Information if your partner has erection problems

This page is for people whose partner has erection problems, sometimes called erectile dysfunction (ED) – problems getting or keeping an erection.

Having erection problems can happen naturally as men get older, or if they’re overweight or have other health conditions such as diabetes[1]. 

ED is very common in men over 40,[2,3] but can also happen in younger men too. It can happen to many men from time to time, and is usually nothing to worry about.

You may find it helpful to read our other pages about ED, including what causes ED and what treatments are available, such as Viagra.

My partner has erection problems, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. What can I do?

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

It can also be difficult for some men to bring up the subject with their partner, even if you’re very close or have been together for a long time. Try to remember that this is normal, and everyone deals with things differently.

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

Try finding a place and time that is right for both of you to talk. You could let them know that many men experience erection problems from time to time, and that there is treatment and support available that can help. 

Some people also find that talking to a professional about how they feel can be helpful. They could ask their GP to be referred to a psychologist or counsellor. Or they can refer themselves for counselling through the NHS. Psychologists and counsellors are professionals who are trained to listen. Some psychologist and counselling sessions also welcome partners too, so you can both have space together to talk about how you feel.

If my partner has ED, or takes medicine for ED, will we still be able to have children naturally?

There is no strong evidence to suggest that having ED affects a man’s fertility, or that taking medication for ED affects their fertility either[4]. Therefore, if your partner has ED or takes medicine to treat ED, their fertility won’t be affected. This means that they should still be able to have children naturally.

They can talk to their GP if they’re concerned about fertility. 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.

Where can I get support for myself?

If your partner has erection problems, it may affect how you think and feel about sex[5,6]. You may have less desire for sex (libido) or find sex less enjoyable if your partner has ED[7]. This is normal – many partners of men with ED will feel this way too. There are people you can talk to and places you can go for support.

Remember that there’s 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[8]. 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. They are professionals who are trained to listen. Ask your GP if they can refer you to a psychologist or counsellor. Or you can refer yourself for counselling through the NHS.

Published

December 2020

Next review

December 2021

Reviewed by

Gill Stone MRPharmS

"

We're here for you if you're concerned about a loved one, it doesn't always have to be your own health we support you with.

Gill Stone - MRPharmS

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.

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Further reading on erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction in young men

Support and resources for young men experiencing erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction in gay and bisexual men

Support and resources for gay and bisexual men experiencing erectile dysfunction.

Cancer treatment and erectile dysfunction

Information and support for people experiencing erectile dysfunction in relation to cancer treatment.

References

  1. 1.

    Erectile Dysfunction | Accessed September 24, 2020.

    https://www.baus.org.uk/professionals/sections/erectile_dysfunction.aspx
  2. 2.

    Erectile dysfunction (impotence) | nhs.uk | Published November 13, 2017 | Accessed September 4, 2020.

    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/erection-problems-erectile-dysfunction
  3. 3.

    Mulhall JP, Luo X, Zou KH, Stecher V, Galaznik A | Relationship between age and erectile dysfunction diagnosis or treatment using real-world observational data in the United States | Int J Clin Pract | 2016;70(12):1012-1018 | doi:10.1111/ijcp.12908

  4. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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