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How to Talk About Erectile Dysfunction with Your Partner

Mary Lucas, RN

Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 6/22/2020

If you suffer from erectile issues, you may be hesitant to utter the words “erectile dysfunction” to yourself, let alone your partner.

Because many men feel ashamed or embarrassed about erectile dysfunction, they live in denial and try to cover up the issue rather than facing it head-on.

Erectile dysfunction is often thought of as an older man’s problem. While it may be true that your risk for ED increases with age, research suggests that as many as 40% of men have already experienced erectile issues at some point by the time they hit 40.

Rather than allowing this statistic to worry or upset you, realize that you're not alone and that this a normal issue.

Not only do millions of other men suffer from the same kind of issues that you do, but you have something else on your side as well – something that no one else has – your partner.

As a man, your sexual performance is a matter of pride, but realize that you are your own worst critic.

Just because you have erectile issues from time to time doesn’t make you any less of a man! Simply ask your partner and they will confirm!

If you want to banish your erectile dysfunction, your first step shouldn’t be going to the doctor to get a little blue pill (Viagra) – your first step should be an open and honest conversation with your partner.

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Tips for Discussing ED with Your Partner

Many men think of erectile dysfunction as a personal problem. While this may be true to some degree, any issue that impacts your sex life goes beyond those personal boundaries – it becomes a problem that affects your partner as well.

Being able to talk openly about issues of sexual dysfunction is extremely important if you and your partner want to continue to grow closer together.

Sex certainly isn’t the only thing that matters in a relationship, but physical intimacy plays a key role in establishing and maintaining emotional intimacy. Don’t let your ED become a stumbling block on the path to a healthy, satisfying relationship!

Of course, talking to your partner about your erectile dysfunction is easier said than done. How do you even start a conversation like that?

If you’re struggling to find the right words to broach the subject, you may find it helpful to start by acknowledging that the subject is a little embarrassing – it may break the ice.

Try this, “This is a little embarrassing, but I’ve been experiencing some erectile issues lately and I’d like to have a conversation with you about it.”

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If you aren’t ready to dive right in, start with a general conversation about your sex life and work your way up to it.

In addition to thinking about how you are going to bring up the subject of ED with your partner, you should also consider when you are going to do it.

It’s probably not the best idea to bring it up when you and your partner are in the throes of sexual passion – it may be a subject best discussed outside the bedroom.

But this might not always be the case! If you and your partner attempt to engage in sexual intercourse but your ED gets in the way, it might be a good time to start the discussion rather than letting the frustration and disappointment grow, building a wall between the two of you.

At the same time, a conversation like this shouldn’t be rushed or forced. There is nothing wrong with waiting until the time feels right.

This kind of conversation is one in which both parties need to be present and active, so it is okay to wait until the perfect opportunity comes around.

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Dos and Don’ts for a Conversation About ED

As you start the discussion about your ED, there are a few things you should and shouldn’t do. Here is a quick list of dos and don’ts:

  • DON’T enter the conversation on the defensive – be open about your feelings.

  • DO try to explain what happens when you experience ED so your partner can better understand the challenges you’ve been facing.  

  • DON’T be afraid to share the details – don’t be embarrassed by the truth. Your partner can’t help if they don’t know what’s going on.

  • DO give your partner an opportunity to respond and ask questions. Erectile dysfunction can be difficult to understand if you haven’t experienced it yourself.

  • DON’T assign blame or make excuses – ED is a medical condition, not a sign of weakness.

  • DO tell your partner how they can be supportive and how they can help you.

When you start to talk with your partner about your erectile dysfunction, you may find that you are not alone in feeling like your sexual relationship is less than satisfying.

Your partner isn’t stupid – they probably already know that you’ve been having trouble but they may not have known how to broach the subject with you or whether you even want to talk about it.

You may even find that your erectile issues have taken a psychological toll on your partner as well!

If you’ve been unable to perform in the bedroom but you haven’t been honest with your partner about the root of the problem, they may be thinking that it has something to do with them – that you don’t find them attractive anymore.

Reassurance and support are very important things to include in a conversation about ED, but you must remember that they go both ways!

Every conversation about ED is going to be different because you and your partner are individuals. Your experiences will be unique from every other couple’s, so there is no template you can follow.

The best thing you can do is be open with your partner, and vice versa. Do your best be honest without assigning blame or making excuses.

As difficult as it may be to admit your struggles with erectile dysfunction to your partner, having a conversation about it could be transformative.

Taking some of the psychological weight off your shoulders by admitting your difficulty may help to relieve some of the stress that has been contributing to your ED.

You may not experience a sudden and complete reversal of your ED, but the relief you feel will put you on the right path to resolving your erectile issues and restoring your sexual relationship with your partner.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.