Helping men sort problems like erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation
Reviewed by our clinical team
Erectile dysfunction (ED) and premature ejaculation (PE) are two types of sexual dysfunction that can affect men. Around half of all men aged between 40 and 70 are thought to experience ED to some extent. This study looked specifically at the “aging male”, but we know that in the last two decades ED has also become an issue for men in their 20s and 30s. Premature ejaculation, on the other hand, is more common in younger men.
Despite being very common, these types of sexual disorders are not widely spoken about. Lots of men who experience ED or PE feel ashamed or embarrassed about their symptoms, and scared about the impact they’re having on their sex lives and relationships.
The good news is, there are effective treatment options available, which means there’s no need to suffer in silence. If you have a partner who is struggling with ED or PE and needs a push to get help, read on for some tips about addressing the issue.
How do I help my partner with his erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation?
Start a conversation
If ED or PE is the “elephant in the room” when it comes to your sex life, both of you may feel nervous to bring it up and worried about how the other person will react. But the sooner you can start talking about it, the sooner you can begin to overcome the problem.
Before you start talking to your partner, have a think about what it is that you like or don’t like about the sex you are currently having. Once it’s a bit clearer in your mind what the issues are, try and have a chat with your partner about how they feel about sex and what sex feels like and whether they are happy with the way things are. A good time to do this might be when you are cuddling up on the sofa or after a sex scene in a movie or series you are watching. Try to be supportive and understanding so your partner doesn’t feel judged or criticised.
It goes without saying that this may be a tough conversation, and that it needs to be navigated with care. If you need help preparing for it, you can find some useful guidance at this page on the Relate website.
For some men watching pornography can be linked to erection issues. Pornography is now available 24/7 wherever you go, so it’s no longer confined to the home or leafing through a top shelf magazine. There is a lively debate out there whether viewing pornography can be addictive or whether this is a compulsive behaviour; but what is known that porn use can spiral out of control and that this can affect someone’s (and their partner’s) sex life. There is some more information about this here from these website:
Starting a conversation about this might be awkward but it’ll be worth it in the end.
Book a GP appointment
Ongoing ED or PE that is getting in the way of a healthy sex life is always worth a trip to the doctor. This is why the next step in the process should be encouraging your partner to book an appointment.
Seeing a doctor is important because the symptoms your partner is experiencing may be a sign of an underlying condition that needs medical treatment. ED can be an early warning sign of cardiovascular problems, for example high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, so it makes sense to get checked for those. ED can sometimes be linked to hormonal problems, but this is less common.
PE can also be caused by underlying conditions like chronic prostatitis, MS or other conditions affecting the nervous system. Some drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine are also linked to PE. This is why it’s really important to get checked by a doctor if the symptoms have been going on for some time.
Support your partner with treatment and medication
The treatment options for ED and PE vary depending on the causes of your partner’s symptoms.
If the cause is an underlying health condition, this should be addressed to prevent complications. For example, he might need medication to lower blood pressure or cholesterol or to treat diabetes or a prostate issue. Very occasionally hormone treatment might be needed. Psychological or lifestyle factors can also cause issues, for example, anxiety stress, financial worries, poor sleep, anxiety or depression, or too much alcohol. Sometimes therapy, including sex therapy or counselling can be helpful for these issues.
Whatever your partner has been prescribed or recommended, he will likely need your support and encouragement in adjusting to his new treatment plan.
Try behavioural techniques for PE
Premature ejaculation can sometimes be treated with behavioural techniques that “teach” the body to ejaculate less quickly. The two main techniques are “stop-start” and “squeeze” and they involve masturbating up to the point of ejaculation before stopping abruptly. This process is repeated several times before ejaculation is allowed to occur.
If you’re both willing, you can help your partner try out these techniques. Having another person “in control” can make it easier to stop before ejaculation. It can also be a good way to build up intimacy and sexual desire between yourself and your partner.
For guidance about trying these techniques, read this article: Behavioural techniques for treating premature ejaculation.
Encourage healthy lifestyle changes
Your partner may be told by his GP to lose weight, quit smoking, reduce alcohol and start exercising as part of a treatment plan for the condition causing their ED.
A great way to support your partner through these changes is to embrace them yourself. You could try exercising together with weekend hikes or gym sessions, embracing healthy home cooking, and making a joint pact to drink less alcohol during the week.
Becoming healthier is always easier if you have someone to share your goals and help with motivation!
Switch things up in the bedroom
Coping with a problem like ED or PE can be easier if you widen your definition of “good sex”. Pleasure and intimacy aren’t all about penetration – you can also try intimate massage, mutual masturbation, oral sex, fingering and sex toys.
If your partner’s ED or PE is psychological in nature, or is worsened by the anxiety he feels around sex because of his symptoms, this kind of experimentation can help. Putting less pressure on traditional penetrative sex means your partner may find it easier to relax and enjoy himself.
Consider relationship counselling or sex therapy
It’s tough to admit it, but issues like ED and PE can be caused by problems in a relationship. If you’ve been together for a long time, the physical attraction between yourself and your partner may dwindle. A loss of intimacy and attraction can also be caused by tensions in your relationship – whether it’s arguments over money and household chores, or the pressures of parenting.
Sitting down with a relationship counsellor can be a great way to address these kinds of issues head on. For specific problems in your sex life, sex therapy can be really helpful – find out more about therapy for ED here.
More guidance can be found in this article: How to support your partner with erectile dysfunction.