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Research suggests sexual problems can occur amongst middle to older age men when their female partner is too close to their male friends.
A study published in 2011 by the University of Chicago and Cornell University found a connection between erectile dysfunction (ED) and the social interactions shared by heterosexual men and their partners.
They found that where the man’s female partner had stronger friendship connections with his male friends than he did, he was 92% more likely to experience symptoms of erectile dysfunction, including the inability to achieve or maintain an erection or difficulty achieving an orgasm during sex.
Sociologists Benjamin Cornwell at Cornell and Edward Laumann at Chicago suggest that this closeness between a man’s female partner and his best friends undermines his feelings of autonomy and privacy which are both central to traditional concepts of masculinity.
The study group involved 3005 people aged 57-85 years. ED is common amongst this age group, and accounting for other risk factors such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, they found that there is increased risk for sexual problems to occur even amongst the men who were healthy and capable of having satisfying sexual relationships.
They also found that as men age, the complications of having a partner who is close with the man’s friends almost disappears. In men in their late 50-60s, the prevalence of ED almost doubles when their partner has closer friendships with their shared male friends but this disappears in men in their 70s and 80s.
This may be due to the focus of the older men being on close, kin-oriented relationships which increases their likelihood of adopting new definitions of masculinity. It is beneficial for couples to share friends who contribute to a sense of “coupleness” and provide support for the relationship.
The romantic partner coming between her man and his close male friends is unusual and may indicate there could be a problem in their relationship, or it may just be due to the friendly nature of the woman and her personality.
The study does not indicate if the women changed their behaviour when they knew it was causing ED in their partner.