SEXUAL HEALTH: Why intimacy is dying

Friday July 06 2018

Mistreatment in a relationship can kill intimacy. PHOTO | FILE


This has been a rather unique year. Chama members have been unusually quiet. It was therefore a pleasant surprise when they invited me to attend a meeting last weekend. As you may be aware, Chama is a women’s only welfare group of which I am the only male member. I am invited to meetings when sex matters are to be discussed, to give my expert opinion.

“We have realised that our men’s erections have become unpredictable. Today they are there, tomorrow they fail,” the chairperson said as she opened the meeting.

“Yes, and they simply would not discuss the issue,” shouted a member from the back of the room. “We do not know what to do. We are suffering!”

Erection problems can arise from multiple causes. It could be medical, hormonal, or drug induced. Stress and fatigue can also cause erection problems.

The use of the word ‘unpredictable’, however, caught my attention. It is quite telling. It points to the problem being in the mind. Perhaps negative thoughts of failure cross a man’s mind during sex resulting in a weak erection.

Unpredictable erections are common in relationships where intimacy is dying off. Most of these relationships have gone through turbulent times. In most cases there are hard feelings being harboured by both partners. As such, the man is simply unable to fully free himself to enjoy the pleasure of sex.


“I don’t understand what these men want. We are babying them around, now they have all resorted to paying back with unsatisfactory sex!” shouted another member as everyone burst out laughing.

I had to remind Chama members that the big problem in relationships today is lack of care for each other. If you ask married people who the most important person in their lives are, they will say it is their spouse. Yet we treat our spouses worse than a stranger in the street.

Studies have shown that the worst mistreatment happens among people who claim to love each other. You hurl insults, shout and sometimes refuse to talk to your spouse. Many times we intentionally do things to hurt the feelings of people we are married to.


The result of mistreatment of a spouse is that we begin to abhor each other. We stop appreciating anything good our spouse does to us. If you are bought a gift the first thing you say is that it is not as good and you are not pleased.

If you are shown kindness you demand for more and let your spouse know that it is their responsibility to serve you. You may refuse an invite to spend time together with your husband because you are busy and you have better things to do.

“But men also do to women the same things,” exclaimed a member. Yes, both men and women are victims of acts of mistreatment. The result is that intimacy dies off.

Once intimacy is dead you fail to excite your spouse sexually. You no longer have an emotional connection and you find no pleasure in what previously used to arouse you.

For women, this may mean that you no longer get adequate lubrication. This can lead to painful sex. Things are normally worse for the man. His erections get unpredictable or irregular.

“We hear you doctor but then, should we say that our marriages are over or should we look for other partners?” the chairperson asked.

There are two solutions to this problem: you have to face the conflicts that have led you to where you are and resolve them. Be open with your partner. Talk about what hurt you and what you did to hurt him. Forgive each other so that you start on a clean slate.

Beyond that, you may need to go for sex or intimacy coaching. When sex has suffered for a while you have to relearn how to excite each other.

“Enough doctor, we need to go home and ruminate over your very wise counsel,” said the chairperson as the meeting ended, “and we may need the coaching and therapy to recover from these difficult circumstances.”

“Yes, and remember to see a therapist with your husband because both parties contribute to this sad situation,” I said as I left.