Elizabeth

—–

Amy replied as follows:

Dear Elizabeth:

So many men and their wives suffer in the way you describe, and this is one of the saddest aspects of prostate cancer. The man is physically emasculated by his treatment, and the physical emasculation then becomes emotionally emasculating for him too. As a result, he withdraws from any and all sexually explicit or even emotionally comforting activities, leaving his wife or partner physically and emotionally destitute as well. We women have a hard time understanding why men behave in this way, because we have a greater tendency to understand the benefits of close contact and emotional reassurance. Our husbands, on the other hand, have been taught that their sexual prowess is fundamental to “who they are.” The loss of that capacity is therefore physically and emotionally traumatic for them — and the possibility that they could benefit from counseling is nearly as hard for many men to admit.

It seems to me that there are three possible things for you to do:

1. As you suggest, it might be a really good idea for you to get some help for yourself. Regardless of what this is doing to your husband, it is scarring you too, and you will benefit from some help to cope with this.

2. There are web sites and ListServ systems specifically for women where you can talk with others who are going through or have been through what you describe. Knowing you are not alone is a big benefit in itself. So you can have a look at any one (or all) of the following: the Wives and Partners Group on The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink Social Network; the website HisProstateCancer.com that has been developed specifically for wives and partners; and the ListServ forum “A Prostate Cancer Forum for Ladies Only.”

3. Perhaps most importantly, sometimes you need to ignore your husband’s emotional distress and address yours. It is OK to just say, “I need a hug” and “take one.” It is OK to say “Gimme a kiss,” and give him one. It is OK to just “snuggle up” in bed — even if he does seem to ignore you. Habits can change. Beliefs can be altered. Waiting for him to give you permission will be a longer process than simply deciding to “take what you can get.” He may seem a little uncomfortable with this, but if he is overtly “difficult” about it, it’s worth trying the approach where you just grin and say, “Just ‘cos you don’t need a hug, I do!”

I hope some of this helps. I am sure you and your husband are both having a very difficult time with this alteration in your circumstances. In overcoming this, it is going to be important for you to be clear with him physically about your needs. Sometimes talking about it just doesn’t work!

Amy

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