Sex & Relationships

Dating At Our Age – Is Erectile Dysfunction the Problem?

older man and woman kissing

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Every month in Sex at Our Ageaward-winning senior sexpert Joan Price answers your questions about everything from loss of desire to solo sex and partner issues. Nothing is out of bounds! To send your questions directly to Joan, email


It’s just come to my understanding that men my age are having trouble getting erections, so they are sabotaging relationships in order to get out of having to discuss the problem. This explains why my last two “relationships” were glacially paced and full of misleading communication – and never got out of the gates when it came to any sort of physicality. I have been extremely frustrated as a result.

Guy #1: I spent more and more time with this gentleman. It was clear he was interested in me and I made sure that there were opportunities for him to make sexual advances, but when there was a chance to get closer physically, he didn’t do anything. We never even kissed. Finally I asked him point blank what his intentions were, and he balked. He explained that I would be better off keeping him in the friend zone, that his “part that knew how to love” was probably broken and had been for a long time.

I assumed he was talking about his head or his heart and tried to figure it out by asking questions, but he didn’t give any real answers, just excuses. I thought he was trying to get rid of me without revealing what the problem was. Now I realize that what was “broken” was probably his boy parts.

Guy #2: This old friend seemed to up his game, to where we were going out and doing things together on a regular basis. He kept complimenting me and winking at me over dinner. One night we kissed on the mouth instead of the cheek – but not open-mouthed. And he didn’t pick up on any of the opportunities I was leaving for him. We had one more date, and after that he didn’t call for a month. I finally told him I was moving our status back to friendship. He was fine with it and said he had been waiting for me to call it.

Then a platonic male friend told me that at our age, erectile dysfunction is a problem, which is why these things happened to me. His take on the situation opened my eyes. I think men avoid moving relationships into sex because of ED. They don’t want to risk having to “perform” and then explain why they’re having trouble. What a shame. There are so many ways to be intimate without needing an erection. 

Why did these men even begin a relationship? The way they wasted my time made me pretty angry. And now I’m concerned about future dating, because I am wondering if a lot of men do this. I am an attractive woman with a very high sex drive. Do you have any advice for me? —Frustrated Dater


Ah, dating is so complicated at our age! We’re finally at the point of knowing what we want, so why is it so darned hard to get it?

It’s possible that your friend was right about why your last two relationships didn’t turn sexual. Most men are wary of divulging an erectile dysfunction or undependable erection problem to someone who might or might not become an intimate partner, and they may go slowly or avoid sex altogether.

But that’s not the only possible reason for your frustrating dating experiences. Here are some others:

  1. Many men want to develop a relationship more slowly than they did when they were testosterone-fueled and eager – even impatient – for sex. As one of my male friends told me, “Now that my hormones aren’t driving me, I don’t want to rush to have sex. Let’s get to know each other first and see if we develop an emotional bond.” It’s possible that the men you were dating were exploring and in no hurry.
  2. Some men don’t like the “hints” and “opportunities” method of getting sex started. They prefer a woman to communicate honestly (but not to be confrontational!) instead of her leaving it up to the man to make the moves. Although it can be scary to say something like, “I feel attracted to you but I can’t tell whether you feel the same way about me,” being direct can lead to exactly the information you need.
  3. You might have misread the cues, imagining that you were becoming a couple when in fact they just wanted to enjoy activities together on a friendship basis.
  4. Maybe they were simply enjoying getting to know you, but felt pressured to become your boyfriend and sex partner without feeling the same about you. Just because we want to have sex with someone doesn’t mean they want to have sex with us. If they don’t, it doesn’t mean we’re deficient – we need to learn not to take it so personally. We can be attractive and sexy, but not the right match for a potential partner.

I hope you’ll get past the anger. These men did not lead you on or deceive you, or use you in any way. They did not waste your time. They enjoyed your company and you enjoyed theirs. They let you get to know them. They helped you fine-tune what you’re looking for. They let you “practice” dating.

As sex columnist Dan Savage says, “Every relationship fails – until one doesn’t.” You just got closer by two to finding the relationship that will be right for you – and for him.


Would you like to see more questions and answers? See all of Joan’s advice in Sex At Our Age.

Send Joan your questions by emailing All information is confidential.

Joan Price is the author of the new Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50: How to Maintain – or Regain! – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life”;  the award-winning self-help book “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex”; and the sexy memoir, “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty.” Visit Joan’s  blog, “Naked at Our Age,” and her Facebook page.


23 responses to “Dating At Our Age – Is Erectile Dysfunction the Problem?

  1. So glad I found this article. I am dating a widower and I was surprised he never made any moves on me sexually. He liked to talk a lot about it and we agreed we would take our time and get to know one another first. I was ready for more intimacy after many dates and months had passed, and he said he was too, but he couldn’t do it. No talk about it, just silence. It was a horrible, frustrating, humiliating experience and yes, I took it personally. This was the first senior I dated in many years. I was so angry. I had asked him before why he didn’t want to touch me or anything and that I liked to hold hands and feel his touch. He said he was being respectful and that he was waiting for me to give him the go ahead. What has happened to dating in your 60s? Things sure are different.

  2. I am 53 in one day and I have been Dealing with Ed for about ten years . My late wife dealt with it and was always ok with my sexual ways of coping with it . Now she has passed about 3 years ago and things just dont work anymore . Not like they should or did before . I think and have told my current girlfriend I believe I used up all the erections I could have in a lifetime in my prior life . I went to doctors pills dont work injections did but not interested . My current girlfriend went with me to the doctors with me she doesnt care one way or the other if we have sex or not so that works for me . She is ten years older than me would hate to even think about dating younger than me . In some ways it is fantastic not worrying about sex . It stops me from chasing younger women whom I always thought put out sex just to get a man ,a car , a house ETC . I think I have had all the women sexualy in my life that I can stand now I have gotten older women that I can find younger its about money . I am too greedy about material things so I will not be getting anything fixed to date or be with a twenty year old when I can just think of the past and blow money on my cars . instead of women wished I had learned this years ago . I have a relationship now that means more than anything with a woman I trully love and I know its not about sex . Oh I still have my porn LOL. So when I want to go back to my younger days . Also dont have to care about how much I eat or what I look like anymore . That in it self is a blessing . I use to be worried all the time i was too skinny .. Now a little on the fat side . But as I have seen 90% of the women I dated back in the day were at about a 100 pounds now most of them are about at my weight now 198 wow . Talk about no reason to date in your age range . Anyway as I said met a great woman She does not know all my sexual secrets but sometimes I wish she did and then I know better . All in all I dont really know how to deal with this ED . I wish I could go back to younger days but hey its not cancer so things could always be worse .Thanks for letting me vent and get somethings off my chest I hope everyone is doing well .

  3. Recently I started dating a man with ED, we are both in our mid-50’s. Once the relationship became sexual, he was very honest with me about his ED. I will admit at first, I was taken back, but I read several articles and discovered a couple could still have a wonderful sexual relationship with ED.
    The best thing to do is have great communication….it can change everything!!!

  4. When a testosterone deficiency is diagnosed, testosterone can be replaced with either daily topical testosterone cream or weekly intramuscular testosterone injections. Testosterone patches are also available but some patients develop a skin rash to the patch.

  5. I am 71 years old. My wife of 48 years passed away 2 years ago. I have had ED for several years but hoped that by some miracle I could overcome it. I’ve tried pills but they don’t work. My urologist doesn’t seem too optimist. I would like to have female companionship going forward but I am afraid to date with my problem. I do not want to cause a woman to be disappointed or angry. Is it possible to date in my situation?

  6. I have ED and it began in my early 50s as a result of cycling. I raced bikes for about 10 yeas (I am 61 now). It has only worsened over time, but there are all sorts of options I have explored. I am very up front now with women and I have been very surprised at their acceptance and understanding. Of course I don’t blurt out that “I have ED” on the first date, but when the time feels right, I talk about it. It is the 800 pound gorilla in the room until I do. Of course not all, but most, have not seen it as an issue. They are attracted to me for many other reasons. I use a vacuum device and as long as my mate is understanding it is not an issue. I am now 61 and I have learned that intimacy comes in many forms and there are many ways to please your partner. I just recommend to all men, find the time to talk about this issue with a potential mate and don’t wait until she has gotten frustrated with a move towards intimacy in a relationship. You will be surprised. If the woman you are dating is into you, she is going to most likely not think twice about it.

    1. Some of us who have dealt with the “Numb Nuts” (etc) from a biking fanatic are no longer good sports (pun) about this reason for ED. There is a huge difference between an avoidable reason and one that is unavoidable. I will never again have a relationship with a man who knowingly sacrifices his sexual health by using a bike seat that damages his nerves. I rode horses for years. And I invested in saddles that fit both me and my horse, so neither of us got damaged. That is a lot more complicated that simply finding a bicycle seat that fits the rider and preserves sexual functionality. I’m sure there are plenty of men and women who are willing to deal with dysfunction. But those of us who think sex is a high priority, see no reason to be saddled (pun) with a partner who places a higher value on his relationship with his bicycle than his relationship with his lover.

      1. Susan, we don’t know that Steve chose cycling over sexual function. Many cyclists didn’t realize the correlation between bicycles and erectile dysfunction until long after the harm had been done. Similarly, many smokers don’t realize that smoking can cause or worsen ED. Sometimes we don’t realize the effects of our lifestyle choices until it’s too late. — Joan

      2. Not at all the sort of response I thought I would ever see. But certainly heart felt I can see. I assure you I did not chose this for myself. I had no idea at the time that my cycling was damaging me. And by the time I realized there was an issue it was too late.

    2. Steve, I really appreciate your candor and your willingness to be open with dates early on. ” I have learned that intimacy comes in many forms and there are many ways to please your partner.” Perfect, Steve. I hope they realize that there are many ways to please you, too. — Joan

  7. Oh my God! I feel like the guys. In my head I want love making not sex. Their is a difference in my way of thinking. Now I know guys feel the same way. Get to know me , be special in my life, take your time, we will get there. I am excited to find their are men with the same feelings.I have been told all men want is sex and have stayed away from guys all together because I am not that type of person. I want all the good stuff first, Thank for the insight. Diane

    1. “Get to know me , be special in my life, take your time, we will get there.” Beautiful, Diane! Yes, there are plenty of men who share that attitude. I’m glad you’re motivated to stop avoiding men now! Sure, there are some who are on the prowl for sex only. But that doesn’t describe what most men of our age are seeking now. They’ve mellowed and expanded what they’re looking for, and many are happy to get to know us slowly.

      1. I am dating one of these men right now….after not dating for a decade and a half. He’s not well endowed, but he’s a perfect lover….perfect for me. At age 68, I never imagined I would find someone that would accept me (breast cancer/mastectomy) survivor for me. I am so happy.

  8. Thanks for these comments, and I welcome more. I think the conversation here is important.

    People are talking about this subject on my Naked at Our Age Facebook page (, too. The men are talking about wishing that women would stop expecting men to “pick up” on “opportunities” and, instead, say directly what they want.

    Jeff said it well: “PLEASE stop making men try to read your mind. We don’t pick up on subtle cues. We don’t pick up on overt clues. Just say what you want, please.”

    1. Thanks Joan. I think one of the worst myths that women buy into is the “If he loves me, he will just KNOW what I want” myth. Usually, that belief leaves men confused and clueless, and women frustrated. Believe me, there is nothing we men want more than to please you. We just don’t always know what that means.

      1. Ah, Jeff. You’re the king of communication. I hope women heed your advice here.

        This is yet another area where we need to unlearn our upbringing. We older women (I’m 71) were taught that “good girls” weren’t assertive about sex — we were supposed to let the men make all the moves (and then we were supposed to turn them down, but that’s another story).

        Just as we’ve learned to be assertive about other issues in our lives, we learn to do the same here. It enhances our sex lives! And if our male partners aren’t anxious trying to decode our “hints,” they’ll be more relaxed and able to enjoy sex with us — and give us the pleasure we want in the way we’ve asked for it.

        It sounds so easy put that way, doesn’t it?

  9. My impression and experience is that is ED often a consideration. And no- I don’t have a long list of lovers- some of my info is simply from some very candid conversations. Consider the circumstances in which a man of our age is in a new relationship. 1 – Lower testosterone, as one man told me- “used to be warm breeze was enough”.. 2 – Many years of biking and nerve damage ( numb nuts is real) . 3 – widowed after a lengthy illness and period of celibacy, and they are still grieving, while also trying to date. 4 – newly divorced after a period of celibacy. 5 – Those who used porn and are now out of practice with a live woman. 6 – The men who do not realize that ED might be from a “friendly” relationship, and they will be fine when they are in a relationship with more ”chemistry”. 7 – Some of these men think they are ready for a hot date, then slam on the brakes when they discover they cannot even handle a “lip kiss” because it has been years since the last one.

  10. Joan,

    I read your article on ED and can actually relate in two different scenarios. The first was after my wife died I ended up dating a woman and yes we had sex. The “boy parts,” as you put it didn’t work very well. Now, the back story is that my wife and I hadn’t had sex for a very long time so the magic “over 50” mark kind of hit me without me understanding that. So, I thought it was just that. That same lady (we’re still friends but that’s all, no sex) Harped on me to get my hormones checked. So, after about 2+ years I did. My testosterone level was that of a 12 year old girl, i.e. there really wasn’t any. After 6 months of testing, poking, adjusting meds, etc. I was on testosterone. Now, hair grew, muscle mass came back, weight was controllable and yes I was very interested in women in a way I hadn’t really known. Doing some digging the doc and I found that I had been this way for at least the last 40 years, or, back in my late teens. So, I have the urge & desire. Now, all I needed was the opportunity. I finally get that chance. The desire was ALL there and the “boy parts” worked for a little bit and then went away. Frustrated, mad, embarrassed, insecure? Yes, all of them were there at the forefront. So, I went to a Urologist and after talking for a while (he was a young guy) he determined that it was all in my head and to slow down the process AND have an understanding partner as when men age things really don’t work like they used to and most women understand that but they don’t know how we (men) feel unless we tell them. He also said that as we age we (again men) need to be more secure in the relationship and, for the most part the sex is better than ever when you and your partner are in tune with all of it. So, one man’s perspective, both confusing, both embarrassing. I am hoping to meet someone who I can trust enough to have that relationship AND that conversation.


  11. Nicely said, Joan. I agree that performance anxiety often comes into play in new relationships at my age. Even if you have only had ED a few times in your life, you are afraid that it could happen again the first time with a new partner. The dilemma then is, “Do I discuss that possibility beforehand, even if it may be unlikely?” or “Do I just hope and pray that everything works right?” And unfortunately, if things don’t function as expected, most women take it personally.

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