Sex Problems Increase When Women Befriend Men's Buddies

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A man may experience sexual problems if his mate gets too close to his friends, a new study suggests.

The results show that erectile dysfunction (ED ) is more common among men experiencing "partner betweenness," in which a man's female partner is closer to his friends than he is.

"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," said study researcher Benjamin Cornwell, an assistant professor of sociology at Cornell University.

The researchers said partner betweenness may undermine men's feelings of autonomy and privacy, which are central to traditional concepts of masculinity. This can lead to overt conflict or problems with partner satisfaction and attraction.

The study is published in the current issue of the American Journal of Sociology.

Partner betweenness

Cornwell and colleagues reviewed data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, a 2005 survey of the well being of older Americans. It was given to about 3,000 people aged 57 to 85.

About one-third of the men in the survey experienced erectile dysfunction, which increases as men age. Health conditions such as diabetes , heart problems and obesity can contribute to the condition, along with psychological and other factors.

But even among men who were healthy and capable of having satisfying sexual relationships, there was an increased risk for sexual problems if their partners had 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 study researcher Edward Laumann, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago.

Changes with age

The effect of partner betweenness on a man's sex life appears to wane with age. The relationship all but disappears among men in their 70s and 80s, the study found. Researchers said it is possible that older men have a different concept of masculinity than the younger men in the survey.

"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.

The researchers noted 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, they said.

Pass it on: Older men are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction if their wives get too close to their friends.

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Live Science Staff
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