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My Husband Has ED & Is Avoiding Sex

Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Reviewed by Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 09/21/2021

Updated 03/29/2024

You’ve been searching the web for advice. “How to help my husband with ED,” “My boyfriend has ED and won’t touch me,” “husband has ED, how do I cope?” — between the explanations of ED medications and performance anxiety, it can be overwhelming to try to figure out what you can do when you feel your partner pulling away. 

First, it’s important to realize that his physical struggles — and subsequent behavior — likely have nothing to do with you. If your boyfriend or husband has erectile dysfunction (ED), any contact can trigger shame, embarrassment, and frustration. Those emotions aren’t exactly a recipe for romance, but they don’t have to signal an end to intimacy.     

Below, we’ve explained why ED happens and what you can do to support someone experiencing it. We’ve also addressed how you can support yourself as you both work through this. TLDR: ED impacts everyone in a relationship, ignoring it is not a solution, and treatment can help turn things around.

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You may feel like you’re the only partner experiencing this, but you’re not alone. Erectile dysfunction affects around 30 million men in the United States, and that isn’t just men of a certain age. A quarter of men dealing with ED are under forty, according to some estimates. Additionally, statistics suggest that over 50 percent of men between the ages of 40 and 70 experience ED at some point in their life. That’s right: more than half. 

These men may experience hits to their self-esteem, sex drive and relationships, which might feel heavy to discuss on date night and awkward to discuss… anywhere. Unfortunately, that means you’re left to get answers on your own. 

We’ll start with the basics. Erectile dysfunction is defined as the inability to maintain an erection firm enough or long enough for sex.

Here’s a quick guide to healthy erectile function:

  • His brain sends nerve signals to his penis. 

  • Blood flow increases and gets trapped in the corpora cavernosa — the two long chambers in the penis. 

  • The penis remains erect until he’s no longer aroused or reaches orgasm and ejaculates. 

  • During the recharge or latency period, erections aren’t possible. This period can last minutes or hours, depending on the man’s age, health and other circumstances.

ED shares some of these factors. Other than age, other common ED causes include cardiovascular issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stress and anxiety, relationship issues, and more.

Men have to talk about their ED issues to maintain a healthy relationship with their partners because this common condition tends to worsen in silence. In one study, 62 percent of men reported that experiencing erectile dysfunction reduced their self-esteem. 

Other studies have shown that men experiencing ED can become avoidant toward intimacy as they become increasingly anxious about their ability to perform.

While sex isn’t the most important thing in a relationship, research has shown that a healthy sex life can contribute to overall relationship satisfaction.

Several studies over the last couple of decades have also found that open communication about sex led couples to be more satisfied with their relationship overall. 

If he’s already feeling ashamed or undesirable, he might avoid the conversation the same way he’s avoiding intimacy. While it’s not necessarily your responsibility to initiate the conversation, compassionately broaching the subject can help him open up.

That’s why we’re sharing tips that can help make discussing ED with your partner more manageable. 

It may take a bit of a leap of faith, but once you’re able to talk to your partner about ED, you’ll likely find you feel better about it.

Find a Private Space

When you’re ready to talk about how ED is affecting your relationship, it’s key to find a private space for that conversation. 

Whether that space is in your kitchen, your bedroom, a public park — that’s up to you and your partner, and what makes sense for your relationship.

A little pro tip: probably not best to have this conversation right before or after physical intimacy. You want to approach the issue with level heads. 

A morning chat, afternoon check-in, or loving prompt after dinner may be all you need to find the right spot. 

Set Some Ground Rules

Before getting into it, think about what would make you most comfortable in the conversation — and what would make him most comfortable.

Ideally, you’ll work together to create a judgment-free zone where everyone can share their feelings and get clarity. Outlining expectations can set you both up for success. 

Start by asking yourself these  questions:

  • Would you prefer to do most of the talking? 

  • Are you interested in any advice your partner may have or would you prefer they limit their input? 

  • Would it make you feel better if there was a set time limit to the convo? 

  • If you’re feeling really awkward, could you ask to pause the talk and come back to it at another time?

Once you know your own answers, ask your partner to share theirs. This pre-conversation is the perfect time to figure out what they’re going to need from you during your chat.

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Discuss What Stresses You Out

As mentioned above, stress and anxiety can cause or contribute to ED. Talking about the things that bring on those emotions may help diminish them. 

In fact, a 2014 study found that when two people both verbally shared similar emotions, it actually buffered stress for both individuals.

So if stress is at the root of his ED,  inviting him to share the causes(s) of his stress when he’s ready could be the opening of the floodgates as well as the pathway back into a great sex life. 

So what happens after the talk? It’s time to go from addressing the problem to creating an action plan. Luckily, there are several treatment options. 

And while you may want to hold off on making suggestions unless he asks, learning about the different kinds of ED treatment signals your support in this crucial next step. It shows him you can continue to be a resource. 

Of course, it won’t just be the two of you. Once he’s ready, he should talk to a healthcare professional such as a primary care provider about possible treatments. 

Once they chat, he could turn to you for insight on which medical professional-recommended treatments may suit him best. Below are some of the treatments that may be suggested. 


