When Your Partner Has Impotence

Impotence, also called erectile dysfunction, is often seen as a man's problem, but it also has a significant impact on his partner. The condition can affect a couple's loss of sexual intimacy and can impact a woman's feelings about herself and her desirability.

Impotence Overview

Erectile dysfunction in the inability to get an erection or keep an erection long enough to complete sexual intercourse. An erection is when the penis hardens and lengthens. It's caused when blood rapidly flows into the two tubular structures of the penis.

Every man has erection problems at one point or another. It becomes considered as impotence when the erectile dysfunction happens at least 25 percent of the time when a man attempts to have sex, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Statistics show that it affects about 10 percent of the population with 30 million afflicted men in the United States alone.

Impotence can be hard on the man, but it is also difficult for the woman partner. It can deprive the woman of sexual pleasure which can lead to significant, if subtle, psychological and personal distress.

Examining the Effects of Impotence

One of the first steps to dealing with your partner's impotence is to acknowledge it and become aware of how it makes you feel. The inability to have sex because your partner can't maintain an erection is difficult. So is having to end intercourse early because of a lost erection. Never pretend it doesn't matter.

Recognize that your reaction will be different from your partners. While you may feel disappointment, he might feel despair as not a "real" man. He may avoid sexual situations which can make you feel rejected, but is his way of trying not to feel like a failure.

The Importance of Open Communication

Once you've come to terms with your feelings about your husband's inability to maintain an erection, you'll be prepared to have an open, non-accusing discussion about it.

You may need to take the initiative since your partner could feel too shamed to bring the topic up. Discussing impotence with your partner won't be easy, but you can make it less stressful by bringing the topic up at a quiet, relaxed moment. It is not a good idea to discuss impotence right after your partner has lost his erection.

Be diplomatic and honest, and remember to consider his point of view. He may blame himself and forget that there are other things he can do to sexually please his partner.

Plan what you're going to say before you bring the topic up. It's a good idea to put the focus on yourself and your feelings instead of his impotence. For example, you can encourage him to seek treatment by explaining to him that you care too much about him and miss your previous intimacy. You can say this intimacy is too important for you to want to sacrifice it permanently.

Encourage him to discuss his feelings and make sure you listen in a non-judging, non-critical, accepting attitude.

Get Medical Help

In 85 percent of the cases, impotence is caused by a physical problem. After you've both acknowledged the problem and are willing to work together to fix it, you can get medical help. Your partner may want to go to the appointments on his own or do his own research. Or he may want help. Work with him in whatever way is most comfortable for him.

Encourage your partner to see a doctor. The doctor will likely refer him to an urologist. The urologist will work with your partner to find a treatment option that will work. Treatment options could include drug therapy (like Viagra), vacuum devices, medications inserted or injected into the penis, and occasionally surgery. Lifestyle changes may be suggested as could psychotherapies.

In the Meantime

Until the impotence is resolved, you can avoid making sexual intercourse the first priority in your relationship. This avoids putting pressure on you and your partner.

Enjoy cuddling and touching without the pressure of penetration. Let your partner pleasure you in other ways with his hands, mouth or sex toys. Let him know that you like what he's doing and make it clear, if you're using toys, that it's him that's providing the ultimate pleasure.

When you do try penetration, go slow and have a sense of humor about it if your partner's erection disappears.


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