Why can't I get an erection with my girlfriend?

I love my girlfriend so much. I get an erection even just thinking about her or seeing her. But the two times we tried to have sex I couldn't get an erection. We've only had sex once and it was a long time ago.

Why this is happening and what can I do about it?

Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

I'm sorry to hear of your problem.

First step as always when a possible medical explanation exists, go for a urology check up to either your internist or a urologist.

Once you know there is no medical reason which would prevent an erection, then we can consider the psychological and emotion based factors.

Maybe you're nervous about your sexual performance or that your gf may be disappointed in your performance.

Men often mistake their own fears of performance failure with the assumption that their partner thinks about sex as a performance.

Talk with your gf about whatever is on your mind which may inhibit you from enjoying sex.

The reasons are endless.

What matters is to have a heartfelt dialogue with each other.

The emotional support which comes through such an intimate conversation may very well be the catalyst for a more relaxed and satisfying approach to sex w your gf.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Frank Theus
Frank Theus
MA, LPC, NCC, CSAT

First off, I want to acknowledge the emotional pain you must be experiencing about not being able to experience an erection -- you're not alone. And, it took a lot of courage for you to post your query here. Below you will find excellent advice from skilled clinicians regarding your question and concern. If you haven't done so already I'd encourage you to checkout the Mayo Clinic's website on this very topic (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/definition/con-20021047).

Once you've ruled out any medical-organic issues with either your PCP or Urologist I recommend you work with a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) and/or Certified Sex Therapist (CST) and do some psychotherapy around attachment/family-of-origin, intimacy, self-image, trauma history, sex history, pornography, etc. ). There is hope.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Todd Schmenk, M.S., M.Ed.
Todd Schmenk, M.S., M.Ed.
AQAL Therapies, Inc.,

This is something I have had to address with individuals often since working with couples is one of my practice's focuses.  The answer can depend upon several reasons all which tend to be explored while in session.  If you or your counselor utilizes an integral approach, in which one of the main premises makes sure to check the four irreducible perspectives (subjective, intersubjective, objective and interobjective – also known as the four quadrants) in determining where the challenges are, it then becomes possible to identify what might be contributing to or causing the challenge as well as offering up ways to address the situation.

In this case, from the upper-right or behavioral and physical perspective, we would want to make sure there is no physical limitation or ailment meaning that you would need to visit your doctor and have the basics checked (such as blood pressure.  We would also look at particular behaviors to see if you are doing something with is effecting performance (such as masturbating often or being influenced by pornography). 

Next we would look at the upper left quadrant (thoughts, cognitions, identity, feelings) to look at what is going on here both during sexual activities and at other times.  If you are worried about your job, your family or under immense pressure to perform at work or while intimate, this can contribute to your situation.  From there we would turn to the lower left quadrant (cultural rules and tools) to see who you have learned to interpret challenges that come up during sex and look for ways to shift, update and/or reshape the way you view sex and its challenges.  It would be here that we would see whether one is even comfortable using a service like counseling based upon how your family/culture of origin views the profession. 

Finally, we would need to account for challenges that show up in the lower right quadrant (systems, laws, rules of society) such as your economic ability to try services and products as well as whether such services and products were even available.  Once we have rolled through these areas it then becomes possible to look at which aspects might need to be looked at further in a more meaningful way to help you change a perspective or if just getting a blood pressure medication is all you need.

To sum your question then of why you can’t keep an erection we would need to look at your thoughts (look at your actual thoughts during the act as well as before and after), look at your behaviors, look at your physical body for issues, look at where you picked up your rules and tools (culture) and look at your ability to access goods and services.  They all contribute equally and need to be taken into account.  So - as you can see, there is no one possible answer to this, but several.  I hope this helps. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Cimberly R. Nesker
Cimberly R. Nesker
Registered Psychotherapist (3579)

Sexual desire seems to be straightforward - I like someone and I become aroused at the thoughts of being intimate with them - but that idea does not always take into account other factors. 

Stress can have a huge effect on our body and how it performs.  When we are overstressed, for example, we often find ourselves ill at the same time.  Can you think of any part of your world that may be causing you some additional stress? Additionally, focusing on your erection may also be increasing the level of stress you feel about being intimate, which could also effect your ability to get and maintain an erection.  While this may seem counter intuitive, it makes sense in the word of stress!

Finally, it's never a bad idea to follow up with your doctor, as well. You did not mention your age or sexual history outside of this relationship, but it is always a good idea to check in with medical staff to make sure there is nothing physically responsible for changes in our body, as well. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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