Updated: Jun 20
I was recently interviewed on Anne Nguyen Truong MD's podcast, Sexual Health for Men. Dr. Truong's medical practice focuses on helping men fix erectile dysfunction (ED) without a reliance on pills; which she says are only effective over the short term. Dr. Truong says that fixing the blood flow / erection part is the easy part! In her experience, more than 50% of the challenge is the relationship, lifestyle and/ or is coming from the man's head…
So what can you do as his partner? A LOT!
If you search the web for advice, most of it centers around “communicate with him about it,” and “get him to an MD,” which generally results in Viagra or similar pills. While both can be helpful suggestions, what if these are not working? Or are uncomfortable and awkward? What if for him, erection pills are an ineffective solution? Or are not meant as a permanent solution, according to Dr. Truong? What if the wife still feels isolated and helpless and misses the emotional intimacy as well as physical?
I’m an intimacy specialist for women, helping women create deep intimacy with their partner; both physical and emotional. If you are a woman who’s man has lost desire and you don't know the reasons, or would like some talking points, see my article, Why Men Lose Desire for their Woman perhaps sharing it with him. Erectile dysfunction is one of many possibilities he's not showing interest.
So in addition to the usual 'see your doctor,' and ‘talk about it’ advice, (talking about his sexual problems may be intensely uncomfortable for your man,) this article also helps you apply some of my intimacy coaching and sensuality methods to the ED challenge. It may reveal relationship or bedroom challenges your husband is afraid to tell you.
I encourage you to understand that intimacy, lovemaking, and physical bonding are much broader than intercourse. And you, as his partner have a great deal to contributed to the quality of the relationship, teamwork, and lovemaking.
So, here are some suggestions for you:
1. Do not take his ED personally or as an indication of how desirable you are to him. Process your own emotions (perhaps anger, blame, shame, fear) about sexual challenges, aging, health, and your relationship.
2. Focus on your own well-being, stress levels and happiness with practices such as self-care, mindfulness, exercise, perhaps getting support yourself. You being a partner who shows up relaxed, in a good mood, and takes responsibility for her own happiness will relieve much of the pressure and relationship anxiety contributing to ED, and create a lighter and more optimistic atmosphere.
3. Understand that you are not alone; do some research. ED has become very common due to medications, lifestyle, over-porning, and as we age with 40% of men in their forties experiencing ED, 50% in their fifties and so on ....(the information in this article can also be used to prevent ED from starting or worsening) Share research like this: ED solutions: https://bit.ly/3O6FpqM
4. Never shame or guilt your man-- he already feels awful and vulnerable about it. One husband described the loss of his erections as the loss of his manhood, plus the grief you feel if you were abandoned by your best and oldest friend.
5. Make your relationship feel safe, respectful, and loving. If a man feels any risk you might use his vulnerability against him, such as in an argument that escalates into name calling, instead of confiding in you, he may hide his ED by acting disinterested in sex, and/or shutting you out emotionally..
In order to fix ED as a team, you may first need to really invest efforts in being a loving team, and do everything within YOUR power to make the marriage safe, trusting, loving again. This may mean giving up on behaviors men find disrespectful, such as nagging, criticizing, controlling or mothering. Instead focus on gratitude, extending appreciations and respecting his differences. Try being your husband’s girlfriend, and cheerleader.
6. Keep up the affection, flirting and playfulness, even if YOU have to initiate it. Often in a relationship with sexual dysfunction, the couple also avoids affection, flirting, and playfulness as there is a possibility/expectation that it will lead to sex, with the fear that performance will be a problem. This distancing will increase loneliness and isolation. Plus, erectile dysfunction is often not all or nothing; there may be times when he is good-to-go, when you show interest.
7. Engage in a healthier lifestyle together. Erectile difficulties are often about reduced blood flow, and a healthy lifestyle may solve the problem. Exercise gets the blood flowing, boosts mood, and helps both of you feel better about your bodies. Overweight and obesity may increase the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) by 30–90%. A supportive partner increases weight loss success. Search for resources on supporting a partner in weight loss, and go for it, in a loving way!
8. Show your man you find him attractive, and you desire him. Studies of men say their biggest turn-on is when their woman desires them. His not feeling desirable TO YOU could be a principle reason for his lack of erections. Sometimes the woman showing desire and initiating alone is enough to solve the problem. Not feeling very attracted to him? Try listing all the good things he brings to your life, ways he is strong, masculine, protects you. Focus on these, and not the ‘socks on the floor.’ Try seducing him in the morning, when his testosterone levels are highest.
9. Deeply enjoy your intimate life with him; make it enjoyable for both! Men want very much for their woman to not just tolerate sex, but to deeply enjoy it with him. If you historically have not been very enthusiastic about sex with him, now is the time to take responsibility for your own turn-on.
Female turn-on, arousal and mindset are largely within the woman's control. My intimacy coaching for women is about overcoming blocks to bliss, such as low libido, elusive orgasms, negative conditioning, body image issues, and not feeling emotionally connected. In doing so, women build desire and attraction, finding your own individual path to pleasure, connection and turn-on. Again, often the women showing up “pleaseable,” flirty, sexy, and with actual desire for her man may be all that it takes to cure his erectile dysfunction, or at least have an intimate physical bond. Bedroom boredom contributes to erectile dysfunction and is not fun for the woman either. Try some new things; play with scenarios, themes, toys, feelings…
10. Become sexual explorers together. Focus on pleasure and enjoying the journey and each other, instead of goal oriented, penis-centric, orgasm-chasing sex. View lovemaking as pleasure, loving connection, and “a place you go, not just a thing you do.” Learn and enjoy how to play, touch and please each other even without a hard-on.
Was this article helpful to you? What can/will you do? Would you like to experience a breakthrough in your intimacy, both physical and emotional? Let's talk!
If you could use support in any or all of these areas; I can help! The physical bond is so important to your marital happiness; I am a romantic, and want you will get the love, intimacy and spark back with each other. I invite you to experience a complimentary ‘breakthrough session’ with me.
Lots of love!
Debbie Marielle Elzea
Intimacy Advisor and Sex Therapist