My Guy Can’t Get It Up. What Should I Do?

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Evan, I have been dating a 35-year old guy for a couple months now. When we first started fooling around, he was unable to attain an erection. It was understandable, because he was going through a divorce, and so I know he had a lot on his mind all the time, and was used to one woman for so many years. After a few weeks, he was able to have sex with me, and even reached climax a couple of times. But now…we’re back to erectile problems. There is nothing wrong with his sex drive. Even when we’re unable to have sex, he’s always making sure that I’m fulfilled in other ways. I really, really, really would love to think that there isn’t anything wrong with me…I’m only 24 years old, and I’m pretty sure that I’m not totally disgusting. It’s a very frustrating matter, because it makes me feel so unwanted. He reassures me constantly that I’m sexy and beautiful and that he does, in fact, want me. But… a body cannot lie, and his inability to maintain an erection at all times worries me. —Brittany

Brittany,

I know, by looking at me, you’d think: this guy is an expert in erectile dysfunction.

This is biology we’re talking about, and it’s futile for you to take responsibility for what’s going on inside of him.

But really, that’s just an image I try to give off for the public. In fact, my penis remains in good working condition, not unlike a reliable Honda Accord with 120,000 miles on it. So, like any expert who is out of his depth on a given question, I turn to the Internet to help bolster my opinion with a few facts.

First of all, I want to disabuse you of the opinion that this has anything to do with YOU. It does not. Blaming yourself for his inability to get it up would be like a guy blaming himself because you’re PMSing or are clinically depressed. This is biology we’re talking about, and it’s futile for you to take responsibility for what’s going on inside of him.

Second, you should know that this is FAR more frustrating for him than it is for you. The only times that I’ve had trouble getting it up were the times that I HAD to (when my wife and I were trying to conceive). And I’ve gotta tell you, not being able to summon your penis when it’s been perfectly responsive (both voluntarily and involuntarily) your whole life is really trying. While I’m no doctor, I think it’s obvious that the more pressure a guy puts on himself to perform, the more he’s stuck in his own head, the less likely he’ll be able to perform. Factor in the pressure that you’re putting on him — as if he’s not just disappointing himself but disappointing (and rejecting) you, and, well, it’s no surprise that this problem hasn’t corrected itself on your watch.

Your body’s not the problem, but your attitude may be.

Put another way: your body’s not the problem, but your attitude may be.

As it stands, erectile dysfunction (ED), effects about 18% of the population, according to a study reported by the Mayo Clinic. For men aged 20-40, that number is closer to 5-10%. Unusual, to be sure, but not outside the realm of normal probability. Hell, I’m color blind, and that applies to 8% of all men, too. I can assure you, Brittany, that’s not your fault either.

If you’re going to turn this ship around — or get this elevator to rise, as it might be — you’re going to have to adapt a supportive, loving, no-big-deal stance to his temporary flaccidity. It IS hard to get it up when you’re not in the mood and your brain is buzzing with thoughts of work, lawsuits, and divorce, and you have to respect that.

While I can’t guarantee that you’ll solve his ED problem, I can promise you that your new attitude will not make it worse — something I can’t quite say about your current stance on his Royal Limpness.

(By the way, I’m not saying that you have to stay with him if he leaves you sexually dissatisfied; I’m saying that if you’re GOING to stay with him, being supportive, easygoing, and positive will be the most effective way to help him with his problem – instead of making it all about you.)

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Comments:

  1. 21
    Joe

    If the LW was a man writing about dating a frigid woman, would there be the same number of people commenting that he should bail on the relationship?

  2. 22
    Goldie

    @##18 and 12, I kind of see where Gem is coming from. LW and her BF have only known each other for two months. It’s not like they’ve been married ten years and now Gem tells the LW she should walk out on her life partner just because he has ED. This guy is a relative stranger, and appears to have major issues, of which ED may not even be the biggest one. Depending on what kind of person he is, and how good of a match they are, it may make sense for the LW to not let herself get sucked into this vortex. Like one wise person told me many years ago, “Don’t let another person’s insanity become your reality”.

  3. 23
    Sherell

    @18 You can have empathy and leave.   Self love is first and foremost!   Just because someone needs help doesn’t mean you have to be the one to help them!     There is so much more out there   then guys treating you bad and guys needing help.   There are healthy guys that  are ready for a relationship.   Both emotionally and physically   Women so easily fall into the role of trying to fix someone.   If they had been married or in a long relationship, then that’s another story but at this juncture women need to realize when to leave.  He needs to fix this on his own.  

    You gotta know when to hold and when to fold!!!!!

    1. 23.1
      alex

      You’re projecting quite a lot onto a flaccid dong, Sherrell.

