Can cheating cause erectile dysfunction? Everything you should know about affairs and erections

Written with
Amanda Barge

Research shows that 21% of men and 7% of women have cheated on their current partner.

Everyone has their own idea of what cheating is.

Some think emotional cheating is just as bad as physical cheating, and some think texting or watching porn can count as being unfaithful. 

Regardless of where you personally draw the line, lots of people in relationships may have to deal with some level of romantic or sexual betrayal at some stage. 

Infidelity can cause erectile dysfunction (ED) for men who have cheated and for men who have been cheated on. Read on to find out exactly why cheating can cause ED, and how to help get your erections back on track if you’ve been impacted by infidelity.

Erectile dysfunction and affairs: what’s the link? 

Erectile dysfunction is where you can’t get or keep an erection. It can happen when you’re masturbating or having sex with a partner.

Most men will experience ED at some point, so it can be helpful to know the basics about how and why it happens. 

Your ability to get hard, stay hard, and ultimately orgasm can be impacted by loads of different psychological and physical factors. One of these psychological factors could involve cheating.

If you’ve been impacted by cheating and your erections are suffering, Amanda Barge, Mojo’s in-house psychosexual and relationship therapist, is here to provide some much-needed answers.

We’ll cover the following scenarios:

Erectile dysfunction after being cheated on

Scenario 1: Your partner has cheated on you, and it’s led to you having erection issues 

Being cheated on is pretty shit. And it adds insult to injury if you’re struggling to get or maintain erections after it happens.

But, we do have some good news for you: struggling with ED after infidelity is totally normal. You’re having a natural human response.

Why does this happen?

Your body may go into shock

We asked Amanda what happens in the body when you learn you’ve been cheated on:

“The body really can go into shock when an individual finds out about a betrayal.

Some therapists say that it can feel like a trauma, and you may well have similar symptoms to those of PTSD.”

Amanda Barge, psychosexual and relationship therapist

These symptoms can include: 

  • Being emotionally dysregulated
  • Feeling numb and then flooded with anger and hurt
  • Repeated intrusive thoughts
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Loss of self respect
  • Compulsive behaviour
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Confusion
  • There will also be high levels of anxiety

Whilst in this state of shock, it would be very normal to suffer from ED with your partner, because you need the right mind and body signals for an erection to happen.

Your libido can take a dip  

If you’re feeling betrayed by your partner, it’s totally normal for your libido (sex drive) to disappear. 

Medical professionals agree that stress, anxiety and exhaustion are all common causes of low libido. 

So, if you’re dealing with the emotions of being cheated on, you can expect your sex drive to take a knock, and you’re less likely to get hard as a result. That’s because your brain simply won’t be sending sexy signals to your penis.

What can you do about it?

We’ve established it’s normal to experience ED after being cheated on – but where do we go from here?

If you decide to stay with your partner, Amanda has the following tips: 

1. You need to look after yourself

Perhaps you might need some space, and that’s okay.

If you’re hoping to repair the relationship, understand it might take some time. You might have to explore your ideas about love and perhaps confront your doubts and fears.

Try and find some support from friends if you think that would help, too.

2. Communication is going to be vital

Before you talk, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your partner going to be able to own how much they have hurt you?
  • Is it going to feel safe and secure?

This will be important. You will need to communicate and explore why this happened if you are to repair your relationship successfully.

3. Take things slow and go at your own pace

When it comes to whether or not you want to have sex again with your partner, take your time.

Initially, your emotions might feel all over the place, and they might be even more heightened in bed.

Tell your partner how you would like sex to be. If you need time, explain this. If you would rather just hold each other, ask for this. If your partner understands the pain that has been caused, they will be happy to go at your pace.

4. Stay open minded about types of sex

If penetrative sex is off the cards, but you’re ready for a sexual encounter with your partner, you don’t necessarily need an erection. 

You can explore alternatives that lead you to satisfying sex that has nothing to do with penetration, and this can take the pressure off your penis. Think about all things involving tongues, fingers, and sex toys. We’ll let your imagination do the rest.

