“You gave my husband viagra?!??!” Her voice rose an octave with the last word. She was livid. “No one asked me if I wanted him to have it!” she sputtered.
The Viagra itself was not the issue. It was that she felt she had to engage in intimate acts for which she was now an unwilling participant. Erectile dysfunction had been her savior. Take that away and she was forced to confront her feelings about her partner and her marriage. Only, she did not really want to confront them…
Cue the male side of the equation:
“What is wrong with me? Why won’t she have sex?” Or sometimes, “Do you have a pill to fix her?” Typically this line of questioning comes at me in an angry torrent, more like accusations as if I am partly to blame. Sometimes it really is an honest inquiry. The answer, however, is terribly complex. Most men in the clinical setting do not want to hear the detailed answer. They want the one sentence solution that I do not have.
Don’t we all want the easy way?
Some really amazing, wonderful men (at least from what I can tell) have asked me these questions over the years and it bewilders me. First that their partners are NOT having sex with them and second because they are asking me for advice.
I am hardly an expert.
Perhaps it is because I am a doctor and a woman, I am supposed to have all of the answers?
I wish I did.
As women, we all very readily point the finger in the direction of men and scream, “It is your own damn fault!” I have been there. Multiple times. In fact, I have sat in judgement of other people’s relationships when I had no business doing so because my own was so screwed up.
Like most women, my feelings about and interest in sex waxes and wanes. Hormones, locale, work stress, kids… Like most women, all of those things (and more) play a part for me.
But I am not all women. I do not live in their house. I do not sleep in their bed. What can I tell these men about “fixing” their partners? I rely on anecdotal information gleaned from years of practice (medical and otherwise…) but it is still one sided.
If they were simply better at making love. If they did more chores. If they would grow up. If they would make me feel loved, protected. If they had more ambition. If… If only…
Sometimes that is true.
Sometimes it is their fault.
Sometimes, however, it is not.
And if it is not their fault, is it really that their partner has a low sex drive? Would a pill “fix” them? Or is it a symptom of something more sinister?
Is it that I don’t want sex or is it that I simply do not want sex with this man?
It is this question that eats at us all, men and women alike.
The truth of the matter is that women are rarely honest with men about the real reasons why we are not having sex. “I hate my life with you,” becomes, “I’m too tired.” Men cannot be expected to fix what they do not know.
The truth is just too painful.
Often I tell men that they need to ask themselves if they really want to know the truth. The truth in this situation, is rarely pretty. Sometimes it is simply easier for everyone to go on ignoring the problem…
As women we hold so much power. We can grow life. We can inspire masterpieces: great works of art and poetry and literature. We can move men to bleed and die for us.
We forget that we also hold the power to crush a man’s spirit, to destroy another human being.
So, for men who feel abandoned, isolated in their relationships, I say there is hope, if you want hope. But the solution does not come easy. There are tons of things that have been written on this by people much smarter than me, but if you want my humble, very personal take:
Women. We want to believe that love transcends sex. It is our own personal fairytale. Step one is to make us believe it is true for you, too, even if it is not. This is complicated because you still have to make us feel more beautiful, more valued than anything else on this Earth. For some men expressions of love and worth are communicated through sex. Not all women speak that language. Some men are very good at all of this, but it falls on infertile ground. We are not receptive. If you are not ready to give up, keep trying. Try differently. Try harder. The seed has to eventually land somewhere that it will take root and grow.
If your partner needs for you to do the dishes or laundry or take the kids somewhere, don’t just do it. Anticipate it.
Believe it or not, sex is a very important part of a relationship for many women, despite what we may say or what nonverbal messages we may send. From a female standpoint, I enjoy the intimacy. I enjoy knowing that I have that kind of power over another, that I can bring them to their knees, move them to lose control so completely in spite of stretch marks and saggy boobs. This becomes more important to me as I get older. It is validating.
But because sex is so intimate, so powerful, we don’t give it out freely. We have to be wooed.
Sex is never a given.
Make love to me with words. With flowers. With your eyes. Show me your strength, your selflessness. Give me tokens of your appreciation.
Do this faithfully without sway, even when it feels hopeless and futile. Relationships can heal but they do so in their own time, and it cannot be forced.
We all need hope.
There is always hope.
I wrote this in response to a request as a follow up to my post about female viagra from a few days ago, A Bitter Pill to Swallow. I have struggled with this post mightily. How personal it is, how long it is, is it too preachy or too peppy, does it really even answer the question I was given: What do you do if you have tried everything? So you all tell me. What do you do if you have tried everything?