  4. 24
    Gem

    Annie, #18,

    I’m not jaded. But I am a realist.

    This is a 24 year old young woman dating someone new for only a couple of months’ time. I’m telling her what I’d tell my daughter or best friend.

    If she’s madly crazy in love with him and he is the ONE then I’d advise her  to stick it out and go through the process so she never looks back and says, “what if…”

    BUT, no where in her letter does she  mention love or thier feelings being so strong that they are committed to each other or committed to a future.

    So why would I tell her to help, support, and figure out the issues of a man she barely knows, who’s full of red flags screaming that he’s not ready or able for a healthy relationship right now?

    He’s going through a divorce. She may be just a rebound girl because he’s not really emotionally available. How’s she going to feel after she “helps” him for months, feeling rejected and her confidence takes a hit, then he dumps her?

    Regardless, it’s a relationship of a couple of months with sexual problems from the start. Sexual problems that are now hurting her own sexual self-esteem. Why volunteer to begin a relationship with such problems?

    1. 24.1
      Mary

      Because men like to lie. Get out now. Trust me. Just run and find someone your age who can make you happy. You will become depressed and soon question every single thing about your body.

  5. 25
    SS

    Actually… if he’s “going through a divorce,” he’s still technically married.
      
    So I agree with Gem even more now… but even if Brittany was 50 and and a hunchback, why sign up for all of this involving a married man you’ve only known a few months?
      
    If you want to stick around, Evan’s advice is solid. But… I think it’s very valid for a poster to suggest that this situation is really not worth sticking around for!!!
      
    (Sorry Evan for the back-to-back posts.)

  6. 26
    Gem

    Joe, 21,

    Yes, my advice would be the same.

  7. 27
    Detha

    The poster  should think of her needs. If she is now feeling depleted by the situation this can  lead towards  resentful  feelings and would inevitably destroy the relationship. I would say to her, love and know yourself, have boundaries on what is or isn’t acceptable FOR YOU.

  8. 28
    Christie Hartman

    ED does happen to men, even men as young as 35, but there’s always a reason. This guy needs to start looking into this because it doesn’t appear to be going to go away by itself. Yes, it’s difficult and embarrassing to go to a doctor/therapist for ED, but much less embarrassing than having to face your girlfriend, right?
      
    I once dated a guy who had a similar situation – post-divorce, sexual performance issues. The frustrating part wasn’t so much the ED, it was that he tried to pretend it wasn’t a problem, and thus never did anything about it. Denial is your biggest enemy here.

    1. 28.1
      stefanie

      spot on

  9. 29
    Christie Hartman

    Also, if he’s going through or just completed a divorce, this can take a big toll on some men. I’ve seen them get depressed and unhappy when the papers are signed, leaving the women who date them baffled and hurt.

  10. 30
    nathan

    I’m surprised by the number of “just bail” comments here. Sexual challenges are pretty common amongst both men and women, and the reasons behind them are many and varied. Although I agree that his recent divorce status is a red flag, and also agree that she shouldn’t turn into something of a “nurse” figure here, I seriously doubt the number of “just bail” responses would be as high if the person struggling were female.
    I have been on both ends of this issue. In the beginning of one relationship, I had the same kind of symptoms as this guy. And mostly, it boiled down to a fear of getting her pregnant, which eventually led to some conversations and decisions about contraception that helped immensely. And in another relationship, my girlfriend had been raped in the past, and also was in an abusive relationship where sex was used as a method of control by her boyfriend. I could have bailed on her, but I would have lost out on all the good we had for the three years we had together.
    I don’t know what exactly Brittney should do, but it would be smart to take a good look at the whole picture of the relationship before making any final decision about it.
      

    1. 30.1
      Supporter

      It’s good to find someone kind, like you seem to be Nathan.  I completely agree with what you said.
      Other readers have mentioned psychological problems and anti depressives as possible causes, I’m here to add (from a medical article I’ve read recently) that could also be due to the beginning of diabetes.
      Whatever it is the couple should talk, and the man should indeed see a doctor about it.

    2. 30.2
      Mary

      Very true! But it’s also not far for a female. He should get help or stop looking at porn! Yes porn is the biggest reason so many men have this problem. Be happy with the woman you have next to you. I now suffer from depression and have never felt so bad about my body. All because I stayed. Iv been working hard and making my body become better and be sexier. Hoping this will solve the problem. But when I caught him looking at porn about a year ago my self esteem went down the drain. I would tell her to leave. One because she’s young and this will ruin her. Sex is not everything but it’s very important in a   committed relationship. If He doesn’t get help or figure out the problem she will suffer the worse.

