Erectile Dysfunction: Advice for Partners

The Couple’s Disease

Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is often called the “couple’s disease.” If you are in a relationship, ED doesn’t just affect the man, it affects both of you as a couple. This obviously puts stress on your sex life, but many times it carries over into the rest of the relationship. Men can be embarrassed to talk about their erectile problems or see their doctor; instead, they start distancing themselves from their partners. Oftentimes the partner thinks “he’s not attracted to me” or “he’s not interested in this relationship anymore.” It is important to know that ED results from relationship problems in <10% of cases. More commonly, ED is the result of an underlying condition such as heart disease or diabetes, or a side effect of treatment for a condition such as prostate cancer. For this reason, men with ED should seek care from a medical professional.

How ED Makes Him Feel

As men’s health specialists, we see patients in the office every day for ED issues. Even though ED is very common, a man dealing with sexual dysfunction often feels like he has lost his manhood. He may start to lose confidence in himself even outside of the bedroom. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. Partners should acknowledge this and be supportive so the couple can work together to find out what treatment options work best for both of them. For many couples, one instance of ED can lead to future episodes because of the man’s anxiety and concern about it happening again. Some men will report that their ED started after a sexual encounter where they felt they did not perform to their “normal level”. After that incident, many men will have anxiety around their erections and a concern that their ED can actually persist due to the fear of continued ED.

Discussing the Issue

Talking to your partner about ED is difficult, but a man’s partner is an integral part of the solution. Choose the right time to discuss it – wait until you are outside of the bedroom and not “in the moment.” Talk openly about your feelings. Remind him that ED is not a masculinity issue, but usually the sign of an underlying medical issue. Taking the first step to acknowledge that there is a problem can help lead you back to a fulfilling sex life. Remember that ED is treatable!

Treatment Options

We recommend attending doctors’ appointments together so that you both are well-informed on the treatment options available:

  • Oral Medications: Oral medications, like sildenafil or tadalafil, are a common first therapy and they work in about 70% of men.
  • Vacuum Pump: A penile vacuum pump may be a good option if medications have failed or caused side effects.
  • Injection Therapy: This involves injecting medicine directly into the side of your penis with a very small needle each time you want an erection. About 70% of men are satisfied with this treatment option.
  • Penile Implants: These devices are surgically placed and considered a permanent solution for ED. They last an average of 12-15 years and have a very high satisfaction rate for both the man and his partner.

Dealing with ED is frustrating and stressful for both the patient and his partner. The physicians at Utah Men’s Health are fellowship trained in men’s sexual health issues. If you or your partner are experiencing symptoms of ED contact us today. A discussion with one of our specialists may not only be the key to a happy sex life, but a happy and healthy life together.

Erectile Dysfunction: Advice for Partners