erectile dysfunction ED boomers midlife bloggers sexErectile dysfunction happens to many men as they get older.  Your partner may lose his ability to get or maintain an erection. Do you know what to do if that happens in your relationship?

Erectile dysfunction has become a catchall phrase for a wide array of problems related to sexual dysfunction.  Illness, physiological changes, lack of desire and anxiety about sexual performance can all lead to changes in a man’s ability to get an erection.

Sometimes the erection is normal, at other times it may not be firm enough for penetration. He may not be able to get erect at all.  Any of these conditions can erode a man’s self esteem and create challenges for your relationship.

It’s important to figure out what’s causing the problem. Talking with your partner is the most logical step, but often the most difficult. Is this a problem that calls for medical help, sex therapy or a renewed effort to bring desire back into the relationship?

Is popping a pill the answer?

Understanding Popular ED Medications

Pills like Viagra, Levitra and Cialis may not be the best solution, in spite of their popularity. Cialis is a long-acting medication that helps men achieve an erection for a period of up to 36 hours. Viagra and Levitra are effective for roughly four hours. All three medications begin to take effect within 30 minutes.

Television ads would have us believe that popping one of these little pills melts away all barriers to sexual satisfaction. We assume that the pill will produce an erection, but that’s not quite right.  It is the presence of arousal that causes the erection. The drugs make it easier to get an erection by increasing blood flow to the penis. But, if he’s not aroused he is not going to get an erection.

What if the pill doesn’t work for him? This is why it’s important to have a conversation with your partner, or encourage him to talk to his doctor.  An inability to have an erection may have underlying causes that increased blood flow alone won’t “fix.”

So, How Do You Deal with Erectile Dysfunction?

Face it. With age the likelihood of ED increases. At some point your partner may experience a change in his sexual performance. It’s perfectly natural. And, you have to figure out a way to be supportive when this happens.

The first thing you can do is remind him that sex does not have to be solely focused on penetration. Men can achieve satisfaction with a partial erection, through oral or manual stimulation.  A meaningful sexual experience requires a shift in thinking about how you define sexual interaction and satisfaction.

Try moving the focus from ejaculation, or orgasm, to a more playful, exploratory session where you seek to give and receive pleasure—pleasure that is not dependent on orgasm.  The less goal-oriented behavior might bring you both to new levels of pleasure.

There are ways to continue having satisfying sex, for both of you, if you’re willing to experiment. He may need more time for arousal. Or he may need you to learn new techniques that will help him get harder or more likely to orgasm.  He may find one of the ED medications helpful

I highly recommend reading Ian Kerner, a sex therapist, who openly talks about his own erectile dysfunction. He writes for Good In Bed and has a weekly sex column on CNN. His book, Passionista, The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Man, isn’t specific to erectile dysfunction, but offers insight into the male anatomy.  You can learn how to help a man sustain an orgasm and delay premature ejaculation. The female counterpart, She Comes First, is a great gift for any man.

The best thing a woman can do in the face of ED is to be open and receptive to her partner. The relationship will be better if you can work together to find ways to please each other sexually. Conversation and experimentation are great tools for dealing with any sexual challenge. I’ve had some personal experience with erectile dysfunction and found that these men were pretty matter of fact and comfortable discussing the subject. I view my role as part cheerleader, part healer when it comes to sex with someone who has sexual challenges.

I wrote an article on how to deal with erectile dysfunction, Let Me Play The Sex Expert Just For a Day, on my blog, A Woman’s Page.  Written in response to a male reader’s questions, I shared my thoughts as a representative of the female gender, offering online and print resources, and trying to lessen the stigma around ED. Because really—men are all about the penis.

A strong relationship thrives on open communication and sharing in good and bad times. Sexual dysfunction isn’t the worst thing we face with aging.  Take the time to read up on sexual dysfunction. Understanding the male anatomy and ways to pleasure a man will help you at any stage of your relationship. The benefits are many—support and understanding, heightened sexual awareness and possibly the opportunity to engage in even better sex. What’s not to like about that scenario?

Walker Thornton blogs at

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