One of the most distressing effects of erectile dysfunction (ED) can be your partner’s response to this difficulty, particularly if they experience the ED as a reflection of their desirability. However, erectile difficulties are not as straightforward as you might think, as the loss or lack of an erection during sex does not necessarily mean that you don’t fancy your partner.
Does sex often start off well, but you have a nagging worry that you might lose your erection? Your partner might be having similar worries too. The pressure to ‘perform’ is on, but pressure and erections are not good partners. So what happens next?
Let me guess… your erection goes (or doesn’t arrive), you feel frustrated and upset and your partner feels that you don’t desire them. Henceforth, a vicious circle begins where you both fear that sex will lead to feeling further apart, rather than closer together.
ED can be caused by many factors. It may be a medical issue and it’s always wise to visit your GP to check for underlying medical conditions, but it could be psychological. Of course, it could be a response to difficulties in your relationship, but your levels of anxiety may be the main problem.
The nervous system is involved in your ability to become sexually aroused and for erections to occur, as well as being instrumental in enabling the fight or flight response when you feel under threat. The strand of the nervous system that takes over in stressful situations when panic or anxiety sets in, causes blood to flow away from the penis to other parts of the body that might need it more.
So the more you worry about not having an erection and focus on trying to get one, with you partner looking on expectantly, the more pressure and anxiety builds, making the much anticipated erection all the more shy!
It might be that you both need to stop trying. Perhaps take penetrative sex off the menu. Enjoy, explore and play with each other’s bodies, without the pressure of needing an erection. You might even find that spending this time being sensual and intimate in this way opens up a new world of sexual pleasure and possibilities. Get creative, use oils and lotions to touch each other, say what you’d like to do or have done to each other.
This teasing and playfulness can be a real turn-on. You will probably find that your erections return and when you are both ready, you could re-introduce penetration. If ED occurs again, you both might have more confidence knowing that it’s anxiety and erections that are not a good sexual partnership, rather than you and your partner.
By Charlotte Simpson