An important part of most romantic relationships is what happens under the sheets. An unhealthy sex life can lead to disagreements, misunderstanding, and lapses in communication. However, just because your bedroom is stale doesn’t mean your partner has lost interest in you or is cheating on you. There may be underlying physical health problems that neither of you is aware of. One of the more common and visible health problems is erectile dysfunction.
What is erectile dysfunction?
You may have heard of erectile dysfunction (or ED for short) as “not being able to get it up.” ED is often a cause for making fun of a guy’s incompetence in the bedroom and can cause guys to feel emasculated, but it’s actually not uncommon. It affects approximately 30 million men in the United States, and while it is most often associated with older men, younger men are not immune.
The classic symptoms of ED are inconsistent erections and erections that don’t last as long as desired. ED can be a symptom of an underlying health problem affecting the vascular, nervous, or endocrine system. That’s why it’s so important to get it checked out by a doctor.
Is ED a physical or psychological issue?
It can be both. Physically, ED can be a visible symptom of an underlying condition such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Prostate cancer injuries
- High blood pressure
- ED can also be a side effect of other medications
Factors that may increase the risk of ED include:
- Smoking, drinking, and illegal substances
- Lack of exercise
ED can be caused by psychological issues too, from having a history of sexual abuse to performance anxiety about not being able to satisfy a partner. Men naturally get erections during the night, so if your partner does, the problem is likely psychological. If he doesn’t, it may be physical.
Regardless of the reasoning, ED can greatly impact mental health. Our culture prizes the ability to satisfy as a mark of masculinity. Many men are therefore silent on their problems in the bedroom. Within, they may be suffering from anxiety, depression, and a lack of self-esteem.
How is ED treated?
Thankfully, there are numerous treatments for ED. Encourage your partner to consult a family doctor, who may then refer him to a urologist. Tell him not to be embarrassed about discussing ED with a doctor. They’ve likely seen more genitalia in their professional lives than you have, and are trained to discuss problems like these with their patients.
Simple lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, increasing exercise, and changing diet may be prescribed. Medications like sildenafil (VIAGRA) and tadalafil (CIALIS) may also be prescribed. Testosterone treatments, injections, and medical devices are further options.
If affording or accessing medication is a challenge for you, consider buying from international and Canadian pharmacies. For example, Rx Connected, an online Canadian pharmacy referral service, offers access to “meds” like sildenafil and tadalafil at affordable prices, which are sourced from responsible pharmacies and fulfillment centers that have been heavily vetted.
Your doctor may also recommend psychotherapy, perhaps even couples counselling. Remember that going to couples counselling does NOT mean your relationship is doomed or failing. Rather, it’s a sign of maturity and strength; the two of you are proactively taking charge of solving problems within the relationship to make it stronger.
How can I talk to my partner?
There’s a reason why the old adage “communication is key” is so popular. Lack of communication can lead to misunderstanding and lack of trust. Take the initiative and start the conversation. Your partner may be relieved! Emphasize that you sympathize with his stress, inform him of the medical facts, and reassure him that you’ll be wholly supportive of him seeking help.
Things two of you can chat about:
1. The definition of sex. Contrary to popular belief, the definition isn’t “penis in vagina.” Good intercourse is not limited to penetration! There are more ways to achieve intimacy, and it can be fun to explore them!
2. Asking for help is not a weakness. Our culture still believes that asking for help is a dent in one’s manliness. Encourage your partner to challenge this notion. Asking for help is taking the first step towards solving a problem. It should be a mark of strength, assertiveness, and initiative, not weakness.
3. Media portrayals are not accurate. No matter your gender, you’ve likely seen some very inaccurate portrayals of sexuality in popular media. Pornography, for example, should not be the bar you aim for in your bedroom! Performers may have had their parts surgically altered, may be taking performance-enhancing medication, or the film may have been heavily edited.
4. Guys like to hear from guys. Among men, beliefs around masculinity are changing. Your partner might take comfort in hearing from fellow men. Blogs like The Good Men Project and The Art of Manliness are well-written sites that are challenging old beliefs about masculinity and advocating for men’s health. You may also encourage your partner to talk to his guy friends. True, supportive friends should not tease each other about a health problem.
Lastly, listen to your partner’s concerns, keep talking, and keep learning. Research for this article was taken from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is a good place to start. Ohio State University also has a good article for partners of those with ED.