“I’m impotent and my wife’s having an e-affair with a martial arts expert.” Real Advice for Lasting Change.

“One night about six years ago, on my way home I was assaulted by a drunken female and punched in my groin area.
The hospital told me that I wouldn’t be able to father any more children.
I found it hard to make love and my wife and I were devastated. But, to our delight, my wife did become pregnant and had a lovely little boy, who is our world.

However, since the birth, our sex life has become non-existent because I simply cannot perform. I tried Viagra, but the side-effects were bad. My wife’s understanding has slowly run out.
She’s often said that her need for sex is important and that if I can’t give her what she wants, she’ll find someone who can.
I’ve always brushed her comments aside and said I’ll seek further medical help. But I’m reluctant to discuss it again with my GP.

Between 2010 and 2011, six family members passed away — all men, one of them my father, whom I absolutely adored. Over four years on, I can’t even think of him without breaking down. He was the man I aspire to be and he’s been taken away.
My wife always felt that he never accepted her, but that’s just not true. She didn’t attend his funeral, which was awkward, with my relatives asking after her.
For a long time now I have been trying to find a job. I spend most of my day scouring websites and get rejections constantly, which I take quite personally.
But I won’t give up until someone sees I’m a worthwhile employee. If all of this wasn’t enough to deal with, I’ve discovered my wife has been in contact with a man on Facebook. He’s a martial arts instructor she knew many years ago.
My wife has always had a ‘thing’ for men who can fight and take care of themselves, but I’m a very sensitive person who’ll do anything to avoid trouble. I don’t know why she found me attractive.
This guy is separated, with children. She left her laptop switched on one night after she went to bed and I saw their messages over eight months. I feel totally sick.
I worry he’ll be the one she turns to for sex and I really won’t be able to just forgive and forget if that happens.
Her messages are always full of compliments when she hardly ever seems to notice anything I ever do.
We’ve been together a long time and I couldn’t bear to lose her. How do I approach her about this other man without pushing her further towards him?”

This letter first appeared in the Daily Mail.

My thoughts:

It’s interesting that this letter begins with a literal castration-type experience. You obviously recognise that this feeling of having been castrated is important to what goes on in your mind. The description is very concrete and you recognise the literal experience as catastrophic, but I imagine what happened was already familiar to you in some way. There is a lot of distance in your style – ‘a drunken female’, ‘groin area,’ ‘The hospital told me,’ ‘father children.’ Given that you have a young child you’re too young for this style of speaking or writing to feel at all natural and it seems as though there’s shame around before you even start – an unwillingness/inability to look at things directly. You sound distanced from yourself, as though you’re writing about someone else. ‘I found it hard to make love,’ is a tortuous phrase that displays your shame around what was happening (in fact, to you both).

You say your wife’s understanding has slowly run out, but you don’t give the impression that it was really there in the first place. Threatening you with ‘finding someone who can’ is, of course, extremely humiliating and castrating and not something an understanding person would say. However, you ‘brush aside’ her comments, unwilling to take her seriously or talk to her about this, let alone hate her for it? Not only has she been extremely cruel, but your apparent meekness and feeling of humiliation (which I suspect predates the relationship) has, by the sounds of it, prevented you from having a satisfying sex-life that is not dependent on your erection. You blame her in this letter for tiring of your hopelessness in bed, but she may well have felt humiliated herself by your lack of desire to enjoy sexual contact, erection or no erection. She then hits back at you and your point (that you are a pathetic creature) is proven – you can go back to masochistic self-flagellation.

Again, when you talk about your father dying, there is some awareness of the root of the problem – you say that all the deaths in the family were men, knowing then that this is significant. And here’s the most important line in the letter; ‘He was the man I aspire to be and he’s been taken away.’ Going a bit over the top here, but I could almost translate; ‘His is the phallus I aspired to have and it’s been taken away.’ You say you ‘absolutely adored him’, the first passionate line in your letter and clearly sincere. You don’t say this, so I’m guessing now, but perhaps he was the dominant figure in your life and the fact that you aspired to be him suggests you feel you failed, you could never measure up to this man, even, possibly, in your mother’s eyes? You always felt unmanly beside him and, as a little boy, were aware that you could never be as potent as this wonderful father. ‘Taken away’ is interesting too – you blame someone for his removal in the same way as your drunk attacker is blamed for your impotence.

