Understand the Need: If your man is affected by erection problems it’s worth bearing in mind that in 80 per cent of erectile dysfunction (ED) cases there is some underlying physical cause. This can range from problems with blood pressure, to heart disease, to diabetes, and a few more besides. Even if erection problems only occur from time to time they should still be taken seriously.
Don’t Wait for Him: If plan A is to wait until he raises the topic, you might wait a very long time. Open and honest discussions about sexuality are rare enough but sexual problems are way down the must-talk-about-this list for men. When it comes to health issues men are masters in delay tactics and avoidance. He may feel that just talking about it will make things worse. He may already feel embarrassed, awkward and possibly ashamed. So what better way to cope with these emotions than to find any distraction and hope they will go away.
Could it be Me?: An important question, but possibly a needless distraction. If you find your sex life isn’t everything it could be, or has effectively stopped, it is not surprising that certain thoughts will rise to the surface. The more obvious of these are whether he still loves you, whether he still finds you attractive or whether he has found another woman? The longer you delay talking about the broader issues the more likely these questions will gnaw away at you and the worse you will feel.
Avoid Blame: If your marriage or relationship hasn’t exactly been a bed of roses up to the point ED became an issue, some of the previously stored up resentment or anger could easily spill over. Saying things like, ‘well if you didn’t spend so much time watching TV and got some exercise’ may have a ring of truth about them, but they may have little or no relevance to ED and could simply be delaying treatment.
Find a Time and Place: You’ve plucked up the courage and you want to know how the best way to get started. Don’t pick a time when you are getting ready to go out or a time when he may feel you have cornered him - such as during a meal. If you think you might be interrupted by visitors or phone calls, leave it until you can be more confident that the time together is your own. You may want to go somewhere more open and neutral, like a walk in the park for example. Avoid times when he may seem relaxed but is actually exposed and vulnerable, like when taking a bath or shower.
Then Speak: There is no script for you to work from. At the outset you need to be aware that just because the time and place seems good for you, it may not be for him. In such circumstances you may need to be a little persistent but not pushy. Opening up the topic by saying you need to talk about ‘your problem’ or ‘why you never…’ can seem a bit confrontational. Change it around to express the topic in terms of ‘we’ or ‘I’. For example, ‘I’m worried that you’re not feeling well’, or ‘I feel upset and I need to talk’.
And if he Won’t Listen: Some men are stubborn and sensitive. Once the topic is raised, no matter how delicately, they simply close it down or walk off. In such situations it can be difficult to know what to do, but one tip is to accept the fact that you won’t talk about it now but mention you need to talk some time soon. This is the point where you can say, ‘because I’m a bit worried you might have something like diabetes, or heart problems.’ It may be brushed off, but you’ve sewn a seed for him to start thinking about.
And When he Asks: It may take seconds or days but he may well ask why you think he might have diabetes or heart problems. This means you’ve struck a chord. It can be lot easier for men to consider their ED as a sign of something else than an issue in its own right. In many cases this is actually quite accurate, so all you’ve done is steer the conversation towards this point.
And When he Won’t see the Doctor: You need to point out that it’s only the doctor who can check the symptoms that might be causing his ED. Chances are the doctor won’t ask him to drop his pants and will most likely be far more interested in talking to him, taking his blood pressure and maybe taking a blood sample for analysis.
And Finally: This may just be the start of the process. These tips just provide a few general ideas, some of which need to be tailored to your own situation. Even though I’ve labored the point about physical problems as a cause of ED, it remains the case that emotional issues such as stress and depression can have a profoundly negative effect on intimacy and relationships. Whatever the cause, ED needs to be treated.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.