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

couple in disagreement in bedroom

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


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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  1. 41

    24 is the perfect age to conclude you don’t want to date someone who’s “going through a divorce”. They are still married. Wait until they actually are divorced and have been for awhile.

  2. 42


    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.

    Exactly. And his recent or current divorce is reason enough to steer clear of him until he’s well past it. Let alone the ED.

  3. 43

    If I were in Brittany’s position, I would have to ask when his ED started and how long it has persisted. Was it present during his marriage?
    If it was a long term issue that he has struggled with for many years, then it may very well be a medical condition that can be cured.
    However, if it is an issue that arose recently, say when his divorce started, then it could be a sign that his mind is not “with her” while they are being intimate. It never ceases to amaze me how some people can act attentive and present while simultaneously being consumed with thoughts of their ex/divorce/etc.
    Honestly, if his issue is that he is too distracted to mentally consider her (during sex or otherwise) then I fail to see how she could be much help. She doesn’t have his attention.
    There are three sides to relationship stories: his side, her side, and the truth. Thus, I personally don’t feel that I have enough information to advise her to leave or stay. But   I will say that asking him more about the details of his ED may be helpful and would not be totally unreasonable.

  4. 44
    Annie have the patience of a saint 🙂

  5. 45

    @ 36

    “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!

    And as alway’s Evan as made the connection and has asked this young woman to not take  THIS mans  problems as her own, like you did.

    He didn’t ask her to RUN.

  6. 46

    @ Gem 40

    You said

    “However, becomming a selfless-rescuer while abdicating our own needs and self-care may make us stupid.”

    Not everyone that empathises and tries to care about another  becomes   a selfless-rescuer who abdicates their own needs”. That’s what you did Gem, which is why you sound so jaded and give advice that another should run.

    Some of us have boundaries. We can help, but remain ourselves.

  7. 47

    Hmmm… I think someone is just trying to be an instigator here… no need to further respond.
    Anyway, I’d love to hear an update from Brittany, the letter writer, and more details. Is she in an exclusive relationship with this man? Is he calling her his girlfriend? Are they interacting as boyfriend/girlfriend? What does she want from this dating situation? Just to date, or more?

  8. 48


    “Not everyone that empathises and tries to care about another  becomes   a selfless-rescuer who abdicates their own needs”. That’s what you did Gem, which is why you sound so jaded and give advice that another should run.”

    My advice has nothing to do with me personally. It has to do with her current situation. The facts of her letter, (albeit limited), speak for themselves.

    You  know nothing more than I do about  this girl.  Is my advice wrong for HER? Maybe. But so may yours be….(in all it’s good-deed-doer glory)

    She’ll figure it out and I wish her well. 🙂

    Now, I must run off to find a shrink to fix my jaded, boundaryless, narcissistic self. 😉

  9. 49

    @48 Lol..

    I have a terrible habit, of saying “you” when I am talking in a general sense. My apologies if I sounded like I was on the attack. Been caught out with that a few times.

    In otherwords, it isn’t when “you ” do something Gem, it’s more along the lines of when women does and says xyz, it’s often because of ABC. And yes, it ends up sounding as though some-one is quite Jaded.

    One thing we tend to do especially when we are younger, is take on anothers problems as though they are our own. We blame ourselves and try to fix it.

    Of course, this ends up destroying our self-esteem, and gets to a point, where we simply blank any man or even perhaps a female friend because of their issues. We don’t trust ourselves to know how to care, without getting “sucked up” into anothers drama.

    So to me, saying to some-one “run” isn’t the answer because then you never learn how to care, without losing yourself. I think the best advise to give to any young woman, is to take a step back and not tie your emotions up so much with a man. Don’t take the blame and don’t try and fix him. If you take this attitude, you won’t need to “run”, you’ll calmly leave when you know it’s time and you’ve done what you can to rectify things.

    Oh and everyone is We can’t help it(it’s the way we are born). I find recognizing it is important because it helps us to create healthy boundaries.

  10. 50

    This man may not like Brittany’s body.    

