My ex just admitted he avoided sex because he has erectile dysfunction. Was I wrong to end things over our lack of intimacy?

My ex just admitted he avoided sex because he has erectile dysfunction. Was I wrong to end things over our lack of intimacy?
Samantha Lee/Insider
My ex just admitted he avoided sex because he has erectile dysfunction. Was I wrong to end things over our lack of intimacy?
Crystal Cox/Insider
  • You made the best decision for yourself with the information you had at the time, so you shouldn't have guilt over the breakup.
  • But if you think your ex is now open to addressing your intimacy issues, couple's sex therapy can help you navigate those vulnerable conversations.
  • It's also important to have empathy for your ex, since society has made men feel like erectile dysfunction is something to be ashamed of.
  • Have a question for Julia? Fill out this anonymous form. All questions will be published anonymously. You can read more Doing It Right here.

I just broke up with my boyfriend, and before that, we hadn't had sex in a year.

During that time, I tried to address the issue but my now-ex seemed disinterested.

I spoke to him about our lack of intimacy three times and even suggested sex therapy, but he wasn't perceptive to working on it with me. The third and final time we discussed this problem I said it was our last chance, as I was becoming severely unhappy.
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A few months went by and nothing changed, so I ended it. While I was breaking up with him, he admitted he had been dealing with erectile dysfunction.

Was my decision to end our relationship still valid, or was I too harsh?

- Manchester
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Dear Manchester,

You made the best decision for yourself based on the information you had at the time, and I don't think you should feel guilty about that. You're also allowed to feel hurt and defeated that your ex wasn't honest about his problems while you were dating, especially since they affected you, and you made an effort to confront them. At the same time, you can recognize the nuance of the situation.
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Consider how little we're taught about sex, and how isolated your ex felt in dealing with a problem that society at large considers shameful.

"I have a lot of empathy for him because society has really told him that there's something wrong with him, and all men should be able to get an erection at any time," New York City-based therapist Rachel Wright told me.

In reality, most men will experience erectile dysfunction to some degree during their lifetimes.
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Maybe your ex sharing his own ED experience during your breakup was his first step in getting the help he needs.

If you feel like he has the capacity to be more honest and communicative with you and you want to revisit your relationship, you certainly can. But be sure to stress the importance of working through intimacy issues together.

Wright said going to sex therapy together, as you previously suggested to your ex, is a great starting point.
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"It sounds like it's really time for a conversation around honesty and transparency and that it's safe," to talk about erectile dysfunction, Wright said.

She added that therapy is the perfect environment for vulnerable conversations because it puts the focus on how you communicate about sensitive topics, rather than on the topic itself.

But if your ex doesn't seem ready to work on your intimacy issues, you shouldn't feel obligated to help him. Support goes both ways, and your needs matter too.
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As Insider's resident sex and relationships reporter, Julia Naftulin is here to answer all of your questions about dating, love, and doing it — no question is too weird or taboo. Julia regularly consults a panel of health experts including relationship therapists, gynecologists, and urologists to get science-backed answers to your burning questions, with a personal twist.

Have a question? Fill out this anonymous form. All questions will be published anonymously.

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