Healthbeat

A better sex life requires more than popping a pill

Sex life pillImage: iStock

The never-ending advertisements for erectile dysfunction drugs seem to suggest that popping a pill is all it takes to guarantee a great sex life for men dealing with this challenging problem.

But a satisfying sex life takes a lot more than functioning body parts — erectile dysfunction can set in motion a cycle of emotional and relationship problems. And "fixing" the ability to achieve an erection may uncover other sources of sexual dysfunction, such as low libido, difficulties with arousal, or sexual issues in a partner.

In these situations, your sex life may need some expert advice, and a sex therapist can help. He or she can help you

  • determine whether you and your partner are both comfortable with using erectile dysfunction drugs.
  • adapt your lovemaking to coincide with when the medication takes effect.
  • talk about what makes sex pleasurable for both partners. For example, some people need more romantic time that includes talking, affection, and sensual touching before moving to sexual activity.
  • explore expectations about the sexual relationship. The therapist can help you accept that sex will sometimes be okay instead of great, that arousal problems may still occur despite erectile dysfunction drugs, and that these medications won't work without desire and physical stimulation.
  • delve into emotional and relationship issues that are interfering with intimacy.
  • create strategies to deal with instances of unsuccessful intercourse.

To learn more about how sex can change for older adults and how to realize the full potential of later-life sex, check out Sexuality in Midlife and Beyond, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.