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How Do I Tell My Partner I Have ED?

Whether it’s Erectile Dysfunction is new in your life or not, telling a potential or long-term partner about it can be challenging. Opening up and being vulnerable can cause anxiety and make you want to avoid the topic altogether.

However, sharing with your partner how ED affects you and your life can help them understand how to be intimate with you and can improve your sex life overall! Remember, ED is incredibly common, and treatable, and you should give yourself as much time and care as you need to start opening up and taking steps for yourself.

Being seen as honorable, self-reliant, and respected by friends are some of the most important factors most men see as valuable traits, according to a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. What factors were less important? Being normatively physically attractive, sexually active, or successful with women.

Even knowing this, it can be a challenge for men to manage to see themselves positively, especially when erectile dysfunction can get in the way of feeling confident, self-reliant, and respected.

ED can also affect your mental health! “When men who had poor sexual functioning endorsed more traditional masculine values, they had worse social functioning, role functioning, and mental health outcomes, including depression,” write the authors of a study on erectile dysfunction, masculinity, and psychosocial outcomes published in the journal Translational Andrology and Urology.

What does that mean? If you have erectile dysfunction, you might feel like it has something to do with your masculinity. To be very, very clear: it doesn’t. Don’t let that idea get between you and talking to your partner about your ED. It might feel awkward or vulnerable. You might not know how to have that kind of conversation. Having it anyway is the best way to get back to creating a great sex life.

Here’s how to talk to your partner about your ED.

Get Informed on What ED Is

Before having any serious conversation, you should come prepared with facts about your condition. You might already have some info on some factors related to your ED from your healthcare provider. If not, brush up on the causes of ED here.

If you are unsure if you have ED or not, evaluate your symptoms and think about your habits. It could be incredibly important for you to visit your primary care physician and receive a diagnosis or a referral to a specialist. If these visits give you a clear diagnosis, you may want to look into sex therapy or other self-help treatments for erectile dysfunction that you can do at home.

ED can be caused by many things, it can be a side effect of oral medication, health conditions such as high blood pressure, poor mental health which can affect your sexual performance, sexually transmitted infections, and relationship issues.

If you are already diagnosed and pursuing erectile dysfunction treatment, it is good relationship advice to tell your partner about the steps you’ve taken, such as lifestyle changes, in regards to your ED. It can also help to spend some time figuring out how you feel about your ED so that you can talk to your partner about that.

Do a Lap Before You Commit to a Location

Figure out a good time to talk to your partner about something serious. If you’re good at communicating with each other already, you can say, “Hey, I want to talk to you about something serious but it’s not an emergency, when is a good time for you?”

If you’re not, notice when your partner is generally more relaxed and has some downtime. A weeknight after dinner when it’s still early? When you’re making a meal together on the weekends? There’s never a perfect moment, but a time when you won’t be rushed is a great place to start.

Then, decide where you want to talk. The kitchen can be a great option. You may also prefer to chat while you’re on a drive or hike, so you’re not constantly looking at each other. This can feel a little less vulnerable for some people.

Open the Conversation

It can help to figure out what you want to say in advance. The direct route can be hard, but let’s give you a few things you might want to touch on in your discussion with your partner. Here’s an example:

“I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about my erectile dysfunction, what it is, how I feel about it, any questions you might have, and how we can keep sharing a great sex life together.”

Or you can clue your partner into your emotions and start with how you’re feeling. Give this a shot:

“I feel a little nervous or awkward bringing this up, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot and wanted to tell you about my erectile dysfunction.”

If you’re talking to someone who is already part of your sex life, you are probably not giving them shocking surprise news. Take a deep breath and get into it. They have probably taken notice before, and because they care about you, haven’t said anything. But it can be a good thing to get out in the open and start working as a team.

Alternatively to feelings or directness, you might find that weaving the topic into a normal conversation could be good. Try something like, “So I was reading this article about erectile dysfunction and I wanted to talk to you about mine.”

If you are finding it super hard to find the right words, the right time, or just the energy to bring it up, sending them a message with an article could be good. But remember, in-person conversations should be prioritized and probably used to follow up with things like this.

Talk About What ED Means and Doesn’t Mean

Once you've opened up the discussion, it helps to talk about any physical or mental factors contributing to your ED. It could also help to break down the history of your symptoms and what’s unique to you.

It's common for partners of people with ED to wonder whether the ED has something to do with them. During your conversation, it can help to remind your partner how attractive you find them. You can also point out the scientifically proven difference between subjective sexual arousal (I’m turned on) and objective sexual arousal (I have an erection).

Just as you’ve had to rethink the way you see sex, your partner will, too. Remember that any hesitancy or negativity they might express isn’t actually about you — it’s about their own internalized assumptions of what sex looks like, what masculinity is, and even about how your relationship together reflects on them. If this comes up, take a deep breath and remember how it felt when you were first working through this. Reassure your partner that the reasons behind your ED have nothing to do with them, and don’t take their initial reactions personally.

When you’re both ready, it’s time to talk about your sex life.

Share or Brainstorm Next Steps

There are a lot of approaches to the treatment of ED. These can include lifestyle changes, medical intervention following a conversation with your healthcare provider, and even discrete therapeutic options like Lover’s expert-designed Getting Hard Made Easy course. You can choose to share those with your partner, or not. Either way, emphasize that ED doesn’t mean your sex life is over. It’s a chance to connect in whole new ways.

This could be the moment you’ve both been waiting to switch things up and try something different. New fantasies, touches, positions, and sex toys could get you on the way to a far better sex life than you had before ED. Cock rings, numbing creme or spray, and masturbation techniques can all help!

Remember: sex isn’t all about your penis. Think about some things you and your partner want to try together that involve a more full-body view of the erotic experience. This isn’t the only conversation you’ll have about it, but it’s a good place to start.

Take a Moment to Reconnect

To reiterate, schedule any big conversation so that you’re not rushed through it, and also so that you have some time to come together (or, you know, to come together) afterward. Then, congratulate each other! You and your partner just had what can be a challenging conversation for many people, got vulnerable and honest even when it was uncomfortable, and got real with what you want from your sex life together. Reconnect after by sharing a touch, a snack, or a moment.


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