Masking an inability to achieve an erection by taking a medication is unwise and dangerous.
I work as an intimacy and relationship counselor with urologists and internists, who often see patients due to erectile dysfunction. Frequently, I see couples who worry about erectile dysfunction when the changes they are experiencing are completely normal. Aging, stress, and intimacy conflicts can all hinder achieving an erection. Erectile drugs, such as Viagra and Cialis, have made it easy to achieve an erection; however, medications may mask a problem that shouldn’t be ignored.
Many people medicate a symptom, such as an inability to achieve an erection, before understanding the underlying problem. Medical illnesses, such as diabetes, vascular disease, or urological and neurological conditions, can also cause erectile dysfunction. Heavy smokers and drinkers may suffer extensive damage to the small blood vessels, which include those in the penis. For many men, erectile dysfunction includes a combination of physical and psychological factors. If you address your diabetes, but don’t get help with the resentment you feel toward your partner, the penis is not going to perform to your satisfaction no matter what medication you use. Men are dating later in life and, with dating, there is pressure on performance. Sometimes it is easy to become panicked or anxious when the penis doesn’t perform up to par. Below are common worries that men have, that may be signs of aging, anxiety, stress, and intimacy conflict rather than actual erectile dysfunction.
1. You no longer get an erection just from thinking about sex or seeing your partner in a seductive pose. For men over 40, this is quite common from time to time.
2. You need direct stimulation to get erect.
3. It takes longer for you to achieve an erection (this may be more pleasing to your partner).
4. Your erection is not as hard as it was when you were a teen or in your early twenties.
5. You need more recovery time after ejaculation (this changes with each passing year), and after ejaculation your erection subsides much quicker than it did when you were younger.
The partner plays a large role for the man who worries about erectile dysfunction. Reminding him that you love him and still enjoy intimacy together helps reassure him that he is still your lover and able to please you. Complaining that “all he thinks about is sex” is not only thoughtless, but sends him the direct message that he is being silly or superficial to be so concerned about his ability to feel like a man. If your man struggles with erectile dysfunction, these three tips may help improve the situation and reassure him of your love and desire for him:
1. Encourage him to make an appointment with an urologist and offer to go with him. Sometimes men want to do this on their own and, as their partner, you should honor that.
2. Make sure you save time each day to talk with him, and begin talking about exploring new options. The fact that most couples only know how to have sex one or two ways puts more pressure on the man. If he knows there are many ways to please you and if you remain open to new ideas, it will help both of you and your relationship.
3. Stress is highly correlated with erectile dysfunction, as is obesity. Movement every day can help alleviate both of these. Begin a walking program where you walk one to two miles each day. This is also a wonderful way to converse and enjoy each other’s company.
Erectile dysfunction is a real condition, but so are aging, stress, conflict, and anxiety. A medication may help relieve the symptoms of ED, but addressing the issues behind the condition may help cure it. Sex is important; it’s healthy and it is good for the marriage. Reassuring your partner that you are a team and will work with them is part of the cure. –Mary Jo Rapini
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