Seniors in bed

I’m very upset and so is my wife. I’m 46 and healthy. I can get an erection just fine when I masturbate. Sometimes I also wake up with morning erections. But during sex with my wife, I’m having real erectile dysfunction. Sometimes I don’t get hard at all. Other times, I get it up, and then lose it. I love my wife. I find her very sexually attractive. And I’m not having an affair. But she wonders if I love her, if I’m attracted to her, and if I’m cheating. Help!


  • Michael Castleman says:

    Sorry to hear that you’re in pain, but your situation is fairly common, especially in men over 40, and it has no bearing on your feelings for your wife.

    The good news is that you don’t have organic erectile dysfunction. Your continuing ability to masturbate and have wake-up erections proves this. I suggest that you and your wife read the articles on erections after 40: Erection Myths and the Truth about Erections, Weak Erections or Erectile Dysfunction?, and Erectile Dysfunction: Its Varieties, Prevalence, Causes, and Relationship Implications.

    I’m glad you love your wife and find her alluring, but even so, compared with masturbation, partner sex is more challenging, and more difficult for maintaining an erection. In masturbation, you’re only concerned with your own pleasure, and you get immediate sensory feedback from every touch and stroke. In partner sex, you have to be concerned about your wife’s pleasure as well as your own, and if she stimulates you in ways that aren’t quite as arousing as your own strokes, the only way she can know is if you tell her, which many men are reluctant to do, especially when the woman is providing pleasure—but not quite optimal pleasure.

    In addition, you’ve developed a conditioned reflex. You’re stressed out by your erection problem during sex with your wife, so you expect it to happen, which only makes things worse.

    Some suggestions:

    Try to relax. Relaxation directs blood flow to the body core, including the penis. Anxiety directs blood away from the core and away from the penis. In other words, the more you worry about erection, the less likely it becomes.

    Relax more before and during sex. Steer clear of alcohol for at least three hours before sex. Make love when you have energy, not when you’re tired. If you make love late at night, try it in the morning. Take a hot shower beforehand.

    Try some massage with your wife. Read the article, Whole-Body Massage: The “Language” of Great Sex at Any Age—Especially After 40.

    Next, tell your wife exactly how you most like to be caressed. Better yet, show her how your stroke yourself when you masturbate. The more you enjoy the way she stimulates you, the more likely you are to raise and maintain erections during sex with her. If her strokes or licks don’t keep you hard, join her in stroking your penis.

    Breathe deeply during lovemaking. That’s also relaxing and erection-enhancing.

    Use the woman-on-top position for intercourse. It’s more relaxing for the man and sex therapists recommend it for situations like yours. Once you have an erection, she should stroke your penis vigorously as she straddles your hips and sits down on it. She can also continue to stroke your shaft as you have intercourse.

    Try not to obsess about your erections. You don’t need one to have an orgasm. I suggest you read Great Sex Without Intercourse: A Creative Alternative for Couples Over 40.

    Enjoy deeply erotic fantasies that turn you on. Read the article: Fantasies During Sex: Welcome Them. It’s okay if your erection waxes and wanes. When it wanes, simply relax, breathe deeply, fantasize, and ask for more stroking. It should come back.

    If these suggestions don’t help, you could ask your doctor for a prescription for an erection medication. Many studies show that most couples prefer Cialis over Viagra and Levitra.

    If these suggestions don’t resolve things well for you, then I suggest that you and your wife consult a sex therapist. To find a sex therapist near you, visit the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists or the Society for Sex Therapy and Research.

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