This is the generic name for, Viagra®, which, as you probably know by now, is one of the most common ED medications out there. 

Sildenafil is a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor (also known as a PDE5 inhibitor). This prescription medication improves ED by increasing blood flow to the penis during sexual stimulation. 

It’s a popular medical treatment option because it’s fast-acting. It works within an hour of taking it and lasts for about four hours or so.


As the generic form of Cialis®,  tadalafil(generic Cialis) is another commonly prescribed ED medication. It, too, is a PDE5 inhibitor. 

Tadalafil is sometimes referred to as the “weekend” ED medication. This is because it lasts as long as 36 hours.


Also known by its brand name of Levitra®, vardenafil is like sildenafil in that it works within 30 to 60 minutes and lasts for about five hours.

A clinical trial found that 75 percent of men said they achieved a good enough erection for sex after using the 10mg dose, and 80 percent of men said the same after taking a 20mg dose.

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Stendra® is another medication for ED. The active ingredient in it is avanafil, which is also a PDE5 inhibitor.

Some like this option because it may work after just 15 minutes. As a newer PDE5 inhibitor, it’s also thought to have fewer side effects than other medications for ED. 

Counseling For ED

Your partner may want to consider seeing a therapist — especially If there’s no obvious physiological cause for ED like poor heart health.

As we mentioned, stress, depression and anxiety can affect his erections and libido. Research actually suggests that up to 20 percent of ED cases stem from psychological issues. 

A mental health provider can help to identify psychological factors that may be causing ED and give the two of you the tools to work on them. 

ED Devices

There are a number of devices that can also help with ED, including vibrators, external support devices and implants.

A vibrator for ED stimulates his penis, in hopes of getting blood flowing to the area. Pumps pull blood into the penis, and once he’s pumped, a plastic ring around the base of his penis keeps blood there.

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“My husband has erectile dysfunction” — it was probably hard to say to yourself. Imagine how hard it is for him to reconcile with. Knowing that this is a difficult subject is key to your conversation going well, and for all the “how to help husband with ED” advice out there, listening and being supportive are consistently numbers one and two on the list.

As you prepare to address your partner’s erectile dysfunction, remember that:

  • Perhaps he feels shame or embarrassment over dealing with ED. But he shouldn’t. Many men deal with it — tens of millions, in fact. 

  • These feelings may make him want to shut down and not talk about what’s going on with you. 

  • Talking to you about his experience with ED is one of the things that can help. Not only can being open about it make him feel better, being honest with you will allow him to discuss solutions and make solving the problem a team effort. 

He may not be ready yet, and that’s okay — give him some time and space. Just be sure to make it clear that while you respect his need for time, you respect yourself and your own needs too. And make sure he respects those things alongside you. After all, that’s what good partners do. 

7 Sources

  1. Lakin, M. & Wood, H. (2018, June). Erectile Dysfunction. Retrieved from
  2. Definition & Facts for Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from
  3. Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from
  4. Diagnosis of Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from
  5. Dhaliwal, A. & Gupta, M. (2021, June 25). PDE5 Inhibitors. StatPearls. Retrieved from
  6. Bilal, A. & Abbasi, N.. (2020, September). Cognitive Behavioral Sex Therapy: An Emerging Treatment Option for Nonorganic Erectile Dysfunction in Young Men: A Feasibility Pilot Study. Sexual Medicine. 8 (3), 396–407. Retrieved from
  7. Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kelly Brown MD, MBA
Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Dr. Kelly Brown is a board certified Urologist and fellowship trained in Andrology. She is an accomplished men’s health expert with a robust background in healthcare innovation, clinical medicine, and academic research. Dr. Brown is a founding member of Posterity Health where she is Medical Director and leads strategy and design of their Digital Health Platform, an innovative education and telehealth model for delivering expert male fertility care.

She completed her undergraduate studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science and a Minor in Chemistry. She took a position at University of California Los Angeles as a radiologic technologist in the department of Interventional Cardiology, further solidifying her passion for medicine. She also pursued the unique opportunity to lead departmental design and operational development at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, sparking her passion for the business of healthcare.

Dr. Brown then went on to obtain her doctorate in medicine from the prestigious Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine and Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. During her surgical residency in Urology at University of California San Francisco, she utilized her research year to focus on innovations in telemedicine and then served as chief resident with significant contributions to clinical quality improvement. Dr. Brown then completed her Andrology Fellowship at Medical College of Wisconsin, furthering her expertise in male fertility, microsurgery, and sexual function.

Her dedication to caring for patients with compassion, understanding, as well as a unique ability to make guys instantly comfortable discussing anything from sex to sperm makes her a renowned clinician. In addition, her passion for innovation in healthcare combined with her business acumen makes her a formidable leader in the field of men’s health.

Dr. Brown is an avid adventurer; summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (twice!) and hiking the incredible Torres del Paine Trek in Patagonia, Chile. She deeply appreciates new challenges and diverse cultures on her travels. She lives in Denver with her husband, two children, and beloved Bernese Mountain Dog. You can find Dr. Brown on LinkedIn for more information.

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