Erectile dysfunction destroying your sex life? Here's how to get it back

Keith* and I met in our late 40s at turning points in our lives. We were both newly divorced and our children had left for college. In my first marriage sex was always a struggle, and my ex accused me of having a low libido. But when I started dating Keith, I realized that I wasn’t the "problem." We traveled a lot together and had sex at every opportunity: on a friend's bed at a dinner party, in restaurant bathrooms, even outside in a park!

We got married in a small ceremony attended by our kids and close friends. From the start, our relationship was always very passionate, but as we entered our late 50s—I’m 56 and Keith is 59—our sex life slowed down. Keith's erectile dysfunction was a huge reason why.

I would never say that in front of Keith, and even now that we've gotten to a place where we can discuss what's been going on for the past two years, I still wouldn't use the term "erectile dysfunction." I think a man's ego is very tied to his ability to perform in bed.

At first, Keith didn't want to admit there was a problem. When we would try to make love and he couldn't stay hard, he would use being stressed out or tired as an excuse. Since he works a lot, I thought those were real possibilities. But when the problem continued, I started to wonder if he was still attracted to me.

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Of course, I now know that ED is an actual physical problem: something is restricting the blood flow to the penis. In Keith’s case, diabetes, combined with a history of smoking (he's since quit) and not exercising are also contributing factors. But when I would lie naked underneath him in bed and feel him struggling to stay hard inside me, I started to worry. I was getting older, too. What if there was someone younger and better looking that was turning his head? What if I just wasn't hot to him anymore?

Keith (and all of my friends) have reassured me that this is not the case. At 56, I'm actually in the best shape of my life. I work out five times a week, take great care of my appearance, and for the most part, feel sexy and confident. But not being able to be intimate with your husband hurts.

After one particularly embarrassing incident, when I asked Keith to do me from behind and he couldn't get it up, he angrily told me that I should go take a lover. What I heard was that he was through with our relationship. The next morning we sat down and had a serious talk. I told him I was concerned not only for our sex life, but for his health. Thankfully, he agreed to go to the doctor.

Once Keith agreed to a checkup, things got better. He now takes Cialis daily and is able to get an erection when we're in the mood. I know he hates that he needs to take a pill, but that's the way things are. Thankfully there haven't been any side effects other than perhaps a bruise to his ego! His doctor encouraged him to exercise (for overall health but also to help increase blood flow to the penis), but he's reluctant to join me in the gym, though sometimes he will accompany me on long walks.

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We saw a marriage counselor and she suggested that having intercourse isn't the only way to be intimate with your partner. That was a game-changer for us. Now that we focus a lot more on foreplay, there's less pressure on Keith to "get the deed done." Plus, it's led us to explore a variety of new techniques and even toys. It's honestly a lot more exciting than the usual "in and out" routine we'd gotten so used to early in our relationship.

To others struggling with their man having ED, I would say encourage him to seek medical help. At the same time it's important to be sensitive. No one likes to feel like they aren't virile, and having to admit that to the person you're sleeping with, even if she's your closest confidant, can be terrifying.

These days, Keith and I are more connected than ever and planning our next trip to Europe. I am thankful that with the help of a pill—and a little patience on both our parts—we'll hopefully continue to enjoy that hot hotel sex that brought us together in the first place!

*All names have been changed

This article originally appeared in Prevention