The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) reports that as many as 30 million men in the US suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED). As a condition with an incidence rate that increases with age, erectile dysfunction brings with it a slew of sexual, physical, emotional, and psychological turmoil among men who suffer from it.
But ED doesn’t only affect men; it also affects their partners.
While dealing with erectile dysfunction in a relationship may seem difficult, these simple approaches can help prevent it from wreaking havoc on your love life.
Tell Your Partner About It
Shame and embarrassment are common reactions for men with erectile dysfunction. These feelings are further amplified when the problem becomes a common occurrence during sex. However, as difficult as it is to talk about erectile dysfunction with your partner, not talking about it can take a severe toll on your relationship.
MedicineNet.com reports that refusing to address your erectile dysfunction issues with your partner can cause her to experience feelings of self-blame, anxiety, insecurity, hurt, and even anger. An uninformed partner may view your inability to get an erection as a sign you’re no longer interested in her sexually or that you’re having an affair.
When your partner asks questions about erectile dysfunction and you don’t address them, it can cause a further retreat into silence. In the end, avoidance tactics drive couples apart.
The best way to deal with erectile dysfunction in a relationship is to be completely honest with your partner about the problems you’re experiencing. Reassure her that she’s not the cause of the problem and that your erectile dysfunction isn’t an attempt to hurt or offend her.
Answer any questions she has as honestly as you can, and let her know how ED affects you physically, sexually, emotionally, and psychologically. Maintaining this kind of open and honest communication between you and your partner is key to protecting your relationship while suffering through erectile dysfunction.
Ask For Your Partner’s Support
In a WebMD.com article, Dr. Janice Lipsky, Senior Marketing Manager for the Sexual Health Team at Pfizer, discusses four kinds of couples who deal with erectile dysfunction.
There are the overcomers (those who are committed to solving the problem together), resigners (those who know there is a problem but don’t seek treatment), avoiders (those who are in denial about the problem and refuse to even talk about it), and the alienators (where partners withdraw from the relationship, humiliate their partners, or look for sex elsewhere).
If your partner belongs to the last two groups, then you have more serious problems in your relationship than erectile dysfunction. However, if she’s a resigner whom you can convince to be more involved, or if you’re both overcomers, then asking for her support is very easy.
One way to ask for support is to make a plan to see a doctor together and find out what treatment options are available for you. The more involved your partner is in the process, the more empowered she will feel about being part of the solution. If you’ve already been to a doctor, bring her with you on your next check-up so she can ask any questions she might have about the condition.
If your doctor prescribes lifestyle changes, work out a way for you and your partner to participate in the changes together. There are even simple dietary changes you can make to significantly improve erectile dysfunction. Doing these changes with someone you love and trust makes it that much easier for you to follow through with them.
Gather literature on erectile dysfunction and read these with your partner. The more you both understand the condition, the easier it is to accept the problem as something that is purely physiological and completely removed from emotion.
The key at this stage is to cultivate a support system with your partner that is based on gentleness, understanding, and honesty while being strengthened by information.
Discuss Your Sex Life
You might think discussing your sex life is pointless because there is obviously a problem in the intimacy department. This is wrong.
Experts encourage couples dealing with erectile dysfunction to actually expand their understanding of sex by seeing it as more than just intercourse. That is, you can still be intimate with your partner and even reach orgasm without an erection.
On EverydayHealth.com, clinical psychologist Dr. Mark L. Held, suggests couples focus on the intimate moment and connect with each other emotionally instead of fixating on the penis. By removing focus from the penis, couples remove the pressure of intercourse and instead concentrate on giving and receiving pleasure.
In an article for Men’s Health, health journalist Tammy Worth, recounts how she and her partner had amazing sex while he was being treated for erectile dysfunction. Instead of focusing so much on getting an erection, they instead devoted their time to foreplay. They petted, kissed, and touched each other for hours. This not only made for hotter intimacy, it also brought them closer together as a couple.
Talk to your partner and find out the things you can do in your sex life that excites both of you. This is the time to break out your fantasies! To make sure things don’t get frustrating, just make sure to choose fantasies that don’t focus so much on intercourse.
Even after your erectile dysfunction problems are solved, you and your partner will find this exercise in physical intimacy does wonders for your relationship and your sex life. You will both be in tune with what the other finds pleasurable, you’ll appreciate the heightened pleasure that prolonged foreplay brings, and you will both be very generous lovers.
In this day and age, erectile dysfunction is not only commonplace, it is also easily treatable. The unspoken difficulties often lie in making sure that couples survive the toll that erectile dysfunction takes on a relationship.
However, it doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In the end, dealing with erectile dysfunction in a relationship is an exercise in openness, honesty, communication, and trust. The sooner couples realize this, the stronger their relationship becomes in spite of any problems brought about by ED.
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