Your Partner And Erectile Dysfunction

"I love Bill, and I sure want to spend my life with him," said Jane, an attractive thirty-year-old accountant, when she and Bill were sitting in my consulting room, having come for advice about his erectile dysfunction, "so I don't want him to feel our relationship is threatened because of his erection problems. I know that the more pressure I put on Bill, the worse things will be, and I don't in any way wish to make things worse. But it does bother me."

Then, she turned to Bill and, as if telling him for the first time, said: "It makes me so unhappy that you can't get an erection. I love you and I do want to be with you. But we have to get this sorted out."

Bill looked stunned. That hit him hard, I could see.

But the thing is, while it's obviously painful for a man to have erectile dysfunction, it's also very difficult for a woman who has to witness the effects of erectile dysfunction on not only the man she loves and their relationship, but also, of course, on her own feelings and her sense of sexual attractiveness. 

This is one of the reasons why treating erectile dysfunction as something that's only a problem for the man can be a big mistake. When a man goes to his doctor and gets a prescription for Viagra or one of the other modern medications, it may or may not solve the problem even though they work less often than you might think but it certainly won't resolve any relationship problems with the partner, and if the drugs work it can even cause more difficulties. You may be wondering how that can happen. After all, if a man simply gets a drug treatment and it works for him, and he's sexually aroused and ready for sex with his partner, where's the problem?

The answer to that is a surprising one. Many women who aren't involved in decisions like this are very upset when their man takes a pill and presents them with an erection, saying he's ready for sex. The reason is that she needs to feel loved and attractive, sexy and arousing - in short, she needs to know that she's turned her partner on so much that he wants to make love to her.

Taking a pill skips all that and while the simplicity of the "pill" solution for erectile dysfunction can appeal to a man, it very often offends a woman and makes the situation worse than it already was. So if you take that option, the best possible thing you can do is to tell your partner what you're doing right from the start so she's fully informed.

Better still, I always say to clients that the best thing to do in situations like this is to use a home treatment program which involves a whole load of exercises that actually improve sex, increase intimacy, bring you and your partner closer together as a couple, and provide you with the opportunity for open and honest communication about sex, love, and a lot more besides.

This is one time where it's probably better to drop the male approach to solving problems i.e. go out and find a simple solution to your erectile dysfunction and then use it and just take time to try the home treatment program which in the long run will serve both you and your partner better. Not to mention the fact that it is actually extremely enjoyable, provides you with very satisfying orgasms and great sex! You can find my home treatment program for erectile dysfunction here - and I recommend it not just because I wrote it, but because - judging by the feedback I get - it seems to work, and help solve both erectile dysfunction and the relationship issues whic can go with it. Please have a look and see what you think.

 

Popping a pill seems so simple, but while this may help him, it doesn't address the pain she feels about his ED in the first place.

Andrew McCullough, director of sexual health at NYU Medical Center, observes that women tend to take it to heart: "Women internalize things -- they tend to blame themselves first," he says, and explains that they do this because they think they have done something wrong, or they are no longer attractive to their partner. Of course, the truth is generally a mile away from this scenario.

ED, or erectile dysfunction, is the inability to get or keep an erection long enough for satisfactory sexual intercourse. Nearly all men have some level of erection failure at some time - this can be caused by stress, depression, fatigue or it may happen when there is no obvious reason. But when the problem becomes chronic, the diagnosis is erectile dysfunction: and it's a common condition. The American Foundation for Urologic Disease suggest it affects around 18 million men in the United States.

Many cases of ED are caused by diabetes, high cholesterol, certain medications and other physical conditions. These are hardly the fault of a man's partner! But many women blame themselves, suffer undue anxiety, considerable anger, hurt feelings and wounded pride.  For example, a woman may suspect her partner is having an affair, or he doesn't find her attractive any more. She makes coded suggestions about these possibilities, which her partner may see as an attack, causing him to withdraw even more. The fact that he withdraws may confirm in her mind that she is on the right track, so her anxiety and unhappiness increase. Clearly in a long term, committed relationship, this miscommunication can be devastating. The couple may cease communicating on every level.

Women and ED: How to find a balance

Many women try and stoke up the fires of passion, by acting more erotically. But of course this just puts him under more pressure, and makes him even less likely to be able to get an erection. And trying hard to make love, with all the effort she can put into it isn't, going to work either.

The right approach for most women is to avoid feeling rejected by understanding that it isn't personal; it isn't about the woman; and it's not even her problem. After that, it's the same old line of attack: keep the lines of communication open. And that means talking about it, no matter how challenging that may be. That's a discussion that needs to take place outside the bedroom, outside the emotional framework of the failed attempt to have sex. The more down to earth a woman can be, the better: the more unemotional, the more likely a woman is to get through to her man.

