A common problem that occurs with chronic illness and sex, especially among women, is a loss of their sexual desire. A frequent complaint from their partner is that their lover no longer wants sex. It can sometimes be the other way around, but this is the scenario I hear most often. This creates a lot of strain and can erode the quality of the relationship and obliterate intimacy, which can sometimes lead to infidelity. The ill partner would probably be shocked to learn that their partner who is a good, decent, loving, and supportive person in most ways would do such a thing and never suspects because there is not honest communication about this problem. At the very least the healthy partner may experience feelings of resentment, rejection, and lack of satisfaction with the relationship.
These things occur when couples are not able to be honest with one another and talk about what they really need. Sex is a basic need and an important part of who we are both as an individual and as a couple. We are all sexual beings; being sexual is part of being a whole and healthy person. Yes, there may be times during a temporary crisis, such as a time when symptoms flare or a period of necessary separation that we can expect our partner to go without sex for a period of time, but to expect our partner to go for years without some kind of sex life is not only unrealistic but unhealthy as well.
Honest communication is essential when dealing with chronic illness and sex. Communicate with your partner and encourage your partner to communicate with you. Your partner may be afraid to burden you or hurt your feelings by talking about their sexual needs. Your partner may be afraid because they may feel selfish for having needs when you are sick. They may be afraid they will hurt you or exacerbate your symptoms. They may belittle and minimize their own need for sex because they don’t want you to feel guilty. They may pretend that sex is not important to them to make you feel better. Encourage your partner to talk you about it honestly. Yes, you may have some hurt feelings, but ultimately your relationship will grow stronger.
Sex is just as important as any other need and should not be ignored or neglected. Don’t deny sexual feelings or repress sexuality because it is difficult or uncomfortable to deal with. Deal directly with the impact the illness has on your sexual relationship. Don’t try and candy coat it to protect one another’s feelings. Talk about it openly, work it out and find alternatives that are satisfactory for both of you.
When you live with a chronic illness it is easy to become completely focused on your own needs and neglect the needs of your partner. Even the partner may be a willing participant in pushing their needs aside because they feel bad that you are sick. The partner’s needs must be acknowledged and met as well.
Maintaining your sexual relationship is not just about taking care of your partner, it is also about taking care of yourself. Even if you are without a partner, nurturing your sexuality is still vitally important and there are many ways you can keep your sexuality alive and healthy.
Having chronic illness and sex does not mean you have to have intercourse; it encompasses a great deal more than that. So if intercourse is not possible or desirable for you, it is still possible to be a healthy sexual being and enjoy your sexuality to the fullest. Try different positions if one is painful; try different kinds of sex if one form is not possible. If you can’t have intercourse then try anal, manual or oral. You can masturbate your lover or masturbate for them. Try different times of the day. Perhaps you have one time of the day when you feel better than other times of the day. Maybe in the morning or evening or before you eat. Perhaps you need to schedule your sex in that time period that you feel better. You can lay close with your lover and coach them along with hot, sexy talk while they masturbate themselves. If you need to be away from your partner for a period of time you can have phone sex, by touching yourself and describing in detail what you are doing or describing in detail what you would do to your partner if they were with you.
If you have drifted apart from one another and are having trouble reconnecting sexually, then begin treating each other as you did when you first met. Woo and court one another. Treat each other special. Romance one another. Write yourself or your lover an erotic, sexy, or romantic story. Use words that are arousing to you. Use non-sexual intimacy and closeness to build up passion. Cuddle, massage, touch, and explore each other’s bodies while having deep intimate conversations. Set the mood with a shower together or by lying naked in one another’s arms.
If you have lost touch with your sexuality, either with your partner or without, you can reconnect by spending time alone making love with yourself. Rediscover your erogenous zones. Touch, massage, and stimulate your body. Find other areas of your body besides the genitals that are erogenous, such as your neck, feet, ears, legs, or thighs, and focus on the sexual energy in those parts. Use all your senses. Spend the day naked in your house or at least a few hours. Get naked outside. Being naked outside can elicit great passion and unleash inhibitions as it gets us in touch with our primal spirit. Have a love affair with nature. Take a long soothing bath with some soft music and wash yourself very sensuously. Let the shower titillate you and bring you to orgasm. Don’t wear any bra or panties; you will be amazed at how sexy and aroused this will make you feel. Tell your lover you’re not wearing any and it will drive him wild.
Sometimes there can be something physical causing a lack of desire in sex. Seek counsel from a holistic physician. Testosterone in both males and females is the hormone responsible for our sexual drive. Sometimes a low level of testosterone in women can be the culprit. A malfunctioning thyroid may also cause a loss of desire.
Not only is sex an important part of who we are and of our relationship, but it can also benefit your illness. Sex is a great pain reliever, because of the endorphins released when orgasm occurs. The exchange of energy when being sexually intimate can also provide pain relief. By becoming completely absorbed in the moment and the act of lovemaking you can temporarily transcend your pain and symptoms. The act of sex can divert your attention away from your pain and symptoms and serve as a positive force in the dynamics of chronic illness and sex.
Sex is one of the most beautiful, spiritual, life-affirming experiences we can have. With a little effort, you can reawaken your sexuality and deepen your relationship with yourself and your partner.