    Also, I am wondering if Brittany shows enthusiasm in bed.(Very, very, common male complaint)

  11. 51

    Okay here’s the deal britt…first off, the person who you wrote to has kinda the right idea…next it is very important for you to NOT LISTEN to the females saying run and he’s got big time problems blah blah blah….I am a 23 year old male that sings for a band and can pretty much have any girl I’d like…I date a active 20 year old model in LA and have girls throwing themselves at me since she is out of state working. This stereotype that ALL men are just lusty sex addicts is complete bullshit. The only girl I would be able to get it conpletly hard for consistently would be my girlfriend. Some guys, especially the artsy sensitive type ones, can have alot of problems if they feel unloved or undesired. My good friend who also plays guitar and sings for a band (a band you most Likely hear weekly on the radio) once left a girl after going on 4 dates because after there 4th date when they were going to make love she had said to him…”just to let you know if you have a small dick, that’s a deal breaker.” he said he imeaditly lost all desire to be with her. She than grabbed his unit and said wow your big. He asked her to leave….basically what I’m saying is make sure he feels wanted…come at him with pationce and love….and than if problems still happen…talk to him about the many many options you have as a couple to get him going. You never know if he has ED or a fetish or a million diffrent things…I hope this helped.

  12. 52

    my husband has been having problems with ed for the past 3 years. he tried medication but that just made him very mean. he goes to the gym several times a week, but when he goes to the gym his ed is even worse. Now i ask him not to go to the gym when we want to have sex.

    1. 52.1
      Isn't it ironic

      whenever a woman can’t get wet or in the mood it’s the man’s fault then george? or is her fault always when it comes to sex?

    2. 52.2
      Isn't it ironic

      then he is probably doing something wrong with his workouts Katie  exercise has the opposite effect usually and increases testosterone production. or it could be stress related.

  13. 53

    What does her age have to do with it?She could be 40 and totally hot or 18 and an ugly hag.Not that I am saying that she is but I fail to see how her young age would ensure an erection.

    1. 53.1
      Isn't it ironic

      “But some young women have this sense of entitlement, look I am 21, I am hot.”

      could be because oodles of men over 30 and especially over 40 make it known constantly that these girls are the epitome of desirable to all men still breathing and they would dump their “old hags” in a minute and cut off an arm for one look at those firm young bodies.

      of course theses girls think they are the shit!

  14. 54

    Hi guys, prostitute here, so I’ve got plenty experience.

    Give the poor guy a blow job.   Smiling.   IGNORE his physical response (or lack thereof).   If he comments that he doesn’t think he can, your response is “So?   It still feels good, right?”   Do this for at least 10 minutes.   Be slow about it, don’t wear yourself out; no goal here, remember?   Then crawl up beside him and give him a hug.   If he offers, let him reciprocate.

    Let him have a bit of time to be in his own head.   Can you even imagine a man demanding you explain yourself or go to a doctor if you weren’t wet enough?   Right away?   How traumatic.   “Just chill” is an unbelievably effective cure for even long term impotence.  

    It would be easier to tell a doctor or therapist than face his girlfriend?!   That’s one terrible girlfriend.  

    1. 54.1

      MM, You do have a good point. My friend and her husband has been fighting an ED problem and she confided to me that he could not get enough erection for sex so she took the bull by the horn, so to speak. She delivered the most intense BJ that she ever did and it brought him up to his full erection!!   This did not cure the problem but he seemed normal for a few days. This proves that women can help if they would be assertive.

  15. 55

    The first two times I tried to have sex month with my boyfriend he couldn’t maintain an erection. I was so offended, I felt like it was all me, i wasnt attractive, I wasnt sexy enough….we broke up a couple months later. Four months after we broke up, he died in his sleep from heart failure as a result of an undiagnosed heart problem. He was 31. It might be rare but I never imagined that could have happened to him. A young man unable to maintain an erection could have heart problems, never rule that out. The statistics are actually surprising.

  16. 56

    I am having that problem right now suddenly for the last 4 weeks n it’s been squashing my pride immensely. Evan is right, the other partner needs to understand that he or she isn’t the problem and know that the person with the issue is truly hurting. If she loves him enough to stay then be patient and work with him. If the problem wasn’t my own and it was her’s I would do the same. Lately I’ve been tossing and turning not being able to get much sleep knowing that I love her and wants to give her the best, but out of nowhere ED hits and I have no idea what’s wrong. I feel disgusted of myself as a man. It’s really easy to just bail because the other person has the problem, but put yourself in the other person’s shoes, would u wish your partner to leave you because the problem lies with you or do you wish for them to be with you through thick and thin if love is involved? This is speaking mostly for relationship with love. ED isn’t something someone wish for. I’m starting the process to get help as of now and she’s standing by me. As a somewhat religious man with modern influence, I must also say that we should not put sex to such a high of a value that it completely determines a love relationship and marriage. For the people who are married or in a love relationship in here, doesn’t marriage and love hold much weight anymore? Or is love not real anymore and people are fooled to completely associating sex with love.

