Erectile dysfunction can be stressful for both the man affected and his partner – but it can be solved, says Relate sex therapist Denise Knowles

It can feel pretty awkward when you are still getting to know each other in a new relationship and things don’t go to plan sexually.

But Erectile Dysfunction (ED), or impotence as it’s sometimes referred to, is actually a common condition. People usually associate it with older men, and it’s true that 18 per cent of 50-59 year olds have trouble getting an erection, but 7 per cent of 18-29 year olds are also affected.

It’s imporant not to jump to conclusions and assume your partner doesn’t fancy you, or that need to brush up on your sex technique. There are a myriad of factors that can impact on a man’s ability to get and maintain an erection.

Alcohol can act as an aphrodisiac and calm the nerves on those first few dates, but it can also be bad news for erections. So can recreational drugs and some forms of medication. Diabetes can also be a cause of ED, as can prostate gland surgery.

Psychological causes include depression, stress and anxiety. Men sometimes worry about getting a new sexual partner pregnant so do make sure you mention contraception. If the relationship is relatively new your partner might be nervous about ‘performing’. If they don’t manage to get an erection, this can add to the tension and pressure the next time and further compound the issue.

So what can you do to help things along a little?  Well, chances are it may sort itself out as you settle in to your relationship. But if it keeps happening and you see a future in the relationship, you need to talk about it, or it will soon become the elephant in the bedroom. Pick a time with no distractions and where nobody can overhear you. Tell them that you care about them and that you don’t need to rush things sexually. This can take the pressure off the need to perform.

If your relationship develops but problems persist, you might want to suggest they see their GP just to rule out any physical issues. Attending Sex Therapy as a couple may also be an option if the relationship is more established, or they may prefer to go individually.

Whatever happens, remember there are still ways you can have fun and be intimate even if your partner can’t get an erection.  Exchanging sexy texts, reading erotic literature, and indulging in sensual massage can all help to relax, inspire and increase intimacy.  Of course, every couple is different and it may take a while to find out what works for you.

Denise Knowles is a Relate counsellor and sex therapist. Click here if you’d like to find out more about the Sex Therapy services provided by Relate.