Coping When Your Partner Has Erectile Dysfunction
Your partner is normally the person you can turn to most easily for physical and emotional closeness. However, if he has been troubled by problems with erections for some time, you may now be experiencing conflict that you and your partner will need to resolve.
It is very natural for a man to react to unexpected problems with erections by pulling away and acting as if he no longer wants sex. If you have experienced this behavior, you may have reacted by feeling confused, hurt and rejected. Without much of an explanation to go on, you may have ended up feeling resentful or angry as well.
These feelings can result in arguments, sharp remarks with hurt feelings, or an uncomfortable silence and distance. If this has happened to you and your partner, the two of you will need to take steps to improve your sense of ease with each other before you can fully benefit from the medical recommendations he is following for ED.
If You are in Conflict with Your Partner...
…you now need to find a way to re-establish communication and your normal, trusting feeling toward each other again. If you know each other very well and have for a long time, then you already know how to re-approach him for a heart-to-heart talk. You cannot control how receptive he is to allowing you to support him in this, but you can let him know how much you love him, that you are sorry for any times when your unhappiness has been expressed as anger, and how much depends on the two of you supporting each other through this.
On the other hand, you may feel that your relationship has suffered harm (because one or both of you has said or done things that the other finds hard to forgive). Or you may never have had a serious conflict with your partner before, and you don’t know how to argue without badly hurting each other’s feelings. In that case, you may want to speak with a neutral third party, such as a therapist, to learn how to disagree without wounding and re-establish supportive communication.
Now That You Are Speaking...
Your understanding is very important for maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner, including a sex life that is erotic and satisfying, even if some adjustments need to be made for the reality of ED. Here are some things you can do to cope:
Learn about ED, how it is evaluated, and treatment options, so that it becomes a more ordinary topic, without surprises or uncertainty.
Go with him to his appointments to see his physician if the two of you are comfortable with this, and discuss how choosing whether to proceed with treatment, and which treatment, would affect you both.
When you feel the need for more communication, talk about erectile dysfunction and how the two of you are experiencing it. Use the approach that works best in making this a positive interaction with both of you feeling comfortable and enjoying each other’s respect. Make it clear that you are confident the two of you can solve any negative feelings.
Tell him that you love him and have no interest in anyone else.
Explain that to you, there is much more to his physical attractiveness than simply the ability to have erections. Tell him that knowing he trusts you enough to talk about this is something you find very attractive. Tell him that your physical feelings about him haven’t changed, and that any adjustments in your sex life that you need to make aren’t likely to change them.
Since erectile dysfunction can be caused or worsened by many of the same lifestyle habits that damage the heart (smoking, drinking, overeating, a fatty diet, a diet with too little fiber, fruits or vegetables), do what you can to improve your lifestyle and make it healthier.
Think of ways to show affection and intimacy that don’t put pressure on him to have erections. Be flexible and ready to try new ways of lovemaking that don’t hurt either of you, and tell him what you like. Enjoy the feeling that the two of you are getting to know each other even better than before.
Make “dates” where you set aside time to spend just with your partner, during the day or in the evening. When you are intimate, ask what kinds of touch he likes best during sex and at what pace, and share the same information with him. Use playful fantasy games that you both enjoy to restore your experience of sex as fun, not anxiety-provoking.
When you have doubts and insecurities, share these in a way that demonstrates your confidence in him and allows him to reassure you, and ask him to do the same. Enjoy the feeling of being supportive, loving allies together, against life’s adversity.