Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Friend Lashes Out Over Husband’s Medical Issues

DEAR HARRIETTE: My girlfriend has been confiding in me about her sex life with her husband. He has erectile dysfunction, and she is upset about it. He won’t go to the doctor because he is too embarrassed.

My friend is worried about her husband’s health, but sometimes she says she thinks it is happening because he is having an affair and has nothing left for her when he gets home. It is a mess, and I feel so bad for her and for them.

I don’t know what to say to her. When she asks for my advice, I am dumbfounded. I am not a doctor or a therapist. To be fair, usually I pipe up with all kinds of advice for her challenges, but I don’t know what to tell her. She says I’m being selfish because suddenly I’m quiet. How can I get the point across that this is above my pay grade? They need to visit a doctor. -- A Friend’s Problem

DEAR A FRIEND’S PROBLEM: You are doing the right thing by keeping your mouth closed. This is your friend’s problem, not yours, and it is a sensitive one. Do not share your opinion at all, no matter what it is.

You can point your friend to some facts about erectile dysfunction, namely that some serious illnesses are often the culprit. High blood pressure, diabetes, alcoholism, Parkinson’s disease, high cholesterol and obesity are among the underlying causes for this problem.

It is important for your friend’s husband to get a physical. You might say that it is more likely that he has a medical problem than that he is having an affair. She may be able to use that argument to push him to make an appointment.

For more information on this condition, point her to

DEAR HARRIETTE: My in-laws are Jehovah’s Witnesses. That means that at the holidays, we end up not spending much time together. We don’t want to be insensitive to their values, which require that they not celebrate holidays, but we miss not spending time with them. Lots of family members come to town for about a week, and we struggle with how to include them. As my in-laws are getting older, we want to figure out a way to include them more in family activities. Any ideas? -- Family Ties

DEAR FAMILY TIES: If your family members are together for a week, map out a range of activities that are not holiday specific. While you may organize a special meal for the holiday to which they would not be invited, you can plan a family gathering the next day that is just to get together.

If you believe your in-laws would appreciate gifts that are not tied to a celebration, encourage family members who are coming from out of town to bring tokens of love for them, and those of you in town can make or buy something special for them. Call them “I love you” gifts.

Consider that you can fill your week with many special moments that include your in-laws if you start thinking of the gathering as family time rather than holiday time.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)