Let's face it - men are born with a propensity to tell lies. From the moment they first discover the dangly bits at the end of their torso, they become adept at justifying and excusing their behavior, particularly when it relates to their primary brain/nerve center - their penis.
A man's self-worth is still measured by his sexual prowess, and despite a concerted push in some quarters for men to get in touch with their feminine selves, most men continue to believe that their masculinity is intimately linked to the well being of their penis.
So when problems arise with performance, particularly if that problem is impotence, the majority of men retreat to their "cave", unable to come to terms with what many perceive as their failing as a red-blooded male. This retreat can leave a partner alarmed, perplexed and confused.
Marilyn, a bright and happy 42-year-old, who has been married to Dean for 15 years told me recently, "Dean changed very suddenly. He didn't want to communicate with me at all, he became less affectionate and our sex life suddenly ceased to exist." Like many women, Marilyn suspected Dean was having an affair, and everything Dean did seemed to validate her belief, "The more I tried to get close to Dean, the more he withdrew, until it reached a point where one day I exploded."
It wasn't until Marilyn threatened to leave the relationship if Dean didn't confess to his affair that he was able to confess that his withdrawal had nothing to do with another woman but was, in fact, that he had discovered he was impotent.
The timing for men like Dean is crucial in that studies suggest that men in their early 40s are three times more likely to have an affair, but also much more likely to experience impotence. Rather than communicate his fears and concerns to Marilyn, Dean had become withdrawn and non-communicative as a way to try and deal with his problem.
Once the problem was out in the open, Marilyn and Dean were able to seek help and quickly get their life back on track with professional counseling and impotence medication.
It's not such an easy fix if you suspect there really is an affair going on. In the original Kinsey Report, published more than 50 years ago, approximately 60% of men under the age of 40 were found to be unfaithful to their wives, compared with only 30% of women. Subsequent studies have found these statistics vary little.
As the old saying goes, 'Women need a reason to have an affair, men just need a place'.
So how do you determine if he's having an affair, or in the case of Marilyn and Dean, simply covering up a physical condition like impotence?
Dr. Katherine Clements, PhD and relationship counselor has this to say, "The signs that a man is having an affair can be very similar to those of a man dealing with impotence. Men tend to withdraw and become incommunicative as a way to deal with what's happening, which leaves their partners feeling isolated, confused and suspicious."
If you suspect your partner is having an affair, apart from coming straight out and confronting him, Dr. Clements suggests there are a couple of tell-tale signs to watch for:
A change in work hours, particularly overtime, when there is no increase in the pay packet to match
A change in personal appearance. Quite often a man will start paying more attention to his grooming and appearance.
He may decide to invest in a new wardrobe or buy himself something unexpected, like boxers when he's always been a briefs man.
He looks for excuses to be away from you - this is usually when "hanging with the boys" becomes an issue.
His bedroom habits change - he may suddenly want to abstain from sex altogether or he may wish to try something new with you.
He becomes critical and starts comparing you with others.
Although there are no simple answers, Dr. Clements believes the only way to confront the issues is by being honest and open with each other and communicating, "Nothing can be resolved unless there is honest and open communication.
Regardless of whether the issue is an affair or impotence, both problems involve varying degrees of emotional conflict, which can leave both parties badly damaged. My advice is to seek counseling as soon as possible."
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