Sexual dysfunction is defined as any physical or psychological (emotional) problem that prevents you or your partner from getting sexual satisfaction.
There are lots of different factors that may cause sexual dysfunction in men, and they can be really tricky things to speak about, especially if you’re unsure of what exactly the sexual function issue is or what’s causing it.
Many men may feel that their sexual dysfunction is a personal problem, that it’s their fault or that they are alone in their condition. Other men may feel that they need to ‘man up’ or get their issue ‘fixed’.
Sexual issues, whether they are temporary or longer term, are a lot more common than many men might think. It‘s estimated that erectile dysfunction affects 1 million men in Australia and one in two Australian men aged 18-55 experience some form of sexual difficulty, including:
- Reaching climax more quickly than they’d like (37%)
- Lacking interest in sex (17%)
- Not climaxing or taking too long to climax (15%)
- Feeling anxious during sex (11%).
Sexual dysfunction issues are different to most other health conditions because they don’t just specifically affect you, they also affect your sexual partners — with partners of men with erectile dysfunction reporting being just as affected as the men themselves.
In some cases, the partners of men with erectile dysfunction know that there’s something going on before the men even mention it and may feel as though they are responsible for their partner’s reduced interest in sex and intimacy.
By recognizing the effect on their partners of erectile dysfunction and including them, men can improve the success of treatment.
Conversations about erectile dysfunction can be difficult, even for doctors, but they’re critical conversations to have.
Speaking with any sexual partner honestly about how you’re feeling about sex will help you to break down barriers and help you to find a groove that works for both you and your partner.
MensLine Australia recommend the following steps for restoring or maintaining intimacy and keeping things open, honest, and non-judgmental when it comes to the bedroom.
- Talk to your partner about your concerns or worries, and maybe even more importantly, listen to what your partner has to say about their concerns and worries.
- Work on addressing any built-up tension, it is normal for couples to argue, but resolving any outstanding issues is important in maintaining intimacy and being able to speak honestly about how you are feeling.
- Being in a romantic relationship isn’t just about sex! Get creative and investigate some of the other activities that you can do together, it could be something as simple as going for a walk together, taking up a cooking class or having a movie night. Keeping a running date night can help to maintain intimacy and get both parties out of their head.
- Talk to an objective person. You might think that couples’ counselling seems like a big step, but it could really make a difference in opening up a conversation between you and your partner, and not just on the topic of sex. Seeing a couple’s counsellor before the issue seems like it is too big to handle is key.
MensLine Australia offer a service that lets you chat to them over the phone, which could be a good first step in the right direction to feeling more comfortable in speaking about sex with your partner.
Here are some things to bear in mind before starting the conversation:
- Pick the right time and place! You want to make sure that you have enough time and the right setting to speak about your sexual dysfunction. Don’t bring it up just before you need to head out or after your partner has had a stressful day at work. Create an atmosphere that gives you the right context to have an open conversation
- Make sure that you give your partner enough of an opportunity to ask questions and share their own side. Listen when they are speaking and answer their questions as best as you can
- Avoid getting defensive, take a deep breath and try to be as honest as you can. Even if you find the conversation uncomfortable, remember that both of you are on the same side
- Don’t blame your partner or yourself for what has been happening in the bedroom. You are living with a medical condition, not a personal weakness. This is something that you and your partner can work through together, not something you need to fight alone
- Ask your partner how they’re feeling and if there’s anything you can do to support them. Tell them what they can do to support you
- Don’t use the word ‘performance’. Having sex is not about your performance. When you’re having sex, you shouldn’t feel that you are under pressure to hit targets in the same way you might at work! Sex is a time to relax, reset and connect with your partner, not to perform!
Once you have spoken with your partner, you might feel that a weight has been taken off your shoulders. Remember, when it comes to sexual dysfunction, it’s not as easy to put a band-aid on the issue and move on.
Having an open conversation and acknowledging what is happening is the best way you can get onto your road to recovery. If it helps to keep the conversation open with your partner, bring them to your doctor’s appointment so you can both learn more about your condition. A problem shared is a problem halved.
For helpful information on men’s sexual and reproductive health, visit our resource library.