How Do I Deal with His Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

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Hey Wendy,

I’m dating the most wonderful man I’ve met in years. He is kind, he makes me laugh, and is a great communicator. He has a medical condition that requires him to take a medication for a year (he’s 4 months into that year) and it causes ED.

So his dick doesn’t work. He can’t reliably get an erection when we have sex. His testosterone levels are normal. He’s 36, so it’s not his age. It’s just the medication.

We’ve talked it through and we realize that we’ve arrived at this heavy place too early. We should focus on getting to know each other. I’ve become very insecure, although he’s told me that it’s not possible for me to say or do the wrong thing. I just don’t want to pressure him to perform. He’s frustrated and I don’t want to make it worse. He’s happy to take care of me sexually, but I honestly don’t feel very sexy when I know he’s not aroused.

Recently, I told him that I needed a break from trying to have sex. I had so much anxiety every time we got into bed that I couldn’t let things continue as they were. We’re both super affectionate and enjoy sleeping together, so for 2 weeks now, when we spend the night together, we cuddle and kiss, but that’s it.

Now I’m relaxed in bed with him, but putting a lid on my sexuality may have been a mistake. I think he’s begun to stop seeing me as a sexual creature and we seem to be falling into a friendship. He’s even said that maybe we won’t want to have sex by the time he’s able to. We’re both pulling away from each other physically. Are we doomed? Please help.

Sena W – Los Angeles, CA


Hey Sena,

Wow, that’s a lot to deal with. How painful for both of you.

Let’s take a timeout and construct a three-step game plan for you. Ready?

  • Internalize “it’s not personal”
  • Expand your repertoire
  • Lean into your sensuality

First thing’s first: Convince your heart and ego that this is not personal—it’s just modern medicine at work. Only you can figure out how to do this. You might ask for his help here. Perhaps you’d both benefit from verbal reminders from each other when you’re feeling down about the situation. Think “You’re so beautiful,” and “God, I had the craziest, hottest dream about you last night,” or even just an “I’m so into that new shirt your wearing, baby.” Good thing he’s a great communicator because he’s going to need to step up his game in expressing his desire for you so you can feel sexy, and vice versa.

Expanding your repertoire will all but solve the problem you’re both experiencing right now, and it will give you the added bonus of creating a gloriously full sex life that you two can carry forward throughout your relationship. ED happens to pretty much all guys at some point, so this is for all of us, and you two are just getting a head start.

What’s your plan B? And C? And D? And E, F, and G? Penetrative, vag-to-penis sex is not the only way to connect with your partner sexually, so get creative! You guys both have hands and tongues, and then there’s toys. Beyond the obvious ones like vibrators and dildos, you could get really brave and experimental with strap-ons. It doesn’t have to be a ten-inch rainbow-colored cock with a unicorn painted on the tip, but hey, the sky’s the limit.

Wait…whaaaat? I know, I know, take a breath.

In order to go any of these places with him, he’ll need to wrap his head all the way around “it’s not personal” and check his ego at the door. If he can ditch “I’m inadequate” and replace it with “hey, let’s play!” then this could work. And no one has to be good at any of this stuff right out the gate. It will be awkward with a capital A. Are you two willing to be silly and play?

You could take the sensual route with slow, yummy sensation play, as well. You blindfolded, him with a feather, then an ice cube, or him feeding you a strawberry then using your vibrator on you just the way you like it. You can do the same for him and use oral without the goal of finishing the job or even achieving a hard penis. Check with him first, of course, but oral probably still feels good when he’s flaccid, and his balls will probably appreciate a “howdy”.

Basically, I’m asking you to take traditional, penetrative sex completely off the table for now—and to be okay with that. Need more ideas? You can Google. Read books. Watch YouTube videos. And be willing to say, “I don’t know if I’ll like it, but we can try.”

The key to this whole thing is play. This is science-experimenting things out to see what brings each of you pleasure and joy. You’ve got to be willing to:

  • Play
  • Experiment
  • Fail

And when you fail hard and the science experiment goes south, all you need to say is, “Whoops! Let’s try something else.” No one’s in trouble here. No harm, no foul. The activity just stops and you two snuggle for a while until you’re both back to “good.”

Lean into your sensuality—yes, even without an erection present. You might need to fake it until you make it for a minute because you’ve pulled back from this, but it’s possible.

Here’s what doesn’t work: Pulling back, playing it cool, backing off. Falling into the mutual friend zone. Sympathizing, consoling, and soothing brings out your “mother” energy. Cool, dispassionate, and maternal is not where your sexy, hot “siren” energy lives. And if you were him, which of those two energies would you want to have sex with?

So bring all of your juicy energy. Start with whatever is most natural to you. Is it sweet and playful? Or is it fierce and take-charge? Is she a tease? Or is she shy but willing? Bring her out to play and show him how much you want him. Something that will make you really sexy to him is showing him you desire him.

Notice that I haven’t mentioned medications to counter the side effects of his medication, like Viagra or Cialis. They’re out there, but I’ll let you sort that since I’m not a medical doctor.

Good luck making it through this eight-month stretch and remember that the exploration you do together now has the potential to turn into a lifelong advantage for your relationship.