You then attack your wife in a very roundabout way. You don’t say; ‘My wife hurt me and my family by not coming to my father’s funeral because of her delusional beliefs.’ You dismiss her feelings as ‘just not true’ and then describe her absence as ‘awkward’. Obviously, you felt her absence to be an attack on your father and on yourself so it’s hardly surprising that you didn’t want to have sex with this person who’d hurt you. But, instead of thinking about that, you drift into masochism again (a comfortable retreat – the place you feel at home).

You talk about the endless professional rejections you suffer, determined to be seen as a ‘worthwhile employee’. This is interesting – you say you scour websites and ‘get rejections constantly.’ Instead of wondering what isn’t working, you resolve to plough on regardless. Very masochistic – keep doing the thing that gets you rejected and wait for the world to change.

Now we find out that this woman who didn’t like your beloved father and taunts you about your impotence is having an affair with a He Man to whom you imagine you can’t begin to compare. She is flattering him while humiliating you. Not only this, but you trusted her little enough to go through her computer gathering evidence. Your pitch here is that your wife has ‘a thing’ (your inverted commas) for fighters (large phallus?) whereas you had your genitals mutilated by a mere woman and didn’t fight back? You don’t know why she found you attractive, you say, but you can’t bear to lose her.

It would be easy to write a sympathetic response about this cruel and impatient woman who blames you alone for a sex life which (surely?) involves both of you, who compares you unfavourably to butch men, who is deceitful and, most importantly, did not share your affection for the most important person in your life – your father. All the above is true and she sounds like someone you’d be well rid of. However, you chose her and you want to stay with her, you wallow in self-flagellation, humiliation and rejection going back again and again for more, assuming your impotence is your fault instead of seeing that you perhaps don’t find this cruel and humiliating person sexually attractive because you don’t trust her. (And perhaps your own focus on your feeling of castration prevented you from caring about what your wife might like, might feel.)

The two women in your letter are cruel castrators. The men are idealised and dead. My (admittedly wild) guess is that your father was fairly absent but absolutely idealised within the family, particularly by your mother who perhaps made you feel like a very poor imitation of this manly man? Or perhaps she hounded and criticised him to your horror and you are now playing his part in order to feel closer to him? In any case, there is a strong feeling that men are idealised (your son is your world) and women demonised.

You definitely should seek help, but not necessarily for erectile dysfunction as a problem in itself but for the underlying causes – chronically low self-esteem to the point of masochism (which, of course, is the other side of sadism – a glimpse of which we see in your very repressed rage with your wife whose aggressive absence was ‘awkward’ at the funeral), a great deal of anger towards women, an idealisation of your father (who, at best, was only human but, at worst, may have damaged you) and, finally, are you projecting the ‘thing’ or do you at any rate share the ‘thing’ for manly fighting men, the man you’d like to be or even desire yourself?

Of course, like so many agony aunt letters, this reads as ‘people are mean to me, how can I change them?’ but it’s an awful lot more complicated than that. Is your lack of desire to give your wife what she wants (you don’t need an erection to have great manual and oral sex and to enjoy yourselves) actually a compromise solution – she gets punished and you get humiliated – a dynamic you unconsciously need?

Real psychoanalytic advice via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

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About Anna Blundy

Honorary psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychoanalytic Theory and another in Psychodynamic Clinical Psychotherapy. Novelist - Author of the Faith Zanetti quintet - The Bad News Bible, Faith Without Doubt, Neat Vodka (US - Vodka Neat), Breaking Faith, My Favourite Poison. Also a memoir of my father, Every Time We Say Goodbye and my most recent thriller - The Oligarch's Wife
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