Impotence: A Woman's Perspective

by J. Douglas Trapp, M.D.

After the initial concern that something is going wrong with the relationship, a woman may turn her frustration and disappointment into anger at her mate-especially if they don't communicate well. More likely, though, the reaction is self-blame. The woman may feel that she's no longer attractive or that her partner doesn't love her any more. She worries that he may be having an affair and that she'll be rejected or abandoned.
Another strong emotion the partners of impotent men often feel is the fear that he may be physically ill. After all, it's generally known that about 85-90 percent of erectile problems are caused by an existing medical condition. Despite their worry, many women are reluctant to suggest that their partner see a doctor. Sometimes, both partners see a doctor. Sometimes, both partners avoid the issue entirely and pretend that everything is fine. This attitude can intensify anger or depression.
Some women are honestly glad for the impotence-glad they don't "have to have sex" anymore. Their secret relief, however, may be accompanied by guilt at feeling that way or a sense of inadequacy because they don't enjoy sexual intercourse.
A woman's emotions regarding the impotence of her partner can be complex. And don't forget that the male partner is going through similar strong emotions. If you've had some of these feelings, remember that such emotions are normal and that most women dealing with impotence will experience them. Acknowledge them. Understand you're not alone and you're not unusual. There are 30 million partners of impotent men!
The real question is how to defuse these emotions within your relationship so you can address the impotence itself. How do you tactfully broach the subject of impotence without inflicting more pain or embarrassment? The place to begin is with yourself. In a spirit of friendly cooperation, you must solicit your partner's support in solving the problem. A simple statement, "I have a problem and I need you help in resolving it," obviously takes him off the defensive and promotes attentive listening. Translate your feelings and needs into short sentences. Example: "I feel lonely and I want more affection." Statements that begin with "I feel..." encourage open sharing of feelings, are non-demanding and should be well accepted by your partner.
Couples who can talk openly have a great advantage. Sharing fears and worries is a first step toward feeling better. Learning to laugh at yourselves is another. Decide if you're both motivated to resolve the problem. Once you've talked it over, you may find, to your surprise, that you're both content with things as they are.
But if you both want a sexual relationship that includes intercourse, your next step is to get good information about your options for treatment. Then visit your doctor-together. Regardless of the complex feelings impotence provoke in both women and men, the best way to settle the emotions, calm the fears, and resolve the impotence is to consider, as a couple, your options for effective treatment. Successful treatment is available.

About the author: Dr. J. Douglas Trapp is a urologist specializing in male sexual dysfunction. He is Medical Advisor to the Impotence Resource Center, a nonprofit group dedicated to research and education on impotence. For a free booklet that explains causes and treatment options, call, 800-433-4215; or visit the website at:

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