A survey of 129 adult partners of men with erectile dysfunction found high levels of relationship stress and a general lack of communication.
Over 30 million men in the United States have erectile dysfunction. The impact goes beyond the physical. ED can have a profound effect on a man’s confidence, self-esteem, and quality of life. In some cases it can trigger anxiety and depression.
Erectile dysfunction can also have a profound impact on the partners of men with ED, and this impact is seldom studied or discussed.
A survey of adult partners of men with ED found that a significant majority of respondents experienced some impact of a major impact on their confidence, overall happiness, and feelings about their relationship.
A survey instrument consisting of 21 questions was presented online. 152 participants began the survey, but 23 did not complete the survey, or were disqualified, leaving a 129 valid responses.
Partners of men with ED were more open that their spouses to talking about ED, exploring alternate means of sexual satisfaction, and getting help from a counselor, therapist or intimacy coach.
Because of feelings of embarrassment and shame, men are often uncomfortable talking about their condition or seeking help. This often compounds the emotional issues faced by their partners, who often feel isolated and hopeless.
Almost two-thirds (63.5%) of partners of men with ED were very interested in exploring ways to improve their sex lives, suggesting a strong opportunity for intimacy coaches and counselors.
In addition to quantitative questions, the survey presented open-ended questions which allowed participants to express their feelings and concerns. These responses show the extreme distress of those in relationships with men suffering from ED. A few of the responses are shown below:
He’s too focused on his embarrassment and anger at the situation to hear me when I try to tell him how rejected I feel.
I feel guilty if I have a climax because he rarely can sustain any activity to that point. And it’s exhausting trying to keep things going when he really isn’t able but wants to keep trying. And I feel guilty about not wanting to keep working at it when it just doesn’t work.
I love him dearly but it’s hard not to have intimacy. He avoids contact because he thinks it might lead to something and he will fail.
I refuse to give up sex, masturbation does not relieve the “pressure” the same as sex did, I am beginning to mentally decide if cheating is my only solution… it would be the first time in 40 years of monogamy but may be the only way to stay sane. It is not fair to me to give up sex after 38 years of great sex, I resent it more and more.
I feel like he doesn’t care enough about the impact it has on me to try the available means of help. He is in total control. I have none. I would try whatever to make things better if the roles were reversed.
He has become angry and argumentative and when it first started 12 years ago blamed me.
I wish he would at least discuss it with others with ED and/or his family physician. It hurts me that without physical attention, it makes me feel like he doesn’t love me.
I miss the physical closeness we once shared. I feel bad for him that he can no longer satisfy his needs and I understand his frustration. However, my need for physical closeness, even simply cuddling, aren’t being addressed and sometimes I feel ignored or just very sad.
I feel lost, he has a solution but still the physical connection that used to be between us is lacking, he seems scared to start anything just in case he can’t finish it and sees no other side to intimacy other than sex and that leave me on the outside of what to everyone else is a loving happy marriage looking in on the man I love but who is making me miserable.
It has been difficult because he doesn’t want to talk about it. I feel very lonely and disconnected from my husband. I think he must feel the same way but avoids talking about it.
He acts highly immature and defensive when he loses his erection during sex. Causing him to withdraw in many ways. He shuts down when I try and discuss it and he won’t try other forms of intimacy. I notice when he drinks he seems more willing to try things. He doesn’t touch me, communicate nor does he initiate sex. It’s taken a major toll on my sex appeal, self esteem and self-worth. The majority of participants stated that their man does not understand the impact of ED on their relationship.