Most women, when they're young, believe men are the ones regularly seeking sexual intimacy. That's why later in life, for some male/female relationships, it becomes quite a surprise when it's the woman who is more interested than the man.
Below, Joan taps into her bevvy of experts for answers.
"Intimacy involves feelings of emotional closeness and connectedness with another person," Joan said. "A relationship needs intimacy, both physical and emotional in order to thrive; without both, a relationship will slowly wither and die. According to experts, you cannot create physical intimacy without the emotional intimacy, nor can you have complete emotional intimacy without the physical aspect, as well. Often one area is lacking in a union and that is when a couple may find their relationship in trouble."
Q: How much of a problem is this for men? Do you have any statistics?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, as many as 52 percent of men experience erectile dysfunction, with 40 percent of men age 40, and 70 percent of men age 70 affected. Medications, lifestyle and pornography all contribute to the problem.
Q: If this is occurring in a relationship, how does the party who wants to be more intimate with their mate express how she feels without hurting or insulting him?
“There are ways around ED and many ways to treat the problem but hurt feelings between partners will amplify the situation,” said Dr. Stan Tatkin, a clinician, researcher, and the developer of PACT—A Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy, “Talking about issues is best done directly, sensitively, and without walking on eggshells.”
Dr. Johnathan Robinson, a psychotherapist and bestselling author of 12 books including More Love Less Conflict, advises to create a safe environment for a partner to express his thoughts and feelings. Ask questions from curiosity, solicit his opinion, acknowledge his point of view, and thank him for listening.
Dr. John W. Beiter, PhD, CST, a licensed psychologist and AASECT certified sex therapist, agrees that communication is key on both sides of the equation. He suggests asking questions such as, what’s important for you in our relationship or how do you think we can be more intimate? He recommends making sure that the conversation is reciprocal in that the other person returns the favor and asks the same questions.
“I encourage my female clients to not take it personally,” said Julianne Cantarella, LSW, a matchmaker and dating coach and founder of New Jersey’s Matchmaker.
“They often think: Am I not attractive enough? Do they not love me enough? Am I not desirable? Is there someone else? This can result in anger, frustration and resentment. It’s important not to be reactive, but rather proactive and approach it with love and kindness.”
She cautions that this is a very sensitive issue for men as sexuality and masculinity are closely tied.
“Some men deal with it, by not dealing with it at all and ignoring it,” said Cantarella. “This creates a huge divide and over time can erode a relationship.” She believes that if the man feels safe and loved and not made to feel embarrassed or shamed, he is more willing to seek support or medical treatment to deal with the issue.
Q: What if the person who cannot perform sexually shows no interest in fixing it? What does the other party do?
“It would indeed feel unloving if a partner behaved as if he did not care that he is unable to perform sexually and is uninterested in getting help for that,” said Dr. Tatkin. “We must remember that in couples, where there's one, there is usually the other, no angels and no devils.”
While there are many possible causes for a partner who truly has no energy or interest - the result of a trauma history, acute or chronic pain, hormonal changes due to medical issues, surgeries, medicines, a host of other biological or physiological reasons - if the indifferent partner doesn't want to work on his issues for the relationship and maintains his stance, it may be a deal-breaker, added Dr. Tatkin. It may be cause for the other partner to say, ‘See you later.’
He believes that the big question here isn't so much about sex but rather: What's the point of this relationship? Who and what do we serve, and why? And, upon what does our interdependency hinge?
Dr. Beiter encourages partners to add variety - the spice of life. He says to mix it up - introduce novelty and make it fun - not some pressure filled, stress inducing activity that neither party will enjoy after a while.