Prostate cancer treatment traumatic effects like ED and a reduced libido can get in the way of intimacy and sexual relations, impairing a couple’s affection for each other. Still, while it may be difficult, it’s not impossible to lighten up with a smile.
In that regard I’m a strong advocate of playfully expressing whatever actual or perceived rifts you feel. I stress this as one treatment modality when counseling couples. Even if you try to do this in a half-hearted manner, do your best to tell each other humorous anecdotes that can create mutual understanding. Try it! It might be just the right step to start bringing you back together.
The following two humorous stories illustrate how to keep a marriage or other ongoing relationships strong by giving each sufficient “space.” This is helpful especially during short or long periods of disaffection. Once treatment side effects like ED or a reduced libido wear off, or after treatments end, humor can help further your chances of renewing intimacy.
Putting this in a broader context, we need to recall that strained relationships are not caused only by prostate cancer and its treatment side effects. Intimacy can be endangered by a host of day-to-day tensions. In either case humor can offer couples the perspective they need to get through the hurdles that confront them.
Take for instance a man who was married for 50 years…to the same woman! Newspaper reporters who interviewed him on his golden anniversary asked him how he and his wife managed to sustain their relationship in an era where half of all marriages end up in divorce.
“Easy,” he replied. “As long as we’ve been married, we’ve gone dancing every week. She goes dancing every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and I go dancing every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday!”
A parallel anecdote, with a more ethnic, Jewish twist (after all, I am a rabbi!) tells a similar tale. This is one story I recently heard from my sister, Susie, a nurse living in Tel Aviv, Israel.
At a synagogue in New York City, they have marriage seminars for the community. Some are for women and some are strictly for their husbands. In some cases, men and women attend together.
At the men’s seminar last week, the rabbi asked a man named Solomon (aka, “Sol” or “Shlomo”) about his marriage. Solomon replied that he had been married for almost 50 years. The rabbi was impressed and asked him to take a few minutes and share some insight into how he had managed to stay married to the same woman all these years.
Sol replied to the assembled husbands, “Nu, I’ve tried to treat her nice, spend money on her, let her keep a kosher home, and I take her on trips. Also I never look at other women. Best of all, I took her to Israel for our 25th anniversary!”
The rabbi responded, Sol, you are an amazing inspiration to all the husbands here! Please tell us what you are planning for your wife for your 50th anniversary?”
Proudly Sol replied, "I'm going back to Israel to pick her up!"
Two lessons can be derived from these anecdotes.
Lesson 1: A simple solution for resolving the way many men distance themselves from their wives or partners is for both sides to talk out how they need to give each other more space to be on their own. You can do this while agreeing that, despite your self-doubts, you still love each other. Ironically this may help you plan more togetherness time when you're not on your own.
This is one of many approaches a couple can jointly decide on between themselves or with the help of intimacy coaching that I and others offer. To mutually acknowledge the need for space can keep men from indefinite, unilateral withdrawal. It's one sure-fire way to take the sting out of the anxiety they feel and in turn inflict on their spouse. This approach, while counter-intuitive, can eventually help restore intimacy.
Lesson 2: Social or medical circumstances might compel you to avoid looking at, or interacting with your wife or any other woman for that matter. Still, it’s important to keep communicating with each other and sharing where you’re at.
This may be harder for men than women. Culturally expressing our deep-seated anxieties and stresses after treatment traumas or other personal tribulations is not something we readily do. But it’s important not to give up talking things out as best you can.
If you’re not ready to talk about deeply personal matters with your significant other, realize this: At the very least try to be aware that things are gnawing at you, and verbalize them to yourself. That is the beginning of wisdom…the wisdom of Solomon!