I’ve heard many spoonies talk about how they can’t have sex any more due to pain, fatigue, lack of libido, or just the fear they’ll pass it on to their partner. They say it’s affecting their relationship.
Chronic illness takes so much from us, we can’t allow it to interfere in our relationships as well, that’s just not on. It’s time to be stubborn, stick two fingers up at illness and have a fulfilling, intimate relationship with our partners despite it.
In my experience, when heterosexuals say ‘sex’ they generally mean ‘intercourse’. Here’s the thing, sex isn’t just about shoving something into your hoo-ha and pumping it in and out. It’s about physical intimacy and pleasure, about bonding with your partner. You don’t need pumping action to achieve this, you’re not trying to achieve a fully inflated car tyre after all.
If you’re up to it, try oral sex. Or watching while your partner masturbates. Or frottage. No, it’s not a type of cheese, it’s a sex thing and it can be rather enjoyable.
If genitals are off limits altogether, there’s a whole other world of ways to be physically intimate. Massages are a personal favourite. Not only do they increase circulation and promote detoxification, but the skin to skin contact produces oxytocin – the bonding hormone that is also produced in sex. Massages can come in all flavours – purely medical, purely sensual, or a combination of the two. They can even get a bit raunchy. You can investigate different types of massages, back, shoulders, legs, feet… different oils, get the candles out, it’s a whole world of getting the warm and fuzzies.
Personal grooming is also an intimate experience, why not share it with your loved one? You could try taking a shower or bath together, shaving each other, or plucking each others eyebrows. I’m a bit of a weirdo who likes partners to pluck my underarm hair. I enjoy the pain, I enjoy the intimacy and I always have the best chats with partners during these times. You may not be into this, but I can assure you, everyone has a kink in there somewhere, you just need to find it.
I haven’t seen this written anywhere, but in my opinion, laughing with your partner is also intimate and helps you feel closer. Try playing a card or board game with them, something that’s free from outside distractions and just the two of you. You’re probably thinking, how can playing Monopoly make me laugh? You could rename the streets with rude names for a start. Or make your own counters that resemble something funny. Or borrow monopoly money from your loved one in return for stripping off an item of clothing…
If previously you had a sex routine or schedule going, say you did it on Fridays at 10pm after the news, or Saturday mornings while the kids are at football practice, do something else in that time, something intimate. Don’t let illness take something away from you, without replacing it with something else, something you can do.
If you’re more of the spontaneous type, who were more into playing footsie under the table at a restaurant, then a quick bit of fondling in the car on the way home leaving a trail of clothes from the front door to the bed, you can still be like this! Text your sexbomb partner when they’re at work and tell them you’re completely naked, covered in oil and need a pair of strong hands to rub it all in. I can assure you, they won’t be popping into the supermarket on the way home, so only employ this on days where you don’t need them to buy milk on the way back.
Be inventive, have fun and enjoy each other. Sex is playing for adults, it’s not about doing it ‘right’ or being as efficient as possible in getting from A to O. Have fun! Work out what you can do, and build something intimate from that.
Communication is everything, talk about who initiates and how that makes both of you feel, about how rejection of advances feels and what you can do to get around these issues. Should only the sick person initiate? What can be done to redress the power imbalances in your relationship? Talk talk talk and then talk some more. Openly and honestly.
I’m not going to be a sex therapist any time soon, but these are some of the ways I’ve got around the not-having-sex thing.