In fact, the secret to discussing this is to tackle it like any other matter in a long term relationship: just discuss it calmly. McCullough suggests that when you think of it as a physical problem rather than an inherently sexual one, the majority of men will be more willing to discuss it and more willing to take their partner's support. It's also important for the woman to reassure the man and tell him that she values the physical part of the relationship, and show her willingness to work with him to find a solution. Mutual friendship and non-sexual, reassuring touches, hugs and kisses, are all-important in keeping the long term bond alive. 

ED: Let it open the door to a new sex life

In some cases, the treatment can be quick, with Viagra, and in others it can be much slower, for example if high blood pressure has to be brought under control. But for the woman concerned, one thing is key: don't tell him "It doesn't matter." Of course it matters to him - possibly more than his partner can imagine - and this comment suggests that a woman doesn't really mind about the erectile issues her man is having, and that can damage a man's self-esteem even more. Instead, this could be a good opportunity to experiment, to find new ways to remain intimate and try new ideas - even if an erection is not involved! The way to do this is to see it as play rather than sex: intimacy, touch, sensuality....they all count in keeping a relationship alive.

Last of all, a man who is irritable may also be depressed, and that will compound any erection problems.

The secret is to keep the lines of communication open in all circumstances, and work from your heart. For a woman, the nurturing, supportive and intuitive skills she has may be all that's needed to keep intimacy alive for as long as the physical relationship is on hold.

Obviously it can be extremely frustrating not to know how to overcome the effects of erectile dysfunction. So let's begin with the steps you can take to begin resolving this problem. Four fundamental conditions need to be met before a woman can begin to work on a man's erectile dysfunction with him.

The following text on erectile dysfunction is addressed to the woman in a partnership.

1 The problem must not be so deeply rooted in sexual trauma that you cannot address the problem without psychosexual therapy. Some sexual difficulties are so deeply rooted that psychotherapy is needed before the approaches described here have any impact.

2 You must be willing and able to help your man, and both you and he must be mostly free from sexual conflicts and inhibitions. If either of you are conflicted about sex, either one or both of you may have a subconscious reason to keep the man dysfunctional - this can be a means to avoid facing your own sexual inhibitions.

3 You need to be comfortable with your partner and your relationship. Working to overcome erectile dysfunction requires patience, love, and understanding, and if you have unresolved feelings of hostility, it will be impossible to help your man.

4 You need a man who is motivated to end his erectile dysfunction. You and your partner may be able to work through his erectile dysfunction without professional help, but be aware you may need a certified sex therapist to help get over the problem. But in both cases, sexual problems may be worsened by emotional issues for both of you. Even though working to solve a sexual problem can be wonderful, it may also affect your sex life and your intimacy, and you may have some rocky times on the way. The following text explains some of these points in more detail.


Mary was wonderful woman, very attractive, a trained therapist, who knew all about human sexuality - so when she met John, a 45 year old man who had a chronic impotence problem, she made it her aim in life to help him solve his erectile dysfunction. Knowing what she did about impotence and performance anxiety, Mary agreed with John that they would simply not have sexual intercourse until he was able to get hard. They enjoyed lots of oral sex and foreplay, and she gave him ample amounts of oral sex on his flaccid penis. She never complained about the lack of penetrative sex and encouraged John to relax and gain greater confidence. But even after nine months, John had not managed to have sex with her. Mary was now frustrated enough to turn for help to a therapist, who discovered that John had been molested as a child, and his erectile dysfunction appeared to be only one symptom of much deeper emotional damage. The effects of this sexual trauma during childhood had remained with John all his adult life. Only after this was addressed could John begin to solve his erectile problems.

Erectile dysfunction is nearly always solvable, except when a man has a long history of the problem with short remission periods, which sometimes suggests the erectile dysfunction is a symptom of some much deeper underlying psychological cause - perhaps from past trauma. If your relationship is new, and the erectile dysfunction does not improve when you are getting accustomed to each other, there may be a deeper problem to deal with. It is the effects of this deeper trauma which ultimately can be more damaging than the effects of the erectile dysfunction, since it is possible to deal with the superficial effects of erection problems - but the deeper trauma can continue to affect a man's capacity to enter into relationships and intimacy. The same is true if a man does not really want to be in the relationship with you, a fact which he may actually be keeping from you. (He may even be having an affair, where he can get a good erection and enjoy sex.) And in many cases, erectile dysfunction has a physical basis, so medical treatment may be necessary, but the psychological component can always be helped with use of the exercises on this website. 

