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Dr Miriam: My man says I need a lover.

Byline: Miriam Stoppard

MY partner and I are in our late forties. I've been with him for a year and we love each other very much.

We've both been married before and divorced.

I had a healthy sex life with my ex-husband but, ever since we met, my partner has found it increasingly difficult to perform.

He has great difficulty becoming aroused and it's all over very quickly on the rare occasions that it does happen.

He says it's not fair on me. I should find someone else and he wouldn't mind.

I've asked him to see a doctor but he won't.

I could not go out and have sex with another man just to satisfy myself.

In all other areas our relationship is perfect. Is it possible for a relationship to survive without much sexual activity?

MIRIAM'S VERDICT

You can be intimate without having sex

THE short answer is, yes, it's possible to have a successful relationship without sex - but everything hinges on the temperament and expectations of the two people involved.

If your partner's inability to become aroused makes him feel inadequate, this could create tension which could lead to friction between you.

At the same time, if lack of sexual attention causes you to feel neglected or unwanted this, too, could make you feel despondent.

The big question is how many of your own physical needs are you willing to put aside for him?

If sex is often on your mind you may feel increasingly frustrated if there are few opportunities to express yourself sexually.

Many sex therapists agree great technique doesn't guarantee great sex.

They emphasise the qualities that contribute to a successful sex life are the same ones that contribute to a successful interpersonal relationship. Qualities like love, commitment and healthy communication.

If you can accept that his lack of interest in sex is no reflection on you or his attraction to you, things should be fine.

It's a shame he won't seek professional advice because there's a lot of help available these days for men with erectile dysfunction.

His male self-image may be at the heart of his reluctance to see the doctor. Make sure he realises arousal difficulties are very common and send out positive messages about your sexual feelings for him.

His erection problems don't put a stop to all sexual activity. On the internet, take a look at www.lovelifematters.com

If you stick with this relationship there's a good chance things will improve. Give him some sexual space and find ways to spend quality time together that doesn't involve sexual intimacy.

Have fun and do things that nurture your friendship - always the best foundation for lovers.

YOUR VERDICT

CARING EX HELPED ME THROUGH

SIX years ago I had an operation to remove a cancerous tumour. I had to give up work, couldn't drink or eat like I used to and my relationship ended because my sex drive diminished.

During one depressed moment I wrote a letter to my ex-fiance and told him about my condition.

Within a week he was down. Although we had broken up 15 years before, it was as if we'd never been apart.

Now he sees me nearly every weekend and we sleep in the same bed. We love each other dearly but have not had sexual intercourse. We kiss and go to sleep.

At times I feel I'd like things to go further but we don't want to put our relationship in jeopardy.

Sex is not important. We will always be there for each other. Give it time and enjoy each other.

Sue, North London

MY husband was like yours. He refused to go to the doctor. I got more and more frustrated with him.

Do what I did and get information from the internet about pills and devices available to him.

Show him the facts and then he'll realise it's a common problem and there are many ways to help.

Like my husband, your partner is stubborn, old-fashioned and thinks he can't be helped or is too embarrassed to go to the doctor.

Suggest you go with him. But be as loving and caring as you can. Say you're going to get through this together. I'm sure he'll come round to your way of thinking.

Liz, Devon

MY husband and I had been married for 20 years when he was diagnosed with cancer at 40. Our sex life had always been special and he was distressed that his illness stopped him making love.

He kept on at me to find someone else for sex and, against my better judgment, I had sex with a man at work. It was a disaster as there was no love involved and I hated myself.

My husband died two years ago and I don't miss sex - just cuddles and kisses. Being emotionally close is far more important than having an orgasm.

Kathy, Manchester

MY ex-husband was impotent for most of our 15-year marriage and I cried myself to sleep in frustration because he wouldn't come near me or see a doctor. His pride was more important. I wasted too many years living like a nun.

Shirley, Portsmouth

I'D like to thank everyone who has written in, especially those whose letters are published today.

Miriam

CAPTION(S):

LOVERS: She feels neglected
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 12, 2005
Words:882
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