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We sat down with Natalie Finegood Goldberg, LMFT, CST-S, an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist and Supervisor specializing in Men’s Sexual Health in Beverly Hills, California, to discuss the most frequent questions we receive about erectile dysfunction and its impact on overall sexual health.
Q: I’ve got a new relationship, but I’m having ED. How do I even discuss it?
So the best way to talk about ED is to just be straightforward; just put it out there. Find a time when you can sort of feel calm and centered, and just let your partner know, “Hey, there’s something I kind of want to talk to you about when you have a minute.” I have an old colleague who used to say the best time to talk about sex is when you are drinking coffee in the morning around the kitchen table. So, just find a time that’s comfortable for you. Sit down and bring it up.
Whatever you do, do not bring it up when you are naked and in bed already. Not the right time.
Q: My partner thinks I’ve got erection problems because of her. I’m trying to persuade her that my passion for her is still there. What to do?
This is such a common misconception! So many partners automatically assume that the ED their partner is experiencing is because of them, or because they’re not attracted to them, or they’re not sexy enough, or whatever fill-in-the-blank. And the reality is that with most people I work with, it’s actually the opposite. It’s because people are so eager to please and they feel so much pressure to make their partner happy, that’s why they don’t get an erection, not because they’re not attracted to them.
Q: I have an erection when watching porn, but I don’t have it when I’m with a partner. Is that normal?
It’s very normal to get an erection while watching porn and not with your partner because they’re two totally different animals. When you are watching porn, you are in the privacy of your own space. You have nobody else to take care of or please. It’s all about your own desire, your own needs; there are no distractions, and there’s no pressure. So that’s very different from being in front of a real-life human who has wants, needs, desires. And there’s the whole interactive element of it, where it’s not just about you. It’s about the two of you, and it’s a very different animal.
Q: I have an erection, but then after two minutes, it stops. What’s going on?
The erections are kind of like the tide — they come and they go, they come and they go. And so, it’s really important to bear this in mind because a lot of men get freaked out when they have an erection and then they lose it, and then they assume that it is gone forever. So, just be patient, be calm, and it can come back, and if you freak out, it won’t come back.
So, the most important part is to stay calm. Go back to whatever feels good. Keep doing that, and if you’re calm and relaxed and enjoying yourself, it will come back.
Q: How do I know if my ED is physiological or psychological?
The best litmus test for checking if it’s psychological or physical is sort of the masturbation test. If you have trouble getting or maintaining an erection while you’re masturbating, then there’s a high likelihood that something is wrong physiologically. Whereas if you have no problem getting or maintaining an erection when you’re masturbating, but you do with a partner, then it’s more likely that the variable causing the issue is the interaction between you and your partner in some way. Not that it’s their fault per se but more just the interaction of having another person there, the performance anxiety, etc.
The Coach team expresses great appreciation to Natalie Goldberg for her assistance in preparing responses to these questions. You can learn more about the work of Natalie Goldberg here: