Friday, July 15, 2011
What Do You Do When Illness Makes Sex Impossible?
What do you do when your partner is no longer interested in or capable of sexual intimacy with you?
Illness takes many tolls, on both partners. One of them is too often sexual intimacy. Medications, pain, and exhaustion can not only turn a libido off, but it can also make intercourse painful for the ill partner. The well partner may be just too drained after a long day of caretaking, working, caring for the kids, and running the household to want anything more intimate than falling asleep side-by-side. And the shift illness produces in some partner relationship -- turning a bond of equals into one of caretaker - patient -- can make sex feel like a taboo.
For some couples, their sexual connection had always been a source of joy that filtered into the rest of the relationship, making it glow. For other couples, sex was routine and its effects remained in the bedroom. For others, sex was never a strong part of the connection.
Whatever your pre-illness sexual habits were, illness too often disturbs them. Intercourse may no longer be possible. Even touching can be problematic. Some couples whose sexual experiences were mainly physical, now find they actually have to talk about what feels good and what doesn't.
Through talking about sex, couples may find themselves entering surprisingly deeper levels of connection, and describing desires that before illness were invisible.
Some couples find ways of being intimate without intercourse. Some are able to stay connected without any form of physical intimacy. Some break apart. Some partners seek sex outside of the relationship, with or without the knowledge of their partner. (note: for the sake of safety and integrity, I would recommend that this be discussed between the partners).
I'm interested in hearing about your situation. Has your sexual relationship changed? How have you managed to deal with illness and physical intimacy?