  11. 31
    pd

    You’re too young at 24 to be in this situation. You’re heart is in the right place in caring about this man and his problems, but, you aren’t going to be able to fix this for him. If he isn’t being pro-active about seeking help off his own bat he probably doesn’t want to. Be very careful about falling into the trap of trying to help him fix this as he won’t thank you in the long run.

    There are plenty of single, gorgeous guys around your own age who are looking for a great girl like yourself to build a future with, get married and have kids eventually if that is what you want.

    Run!

  12. 32
    Annie

    @19

    SS you were taking your ex-partners issues personally. This is why it crushed you and took away your self esteem.

    You and Gem(it seems) chose to view anothers problems to be about you and of course you tried to fix yourself. This shows a lack of confidence and also  suggests you actually have no boundaries as an individual. IE you cannot tell the difference between anothers problems and how those problems make you feel.

    Now  you  try to create a  boundary by running away as soon as a man has a problem, because you are unable to determine if the problem is you or him. This does not help and running is not the answer.

    Are you able to empathise but not take the blame, when it is really not your fault? Are you able to realistically determine when it is your fault(at least partially?)

    Evan is simply saying, don’t blame yourself by default. Then decide what you want to do. I honestly think Evan spends the majority of his coaching time, trying to teach women about boundaries and personal narcissism.

  13. 33
    Annie

    @21

    Exactly.

    When women have sexual issues(however they arise), we would really really like a man to help us feel more comfortable, confident and perhaps accepted. We would like him to help us with it and be patient.
    This requires him to realize, that it ISN’T about him, but about us and we need some help.

    But when a man has a sexual issue, women are all about saying “don’t put up with THIS crap”. As though caring about a person and helping them, makes us weak.

    Well it only makes us weak, when we take it pesonally.

    I do read about men who say this as well. If a woman has a difficult time “letting go” or enjoying sex, then he will say incredibly cruel things .

    When will women realize that men…actually have feelings, issues, insecurities just like we do?

    1. 33.1
      DeeGee

      Annie, great post, thank you.

      Orgasmic dysfunction issues are significantly higher in women than men.

      As for what the woman in the original letter should do, she needs to make up her mind if she is in it for the long haul.   Many more obstacles are sure to come her way during her life.

      I can only offer two words and something that I am a firm believer in and an active practicer: “tantric sex”.

    2. 33.2
      Jack

      Yep, it’s amazing the heartlessness of many of the women posting.   Just leave! So many hot young guys out there to date!   Do the women here even consider males human?

  14. 34
    Annie

    @24 Gem

    You said:

    “If she’s madly crazy in love with him and he is the ONE then I’d advise her  to stick it out and go through the process so she never looks back and says, “what if…””

    Why would you give this advice? Most people ‘believe’ when they are ‘ in love’ that that person is the one. This is when you advise someone(just like Evan does) to step back, and see if the crazy feeling reflects the actual relationship and not your desire   to feel that way in a relationship.

    You said

    “How’s she going to feel after she “helps” him for months, feeling rejected and her confidence takes a hit, then he dumps her?:

    She’s going to feel perfectly fine if she realizes the problem is not her but him.

    The only reason Gem, you have such an issue with this, is because when you “help a guy” you help him, so that YOU will feel better about the situation.

    When you help some-one, you don’t turn it around to be about your OWN feelings, you make sure you understand what the other is going through and you help THEM.

    It is up to you as an individual, as to how far you take that.

    That is the messge your daughter would need to hear. She can show care, and not let herself be lost in the process.

  15. 35
    Gem

    Annie, #32,

    Thanks for the psychoanalysis, but I don’t have the boundary problems you suggest. I’m 45, she’s 24. I have more life experience/observation, tis all, to offer what I see as major potential pitfalls of this situation.

    Facts:

    35 year old man going through, or on heels of divorce. (red flag)

    Has ED. (red flag)
    Only has been able to perform to orgasm a couple of times. (red flag)
    Doesn’t seem to have a plan to fix it himself. (red flag)
    Dating only couple of months. (important critical point)

    No mention of love, commitment. (important cricital point)

    Her needs not being met. (red flag)

    Her sexual confidence is being effected. (red flag)

    She never actually asked a question in her letter.  The major concern to her seems to be that she’s not convinced his problem is entirely his.  She’s beginning to doubt herself and feel insecure.  That, quite frankly should be more her concern.
    No where does she list all the wonderful things about this guy or her desire to help him yet so many people offer up all the possibilities of what it could be and what she should/shouldn’t do to HELP this guy of 2 months, she barely knows so they can work it out. (Who says he  wants to make her his  GF. She’s a hottie 10 years younger right now. Period)
    I only offer another perspective: Should she help at all? What is the risk/benefit?  Shouldn’t she take care of herself and let this grown man of 10 years her senior take care of himself? Shouldn’t he do that anyway before beginning to date and drag someone else into the scenario?  

