Advice for Partners of Men with ED
Living with and loving a man with erectile dysfunction isn’t easy. You would think it would be because of the obvious reason, but the fact that he is unable to get an erection is probably much further down on the list than you may realize.
As women we generally want to nurture our partners. We have all at some point in our sexual lives said “It’s okay, you had a hard day or it happens sometimes.”
When our partner is unable to get an erection, we generally have been programmed to protect them. Yet, what happens if this issue continues? Men will often shut down and refuse to discuss it. It often feels as if we have somehow become the enemy.
Now, I want to be clear that there are two sides to this; I am merely trying to impart what it feels like as the partner of a person with ED.
You may have tried everything you can to discuss this. You can be persistent, but you may fall into your own insecurities. You will ask or wonder if the problem is you. Are you not attractive enough, are you not doing what he wants you to do, does he still find you sexy enough, are you too fat/skinny? You saw his side glance the woman at the grocery store… maybe he wants someone else. This can escalate into an argument, and of course nothing comes of it.
You become lonely, and it is truly lonely. You start to realize what it is you really miss. You miss the intimate moments. The looks you used to share with your partner, because they held secrets that only the two of you knew. You miss the kisses that stole your breath away, the way he would touch you as he walked past you.
You also miss having sex. At some point you may convince yourself otherwise. It may seem less painful that way. You pull away, grow distant, and stop trying altogether. Your bed side table holds your favorite vibrator and you become very adept at self-pleasure.
You are told that it really isn’t your issue. After all it isn’t your penis that isn’t functioning properly! But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It can, and most likely will, affect the entire dynamic of your relationship. It is just as much a concern for us as it is our partner.
It is interesting that sex isn’t something we usually discuss, it is something we just do. We find someone we have chemistry with and it happens, and over time we conform to one another. But how often have we actually had that conversation with someone and said “I prefer this and or that, and I like it in the morning with my corn flakes.”
When situations like ED arise (or don’t in this case), we have no idea how to talk with our partner. We think it is our fault and they think it is their fault. When this happens nothing is going to be solved.
But there is no blame! Communication is of the utmost importance at this point. I have great news for you. The brain is the biggest sex organ. True story, and it will not fail you!
So, how do we understand and help our partners and in turn ourselves? The first thing we have to understand is the relationship they have with their penis. They have been looking, touching and relating to it their entire lives! Now it has decided it isn’t going to do what it has always done! This isn’t about us. Men, as early as 12 (and sometimes earlier) have discovered masturbating and the glorious sensations touching their penis offers. Now after all these years it has decided to stop? It has in many ways defined them, giving pleasure to them and to their partners. Imagine the ways in which this loss may affect them.
And of course, you are a sexual being as well! All of this is happening and all of the focus is on him and his lovely magic wand of love.. but let’s not forget that you are lonely, feeling somehow at fault, left out and frustrated as hell! On top of all that, maybe a little guilty, because you want to be supportive and understanding and not seem like it is about you. But hey! It involves all parties!
I am here to take that guilt away! You too are entitled to your feelings. Now, I am not telling you to berate him or shame him… I am just saying that you are valuable and matter as well.
I am going to share a few things that I have found worked for me. Not everything works for everyone -but here is the thing – you ultimately have to find your comfort zone.
- Be sexual on your own.
- Ask your partner for pleasure. Break out the toys and oils.
- Touch him regardless of the outcome! If touching prior to ED aroused you, it still will. The way he smells, running your nails down his back, stroking a flaccid penis is sensual.
- Let your inner sensual goddess talk to him. Tell him that it isn’t about his penis. That there are a million other things about him that excite you! If you can’t verbally say it try writing him little notes or text him!
- There is nothing wrong with visual stimulation. If you are comfortable with porn, have at it, or find a movie with some sexually explicit scenes if that is your comfort zone. Sit close, kiss, and stroke. Guide him.
- A man is capable of having an orgasm without an erection and from what I understand and have seen it is AMAZING!
- Explore your own body, understand what brings your pleasure and show him! Use his fingers, tongue, and mouth and yes, even his flaccid penis!
Remember earlier when I said the brain is our largest sex organ? It is the truth. What you think and believe is your reality. Sex has never been something we should be ashamed of. We have failed as a society in discussing it and in turn making it something we feel shame about.
Men do not typically discuss sexual issues with anyone. You will never see Joe at a BBQ telling Neill that he is having ED issues! So as their partner, it is important we take the initiative and help in ways that are actually helpful. We have to do some research, figure out some things on our own, and present things in a way that don’t shame or embarrass them. We also have to let them know that regardless of all else we still want them, and in doing so take care of ourselves and our own needs, as we are also an important part of this relationship.
This isn’t something you work through overnight. It is a process. You will hopefully grow closer together, respecting one another’s feelings, learn about one another, find new paths to explore and realize that sex and intimacy are more than body parts.
I want to leave you with this. What you are feeling, and what he feels, are both valid. ED is complicated and difficult and there isn’t an easy path to follow. We use sex as a way to communicate with one another, and when it is gone we get lost. Finding other ways to communicate can often be difficult, especially when we have been taught not to talk about it. Communication is absolutely key and I hope you will find ways to not only show one another how you feel, but to talk with one another in loving and compassionate ways so that you may have the intimate, sensual, sexual relationship you desire.
Help for Couples
Many couples dealing with the impact of erectile dysfunction can benefit from working with a qualified sex coach or therapist.
If you have a man in your life that may have some questions, or if you have questions yourself, here are a few books I can recommend:
The Penis Book by Aaron Spitz, MD. Dr. Spitz is the Chief Representative for America’s Urologists to the American Medical Association. His book is written in an informative and humorous way, covering many subjects from A to Z.
Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want from Sex–and How to Get It, by Marty Klein, PH.D. This is a beautiful book that gets directly to the point regarding many of the issues we face in regards to communication, how we think about sex and what we want.