Erectile Dysfunction and Your Sex Life

Erectile dysfunction (ED) can damage and even destroy relationships.

  • It robs couples of an intimate connection
  • It makes men feel inadequate, and causes them to avoid sex
  • It makes their partners feel unattractive
  • It causes both people to feel frustrated, guilty, angry, and depressed

In surveys conducted by the ED Treatment Information Center, 80.8% of men with ED, and 80.0% of their partners, reported that ED had Some Impact or a Major Impact on their relationship.

It’s possible to avoid this cycle, and have a great sex life, in spite of ED.  But before I talk about that, I’m going to tell you a little bit about erectile dysfunction.

Understanding Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction means the persistent inability to achieve and maintain an erection suitable for penetrative sex.  It’s a not disease in itself. It’s a symptom of an underlying condition, whether physical or psychological. It’s a medical problem, and it’s not the fault of either partner – so there is no reason to feel unattractive, inadequate, or guilty.

There are many possible causes for ED, including:

In some cases, erectile dysfunction can be entirely reversed by treating the underlying problem.  Even when ED can’t be reverse, it’s possible for most men to achieve erections by taking drugs like Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, or their generic equivalents.

If you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction, the first step is to see a doctor.  The doctor can determine the cause (and hopefully rule out anything serious), and then recommend appropriate treatment.  If necessary, the doctor can prescribe drugs.

There’s no reason to be embarrassed when talking to your doctor!  Over 30 million men in the United States have ED, so it’s an issue that doctors deal with regularly. 

They will ask a few questions, possible run a blood or urine test, and give you a physical exam. In most cases, that’s all it takes.

Erectile Dysfunction and Your Sex Life

Many men don’t like having to take a pill before they can have sex. And in some cases, the pills don’t work at all, or there are side effects that prevent men from taking them. 

In any case, the symptoms and feelings surrounding erectile dysfunction can have a severe effect on your relationship and your sex life.

There are some things you can do to get past the problems, but the first two are especially tough for many men:

(1) Talk About the Problem with Your Partner

Because most men feel ashamed or inadequate when they have ED, it can be very hard to open up with your partner.  But studies have shown that the thing that does the most damage to a relationship is lack of communication.  It’s important to acknowledge that there is a problem, that you can work on as a couple.

(2) Get Help

Feelings of embarrassment, or fear of what they may find out, prevent many men from talking to a doctor.  Remember that talking to your doctor is the first step to getting help.

You should also understand that not getting help is letting down your partner. This is one of the biggest complaints we see in ED discussion forums:  “my husband has ED and he won’t go to the doctor.  I feel like he doesn’t care about our relationship or his health.”

I could not have said it better. Men who value their relationship will get help for ED.

OK, those are the tough steps. If you get past those, the rest of the things I am going to recommend should be fun!

Next Steps

So let’s start with a couple of facts that may surprise you:

  1. It’s possible for a man to become sexually aroused even if he does not get an erection. Remember, arousal is primarily a hormonal and mental function.
  2. It’s possible for a man to have an orgasm, even if his penis is not erect.

In other words, for a man, getting hard and having intercourse is not a requirement for a sexually satisfying relationship. However, most men have difficulty seeing it that way. Their ability to have an erection is deeply tied to their sense of masculinity.

So for many men with ED, the next step in having a satisfying sex life is an attitude adjustment.  Remember that sex is more than just intercourse… it’s about communication, intimacy, and mutual pleasure.

Remember this: there is no “failure.”  Sex is just about enjoying one another.

With that in mind, the next step to having a satisfying sexual relationship with ED is to take intercourse off the table for a while.

Talk with your partner, and use this as an opportunity to play and explore!

Here are a few ideas to get you started.  Talk with your partner about things you would both enjoy, and make time to try some new things.

Showing Off!

Most men, and many women, are aroused by visual signals.  Try dressing up for your partner… sexy outfits, lingerie, underwear.  Slowly strip for your partner, or have them undress you.

Some people are very aroused watching their partner masturbate. Plan a session where you each have an orgasm, without touching one another.


Remember your earliest sexual experiences?  Kissing, making out, hugging, and caressing can be just as much fun as penetration.

Explore your partner’s body.  Find out how they like to be touched.  Don’t focus on the “naughty bits” – try running your fingers through your partner’s hair, or kissing their neck. 

Trying tickling or lightly stroking your partner with feathers, or with a soft fur mitt.

Gradually work up to more intimate caresses and touching.  Remember that men enjoy having their penis played with, and can even have an orgasm, without an erection.

Mouth, Lips, and Tongue

Most people of both sexes can have orgasms through oral sex.  And even without an orgasm, it can be incredibly arousing having your partner use their lips, tongue, and mouth to give you pleasure.  For an added boost, add a visual element.  Put on a show as you flick your tongue over your partner.  Try maintaining eye contact and let your partner see how much you are enjoying yourself!


Sex toys can add a new dimension to sex.  Vibrators can feel wonderful for both men and women.  Note that there are a wide range of vibrators, and some are much more powerful than others.  It’s usually best to start with a vibrator that has several settings in order to find what you like.

Many people also enjoy anal stimulation.  Butt plugs and vibrators can be a real turn-on for both partners.

We’ve got a great article on sex toys to get you started!


There’s something about being helpless – or seeing your partner helpless – that is very arousing for many couples.  You don’t need anything fancy to get started… you can use soft rope from the hardware store.  However, I do recommend that you buy soft-lined cuffs from an online shop to avoid abrasions.

Also, when experimenting with bondage, make sure you have a “safe word.”  When your partner uses the safe word, you need to stop what you are doing and release them immediately

More Explorations

Erectile dysfunction doesn’t mean the end of your sex life.  In fact, it can be a new beginning. 

Make your sexual relationship a priority.  Make time to explore and enjoy together.  There are lots of online resources and great books that will help!

For recommendations from our staff, please visit our Bookstore.

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