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A woman’s view

A woman’s view

Problems with erections are demoralising for any man, but can also be very difficult for you, his partner, to cope with. It may seem as if your sex life as a couple is over, but it certainly needn’t be. There’s lots of help available and plenty you can do to support and help your man.

You can do a great deal to reassure him that his sex life isn’t coming to an end. Contrary to what many men may expect, most women feel very sympathetic and talking about the problems always helps.

How an erection works
Knowing how an erection works helps your understanding of what is going on. The stiffness of an erection depends on blood being pumped into specially designed spaces in the penis – a bit like blowing up a balloon with air. To keep the spaces full of blood, and an erection stiff, blood must be prevented from escaping from the spaces by valves snapping shut.

Both these processes are controlled by nerves running down the sides of the penis, which are in direct connection with the brain. This brain/penis connection is why a man can see a sexual image and a split second later he’ll feel an erection begin.

Any interference with that connection, or damage to the nerves of the penis, can result in too little blood getting into the penis to bring about erection (or only a limp erection). Alternatively, once in the penis, the blood necessary to maintain stiffness can simply seep away through leaky valves. Also if the arteries bringing blood into the penis get furred up, there’s insufficient blood to expand the penis so the erection will be somewhat half-hearted. This could happen to any man who has hardening of the arteries. Given all this, it isn’t hard to see how the complicated mechanism of an erection can go wrong. And go wrong it will if anything damages the health of the nerves and arteries of the penis.

How you can help

Don’t worry – worrying about his performance and what you think of him will make things worse. Reduce his anxiety – and your own – by deciding not to have full sex but simply enjoying each other without trying to reach orgasm. This nearly always strengthens erection.

Reassure him that he should concentrate all his energies on his own sexual feelings for the moment and not worry about you. Encourage him to abandon himself to his own pleasures and think of nothing else.

Timing – encourage your partner to make love in the morning. Many men find it much easier to get an erection in the morning than at night when they’re tired.

Relax – think about what might relax you both. Try having a soothing bath before sex or massaging each other with scented oils. Use anything that is likely to increase sexual desire and get rid of anything likely to reduce it.

Adapt foreplay – you may need more and longer foreplay for arousal.

Initiate – try taking the lead so taking the pressure off him. Introduce a changing pattern so that both of you create a new kind of loving. You can find new ways of doing things that will fit your partner’s new mood and help build his self-esteem rather than erode it.

Be patient – don’t expect instant solutions. Give your man time to sort things out and understand that his response will vary from day to day, occasion to occasion.

As everyone knows, there are now medications for erectile dysfunction, available on the NHS for men suffering from impotence caused by prostate cancer, kidney failure, diabetes and other problems. These medications are known as PDE inhibitors or PDEIs. They help to relax the blood vessels in the penis, which enhances blood flow to it, causing an erection.

As you will see from the chart below, different types of PDEIs vary in the length of their effectiveness. The great advantage for both of you of the longer-acting drug is that it restores spontaneity to your lovemaking. You don’t have to plan sex to a timetable but can relax and choose the moment that feels right and that can make all the difference to your relationship.


Onset of action 20–60 mins 20–60 mins 20–60 mins

Length of action 36 hours 5 hours 4–6 hours

Effective 70–80 % 70–80 % 70–80 %

Other factors Meals don’t Fatty meals Recent and heavy affect may affect meals may slow absorption absorption absorption

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