The first step in dealing with erection problems within a relationship is to discuss the situation openly. Often couples maintain a conspiracy of silence and this may be the cause of increasing tensions in their relationship and will certainly not resolve the problem.
Partners may constructively take the lead by approaching the subject in a way that is non-judgemental and non-pressurising. Reassurance between partners of their continuing affection and love towards each other can help ease tensions and open the way forward for the problem to be solved.
Men sometimes find it easier to avoid opportunities for sex than to discuss their difficulties. Staying up late, going to bed earlier, working long hours, inviting guests to stay are all telltale signs that the issue is being avoided.
Changes in a man's behaviour because of an underlying problem with erection may lead a woman to believe that either he does not find her attractive any more or that he is having an affair. This may cause a variety of reactions. She may feel that it is her fault; she may feel rejected or resentful. She may try to put pressure on her partner to have sex in the mistaken believe that she can 'fix' him. All of these feelings can extend into the fuller relationship leading to minor rows and frostiness.
Men may hold the view that full penetrative sex is essential and therefore, if this does not work sex is pointless and he is a failure. However, his partner may hold the view that sexual intercourse is an opportunity for affection and intimacy and may be just as happy with alternatives to penetration. Expressing feelings openly may help the male partner to appreciate that he is not under such pressure 'to perform' and this may ease any feelings of inadequacy. It can be useful for the couple to take the approach of simply enjoy caressing and close contact for a while.
If these strategies are not successful, then outside help may be required. Often women can take the lead in arranging to see the family doctor, by having an initial discussion with the GP. Where it is the man who arranges a consultation, it may be helpful for his partner to attend as well. In some cases, the GP may feel that referral to counselling or a specialist is appropriate.
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