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It's time to talk: erections problems and your relationship

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When you love someone but can’t be intimate with them, it can feel like your relationship has been broken in half.

For you and your partner, being open with each other about the problem you’re facing is an important step towards making your love story whole again.


Learn more about what erection problems mean for your relationship


Silence isn’t the answer


It’s natural that you might not want to talk about your erection problems (EPs). You probably wish they would just go away. But without seeking help they probably aren’t going to, and silence isn’t going to do you any favours.

Did you know EPs – or erectile dysfunction, to use the medical term – affect millions of men in the UK?[1*] They might be something you’re ashamed or embarrassed about, but you shouldn’t be. They aren’t unusual and nobody is to blame.

*Prevalence based on men reporting occasional and frequent difficulty getting or maintaining an erection [ref. Kantar TNS Omnibus Survey Dec 2010 – in a survey of 1033 men].


Get advice on how to talk to your partner about erection problems


How erection problems affect your relationship


The challenges caused by erection problems (EPs) can have a negative impact on your relationship. You might feel tense or defensive. A lack of intimacy can make your partner feel unloved. You’re both suffering, but neither of you are to blame.

It’s important to be open and honest with each other. It’s natural to want to turn your back on difficult subjects, but if you face erection problems together, you’ll see that they can be overcome.

It’s worth thinking about some of the ways erection problems can affect your relationship, and what you can do about it:


Your confidence and self-esteem can be knocked

Self-doubt loves nothing better than silence, so the first step to resolving this problem is to talk.


Partners can think it’s their fault

Your partner might be thinking, “Does he not find me attractive anymore?” or “Is he seeing someone else?” But it’s likely that something else is getting in the way of your relationship: life.


Erection problems can feel like a threat to your relationship

The bad news is, they can be. The good news is they don’t have to be. If you stay silent about sex and intimacy, the problem may get bigger. But when you start talking you’ll realise the real problem was trying to handle this on your own.

Whether you’re a man or the partner of a man with EPs, there’s no need to feel threatened. EPs, which are also referred to as erectile dysfunction (ED), can be treated in most cases.


Get advice on how to talk to your partner about erection problems


Talking together about erection problems


So, you’ve decided to talk to your partner about your erection problems (EPs), because you want the stresses and strains of life to stop coming between you. The only thing is, you’re not sure how to do it.

It’s understandable. Uncertainty about how to approach the issue is what stops a lot of men from even mentioning erection problems, let alone having a conversation about them. But talking about them is going to help you, and the more people talk about them, the easier it will be for others to do the same. That means the conversation you’re about to have won’t only help you and your partner, but everyone who experiences EPs.


Try the following to help you stop life getting in the way of your love story:


1. You’re not alone

Erection problems are much more common than you might think. 4.3 million men in the UK experience symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED)[1**] (the medical name for erection problems).

Some of the most common conditions and diseases that are linked to erectile dysfunction (ED) are ones that are also linked to lifestyle: [2–5]


  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes

Erection problems can also be caused by things that affect mental wellness, like stress, anxiety and depression. EPs might be experienced regularly or just occasionally. In either case don’t ignore them, as they could be a sign of an underlying health issue.

**Prevalence based on men reporting occasional and frequent difficulty getting or maintaining an erection [ref. Kantar TNS Omnibus Survey Dec 2010 – in a survey of 1033 men].


2. Shame and blame

Erection problems can make you feel ashamed, and even angry. Being the partner of someone experiencing EPs can also be challenging because they don’t understand what’s going on. Naturally enough, people start to wonder if it’s their fault (it isn’t).

This situation means there’s a lot of scope for misunderstanding. That’s why it’s important for you and your partner to stay positive when you talk about EPs.


3. Choose your moment

Think about when and where you’re going to talk to your partner.

Erection problems have everything to do with life getting in the way, so try and talk about them without interruptions: not when you’re getting ready to go out, or over a meal, or when you’ve just put the TV on. Don’t start the conversation when children, family or visitors are around, or when you might be distracted by phone calls.

Choose a neutral spot to talk – not in the bedroom, or where anything can distract you. Avoid situations in which you might feel exposed or vulnerable, for example when you’re undressing for bed.


4. What to say

Think of this as a dialogue between two people who are both affected by erection problems. Think of it as the first step towards finding a solution. Together.

If you’re going to talk about your EPs, start the conversation with the word ‘we’ e.g. ‘We need to talk about my health’, or ‘We’re going through something I think we should talk about’.

If you’re the partner of someone with EPs, begin with ‘I’ e.g. ‘I’m worried about how you’re feeling’.

The important thing is to avoid using ‘you’ in an accusatory or confrontational way, as in ‘You have a problem’, or ‘You don’t find me attractive anymore’.


5. What to do if the conversation becomes difficult

There’s no point denying it, this can be a challenging conversation. It might not go perfectly on the first attempt.

If you find things going badly, don’t force it. Accept that now isn’t the right moment and say you’d like to have this conversation soon. End things on a positive note so there’s no lingering resentment when you try again.


6. Stay positive

Having a conversation about erection problems should mean the beginning of something better for both of you.

As well as talking things through together, speaking to someone trained to help men treat their EPs, like your doctor or pharmacist, is really straightforward.

If it ever seems too difficult and you’re tempted to bury your head in the sand, remember: talking to your partner or speaking privately with a trained professional can put your love story back on the right path.


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[1] Kantar TNS Omnibus 2010 (Data on File).

[2] NHS. Why can I not get and keep an erection? Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/mens-health/why-can-i-not-get-and-keep-an-erection/. Accessed May 2020.

[3] NHS. Cardiovascular disease. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cardiovascular-disease/. Accessed May 2020.

[4] NHS. High blood pressure (hypertension). Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/. Accessed May 2020.

[5] NHS. Diabetes. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/diabetes/. Accessed May 2020


PP-VUJ-GBR-0289 September 2020

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