Traditional wedding ceremonies contain a line to the effect of, â€œTherefore what God hath joined, let no man put asunder.â€ There is a fair amount of wisdom and foresight in this although it is doubtful that the author of the lines could have known how closely they prophesied the findings of new study into relationship dynamics and sexual function.
The researchers analysed data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project. They looked at information on more than 3000 people aged 57 to 85. As a result they discovered a connection between erectile dysfunction and social networks shared by heterosexual men and their partners.
The problems arose when a manâ€™s female partner had stronger relationships with his close friends than the man does himself. This is a phenomenon dubbed â€œpartner betweennessâ€. As a result of partner betweenness men are more likely to experience trouble achieving or maintaining an erection and in having an orgasm during sex.
It seems that partner betweenness undermines a manâ€™s sense of autonomy and privacy, two principles that are central to traditional concepts of masculinity. This might be an important factor that goes unconsidered in treating erectile dysfunction. It is also a reminder that many medical conditions may have a social or relational component.
The marriage ceremony is, it would appear, correct. Female partners who are too close to a manâ€™s friends threaten his machismo and put out his sexual fire; you canâ€™t get more cast asunder than that!