Talking to your partner about Erectile Dysfunction

Shannon Oliver-O'Neil, LSWTherapist

Posted by: Shannon Oliver-O'Neil
LSWTherapist
267-428-2610

Not everyone who has Erectile Dysfunction needs to have an in depth conversation with their partner about it. Maybe your partner is new, and ED is just part of the adjustment process. But if erectile dysfunction is popping up in a more establisdhed relationship, or causing distress for the two of you, talking it out and getting on the same page about expectations is crucial to building a satisfying sex life.

Below is a guide to help you begin that conversation with your partner. Before you begin, take the ED assessment quiz [link] to better understand the psychological root cause of your ED.  Additionally  make an appointment with your urologist to screen out contributing medical issues cause ED (diabetes, heart problems etc).  

While some erectile dysfunction may be caused by biological or medical issues, many men experience erectile difficulties due to anxiety or other emotional reasons. When this is the case, it can be especially helpful to talk to your partner.

Take 30 minutes to each answer the questions below on a sheet of paper.

  1. For me, the purpose of sex is….
  1. What I like about sex the most is
  1. Would I be dissatisfied with a sexual encounter if…
  • my partner has an orgasm during sex and I don’t?
  • I have an orgasm during sex and my partner doesn’t?
  • Neither my partner nor I have an orgasm?
  • Why or why not? What makes a sexual encounter satisfying for you?

4. I can tell when my partner is turned on in the following ways:

5. When I am turned on, I show my partner in the following ways:

6. When I think my partner is not turned on during sex, it makes me feel…

7. In the bedroom i am most confident when . . .

8. The sexual behaviors that I can always do regardless of having an erection/my partner having an erection are...

9. When I’m being physically intimate with my partner, I often shut down when . .

10. If I get anxious during sex, I might do or say the following….

11. Something my partner does that helps me feel sexy is when…

Discuss together. If sharing your answers makes one or both of you too upset to continue the conversation, that’s ok! Talking about sex within a relationship can be difficult work. Consider making an appointment with a couples therapist today.

If you are able to share your answers without getting into a fight, discuss the following reflection questions:

How do our values and approaches to sex differ? How do they align?

How easy is it to understand when your partner is turned on? What new nonverbal cues can we come up with to show our partner when we’re turned on?

How do we want to define a “satisfying sexual encounter” within our relationship?

By setting these expectations together, you and your partner have begun building a strong foundation upon which you can do activities [link] to strengthen your erections, or improve your sex life without them [link.] Too often, people see erectile dysfunction as a reflection of themselves, or their partner’s feelings for them, when in reality it’s a physiological reaction to anxious feelings. This can cause distress, especially if partners aren’t able to communicate while feeling anxious. Answering the discussion and reflection questions listed above will help you and your partner minimize distress and increase intimacy.

If you would like further activities or support facilitating these conversations, make an appointment with a sex therapist today.