Talking About Your Erectile Dysfunction

Talking about your erectile dysfunction with your partner and with your doctor is vital to moving forward in your life, whether you can get it up and keep it up to your satisfaction or not.

Couples who can talk openly have a great advantage when a "biggie" like erectile dysfunction happens. If you have one of these relationships and talking about your erectile dysfunction with your partner is easy, count your blessings.

If you're not one of those easy-talking-listening couples, know that working through intense emotional situations together strengthens bonds between people. After talking it over, you may find that you're both more comfortable with the situation as it is than either of you knew.

However, note well that erectile dysfunction is often a symptom of another condition that is treatable, so no matter how you feel about it in terms of your sex life, talking about your erectile dysfunction with your doctor about it together is a good idea.

And, of course if your partner is involved you can have an ally in the examining room who shares the problem which makes it less likely that an important question or fact will be forgotten. Also, two heads are better than one when it comes to remembering what the doctor said too.

Talking About Your Erectile Dysfunction May Not Be Easy to Do

It has been noted that the average time delay before a guy starts talking about it with his doctor is two years after it starts happening. Most guys would rather go to the dentist in the movie "Little Shop of Horrors" for a root canal than talk about sex, erections, ejaculation, etc.

OK it's normal, but that doesn't make it smart or effective. If there is any evidence that this don't- ask-don't-tell approach to sex works, I haven't come across it yet and I don't expect to, but it's prevalent.

So as you start talking about your erectile dysfunction with your partner, cut yourself some slack

If you find it hard to talk about things like this, just remember that you undoubtedly came by your attitudes and skills (or lack thereof) with respect to talking about sensitive issues honestly.

Not only were we taught from early ages that guys don't talk about their feelings, but from laboratory research on couples communication conducted by John Gottman PhD at the University of Washington in Seattle, we know that in stressful interpersonal situations males' physical experience of emotion tends to rev up faster, to a higher level, and lasts longer than in females.

Perhaps this explains why men are generally the ones who back off, go silent, or stonewall in difficult relationship situations. It heads off short term disaster, but in the long term, unfortunately, if you want to have a relationship with another person, this doesn't work.

No matter what you usually do, if you can't get an erection and want to have sex with your partner, you're going to have to talk about it.

Just be sure that you take good care of yourself by setting up for success, making it possible for you to keep your comfort level within a range where cooperation, talking, listening, and problem-solving are possible.

Learn and use skills that slow your internal processes

  • Share the Gottman findings with your partner so that she understands and supports your backing off of talking about your erectile dysfunction for a while
  • Use focusing/relaxing breathing to calm internal machinery and mind down to be able to really hear and feel what is going on. I think that this DOES require specific skills and regular practice. The one that has worked for me is the connected breathing described in Michael Brown's "The Presence Process", but generally any form of mindfulness meditation that is workable for you will do the same thing.
  • Agree how you are going to talk about this before your start. It is your problem first and then a shared problem. You need to be able to set the rules of engagement.
  • Set aside an uninterrupted time.
  • Make it is clear that what actions you'll take medically and in your lifestyle are your choice and that any support will need to come in a form that you find helpful.
  • Allow time outs from discussing it, but agree not to stop the discussion.
  • Talk and listen effectively.
  • Read something like "Difficult Conversations" or "Getting to Yes" that describes how skilled mediators go about keeping people focused on the problems and not on the people.
  • Know what you are feeling, fearing, believing on the topic.
  • The need for talking about your erectile dysfunction is a forced course in how to deal with beliefs about sexuality, masculinity, yourself. Frankly, it's a crash course and the grade will affect your whole life. You really can't put it off.
  • You might find it helpful to check out some of the information on managing thoughts and feelings in the Psychology of Relationships pages here.

  • Get some help with this part if you get stuck. You may need a personal coach or a psychotherapist to do this. Just make sure that you find one who will help you do what you want to do which is get your head straight enough that you can have a fruitful conversation on this topic with your partner. You don't want to rebuild your whole life. That might be a good idea too, but it is not what I am talking about doing here.

  • Be honest with yourself about your own contributions to the problem

    Decide what you are willing and/or able to do about such factors.

  • Maybe drink less alcohol or stop smoking?

  • Need to lose some weight, eat healthier, get your cholesterol down?

  • Exercise more and have a healthier cardiovascular system?

  • Deal with your mood with some psychotherapy and maybe be able to lower the dose or get off of medication that has ED as a side effect?

  • Use language that is natural to you and your partner. I doubt that even Urologists who are having this problem sit down with their partner to discuss their erectile dysfunction. (On second thought, maybe they do, though I hope not.) The medical terminology is designed to be precise and impersonal which serves the delivery of good medical care, but does NOT facilitate talking and listening that brings two people closer together, If this is to be one of those things no one would have chosen, but that can bring two people closer together if dealt with well, leave the medical language out.

    When talking about your erectile dysfunction, be prepared to be asked to explain your feelings and how they are affecting you. It's alright to explore what you are feeling and what beliefs, assumptions, values, self-talk these feelings are growing out of as the conversation progresses. You don't have to have it all figured out before you start.

    If you have trouble coming up with specific self-talk, sometimes it is helpful to ask yourself "What might a person who is reacting to this situation this way believe?

    Talking about your erectile dysfunction can be very difficult, but it's simply smart living and the rewards can be great and long lasting.

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