Our new family doctor sits across from me. I selected her to try out because she is a woman and two of the three people in our household are female, and because her office is within a mile of our house and my daughter's daycare. While being female should help my daughter and wife discuss their medical issues, it is not making my current conversation any easier. She stares at me with her large eyes framed by her long blonde hair as I feel blood rush to my cheeks.

"So, the thing that we talked about a month ago, it is still happening. My wife and I discussed it and don't really understand why, but it seems to be getting worse over the last 6 to 8 months."

"Do you have a lot of stress in your life?"

"Sure, at times I have a lot, but not currently, and certainly not Saturday night when we had the most recent issue. The nurse said that my test results came back okay. Look," I almost falter here, "we discussed it and, if you think I'm healthy enough, I want to try ED medicine."

"Well, let me review your test results again."

She leaves the room. I can feel a nervous dampness under my arms. Despite being open about my body and often willing to discuss sexual issues without reservation, I am finding this visit off-putting. I consider myself reasonably healthy. I run two or three times a week, do yoga and bodyweight exercise, and take excellent care of my teeth. My attraction to my wife has only grown with time, and that aspect of our relationship is healthier than any couple I know. So why do I keep having problems?

************************************

At first, this was merely an issue of things taking slightly longer than in the past. Whether it was initially getting aroused or bringing things to a close at the end, my first thought was that this was a natural progression into middle-age. We aren't 15, no one here is in a hurry, so neither of us thought this was a big deal. But slowly the issue became one of intensity as well as time. Things just did not seem right, and finally, a pattern emerged of things taking a little while to be "on" only to be "off" again without warning. Mostly this did not impact us. We're very secure and open, and as the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat. But at some point, after months of this becoming more noticeable, sometimes to a greater and sometimes to a lesser degree, I was forced to acknowledge that I probably should talk to a doctor.

************************************

When the doctor reenters the room, she is holding both a file that I assume is my test results together with a small plastic bag.

"I looked at your test, your testosterone levels are perfect. Here are some samples of a medicine I think will help you."

The bag has several small boxes in it. I feel an unexpected rush of relief. She continues, "Sometimes if you get stressed it will affect you, and unconsciously it may affect you later if you have problems. This will allow you to not worry, and once things are good again I don't think you'll need the medicine. I put a prescription in the bag if the samples work. If these do not help, I will refer you to a urologist."

As I'm leaving, I experience a sense of relief. I had been unaware of how much this issue had been bothering me, and now that a potential solution is in hand, I can't wait to get home and tell my wife.

************************************

My daughter is playing in the bathtub. We have started the bedtime routine we go through every night with her, and after she is asleep each of us will have our own showers. I step into the office and take one of the samples out of the bag. The packaging informs me that the medicine, labeled Staxyn (which the Internet tells me is another form of Levitra), has an active ingredient known as Vardenafil. It is related to both Sildenafil (Viagra) and Tadalafil (Cialis), and they all fall under the category of being a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor (PDE5 inhibitor). But I don't really care about any of this. I jump down to the side effects. There are several, including dizziness, flushing, headache, heartburn, back pain, upset stomach, loss of vision, loss of hearing, and severe versions of all of the aforementioned. I'm beginning to worry, but then realize that is probably what got me into this position in the first place, so I quickly open the package and place one on my tongue.

After an hour or so, with daughter sleeping and my wife and I relaxing together, I feel no noticeable difference. We are talking next to one another in bed. I start to think about how the doctor told me that if this didn't help, I would need to see a specialist. But then my wife changes the subject to something more racy, and we kiss. We continue kissing and draw close together ...

... and afterwards we joke about forgetting what that was like. It had been so long since things functioned at 100% that we had come to accept the level of arousal of the last few months as the 'normal' one. But with the medicine, we remembered what things had been like earlier in our relationship. We are smiling and laughing and there are no worries tonight.

************************************

My turn at the pick-up window finally comes. The pharmacy tech takes my name and retrieves my Staxyn prescription. "That'll be $253.16" she says matter-of-factly.

"I'm sorry, how much? Did you say two hundred and fifty four dollars?"

"Yeah, it looks like insurance paid a little over $50.00, so that leaves you with $253.16."

My mouth actually falls open for a second. I haven't paid much more than five dollars for a prescription in a long time. But then I remember how nice it is to not worry, and how relieved my wife seemed to be that I am smiling so much. I think to myself, this smile is worth more than money.

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