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Sexual Dysfunction: Should You Be Upfront When Dating a New Partner - Advice from a Clinical Psychologist

by Daniel Sher(more info)

listed in personal growth, originally published in issue 287 - June 2023


From premature ejaculation or a low sex drive to erectile problems or difficulty with reaching orgasm, sexual dysfunctions are experienced by men and women all around the world. According to one study, up to 46% of all people face at least one form of these disorders. Yet, only a fraction of people reach out for help, which is a pity, as there are many effective and evidence-based treatment options available. 

It’s no secret that dating can be especially stressful for people with a sexual dysfunction. Think about it: trying to start a new relationship involves putting yourself out there again and again, hoping that someone likes you for who you are; praying that you don’t end up feeling the sting of rejection. This is a daunting process for everyone.

Having a sexual dysfunction can make the risk of rejection feel even more powerful; and things become even more complicated when you start to deliberate about whether or not to tell your new partner about your dysfunction. Unfortunately, this makes many people avoid dating altogether. But you don’t need to deprive yourself of something that every human being deserves just because of a sexual dysfunction!

Taking control of your sex life can be as simple as finding the right way to discuss your challenges with your new partner. So what are some of the big questions that come up for people who date despite their sexual dysfunction?

When Should I Tell My New Partner?

Have this conversation before you jump into bed! Why? When you’re having sex with a new person, you really don’t want a bunch of anxiety-provoking ideas floating around your head. For example, men often worry that women will see their sexual dysfunction as a sign of weakness and be turned off as a result. These sorts of thoughts are not just unhelpful but usually inaccurate.

Speaking to your partner before sex will help you to change these problematic thought patterns so that by the time you get into bed, you’ll no longer feel like you need to hide anything. Being upfront in this way can ease the anxiety you might be experiencing. Sexual anxiety could actually be a factor in or a cause of premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, and other forms of sexual dysfunction. In some cases just being upfront could help you alleviate or totally fix the issues you are suffering from.

How Should I Explain This to My Partner?

Your goal is to speak to your partner in a way that promotes knowledge and understanding. What does this mean? First, you need to give them the facts. Tell them the name of your specific disorder and describe exactly how it affects your sexual functioning. Let them know that these disorders are actually remarkably widespread and that sexual dysfunction is caused by factors that are largely out of your control.

Next, help your partner to understand exactly what it feels like to have a sexual dysfunction. Perhaps, like many people, you feel ashamed or embarrassed? Maybe you are worried about what your new partner will think? Was it tough for you to work up the courage to have this conversation in the first place? If so, tell them how you feel! Being as honest as possible will help your partner to be more empathic and sensitive to your needs going forward, both in the bedroom and in your day-to-day life.

How Long Should I Wait Before Sleeping with a New Partner?

The answer is simple: wait until you feel comfortable! This might take anything from a day to a year or even longer. You and your partner need to do the ‘emotional groundwork’ before sex if you want this to be a pleasurable experience. The important thing is that the two of you keep communicating as openly as possible. This will help you to reach a place of trust and safety so that sex, when it does happen, can be colored by feelings of connection and acceptance rather than anxiety and fear of judgment.

What if My Partner Wants to Have Sex, But I Don’t Want to Rush It?

Communication is key! Help your partner to understand that you are not rejecting them and that you are, in fact, attracted to them. But also let them know that you want to make sex as pleasurable as it can be for both of you. The best way to do this is by holding off until you feel comfortable and ready – there is no shame in building things up slowly in order to get the best result!

Is it Fair for Me to Date Someone without Telling Them Right Away That I Have an Issue? 

If your partner doesn’t realize that you have a sexual dysfunction, they might feel responsible and guilty if sex doesn’t go the way that they had hoped. In this case, telling them about your challenges may reassure them. But at the end of the day, you shouldn’t feel obligated to speak about your disorder before you feel comfortable doing so.

On the other hand, keep in mind that hiding your sexual dysfunction simply means giving the disorder more power by making it into a bigger issue than it needs to be. By taking the plunge and talking openly with your partner, you are moving toward taking control of your own sexual functioning.

At The End of the Day, Remember That You’re Not Alone!

If you have a sexual dysfunction, then you are well aware of how challenging it can be to start dating new people. The good news is that more and more people around the world are becoming empowered to speak openly about their sexual challenges. The world is starting to understand that sexual dysfunction is nothing to be ashamed of! Remember that support and effective treatment strategies are only a mouse click away. There is absolutely no reason why you should be alone or lonely because of sexual dysfunction. The time to take control of your sexual destiny is now! 


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About Daniel Sher

Daniel Sher MA is a certified clinical psychologist, sex therapy expert, and the creator of the Between Us Clinic Performance Anxiety Program - A mindfulness meditation online program for men’s sexual performance anxiety. As a clinical psychologist, Daniel has been trained to work therapeutically with people who have a wide range of psychiatric conditions. Having lived with Type 1 diabetes for over 32 years, Daniel possesses first-hand experience regarding the challenges of this chronic condition. Today, Daniel practises diabetes-focussed psychotherapy, using evidenced based approaches to help people with diabetes to thrive. Daniel works with children, adolescents and adults who have diabetes (Type 1 and 2); he also works with families when needed. Sessions take place at his rooms in Cape Town, but he also offers online consults for those who live elsewhere. Daniel is also deeply passionate about the brain-body connection. Therefore, in addition to diabetes work, Daniel provides neuropsychological interventions for people with brain based disorders and for legal teams requiring medico-legal reports and testimony. He may be contacted via Between Us Clinic on Tel:  +1 (754) 220-2252;

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