Erectile dysfunction

Updated 06 March 2017

Has he suddenly gone off sex?

What could be wrong? Does he no longer find me attractive? Is he having sex with someone else? Does he no longer love me?


What could be wrong? Does he no longer find me attractive? Is he having sex with someone else? Does he no longer love me? Is there something wrong with his health? Is he impotent? Is it my personality? Do I make him feel emasculated?

These are some of the questions that could go through your mind when it looks as if your partner has lost interest in sex.

Suffering in silence
Many women suffer with this problem in silence, whether they have been married for two years or twenty. It is often not the kind of thing they feel they can discuss easily with others, as they feel embarrassed and somehow responsible.

Talking about sex to your husband is often even more difficult than talking about money. Somehow, this one topic is studiously avoided by many married couples, which is fine if things are going well. If however, sexual relations come to a grinding halt, the lines of communication are often not open. Talking about it is about as difficult as undergoing root canal treatment without anaesthetic. And in many cases people would opt for the latter.

Why the sudden loss of interest?
What are the things that cause men to lose interest in sex suddenly?

The reasons could be many. Many men in middle age suffer from temporary erectile dysfunction. The reasons could be physical, psychological or both.

If the reasons for erectile dysfunction are physical, the onset of the condition is gradual. Many habits or medical conditions could contribute to this according to D. Jehu in his book "Sexual dysfunction: a behavioural approach to causation":

  • heart disease and disease of blood vessels
  • diabetes
  • multiple sclerosis
  • alcoholism
  • smoking
  • abdominal surgery
  • damage to the spinal cord or nerves
  • low levels of certain hormones
  • some prescription drugs

If the reasons for erectile dysfunction are psychological, the onset of the condition is sudden and could be caused by a wide variety of things:

  • job stress
  • relationship problems
  • financial concerns
  • depression or anxiety about poor sexual performance
  • psychiatric conditions

While performance enhancers sort out problems on the short term, long-term solutions can only be found with the intervention of professionals: either a doctor or urologist in the case of physical problems or a psychologist or sexologist in the case of emotional causes.

All said and done, most women will know that merely talking about this problem is already difficult. Getting your husband to go for help would be doubly so. The following suggestions might help:

  •  Don’t take on an accusatory tone – you need to get your husband on your side
  • Choose your time carefully. The middle of a slinging match is not the time to discuss this matter
  • Stress the fact that the problem affects both of you and that the only solution is a joint one
  • Wait until the time is right – when you are both feeling happy and relaxed
  • Don’t turn the whole discussion into a greater emotional issue than it already is
  • Men put a high premium on their sexual performance. Don’t denigrate your husband’s masculinity in any way. It won’t get you anywhere
  • Use I-messages, such as “It makes me feel unloved and unlovable when you won’t talk to me/have sex with me/share a bedroom with me.”

Also accept the fact that most people’s sex lives are unpredictable. Sometimes couples have sex often and sometimes they don’t, for no particular reason. If, however, a pattern of lesser or no sexual involvement becomes the norm, it is time for you to intervene.

(Susan Erasmus Health24, updated March 2010)

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Ask the Expert

Erectile Dysfunction Expert

Dr Kenny du Toit is a urologist practicing in Rondebosch, Cape Town. He is also consultant at Tygerberg hospital, where he is a senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University. He is a member of the South African Urological Association, Colleges of Medicine South Africa and Société Internationale d’Urologie. Board registered with both the HPCSA (Health professions council of South Africa) and GMC (General medical council UK). He has a keen interest in oncology, kidney stones and erectile dysfunction.

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