  17. 57

    You all have no idea what real suffering is like when it comes to and ED problem. About 6 yrs ago, my husband started having problems with hardness, then about a year later, at the young age of 49, he had a stroke. A stroke is a circulatory problem, like a heart attack is one. Since then, he had difficulty maintaining an erection. The urologist basically told him, with a stroke in his history, obviously this was a circulatory problem and gave him medicine, which sometimes worked, then insurance stopped covering it. It seems that insurance companies don’t think sex is required element to live. So, now we couldn’t afford any medication. THEN, when it kept getting worse, I had to threaten to divorce him if he did not go back and get his prostate checked. I had an inkling, call it, prophetic. After 3 mths, he finally went, two months later he was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 53. The doctors of course wanted to go in and cut the cancer/prostate out with FALSE promises that if he could get an erection before, as long as they didn’t have to cut the nerve bundles, he would be able to get one after. THEY LIE DON’T listen them, they want their cancer cure rates, they don’t care about what happens after. They’ll promise “fixes” if he has problems, but again, insurance companies WON’T pay for any of them. So, unless you’re rich, and can afford the ridiculous price of medication which doesn’t always work, you’re screwed and not the good kind. So, I nursed him back to health, I have always been careful and sensitive and tried to NOT let him know how much this was devastating me, until it got so bad that he completely shut down and all romance and affection ended in our marriage. Then we did nothing but non-stop fighting. He is a man who is dead inside, and I can’t bring him back to life. His nerve bundles were NOT touched, they said he should be able to eventually get back some kind of erection, really not if he’s depressed as all hell! When a 54 year old man can’t have sex, there is no treatment for the kind of depression that has overtaken my husband of 29 years. We have no money for treatment, insurance companies don’t care that a man losing his ability to make love sends him into a depressive black hole where there is no way out. He can have an orgasm, with manipulation, but no erection. With no erection, there’s no desire, with no desire, he doesn’t want to “do” me. So, at 52, my marriage is over, or I can stay married in a platonic marriage. Men, prostate cancer is a slow cancer, unless you get it young. If you get young, in the 50’s you’re going to die one way or another.

  18. 58
    Sandra G

    Leave him and find a real man.   End of story.

    1. 58.1

      You’re so compassionate and empathetic.

  19. 59

    To reply to all the women who are so quick to say dump him!!!!!! My girlfriend was sexually assaulted before we even met!!… With that, comes her insecurities, self blame, low confidence, she feels un attractive & even can’t always take part in full sex!!!!! However, I love her more than life itself (& she’s lovely looking)!!.. Yes, things can be testing sometimes but, that’s the girl I love & I want to marry her & spend the rest of my life with her!!!!! If I thought otherwise, you lot would be calling me all the bastards for running out on her!! (Which I never will!!)… This thing works both ways!!..

    1. 59.1
      Karmic Equation

      Exactly, Wayne. It does work both ways.


      Right now you’re in the attraction phase…and she’s lovely looking. 5 years down the road, you’re OUT of the attraction phase and she’s gained 30lbs from having kids. And she STILL has her insecurities and hasn’t overcome her traumatic past.


      How happy would you be THEN?


      Women who cannot overcome their traumatic pasts or insecurities are the female equivalent of the Emotionally Unavailable man. They won’t make good long-term partners because it will ALWAYS be about her and her past and her trauma and what she has had to go through and how hard she has to work to be happy and on and on it goes.


      You lover her now because “she’s lovely” — but when she’s not, you’re not going to want to put up with her baggage.


      So, make sure that while you’re together that she PROGRESSES in her self-healing. If she stagnates, you really do need to consider dumping her. Kinder to do it now than when she’s fat and has kids…and no options.

  20. 60

    Trust me!! She’s far from perfect & has more than her fair share of faults but, so do I….. Nobody stays attractive forever but, it’s the girl under the skin that I love!!!!! She’s my soulmate & my best friend & despite her issues, we make eachother laugh a hell of a lot!! Remember, none of us are perfect!!

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