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My boyfriend is having trouble staying erect — here's how to approach it

The reasons behind erectile dysfunction are never your fault.

Written by
Gemma Kaczerepa
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
April 29, 2024
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My boyfriend is having trouble staying erect — here's how to approach it
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If you’re reading this, you’re probably here for one reason: your significant other is having a bit of trouble getting, or staying, hard.

First up, know that this is a very common problem. Secondly, remember that the reasons behind erectile dysfunction are never your fault. Ever.

And the good news is that because erectile dysfunction is such a prevalent issue, there are plenty of ways to tackle it, ranging from simple lifestyle tweaks to dedicated clinical treatments.

If your boyfriend doesn’t get hard and you’re wondering how to help him handle it, here’s what you (and he) need to know.

Erectile dysfunction is incredibly common

First things first: what is erectile dysfunction? Also known as impotence or ED, it's when a man can’t get or maintain an erection substantial enough to have sex. 

While the issue can be a pretty frustrating one for you, your partner, your relationship and your sex life, remember that it’s a common one. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 men over the age of 40 experience erectile dysfunction, and 1 in 10 can’t have erections at all [1]. The issue affects both younger guys and older men, but is more common in the latter.

Note that being unable to get hard from time to time is considered normal — things like alcohol, drugs and stress can cause occasional erection and sexual functioning issues. But when the problem becomes an ongoing one, that’s when it’s considered ED [3].

Reasons why your boyfriend might experience erectile issues

We get it: if your boyfriend can’t get hard, it’s easy to think the problem lies with you. But know that that’s definitely not the case. 

There are lots of different reasons behind ED — both physical and psychological, or a combination — that have absolutely nothing to do with you or your partner’s attraction towards you.

Instead, here are some of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction:

  • Ageing — the problem primarily affects older men
  • Health issues like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes
  • Nerve-related problems including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Injury to the spinal cord
  • Prostate issues
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Alcohol, drugs or smoking (and vaping!)
  • Stress or exhaustion
  • Anxiety, particularly around sexual performance
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression [3].

Why does my boyfriend have erectile dysfunction?

In most cases, one of the physical or psychological reasons we mentioned earlier leads to impotence.

Sometimes, though, ED can be caused by issues within the relationship — like a recent argument, unresolved problems or going through something that adds strain to your relationship, like trying to get pregnant

Performance anxiety can also put a lot of pressure on your boyfriend — his eagerness to please could play a role in his ability to get or stay hard. This is directly related to stress hormones, which restrict blood flow to the penis and make it trickier to get an erection.

It’s worth repeating that none of these issues is your fault. Even if something in your relationship is causing impotence, you’re absolutely not to blame. Plus, these hurdles can very easily be worked through.

How to talk to your boyfriend about erectile dysfunction

If you’re keen to get on top of your partner’s ED, here’s how you can approach the subject of erectile dysfunction with him — even if it’s a bit of a touchy one.

Communicate openly

While ED impacts your boyfriend physically, it likely impacts both of you emotionally. This is why open communication is key, whether you’re in a new relationship or a long-term relationship.

Rather than trying to ignore the issue, discussing it openly yet sensitively — particularly both of your feelings towards it — is the first step in tackling it. 

Pick your timing

When you bring it up with your partner, try to keep the discussion calm and productive. Pick a moment where you’re both relaxed (for example, rushing out the door to work probably isn’t the most ideal time) and avoid escalating towards an argument. This will only place more strain on the situation, potentially making it worse.

Support him through it

This is an opportunity to act as a source of solace for your partner. Tell him he’s not alone in this and ask him how you can help — be it as emotional support or by helping him research ED treatment options. 

Try not to dictate what he should and shouldn’t do to solve the problem. Instead, provide an open forum for him to air his thoughts on why he’s experiencing impotence and how he thinks you can handle it together. 

Don’t blame

Remember, it’s no one’s fault that your boyfriend is experiencing ED. There’s nothing wrong with you, or your partner, and impotence isn’t a sign that you’re unattractive or that he’s inadequate. Be sensitive towards one another and don’t place blame. 

Consider health screenings

Because impotence is often the result of a physical issue, talk to your partner about getting a health screening.

His doctor can check him for things like prostate and thyroid problems, high blood pressure, and lifestyle factors such as stress and alcohol consumption — among the other conditions that can cause ED. 

Know his treatment options

If he’s open to it, you could also discuss treatment options with your partner to remind him that ED is very much a fixable issue. 

As you and your partner work through it, it’s really helpful if both of you are across all of the treatments so you can make an informed decision about how to tackle it together.

But avoid forcing him into a particular treatment or getting it treated right away; he may need to mull things over, and adding pressure might stress him out even more.

What your boyfriend can do to treat erectile dysfunction

You’ll be glad to know that ED can be treated, whether it stems from a physical or psychological issue.

Your partner’s first port of call should be a doctor, who will assess the extent of the situation and provide a treatment plan accordingly. 

Addressing underlying problems

If your boyfriend’s ED is a direct result of a health issue — such as heart problems, diabetes, hypothyroidism or any of the physical conditions we mentioned earlier — the first step is to treat that. Your partner’s doctor can perform a health screening to check for any underlying problems, and will then recommend the best course of treatment.

The same goes if there are lifestyle factors behind your partner’s impotence. Making changes like losing weight, curbing drinking or smoking, eating erection-friendly foods or exercising more regularly may help to improve the situation. In fact, research shows that exercise — especially if it’s medium to high intensity — can help alleviate ED [4].

Clinical treatments

Clinical treatments are incredibly effective, with 78% of men will achieve lasting erections [5]. Common treatment plans work to target the enzyme responsible for the contraction of blood vessels in the penis. This improves blood flow and helps men maintain firm erections throughout sex.

If your partner is keen to explore this route, Pilot’s erectile dysfunction treatment is a clinically proven and convenient option. Your partner simply needs to complete an online consult with one of our Aussie practitioners, who will create a treatment plan based on his individual needs.

And, from there, the treatment is delivered discreetly to his door — no need for face-to-face appointments or trips to the chemist. Plus, the treatments offered by Pilot practitioners have helped improve the sex lives of 94% of patients — now that is a number to celebrate [6]. 

Counselling or sex therapy

Counselling is a great option if the root cause of your partner’s erection problems is psychological, such as depression, anxiety, performance anxiety or low self-esteem.

Therapy can also be beneficial even if your boyfriend’s ED stems from a physical cause: if his confidence in bed has been affected by erectile dysfunction, a professional can help bring back his self-assurance.

And if ED is impacting your relationship, you could consider seeing a professional together. A psychologist, sex therapist or relationship therapist can help you and your boyfriend work through the issues in your sex life, helping to resolve not only his impotence but any associated tension or worries, too.

Photo credit: Unsplash + Toa Heftiba

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