Monday 14 October 2019

Dear Mary: My new partner's problem has left me clueless and worried for future

Mary O’Conor

I'm 49 and have been separated four years having left a marriage which I'd been unhappy in for a long time and should have left in my thirties. I have grown up children, a happy career, and no major issues - life is really very good.

After dipping in and out of online dating for a while, last month I messaged a man, had our first date and took it from there.

We have so much in common and from the beginning it was obvious that this has huge potential. We are the same age, and are both healthy, normal weight, attractive, hard working people who are very attracted to each other.

But here's the catch. He has erectile dysfunction.

We could kiss all day long and his oral sex is for me without question the best ever. I only very rarely orgasmed from it before, penetrative sex being far more successful for me. But I have a high sex drive, I love penetrative sex and the thought of not having it makes me so sad.

In fairness to him, and for his own sake not mine, he decided to visit his GP. This had been an issue before for him. His ex wife sounds toxic and had called him impotent on occasions.

His GP prescribed Cialis but it wasn't successful the first time. He started to get aroused when I gave him oral sex but the erection almost completely disappeared when he started putting on the condom and no penetration happened. I felt we needed to give trying a rest for fear it became a constant issue for him.

I'm unsure what to do. I have looked up natural remedies and hypnosis. I want to be supportive but ultimately I'm scared that sexually it'll be a disaster as I really do love frequent sex and know I couldn't live without it at this stage as I'm still young.

I really like him and could see this as a long-term relationship but have to be sensible too and think of my own needs.

I should have left my marriage many years before I did, I'm not getting any years back and I don't want to waste these precious years.

Mary replies:  Erectile dysfunction causes a huge amount of stress to both partners and in my experience one of the main reasons for the partner to be upset is when the man refuses to do anything about it. So I am really happy that your man has already started looking for help by visiting his GP. In doing so he will have ruled out any physical causes for his problem, and that is very important.

My first suggestion is to go with your instinct, which was to stop trying for penetrative sex for the moment.

You were absolutely right to do this because repeated negative experiences would reinforce the fact that this is a problem and make it an even bigger one.

It is so wonderful that you have found each other, both having come from a previous unhappy relationship. But the relationship is very new and that in itself will be contributing to the problem. He must be delighted and excited to be with you, having already realised that you have so much in common and that there is a very strong attraction. As a result he will want to do everything to please you and because you have a healthy sexual appetite and enjoy sex so much he will particularly want to please you sexually. This he has already done with oral sex, but his erectile problem is causing problems leading, no doubt, to a huge amount of performance anxiety on his part.

Your new lover is coming from a background of being run down and called impotent sexually. This may have caused massive damage to his ego and to his belief in himself sexually, therefore leaving him much more susceptible to sexual dysfunction than somebody coming from a previously satisfactory sexual life.

So what should you do? It is far too early in the relationship to seek professional help - a sex therapist will usually have a rule of thumb that the couple should be in a relationship for at least six months if they are to be taken into treatment. The reason for this is that early problems often sort themselves out as trust develops between the couple and the relationship itself blossoms. So try to relax a little with regard to having penetrative sex and instead enjoy all the other parts of being sexual with him that you love, as well as enjoying his company, his friendship, his charm and anything else that you are finding particularly attractive.

In any event if you were to attend a sex therapist one of the very first instructions would be a ban on anything sexual for the first few weeks of treatment - instead, the couple are asked to concentrate on being sensual, with lots of lovely massages and non-sexual touching becoming the norm.

It is often remarked by men who are in sex therapy that because of the ban being imposed on sexual intercourse they are able to relax enough to allow the blood flow once more into the penis, with the obvious result, which helps them regain their confidence and get back to normal functioning.

Condoms are a big problem with anyone suffering from ED. Because the very fact of putting on a condom presses the 'pause' button in the whole arousal process, if there are any negative thoughts floating around they will have time to gain ground and the man is back into performance anxiety mode even as he begins to unwrap the condom.

However some form of contraception is necessary (hopefully you have had the Sexually Transmitted Diseases conversation) and you may wish to talk to your GP about an alternative to condoms for you to use, even for a short time.

All this may be difficult for you to contemplate, although from what you say you are very smitten with this man and you may be willing to slow things down for a while in the hope of achieving ultimate sexual and emotional happiness.

In my experience it is highly likely that, in time, this will indeed be achieved.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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