By: Isiah McKimmie
Relationship Therapist and Sexologist
Everything seems to be going well. You and your partner (or your latest Tinder date) are getting cosy and you’re pretty sure you know where this is headed. But as things start to heat up, you encounter a minor hiccup.
Unfortunately, things aren’t quite working as smoothly as hoped for your man. He’s having trouble ‘keeping it up’.
What do you do? Is he not attracted to you? Isn’t he enjoying himself? What’s wrong here?
Let’s be honest: It’s a little awkward and embarrassing for both of you.
We can feel rejected. We can worry about our own performance. We can feel afraid of saying anything because we don’t want to draw attention to it and embarrass our man.
Your partner is likely to have his own concerns. He’s probably worried that you think he’s not attracted to you. He can feel emasculated. And he’s probably worried there’s something ‘wrong’ down there.
Firstly, stay calm and look at things rationally.
How you handle this can make a big difference to how this works out going forward. Adding pressure, guilt or shame isn’t going to help here.
If erectile dysfunction isn’t handled well the first time it happens, the anxiety your man will feel about it happening again will pretty much guarantee that it happens again.
Your partner’s lack of rigor does not mean that he’s no longer attracted to you, or that he is instead attracted to someone else.
Erectile Dysfunction is the most common sexual problem men face – and although it becomes more common as they get older, it can happen at any age.
There are many reasons erectile dysfunction occurs.
There can be purely physical reasons such as cardiovascular disease, hormonal issues, diabetes, medications, stress, fatigue, excessive consumption of alcohol, age.
He may be experiencing stress at work or in relationship to something else happening in his life. He may also be experiencing depression or anxiety.
There may be psychological issues such as performance anxiety, unhelpful thoughts of beliefs about sex or past trauma.
There may also be deeper issues in the relationship influencing his ‘performance’ such as relationship tension, feeling controlled, criticised or judged or no longer close to you.
Should you talk about it or just ignore it?
When we experience any kind of sexual challenge, it can be tempting to just ignore it so we don’t have to have any awkward conversations. The best thing to do though is to bring everything into the open.
Try to stay open and non-judgmental about what is happening.
You can say something like: I notice you’re a little soft right now. Are you not enjoying what I’m doing or is it something else?
Reassure him that it’s totally okay; it happens. Let him know that you’re not angry or upset.
Ask if he’s happy to keep enjoying each other anyway.
A soft penis doesn’t need to be the end of the party.
What to do instead?
Although you both may be feeling a little dejected and disappointed, there are many ways you can stay connected and enjoy yourselves.
A flaccid penis can be enjoyed and enjoyable. He may still enjoy being touched, stroked and licked – all over his body.
And just because he’s not having an orgasm doesn’t mean you need to miss out too. Your partner will probably still like seeing you enjoy yourself. He can use his hands or mouth to pleasure you, or perhaps a toy if this is something you are both comfortable with and have tried before.
You can simply enjoy kissing and stroking each other or talking together.
It’s possible that as you both relax and focus on enjoying yourselves his erection will return, but if it doesn’t that’s okay.
When to seek help
It can be a delicate balance when dealing with men to talk about what’s going on and give them enough time in the man cave to sort it out for themselves.
The truth is problems in our sex life and relationship are normal and it’s normal to seek help.
If this is happening more than 25% of the time over a period of 2-3 months, it’s time to seek support. Also pay attention to see if your man is avoiding being intimate because of this problem. Erectile dysfunction can also lead to low libido.
How to talk about it
This is a sensitive topic. It’s likely your man feels embarrassed and disappointed in himself, so approach him gently.
Ensure you stay open and non-judgmental when talking about this. Don’t focus on you feeling rejected or let down, focus on how he might be feeling.
A good way to bring this up is to let him know that you’re concerned about him. He might not want to hear this, but erectile dysfunction is frequently an early warning sign of concerning health issues.
It’s important for you both to know that this can be treated. Medications treating sexual dysfunction are now readily available and a good therapist can help him overcome anxiety, psychological issues and relationship issues.
Suggest he starts with a visit to his GP to make sure everything is okay physically. If everything checks out, it will be helpful for him to start examining psychological or relationship issues.
I would suggest seeing a Relationship and Sex Therapist together to help you work through this. A good therapist can help you discover what might be going on psychologically and in the relationship and give you advice and practical suggestions on how to solve it so you can both enjoy intimacy again.
Isiah McKimmie is a Relationship Therapist and Sexologist who has been helping individuals and couples improve their sex lives and relationships for almost a decade. Find out more here.