Looking at the psychology of impotence is a little like taking a trip down the Amazon during the wet season. It's a subject fraught with uncharted waters and hidden currents.
There is no doubt that Viagra, the little blue pill that revolutionized the treatment of impotence has had a profound effect on men who have suffered from erectile dysfunction. But simply finding a "quick fix" for impotence doesn't overcome other problems that may have been there before treatment began.
Overcoming impotence often gives men unrealistic expectations about their ability to immediately cure their emotional problems as well as their physical ones.
Sadly it seems that for a large number of men, their ability to get an erection and have sex is viewed as an integral part of their masculinity and potency. So it's no wonder that the onset of impotence, even when triggered by an underlying physical condition, can produce psychological problems that further impact on the impotence.
Performance anxiety is a very real issue for most men at one time or another. The fear of not being able to perform adequately, dissatisfaction with penis size, and self-consciousness about body appearance can all lead to the very thing that most men wish to avoid - failure to get an erection.
So, when this anxiety is coupled with the knowledge there may have been an occasional episode of impotence in the past, or when erectile dysfunction has been in existence for a period of time, this anxiety is multiplied. From a strictly physiological viewpoint, anxiety can effectively prevent a man from becoming aroused and getting and maintaining an erection.
And performance anxiety isn't the only issue men have to contend with. The highest risk category for the onset of impotence is the so-called "baby-boomers" - men born in the period from 1946 to 1964. Most of these men are in their peak performance years in terms of their job, status, family and financial success. And all these factors lead to an increase in stress levels and anxiety - one more reason for impotence to occur.
Taking a pill may temporarily overcome the impotence, but relieving the self-doubt and mental stress, which may have been brooding for any number of years, is harder to alleviate. The ability to regain quality of life by restoring sexual function is viewed by some men as a near miracle and by others with fear and trepidation.
It's important to honestly assess how you feel now and compare it to how you felt before the impotence treatment began. Easier said than done, but unless the negative feelings tied to the impotence can be viewed objectively, it's akin to the stories people who have gained a great deal of weight often say "I feel like a thin person trapped in a fat person's body." Whereas in this case it's "I feel like an impotent man trapped in a body that now has full sexual function."
The psychology of impotence is about viewing your new life - with sexual function - as a new beginning, complete with all the new emotions that may be experienced. There's no point in trying to "recapture" your life the way it was prior to impotence, regardless of whether that was only months ago or many years ago. Time moves on, and trying to live out life the way it used to be is a sure-fire bet for failure.
Finding an effective treatment to restore erectile function is not a guarantee that you will find an effective treatment for a relationship in need of psychological, physical or emotional repair. And in most situations it's not a "cure" for intimacy, romance or monogamy.
The restoration of erectile function can quickly and unexpectedly alter the dynamics of a relationship, particularly when impotence has been a long-term problem. A profound, and often immediate, change in male sexual function is no small matter, and cannot be dealt with in the time it takes to swallow a little pill.
We live in an age of "quick fixes", and while it's true that impotence medications can quickly help overcome physiological problems, it's the couple who must resolve their relationship issues. And that takes dedication, effort - and time.
The renewal of sexual function is viewed by a number of men as being given a "second chance". They don't take their restored function for granted and are usually willing and eager to explore their feelings and their relationship with renewed hope and vigor.
Sadly, that's not always the case. Many men who have dealt with impotence for a long period of time find that being able to resume intercourse is not the solution for a disintegrating relationship. New and unfamiliar pressures can be exerted on both partners and it's often a time when a couple need to seriously evaluate the health of their relationship.
Evaluating your relationship and your sex life in an honest and candid way can have an impact on both of you.
The Meaning of Sex in Your Relationship
It's no secret that men and women react differently to sex - before, during and afterwards. Mutually satisfying sex is an integral part of a healthy, well-developed relationship.
As part of the solid foundation between two people, it can bring intimacy, joy and trust to each partner. However, as the sole pillar in a faltering relationship, it can be the weak link. In between these two standards is an entire universe of emotions and experiences that are unique to each couple.
Think about your feelings regarding your relationship:
How happy are you with your partner?
How satisfied are you with your sex life?
How satisfied is your partner with your sex life?
Is your relationship based on friendship, mutual understanding and trust, family commitments, or sex?
How well do you both communicate your feelings about all aspects of your relationship?
Remember that a mutually satisfying sex life is an integral part of a healthy relationship. When the physical aspects of your relationship are on track, you create an experience that is greater than the two of you, and one that adds to your overall mental and physical contentment.
Identifying Sexual Problems and Anxieties
Close examination of your sexual partnership with a view to solving any problems that exist is an extremely delicate matter. Being able to openly and candidly express the things that make you uncomfortable, cause embarrassment, or deny you pleasure requires a great deal of tact and diplomacy. Communicating your desires, the things that bring you pleasure and what it takes to bring you sexual fulfillment can be equally embarrassing to express.
Good communication is the key to a happy and healthy sexual relationship. Being able to speak frankly about what makes you happy and what doesn't requires courage and empathy - the ability to say how you feel and what you want without upsetting your partner or causing them to go on the defensive.
In many cases, couples who have experienced communication problems often seek the help of a mediator or sex therapist to help them clearly and objectively state their case. Having a third party present in such situations can help diffuse tension and ease any difficulties partners may have communicating their feelings to each other.
Some of the situations where sexual problems can arise include:
When one partner desires sex more frequently than the other.
When there is dissatisfaction or a lack of pleasure in your sex life.
When one partner feels they give more than they receive.
When there is guilt, fear or anxiety about sexual activity.
When your preferred sexual activities are at odds with each other.
The psychology of impotence is about sometimes stepping into uncharted waters. It requires confidence and the experience that comes with learning, understanding and embracing your own sexual desires and those of your partner.
We're not all mind readers, so communicating openly and honestly, and defining what satisfies you sexually is the first step. Listening to your partner in an equally honest and open manner is just as important. Empathy, patience, perseverance and compromise are the markers of a highly successful sexual relationship.