If you believe that your partner has a problem you can help him solve, think on this: do you have any unresolved sexual issues yourself? A woman's sexual issues may affect the sexual equilibrium of any relationship. Nicky and Malcolm's were a couple where Nicky was upset because of Malcolm's erectile dysfunction, which he said had developed since he met Nicky. But the more pressure she piled on him, the less able he was to keep an erection.  But Nicky's anger against Malcolm turned out to be hiding the fact that she had never yet had an orgasm - and she was effectively blaming Malcolm for this. Nicky had to become relaxed about sex and orgasmic and stop worrying about the effects of her inability to reach orgasm on their sex life before she was able to face this and help Malcolm with his erectile dysfunction.

For one thing, unless a woman is able to enjoy orgasms during sex it may not be very appealing for a woman, and she may not wish to prolong the experience as would be needed if she was trying to help a man with his erection problems. If a woman does not have regular orgasms, she may not be very interested in sex. Further, she may even make her partner come quickly to get the experience over with as fast as possible. The man will sense this at some level and it will not help his erectile dysfunction. But the good news is that taking responsibility for your role in the problem will always help both of you to get healthier, better sex lives. Indeed, examining your own issues can be a good way to encourage your man's involvement in the process.

If you don't have caring skills that can help a man work through his sexual issues, you may not be able to help your man resolve his erectile dysfunction. You need to be a loving partner and you need to have a therapeutic approach - which means: first and foremost you need to feel good about your relationship and partner, feel positive about these things, believe it is worth going on with the relationship, and not be feeling anger, or a desire to argue: you must genuinely want to stay together. 

It's essential not to judge your partner negatively around his sexual problem; you must not think he is any less masculine for having this problem, and not regard erectile dysfunction as shameful. Thinking like this is clearly unhelpful: you will not be able to work with a man on a sexual problem if you think he is fundamentally flawed because he cannot get it up. You must try and separate the erectile dysfunction problem from the man, and instead think of him as a man with a sexual problem rather than as somehow being a sexually inadequate man. Note that if you think men should always be more the sexual leader, more sexually expert and more desirous of sex, as well as being able to show the woman how to proceed in sex, then, you are part of the problem, not the solution.

If you work on erectile dysfunction with your partner, you have to give up your own sexual needs for a while, and, for example, have sexual intimacy with him when you are not in the mood. And besides this, you must be patient, for change, especially around sexual issues, takes time. There are no quick fixes, and impatience or doubt on your part can contribute to a man's sexual anxiety. Keep your eyes on the overall objective: have faith in the future of your sexual relationship.

And what if you are willing to help, but he does not wish to be helped? What if he's just not interested in solving his erectile dysfunction? He may not feel desire, he may not wish to preserve the relationship, he may have a selfish attitude with no desire to change. If he has lost sexual desire he may not care about getting it back. He may have health problems and think erection problems are the least he has to worry about. Or he may not care because you do not care. If so, he may not think he has any sort of problem. It can take a good deal of persuasion before a man accepts dealing with erectile dysfunction is not admitting he has a shameful problem. Another man who is hard to persuade that something needs to be done is one who believes he is damned as a man because he can't get it up - the man whose sexual motivation is based on a macho concept of his cock as the centre of his being, one who believes women are really sexual objects.

Bear in mind it's also possible that a man might think his problem will disappear by itself. If he believes his erectile dysfunction is a result of external stress, he will think that when the stress lifts, he'll get his erections back. If this is what's happening for your partner, you may have to wait until this proves to be untrue.

If he knows he has a problem, but he's not committed enough to the relationship to work on it, then you have a simple choice: walk away and find a new partner, or stick with him and hope he changes. Often, a man may not wish to work on his erectile dysfunction if he does not intend to stay with a woman long term. It's clearly also a possibility that a man in a long-term relationship may wish to change things - that is, change his relationship or partner, not his erectile dysfunction. A man may realize that his erection problem is symptomatic of a deeper issue in the relationship, and be fearful of the consequences of dealing with it. As always, with such issues, the way to deal with them is to employ open and honest communication.

A man may be well aware of his problem, but humiliated by the idea of dealing with it himself, with you or with a therapist. Admitting his penis cannot get erect is a big thing, and is possibly the most common reason a man does not want to work on his erectile dysfunction. Many men find this so embarrassing that they prefer to pretend the problem does not exist; and if a man fears he may not be able to solve the problem, this emotional back drop is so powerful that he may do everything in his power to avoid the problem, until he is totally in despair about it.


Other pages of background information on erectile dysfunction

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Other sections of this website about erectile dysfunction

Home ] Self-help treatment for ED ] The diagnosis of ED ] Erectile dysfunction treatment ] The causes of ED ] Effects of ED ] Treatment for ED ]

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