Physical pleasure, feel-good hormones, increased closeness – there are so many reasons people crave a healthy sex life. While busy lives can get in the way of regular intimacy, most Canadians are able to find the time and energy to do it on a regular basis. But what if a couple is facing other barriers in the bedroom?

Yes, we’re talking about erectile dysfunction. If you’re a Canadian man over 50, there’s a 50% chance you will deal with this at some level in your lifetime. While there are definitely medical ways to alleviate these challenges, it’s a good idea to consider a partner’s needs and feelings.

There are many ways you can manage intimacy without an erection while working towards a treatment plan. Good old fashioned communication and a basic understanding of the research around sexuality can help ensure a partner’s needs are met even when things aren’t working 100%. Here are the two main things your partner could be missing if you have erectile dysfunction, and how you can help fulfill their needs.

Common Problem #1: A partner is missing the emotional closeness of sex.

Most people know that sex releases the feel-good hormone oxytocin, but they may not know just how vital those can be to building a bond between two people. Oxytocin has serious bonding power, so it’s no surprise that couples with higher levels of the hormone tend to have longer, happier relationships.

Besides missing out on the hormones, partners can feel emotional distance when a partner with ED refuses to communicate about the issue. If you allow a once healthy sex life to fizzle with no explanation, you could be causing unnecessary stress and damage to your relationship. There’s absolutely no reason to be ashamed of a treatable medical condition shared by a large percentage of the population.

Here’s the good news: A long hug can release the exact same hormones as sex, especially if skin-to-skin contact is on the menu. Combine the cuddling with an honest conversation and some ED treatment, and you could be on your way to a healthier relationship.

Common Problem #2: A partner is missing the pleasure of sex.

There’s obviously more than one way to give a partner pleasure in the bedroom, but it isn’t always easy to adjust to a sex life without intercourse.

It may be worthwhile to see a sex therapist to open a dialog about what alternatives make the most sense in your relationship. What feels the best for your partner? Is it important to them that you also enjoy yourself? What are their needs, exactly? Solutions can range from adult toys to tips on manual stimulation, but it all starts with a conversation.

The best thing for you and your partner is information

If your partner is distressed at your erectile dysfunction, it usually means that they value your intimate relationship. They may also be concerned that they are to blame for your lack of interest in the bedroom. This can come out in negative ways, such as withdrawing, frustration, anger or self-blame.

Many men want their partners to be supportive when they are dealing with ED, but let’s be honest – it’s easier to be supportive when you know what exactly you’re supporting.

You should talk to a specialist as soon as you start experiencing symptoms of ED. This will frame the issue medically, helping to remove stigma or shame and move towards real solutions. Show that you care about the intimacy you share with your partner, but don’t apologize for your medical condition – recognize it, address it, and treat it.

If you live in the Toronto or Vancouver area, our doctors at FullMast Men’s Health Clinic are here to help. For your free, confidential consultation, call us at 1-844-500-1177 or schedule an appointment online today.

Written by Shauna Vert