Dear Mary: My partner has a disease which makes intimacy very difficult
Relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist Mary O'Conor offers relationship advice in her weekly column.
My partner of over 25 years has developed Peyronie's Disease over the last seven years. Intimacy is very occasional as I think an erection is painful for him and intercourse is impossible. This is probably because the top of the penis does not harden, therefore ejaculation becomes impossible. I have broached the subject with him but he doesn't wish to discuss it with anyone, even me.
I do feel for him and his ailment and can feel rejected and lonely quite a lot myself.
Do you have any suggestions Mary as you may have met other couples experiencing something similar? I would be most grateful for any advice and such advice could benefit other readers of the Sunday Independent also.
Mary O'Conor replies: Thank you for your email and I have indeed met other couples with this problem. Peyronie's Disease, which results in a bent penis, affects at least three per cent of the male population. I have consulted with a urologist colleague to see what the current status is and he told me that medical treatment is extremely difficult and no single medication has been proven to be of benefit.
A new injectible enzyme has been used, but unfortunately it requires 8 injections into the site which gives a 20 - 25pc improvement and the cost of the injections is prohibitive for most people. Surgery can be carried out which is purely to straighten the penis but this is complex and has significant downsides. All in all this is not very encouraging news for those men who suffer with Peyronie's and also their partners. I can understand your partner's reluctance to speak with you about it because he may have this information already and feel overwhelmed by it. What I have found helpful for couples was to take the emphasis off physical intercourse and concentrate instead on giving and receiving sensual massage.
A massage between a loving couple is a very intimate thing to do, and can result in feelings of great closeness afterwards. A couple beginning a sex therapy programme for sexual dysfunction of any sort will be instructed by the therapist to set aside a couple of hours each week for massage where they can guarantee that they will be uninterrupted.
Then they will have a shower or a bath (alone or together if they wish) followed by a massage where they will divide the time between giving and receiving a massage. To start with there will be a ban on anything sexual - breasts and the genital area are out of bounds - as they re-discover each other's bodies in a non-threatening and positive way. Gradually these areas are included as they go on to the arousal process.
You could adapt this to suit yourselves, and whereas getting aroused may be painful for your partner he should be very happy to help you get aroused. Some of his reluctance to speak with you about the problem may very well be that he feels bad that he is unable to be your lover anymore, but if you were to take intercourse out of the equation and still have an intimate relationship he may feel much happier.
There are lots of ways of being pleasured without having intercourse so don't rule out the possibility of using toys to add some light- hearted fun to your times together. As your partner does not wish to speak with anybody you would benefit from having a few sessions on your own with a counsellor where you could talk about all of this and how it is affecting you.
You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.