Hubby can’t perform in bed

QUESTION: My husband and I are in our mid-50s and I still find him attractive after 27 years together. But, in the past year, he has stopped initiating sex. The last few times we made love, at my suggestion, he couldn’t sustain an erection. He says there’s nothing wrong and he fancies me as much as ever, but that he’s stressed at work. I keep begging him to see our GP, who was helpful when I went through the menopause, but he evades the issue. How can I get him to address the problem?

Answer: Erectile dysfunction is the iceberg of male sexuality: you know you’re likely to hit it as you make life’s crossing, but you’re not sure when and where. That’s why it still often comes as a shock.

Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner. Credit: REUTERS

At least women have the certainty of menopause ahead of us, which allows us the mental space to prepare for change.

But the flag at half-mast is still a taboo topic for the chaps, although it clearly shouldn’t be: roughly 50 percent of men aged over 40 will have experienced some kind of difficulty with erectile function and the likelihood increases sharply with age. By the age of 65, around 20 percent of males will have what medics would diagnose as “chronic” problems sustaining an erection.

Yet all around us we see reports stating that older couples are having the best sex of their lives. Look at the fine detail, however, and you’ll quickly see the less trumpeted statistics. When a recent Saga survey reported that 65 percent of people over 50 were sexually active and highly satisfied with their love lives, nobody talked much about the 35 percent who weren’t active.

Evolving new ways of finding erotic satisfaction can prove trickier for men and even more so if they refuse to talk to their partner or doctor.

If your husband is reluctant to see your GP, tell him you’re worried about his stress levels at work. It’s always good to adopt his narrative for maximum co-operation.

The fact is, erectile problems in older men are almost always related to health issues, while in the under 40s they are more often due to psychological issues.

Perhaps you can idly tell your husband that you were listening to a report on Woman’s Hour concerning men’s health (this tactic works in many a household, I know) and you discovered problems sustaining an erection are often an early warning sign of diabetes, hardening arteries, prostate trouble or kidney failure.

In other words, frighten the pants off him and he might put aside his pride.

Masculine pride is, of course, the big issue here. Most men invest considerable self-esteem in the most visible sign of their virility and feel less of a man if the mechanics fail. Then there’s the fact that men feel an erection is essential for their partner’s pleasure.

I am sure one of your husband’s biggest worries is that he is failing you. The pressure to satisfy you will only exacerbate his symptoms, so you need to be as kind and considerate to him now as he was when you were struggling with the menopause. Make it clear that it’s his happiness that concerns you and that you are quite ready for an evolution in your love life. Tell him that full penetration isn’t essential for your pleasure - or for his.

Caressing of erogenous zones can prove equally pleasurable. Phillip Hodson, a leading fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, says: “You need to redefine sex with age. If orgasm is your goal, older people need to consider reaching it by all means available - there is a need for far more fantasy.”

The good news is that if you can get your husband to take his sexual health seriously, there’s a big range of remedies he can implement.

Viagra is the best known drug in the field and improves erectile function in 80 percent of men who try it, but a doctor needs to advise whether your husband is suitable for a prescription.

There’s also a range of suction pumps that can be easily purchased online; they sustain erections for around 30 minutes with the aid of a soft rubber ring that’s placed on the base of the man’s member.

Mr Hodson also commends “surgical implants, or rod”. I know one 60-something rouge who had this operation and it gave him a new lease of life. Proof that desire can flourish long after the plumbing goes a bit haywire.

The final thing to take into consideration is that drink and drugs can have a very detrimental effect upon sexual performance.

One GP I know says decreasing booze and increasing exercise is the quickest way to give a boost to your sex life, especially if you’re over the age of 45.

Why don’t you both make that your New Year’s resolution and proceed from there? - Daily Mail