If you suspect your boyfriend might be struggling with erectile dysfunction, you might have questions like: “How can I please him?” “Is there something wrong with him or with me?” “Can I do more to support him through this?” Helping a partner with erectile dysfunction, otherwise known as impotence, starts with educating yourself.
10 ways to help a partner with erectile dysfunction
1. Learn the signs of ED
Erectile dysfunction goes beyond a few encounters where your partner isn’t in the mood. You’re likely to notice a pattern where your partner gets hard, but very quickly loses the erection, or never gets erect, no matter the amount of stimulation or foreplay involved. Read our guide to better learn the signs of ED.
2. Know that you are not the problem
There are any number of common causes for ED, ranging from physical to mental. Anything from high blood sugar to stress and depression can cause a person to experience difficulty getting and maintaining an erection.
“When a person is in a relationship, dealing with erectile dysfunction can impact all parties who are sexually involved,” Joy Berkheimer, LMFT, tells MysteryVibe. “The person with the dysfunction can experience embarrassment or negative self-talk around the narrative that they are ‘less than a man.’”
While a trip to the urologist can make a big difference in tackling ED, Berkheimer asserts that partners don’t often think that something medical is the issue. Instead, they view themselves as the problem, and fail to communicate with each other about the insecurities involved.
3. Educate yourself about ED
Erectile dysfunction is one of the most common types of sexual dysfunction, affecting over 30 million penis owners in the United States, but it goes largely underreported. This may be because of the stigma that ED somehow makes you an inadequate lover or less of a man. This, of course, is not true. Lean into the many resources out there that explain erectile dysfunction, so you can learn to have productive conversations that don’t make your boyfriend feel guilty or insufficient in bed.
4. Open the lines of communication
Berkheimer recommends doing your research and being prepared that during that initial conversation, your partner might deny the issue, feel discomfort, or become defensive. Being equipped with the facts will help you state clearly that you’re there to help, and that there’s no need to be ashamed.
“Ultimately you don’t want to tote yourself as the expert over your partner's body, but rather open his mind to possible causes and support him in seeing a doctor who has several options to get him back to the sex life he had prior,” Berkheimer says.
Even though it’s natural to wonder if your partner’s difficulty getting hard has to do with you, remember that your partner is likely to be feeling bad about himself, and cognizant of the ways he might be making you feel too. Resist asking if “it's you,” and instead trust that with healthy and open-hearted communication, your partner will comfortably share if there’s a problem with the relationship.
5. Help them navigate treatment options if they want or need that
Your partner might not want help looking at treatment options or finding a urologist or a therapist. Be sensitive when offering your support in navigating this process. It isn’t easy to ask for help, but you can gently make it known that you’re around by suggesting things like: “I have plenty of bandwidth today if you want me to do any research on doctors or therapists nearby. Just let me know.” “Want me to go to that appointment with you? Totally fine if not, but know that I’m here for moral support.”
If your partner does want an extra hand in charting their course forward, lean on resources offered by your insurance to find a urologist in-network. They can be an instrumental first step in evaluating what ED treatment option is best.
6. Be patient
Try to resist any irritation or anger that bubbles up if your partner “still” can’t get hard. Even after the core issue has been addressed, this doesn’t mean he’ll be able to get hard and stay hard 100% of your attempts at intimacy. Even after seeking treatment, there can be a lot of pressure to perform, which can lead to sexual performance anxiety and subsequently cause ED. Taking the pressure off your partner and being patient can only help.
7. Maintain your partner’s privacy
If you’re someone who likes to externally process with friends or family, it may be difficult to keep such a big issue in your relationship to yourself. But if a close friend slips to your partner that they know about his ED, this can lead to a deeper shame spiral and a longer road to successful sex. Turn to a therapist or sex counselor, or rely on your partner when you’re feeling troubled. If you do want to discuss the issue with a close friend or confidante, communicate first with your partner to gauge their comfort level.
8. Stay open to new ways of expressing affection
“Don’t run away from your partner’s attempts to share their love language in other ways,” Berkheimer suggests. There’s a myriad of creative ways to grow closer to a partner without involving your genitals.
9. When in doubt, ask
If you’re doubting whether your boyfriend wants you to initiate sex, or initiate sex in the same way you once did, simply ask them what they’d be comfortable with going forward.
10. Find ways to reassure your partner with ED
If you’re looking to reassure a man with ED, bear in mind that gentle encouragement and creating a supportive space to talk through issues can go a long way. Your partner may feel vulnerable knowing that a very personal part of their body is on display. Make them feel safe to express themselves by saying things like:
- “I’m here to talk, but no pressure to open a discussion you’re not ready for.”
- “We’re in this together. How do you feel I can best support you?”
- “I want to reassure you that you’re a great man and a great partner, no matter what.”
How to please a man with ED
It is possible to have a fulfilling sex life even when erectile dysfunction enters the equation. If your partner hasn’t specifically requested you avoid his genitals, you can give his penis all of the attention you two are comfortable with. After all, ED doesn’t mean your partner has lost sensation. If you’re looking for tools or techniques specific to augmenting your sex life when your partner has ED, here are a couple things to try.
1. Redefine what sex means for you and your partner
There are plenty of ways to experience sex and pleasure that have nothing to do with intercourse. Ask yourself and your partner what it is about sex that feeds a need for you. Is it physical closeness? Is it providing or receiving orgasms? Get curious about how these needs can be met without actual penetration.
2. Explore soft penis play
Whether with your hands or with your tongue, stimulation can be enjoyable for your partner whether he has an erection or not. Playing with their flaccid penis using lubrication provides a great opportunity to reconnect with your partner’s genitals and their body as a whole. Communicate through the process, asking what feels good. Experiment with intensities, motions, and speed.
3. Luxuriate in foreplay
Kissing, caressing, oral, nipple play — get innovative when it comes to everything leading up to “the main event” if you are planning on trying intercourse. When you and your partner are thoroughly stimulated, mentally and physically, you might find more success in letting loose, maintaining arousal, or simply having more fun. Think about incorporating a kink or a role playing dynamic you wouldn’t have normally explored, or take more time than you usually would on the heavy petting.
4. Treat one another to an erotic massage
When it comes to enhancing pleasure, giving sensual massage can be especially valuable, particularly if you’re overcoming erectile dysfunction as a couple. As you pleasure every part of your partner’s body, mindfully apply different pressures, paces, or even temperatures. “This touch session allows your partner to be in the receiving mode, which is a form of being loved and honored, just as you are,” Berkheimer tells MysteryVibe.
5. Invest in the right pleasure products
When it comes to managing ED, sex toys are your friend. Invest in a product that will work harder for you, so you and your partner can relax and enjoy. A wearable male vibrator, like the Tenuto 2, for example, can help men get erect, and stay erect.
6. Work on understanding one another’s needs
Take this time to dig into sides of your sexuality that you may not have had time to before, and explore them with your partner. Discuss any sensitive or more taboo desires. Get in touch with what each of you craves to build upon this for more satisfying, intimate experiences. When your partner has ED, it can be a great opportunity to get creative in ways you hadn’t before.
Supporting your boyfriend with erectile dysfunction can mean encouraging them to seek medical advice, investigating alternate ways to make each other feel good, or just lending an ear whenever they’d like to talk through the problem. When it comes to pleasing your partner with ED, it can be a time to get creative. Who knows - you may find out something exciting about your own sexual interests, or uncover a new way to have amazing sex with ED.