April 30, 2021

The Elephant in the Room: Erectile Dysfunction in Relationships

By: Jennifer Mckinnon

Erectile dysfunction (or ED) is an uncomfortable topic to talk about. After all, what man wants to admit that they can’t get erect? Sometimes, the fear of being the butt of jokes is greater than the courage to be honest.

If you’re suffering from ED, know that you’re not the only one facing this condition. Erectile dysfunction affects over 30 million men in the United States. Aside from the physical symptoms, ED causes feelings of decreasing confidence, shame, and inadequacy.

With all that said, it can affect any relationship—even long-lasting ones like marriages. How? Let’s find out.


How It Starts

Before getting to the main subject at hand, here’s an overview of how erectile dysfunctions happen to understand its impact better.

Erections happen when blood continually flows through a person’s penis. Sexual thoughts or excitement or direct contact stimulates this said blood flow. When something wrong happens while the erection stage is happening, ED begins to manifest. Often, erectile dysfunction can be caused by an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.

Possible symptoms can include erection troubles and decreased sexual desires. If you or your partner are experiencing these symptoms, you may want to consult a professional for assistance, especially if they’re frequently happening.


Erectile dysfunctions have several causes, which include (but are not limited to):

Physical Factors

Most ED cases come from physical factors. These are some of the typical causes:

  • Hypertension
  • Sleep disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Drug use

Psychological Factors

The brain plays a role in causing erections. These mind-affecting factors can interfere with the erection process, laying the ground down for future dysfunctions.

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Relationship issues/problems


How EDs Can Affect Relationships

Erectile dysfunction isn’t a sexy topic, which is why many chose to keep mum about their condition. The thought of not being able to get erect and satisfy their partners sexually brings men with ED a great deal of shame. This leads them to doubt themselves as partners or husbands, shutting themselves off out of fear.

Men cope with the shame in various ways. Aside from closing themselves off, some end up blaming their partners for their erection problems. If you’re suffering from this, know better than to commit such a mistake.

ED not only affects men, but women are impacted too. Women in these relationships wonder if their capabilities in the bedroom aren’t enough to satisfy their partner’s wants and needs. As this self-doubt grows, it may lead them to doubt their partner’s commitment and loyalty.

A healthy amount of sex is essential in relationships. It’s more than just getting your dose of bodily pleasure. Sex connects partners on an intimate level. “Sex is the glue that keeps us together and the spice that makes our joint life exciting,” says author and licensed couple’s therapist Laurie Watson.

The psychological baggage that comes with EDs causes partners to walk on eggshells around each other and matters in the bedroom. The more you tiptoe around this issue, the worse your problems and frustrations will become. And if those problems aren’t solved, they will erode your relationship.


How to Treat Erectile Dysfunctions

Fortunately, most cases of ED are temporary and treatable, especially if you address them early. You may want to look at these options to get rid of the problem:

Open up and Talk about It

Many men suffer from erectile dysfunctions. You’re not alone in facing this. Admitting and acknowledging it is hard, but it’s an essential step to curing the problem.

Even though it’s 2021, toxic masculinity still prevents men from opening up about it since they don’t want to be shamed and laughed at by fellow men. So if anyone, even your closest friends, ridicules you and questions your masculinity for having ED, pay no mind to their insensitivity.

One of the first things you can do is to be completely honest about it to your partner. If anyone can show you understanding and compassion, it’s your other half.

Ask Help from Professionals

Once you’ve cleared the air with your partner, you can seek help from experts. For relationship problems, approach a licensed counselor or therapist for assistance. Talking about ED’s effects on your mental health will help you and your partner mend your relationship’s fences. Things won’t be okay right away, so you have to be patient and take it slow.

For medical queries, go to your doctor. They will be able to explain the causes and symptoms of your condition clearly and thoroughly and provide treatment options. The first step to cure ED entirely is to address the underlying cause. If it’s hypertension, your doctor will prescribe medication and lifestyle changes to lower your high blood pressure.

Take Medications

After consulting your doctor for help, they may prescribe medication to help you manage the underlying health condition causing ED and address the inability to achieve or sustain an erection. Note that certain medications may have side effects. If you experience any of them, go to your doctor for further consultation.

Shift Your Lifestyle

Lifestyle changes may be necessary to fight off erectile dysfunction. Men with ED should practice the following habits:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Reducing or stopping alcohol consumption
  • Quitting drug use
  • Increased regular exercise
  • Healthy weight maintenance

Use Penis Pumps

Penis pumps or vacuum pumps are viable ED treatment options. They help increase blood flow to the penis, keeping the erection maintained. These devices may look and sound intimidating, especially for people who’ve just known about their existence. Don’t worry, though. Penis pumps are generally safe to use as long as you follow instructions correctly and don’t have specific underlying conditions.

These pumps come in various forms and have unique features. Before buying one, do your research about the ins and outs of penis pumps. This way, you’ll know what you’ll be getting yourself into. If you have a history of blood clots or are taking blood-thinning medication, consult your doctor before using a penis pump.

Always ask your doctor’s professional input every time you want to try an alternative treatment for erectile dysfunction. Some treatments may have serious side effects, and you want to avoid that as much as possible.



Dealing with erectile dysfunctions can be tough on relationships. Thankfully, there are more than enough resources and information to deal with the condition. But before you get to treating ED, you have to take the first step of acknowledging and talking about it to your partner. Things will be a lot less stressful if you’re honest about what you’re going through from the beginning.


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