How To Talk About Erectile Dysfunction Together

Dear Mr. Manners: My husband seems to be suffering from erectile dysfunction but I don’t really know how to broach the topic – or even if I should. What’s the best thing to do or say? Help, please! – A lonely wife

A: First of all, know that your husband is hardly alone; millions and millions of American men are affected by what’s called erectile dysfunction (ED), not to mention the less direct effects this condition can have on spouses, like you. So, I’m glad you reached out – especially because all the TV advertisements for ED could lead you to think that popping a pill is the simple answer to fire up your tiger’s tiger.

As you may know, ED is an honest-to-god-real-life medical condition, defined by the inability to achieve or sustain an erection long enough for sexual intercourse. It can be brought about by depression, stress, anxiety or aging. However, its most frequent cause is undiagnosed conditions like high cholesterol, diabetes, even early heart disease — as well as the medications often used to combat these ailments (notably high blood pressure drugs). I tell you this for two reasons: Why should there be such a stigma for a medical condition? And second, many women tend to see impotence as a sexual or relationship issue, blaming themselves if not their partners. That’s not so helpful.
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