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(Adapted from a booklet by the Geddings Osbon Foundation. Osbon created the vacuum erection device that now carries his name.)

Part 1 of 2 parts
(due to size of document)

A Six-Step Survival Guide for any woman who finds herself in a relationship with an impotent male. Based on the experiences of several women who came through it all - and survived.

woman walking up steps This article is a female-focused, step-by-step guide for women in relationships with men who are impotent. The sexual, psychological and medical issues you confront are addressed. This guide will be helpful to women who desire an intimate relationship that includes having sexual intercourse or whose relationship is challenged by the loss of sexual intimacy. If you are willing to work together with your partner to restore and enhance his sexual potency, the suggested six-step process will facilitate successful problem-solving.


Impotence, transient erectile problems and premature ejaculation occasionally occur in all relationships. Chronic impotence (erectile dysfunction) is the inability to achieve or to sustain an erection long enough to complete sexual intercourse. It is an extremely common disorder affecting 10% of the male population. In the US alone, there are 30 million afflicted men.

Premature ejaculation is the inability to exercise voluntary control over the ejaculatory process. Although premature ejaculation is not an erectile disorder, it is discussed in this article because some of the treatments mentioned can be of assistance in resolving this problem, too. Any sexual dysfunction, including premature ejaculation, can deprive a woman of sexual pleasure and result in subtle but significant personal and psychological distress.


Your decision to read this article affirms your commitment to take the first step in overcoming male impotence. New opportunities for achieving satisfying and successful intercourse open up to you as you progress through each additional step. Although there are many ways to express and experience love, chronic male impotence can be a profound and often painful loss in the lives of women.

The SIX STEPS TO SUCCESS in renewing intimacy through sexual intercourse are :

    *  1. Admit the effects of impotence on you and your relationship.
    *  2. Consider your physical and psychological health.
    *  3. Explore the relationship factors that predict successful treatment.
    *  4. Learn about the causes and treatments for impotence.
    *  5. Discuss this problem with your mate and determine your true sexual needs.
    *  6. Seek medical consultation.


As you begin to think about resuming sexual intercourse, it is important to understand the influence that impotence has on you and your partner. Feelings, thoughts, and behaviors in relation to impotence reflect on your physical and psychological well being.

STEP I considers these factors.



Ellen has been married to Paul for 35 years. One year ago, Paul had triple by-pass surgery. Since that time, their sexual relationship has silently dwindled. Ellen tearfully described a recent evening together, "Paul and I were finally alone after a busy week - no telephones, no distractions, no interruptions. I'd been looking forward to this special time together to share a fulfilling, intimate experience. But in spite of my caresses and cuddling, Paul couldn't seem to respond. The more I tried, the more anxious we both became. He was embarrassed and apologetic. Feebly, Paul admitted, 'I just haven't been myself lately.' I felt disappointed, frustrated, and frankly, a little angry. This wasn't the first time this had happened. Sometimes, in the middle of intercourse, he'd lose his erection and we'd have to stop. So, once again, I tried to be supportive, ' It's OK, Paul, it doesn't matter, being together is enough.' But it isn't...I know it...and so does he."

Any woman who has tried to have intercourse with an impotent man can identify with Ellen's feelings. It isn't just men who experience frustration and disappointment. Women do too.

Many couples maintain a conspiracy of silence surrounding the problem of impotence. Ellen and Paul both knew that there was a problem, but typically were reluctant to talk about it. Paul didn't want to accept the reality of his impotence, and neither did Ellen. They were caught in a double bind. If they openly addressed the issue, much anxiety and stress would be generated. If they chose to ignore the problem, opportunities for emotional and sexual closeness were lost. As they became more physically distant, the quality of their marital relationship began to deteriorate. Over time, they gradually began to drift apart. Silence reinforced their estrangement.

If having intercourse is important to you, admit it to yourself and to your partner. Don't pretend it doesn't matter.


Men and women have similar feelings about impotence; yet they rarely acknowledge it to themselves, let alone one another.

Feelings Women Experience Feelings Men Experience
Disappointment Despair
Frustration Frustration
Embarrassment Embarrassment
Fear of rejection Fear of failure
Anger Anger
Guilt & betrayal Guilt & shame
Fear of abandonment Fear of rejection
Self-blame Self-blame
Depression Depression
Grief & loss Grief & loss

Ellen looked in the mirror. At 57, she thought that her beauty was definitely fading. New wrinkles seemed to appear on a daily basis. A recent, unwelcome weight gain testified that her body was losing the war with gravity. The prospect of aging disturbed her, as it does most women, and she was left with a vague sense of unhappiness.

When Ellen realized that Paul's sexual interest had diminished, she began, as many women do, to blame herself. Although Ellen loved Paul a great deal, she felt emotionally insecure and ambivalent about their sexual problems. She tried to cover her confusing feelings by focusing her energies on family, friends and career. Other matters slowly assumed greater priority in her life.

Many women, like Ellen, blame themselves and the effects of aging on their partner's decreased sexual interest. The distractions of life serve to only temporarily dissipate the feelings of loss and grief over diminished sexual intimacy.

Paul longed for the emotional and sexual satisfaction he used to receive from making love with Ellen. He recalled a talk with his physician who reassured him that sexual activity would not endanger his physical health, but this reassurance did not assuage his anxieties. 'It's not fair to burden Ellen with my problems. How can I tell her I'm not sexually capable anymore? Now I'm only half a man.

Men's feelings of sexual insecurity can cause them to question their masculinity. As a result, low self-esteem can generalize to other areas of the relationship. After repeated failed attempts at intercourse, men may feel powerless, defeated, and hopeless. They may cope by unwittingly desexualizing their partner to protect themselves against fears of abandonment and rejection. They are apprehensive about acknowledging this and worry about being perceived as failures in the eyes of their partners.

These negative feelings can be intense and illogical. Even when there is an understanding about why we feel the way we do, this insight does not necessarily help us to change our behavior. Impotence can be perplexing and requires examination of the differences in how men and women think and behave.



When confronted with their partner's sexual dysfunction, women begin to explore possible reasons for this problem. After initial feelings of self-blame, women share many of the same concerns.

"Maybe he's sick and there's a medical reason for this problem."

Approximately 85% of all cases of impotence are caused by specific, diagnosable, physical conditions. Most of these problems are treatable and some are curable. Men who are sexually impaired should have a medical evaluation.

"I wonder if something is wrong with our relationship?"

Sometimes potency problems are a screen for more serious emotional or relationship issues. If there is loving affection and a committed friendship between partners, almost all problems can be a good place to begin problem-solving and bridging communication gaps.

"Maybe he's angry with me. Maybe I'm angry with him, too."

Anger, whether or not openly expressed, interferes with sexual desire in many couples. Anger evoked by daily irritations or disagreements is present in almost all relationships. But profound anger, fear or anxiety related, must be resolved in order for medical treatment to be effective.

"Is he having an affair? Is he going to leave me?"

Women who measure their self-esteem, femininity and desirability by how well men respond sexually are particularly vulnerable to fears of abandonment and rejection. Men's emotional detachment feed into the fears. Women may worry that their mates may be impotent with them, but potent with other women, leaving them with fantasies of betrayal and infidelity.

"Honestly, I'm secretly relieved. I don't miss not having sex any more."

Some women are quietly relieved that their partner is impotent. For a variety of reasons, they have never found sexual intercourse to be emotionally gratifying or physically satisfying. Strong negative attitudes or previous negative sexual experiences may undermine the success of any medical or psychological intervention.

(starts at Part 2)


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