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Prior to a hysterectomy, many women fear that the operation will leave them less interested in sex, less sexually responsive, less attractive to their partners, and "less of a woman" in general. They may unwittingly turn these expectations into self-fulfilling prophecies. And when a woman's husband or lover also has a negative reaction to the surgery, the damage to self-esteem, the couple's relationship, and their sex life is bound to be even more extensive.

"Ed's attitude was less than comforting, to say the least," Pat recalls bitterly, recalling how her appearance-conscious husband would comment on the tightness of a dress that once fit her more comfortably or suggest that she change her hairstyle to make the wrinkles around her eyes less noticeable. "But I didn't expect much support," she adds. "Ed had never been particularly sympathetic to anything I was going through."

Indeed, he had not, and it was virtually impossible for him to relate to Pat's feelings about the hysterectomy. He was too consumed by his own. "When she was lying in her hospital bed," he says, "white as the sheets, no makeup, her hair a mess, too weak to even smile or talk, well, it just sent shivers up my spine." Although concerned about Pat's health, he could not shake the sense that he had seen his own future, his destiny to grow old with a fragile, sickly wife. "It wasn't a pleasant thought," he says flatly, and it came back to haunt him during the rare occasions over the next five years when he and Pat did attempt to make love. To make matters worse, Ed, who wasn't exactly well informed about female sex organs and had never felt entirely comfortable touching or looking at them, got a "queasy" feeling when he thought about "whatever it was that was missing."

Worried that intercourse might hurt Pat, Ed tried to "get through it as quickly as possible," which was the worst possible approach, now that it took Pat longer to lubricate. "I tried to explain it to him," Pat claims. "But he stayed as impatient as he ever was." At her wits' end, Pat consulted her doctor, who reluctantly began administering estrogen. It increased Pat's general sense of well-being and seemed to increase her sexual desire and responsiveness. Unfortunately, it had no effect whatsoever on her sex life with Ed.


Men's Health-Erectile Dysfunction