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Oh No! It's Not Working... Again: Effects of Erectile Dysfunction on Relationships

Once upon a time many people thought that erectile dysfunction only affected older men or men with prostate or testosterone issues. However, most of the men I have seen struggling with erectile issues are in their 30’s. There are many causes of erectile dysfunction from, yes the classic, aging and lowering testosterone and/or prostate to pornography addictions to medical issues, such as high blood pressure, heart and blood circulation or diabetes to name a few. While the cause of the issue may be one to several different things combined one things stays fairly consistent and that is the anxiety many men feel when they are struggling with this problem.

Even just one incident can often cause anxiety for a man because he will start to questions himself: “What if it happens again?” “What if I can’t perform?” “What if…” The list of questions goes on. This can be compounded by his significant other’s reaction. It is quite common for someone to begin to feel unattractive or anxious themselves. Many couples end up discussing every time they have sex ad nauseam – “Why didn’t it work this time?” “What did I do wrong?” “What is wrong with you?” “What is wrong with me?” Again the questions go on. Both partners self-esteem takes a toll when erectile dysfunction issues surface.

By the time clients come in to therapy one or both feels angry and resentful towards the other. One or both begins to feels guilty, depressed, anxious, lonely, and/or exhausted. Sex becomes a chore and is no longer fun and enjoyable. Sex becomes either a long list of experimentation by using medication, techniques, and other devices or it becomes something that is avoided altogether. Sex becomes a large pink elephant in the room that is either never talked about or talked about too much.

One of the most important things I try to teach my clients is how to stay connected after trying to have full penetration sexual intercourse and being unable to. Often times, one or both partners turn away from the other and break that intimate connection. This leads to feelings of isolation, guilt and loneliness. I stress to my clients that regardless of age, cause or reason that erectile dysfunction is not abnormal and there are many different ways to stay connected with each other even while experiencing these issues.

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