How to talk to your partner about erectile dysfunction

It can be difficult to talk about erectile dysfunction, but it's worth taking the plunge to have a healthy sex life.


Erectile dysfunction is a common complaint among at least half of older men worldwide, but a growing number of younger men are having difficulties to maintain an erection too. Despite the increasing prevalence, there’s still a huge stigma attached to erectile disorders. In fact, just 25% of sufferers seek treatment for the condition for fear of being laughed at or feeling inferior. It’s hardly surprising then that talking about the issue with a partner can be difficult. But erectile dysfunction affects both of you, so it’s worth engaging in an open and honest conversation about it at the first sign of something being off.

Erectile dysfunction is incredibly common. According to the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the condition has increased rapidly over the last few years. It now affects one in five men over the age of 20 years and 77.5% of men over the age of 75 years. By 2025, around 322 million men worldwide are predicted to suffer from erectile dysfunction.

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Understanding erectile dysfunction

Issues getting and maintaining an erection are rarely tied to a lack of arousal or desiring a partner. Serious conditions such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are associated with erectile dysfunction. Meanwhile, lifestyle factors including heavy drinking and drug abuse, a sedentary lifestyle and smoking can have an effect on healthy erectile functioning. Sometimes, psychological issues such as anxiety and depression affect a couple’s love life. But if a partner feels pressured into performing sexually, the stress may worsen their erectile dysfunction.


Because erectile disorders have been linked to more serious health issues such as cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, it’s important to visit a healthcare specialist at the earliest signs. Ignoring a developing erectile dysfunction will not help you to address the issue in the long run. Many treatment options are available. In the first instance, lifestyle changes can make a big difference, but PDE-5 inhibitors such as Viagra and Cialis have been successful for around 75% of men.


Support each other

Be kind and understanding of each other’s fears, needs, and desires. If your partner suffers from erectile dysfunction there are a few things you can do to address the issue together.

Commit to each other and evaluate your options by learning as much as you can about erectile dysfunction. Continue an open dialogue and talk about your feelings with your partner.  

Erectile dysfunction is treatable so don’t give up hope and stay positive. There are many natural ways to boost sexual performance including exercise, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and stress reduction.

You may also want to adjust your sex life. If you’re erectile disorder is psychological in nature, you could visit a sex therapist together. Studies have shown that therapy was successful for 50% to 70% of men with stress-induced erectile disorders.


Erectile dysfunction does not spell the end of your sex life. On the contrary, it could be a great time to reconnect with your partner and focus on all the other things that made your relationship great in the first place.



  1. Saigal, C. (2006). Predictors and Prevalence of Erectile Dysfunction in a Racially Diverse Population. Archives of Internal Medicine, 166/2: 207. DOI:
  2. Aytaç, Mckinlay, & Krane. (1999). The likely worldwide increase in erectile dysfunction between 1995 and 2025 and some possible policy consequences. BJU International, 84/1: 50-56. DOI:
  3. McMahon, C., Smith, C., & Shabsigh, R. (2006). Treating erectile dysfunction when PDE5 inhibitors fail. BMJ, 332/7541: 589-592. DOI:
  4. Mobley, D., Khera, M., & Baum, N. (2017). Recent advances in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Postgraduate Medical Journal, 93/1105: 679-685. DOI:
  5. Kaplan, H. (2013). New Sex Therapy. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

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