How to Talk to Your Partner About Erectile Dysfunction
Having erectile dysfunction (ED) isn’t something that requires you to give up sex completely nor does it have to break up a relationship. But before you introduce a new penis ring or penis pump into the bedroom, it’s worth talking to your partner about first. They deserve to know what’s going on with you, and then you can work together to find solutions — like how to incorporate sex toys into your sex life in new ways.
Here’s what a few experts had to say about this difficult conversation.
Think About Why You’re Uncomfortable
Talking about ED isn’t the easiest thing, because it’s not always the most comfortable topic. “If you feel really uncomfortable about revealing your ED, try to work out what underlies that discomfort,” advises Daniel Sher, a clinical psychologist and sex therapy expert at Between Us premature ejaculation clinic. “Many feel a deep sense of shame and inadequacy. This fuels performance anxiety, which is a common culprit of psychological ED. Once you’re aware of that vulnerability, you have created the space in which to address the ED.”
Deal With Your Beliefs About “Manhood”
Sher continues. “Through this sort of self-reflection and self-compassion, you equip yourself to tackle the psychological cause of your ED while growing personally at the same time. Through this process, you may also find yourself challenging deeply held and unhelpful beliefs about the link between erectile function and “manhood”.”
“The two main factors when considering speaking to your partner about erectile dysfunction are information and honesty,” says Dr. Giuseppe Aragona of Prescription Doctor.
“Avoid presenting erectile dysfunction as a problem, by taking your time to research and learn from reliable sources about the different options available to you. Not only will this lower your anxiety about talking to your partner, but also can be turned in to a beneficial and productive conversation where you are working together for a solution that is best for both of you. This honesty allows your partner to become part of your journey of discovery where you can share and experiment together, instead of you putting extra pressure on yourself to be able to perform the way you assume your partner wants you to.”
Help Your Partner Understand How You Feel
In talking to a partner about your ED, there are a lot of emotions and feelings involved. Sher says, “Try to help them understand the emotion(s) that goes with this condition. There is often an underlying feeling of shame, inadequacy, or vulnerability. For the conversation to be productive, you need to communicate these feelings to your partner.”
Remember your partner in this conversation though. Sher advises, “Do so sensitively, however. Your partner might also carry a sense of shame about, or responsibility for, your ED. It’s vital that you check-in with them, in this regard. Simply ask them how they feel about the situation and use this to start a conversation.”
Ask For What You Need to Hear
Our partners don’t always know what we need from them, especially when we’re talking about a difficult topic. It really is as simple as letting your partner know what you need to hear from them says Dr. Nicole Prause (https://www.linkedin.com/in/nprause/), a sex therapist.
“Usually partners understand sex can be challenging to talk about, but they do not know how best to respond. Help them! For example, try ‘I have had a problem for a while that has always been a little embarrassing for me to talk about, but I really hope you will listen and help me be positive!’ versus ‘I should tell you something about the way my body responds that I have just had for years, and I would love for us to talk about the way we want our sex life to be.’”
Brainstorm Possible Solutions
You’re the one dealing with ED, so your partner might feel clueless in how to help. Dr. Prause advises finding the solution together by telling them what you want.
Say something like “If I just feel like it isn’t going to happen, I would really like it if we break for a few minutes to just make out and figure out what else we might want to do.” Or try “when I don’t get hard, it still feels really good to be touched, so please don’t avoid touching my penis just because it isn’t rock hard!”
For Partners: Listen and Empathize
The conversation about ED isn’t just for the partner sharing their experience, it’s also for the partner on the receiving end. “The most valuable thing you can do is to listen and empathize,” advises Sher. “Try to put yourself in their shoes. Recognizing and affirming the vulnerability that your loved one is communicating can be so incredibly therapeutic. If done correctly, this sort of exchange has the power to improve both of your sex lives.”
Because of how most cis men (and anyone else with a penis) have been socialized to view sex, erections, and “performance,” this conversation is rarely an easy one. But with the right partner, it can help you both grow and explore what your sex life can be for both of you.
Is this a conversation you’ve had with your partner in the past? How did it go? What tips would you offer someone else?