Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is often called “the couple’s disease” since it is one of the few disease states that can affect both a man and his partner, resulting in frustration, anger and less intimacy. ED often correlates with overall poor health or other conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer treatment.63-65
Supporting Each Other in the Journey
Erectile dysfunction (ED) can test a relationship in unimaginable ways.
It isolates and demeans the person suffering from ED and creates emotional walls between partners. It can also often lead to depression.66
ED can be a difficult topic for couples to discuss. Anxiety issues and communication problems in the relationship related to sexual performance will not be solved simply because the man is unable to have an erection.67 Talking openly can help reduce stress and improve your relationship. Acknowledge your feelings, reassure each other and resolve to work through the problem, together.
Emotional Side of ED – His Perspective
The ability to achieve and maintain an erection provides a man with the feeling of being “normal” or “complete.” If a man cannot achieve an erection it has a significant impact on the male psyche.
Feelings of embarrassment, frustration and emasculation can sometimes lead to behaviours of denial, alienation and avoidance can fracture the relationship.7
A man may be initially accepting of his partner’s support, but after time, hearing his partner say, “It doesn't matter to me” is often harder for a man to believe.
For many men, the ability to have an erection makes them feel “normal” or “whole.” It’s important for partners to be supportive and understanding when trying the various ED treatment options available. The options may work with varying degrees of success depending upon the cause of the ED.
Emotional Side of ED – A Partner’s Perspective
ED has a significant impact on the partner too, feelings of frustration, empathy and sadness can slowly fade to apathy and acceptance of life without the closeness once enjoyed.
Partners may look inward for causes – “Is it me?” or “Maybe something is wrong with me”. They may have a desire to “fix” the problem. Partners may be fearful of treatment or be experiencing sexual dysfunction themselves.
Here is a simple guide of things you can do to support your partner:
• Remember that ED is usually a medical problem that affects BOTH of you.
• Talk openly with your partner about his ED.
• Accompany your partner to his medical appointments.
• Educate yourself on ED and all the treatment options available.
The ED Conversation
Talking to your Partner suffering from ED
ED affects both men and their partners and can result in frustration, anger and decreased intimacy both inside and outside of the bedroom.
The first step in finding a solution together is talking openly with your partner suffering from ED. As a partner, it’s important to show support, get informed, carefully choose your moment and have the conversation. Let him know he is not alone, you are in it together.
By focusing on emotional and physical intimacy, including kissing, hugging and stroking, many couples report an increase in desire and motivation to pursue a solution that works for them. Men suffering from ED are not alone.
Beginning to talk about ED and treatment options may lead to conversations about other health-related issues and may include discussion of other lifestyle choices.
Ways to start the conversation
Here are a few approaches to start the uncomfortable conversation:
“I love you and I am here to help with whatever is on your mind. Do you want to talk about it?”
“We have a great relationship and I enjoy being with you, but things haven’t been the same between us.”
“I know sex may be hard to talk about, but we need to address the ED. There are treatment options available and I want to help.”
“There are a lot of couples that face this issue. I am here for you. We could talk to your doctor. What do you want to do?”