Sexual Wellness

ED: Your Voice Matters More Than You Think

March 28, 2024

By: Rachel Noonan, PharmD

Have you ever felt undesired by your partner?

Does your once satisfying intimate life now feel strained and disconnected? 

It’s an uncomfortable thing to admit. You’re likely feeling frustrated, hurt, or possibly ashamed. Whether you have the urge to point fingers or look in the mirror, neither helps solve the problem. 

These issues don’t always stay locked in the bedroom. Sexual problems can permeate every part of life, and often snowball. Shame alone creates chasms between couples. Dysfunction of any kind can affect the ability to focus or diminish feelings of self-worth, and erectile dysfunction may be the greatest offender.  

Erectile dysfunction (ED), defined as difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection sufficient for intercourse, is a serious health problem.  

When the wave of ED medications hit, study after study measured male-centric outcomes. How hard is hard enough? Is timing really everything? (Quick answers: erectile hardness score (EHS) > 3 and YES, foreplay begins at breakfast). For heterosexual couples, the clinical focus has only recently shifted to female sexual satisfaction. According to the Female Experience of Men’s Attitudes to Life Events and Sexuality (FEMALES) study, ED creates a huge pleasure rift. Of the 283 women studied, having partners with ED triggered steep declines in satisfaction measures like arousal and desire.  

“But there’s medication!” you say. Unfortunately, it’s not enough that worthwhile ED therapies exist. Even when men are fully aware of their options (and there are A LOT) often the conversation stops there. Communication falters and nobody wins.  

As a woman, your perception of the issue matters more than you think. A study designed to investigate the association between female partners’ attitudes toward ED and action taken by male patients found compelling evidence: women have real sway on how men respond to this problem. According to multiple sources, a direct approach is the most powerful.  

For example, when women express the importance of sex to their partners and demonstrate a clear desire to improve their sex life, men listen. If women reach out to their own healthcare providers for guidance, men do the same.  

ED can suggest greater medical problems at bay, like heart disease or diabetes. Studies suggest that a partner’s insight into the likely cause of ED can impact whether patients seek help. If they believe their partner’s ED is connected to a physical issue (versus a psychological cause, like stress), and communicate that, men appear more active in seeking care and taking medication. Pointing to an undeniable medical reason is an easier pill to swallow than acknowledging complicated emotions? I’ll bite.   

Erectile dysfunction can throw the health of your relationship into question during every intimate moment. Embarrassment appears to be the primary reason men avoid seeking help. As a loving partner, you may feel like it’s your responsibility to fix the problem. It’s not. But it’s your sex life too, and you have more influence than you ever thought possible. 


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