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Eros and Aging - Page 3

Although Bill managed to achieve intercourse and ejaculate intravaginally about 70 percent of the time when taking Viagra regularly, the thrill was gone. Disconcerted and disappointed, within a few months, he stopped taking the pill and, once again, avoided sex completely. To Cynthia, he began to seem more emotionally aloof, as well—spending more time brooding alone. This is the outcome for a significant number of men. They feel like "Viagra failures" because their results didn't live up to the high-octane marketing hype that fills the media.

Unsurprisingly, the marriage itself began heading south. Cynthia became increasingly irritable and depressed, and the two engaged in an unhelpful series of attacks and counterattacks on the subject of who'd killed their sex life. Eventually, Cynthia called Barry McCarthy, a couples therapist she'd found on the Internet who had a subspecialty in sexuality. He suggested starting with a four-session assessment process—an initial session for the couple, an individual session for each, and a feedback session involving both spouses. This seemed a logical and sensible way to proceed, and Cynthia convinced Bill to come to the first session.

In the preliminary session with the two of them, it was clear that, in spite of their sexual woes, Bill and Cynthia loved each other and wanted a satisfying, stable second marriage. But Bill's no-sex rule was draining the vitality out of the relationship by subverting its intimacy and emotional satisfaction. Unfortunately, he didn't think there was any solution to the problem: he'd seen the doctor and taken his Viagra. What else could he do? At this point, he thought that Cynthia should accept the fact that he just wasn't the man he used to be, they should get on with their (sexless) marriage, and she should quit nagging him.

This didn't seem like much of a plan to Cynthia, who felt emotionally rejected, sexually abandoned, and completely blindsided by the deterioration of marital sex and their entire relationship. In truth, they were both demoralized and caught in that most classic of couple's routines: the pursuer-distancer dance choreographed to a blame-counterblame rhythm.

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