How to Talk to Your Partner About His Erectile Dysfunction

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS

When your partner has erectile dysfunction (ED), it doesn’t just affect him. ED, which is the inability to get and sustain an erection that’s firm enough to have sex, affects you—and your relationship.

But that also puts you in the position to be a positive influence. It’s time to speak up and get involved in seeking help. Research shows that erectile dysfunction treatment tends to be more successful if both the man and his partner are active participants in his ED therapy. 

Keep the lines of communication open.

This is not the time to pretend like nothing is wrong. Instead, it’s time to calmly acknowledge the problem and reassure your partner that you want to help him.

But it’s important to keep in mind that your partner may be very sensitive about his ED. For some men, their masculinity is intrinsically bound to their ability to perform sexually. When they can’t achieve or sustain an erection in order to have sex, they may feel a sense of failure or even shame. Encourage your partner that you care about him. Encourage him to talk to you—and not to be embarrassed. After all, you’re in this together.

Encourage your partner to get screened for other health conditions.

There are many different possible causes for ED. Stress, relationship woes and mental health problems like depression and anxiety can lead to ED, so it’s important not to minimize those to your partner. And if you feel that your partner may be struggling with any of these conditions, you could consider broaching the subject and encouraging him to seek out a professional’s opinion.

But erectile dysfunction can also be a symptom of other, serious medical conditions that warrant assessment and treatment. For example, heart disease, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and diabetes all can contribute to ED. Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease can also have an impact. (So can surgeries that involve the pelvic area, the prostate or the spinal cord.)

Encourage your partner to see a doctor and discuss whether he should be screened for a mental health concern or any condition. It’s also worth discussing any medications that he’s taking, since drugs like antidepressants and high blood pressure medications can sometimes cause or worsen ED.

Participate in treatment discussions.

Long-term ED treatment and therapy is more likely to be successful when the partner is involved and supportive. In other words, you both will benefit if you don’t just assume that he’ll take care of the problem by himself.

Start by accompanying your partner to the doctor’s office. Experts say that the spouse or partner can often provide valuable insight about the history and patterns of the erectile dysfunction. You can also use these visits as an opportunity to learn more about ED and the benefits of supporting your partner throughout treatment.

If your partner’s doctor recommends counseling, definitely consider participating—either as a couple or separately. Your participation shows your partner that you are invested in learning more and helping him.

Support your partner throughout the highs and lows.

Your attitude in both the good times and the bad times can affect your partner’s attitude toward treatment for ED. The first treatment may not be successful, and your partner might get discouraged. You can remind him that not every treatment is right for every person and suggest that he try another medication or treatment. You can remind him that he’s not in this by himself, either, and that you want him to find a treatment that works for him.

There are so many avenues for ED treatment today that you and your partner can be optimistic that you’ll find something that will work for both of you. In the meantime, be honest with each other about how you’re feeling—and how you feel about any treatments that he might be trying. Together, you will have a much better chance of finding a satisfactory plan.

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  1. Dean J, et al. Integrating Partners into Erectile Dysfunction Treatment: Improving the Sexual Experience for the Couple. International Journal of Clinical Practice. 2008;62(1):127-133.
  2. Erectile Dysfunction. Mayo Clinic.
  3. Erectile Dysfunction. University of Maryland Medical Center.
  4. Erectile Dysfunction. Urology Care Foundation.
  5. Erectile Dysfunction. Fact Sheet. Hormone Health Network.
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2022 Aug 20
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