dear sharideth: letter #12: lack of testosterone vs. lack of manhood

if you giggle like a 13 year old girl when the word penis is mentioned or if the idea of erectile dysfunction freaks you right out, stop reading.  i shortened this email as much as possible, but there’s a lot in it that needs to be addressed, so hold on to your butts.

Dear Sharideth,

A little backstory: the last 2 years in our marriage have been painful.  We both were laid off around the same time; I found work quickly, whereas he didn’t, so he spent a year and a half at home wallowing.  He’s had problems with depression and anxiety in the past but when he takes his medication, those are kept in-check, and those down times usually lasted only a few days or couple weeks.  But since our touble started, he’s become only half the man he used to be.  We don’t interact like a couple anymore; all intimate contact has ceased — both physical and emotional.  He sleeps on the couch.

He has pretty much dropped all of his favorite hobbies.  His depression and anxiety have worsened, despite keeping with his medicine regiment.  He tells me he’s worthless.  He’s working again, which has helped some.  I nagged him into attending a couple sessions of marriage counseling, but he doesn’t believe in counseling or that it will help.  He tells me that he loves me, but is not in love with me.  He says he feels no attraction for me or anyone else.  He thinks that he’s too broken and tells me that I should go find someone else to make me happy while I’m still young (mid 30’s).

Everything I’ve read so far sounds a lot like E.D. or Low T.  I’ve spoken with a couple friends who work in the medical industry and they both agreed that it’s possible.  He won’t talk to our doctor about it though and doesn’t believe anything is wrong with him medically.  I feel like I have to walk on eggshells to avoid an argument, though some days I purposely provoke him to make him deal with or acknowledge me.  I love my husband very much and miss the man he was.  I want to do something, but don’t know what I can do.  How can I bring this up and convince him that there might possibly be a real problem without making him feel less of a man or insulting his manhood?  Communication has always been a problem of ours, and both of us are short-tempered, but on “good days” he says he hopes he can get back to where he was and us be happy again.


Frustrated and Hurt

dear FH,

i need to preface this with reminding you and everyone reading this that i am not a medical or psychological professional.  i am a only a practical professional.  and even that’s a stretch…

that said, i do know something about being on depression/anxiety meds.  the things you are describing about your husband definitely sound like the symptoms of low testosterone, but they also sound like the symptoms of what can happen if someone is on the wrong depression meds.

having spent some time on meds myself, i can tell you that lack of sexual arousal and a flat-line of any feeling of emotional intimacy can be a side effect.  it’s why i no longer take them.  i made a choice to deal with my depression rather than cut off my emotions entirely.

so should you have him talk to his doctor?  yes.  i would approach it from the possibility that he might be on the wrong meds and leave the possibility of erectile dysfunction out of it.  he might be more receptive to seeing his doctor if he’s going in to talk about changing his meds as opposed to his nether regions not working properly.  the fact that he has days or weeks of depression while on the meds is a big red flag to me they are not working properly.

offer to go with him so you can help give the doctor a complete picture of what is happening.  if he will go but won’t take you with him, get his word that he will talk about all of the “side-effects”; including the lack of sexual intimacy.  again, tell him he needs to ask if his meds could be responsible.  if his doctor is any good, he will explore all the possibilities that might be causing it.

make it about his meds.  not about him.

if he still refuses…this is where it gets hard.  you might have to get harsh, but not in a way that is angry or frustrated.  you are going to have to keep your “short fuse” in check.  a short fuse is a lack of self control; manage it.  you are the only one in a head space to maintain reason at the moment, so you’re going to have to step up.  be kind, be direct, be reasonable.

if he won’t go to his doctor, you’re going to have to explain what a lack of manhood really is.  it is not a functioning penis; though this is clearly very important to every man on the planet.  a lack of manhood is when a man refuses to face the issues effecting his family.  it’s got nothing to do with his sexuality.  it’s got everything to do with his courage and willingness to do whatever he can to keep his family/marriage in tact.

let him know you are not asking for things to change overnight, you are only asking for him to go see his doctor.  if he won’t, you need to get some individual counseling about your next step.

i will never be the one to tell you when you should surrender and move on from a marriage without knowing both of you personally.  and even then, i still probably won’t.

i will say that in this case, i have hope.  it certainly sounds like a medical condition to me.  i would just encourage you to do what you can to get him to a doctor.  don’t make it easy on him.  let him know you’re not going anywhere until he sees his doctor.  he’s taking the coward’s way out by trying to get you to be the one to leave.  you are going to have to be brave enough for the both of you for a while.

oh so sincerely,


okay readers, do you have any suggestions for our friend?

any medical professionals who think i could be right or completely full of it?


