Impotence. It’s a diagnosis that can be alarming, unsettling, and embarrassing. Culturally and psychologically, a husband’s sexual performance can be tied to his sense of worth as a man.Impotence is a general term which can describe the inability to attain or maintain an erection when engaged in sexual intimacy. While the diagnosis is not hard to make, treatment options depend on understanding the possible reasons for the problem.
For most physicians, the considerations are two-fold: Is this condition attributable to a medical/physical condition, or an emotional one? If medical and physiological, a physician’s treatment can include oral medications, external devices, or some type of invasive therapy (Edward David Kim, MD as cited in “Erectile Dysfunction Treatment & Management,” Medscape).
If etiology appears to be non-organic or found to be emotional, sex therapy or individual and/or couple’s psychotherapy can help by addressing performance anxiety, the lack of emotional connection with spouse, or the lack of self-esteem.
This article will focus on three ways men with impotence can be helped via emotionally focused therapy when emotional and relational factors are indicated.
Three Ways Therapy Can Help Men with Impotence
Emotionally focused therapy or counseling is based on attachment theory, “which states that a strong emotional and physical attachment to a least one primary caregiver is critical to personal development. John Bowlby first coined the term as a result of his studies involving developmental psychology of children from various backgrounds” (“Attachment Theory,” Psychologist World).
Attachment theory presupposes a universal need to love and be loved through emotional attunement between two people. Emotionally focused therapy is focused on heightening the client’s awareness of his own emotional state, perceptions, behaviors, and attachment needs when emotionally distressed in his marriage relationship.
As partners are able to communicate their primary emotions and attachment needs in respectful and non-defensive ways, and are responsive and accessible to one another, emotional closeness and connection often results.
The application of emotionally focused therapy when impotence is the presenting problem is premised on the belief that healthy and close emotional connections between husband and wife are the foundation for healthy and close physical and sexual connections.
The following are three beneficial effects of emotionally focused therapy.
1. Heightened awareness of self gained from therapy helps you to know what you need in the relationship and informs how those needs can be addressed.
As the therapist validates a client’s reported feelings, helps the client to identify thoughts about self and spouse, what he does in response to her, and his needs in the relationship, the client grows in his own awareness of what he is feeling and needing and is better able to, with coaching, communicate these to his spouse.
2. Heightened awareness can prompt self-soothing practices which address performance anxiety.
If the client experiences anxiety about his sexual performance, self-soothing practices can be learned and acquired via therapy. Some of the best evidence-based practices for lowering anxiety and increasing right hemisphere neural firing and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the Central Nervous System which calms and soothes) include diaphragmatic breathing, meditation and prayer.
These practices can be employed to decrease anxiety when performance anxiety is experienced. In addition, positive self-talk can help to counteract negative messages one tells about himself.
3. Choices learned in emotionally focused therapy to be attuned to yourself and to your spouse can increase emotional connection needed for satisfying sex in marriage.Giving and receiving empathic support in a relationship increases the emotional connection and experience of being loved between husband and wife. The ability to tune into one’s spouse’s emotional state is an acquired ability which can be taught and practiced with increasing effectiveness.
As partners experience one another’s empathy, emotional pursuit, desire to know and be known, emotional closeness results. Emotional closeness can contribute to positive sexual intimacy in marriage (Certified Sex Therapist Amy Stienhauer cites Peggy Kleinplatz’s research done through the University of Ottawa, which concluded that the factors which contributed most to optimal sexual intimacy in marriage were not erotic techniques, but being emotionally present to one another, mutually focused, engaging in extraordinary communication, experiencing heightened empathy, expressing authenticity and transparency with one another).
Christian Counseling for Male Impotence
Christian therapy or counseling with an emotionally focused approach affirms that self-awareness and awareness of one’s spouse can reflect one’s desire to live in God’s ways (Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me O God and know my heart! Try me and know my anxious thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”), and to grow in consideration and loving responses to each other (Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others”).
To love well in marriage, spouses need to be connected to their own hearts and to their partner’s. If you are experiencing difficulty connecting emotionally and physically with your spouse, God may be inviting you to heighten your awareness, learn new ways to connect, and to experience life in deeper ways with Him and one another. If you’re interested, I invite you to contact me.
Edward David Kim, M.D., cited in “Erectile Dysfunction Treatment & Management,” http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/444220-treatment. August 9, 2018.
“Attachment Theory,” Psychologist World, http://www.psychologistworld.com/developmental/attachment-theory.
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