Thursday, February 23, 2017

What Do You Do When Illness Interferes with Sex?


A reader wrote in describing a not uncommon situation when you're living with illness.  He, the well partner, wants to be sexual, and the ill partner doesn't or can't.  He is asking for advice.  I posted mine below.  What advice do you have for him?
(btw - here's a link to a previous post and series of comments on this topic:  http://insicknessinhealth.blogspot.com/2011/07/whatdo-you-do-when-illness-makes-sex.html)

He wrote:

"My wife has severe anxiety and depression. She refuses to take medication and as a result, finds it hard to even make it through the day. Sex is the last thing on her mind. We haven't had it in 11 months. I'm only 25! She doesn't even masturbate or anything often. Maybe twice in the last year. We have an open relationship so I have sex all the time, just not with her. I miss her so much in that way. She feels bad and acknowledges it but it sucks. Because it's not an illness I can physically see, sometimes I feel like she's being dramatic. Any advice is appreciated."
My advice to him was this:
"I can understand how unhappy it makes you to not be able to have sex with the woman you love. I can't help but wonder why she refuses to take medication. Is she in therapy? It's very real and very awful to live with your experience of life tainted by anxiety and depression. And sometimes having an invisible illness makes it even harder.

An important action is to stay in communication with her about this. She may not be interested in sex, but she is still your partner and talking about what is going on for you, and for her, is an important way to stay connected. Holding a problem together is better than having the problem keep you apart and in silence. A therapist may be helpful with this. And if she isn't open to therapy, you could still consider a therapist or yourself - you are hurting and deserve support and understanding.

Also - I wonder if there is any kind of touching she would consider, maybe enjoy. Non sexual massage? Back rubs? Foot massage? Starting in a non-sexual place may help defuse some of the tension around sex, and may lead to an ability to experience touch as enjoyable. I also wonder if she might be able to offer you some form of touch, non-sexual or sexual, even if she does not enjoy it herself.

Lead with love. No shame or blame. You are both hurting and are deserving of compassion."

No comments: