From Dr. Jane's Notebook

Days of Wine and Roses. . . and Viagra, Part I.

For many decades, Marriage Researchers have searched for a better understanding of marital relationships. Researchers have battled against time in recent years, while the divorce rates soared. As a result, many families now suffer the fall-out from divorce and have learned the hard way that when kids are involved, divorce is only the end of the marriage. It does not end the family relationships; it does not end family responsibilities.

Long-term result: Research shows that children from divorced families are more likely to consider divorce as a solution to their own marital problems. Sadly, the divorce solution has wreaked havoc with people’s lives in too many cases, and replaced "family loyalty" with "family civil war" and a host of emotional problems. So, while divorce is sometimes the healthier solution, it is generally an unhealthy experience.

As we search for ways to help couples maintain their happiness and prevent divorce, the latest chemical miracle drug, Viagra, makes its entrance into the marriage arena raising certain questions: Will a better sex life make couples happier? Is a satisfying sex life a key to marital satisfaction? If Viagra improves the sex life of the couple, can it save a marriage? Here are a few thoughts on the matter.

Viagra facilitates the erection process in men by increasing blood flow into the smaller blood vessels in the penis, allowing for full engorgement. As those blood vessels open, sexual responsiveness increases, and some men report feeling "17 years old again". However, if sex is to really improve, he needs his willing partner to complete the experience by joining in with enthusiasm and pleasure.

A change in one’s sexual functioning may be a symptom of disease (such as, diabetes), a side effect of certain medicines (such as, anti-depressants), unresolved relationship problems, or normal aspects of the aging process. While relationship problems must still be resolved directly, a doctor’s prescription of Viagra has allowed many men to regain confidence in their sexual functioning, which in turn, has rejuvenated flames of passion in their marriages.

When one spouse withdraws sexually in order to avoid embarrassment over their sexual functioning, the other spouse is likely to feel emotionally abandoned and sexually rejected. Over time, spouses grow apart because of misguided assumptions and feelings of sexual rejection. Faulty guess work like this can result in the break-up of a marriage.

In the past, one argument against using condoms or birth control, has been in favor of total spontaneity. While spontaneity may include the element of surprise, we live in the enlightened age of avoiding mistakes. Gone are the days when couples stay together in unhappy marriages. Gone are the days when sexual satisfaction is for men only. Gone are the days when we can rely on spontaneity and expect the other person to keep sex exciting. Some events lend themselves well to planning.

As an amateur photographer, I have often had my film developed and been disappointed to find out that those great candid shots I took turned out to be duds. Apparently, my still-life camera is better designed for still-shots. So, at family gatherings, I am the one who makes people line up, stand together, or pose. At first, they grumble and moan, and blame me for interrupting the spontaneity of the occasion. For this, I am guilty as charged.

By asking people to look at the camera, I am asking for their consent and participation. It is important that they agree to be in the photo. In return, before I take the picture, I give "my subjects" the time they may want to comb their hair or otherwise get ready to have their picture taken. As a result, the photos come out clear, people look their best in the photos, and their requests for copies suggest they are likely to cooperate again in the future. Again, some events lend themselves well to planning.

ęCopyright, 1998, 1999, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.

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Last Updated February 27, 1999 by Gary M. Grandon, Ph.D.