At some point in your life, you or one of your partners will almost inevitably have to deal with a major injury or illness. If it’s only a temporary setback rather than a permanent disability, you’re extremely fortunate — but any sort of malady can really throw a wrench into all aspects of your life, including sex. Here’s how to make space for intimacy even when you’re grappling with your health.
Plan Ahead If You Can
Let’s say you schedule surgery in a few weeks’ time, and you know you’ll be out of commission for at least a month. Try to prioritise sex as much as you can beforehand. Go on a romantic weekend getaway. Send the kids off to visit their grandparents. Try to spend 20 minutes of quality alone time every day. You’re lucky if you have advance warning, so take advantage of it!
Make Your Doctor Talk About Sex
It’s an unfortunate reality that most medical professionals shy away from openly talking about sex. It’s going to be up to you to initiate those conversations with your doctor. It might be embarrassing to ask such personal questions, but this is vital information you need to have. Here are some questions to consider asking:
- How might this condition/procedure affect my sex life?
- Will I need to avoid sexual activity?
- For how long?
- Which activities are on and off the table?
- How will I know when I’m ready to resume sexual activity?
- Does this medication have any sexual side effects?
- Is there anything we can do to decrease the possibility of sexual side effects?
Tailor the questions to your specific situation.
Stay Connected To Your Body And Your Partner
Medical problems can make you feel out of touch with your own body. You might be getting a growth removed, or having a foreign object like a stent or a surgical screw implanted. You might be taking mind-altering pain medications. You might be at a teaching hospital where there are lots of people poking and prodding at you. Do whatever you can to maintain some semblance of a relationship with your own body. Touch, look at, or talk to your body, and remind yourself that it’s still yours. Move it in any way you can. Masturbate, if you’re able!
If your partner is the one with the medical issue, you may need to help with some aspects of their daily care. A lot of us have a hard time letting ourselves be cared for, so try to be sensitive to the fact that your partner may be feeling weak, inadequate or embarrassed. It’s also easy to want to baby the person you love when you see them in pain or discomfort. Try your best to take care of your partner without treating them like a child. Talk to them like an adult. Let them make their own decisions, and share your limitations as a caretaker. Ask how you can best support them in their healing process.
Expand Your Definition Of Sex
What you’re capable of sexually may be temporarily off-limits, so you’ll need to play around with your sexual repertoire. Take an honest look at your current state and try to get a sense of what you are able to do. For example, if you’ve got mono, you may have to brainstorm ideas that won’t require a lot of exertion. If you broke your leg, you’ll want to find positions that won’t put any weight on it. Consider activities that you haven’t done in a while, or have never done before. Get creative! Maybe now’s the chance to get really good at oral, or to try mutual masturbation for the first time. Maybe you and your partner can watch porn together or read each other erotic stories. Expanding your definition of sex can actually be exhilarating and empowering. Plus, not being able to rely on your old standby activities can breathe some new life into the bedroom!
A lot of people will get upset about not being able to have the same sort of sex that they used to have. This is completely understandable! Maybe you need to be bed-ridden for a few weeks, and you’re pissed off that your arsehole can’t even see the light of day. It’s OK to feel angry or dejected, but don’t let that prevent you from trying to maintain some aspect of a sex life. Frustration can be motivating, and even kind of sexy. Perhaps you and your partner can send detailed sexts about what you’re going to do to each other when you’re healed.
Respect Your Limits
On the other hand, there are some people who try to ignore the fact that their ability level has changed. Trust me, you do not want to try to push through the pain, nor do you want to re-injure yourself! Respect your body’s healing process, its needs, and its limitations. If all else fails, take solace in the fact that your situation is temporary, and try making plans for the future. Being laid up in bed is a great opportunity to plan your next romantic adventure.
Talk About It And Keep Talking About It
If you’re having health issues, you might feel like nothing else matters. That’s true for the most part, but it’s still possible to make some room in your life for your sexuality. If your sex life is important to you (it may not be!), talk to your partner about the specific dynamics that you value. Maybe you realise that sex helps you feel calm, or more connected to your partner. Maybe you simply like feeling pleasure. Being clear on the benefits your sex life will help you feel motivated to stay in contact with it.
Even if you follow all of these tips, there are bound to be times where you let sex fall by the wayside. A lot of people worry that acknowledging problems will only make them feel worse, but the exact opposite is true! Both you and your partner know what’s going on, and you’re not fooling anybody by burying your head in the sand or pretending like nothing has changed. Just hearing you say, “I really miss our old sex life” can make your partner feel so much more connected to you. Keep acknowledging that things aren’t the way you’d like them to be, and talk about how you can prioritise intimacy.
Have A Sense Of Humour
I know this tip won’t seem doable in a lot of situations, but laughter truly is the best medicine. It’s a cheesy saying, but it can also be pretty spot on. If you can approach your situation with even the tiniest bit of humour, you’ll feel so much better. Only capable of using your hands? Become a pro at taking well-lit dick pics. Hooked up to a bunch of machines? Laugh with your partner at your bumbling attempts to navigate around all those cords. Or try playing a really goofy game of naughty nurse and patient. Sometimes all you can do is laugh at the absurdity of the situation life has thrust you into.