5. Take care of your erections 

No matter what, if you need help bettering your boners, Mojo can help you out. We have experts on hand to give you advice and plenty of practical tools to help you get and stay hard after you’ve experienced infidelity.

We’ve helped thousands of other men, and we’ll be here whenever you’re ready.

Erectile dysfunction after cheating

Scenario 2: You’ve cheated on your partner and now you can’t get hard

We’re a judgment-free zone here at Mojo, and it’s our priority to get your boners back on track. 

If you’re struggling with erections after being unfaithful, you’re not alone. 

Why does this happen?

Feelings of guilt and shame

If your interest has completely shifted from your partner to someone else, then there might be a deeper cause to explain why your erections are suffering in your relationship.

But, if you made a mistake and still want to make it work with your partner, Amanda tells us: 

“Shame is one of the most difficult emotions we can feel, and it can often manifest itself as anxiety.

Cheating rarely feels good, we are hard wired not to enjoy these feelings. Intrusive thoughts and feeling bad about hurting someone (even if they don’t know), can all lead to problems with normal arousal and ED. But there are things that you can do to help.”

Amanda Barge, psychosexual and relationship therapist

It’s pretty straightforward: the guilt and shame of cheating can cause ED. This is because these intrusive thoughts mean you’re not in the right mental space to send signals to your penis to form an erection.

What can you do about it?

1. Decide whether to come clean

Things get a little more complicated when you have to decide whether or not you’re going to tell your partner you’ve cheated. And we have to admit here – whatever you decide could impact your erections.

If you cheated in the past and it’s not going to happen again, some people think that keeping it a secret is a good idea to save your partner from any pain. But that’s a burden you’ll have to decide if you can and want to carry, and don’t forget that the guilt could lead to erection issues. 

If you’re having problems with erectile dysfunction, often one of the most helpful suggestions is to try and talk to your partner about what is going on with your erections, so if you hold onto the secret of cheating this will be impossible.

2. If it’s situational, figure out why it is happening 

Sometimes you can have situational ED. Perhaps this means you are struggling with your partner, but can manage with a one night stand.

If you want to stay in your relationship, it might be a good idea to explore what is going on that is causing this problem.

3. Communicate with your partner and show remorse 

If you decide to disclose your infidelity and try to repair your relationship, Amanda says you’ve got to be prepared to have open and constructive conversations. 

Expressing remorse to your partner is vital if you are wanting to try and repair things. You will need to give them time to get over the initial shock, and be ready for their anger and hurt.

4. Learn and respect your partner’s boundaries 

You will also need to be prepared to wait until they are ready to be physical again, and they may want to call the shots about how and where this happens. 

It’s vital to listen to and respect these boundaries while your partner is healing.

5. Work on your erections 

You can take this time to work on yourself and your erections.

Mojo’s got you covered there, with different expert-led guided exercises and meditations you can practice solo. These will help you to reduce feelings of stress and guilt, stay out of your head during sex, and ultimately get and stay hard.

Is erectile dysfunction a sign of cheating?

Scenario 3: You’re worried your man is cheating because he can’t get hard

Okay, we know that we just told you men who cheat can struggle with erectile dysfunction. 

But this doesn’t mean you need to panic if your boyfriend or husband can’t get hard, as there are so many other reasons that may have caused your partner’s ED

So, your man struggling to get hard is absolutely not conclusive evidence that he’s cheating. 

In fact, it’s comforting to know that in reality it could be the total opposite:

“Men with ED, and so many young men I see now, tell me it's because they care so much for their partner.

They really want the relationship to work, and it’s the pressure they're putting on themselves that can actually lead to psychological erection issues.”

Amanda Barge, psychosexual and relationship therapist

Basically, your man might be struggling with his erections because he cares about you so much. Huge relief, right?

What can you do about it?

There are a few simple things you can do if your boyfriend has ED and you’re worried he might be cheating:

1. Don’t panic! 

It’s common and extremely stressful to deal with the constant thought: “He can’t get hard, is he cheating?”

