How to Talk to Your Partner About Erectile Dysfunction: A Woman’s Guide


nov4-1The last thing most men want to talk about with their partners is their problems getting or keeping an erection. Often, when a man develops erectile dysfunction (ED), he’ll try to ignore the problem, hoping it will go away on its own. The thought of going to a doctor can be too humiliating for many men, even in this day and age, when ED is more talked-about that ever before.

But if you’re a woman whose man has developed ED, you probably don’t want to just sit back and wait for the problem to resolve itself. You probably want to keep enjoying an active sex life with your partner. You’re probably also understandably concerned about your partner’s health — underlying physical causes are to blame in over 80 percent of ED cases. Medications like Cialis or Viagra can help your partner get normal erections again. Many couples find that ED ultimately helps them spice up their sex lives and foster a deeper sense of intimacy.

You’re Not Alone

Though sexual problems can make you feel very isolated, the truth is that ED is a very common problem. Most men will experience some irregularities in sexual function at some point in their lives, though doctors say that a failure to get an erection during up to one in five sexual encounters is normal and doesn’t require treatment. If your partner is experiencing ED more than half of the time, however, there’s a good chance that some underlying ailment, like diabetes, atherosclerosis, or depression, may be to blame.

Five percent of men in their 40s and 15 to 25 percent of men in their 60s experience ED that requires treatment. Eighteen percent of American men suffer from erection problems. Of course, it may not make your partner feel much better to hear that other men also have ED, but it might be reassuring to you to know that your partner’s ED is probably nothing to do with you, your attractiveness, or his level of satisfaction with the relationship.

Choose the Right Time and Place to Talk to Your Partnernov4-2

If your partner is having erection problems, his health, as well as your sex life together, depends on you broaching the subject with him. It’s a good idea to wait for a time when you’re both relaxed, comfortable, and fully dressed. Make sure you have privacy and that you won’t be interrupted, but don’t make your partner feel cornered, either — avoid bringing up the matter at dinnertime or when you’re in the car on a long trip.

Pick Your Words Carefully

You may want to think about what you’re going to say to your partner in advance. Don’t place blame or insinuate that your partner’s erection problems are due to infidelity or lack of sexual interest in you; they probably aren’t. Try not to frame the issue as a problem your partner has that he would be capable of solving if he changed his habits, by exercising more or eating better, for example — that may well be the case, but only a doctor can know for sure. Avoid statements that begin with the word “you,” and instead begin your statements with phrases like “I feel” or “I think we should…”

It can be helpful to acknowledge that this is an uncomfortable topic. Say something like, “I know this might be embarrassing for you, but I’ve noticed that you’ve been having more problems getting an erection lately.” Many men will shut down and try to back out of this conversation, so it can be a good idea to quickly turn the conversation around to possible health conditions that could be causing the issue.

Simply suggesting that you’re worried that your partner’s erection problems might be the result of diabetes, for example, or heart disease, will give him food for thought. Knowing that it isn’t necessarily his fault might also take some of the pressure off and make him feel more comfortable about seeing a doctor.

If your partner’s doctor does determine that an underlying illness is causing his erection problems, than he will probably regain the ability to have erections when that problem is treated. However, your doctor may recommend a drug like Cialis or Viagra, to help restore your partner’s confidence. Many men don’t even need to take these drugs forever; once any underlying problems have been treated and your partner has regained his lost confidence, he may be able to get erections again without pharmaceutical assistance.

Even after your partner’s ED issues have been resolved, it’s important to keep talking openly about your sex life together. You should also continue to work to nurture the emotional side of your relationship. The more emotional intimacy you can foster, the better your sex life will be over the long term.

It can be hard to talk to your partner about ED, especially since this is one of the many issues men don’t like to talk about. Be patient and supportive and remind your partner that his erection problems may be a symptom of a health problem, and you’ll have a lot more success convincing a reluctant partner to get treatment.