How Does Erectile Dysfunction Affect Couples?
Erectile Dysfunction can be a devastating condition for a man to face, but it can also be equally as difficult for the woman to cope with. The loss of intimacy that comes from not being able to have intercourse can be detrimental to even the healthiest of marriages. However, it is important to first determine the cause behind ED before trying to handle the emotional side of things.
Erectile Dysfunction, ED, is a lot more common than many people think. It is not always a permanent condition and there are many factors that can be the cause of impotence. The first thing that needs to be done is to see your GP to discuss what may be causing ED as there could be some underlying health issue that needs addressing.
The fact is that Erectile Dysfunction affects the whole of the UK, with over 4 million men suffering from ED. The chart on erectile dysfunction shows just how widespread the condition is. The graphic shows that the percentage of men suffering from ED is greatest in London and The North of England. This chart only shows the men who are actively seeking treatment. There is no way of knowing how many more are not yet seeking help because of embarrassment or fear.
Dispelling the myth
Although Erectile Dysfunction is more common in men over the age of 60, it is not unique to this age group. Men of all ages can be affected by ED.
Erectile Dysfunction can be brought on by both physical and physiological issues. There are often underlying health issues that are the root cause of the problem.
The stigma that surrounds ED about it being related to your masculinity in some way is not true. While there may be some psychological reasons, such as stress, that are affecting your ability to get an erection, it has nothing to do with how ‘manly’ you are.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
There are many factors that can be the cause of Erectile Dysfunction. The thing to remember as a couple is that it is not a time to blame. Erectile Dysfunction has nothing to do with how attractive your husband finds you, it is not about his desire for sex with you. Although this can often be the underlying fear of any wife.
Lifestyle choices can play a large part in the cause of Erectile Dysfunction. Being overweight, a heavy smoker, a heavy drinker or even stress can lead to ED. Whatever the cause, it is always best to talk to your doctor about ways to improve your mental and physical health to help with the symptoms of ED.
You may also suffer from ED if you have received an injury to your penis, contracted an STI or have an underlying medical condition that effects the flow of blood to your penis such as Diabetes and heart disease. This is why we recommend that you seek medical advice, if you have an undiagnosed condition, you may be putting more than your sex life at risk.
What are the psychological effects of erectile dysfunction?
It can be a very difficult subject to approach in any marriage, even an emotionally strong one. Often there is resentment and fear on both sides. Not knowing why this is happening is often the worst part for the man, because he will start to feel inadequate in some way and may lash out as a result.
Some men feel so low within themselves, that they blame their wife for the lack of ‘motivation’ to get an erection. It seems easier in some ways to make it someone else’s fault. Of course, this then leads to feelings of resentment on both sides and before you know it, a once healthy marriage can be on the rocks.
Getting a diagnosis will not only give you peace of mind as to what is causing the ED and treatment options, it is often the catalyst that begins the discussion between husband and wife.
Once you have your diagnosis, your doctor will go through the treatment options with you. This may involve a long term plan of change of diet and lifestyle. Your doctor may encourage you to eat more healthily, get fit, quit smoking and drinking to get your underlying condition under control. You may need to change medication you are currently taking, which will involve a period of adjustment. The other treatment you will probably be offered, provided your health is not going to be negatively impacted, is a prescription of something such as viagra.
Whatever your treatment options are, it is advisable to discuss this with your spouse. Even with a treatment such as viagra, you may not be able to achieve an erection instantly and it is good to confront the issue together to help you both understand the process.
What to do when erectile dysfunction hits your marriage
The feelings that you have surrounding ED are all valid. You both may feel disappointed, frustrated or inadequate. It is perfectly normal to have these feelings and to understand that this may have an impact on your self-esteem.
For the man in the relationship, those feelings are often coupled with guilt, shame and feeling emasculated. This is the time to talk to your wife about how you feel, you may be surprised to learn that she is experiencing very similar feelings.
Recognising that there is a problem is the first step to dealing with it. You may find going to a licensed therapist is the best way to get all those feelings out in the open and to work through them.
Your wife may be feeling that you are no longer interested in her, that she is somehow to blame. It is important to recognize that the feelings of disappointment and frustration are on both sides, if for different reasons.
Take the pressure off
These negative feelings may well be making the condition worse. Stress can affect ED and it can become a perpetuating cycle of issues. If you put too much pressure on the outcome of a sexual encounter, you may be setting yourself up to fail.
If this is the case then it is time to take a step back. Start to re-build your relationship together. Enjoy touch and physical connections without the expectation of sex. Go back to basics, holding hands, cuddles and kisses are all you need to start to build on that feeling of closeness.
Take time to re-discover one another. Spend time doing things that you enjoy doing together and be as tactile as possible. Once you have re-connected on an emotional level, re-discovered the sensation of the physical connection, you will begin to relax and with the help of medications such as Sildenafil and Viagra your confidence will begin to grow and you may begin enjoying a full sex life once again.
Also, be realistic with your expectations. The first time you have sex after a period of impotence may not set the world alight. Of course, it may be mind-blowing, but it is important to maintain that sense of humour around your sex life. After all, sex should be fun and enjoyable.
Try not to focus on the end result. Enjoy exploring one another and working your way back to giving pleasure once your emotional connection is reestablished.
When you feel ready to try and have intercourse, make sure you allow yourself time. Turn off phones, make sure pets and kids are safely tucked away in bed and out of the way. You don’t want to risk interruptions at this stage.
Give yourself permission to be spontaneous, go with what feels right in the moment. Try not to focus on the end result, an orgasm is great, but the journey of exploring one another is where the real connection happens.
Be gentle and kind to yourselves. Approach one another with love and sensuality, you don’t need to be a full on sex kitten first time or start swinging from the lampshade.
If you are taking medication to help, remember that it may not work the first time around. You may need to go back to your doctor and increase the dosage. This is perfectly normal, try not to become disheartened and grumpy, it can be easily adjusted.
Relax, if you don’t feel aroused right away, that’s ok. Enjoy exploring one another, maybe bring in some additional help such as sex toys, lubricants or even watching a sexy movie together. Try things and have fun, don’t take it too seriously, sex should be fun.
How can a partner help with erectile dysfunction?
Finally, make time for each other, there is more to a successful marriage than an active sex life. Do things together as a couple. Go on dates, enrol in classes together or just enjoy walks in the countryside.
Whatever you do to re-establish that emotional connection will only strengthen the results in the bedroom when you both feel ready to try again.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.