If you have erectile dysfunction (ED), your sex life is likely to be different than it was before. It can be frustrating or disappointing for you and your partner. But if you keep an open mind, you can find exciting new ways to have intimacy together.
“A lot of times people have the notion of what is socialized in the media: that sex means you have an erection, that there is penetration with sex, and that ends in an orgasm. Sex is much broader than that, ”says Tameca Harris-Jackson, PhD, certified sex educator in Winter Park, Florida.
Start with an exam
Erectile dysfunction means that you cannot get an erection all or part of the time, or long enough to have penetrative sex. But it is still possible for you to have an orgasm and ejaculate without an erection.
First of all, talk to your doctor. They need to understand what is causing your erectile dysfunction. Health problems like heart disease and type 2 diabetes could be the cause. The same is true for some mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Certain medications, including antihypertensive drugs and antidepressants, can also cause erectile dysfunction.
Once you rule out a health issue, you and your partner can begin to explore what your new sex life will be like.
Be aware of everyone’s emotions
Knowing the cause of your erectile dysfunction can allay any fear your partner may be feeling, says Madelyn Esposito-Smith, a certified sex therapist and mental health clinician at the University of Wisconsin Health in Madison. “One of the first things I recommend to the men I work with is to just communicate with their partner that it’s not a personal thing. It is not something that they are doing wrong. “
Eric Garrison agrees. He is president of the certification branch of the American Association of Sexuality Educators and a certified sexuality counselor in Tidewater, Virginia. “When you become the expert on your own sexual health and sexual pleasure, and you can share that with others, it really helps the conversation,” he says.
An open conversation with your partner can be very helpful for your relationship. But it could also make you uncomfortable and vulnerable, says Kristen Lilla, a certified sex therapist and registered clinical social worker in Omaha, NE. It’s important that your partner tries not to judge you, she says. If they only want sex with an erection, you both might benefit from working with a sex therapist who can help you both broaden your horizons.
Learn what else you love
Talk to each other about what turns you on and gives you pleasure, even if you’ve been together for years.
“Really take the time to understand: what do you like? What am I doing that makes you feel good beyond penis and vagina or penis and anus? Harris-Jackson said.
If you still get an erection sometimes, tell your partner what feels good when you have one – and what feels good when you don’t, Garrison says. “You can easily say, ‘When I have an erection, I like this, this, and that. When I don’t have an erection, I like to have my ear licked, my elbow rubbed, my left toe massaged … “
An intimacy-building exercise called sensory focus can help you and your partner get a better idea of where and how you like to be touched. During therapy sessions, Lilla asks a couple to try the exercise fully clothed, touching each other from the neck up. “It’s a really intimate experience, but it’s not necessarily sex-oriented, and for some people, it’s relaxing and connecting.”
You and your partner can practice sensory focus with a therapist guiding you, or you can try it at home, says Harris-Jackson. “The goal is to learn to explore the body of the other. Take the time to caress, kiss and verbalize what it feels like without penetration, without oral sex, so that no one has to have an erection.
Refine your preliminary skills
Start simple if you prefer: you can rekindle the intimacy by holding hands, kissing or cuddling naked.
Or maybe you and your partner are ready for more adventurous options, like oral sex, mutual masturbation, or sex toys.
If you’re ready to explore sex toys (like a vibrator or dildo) but don’t feel comfortable walking into a store that sells them, browse online with your partner, Lilla says. It’s important to shop together, she says, “instead of feeling like it’s one person’s job or one person is putting that expectation on the other.”
If your partner wants to try a sex toy and you don’t, offer an alternative, she says. You could say something like, “Well, I don’t feel comfortable with a sex toy, but maybe we could try cuddling naked or maybe we could take a bath together.” “
Sex without erection
It’s possible. “Sometimes people call it ‘the stuffing method’ where it’s about putting a flaccid penis inside,” Lilla says. “It will probably be easier with a vaginal canal than with an anus.”
Try not to think about how sex used to feel and make sure it is comfortable for both partners, Harris-Jackson says.
Keep a practical and positive mindset
Explore and indulge yourself in new ways. It helps “remove that goal-directed or goal-driven idea that ‘we need to have penetrating sex that leads to orgasm,’ says Harris-Jackson.
Instead, focus on how to make the measurement fun, rather than the performance, says Esposito-Smith.
Or as Garrison puts it, “How can we optimize sex rather than how to maximize it?” … I think if more people could get that in their minds, sex would be so much more enjoyable for everyone, whether you get an erection or not.
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