    Looking from the outside with no emotional  investment, I say run. But she’s the one in the situation. She can do what she wants.  

      

  16. 36
    SS

    Annie, actually the ex-partner DID blame me. He said he’d never had the problem with any other woman BUT me, so yeah, I think I would take that pretty personally!
      
    The best thing I did was to stop trying to fix myself and get out. I was not going to take the blame for his problem if he was doing nothing to fix it… nor was I going to empathize if he was going to blame someone else for his emotional issue about his problem.
      
    So nope, nothing was my fault in that relationship in regards to sex. I’m not going into any more details regarding the exact nature of the issue, just because I think that does cross into the TMI zone.
      
    However, once I got out of that relationship, I met my husband six months later.   Our sex life is great… so considering your point of view Annie, how exactly would I have benefited staying with the last guy with issues, when by leaving, I instead ended up with the man who became my husband?

  17. 37
    SS

    Gem @35,
      
    (Who says he  wants to make her his  GF. She’s a hottie 10 years younger right now. Period)
      
    I don’t think a lot of younger women understand this, and your life experience is much appreciated. Where were you eight years ago when I was Brittany’s age?   🙂
      
    When you’re younger and not surrounded by people who are going through or have been through divorces, you don’t recognize the emotional roller coasters that are part of the process and don’t factor that in when you meet a guy like this for the first time.
      
    This man has probably told Brittany all sorts of things about how terrible his wife was, what she put him through… or if not, simply that, “they’ve grown apart.” But, if he’s still married (because people “going through a divorce” still are), the possibility is high that he’s still interacting with the wife in some way, especially if they have children. He could still be sleeping with her off and on. Perhaps the ED is caused by guilt. Perhaps he’s realized he’s bitten off more than he can chew because his young hottie isn’t minimizing the pain of divorce or keeping him from being depressed about it, like he thought a new relationship might.
      
    Meanwhile, the young hottie (at least in this case) is thinking there’s potential here with this guy, and probably having little idea that she’s likely a rebound. Or that the divorced/divorcing guy’s married friends tell him that he’s so lucky now because he can just have sex with all sorts of young women and be a stud like that…
      
    I’ve appreciated Christie Hartman’s posts about dating a divorced/separated/divorcing man, because that fact alone puts this question in a whole different light than just, “my guy can’t get it up.” And if there’s no one in Brittany’s personal life telling her about the tendencies of these guys and the fact that she’s playing the “young (and usually temporary) hottie” role, then she’s not clearly seeing the entirety of the issue.

  18. 38
    Ruby

    I think it’s a bit sad when a 24-year old says, “I’m pretty sure that I’m not totally disgusting…”

    I also think it has occurred to a few of us that perhaps this man “going through a divorce”, should take some time to deal with the divorce and process his issues before dragging someone else into his drama. If a woman was going through a divorce, and having trouble with sex, I would say exactly the same thing to her male partner. It’s not about someone having sexual problems per se, it’s about the issues contributing to the problem, whatever they may be.
      

  19. 39
    Ruby

    Another thing I wanted to mention is that I didn’t encounter men who had sexual issues until I got into my mid-40’s, and the men were over 40. By that time, I knew that older men sometimes experienced sexual challenges due to both physical and emotional issues, and because I’d had a history of good physical relationships with men, it was easier not to blame myself, although it still wasn’t easy. A 24-year-old doesn’t have that history or perspective. As others have said, there are plenty of guys her own age who won’t have that kind of baggage.   

  20. 40
    Gem

    Annie,

    But when a man has a sexual issue, women are all about saying “don’t put up with THIS crap”. As though caring about a person and helping them, makes us weak.
    When you help some-one, you don’t turn it around to be about your OWN feelings, you make sure you understand what the other is going through and you help THEM.

    Caring for/helping a person does not make us weak. It’s actually one of a woman’s greatest strengths.

    However, becomming a selfless-rescuer while abdicating our own needs and self-care may make us stupid. She’s not Mother Teresa. She’s a young woman who wants a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship.

    She hardly knows this guy and already her time with him is effecting her negatively. Obviously it’s not a good place for her. Telling her to “just not feel that way” is pointless. She does feel that way and, right/wrong, it’s understandable.

    You don’t know this guy’s intentions or agenda for her and yet your advice is help him, have compassion, be supportive and just detach emotionally from his problem so it doesn’t effect her. What about her needs, and care, and what is he doing to help himself? Where’s your concern for that or is martyrdome your specialty?

    My advise is for her to ask herself if the potential benefit outweighs the risk and take care of herself!  She’s dealing with someone  she doesn’t even really know and the risk is huge.    

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