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The question: I am a midlife diabetic male married seven years, who needs lots of stimulation to maintain an erection. The problem is, my wife just isn't attractive to me any more. I love her dearly but she's stopped caring about her looks, despite saying she wants frequent sex. When I raised the issue once I got silence. How can I encourage her to dress up a little without being the bad guy?

The answer:

Dear Unattracted,

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Remember Andie MacDowell's character in sex, lies, and videotape who fell hard and fast out of love when she saw her paramour naked in white sport socks? His sartorial misstep was her neon exit sign. Yes, attraction can be a fickle thing; where it stands hale one day, it can vanish the next.

But, dear Unattracted, is it your wife's laissez-faire grooming or your own physical requirements that have led to your quandary? I will venture the latter. Let us attend first to the question of your diabetes and its role in the bedroom. The Canadian Men's Health Clinic confirms, "Erectile dysfunction is a well-recognized consequence of diabetes mellitus in men."

Dr. John Aquino of Ontario Men's Health Clinic in Toronto cites "decreased nerve and blood vessel function" that results in men often needing "a lot of physical (in addition to visual/emotional stimulation) to achieve an erection."

His advice: "Talk to a doctor about whether [you are]a candidate to try a medication like Cialis, Levitra or Viagra. These can be of remarkable benefit to men (especially diabetic men.)" If erections were easier to achieve, the doctor suggests, you could focus on "enjoying the experience instead of being on erection watch."

Unattracted, there is no greater boon to intimacy than a robust libido. Your wife's is intact; it's time for you to recover your own. Seek out the right care and counselling to attend to your physical needs. Once you make it out of "erection watch" and into enjoyment, I venture that your weary wife will be more inclined to primp. Not only will her attractiveness return - so will your ability to perceive it.

Claudia Dey is the author of How to Be a Bush Pilot: A Field Guide to Getting Luckier.

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