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My boyfriend cannot have sex and has low libido

Posted by: Anonymous
Tue 25, Jun 2013 at 4:30am
Sex/Intimacy and romance

My partner and I have been together for 6 months. He told me truthfully at the beginning of our relationship that he has several factors that seem to affect his ability to have sex. He had brain cancer 9 years ago and part of his pituitary gland was removed. Post cancer, he has low testosterone levels, is on 2 different anti-depressants (Cipralex and Welbutrin) as well as 2 different blood pressure meds and has been taking dexedrine tablets and spansules long term by day and sleep aid at night (zoplicone) long term as well. His cancer shrink has told him he has to take these meds for the rest of his life. Without them he just wants to sleep all the time. He went through cancer treatment at age 39. He is 48 now. This man is wonderful, fun, supportive and loving/affectionate. He tells me I'm beautiful and sexy, loves to kiss me and hold me. He also loves to pleasure me in bed with his hands and mouth and he seems to enjoy my orgasms. He say's he loves to do this for me and I can have it this way as much as I like. I know he is doing it just for me because he admits to having no desire for sex. He has also admitted to being afraid I will leave him if I don't have enough sex. My sex drive is very healthy. He says he thinks I'm sexy and wants me, just cannot show it with an erection. This feels so strange to me as I'm used to having sexual partners on equal terms of sexual enjoyment. He has touched me in the most intimate ways, yet he leaves his underwear on during sex and doesn't like me to look at him naked or touch his naked penis. He does let me touch and stroke him through his underwear and occasionally he does get a lttle hard. We have talked about Viagra and I found out he has used it with someone else in 2011 and 2010. He says he can have an orgasm with the Viagra, but it is not great. I was all gunho to try this and really looking forward to it. I told him this. He recently got a perscription for Viagra and set up a date for him and I to try it. At the last moment he decided he didn't want to and is now asking me to be patient. He says it will happen eventually. I have been left hanging. My heart led me to this man and although it is a hard road ahead, I want to make this work. Need help coping with his life on drugs and lack of intercourse and now him making me wait for intercourse with the Viagra.

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  • Sun Skywalker Flag

    The sex side of your relationship sounds pretty complex because of the physiological and medical issues issues involved, but what you are making of it sounds brilliant to me. I think a lot of people will read your post and think: "hey, I wouldn't mind some of that!"

    In my experience, sex involves three essential dimensions: the physiological, the psychological, and the relational, i.e. the intimacy between the people involved.

    In your partners' case, the physiological side of things is so complex that only the medics treating him are going to be able to advise if any adjustments to his medication could help - hopefully he has taken medical advice re the use of Viagra? Anti-depressants can take a toll on libido, but then so can depression. If he hasn't done so already, he might want to talk to his doctor about the possibility of switching to another type of AD.

    The issue of him keeping his underwear on could be explained by feelings of vulnerability because that part of him doesn't work very well. Machines are often covered up when they are out of order, and out of service, so perhaps he finds it easier to keep that bit of him out of sight, and possibly out of mind: his mind, that is.

    It sounds as if he's really making up for what doesn't work too well in other ways, and based on what you say, he seems to be getting satisfaction and possibly pleasure from giving you pleasure: which surely is what making love is all about?

    Having sex; Making love, and Being Intimate, are three aspects of intercourse that make the physical act something special, and it sounds as if you two are scoring high on all three counts regardless of his partial incapacity.

    I think intimacy involves sharing physical parts of your self, and also thoughts and feelings, but does that mean that every last corner of awareness needs to be shared? I don't think so.

    How people feel about themselves often influences how they feel about having sex. So it might be that covering up the bits of him that don't work as they should helps your partner to forget the disadvantages that he has so that he can concentrate on making up for it with other methods of giving you pleasure.

    As for the Viagra: it sounds to me as if he's got mixed feelings about using it - to mention it again, hopefully he's been told that there is no risk involved for him. Assuming that he has, then maybe he's just fed up with taking drugs - people who are required to take multiple medications on a regular basis often get that way. Sometimes, some folk get so frustrated with needing to rely on drugs that they stop taking them - it's a psychological block that gradually builds up over time.

