One of the most important facts to keep in mind when deciding it’s time to talk to your partner about experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED) is that it is a medical condition. A medical condition means that there is no fault involved or that something you did or did not do caused this to happen to you.
As a man, you may feel ashamed about your condition. It is common to feel that you are letting your partner down if you cannot perform sexually. There are many feelings of guilt when you feel you are not holding up your part of a relationship with the person you care about most. This is why it is vitally important to remind yourself that the cause is completely medical. Letting go of self-blame is an important step to dealing with and treating this very common situation.
What Causes ED?
What is erectile dysfunction? By definition, if a man cannot achieve or maintain an erection long enough to have sexual intercourse, he has ED. The biological reason is rather straightforward. Blood flows to the penis when one is aroused, causing the penis to become erect. When blood doesn’t get to the penis, an erection may be weak or not happen at all.
ED happens to virtually every man occasionally; for example, if one has consumed alcohol or is just exhausted, perhaps from a long day’s work or strenuous workout at the gym, it may be hard to get erect. If this happens infrequently, it is probably nothing to worry about.
If it happens frequently, this is ED. Common causes of erectile dysfunction include:
- Anxiety or depression
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Low testosterone
- Certain medications
- Prostate cancer
Depression Can Cause Vicious Cycle
Depression and anxiety are the leading cause of ED in younger men. Depression can cause men to experience trouble with achieving strong erections but, further perpetuating the problem, ED itself may cause men to become clinically depressed. It can be a vicious cycle.
Age-Related Conditions Affect Older Men
The reasons for ED in older men are not just age but the many conditions that become more common as a man gets older. Over time, the hormone testosterone gradually decreases in men, which affects the ability to get erections.
The narrowing of the blood vessel means that less blood can reach the penis, and when the blood has trouble reaching the penis, it can’t become erect. The narrowing of blood vessels may also result in high blood pressure or heart disease, so the conditions may go hand in hand.
How to Talk About ED
Erectile dysfunction can be embarrassing for a man. These feelings are OK and natural to have, but reminding yourself that it is not your fault may be the first step to accepting that a medical professional will be able to help you treat this problem. ED does not need to be a chronic situation.
You Are Not Alone
It is also important to remember that you are not alone. The fact is that 30 million people in the United States alone are affected by ED. Dealing with ED might feel isolating, and you might think no one could understand the humiliation you feel, but this is not true. When almost half of all men may have ED, that means that your neighbors, coworkers, and friends may very well be in the same situation you are in. This also means that doctors are seeing and treating patients just like you all the time. Your doctor will not see anything new if you choose to talk to them about ED. They will be quite familiar with possible treatment options, including easy-to-take and cost-effective pharmaceutical treatment options.
Talking Together About ED
When you feel the time is right to talk about ED with your partner, there are many ways to have a productive conversation about it. This moment can feel overwhelming and anxiety-inducing, but it is important to remind yourself that intimacy with a partner is much more than just sexual intercourse. Here are some steps to take to create an open and honest dialogue with your partner.
Choose the Right Time
The worst moment to begin discussing ED with your partner is in the heat of the moment. When you are trying to be intimate and cannot perform, emotions may be high. You will probably feel immense frustration with yourself that, in your mind, you are failing to please your partner. Your partner, too, may feel frustrated if things have escalated in the bedroom only to be let down. A much better time is in a setting where emotions aren’t running high, and you can keep your thoughts calm and clear as you begin a dialogue. An opportune time is when you are alone with your partner and are in a safe environment.
Better times to discuss this may be over a nice home-cooked meal or take-out from your favorite restaurant. Being at ease is the key to having difficult discussions. You may also broach the subject on a walk through a quiet park or beach where you can talk freely. A favorite coffee shop may also be a great spot if you can have privacy. You will likely be surprised to find out how supportive and caring your partner will be. Sexual penetration is just one small part of a relationship, and that your partner treasures you much more than just for sex.
Have the Facts
Having facts available for the discussion will give you more confidence and help your partner understand the problems and possible treatments. You may have links to websites containing the facts about ED ready and could pick up brochures about it from your doctor. Facts and statistics are the perfect jumping-off point, as they facilitate further discussions.
Tell Your Partner They Are Not to Blame
When someone fails to achieve an erection during intimacy, the partner commonly feels that they are doing something wrong and that the situation is their fault. They may feel that you don’t find them as attractive as you once did or that you may have lost interest in them. They may even fear that you want to move on from the relationship. It is important to explain that this is a medical condition, and it has nothing to do with that partner. You may be surprised to see the relief your partner feels once the communication is open and the problem begins to be addressed.
Consider a Sex Therapist
It might be surprising to know that a sex therapist can help in the treatment of ED. There are many ways this type of therapy can help a couple when they attend together. A therapist will act as a guide when you and your partner are talking together about ED. A sex therapist will be well versed in the emotions and concerns a couple goes through these types of situations, and they will know specialized techniques to get you and your partner talking and actively listening to each other. The relief of the stress that comes from counseling may even rectify the ED if mental issues are causing it. The therapist’s office is a safe place for you and your partner to break down the complexities of the situation, and it may feel like a sigh of relief when everything can be laid out on a table.
Explore Other Forms of Intimacy
The idea that actual penetration is the only form of sexual intimacy is a very limited idea. The fact is that many other forms of sexual activity can be very pleasurable and fulfilling for your partner. Experimenting with adult toys can be exciting for everyone involved. Reminding your partner that ED is treatable and that while you are exploring treatment, it doesn’t mean that sexual intimacy cannot still happen along the way.
Remind Your Partner That You Love Them
This is a simple thing you can do, but do not underestimate the power of saying “I love you.” It’s a little thing that can help the journey through ED discussions and treatments immensely.
Treatment for ED
Keep reading to learn more about Erectile Dysfunction on our blog.
Take this Erectile Dysfunction Quiz to find out if you need professional help.
Remember, there is nothing to be ashamed up and there is help available.
Chief Operating Officer, The Compounding Pharmacy of America
Matthew Poteet, Pharm.D. graduated with Honors from Lee University with a Bachelors of Science in Biological Science. After his undergraduate training, he completed the Doctor of Pharmacy program at Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy, graduating in 2004. Dr. Poteet has spent much of his pharmacy career on staff at two of the most prestigious academic teaching hospitals in the Southeast; Emory University in Atlanta and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. At these institutions he received extensive experience and training in sterile products compounding.
He returned home to East Tennessee in 2010, where he has held the position of Pharmacy Director at two sterile products pharmacies in Knoxville. Matthew lives in Knoxville with his wife, Chris. Dr. Poteet is Tennessee’s first Board Certified Anti-Aging Pharmacist by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.