How to talk to your partner about erectile dysfunction
Dr. Aysha Butt is the Medical Director of FROM MARS, and is a GP Partner at Woodcote NHS Medical Practice.
Admitting you have a problem in the trouser department can be tough. But telling a partner you have erectile dysfunction can be even tougher.
We don’t want the people closest to us to think less of us, so we hold it in. And instead of opening up, we enter a vicious cycle of stress and anxiety. This can make ED worse. But it can’t be as bad as being rejected, can it? The problem is many men think their partner will react by walking out.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Most other halves are caring and understanding and letting them in can even help you in the long run.
Remember, you’re not alone. It is reported that there are 4.3 million other UK men who are in the same position, so believe us when we say ED is very common.
HOW SHOULD YOU APPROACH A CONVERSATION ABOUT ED?
It’s important to wait until the right moment to tell your partner about ED. Every person and relationship is different, so just when this is, is up to you. However, we recommend to not do it when you are in a rush, such as first thing in the morning before work, as this gives you both longer to dwell on things.
Instead, make sure you will have enough time to discuss the matter properly. You could arrange a date night at home, or wait a few hours before bed when you’re both unwinding. At the same time, don’t feel you have to make a big announcement. Most ED can be treated, so hold off on the dramatic speech. Simply smile at your partner and ask for a quiet chat over a cup of tea.
HOW WILL MY PARTNER REACT?
Prepare for your erectile dysfunction to come as a surprise to your partner. They are entitled to ask you questions, which is why it’s a good idea to be ready with the facts, to put their mind at ease as much as yours.
Try not to be defensive if they don’t understand what causes ED. Research shows that 42% of partners already think it’s their fault, so reassure them. And remember, it’s hard to know what someone with ED is going through when you haven’t had it yourself — that goes for partners of both sexes.
WHAT COMES NEXT? MANAGING ED AS A COUPLE
The sooner you both open up about ED, the sooner you can begin to explore any underlying issues together — whether mental or physical. A compassionate partner is invaluable when you’re going through a rough time. Be honest with them about your symptoms and how you’re feeling.
They’ll likely suggest you visit a doctor or a sexual health clinic, advice which we’d always advocate. This can help you get to the root of your ED. At the same time, if your ED is simply caused by a lack of excitement, you might want to talk about slowly introducing sex toys or changing things up.
This is also a great opportunity to explore sexual medication like Viagra, which can help you get it up and boost your confidence.
UNDERSTANDING ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION BETTER
WHAT ACTUALLY CAUSES ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION?
It’s much easier to talk about an issue once you understand it. That’s why you shouldn’t moonlight as a math teacher if you’re bad with numbers. Causes of ED range from high blood pressure to mental health. It could be a hormonal imbalance, or it could be depression. A GP can diagnose this.
WHY DOES ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION OCCUR?
When we get aroused, our bodies send blood cells to the penis, causing it to harden. Hormonal imbalances can delay and prevent this response. High blood pressure and diabetes might make it harder to get blood to your penis, while depression can deplete the body of feel-good chemicals like dopamine. Incidentally, enjoyable sex can up your dopamine levels.
HOW IS ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION TREATED?
If you’re unsure what’s causing your ED, don’t worry. It’s always best to speak to your GP or a nurse at a sexual health clinic. Don’t self-diagnose using Google, as this can cause you unneeded stress. Speak to us about trying sildenafil (Viagra), which is one of the most effective treatments for erectile dysfunction. Our doctors will determine if a prescription is right for you. If you sense you have a deeper problem, bring this up too.
WHAT TO SAY AND WHAT NOT TO SAY
Being honest about your emotions (yes, men do have them) can go a long way. Even if you find it hard to talk, some communication is better than none.
Be gentle and patient. You don’t want to start making unrealistic sexual demands of your partner to fulfill a 50 Shades of Grey fantasy.
We’d also advise against giving your partner your blessing to seek sexual fulfillment elsewhere. Unless you’re both serious about polyamory, it can be awkward and hurtful. Remember, they’re with you for a reason.
Put yourself in their shoes and try not to let conversations about ED take over. Ask your partner how they’re feeling and be supportive.
Be the guy that doesn’t let ED stop him from being the guy people love.
CAN ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION IMPACT YOUR RELATIONSHIP?
It’d be unfair to talk about ED without opening up about the challenges.
Indeed, erectile dysfunction can put a strain on a relationship if someone’s sexual needs aren’t met, which is why it’s important to talk things through.
Some men with ED have regretted keeping their other half in the dark, as they can feel rejected. Others say medicine makes sex formulaic and dull.
This can be avoided by putting more thought into special occasions and making sex more of an event to look forward to — not a weekly chore.
If things don’t work out, the worst thing you can do is blame yourself. This can put you back. But that’s an unlikely scenario, as most couples carry on happily. Do what you can and your erection will look after itself. With a bit of positivity and empathy, you’ll be back on the love train in no time.