My husband has been having some trouble maintaining an erection lately. We have never had this problem before and he assures me that he is not fooling around with another woman and that he still wants me. We don’t have sex very often anymore and I think it is because he is afraid it won’t work. He won’t go to the doctor about it either and says he is not going to use any of those drugs that are advertised on television. Is there anything that I can do to help him? I miss having a sex life and I know it is not helping our relationship either but he refuses to talk about it.
Thank you for asking this question. Interestingly, most of the questions that I get about erectile dysfunction or ED come from the female partners rather than the men themselves. This is not surprising I suppose, given that 90% of men never seek treatment for this problem. In a US survey, it was found that 2/3 of the men never raised the issue with their doctor for fear of embarrassing them or because they thought their sexual issues would be dismissed or not be treatable. In Worldwide studies, the incidence of ED is never less than 10% and often as high as 30% depending on the study demographics. It is estimated that ED affects 100 million men worldwide (18 million in the US) and that this number is expected to double by 2025.
The tragedy of this silent suffering is that not only can medical intervention frequently help with this condition, but ED symptoms are also early warning signs of a variety of other illnesses that need diagnosis and treatment. Erectile dysfunction can result from a wide variety of conditions, both psychological and physical. While aging is definitely the most significant predictor, a man’s overall health and well-being is also a big factor in its likelihood. Other factors that can contribute to erectile dysfunction include cardiovascular disease, nerve or spinal cord damage, cigarette smoking, low testosterone levels, prescription medications, depression, stress and anxiety.
Getting and keeping an erection is a complex process that involves both psychological impulses, adequate hormones, a functioning nervous system and healthy vascular tissue of the penis. This is why seeing a doctor 50% or more of the time when these incidences occur is so important. Figuring out what part of the process is causing the problem can provide a range of options to solve it. Sometimes the solution can be as simple as cleaning up your health habits: ie. Stopping smoking, eating well, maintaining regular exercise and reducing stress. There are also a wide range of alternative therapies that have helped many men improve their overall health and recover from ED symptoms.
Not surprisingly, avoiding sexual intimacy is also related to erectile dysfunction symptoms. In a Finnish study, it was found that men who had sexual intercourse less than once per week were twice as likely to develop ED symptoms than men who had sex weekly. More frequent sex reduced the incidence of ED symptoms even more. So the “use it or lose it” phenomenon of sexual functioning applies to both men and women and ongoing sexual inactivity can lead to disorders that can later make sexual activity difficult.
The first and most important thing that you can do for your partner is to get him to see a doctor to find out what is going on. Sharing some of the resources and information about this issue and how common it is might make it easier for you to discuss together.
Sexual pleasure can happen in so many ways that have nothing to do with intercourse, but they require communicating and touching. Encouraging him to love himself enough to seek the care he needs is a great way to rebuild the intimacy you want in your relationship.