Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend Has Erectile Dysfunction”

I’ve been dating this guy for the past six months and he’s been experiencing some problems with erectile dysfunction ever since we started having sex, about two months ago. He’s in his mid-20s and obviously not the target demographic, so it’s hit him very hard and really damaged his self-confidence. He’s been to the doctor and has an appointment with a specialist in a couple of weeks. I’ve really tried to be supportive and understanding about the whole thing, but the nature of our relationship has changed. We still have sexual contact, even if he doesn’t necessarily get off or get hard. We work part-time together and when I see him at work, he’s very attentive, but the problem is he rarely contacts me anymore outside of work and when he does he says strange things like “I don’t deserve you,” or “I miss you,” but doesn’t ask to see me until I bring it up. We see each other once a week at most at the moment, but he used to want to see me all the time. I’m bloody confused about what to do. I’ve backed off quite a bit to give him some space but I don’t want to get hurt over this. — ED Doesn’t Spell END

Erectile dysfunction is a huge deal for a man of any age, but for a guy in his mid-20s, it can be devastating. This is an extremely scary, confusing time for your guy and it’s no wonder the nature of your relationship has changed. You’re doing the right thing in being supportive, understanding, and trying to give him space while still letting him know you enjoy and want to spend more time with him. But I understand your need to protect yourself, too. There’s no telling when, how, or if your guy is going to be available to you, both emotionally and physically, in the way you’d like a man to be available to you. So, before you go telling him that his ED “doesn’t matter” and that you’re willing to stick by his side while everything’s figured out, you need to really take in what that means. If he’s had problems “since you started having sex,” there’s a good chance the problem existed before you were in the picture, and there’s even a chance it could last forever. Is that a challenge you really want to take on for a man you’ve been dating for six months?

It’s OK if you don’t have an answer for that right now. This situation is new for you. But what I’m saying is it may not be new for your boyfriend and he’s probably well aware that you’d be giving up a lot to stay with him (hence the “I don’t deserve you” line). It’s definitely a sad, unfair place to be — for both your boyfriend and you. And the best way to deal with it is to not make any promises you can’t keep and to not look too far into the future. If your boyfriend wants to “downgrade” your relationship to something more casual, let him. Keep your dating options open while still remaining a good friend to him. Tell him you sense he needs some space and you want to respect that, but you’re very open to continuing a casual relationship/close friendship with him. This way, you’re still up on how things are going for him, but you’ve taken the pressure off you as a couple. He’s too focused on himself right now — and rightfully so — to nurture a still newish relationship. So, until that changes, you’d be best off leaving your options open.

I’ve been seeing someone for about a month, and he was very much the pursuer in the beginning, both with texting and calling (to the point where I was almost overwhelmed). But this past weekend was my birthday, and I barely saw him. He had plans that had been set long before, and I figured things are still in the early stages, so no big deal. We texted briefly the next day, I noted that I had Monday off so let me know if he’s available later, he said will do, and then nothing. Still hadn’t heard anything the next day, so I called that evening and left a message just saying hey. No return call. Nothing. Everything was fine up until my birthday. And I didn’t even give him any crap about not being there, despite being a bit let down. In fact, I could pat myself on the back for being the least needy I’ve ever been with a person. I don’t quite know him well enough to know if I should be concerned or if he’s the kind of guy who backs off every once in a while. What sucks even more is that he has some of my things, and if he’s going to play this game, then I want my stuff back. So, should I ask him straight away what’s going on, or give him another 1-2 days to get back to me before asking for my things? — Unpleased Birthday Girl

If you’re close enough to a guy you’ve been dating that he has some of your things, you’re damn well close enough that he can do something for you for your birthday! Whether it’s taking you out — the day before or the day after will suffice if he has longstanding plans the day of that he really can’t get out of — giving you a small token gift (flowers, a mixed CD he made, a book he thought you might like), or even just a thoughtful card, some sort of acknowledgment is a MUST. A must! It’s not needy to expect a guy you’re dating to freakin’ do something for you on your birthday — to use that day to let you know you matter to him. The fact that he let the day pass by with barely a nod in your direction means you don’t matter to him. It also means he’s a thoughtless cad, even if he is just a guy “who backs off every once in a while.” Especially if he’s just a “guy who backs off every once in a while.”

Why in the world would you even consider staying with a guy whose idea of a relationship is to back off on the one day you expect people you care about to, like, show up? Oh, hell to the no. Don’t even give this guy a chance to continue pulling the “fade out.” Have some self-respect and call him up and say, “Hey, my schedule’s suddenly looking really busy over the coming months and I’m not going to be able to see you anymore, so before things get crazy, can you let me know a good time to get my stuff back from you?” Since he sounds like the kind of guy who likes the chase, this will probably intrigue him, but ignore all his attempts at “wooing” you; get your things back, and move on. Oh, and happy birthday, UBG. The best gift you can give yourself this year is the promise to date only men who really value your company.

Follow me on Twitter and get relationship tips and updates on new Dear Wendy columns!

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at {encode=”[email protected]” title=”[email protected]”}.