Health advice

How to deal with erectile dysfunction in a relationship

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Erectile dysfunction can be difficult for both people in a relationship. Find out how you can support one another if one of you has erectile dysfunction and who you can talk to for more information and support.
How erectile dysfunction can impact relationships

If you have ED, it is not unusual for it to impact your sexual relationships or ability to make new connections.

Studies have shown that ED can impact your confidence and self-esteem which can also affect your relationships. Some men report “not feeling like a man” or that “they were letting their partners down”. These feelings can be distressing and lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.1

You may find it difficult to discuss your feelings about ED and your relationships with those closest to you. If you find sharing difficult, you may prefer talking to your GP or a counsellor. There are ways that a GP can help you to improve your symptoms of ED.

How can I support a partner with ED?

If you are a partner of someone with ED, you may find that it affects the way you feel about yourself and your relationship. The situation might make you feel less confident or impact your body image. It’s important to try and maintain open lines of communication with your partner.

It is understandable to feel as though your partner may no longer be attracted to you, but ED has many different triggers. Your partner’s ED symptoms may be a result of a physical condition or challenges with their mental wellbeing.

If you can, be supportive and seek relationship counselling if it is accessible to you.

How can ED affect same-sex relationships?

A lot of the feelings that men experience when they have ED, such as frustration, anger or disappointment, are often the same for all men. But if you’re gay or bisexual, or a man who has sex with men, you may have additional thoughts or concerns about how ED may affect you.

You can always talk to your GP or another health professional about ED.

All health professionals are trained in sensitivity and equality so should provide the same care and support to everyone, regardless of your sexuality.

My partner has ED, but they don’t want to talk about it. What can I do?

Talking about ED can be difficult for some people. They might not feel comfortable talking to a health professional, such as their GP or a pharmacist, about problems relating to their sex life.2

It can also be difficult for some people to talk about ED with their partner, even if you are very close or have been together for a long time. Try to remember that everyone deals with things differently.2

Your partner may feel worried or embarrassed about bringing up the subject of ED with you, so initiating a conversation and talking things through might be a relief for you both.

Try to find a time and place that is right for both of you to talk. You could let them know that erection problems are very common and there are several reasons why they may be experiencing ED. It may also help to reassure them that there is support available to improve symptoms of ED.2

Some people find it helpful to talk to a professional about how they feel. If you are worried about your partner’s ED, they can talk to their GP, who can discuss treatment options with them. This might include referral to a counsellor or psychologist if you would like to talk to someone about what you are going through.

Psychologists and counsellors are professionals who are trained to listen and provide coping mechanisms for things you may be struggling with. Some psychologist and counselling sessions also welcome partners too, so you can both have a safe space to talk about how you feel.

There are also different types of medication your partner can use to help keep and maintain an erection. It includes medication such as Sildenafil or Tadalafil. You can find out more about ED medication here.

If my partner has ED, or takes medicine for ED, will it affect their fertility?

If you have ED, you should still be able to conceive a child. Taking medicines for ED shouldn’t affect fertility either.3 This means that you and your partner should still be able to have children naturally.

If you are worried about your or your partner’s fertility, you can talk to your GP. They may be able to refer you both to a fertility specialist. They are health professionals who specialise in helping people to have children. The NHS website also has some information about fertility services.

Support for partners

If your partner has erection problems, it may affect how you think and feel about sex.4,5

If your partner has ED, it is not unusual for it to impact you as well. Some common ways ED may impact you include having less desire for sex (libido) or you may find sex less enjoyable.6

Remember, ED doesn’t always mean that your partner isn’t attracted to you. There are many reasons why someone may be experiencing ED. You can find out about several different causes of ED here.

If you feel like you have been impacted by ED in your relationship, you can always talk to a professional about it.

Remember that there are other ways to feel close and intimate with your partner. Some couples may find that having these types of health problems can bring them closer together.7 Talking about things together and being honest about how you feel may help.

You can also talk to your own GP about how you’re feeling. They may suggest you talk to a counsellor or psychologist, either on your own or with your partner. Your GP can refer you to a psychologist or counsellor, or you can refer yourself on the NHS website.

Where can I get further support and information?

There are a number of organisations and charities offering support and information. Partners can contact these organisations to get support and information for themselves.

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
01455 883 300
Find a registered counsellor or psychologist near you.

British Pregnancy Advisory Service
03457 304 030
Information about erectile dysfunction and fertility.

NHS website
Information about erectile dysfunction, treatment options and support.

Sexual Advice Association
Information for men about erectile dysfunction.

  1. Tomlinson J, Wright, D | Impact of erectile dysfunction and its subsequent treatment with sildenafil: qualitative study | BMJ. 2004 May 1; 328(7447): 1037. doi: 10.1136/bmj.38044.662176.EE
  2. Erectile dysfunction (impotence) | | Published November 13, 2017 | Accessed September 4, 2020.
  3. How to Respond When Your Partner Experiences Erectile Dysfunction (ED) Published 01 December 2023 Accessed Wednesday 7 February,helpful%20and%20is%20completely%20normal.
  4. Purvis K, Muirhead GJ, Harness JA | The effects of sildenafil on human sperm function in healthy volunteers | Br J Clin Pharmacol | 2002;53(Suppl 1):53S-60S | doi:10.1046/j.0306-5251.2001.00033.x
  5. Greenstein A, Abramov L, Matzkin H, Chen J | Sexual dysfunction in women partners of men with erectile dysfunction | Int J Impot Res | 2006;18(1):44-46 | doi:10.1038/sj.ijir.3901367
  6. Nelson CJ | The impact of male sexual dysfunction on the female partner | Curr Sex Health Rep | 2006;3(1):37-41 | doi:10.1007/s11930-006-0025-3
  7. Heiman JR, Talley DR, Bailen JL, et al | Sexual function and satisfaction in heterosexual couples when men are administered sildenafil citrate (Viagra) for erectile dysfunction: a multicentre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial | BJOG Int J Obstet Gynaecol | 2007;114(4):437-447 | doi:10.1111/j.1471-0528.2006.01228.x
  8. O’Connor EJ, McCabe MP, Conaglen HM, Conaglen JP | Attitudes and experiences: qualitative perspectives on erectile dysfunction from the female partner | J Health Psychol | 2012;17(1):3-13 | doi:10.1177/1359105311404723

Published: March 2024
Next review: March 2026
Reviewed by: Connie Whewall, Pharmacist

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