Two months after separating from my wife of 10 years, I wound up in bed with an attractive, interesting woman. Ready to move on, ready to be with someone else in a few-strings-attached, friendly and maybe occasionally physical relationship. Except I couldn't get an erection.
I was pretty depressed a couple of years ago when I found out my wife was in love with another man. I went through the time when I couldn't see a happy couple without wanting to puke. I went through not being able to see a movie with a romantic angle without wanting to take a razor to the screen. When we finally called it quits, it appeared to be an amicable split, and neither of us was leaving for someone else.
So until the moment of not being able to deliver to a willing and attractive woman, I thought I was doing well. Not depressed, not angry, ready to move on.
What do I do now? I'm in my 30s, too young for Viagra. Do I see a doctor? I don't think this is a physiological thing. I think it's in my mind. Do I need therapy? Is this normal? If it's expected, how long is it expected to last?
And how will I know when I am ready? I hate the idea of putting myself in that situation again before I'm ready, ya know? And I really don't think I need psychotherapy. All my friends think I'm doing really well.
Free at Last, at Half-Mast
Dear Free at Last,
Since you mention depression twice, I would really consider that depression may be an issue for you. In spite of what your friends say, I think you would benefit greatly from being able to talk it through with a knowledgeable and sympathetic therapist. It's not like you necessarily need psychotherapy -- at least you don't need to see it that way; you may be concerned that needing therapy would mean you were some sort of a failure, or a sick man. The thing is, there is nothing more satisfying than having a person you can lay it all out for, a person who will listen sympathetically as you explain how seeing happy couples has made you want to puke, and how you have wanted to slash the movie screen with a razor when you see happy, romantic couples.
I think you will also find a great relief in being able to rail about how your wife hurt you. You have been hurt. It's hard to admit it, I know. It's hard for a man to admit he's been fucked over. It's hard to admit that the woman has won, that she's gotten away with it. But you may have to admit that. Admit it to somebody who can help you through it, somebody with a box of tissues and a soundproof room. Believe me, I think you'll feel a whole lot better.
You may find, when you do that, that you've simply got a great deal of anger and sadness and that you need to live with it for a while, get stronger, learn to bear it, learn to direct it.
You might not even believe you're allowed to feel these things. I sure didn't. I didn't think I was allowed to feel sad or angry. I thought there was only one thing you do with sadness or anger: You friggin' toss that stuff away, man, you stuff it, you get rid of that stuff as fast as you can, because it'll burn you, scorn you, shame you, lay you low, make you sick, make you throw up, make you go wild with a razor blade. And you don't even know how deeply, how strongly, you believe these things. You don't even know you believe them until -- under the care of somebody strong, whom you respect, who's not going to laugh at you and not going to demean you -- you can take a look at it, first maybe just a glimpse, just a little peek over the wall, but bit by bit you learn to see it, to feel it, and to take it into your heart. Because it's all part of the legitimate you; it's everything that you have the right to be, all the anger, all the sadness, all the limp-dick half-masted love you're trying to give, and the full-on raging hard-on too, all of it. It's all you.
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Want more advice from Cary? Read yesterday's column.