Joanie’s sexual relationship with her husband was healthy – even after 36 years of marriage they still made love at least twice a week. When they were told he had to have prostate surgery, they were made aware of the likely side effects, including erectile dysfunction. However there was no way to fully prepare for the stress of not being able to have sex, and the emotions that came along with it.
Anya’s husband Tim’s erection problems came on slowly. By the time they were able to speak openly about it, he had been unable to maintain an erection for long enough to have sex for nearly a year. The couple had grown apart, trying to cope with the feelings of inadequacy, frustration and rejection on their own.
Erectile dysfunction can cause the sexual aspect of a relationship to dwindle and finally disappear. Even in loving, committed relationships, couples may become distanced, each embroiled in their own battle to cope with the frustrating emotions of losing their physical connection.
It is important to address the health issues surrounding your partner’s erectile dysfunction, even before you begin talking about the emotional effects it is having. All erectile dysfunction that lasts more than a few weeks should be discussed with a doctor. As embarrassing as it may be, your partner must bring up the problem with his GP or health nurse, keeping in mind that he won’t be the first man to discuss it. In fact, it is considered a common condition, and one that almost all men will experience at some time in their lives.
ED can be indicative of a serious health condition such as diabetes or heart disease, or emotional turmoil such as the loss of a loved one or high levels of stress. It can be a side effect of a number of medications. It may also be related to a poor state of general health due to lifestyle habits like smoking and lack of exercise. A medical professional can help determine the root cause and advise a course of treatment.
Often a diagnosis can be the catalyst in the relationship to urge you to discuss what is going on, and hopefully how you feel about it.
The next step is to understand the process of confronting the issue together. It is unlikely that he will be able to achieve an erection instantly, even with a prescription for Viagra, or intensive therapy for emotional issues. At this point you may be lacking any type of physical connection, but you can begin to seek each other out, by holding hands, cuddling, hugging and kissing. The more familiar you are with the sensation of holding each other, the easier it will be to have sex again.
Try to recognise and come to terms with your feelings of disappointment, frustration or inadequacy. ED is a physical condition, or reaction, and does not signify that your partner is no longer interested in you. He’s likely going through his frustrations and issues with self-esteem. A licenced therapist can help you both work through these feelings, and others, as you move toward recovering your sexual relationship.
Being realistic at this time also helps – you may not have mind-blowing sex the first time you try again (though there’s always that chance!). With a little patience and a sense of humour, you can work your way back to a place where you are able to nurture your emotional connection and also really pleasure each other.
When between the sheets:
- No distractions – turn off your phones, make sure the kids are asleep and the dog won’t bother you.
- Allow yourself to be spontaneous – no set rules. You can even let go of the idea of an expected outcome.
- Go into the situation with an attitude of love, compassion and sensuality. You don’t necessarily have to dress up or play sex kitten.
Don’t be alarmed if you don’t feel aroused right away. Enjoy the process of getting to know each other again, and don’t rule out sex toys, lubricants and sexy films to help get you to that point.
Also, keep in mind that there may be pitfalls along the way. If your partner is taking medication, it may not work the first time around. He may need to wait longer after eating, or a higher dose may need to be prescribed. Read here to learn about what to do if erectile dysfunction medication isn’t working. And if your partner becomes irritable or grumpy, he may just be covering up feelings of anxiety or depression.
At this time it will also be important to make plenty of time for each other and work on the other aspects of your relationship. Enrol in a ballroom dance class, or slip away for a weekend holiday. Take cooking classes or just plan a romantic date to go out to dinner and the cinema. Re-establishing a strong emotional connection will make it easier to connect in the bedroom when the time is right.