Press pause for a minute, take a deep breath, and remember that ED can be the result of a long list of other reasons that have nothing to do with being unfaithful. 

Try not to jump to conclusions or become accusatory. Familiarize yourself with these other possible causes. This will help to prepare you for a calm and open conversation with your partner.

2. You guessed it…communicate

The best thing you can do if your boyfriend or husband isn’t able to get hard, Amanda said, is to talk to him.

For many men, opening up about ED is the first step to solving the problem. 

If your man knows you’re not judging him and you’re there to talk, you could see improvements in his confidence – and his erections. 

If you want to really understand ED, help your partner build confidence, and have better sex, learning all about the subject is a great place to start.

“If he's struggling, it can be really useful for the partner to understand more about the psychological and anxiety aspects of erections.”

Amanda Barge, psychosexual and relationship therapist

3. Take the spotlight off the penis

Amanda says that extending foreplay could be a good idea. If you can take the emphasis away from penetration and focus on other things, your man might be able to relax. 

Once we realize that great sex isn’t dependent on getting hard, pressure is lifted, and – ironically – getting hard gets a lot easier. 

Amanda also advised us:

“It can help to talk about how erections might go down but they can come back up, and to discuss how this is normal.

Once you and your partner feel confident about this, often the problem disappears with the anxiety.”

Amanda Barge, psychosexual and relationship therapist

Worried your partner will cheat because you have ED

Scenario 4: You’re worried your partner will cheat because you’re struggling to get hard

Amanda told us it’s common to think that if you can’t get an erection, you can’t satisfy your partner, and they might look for that satisfaction elsewhere.

She said:

“It’s very typical for a man to think: ‘My partner would be better off without me. They deserve better.’”

Amanda Barge, psychosexual and relationship therapist

If you have ED, you’ve probably had spiraling thoughts like this.

Here’s the thing. Your partner might have a difficult time if you’re struggling with ED – but not for the reasons you might think.

Having ED may make you withdraw from your partner to avoid confronting the issue, but this feeling of absence for male and female partners will likely have a more negative effect on your relationship than the ED itself. 

For women specifically, statistics show that they’re much more likely to stray because they feel neglected than they are to cheat because they’re sexually unsatisfied.

1. Remember the D-L-R (desire, love, reassurance)

Whether you’re dating a man or a woman, the most important thing is to make sure they still feel secure and wanted.

Regardless of if you’re able to get it up or not, you can show them that they feel desired, loved, and reassured in other ways. This could be through extra cuddles and kisses, words of affirmation, or planning special date nights. 

Brushing away the misconception that ED stems from a lack of sexual attraction will also help keep your partner confident and happy.

2. Don’t shut down

If you have ED, the best thing you can do is talk to your partner.

“We do really encourage men to open up conversations with their partners. Sometimes just having a conversation is enough for the ED to disappear. It can be that simple.”

Amanda Barge, psychosexual and relationship therapist

If you need some help plucking up the courage to have a conversation about ED, it might be helpful to open up anonymously to our online community first.

3. Remember that your penis doesn’t have to have the leading role

Great sex is possible without an erection, once you remember that there’s hundreds of different ways to make your partner cum that don’t involve penetrative sex. 

Between 70% and 90% of women don’t orgasm from penetration alone. In fact, most women only orgasm from stimulation of the clitoris.

And if your partner has a penis, then getting generous with the hand jobs, blow jobs, and sex toys will help take some attention away from your private parts. 

So, this means that if you can’t get an erection, there’s still a very good chance you’ll be able to sexually satisfy your partner.

Before you go

In summary, cheating may play some part in our romantic lives at some point.

So, whether you’ve cheated or have been cheated on, if your erections have suffered, Mojo is here to help you reclaim your sex life.

You’ll find:

  • Expert guidance and video courses
  • Practical exercises and techniques
  • Meditation podcasts
  • Community support and live events

Mojo aims to provide useful wellbeing resources to its users; however, you should not solely rely on opinions or advice available on the Website or given by the Community. Always seek advice from a qualified medical doctor or other healthcare professional before acting.

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