How to deal with erectile dysfunction in a marriage: saying “I do” to better erections

Written with
Amanda Barge

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is when you can’t get or keep an erection, and is sometimes known as impotence. 

ED is incredibly common, with a study showing that two thirds of married men experience symptoms of ED. It can impact newlyweds, as well as those in longer-term marriages.

Getting married can already put a lot of pressure on couples, with spouses committing to support each other emotionally, financially, and sexually for decades. So, the idea of dealing with erectile dysfunction on top of other relationship challenges may seem overwhelming.

The good news is, if you and your partner are struggling with ED and have lost your sexual spark, we’re here to make things easier.

We’ve enlisted the help of Mojo’s resident Psychosexual & Relationship Therapist, Amanda Barge, to help you overcome any erection issues, and get back to an even better sex life than before. 

What causes erectile dysfunction in marriages?

If you’re having difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, it could be related to marriage specific causes, or general ED causes

What causes erectile dysfunction for married men?

Married men may experience impotence for a number of specific reasons.

Facing marital stress

In order to get hard, your mind and body work together to send the right signals to your penis. However, stress can interrupt these signals, and leave you struggling to get or maintain an erection. 

Marriage is no stranger to stress. Some major stresses that married couples may face together are: 

  • Trying for a baby
  • Stresses caused by parenting
  • Career pressures or a job loss
  • Financial pressures
  • Dealing with an injury or illness
  • Moving house or buying a house
  • Sex life or libido changes
  • Facing a trauma or tragedy, such a loss in the family 
  • Infidelity

These major relationship events can all trigger stress, and in turn, ED. 

Losing the sexual spark

Think about the excitement you felt after the first date, the first kiss, and the first time you had sex with your spouse.

The feelings associated with a new relationship all release oxytocin (sometimes known as the ‘love hormone’). When this happens, we feel incredibly bonded to our partner. 

“At the beginning of a relationship we're going to be wanting to have sex with them all the time. We're going to think that our partner is the greatest thing we’ve ever met.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

However, the excitement of a new relationship can wear off after being married for some time. This may be for a number of reasons: 

“After a few years you might begin to see the things that irritate or annoy you about your partner. For some, life begins to get in the way. Some partners may become complacent in their relationship or sex life, and they may make love less often.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Deprioritizing or becoming more complacent about sex can:

  • Impact libido or lead to mismatched sexual desire for a couple
  • Lead to overthinking or worrying about how much sex you’re having
  • Put more pressure on the times you do have sex, if it’s more infrequent
  • Lead to a spouse feeling rejected or not desirable

Facing one or more of these challenges can then lead to erectile dysfunction. But, don’t panic, there are numerous ways to keep the magic alive.

Honeymoon syndrome

Erectile dysfunction at the beginning of a marriage is also common, and is sometimes referred to as ‘honeymoon syndrome’ or ‘honeymoon impotence’.

First time sex, wedding night sex, and honeymoon sex can all be associated with anxiety, stress, societal pressures, and a big build up. This can then lead to psychological erection problems.

Homophobia, heteronormativity, and minority stresses

Gay men may face ED in marriage. This could be a result of:

  • Homophobia (for example, in some countries and cultures gay marriage may not be accepted or even legal)
  • Heteronormativity (for example, living in a society where many people will assume you’re married to the opposite sex)
  • Minority stresses (for example, researching what honeymoon destinations are safe to go to as a gay married couple)

You can read more about having erectile dysfunction as a gay man here.

What are some other general causes of ED?

There are many other potential things that could cause ED. These can include psychological, lifestyle, and physical factors. Although they aren’t specific to married life, they can impact married men, and lead to erectile dysfunction.

Psychological factors:

  • Low mood, feeling down, and depression
  • Stress
  • Low self esteem
  • Previous sexual trauma
  • Performance anxiety
  • An unhealthy relationship with porn or masturbation
  • Lack of sex education

Check out the full list of psychological ED causes here

Lifestyle factors:

  • Smoking cigarettes 
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • A bad diet or exercise regime 
  • Drug use, such as taking cocaine

Physical factors:

  • Cardiovascular problems, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart disease
  • Underlying health conditions, such as prostate cancer
  • Medications, such as drugs for high blood pressure and SSRIs
  • Low testosterone levels

If you’re unsure what has caused your ED, we recommend speaking to your doctor initially to rule out any other health issues. Once you have the all-clear physically, you can focus on getting your mind, erections, and sex life back on track.

