Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/26/2021
If you are dealing with erectile dysfunction, it can feel very isolating. But you should know: you aren’t alone.
Erectile dysfunction actually affects around 30 million men in the United States.
And it’s not just an older man’s issue. A quarter of men dealing with ED are under forty, according to some estimates.
Additionally, statistics suggest that over 50 percent of men between the ages of 40 and 70 experience ED at some point in their life.
If you are one of these men, you may find that ED affects things like your self-esteem, your sex drive or your relationship/s.
And while embarrassment or frustration may make you want to keep your mouth shut about it, that won’t help. Here’s why it’s important to talk about ED issues with your partner.
Here’s what should happen when you are aroused: your brain sends nerve signals to your penis.
Then, blood flow increases and gets trapped in the corpora cavernosa — the two long chambers in the penis.
When something goes wrong with this process, it’s considered erectile dysfunction, which is defined as the inability to maintain an erection firm enough or long enough for sex.
Even though ED can affect anyone, it becomes more common as we age.
Other than age, other common things that can cause ED include cardiovascular issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stress and anxiety, other medical issues, relationship issues and more.
To maintain a healthy relationship with your partner/s, you’re going to have to discuss ED issues.
See, while sex isn’t the most important thing in a relationship, it does help to foster intimacy — and that’s important.
Research has shown that a healthy sex life can contribute to overall relationship satisfaction.
A 2010 study also found that open communication about sex led couples to be more satisfied with their relationship overall.
But knowing this doesn’t necessarily make talking about ED easier. One study found that 62 percent of men reported that experiencing erectile dysfunction experienced reduced self-esteem.
Luckily, there are tips you can utilize to help make discussing ED with your partner more manageable.
It may take a bit of a leap of faith, but once you’re able to talk to your partner about ED, you’ll likely find you feel better about it.
When you’re ready to talk about how ED is affecting your relationship, it’s key to find a private space to have that conversation.
Whether that space is in your kitchen, your bedroom, in a public park — that’s up to the discretion of you and your partner/s, and what makes sense for your relationship.
A little pro tip: probably not best to have this conversation right before or after physical intimacy, so both you and your partner can broach the issue with level heads.
Before chatting, think about what would make you most comfortable in the conversation. Some questions to ask yourself:
Would you prefer to do most of the talking?
Are you interested in any advice your partner may have or would you prefer they limit their input?
Would it make you feel better if there was a set time limit to the convo?
If you’re feeling really awkward, could you ask to pause the talk and come back to it at another time?
Depending on the answers to these questions, have a pre-conversation with your partner about what you’re going to need from them during your chat. Outlining expectations and needs can set you both up for success.
As mentioned above, stress and anxiety are factors that can cause or contribute to ED. Talking about the things that bring on those emotions may help diminish them.
In fact, a 2014 study found that when two people both verbally shared similar emotions, it actually buffered stress for both individuals.
So, if stress is at the root of your ED, share with your partner what’s stressing you out and invite them to share what may be stressing them out.
If you’re dealing with ED, talking to a healthcare professional such as a primary care provider about possible treatments is the way to go.
Once you know your options, it can be helpful to bounce them off your partner. After all, your partner likely knows you better than most people and may be able to give valuable insight on which medical professional-recommended treatments may suit you best.
Below are some of the treatments that may be suggested for you.
This is the generic name for, Viagra®, which, as you probably know by now, is one of the most common ED medications out there.
Sildenafil is a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor (also known as a PDE5 inhibitor. This prescription medication improves ED by increasing blood flow to the penis during sexual stimulation.
This medical treatment option is liked because it’s fast-acting — it works within an hour of taking it and lasts for about four hours or so.
As the generic form of Cialis®, tadalafil(generic Cialis) is another commonly prescribed ED medication. It, too, is a PDE5 inhibitor.
Tadalafil is sometimes referred to as the “weekend” ED medication. This is because it lasts as long as 36 hours.
Also known by its brand name of Levitra®, it is like sildenafil in that it works within 30 to 60 minutes and lasts for about five hours.
A clinical trial found that 75 percent of men said they achieved a good enough erection for sex after using the 10mg dose, and 80 percent of men said the same after taking a 20mg dose.
Stendra® is another medication for ED. The active ingredient in it is avanafil, which is also a PDE5 inhibitor.
Some like this as an option because it may work after just 15 minutes. As a newer PDE5 inhibitor, it’s also thought to have fewer side effects than other medications for ED.
Just like talking to your partner may help, you may want to consider seeing a therapist — especially If there’s no physiological reason for your ED.
As mentioned, stress, depression and anxiety can affect your erection and libido. Research even shows that 20 percent of ED cases stem from psychological issues.
A mental health provider can help you identify psychological factors that may be causing ED and give you tools to work on them.
There are a number of devices that can also help with ED, including vibrators, external support devices and implants.
A vibrator for ED stimulates your penis, in hopes of getting blood flowing to the area. Pumps pull blood into the penis.
Once you’ve pumped, you slip a plastic ring around the base of your penis to keep blood there.
Inflatable penile implants work in a similar way.
There is also a newish device called the Erektor®. It has two rings attached to either side of a rod. The penis goes into the rings and the rod provides rigidity for intercourse.
The truth is, erectile dysfunction can impact many areas of your life — including your relationship.
Perhaps you feel shame or embarrassment over dealing with ED. But you shouldn’t. Many men deal with it — tens of millions, in fact.
These feelings may make you want to shut down and not talk about what’s going on with your partner.
But talking to your partner about your experience with ED is one of the things that can help.
Not only can being open about it make you feel better, being honest with your partner will allow you to bounce treatment ideas off of them.
In addition to speaking with your partner, you should talk to your healthcare provider to assess which effective treatment option is best for your specific situation.