Erectile dysfunction can be devastating to a man. But it can be just as difficult for his partner.
“The first thing a woman thinks when a man can’t get an erection is that it’s her fault,” says Dr. Andrew McCullough. “Nothing could be further from the truth.” Dr. McCullough is director of sexual health and male infertility at NYU Medical Center in New York City.
Because of this self-blame, when wives try to talk to their husbands about the problem, their line of questioning often has some anxiety or hurt to it, says Professor Sallie Foley of the University of Michigan. She is co-author of the book Sex Matters for Women. “She may suspect her husband is having an affair, or that he just doesn’t find her desirable anymore.”
Often, she says, a man with ED will interpret his wife’s questions as an attack on him.
This is because men and women view ED very differently, says sex counselor Dr. Trina Read. “Men see ED as a mechanical problem. Women see it as a relationship problem,” said Dr. Read.
“While he goes inward to solve the issue, she wants to talk and work it through as a couple. Both are inadvertently irritating the other.”
The result: The couple can stop communicating altogether. That can make matters worse.
“The one thing a woman should never do is withdraw, because that is a formula for relationship disaster,” said Dr. McCullough.
5 Ways to Help a Partner Deal with ED
Here are five ways a woman can help her man through ED:
- Don’t feel rejected. “It’s not about you,” said Professor Foley.
- Don’t tell him it doesn’t matter. It matters a great deal to him. “Saying you don’t care sends a message that you don’t miss the sexual, intimate contact with him,” says Dr. McCullough. “That can push a man even further away.”
- Discuss it with him. But not right away. Wait at least a few days. And put it in the context of a physical problem, not a sexual or relationship issue. When you frame it that way, your man is less likely to shut down and end the discussion, said Dr. McCullough. Don’t treat it like a crisis, he advises. Be matter of fact.
- Let him know you enjoy your physical relationship with him. “This is the time to treat your man as your best friend,” says Professor Foley. “Be warm, friendly. Grab his hand. Let him know he is desirable.”
- Help him get help. Many men are embarrassed to talk about ED with their doctor. Dr. Read suggests offering to contact his doctor on his behalf if you think he may want that.
Adds Professor Foley: “If a woman can just manage to not feel personally wounded by ED, if she can get in touch with her kindness, and her intuitive, nurturing side and follow those instincts, she’ll very likely know all the right things to do and say.”
Why Viagra Is Not the Answer for Many Men
One need only switch on the TV to see that Big Pharma believes it has solved the problem of erectile dysfunction. Pfizer has spent more than $100 million on an ad campaign that shows a man sprouting horns after taking Viagra. It exhorts men to “get back to mischief.”
The money was well-spent. Viagra has raked in $20 billion (billion with a b) in revenue since 2003. All ED drugs combined (the other major ones are Cialis, Levitra, and Stendra) have brought many billions more in revenues.
By law, the drug companies must disclose the side effects of their products in TV ads. And for ED drugs, the common problems are not particularly serious. They include headache, heartburn, nasal congestion, vision disturbances, and facial flushing.
The reward seems to outweigh the risks… So why not take the “little blue pill”?
Here’s what the commercials don’t tell you:
- ED drugs often don’t work. They are effective for only about 60% of men. Diabetic men often are resistant. Viagra and the other drugs in its class work by relaxing smooth muscle, which in turn dilate blood vessels in the penis. But smooth muscle will not relax substantially when glucose levels are high. 
- ED drugs stop working. Considering how many men are on these drugs, you’d think there would be plenty of research showing long-term effectiveness. In fact, there are no major studies proving efficacy over the long haul. And there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence the medications stop working.
Many men and their doctors say the drugs initially work well…but then lose their effectiveness after a year or two. Increasing the dosage may help at first, but eventually the drugs stop working entirely., , , 
A survey found that about half of men given a first prescription for ED drugs don’t refill them. In the last few years, sales of ED drugs have begun to decline. As the drugs stop working, men stop using them. 
3 Natural Solutions for ED
Here’s something else Big Pharma does not want you to know…
There are safe and natural ED solutions that have been tested in clinical studies and shown to be effective:
- L-citrulline is an amino acid found in some foods. A blind placebo study in the journal Urology tested L-citrulline in men with ED. Half the men taking L-citrulline reported getting firmer erections. And they had sex more than twice as often as they did before taking the supplement. L-citrulline also proved to be fast-acting. Subjects reported that their ED improved almost right after taking it. The men in the study took 1.5 grams of L-citrulline a day. You can find L-citrulline supplements in health food stores and online.
- Maca is a radish-like root that grows in the mountains of Peru. It is particularly effective in people taking antidepressants, which often have the side effect of reducing libido. A randomized, double-blind study at Massachusetts General Hospital found 3 grams of maca a day improved the sex drive of patients taking antidepressants. This confirmed UK research showing that maca improves sexual desire in both men and women. Maca works in nondepressed patients, too. A 2009 study in the journal Andrologia showed that men suffering from ED reported improved erectile function and higher sexual satisfaction after taking 2.4 grams of maca a day for 12 weeks.
- Ginseng has been used as a medicine in the Far East since antiquity. Going back to at least 3,000 B.C. it has been used to increase stamina, fight fatigue, and boost sexual performance. Modern research shows ginseng’s effectiveness against ED is comparable to Viagra—but without the side effects. A double-blind placebo study in 2002 found that 60% of men had improved erections while taking ginseng. This is about the same success rate as Viagra and other ED drugs. The research was published in The Journal of Urology.
ED can be devastating for men—but it doesn’t have to be. An understanding partner and some help from nature can make a man feel like himself again.
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