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Erectile dysfunction & divorce

Written by Mojo, reviewed by Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Man in a blue shirt looks into the camera.

If you’re reading this article, it probably means that you’re going through a divorce (or you’ve already been through one) and you’re having erection issues.

Erectile dysfunction (also known as ED or impotence) is when you can’t get or maintain an erection.

In this post, we’re going to be looking at:

PART 1: DIVORCE DUE TO IMPOTENCE

Erectile dysfunction and divorce rates

There are no dedicated, reliable studies looking into how many divorces are directly caused by ED. However, research reveals that two thirds (66%) of married men experience symptoms of erectile dysfunction, so it’s natural to wonder what part ED plays in the breakdown of a marriage. 

Why does ED happen in a marriage?

Married men can develop erectile dysfunction due to a range of physical, psychological and lifestyle reasons that may have nothing to do with the marriage itself. However, ED can also occur due to marriage specific reasons. 

Can impotence lead to divorce?

Impotence does not have to lead to divorce. There are plenty of steps you can take to prevent erection issues turning into marital problems. You can read more about these here.

How can ED lead to a divorce?

ED and emotional avoidance

Erectile dysfunction can spark feelings of shame, guilt, and frustration. These are all completely normal feelings associated with ED that can be worked on.

However, if a husband bottles up these feelings and avoids discussing their erection issues, it can make partners feel rejected, confused, and shut out of the process.

A lack of communication can cause both parties in the marriage to detach, and this can cause a marital breakdown.

“If someone is having erectile problems, and they’re not managing to communicate with their partner constructively over it, the marriage can be at risk.

We often say great sex doesn’t mean great relationships, but if there’s a problem around sex that the couple isn’t working on, then it can be quite damaging for them.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

ED and physical avoidance

Feelings of shame about not getting it up can sometimes lead to a husband avoiding any type of sexual encounter.

This can result in their partner feeling sexually rejected, and frustrated or upset by a lack of marital intimacy.

How to break the link between divorce and ED 

If you’re looking to prevent a divorce because of erectile dysfunction, or if you want to protect your penis in future relationships after a divorce, follow our advice below. 

Choose communication

Open up to your partner about how your erection problems are making you feel, and about your relationship and sex life in general. 

You can start a conversation by:

If you’re not sure where to start your research, Mojo is a great place to start. You can read our blog posts, chat to our online community, and

learn how to fix your erection issues via our online courses. All of this can be done anonymously and somewhere private. 

Trust in teamwork 

When working through ED treatments, ask your partner if they would like to be involved. As partners who trust each other, you can:

Take the pressure of penetration 

You and your partner can still have a great sex life without relying on a hard erection, and there are plenty of ways to pleasure them without penetrative sex.

If your partner is female, re-introduce yourself to the clitoris. And whether your partner is male or female, you can put more emphasis on foreplay, oral sex, or even just focus on naked kissing and cuddling.

By taking the pressure off your penis, and building up to sex, you’ll probably find you enjoy sex more in general – and this can end up being the key to cumming (for all parties involved). 

Erotic exploration

Experimentation can be fun and bring the spark back into the bedroom. Think: consensual roleplay, kinks, sex toys, or lube to spice things up.

This can also remove any reliance on a strong erection to have fun (but make sure you are both on the same page about what turns you on beforehand). 

PART 2: ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION AFTER DIVORCE

If you find that you can’t get it up after you’ve gone through divorce, it’s likely to be psychological, meaning that your brain is messing with your ability to get it up.

We’ve outlined some of the key psychological strains that a divorce can put on your erections: 

General stress and anxiety

Divorce can cause a lot of stress and anxiety such as:

These types of stressors can trigger ‘fight or flight mode’, which directs blood away from the penis, and can result in erectile dysfunction.

Sexual performance anxiety and spectatoring

Being married could mean that you’ve slept with the same person for many years. You know what you both liked, felt comfortable around each other, and didn’t get nervous when getting undressed.

So, the thought of having sex with someone completely new can put a lot of pressure on you. This can result in sexual performance anxiety (SPA), where you’re overcome by a fear that you won’t ‘perform' during sex.

It may even lead to avoidance. Research shows that over half (54%) of men reportedly avoid sexual encounters because of ED.

“Men can get a bit of an unexpected 'shock' in a new sexual encounter. Sometimes they don't realize how different it will feel after being in a long term relationship'.” 

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist
“Following the divorce 2 years ago, it was hit-and-miss, depending on the partner. I would get inside my head and nothing would happen.”

Anonymous Mojo user

Meeting new people and getting back into the dating game

Just like new sexual encounters, dating new people after a divorce can trigger a whole host of stresses, especially as the dating scene has completely changed in recent years.

“Men come out of a long-term relationship and they begin to go on dating sites, going on dates, expecting it to be just like years ago. But the reality is it’s not.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

This stress can either directly stop you from getting hard, or it can lead you to avoid dates or romantic situations altogether.

Grieving the loss of a marriage

The end of a relationship can be heartbreaking. Many people will experience grief at the loss of their marriage and plans together. These feelings are normal, but processing grief without support or assistance can be a trigger for depression. 

Depression can cause ED, so it’s important to keep an eye on how you’re feeling and whether you have the help you need.

Feelings of guilt and shame

Sometimes people can feel responsible for a marriage breaking down. You might be connecting divorce with your ability to satisfy your spouse, or you might be feeling responsible for your family unit separating if you have any children. 

If infidelity was involved, this can also make you feel guilty.

“Feelings of guilt and shame are hard emotions to process. They can knock your confidence and make you overly critical of yourself. This can result in ED.” 

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Treating impotence after a divorce

Soothe your stress

The best way to handle stress is to identify some stress-busting activities and see what works for you.

For general stress relief, this could include:

To de-stress in preparation for sex, we would recommend:

You can find these techniques here. 

Start slow

You don’t have to rush into a new relationship or dive into sex with new partners before you’re ready. Take some time to yourself and build your confidence back up.

“Try not to rush. For some men, it can feel frightening not being in a relationship, not being involved with someone, but it’s important to do this at your own pace. Let things settle and begin observing yourself. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to address health, fitness, or lifestyle changes you want to make.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Prioritize the processing

Now is a great time to reflect on your marriage, and process your feelings.

If you’re feeling low, we would recommend trying counseling or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Understanding why your marriage didn’t work out, and recognizing your emotions can help towards figuring out what may be affecting your erections.

“It can be very useful to find a therapist at this time or to book a short programme of sessions to help you through this life change. Therapists are not part of your family or friends, they’re trained, and it can be a really good chance to process some of the difficult stuff.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

If you’re not ready for one-on-one therapy, Mojo has online therapy courses, videos, and podcasts, and you can work through these anonymously at home. 

Connect with a community

It can be really helpful to talk to men who have also been through divorces or breakups that have led to erectile dysfunction. 

Our online community of men share their similar experiences and reveal what has worked for them, to help get their erections back on track.

You can also join Mojo Connect, where men regularly meet up through video chat. Don’t worry, you can keep your webcam and mic off if you’d prefer. 

A new chapter

Whether you’re going through a divorce because of ED, or you’re going through ED because of a divorce, we’re confident that your erections will come back with the right treatment and TLC. 

Check out Mojo’s free trial today, and kick-start a new partnership with your penis. 

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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.