Annually, over one million men worldwide receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer and more than 300,000 will lose their lives to it. For those men battling prostate cancer are married or in a relationship, cancer-induced impotence can lead to marital or relationship breakdown. Consider the scenario when a couple first receives the news that the man has prostate cancer. His partner’s typical reaction is worry about how much longer he will live. Yet, for many men, the biggest concern is the possibility of losing their erectile function. These are mismatched priorities that can lead to big problems in the bedroom.
We discovered that impotence is not the end of sexual intimacy. In fact, it can be the start of even greater sexual fulfillment. However, let’s first examine why impotence can have such a devastating impact to any marriage.
Most men equate impotence with a loss of their masculinity. The belief that a hard erection is a necessary hallmark of manhood comes from entrenched cultural influences and evolutionary wiring. If they can’t perform sexually, according to procreative dictates, they must be broken. This is a belief that all too often causes men to feel they are no longer men, nor worthy of their mate’s affection. This creates an environment in which it can be difficult for any marriage to survive.
The path to preserving your marriage—and experiencing greater intimacy than before—starts with acceptance, the last stage of the loss process. Once a man accepts the ‘isness’ of his impotence or any other sexual side effect due to prostate cancer, both he and his partner are on the threshold to healing and delightful intimate possibilities. This means no longer focusing solely on regaining erectile function. We are not saying this endeavor is off-limits, just back off temporarily. It is crucial for your continued mutual sexual fulfillment to explore the many other ways of experiencing sexual intimacy beyond standard erectile-dependent, penetrative sex.
Not being able to get hard means no longer having the overwhelming urge to ‘use it’ that men encounter during an erection. This allows them to slow down for their partner and therefore match their mate’s sexual response profile for greater mutual satisfaction. Thanks to Michael’s sexual dysfunction, we consistently have powerful and satisfying sexual experiences that only get better the longer we are together.
The key to turning the tragedy of prostate cancer-induced impotence into a blessing is a choice. Far too many men choose to believe their manhood depends on external circumstances such as money, status or, more outrageously, their ability to ‘perform’ in bed. How damaging that belief has been.
A far more empowering choice is to define who they are as men by how deeply they connect with and gratify their partner in ways they prefer. This choice is available to every man, including those affected by erectile dysfunction. Relationships don’t have to self-destruct because of any physical limitation that may impact men with prostate cancer. Instead, those ‘limitations’ can be the catalyst to rekindle and significantly deepen the emotional and sexual connection between married couples.