How erection problems can make a couple less intimate – and what to do about it
We have discussed the “technical” aspects of erection problems, and how they can be treated. But what happens to a couple where the man has ED? For many men the onset of erectile dysfunction means the end not only of sex but also of intimacy. And indeed, some men who seek treatment have not had intercourse for several years.
Sadly, men who have erectile difficulty and who give up sex with their partners often find that emotional and physical intimacy decreases. Erection problems can bring an end to both intimacy and sex.
And of course men who want to avoid sex, just like women who want to avoid sex, can be extremely creative about how they do it: this might include going to bed at different times or even sleeping in separate beds. And partners often collude in an unspoken agreement to avoid the subject or reality of sex.
Video: Loss of intimacy when erection problems develop
And sometimes a woman will respond to her partner’s erection problems by avoiding intimacy. She may think it is better to avoid anything could be interpreted in a sexual way: she doesn’t want to embarrass or humiliate her male partner by starting any activity that would once have led to sex.
Yet here’s the problem: intimacy is essential to human relationships, both on a physical level and on an emotional level. Intimacy refers to any connection that reinforces our sense of being valued by our partner, of being appreciated, of being cared for. It can take the form of gentle touches, hugs or cuddles, spontaneous kisses, lying in each other’s arms, and many other nonsexual physical touches.
It can also take the form of intimate discussions, trusting your partner by revealing your deepest thoughts and desires, and of course by telling them or showing them that you love them.
So for men with ED and for a woman supporting such a man, even though sexual intercourse may not be practical, there are plenty of other ways in which you can reinforce your relationship. You can show your partner that you love them and feel affection for them in many other ways.
And, should you wish to be sexual, despite your erection problems, there are ways to do this. First, talk to your partner about what they appreciate sexually and what would satisfy them. An open discussion about what she (and he) would find sexually rewarding or exciting – even without an erection – is important.
This might, for example, involve foreplay followed by oral sex, or perhaps a sexual massage. It doesn’t really matter what form sexual contact takes: what matters is that emotional intimacy is reinforced.
Also, if you actually stop touching each other, your chances of successfully re-establishing a sexual relationship reduce even further. So what follows is really rather important if you want your relationship to survive erectile dysfunction!
Easy and simple ways to maintain closeness before, during, and after treatment for erection problems.
First, you have to compensate for the absence of sex within your relationship. You can do this by increasing the level of physical affection, intimacy, and touch you show to each other. So, for example, you may want to increase how often you hold your partner’s hands, spontaneously reach out for her, or cuddle up together on the sofa watching a movie. And best of all, always have some kind of physical embrace before you go off to sleep in bed.
This kind of touching doesn’t have to be a precursor to sex. It can be simply about showing your partner that you care for them and that you’re thinking about them.
One of the benefits of this is that you feel a deeper bond to each other. However, you need to do this for several weeks before you’ll see really positive results. But keep it up: this kind of gentle touching will help you both to re-establish a more relaxed frame of mind. And that in turn will lead to a better atmosphere for sexual contact when the time is right.
But be focused. It’s no use trying to offer – or for that matter receive – touch if your mind is on something else outside the relationship. Or, for that matter, beyond the immediate interaction between you and your partner.
So bring your full attention and focus to your touch. If you’re the person receiving the touch, you also need to bring your full attention and intention to the act of receiving. It’s almost as if you’re placing your whole focus at the point of physical contact between you and your partner.
If you’re allowing your mind to wander, you’re effectively saying to your partner that you’re not interested in what they’re doing, or that you’re defending in some way against establishing greater closeness with them. Read this on better sex through non sexual touching. If you find you’re distracted, pause and have a brief discussion about exactly what’s going on for you both.
Gentleness and sensitivity are also essential in this process as you begin to re-explore, or perhaps recover, a level of intimacy and affection which you may have lost some time ago. Explore the feelings and emotions that come up during this kind of sensual contact. That way, you’ll be able to assess what’s happening much better, both in terms of what you find arousing, as well as what you don’t.
It’s also important that you revive romance within your relationship. That’s especially true when your sense of intimacy is much reduced or perhaps even lost altogether in the face of erection dysfunction.Think about what made you feel good, what made you feel alive, in fact, what made you feel passionate and joyous, in the past – and re-enact it if you can.
Remember that sense of romantic love for your partner which made you do all kinds of madcap things without thinking? Nowadays you don’t have to go that far: you can simply revive romance with a shared walk, or by taking time for the two of you. You might enjoy dinner together, or go out together, or leave short affectionate notes and love letters for each other. You might buy your partner an unexpected gift, or cook dinner for him or her. And so on.
This is all about showing your partner you’re thinking of them and that you love them. It’s about showing them they are important to you. And all these things will boost your self-esteem and make sex much easier when you are ready for it.
There many reasons why erection problems can develop. But sometimes the challenge that you face is simply about growing older. If this applies to you, keep in mind that sexual activity only changes with age, it doesn’t stop.
Yes, it will take a man longer to get an erection, and for good or bad it will take a man longer to reach the point of ejaculation (which is perhaps a good thing for some men!), This means you need to take more time over foreplay. You need to have more sensual touch to arouse the man, You need to be more creative in your lovemaking. It also goes without saying that you need to communicate more openly.
You probably realize that if aging is the fundamental issue you face, then acceptance of change with age is the key to allowing your sex life to continue. If you remember your youth, you may recall becoming sexually aroused with almost no stimulation at all. (Many adolescents and young men seem to get aroused for no reason at all!) As you grow old, especially as you grow into your 50s and beyond, you need to adapt what you’ve been doing to a slower sense of sensuality. And you need to start touching each other more.
It’s hard to emphasize how much different sensual touch can make to both intimacy and the possibility of full sexual contact. Some men who haven’t had intercourse for years will be able to get an erection and enjoy sex after enjoying more sensual touching for as short a time as three months.
Most of us don’t attach any less importance to sex as we grow older, so if you’re not actually having regular intercourse (no matter how infrequently), your self-esteem may well decline. And if the cause is erectile dysfunction, get good advice and information about treatment options. This includes Viagra and perhaps a program of sensual touching to maximize and restore your sexuality. You can find such a treatment program in this book: find the UK version here – treatment of erectile dysfunction and the US version here – overcoming erectile dysfunction.
If you don’t enjoy a healthy sex life in your 50s, 60s and 70s, there’s a real danger that you’ll lose the sense of intimacy between you and you partner: and growing older is far more satisfying when intimacy is maintained within your relationship.