Sexual Dysfunction when partner is too close to your friends

Sexual Dysfunction when partner is too close to your friends

By William Smith

Middle-aged and older men can develop sexual problems when their female partner is too close to their close friends.

The University of Chicago and Cornell University have teamed up to research the connection between erectile dysfunction and friends shared by heterosexual men and their partners. The study’s findings highlight the impact social relations on physical health.

The researchers have called this scenario ‘partner betweenness.’  In this situation, the close friendship between a man’s male friends and his female partner affects the dynamics of the heterosexual relationship. In other words the romantic partner comes between the man and his friends.

‘Men who experience partner betweenness in their joint relationships are more likely to have trouble getting or maintaining an erection and are also more likely to experience difficulty achieving orgasm during sex,’ write sociologists Drs. Benjamin Cornwell and Edward Laumann.

They suggest that partner betweenness undermines a man’s feeling of autonomy and privacy.  These are central to the traditional concepts of masculinity.  This can then also lead to overt conflict or problems with partner satisfaction and attracton.

Data was analysed from 3,005 people aged 57 -85.  The source of the information analysed was from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project.  This was a comprehensive survey carried out in 2005 by the University of Chicago.

The results are published in the current issue of the American Journal of Sociology.

About one-third of the men in the survey experienced Erectile Dysfunction (ED). Experts say that ED is common among men in the age group studied.

Other contributory conditions can be health conditions such as diabetes, heart problems and obesity, along with psychological and other factors.

After taking these sources of ED into account the researchers found that even among men who were healthy and capable of having satisfying sexual relationships, there is increased risk for sexual problems when their partners have greater contact with the couple’s shared friends.

‘In general, while the majority of men have more contact with all of their confidants than their partners do, about 25 percent of men experience partner betweenness in at least one of their confidant relationships,’ said Laumann.

Cornwell said the data reveals a strong association. ‘Partner betweenness is a significant predictor of ED: A man whose female partner has greater contact with some of his confidants than he does is about 92 percent more likely to have trouble getting or maintaining an erection than a man who has greater access than his partner does to all of his confidants.’

Age is an important variable for betweenness ED the researchers discovered.

Among men in their late 50s and early 60s, the prevalence of ED more than doubles when the female partner is closer to a shared friend than the male partner is. The relationship all but disappears among men in their 70s and 80s.

It is possible that older men have a different concept of masculinity than the younger men in the survey, the research suggests.

‘Older men’s greater focus on close, kin-oriented relationships increases their likelihood of adopting new definitions of masculinity that emphasize conveying experience and mentoring rather than independence and autonomy, and under these circumstances partner betweenness is less likely to trigger erectile dysfunction,’ Cornwell said.

Cornwell and Laumann point out that it is generally beneficial for couples to have shared friends, who contribute to a sense of “couplehood” and provide a base of support for the relationship. Partner betweenness is an unusual situation, however.

Source: University of Chicago

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