Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common condition that can affect men everywhere, in fact more than half of men aged 40-70 have been affected. But, up until now, how this difficult subject affects these men's partners is something that has largely been ignored by experts, especially female partners, who may understand very little about erectile dysfunction themselves.
In a bid to understand how ED affects partners, especially women, Superdrug Online Doctor has published an in-depth report examining how women feel when their partners suffer from ED, how they broach the subject with their partners and, most importantly, what helps them navigate this challenging issue in their relationship to ultimately help couples tackle the issue together in a united, caring and sensitive way.
For men struggling with erectile dysfunction, pressure to perform can be stressful - so, unsurprisingly, many come up with excuses to avoid sex. When asked to identify the reasons they thought their partner used to avoid sex, 19% of women said their partner has claimed to be too tired for sex, nearly 14% said he used the age-old "not in the mood" excuse, and 12% alleged he said he had drunk too much.
Interestingly though, 29% of men reported that they gave no excuse at all and their female partners provided comments such as: "It got to the point where we would avoid going to bed" and "It was an awkward thing to discuss", an indicator that couples are just avoiding talking about the problem all together.
The research showed that 42% of women feel that their partner's ED is their fault, with almost a fifth (19%) believing their partner no longer finds them attractive. "I thought it was something to do with me" was a comment that was seen time and time again in the report results. Over a third (35%) said it had a negative effect on their relationship, but more than 40% of women questioned didn't take steps to find answers or treatments, perhaps unsurprising given the sensitive nature of the topic.
A PROBLEM SHARED…
Of those women who did seek help, three quarters felt more positive about the situation afterwards and commented that "It made us closer to find a way to solve the problem" and "Initially it made us feel less close but only for a short time. We are much stronger now."
The three most helpful sources were their GP (45%), online research (35%) and their own partner, with almost one in 10 claiming their partner was the best source of support. Nearly a quarter felt optimistic that a solution could be found, a fifth (20%) felt better knowing they weren't the cause of the problem and 13% saw an improvement in their relationship after seeking help.
IT TAKES TWO
To help the more than 40% of women who don't do anything about their partner's erectile dysfunction as well as the men experiencing ED themselves, Superdrug Online Doctor has created a messaging app to kickstart the conversation. Men and women can contact their partner in the form of a sensitive note (text, email or Whatsapp) written by Dr Louisa Draper (Superdrug Online Doctor Medical Director) to open up a conversation about ED.
Once couples have got the conversation started, Superdrug Health Ambassador Dr Pixie McKenna has provided her top expert tips to get couples tackling ED together
- Don't ignore the issue, not only won't it go away, it is actually likely to worsen
- Take the problem out of the bedroom when you find the time to talk about it
- Don't rush in and blurt things without thinking about what you are both going to say to each other and the consequences of those words
- It's important to medicalise the problem by referring to it as ED rather than using words with negative connotations such as 'impotence'
- Talking about it is one thing, the next step it tackling it. If you make progress in discussions, the next step is to make an action plan. If at first you don't succeed don't assume this means failed, it just means you haven't yet reached a solution
- Remember the importance of romantic actions and gestures, that peck on the cheek or arm round the should reinforces your bond when you feel that you might be drifting apart
- Nominate a date night; relationships are not just about sex, romance can be key
- Be honest with each other. Speaking about ED is the time to lay your cards on the table and talk frankly about how life is going; stress and depression can be big players where ED is concerned, as can drugs and alcohol
- Do some background reading on ED and the affected partner or the other person in the relationship may recognise that the presenting problem represents far more than not being able to perform. It could be the symptoms of an underlying medical issue so don't dismiss it
- Interact with a health care professional face-to-face or online to find out what treatments are available
Talking about the findings of the research Nicola Hart, Head of Healthcare Services at Superdrug Online Doctor said:
"The results of the Superdrug "It's Not You, It's Not Me, It's ED" survey are surprising. As this survey shows, Erectile Dysfunction affects both partners and we encourage couples to seek help for the condition from a trusted healthcare provider. A free and confidential consultation is available online at Superdrug Online Doctor." Nicola Hart, Head of Healthcare Services.
"To read the "It's Not You, It's Not Me, It's ED' report in full, visit the Superdrug Online Doctor site at https://onlinedoctor.superdrug.com/women-and-ed/