Ripple effects of erectile dysfunction on a marriage

Here are some of the wider effects that erectile dysfunction can have on marriage:

  • You might be experiencing feelings of shame or guilt about not being able to get hard with your spouse 
  • Low self esteem, low mood, or feeling down (both you and your partner) 
  • Your partner might feel rejected or unwanted
  • A mismatched sexual desire
  • A loss of intimacy
  • Avoiding sex, to prevent having to face any frustration or negative emotions that might come from struggling to get hard
  • A sexless marriage

Mojo is here to provide a safe, secure, and supportive platform which can help both you and your partner tackle any ED issues, before they lead to any wider issues in your marriage. Explore your trial today.

Erectile dysfunction and a sexless marriage

A sexless marriage may be defined as a low-sex or no-sex marriage. One study revealed that 1 in 10 married couples hadn’t had sex in the last year. 

There is no ‘magic number’ for how often you should have sex, as long as you and your partner are both happy with your sex lives.

However, the ripple effects of ED might be preventing you from having the amount of sex you’re used to, or would like to have.

Dealing with erectile dysfunction in a marriage can not only help you bring sex back into your lives, but can also make the sex more enjoyable than before. Sounds appealing, right? 

Is impotence a marriage breaker?

A marriage can definitely survive impotence. Remember, the vow “through sickness and in health” counts for erectile health, too. 

If you feel like ED is ruining your marriage, there’s plenty of tips and techniques to help you cope with ED in a marriage, improve your erections, and stay intimate with your partner. Read on to find out more.

How to cope with erectile dysfunction in a marriage

ED is sometimes known as a ‘couple’s disease’. We hate this phrase, but it’s true that it can affect both people in a marriage, rather than just one partner.

So, if you can, we recommend that the expert advice below is followed together as a couple.

Tackling the psychological causes of ED

Open communication

We get it. Conversations about erections can feel awkward and difficult, and will want to make some couples run a mile. But, when you’re working through ED in a marriage, open and honest communication can really help reduce worry and anxiety. 

Here are our tips for having a successful conversation:

  • Pick a time and place to talk where both of you are relaxed and comfortable. You can also choose a neutral territory, like going for a drive or a walk in the park (if it's not too chilly)

  • Do some research. Share what you’ve found out, such as how many other married couples experience ED, and why it may be happening. This will help you give each other some initial reassurance, relief, and hope. This is a great place to start learning more about ED.

  • Keep in mind how your partner is feeling. Try to stay as calm and supportive as possible, and try not to make it about you. This creates a safe space for any future conversations

  • If you or your partner are not ready to talk about ED yet, then you can always try speaking anonymously with other men with ED (and their partners), to hear about their erection issues and how they overcame them

Take the pressure off penetrative sex

Sex doesn’t have to be focused on penetration, or the end goal of an orgasm. Spice up your sex life with sex toys, enjoying oral sex, listening to audio porn, or focusing on foreplay.

Become more mindful together 

“Sensate focus” is a great way to get you and your partner off. It involves slowing things down, paying attention to touching each other, and thinking about how great the experience and pleasure feels in the moment (rather than performance).

Mindful masturbation can also help you to focus on pleasurable sensations. You can sign up for Mojo’s expert-led mindful masturbation exercises here.

Reignite the romance

Married couples coping with erectile dysfunction may feel distant from each other. 

Reconnect by planning date nights, signing up for new activities, or surprising your other half with a spontaneous cup of tea or a back rub.

Keep things in the relationship flirty and fun by sending each other sexts, notes, and pictures throughout the day to build excitement for your intimate evenings.

Don't worry about making a move

Most decisions couples make together are joint decisions. This may include where they should live, where to go on holiday, or what car to buy. However, when it comes to sex, this is often initiated by one partner.

So, instead of letting erectile dysfunction stop either partner from making a move (which can become a slippery spiral) , don't be afraid to initiate some intimacy.

Desire and arousal also come into play here. Often, women need the arousal to feel the desire. So, if your partner is a woman, don't wait for the desire, or sex might never happen!

Tackling the lifestyle causes of ED

This section is pretty simple. Some lifestyle changes can help you boost the health of your body (and mind), which will then help you get and stay hard. 

These include:

  • Staying at a healthy weight, and eating a healthy diet 
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Getting enough sleep 
  • Doing enough exercise
  • Limiting the amount of drugs you take and the amount of alcohol you drink

And if your husband has ED, then changing your daily habits and routines together will show him your support, and will help him keep on track.

Tackling the physical causes of ED

If you think your medication or an underlying health condition might be causing ED, talk to your doctor to get an official diagnosis and treatment plan. A trip to the doctor's office can feel scary, so going together as a couple can help you both feel better.

And remember, an initial physical cause of ED can quite often lead to psychological issues. This happens to be Mojo’s area of expertise. 

Get the mojo back in your marriage

Say “I do” to better sex by looking after your erections, boosting your sexual wellbeing, and boosting your sex life in your marriage. To access these resources, you can sign up for our trial here

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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