How to talk about erectile dysfunction (ED) with a new partner

Close up of Black man smiling

If you’re single and getting back out there, while also dealing with prostate cancer, the world of dating can feel like a lot to handle. One question that often comes up is if you should tell a new partner about your erectile dysfunction, or that you’re using erection pills.
The short answer: it’s really up to you and your comfort level, and you have options to help you make a decision.

Will telling them ruin the moment?

It can be awkward to announce that you’re taking an erection pill. And doubly awkward to ask if you should take one at all. However, some men find it difficult to say nothing because they don’t feel they’re being upfront with their date.

To further complicate things, talking with your date about erection pills can often lead to a bigger discussion about prostate cancer. If you don’t feel comfortable with the person yet, this likely won’t feel very spontaneous or natural.

Spontaneity has left the building

One of the most common drawbacks of erectile dysfunction is losing spontaneity by needing to use erection pills, especially when you're dating or starting a new relationship.

In the beginning, it seems easy to just take a pill. Then you realise how much you have to think ahead and plan. How does this work when you’re on a date with someone you don’t know that well? What exactly do you tell them (if anything)?

Here’s how one guy described his experience:

"So, first of all, I have to figure out if I am interested or in the mood to engage in sex with my date. Then, I need to search for signs that my date is in the mood. I also have to figure out whether or not to tell [my date] that I am going to take an erection pill. Finally, I need to figure out new sexual activity routines—setting the mood with a romantic dinner and some red wine may not be the best approach anymore, given the negative impact of alcohol on erection pills."

It’s easy to see why taking something as simple as a pill can really interfere with dating and having spontaneous sex.

So, how do you take control, and decide what to tell them?

Disclosure: deciding what to tell your date about your ED

In the medical world, the process of “to tell or not to tell” is often called disclosure. In this case, disclosure means telling someone you have erectile dysfunction and/or sharing that you have undergone prostate cancer treatment.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of evidence out there on how helpful disclosure is. It’s clear that it can be difficult to do, but no guidance on what to do about it. So, what you decide to share is completely up to you.

What are my options for approaching the ED conversation?

We’re not here to tell you what’s right or wrong in discussing erection pills with your date. The important thing is to know that you have options, and you can try different approaches. Most of all, trust is very important for your decision-making.

    Here are some options to consider:

  • Say nothing and take the erection pill without telling your date.

  • Tell your date that you have erectile dysfunction and need to take an erection pill (giving little to no explanation as to why you have erectile dysfunction).

  • Tell them you have erectile dysfunction resulting from prostate cancer treatment and that you need to use an erection pill.

All of these are completely OK, depending on how much trust you’ve built with the person.

What about my privacy?

While you’re dating and getting to know someone, balance what you keep private and what you’re willing to share. If you want more privacy to start, this will give you some protection from feeling too vulnerable early on. But if you open up and share, that gives the other person an opportunity to understand and be supportive. It’s normal for what you’d like to share to change over time, as you build familiarity. What you’re comfortable sharing is usually based on the degree of trust and intimacy established in the relationship.

What’s trust got to do with it?

As you consider what to tell your date about using erection pills and/or prostate cancer treatment, think about how close and connected you feel to the person. If you haven’t had a chance to get to know the other person, consider offering little or no disclosure for now.

On the other hand, if you are developing more trust and intimacy, then consider more disclosure. The more you have established trust and intimacy, the more likely that your vulnerability around using erection pills will be met with understanding and support.

First dates

Too early for trust

A few more dates

Increasing trust

More consistent dating

Established trust

As you can see, the first date can be too early for some people to discuss these matters. But as you continue on, and gain more familiarity and trust, you might be in a better spot to disclose. Everyone’s timeframe is different, however.