Psalm Isadora is the top tantra expert in the world and a highly sought-after sexuality, relationship, and trauma expert specializing in women’s health and empowerment and modern sexual education. In this weekly advice column, Psalm brings her expertise to common sexual and relationship issues. If you want to ask Psalm your questions (anonymously), email firstname.lastname@example.org and check back every week to see if she answered yours!
I've been married for almost 10 years to a wonderful man. Over the last five years, we/he has struggled with medical erectile dysfunction. (I hate those words.) We have tried many ways to continue to enjoy sex — orally, manually, using medication, which sometimes helps for a few minutes but more often does not. I fear that since so much time has passed, anxiety is now adding to the problem. We've discussed him seeing a therapist and perhaps couples counseling, but I can only encourage him. He still has yet to actually make steps to address it.
I've done so much research on how to support him and read so much about how to turn off my longing that I've become almost incapable of having an orgasm — even by myself. I feel like I'm going to implode sometimes, and thoughts of clandestine sex with strangers test my fidelity.
What I can do to calm myself and my jangling desires, ease my frustration, and continue to provide the attention my husband needs to achieve orgasm without becoming resentful or thinking of sex with him as a chore or feeling too guilty to enjoy it? It's tearing me apart in mind, body, and spirit.
I hate the words "erectile dysfunction" too. Doctors are so quick to put labels on issues they can't fix. But, in the world of holistic health, people often have breakthroughs when they try alternative methods.
Your first instinct might be to reach for Viagra or some other erectile "dysfunction" pill. But let me walk you through a few of the holistic checklists that I use with my clients who experience this problem.
My psychological checklist for him:
We need to get to the root, which is often difficult to do because of shame. Men often struggle to have honest conversations with themselves and their partners about the psychological things that might have triggered ED. This is not their fault, and they're not even trying to be dishonest. They've been shamed so much that it's difficult for them to even find the truth in themselves.
In my work with tens of thousands of people struggling with sexual satisfaction, I try to tap into those moments when they instinctively numb themselves from a sexual response. Try to get him to remember what might've happened to him around the time the issue started.
1. Was there any infidelity?
An emotional or physical affair by either partner can lead to problems in the bedroom. Shame of either cheating or being cheated on can be a root cause here. This might not be your case, but I have worked with many couples in which an emotional affair or an actual affair created an emotional or psychological blockage that translated into sex.
2. Did you have kids when the problem started?
I've found that some men find it more difficult to express their erotic, primal side when they step into a fathering role.
3. What are the power dynamics in your relationship like?
I've worked with many women whose male partner started experiencing ED when they felt the power was unbalanced. If the woman makes more money than the man, or is more successful, or has found her purpose, their male partners are often unable to get an erection because they feel emasculated.
4. What else was going on at that time?
Was there a change in his career, such as the loss of a job? A financial hardship? Any other major life stressor or change? Anything like this could be the root of the problem as well.
My physical checklist for him:
1. What are his testosterone levels?
Have him get his testosterone levels checked by a doctor who specializes in this area, such as a urologist who has experience treating ED. If his testosterone levels are low, ask the doctor for alternatives to prescription drugs. There are holistic ways to increase testosterone levels through diet, natural supplements, exercise, and other lifestyle changes.
2. What is his workout routine?
Believe it or not, there are exercises that can help increase testosterone in men. Lower body exercises, such as squats and hip thrusts with heavy weight, are excellent for increasing the production of testosterone in the body. Have your man do more lower-body workouts with hip-thrusting movements and heavy weight to create more testosterone, sexual power, and drive.
3. What is his diet?
Certain foods, such as soy and dairy products, can actually increase estrogen production. There are diets, such as the Paleo diet, which is high in meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excludes dairy, grain, and processed food, that can actually boost his testosterone.
And here's a to-do list for you, too.
My checklist for dealing with your partner's ED:
1. Let go of shame and guilt.
As much as shame may be getting in the way for your husband, you need to also remember to let go of your shame. It's not your fault and it's OK to be upset. You have the right to a healthy sex life with your partner; don't feel guilty about being upset or angry.
2. Give him a deadline.
It's not unusual for men experiencing ED to want to avoid talking about it or avoid going to therapy because society has created such deep shame around it. Sex is still such a taboo that most of us don't even know how our own bodies work. But, as understanding as you may be, you also need him to take serious action to fix this problem. Be patient, but give him an ultimatum. Ask him to go through these checklists and look at everything on this list by a certain date. If you don't, he might never be motivated to act.
It may seem counteractive to give him a deadline, especially if he's already feeling anxious, but say to him, "I love you. I want to save our relationship. This is important to me, and it's important for us. I know you feel embarrassed and ashamed, but we have to do this."
3. Teach him a few new tricks.
While he's working out his ED issues, you can teach him new ways to give you pleasure without penetration and in a way that actually might bring you closer emotionally and spiritually.
One technique to try is the tantric breast massage. This is all about your pleasure, so don't even worry about his arousal. Take the pressure off him and focus on you. Have him create a sensual scene that relaxes you — candles, soft music, incense. He'll start by dripping coconut oil between your breasts and massaging you gently around the breasts, on your belly, and just above your pubic bone.
Once you feel turned on, he can move on to massaging your breasts. Here, he can start by circling the breasts, then gently squeezing and massaging them. It's OK to instruct him along the way and let him know what feels good.
Once your body responds and wants more, he can move onto your nipples. Here, he'll start by tracing the areolae with a featherlike touch until the nipples become erect. Then he can move on to pinching. Pinching from the root of the nipple stimulates oxytocin. This mimics breastfeeding, so it should be a firm pinch that may feel painful for a second, but then become a rush of pleasure. If you pinch the nipples harder, there is a larger surge of oxytocin and more pleasure.
From the strong pinch, you can move on to the rolling technique. Start pinching the nipples firmly at the root and begin rolling the nipple between the thumb and index finger. Play with varying pressure from lighter to very strong. Rolling can create even deeper waves of oxytocin release.
Keep breathing through all of this, and if your mind wanders, focus on the sound of your breath.
Using all of these techniques in concert, the way they feel most effective and comfortable to you and your partner, you have every hope of reawakening both of your sex drives, and fulfilling your desire in new, even deeper ways.