    Another reason could be that using Viagra and penetrative sex takes him back (psychologically) to a place where he feels vulnerable, maybe feeling he's a failure in that respect. If that was the case, then the chemical stimulus could run counter to the direction his self-esteem takes, thus producing mixed feelings.

    He might be able to perform the sexual act more efficiently, but if he feels he's being propped up by chemicals, then that could cause him to feel inadequate even though he's giving you what you want, i.e. he could feel its not really him, or not as authentic as he would like his lovemaking to be.

    Most of us can describe the mechanical side of having sex, but 'making love' is more difficult because it's a more personal thing: meaning different things to different people. Being intimate can mean that people drop their usual defences, and take risks they would never usually take. Some of which may not be done consciously, but felt through a sense of 'letting go', possibly to an extend that they enter into a brief state of psychological confluence with the other person. How long this takes, and how deep it goes, is also a very personal thing.

    Some sex therapists say that the biggest and the most important sex organ is the mind, which is where erotic and other personal aspects of making love and being intimate stem from.

    The only person who can really know what is going on for him re your questions is your partner, but it might be that he's not too keen to dig around too deeply looking for such answers.

    I get the impression from your post that there is much you appreciate about him, and to me, it seems you have a great deal going for you in this relationship.

    Finding another partner capable of an erection will probably be easy, but finding one who gives you what this guy does may be a lot more difficult.

    My advice is to consider the costs and benefits of pursuing this issue. 6 months is early days imo, on average I think it takes a couple of years to get to know a partner really well. Your's is not one of those situations where you have nothing to lose, and maybe waiting to see how the relationship develops generally will give you more insight into how he thinks and feels about these important, but tricky, issues.


    Tue 25, Jun 2013 at 11:51am
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    Thank you for your insight Sky. Everything you said rings true. That part about him covering up something that is out of order makes total sense to me now. Once early on when we were in bed, he said that he "was broken" refering to his penis not working. I assured him that I didn't believe that as he could get a little hard and that there is always hope. But if that is his belief, than that is his truth...isn't it.

    Being that I have always been healthy and never taken medications, except for the occasional tylenol and homeopathic meds for allergies, it is difficult for me to understand what goes on with him on all his meds. My thought was the Viagra was just another pill for him and no big deal as he is used to being under the control of pills. He recently had a penis scope and found out that his lack of flow when he pees is more than likely caused by some of his meds...I would think that would also be the cause of his erectile difficulties.

    I have real concerns about all the meds he is on. He takes the antidepressants not because of actual feelings of depression, but because he would just sleep otherwise and have no energy to get out of bed. Although his shrink diagnosed him with depression, she recently admitted that perhaps this was incorrect. He continues to be prescribed the antidepressants, dexedrine and zoplicone, I guess because these drugs work for him. I worry about the long term effects as I know these drugs are addictive and have side effects. My own research into these drugs tells me that some of them like the dexedrine and zoplicone, are not for long term use. He is also plagued by headaches and dizziness that I believe are side effects of the drugs as well. Because of this he also lives on tylenol 3's with codine (he takes up to 6 per day). Another side effect is that on average he takes 3 -4 days in the month where he just stays in bed all day without taking the dexedrine, because he is mentally and physically drained. He will hardly eat anything on these days.

    I have always lived my life with the belief that my body is my temple. I'm so careful about what goes into my body. I eat mainly organic food and no red meat or junk foods. I never skip meals. His way of living life has been so different from mine. I hope and pray we can find a happy medium between us. Yes, 6 months is not long into a relationship, so I will see how it goes. I did admit to him early on, that I wasn't sure I would be strong enough for him emotionally. We have what I feel to be a strong and powerful love between us. I have hung in there, but it has been emotionally challenging for me. I worry about him so much. He is a real rock. With all he has gone through with the cancer and the post cancer stuff. He just accepts everything in life so much more easily than I do.

    When I make love, I really let go. It is not only a highly physical and emotional connection I make with my partner, it is also a spiritual experience for me as well. I guess that is why I want to connect with him completely in every way.

    Appreciate any insight that will help me deal with all of the above. Finding a way to let go of the worry would be a huge relief for me.

    Wed 26, Jun 2013 at 3:03pm
  • Sun Skywalker Flag

    I can understand why you would worry.

