How Do I Tell My Partner I Have ED?
Updated: May 27
Our society is full of stereotypical ideas around masculinity, and even when you know better on an individual level, this can be hard to escape.
Being seen as honorable, self-reliant, and respected by friends are some of the most important factors in how men view their own masculinity, 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 (To use the researchers’ language around gender. Presumably, this was not a consideration for gay men.). Still, not all men manage to see themselves that way, and ideas about masculinity do influence how men respond to erectile dysfunction (ED).
“When men who had poor sexual functioning endorsed more traditional (hegemonic) 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, it can help to be prepared. 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.
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. If you can directly say, “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 very special sex life together,” then congratulations! You are probably not reading this article.
For everyone else, it can help to start with how you’re feeling. “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.
Does it feel too uncomfortable to kick off a conversation with feelings? Try something like, “So I was reading this article about erectile dysfunction and I wanted to talk to you about mine.” You’re in!
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. Share how you feel about that and the situation.
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 of how 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 ED you can take, from lifestyle change and medical intervention following a conversation with your healthcare provider to 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 for 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. Remember: sex isn’t all about your penis. What are 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) afterwards. 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 touch, a snack, or a moment. Breathe.
You've got this!