11 comments on “dear sharideth: letter #12: lack of testosterone vs. lack of manhood

  1. Lynelle says:

    He really should see his doctor. He could have bipolar disorder and will need his meds adjusted accordingly.

  2. JBen says:

    Wow, that is a tough situation. I applaud FH for sticking with him and desiring restoration of the marriage. That is HUGE!

    I agree with sharideth on a lot of what she said and would add one thing: Make sure he knows how much you respect him. That may be hard right now given all that is going on, but he needs to know that you are rooting for him and appreciate what he does.

    That will go over way better than nagging or confrontation. He probably already feels like a failure (kryptonite for males) and the last thing he wants is his wife to view him as one.

    So find something you appreciate about him and tell him.

  3. I’m not a medical professional either, but I’m going to say your analysis sounds spot on. A lot of people don’t realize that body chemistry changes over time, and that those changes can affect the effectiveness and interactions of medications. Speaking as a guy in his 30s, my metabolism has changed since my 20s; there’s every likelihood your husband’s has as well. I had a friend a few years back whose quiet, well-behaved son became psychotically violent when he hit puberty because the changes in body chemistry did NOT interact well with the chemical cocktail of meds they had him on. The change in body chemistry in the 30s is much less severe, of course, but it’s very much a possible source that should be checked out. Meds that affect brain processes and body chemical levels often need rebalancing.

    The only other advice I would give, in regard to handling her husband’s reactions, is that you borrow a page from Tony Alicea and take a “You’re better than that” approach to his avoidance of the issue where possible. Encouraging him that you believe he’s capable of more than that and will support him in doing what needs to be done may be more effective than couching it in what he’s failing to do when he already views himself as failing. How exactly that works out in your conversation is up to you.

  4. I’m speaking from personal experience here – I recommend checking your husband’s internet browsing history.

    As a man in my thirties who also has bouts of depression (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said the word “worthless” about myself!), there’s always a place for sexual release. And for far longer than I care to admit, I got that from the images I saw online rather than my lovely little wife. Now that this is OUT of my life and as I strive for purity – my sexual desire and genuine love for my wife have SKYROCKETED! Our communication has vastly improved as well (she’s fully aware of my past sinful actions).

    I certainly do not want to make an accusation of any wrong doing – but I saw far too much of myself in the description of this woman’s husband.

  5. wen says:

    Since no one’s said it, I’m going to have to say “diet”. The more I live life, the more evidence I see that what we put in our bodies matters SO much. Meds, meds and more meds can really stack up to toxify a body…sometimes it’s good to clean the slate and start over. I’m not saying meds are evil or that psychological problems aren’t real, but if your body’s fighting tons of toxins, how do you really know what it can deal with?
    And I’m totally on board with the respect thing. It’s so hard to do that when your spouse is sick and unable to love you like they really want to. Way to go for fighting for your marriage!

  6. susanft says:

    firstly i want to reassure you that this is NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. I know it feel slike it especially when he is regecting you but whether it is low testosterone, depression, or something else, this is about chemical imbalance and internal illness no more and no less.

    the sad reality is that you cannot make someone visit a Dr, or admit to such a thing and of course when you start talking testosterone it will feel like an inadequacy of manhood to him.

    I have been down this path with my own husband and it was a hard one. I took the angle of ‘”there’s something not right with your chemical balances”” – he could handle that. But ultimately he needs to want to get well.

    In the meantime you can be supportive and love him through this and let him know that you will do all can to help him, whilst encouraging him to help himself. I agree diet and exercise are a good place to start too. fresh air really does help.

    please be kind to yourself too – you will be no good to him if you end up in a state of helplessness and despair – and it is important to honour your self in this as well.

  7. Liz says:

    Sharideth, that sounds like all my phone conversations with you. It’s the same amount of years and same situation except for mine doesn’t take depression meds. But you already knew that. I wish that I had advice since I live thru this myself but alas I don’t. I hope things work out better for her than they so far have for me.

  8. reneamac says:

    Helpful advice for a difficult situation, S. I especially appreciate your commentary on manhood and short fuses and your stand against divorce.

  9. Becky Miller says:

    Especially when I read the part that he’s telling his wife to “find someone else,” my depression-radar went off. I said similar things to my husband, and exhibited similar symptoms, when I was dealing with undiagnosed clinical depression. She needs to ask him tough questions, like whether he has thought of hurting himself. He probably needs personal counseling AND a good psychiatrist (who will work with him to make sure he gets on the RIGHT medication and the RIGHT dosage).

    I think the comments about diet and pornography could be right as well, but he probably won’t be able to tackle any of those issues until the chemical side of the depression is sorted and he begins to work through the emotional/spiritual side with a good counselor. Successful marriage counseling may not even be possible until personal counseling is underway.

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