    Most powerful drugs have side-effects, and balancing the benefits with the disadvantages requires a lot of specialist knowledge about the conditions involved, how the drugs react together, and how the person taking the medication responds to it. Doctors sometimes try various combinations to bring about the optimum result, and changing the formula can mean that things can go either way, i.e. for the better, or for the worse.

    It sounds as if your partner is being treated by a psychiatrist, which is good, because these are the kinds of drugs they prescribe on a daily basis, and have plenty of experience with.

    As I expect you know from your research, SSRI's help the brain to work more efficiently. Presumably the response was limited, and so the other meds were added.

    Psychiatrists vary in how they treat depression, so changing your doctor can mean that you get different treatment, however, in view of the complex issues involved with your partner's depression, changing doctors could go either way for him.

    He's obviously come through some very difficult times - just the stress of coping with it all may have caused him a fair degree of trauma. However, having survived and come through such difficult times, perhaps he's philosophical in his approach to life now, and takes each day as it comes, and sees each day as time to be made the most of?

    It really does sound to me as if you have something special going on, and the connection you have sounds exceptional to me.

    Obviously, how you feel about the physical side of the connection is a very personal thing, and I understand that it's important to you.

    The problem I have with making suggestions about working on this is that I think you could do worse than doing nothing.

    You could try counselling, and Relate have counsellors who specialise in psycho-sexual issues. I don't know whether they would take it on in view of the complexities involved. But if you and your partner wanted to try such a route, I suggest putting together a full history of events on a time-line, so that they can make an initial assessment of what they might be able to do. However, I do wonder how even the suggestion would be received by your partner, and who knows what the effect might be on him. I think that's something you would need to consider - knowing him as you do.

    The term libido refers to a general motivation re sexual interest, and it sounds to me as if he is pretty well motivated towards having sex and making love to you, and for the best of reasons. He sounds far from "broken" in any way to me.

    I believe in being honest, and my concern would be how he would perceive any pressure from you to follow up on this issue. I don't doubt that you would approach it in a sensitive way, but would he feel it was focussing on the bit of him that he describes as: "broken"?

    I think the risk of an adverse effect upon him needs to be balanced with the possibility of improving things - which probably suggests the need for more research on your part.

    My impression is that he concentrates on what he is good at, and avoids dwelling on his limitations, which is the best way for him to approach things.

    This link gives some info on a recent approach to depression that has been found helpful by many of the people trying it, and the methods can also be used for reducing worry and stress, so it might be useful to you, as well as your partner.

    Mindfulness brings together the latest in neural research and the ancient practice of meditation, thus combining evidence based research with the spiritual side of being human - I think it might be for you?

    A central theme is around living in the present moment, rather than being pulled this-way-and-that by the pressures of modern living. Which I suspect could be a frame of mind that you and your partner could connect with as a couple?

    I hope you find what you are looking for, and that it doesn't take your attention too far away from what you two have already - it sounds quite precious to me.


    Wed 26, Jun 2013 at 6:12pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    Thank you once again, Sky. All of what you have said is very helpful. I have a lot to contemplate.

    There is one other issue in our relationship causing me grief, and it could possibly do our relationship in. The problem is his dog. Background: He got this dog 9 years ago when he was diagnosed with the cancer. At this time, his marriage of 1 year came to an end and he tells me he got the dog specifically for support. He credits the dog with keeping him alive through this very tough time. Because of the dog, he had to be motivated to continue to get up out of bed to care for him. He believes very sincerely, that he wouldn't have made it through without him. He has forged a very strong bond with his dog. I agree that this dog is special and is his angel. The only thing is, he has indulged this dog and the dog is spoiled and acts out in negative ways. The dog is like my partners security blanket. Wherever my partner is in the house, the dog has to be in his lap or right up against him. He constantly rubs, and strokes this dog.

