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I want to stop my husband from trying impotence medication

Ask Roe: I prefer our new love life and I don’t want him to take the pills

Dear Roe,  

I'm a mostly happily married mother of three, with a stable home life and a successful career. My husband is a little older and has been suffering from impotence for a few years. At the start, I found it upsetting as I thought it meant he didn't find me attractive anymore. But he reassured me, and I began to understand that the issue was 100 per cent his problem. Once I got over that, I realised I preferred our new love life.   

The problem is that he's now visited the doctor and broached the subject. He wants to start on pills, but I've been fobbing him off. I know our GP well and don't think she'd go against my wishes. However, I worry that he'll just get the pills anyway online.

He tells me he needs treatment to fix his self-esteem. I tell him it would just be totally fake. He then says something aggressive like he doesn't need my permission. And around we go in circles. I need help in resolving this tension between us, as it's starting to escalate. But I don't want to just back down and let him take those pills. What can I do to get things back to normal? 


I don’t know what “normal” looks like for you, but if you want to have a healthy, respectful marriage, you need to stop focusing on your husband’s desire to try medication, and focus more on whether you want to try bringing more respect and empathy to your relationship.

Your letter is filled with a sense of blame and control. According to you, your husband didn’t experience a very common medical condition that can impact a person’s relationship with their body, with their sex life, with their confidence, with their relationship – he experienced something that was “100 per cent his problem”.

Your decision and boundaries about your body are yours – but so are his, and you need to respect that.

Your husband and you adjusted your sex life, but you still talk about his “failings” in the bedroom. You want to prevent him from trying medication because you enjoy your current sex life, but don’t mention a word about his feelings. You – alarmingly – express a desire to interfere with his relationship with his doctor. You dismiss his expressions of suffering from low self-esteem. And then you describe him setting a boundary around his body and his medical decisions as “aggressive”.

Your husband has explored different forms of pleasure with you, and still wants to try medication under the supervision of his doctor – which is fine. You have obviously already expressed your feelings about this. Your decision and boundaries about your body are yours – but so are his, and you need to respect that.

He should also, in addition to having his medical decisions respected, be able to express his experiences, emotions and needs and have them met with some empathy and compassion, not blame or derision. I think it’s very important for you to examine how you communicate with and about your husband.

At the moment, you’re approaching every dynamic as win/lose, where you have to feel completely in control and get your way, and not “back down”. Individual and/or couples therapy might help you learn how to communicate more openly and respectfully.

You won’t “lose” anything by listening to your partner, by trying to empathise with him, by respecting him. You might lose your relationship if you don’t.

Roe McDermott is a writer and Fulbright scholar with an MA in sexuality studies. If you have a problem or query you would like her to answer, you can submit it anonymously at Only questions selected for publication can be answered.