    While I was dating him and not actually living in his house, I did notice some jealousy from his dog towards me, but since I moved in with my partner a couple of months ago, it has gotten worse to the point that the dog shows constant signs of anxiety, especially when my partner and I interact (talking, sex, etc...) He has licked and bitten his paws until they are red. He now lives with a cone on most of the time to prevent him from destroying his paws. Whenever my partner and I interact, his dog will whine, scratch, lick, anything to get the attention back to him. The bed has been a sore point between us as the dog is allowed anywhere. I finally had to make a stand and claim my side of the bed. My partner will move the dog to his side now. Only thing is, as soon as I get up out of bed, that dog wants my spot and my partner will let him have it and only move his dog when I look annoyed. During sex, the dog has actually tried to get in on the action. While my partner was giving me oral sex once, the dog started his licking behaviour and tried to sniff me down there. I love animals and had a dog I was close to, but I was completely repulsed by this and asked my partner to put his dog outside. Putting him outside the room doesn't work because the dog will scratch and whine. My partner put him outside in the back yard for 30 minutes and the dog tried to dig a hole under the fence to escape.

    His home is where we spend our intimate time together and this always includes his dog. We hardly have anytime, when at home, with just the two of us, where my partner focuses purley on me. I have brought up the fact that I give my full attention to him when we are together, but he does not do the same for me. His words to me are "I'm not giving you up for him, nor will I give him up for you." In other words, he loves me and he loves his dog. That would be fine if he had a normal relationship with his dog, but this is far from normal. He accused me of being jealous of his dog. I don't think I'm jealous, only asking him to understand how I'm feeling. . I don't want these negative feelings towards his dog. I love animals and was hoping that the dog would get used to me, but it seems the closer my partner and I get, the worse the dogs behaviours becomes. I feel like my partner wants me to "put up and shut up". He says it is only his problem because it makes me unhappy. He says he loves me and wants me to stay and we can work it out. I suggested that once a week, we put the dog in doggy daycare for a few hours so we can have time just for ourselves. This was strongly vetoed by my partner. He has not come up with any suggestions of his own and just continues to say to me, "I don't know what to do". I feel my only choice is to put up with all of this or to leave him.

    With his post cancer problems, all the meds, 12 hours of sleep every day, erectile disfunction, low libido and his dog. I'm feeling like I have so many hurdles to jump. I don't know if I'm emotionally strong enough to survive all of this.

    Thu 27, Jun 2013 at 2:10pm
  • Sun Skywalker Flag

    Sounds as if there is much to test your commitment in this relationship.

    I can understand how your partner feels about his dog, and how having such a loyal friend has helped him get through the difficult times that he's had to deal with, but clearly things have got out of hand.

    Dog training is not really my thing, but it sounds as if his dog needs some retraining to help him adjust to the new situation.

    What I would suggest is that your partner starts training his dog in new routines when you are not there. Perhaps by putting him in a room on his own for short periods that are gradually increased so that he gets used to it as a routine. Probably a good idea to have a basket or a bed in the room so that he gets used to being in a comfortable place. Maybe with a bone to chew, or some dog biscuits to ease the way. He might still bark and whine, but as he gets used to it, hopefully he will accept the routine and get used to some time apart. Doing this while you are not there will mean the dog doesn't associate the adjustments with you - dogs do get jealous, but it's also easy to assume that they understand more than they actually do.

    There are people who call themselves dog psychologists, but I wouldn't advise putting too much cash in that direction. Advice from an experienced dog trainer will be the way to go. The RSPCA or local animal shelter should be able to give you some names. Anyone involved with training guide dogs, police dogs, or working dogs, will be the people to talk to. Dog handlers do tend to have very close relationships with their dogs, but they are able to use the relationship to get the dog to do what they want of it, and I feel sure your partner could learn to do the same. I've heard dog trainers say that they don't train the dogs, they train the handlers.

    It's an unusual one to see on a relationship board, but I can see how it could cause pressure.

    You sound a bit worn down - I hope you don't give up. If you both want it enough, I feel sure there is a way through, i.e. to make some changes rather than having to put up, or give up.

    Despite the challenges, you sound like a lovely couple.


    Thu 27, Jun 2013 at 4:19pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    I broached the subject of a dog trainer and he is very open to this. I have a renewed sense of optimism that he does want to make this work between us. With every problem we face together, our love for each other grows stronger and the trust level increases as well. Thank you for being there for me when I needed the support.

    Fri 28, Jun 2013 at 7:04pm
  • Sun Skywalker Flag

    You're very welcome.

    If your partner gets some advice from an experienced trainer they should be able to reassure him that his dog can be trained to adjust to the situation without feeling pushed out.

    I hope all goes well for you.


    Fri 28, Jun 2013 at 10:21pm