The Elephant in the Bedroom, Part 3

Dr. Rick Wirtz Health Guide
  • Over the past two weeks I have addressed some of the physical issues that are involved in the sexual difficulties of individuals with chronic illness. This week I want to mention briefly another of these common issues and then touch on some of the emotional issues that have to be tackled.

    Among the physical difficulties is an often over looked influence, fatigue. Whether the fatigue is from the disease, surgery, or some other form of treatment its effect can be profound. People often find themselves too tired to engage in very basic activities of daily living like bathing, simple chores, and preparing meals.
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    Under such circumstances sexual activity is not likely to be viewed as necessary or essential. However, if the couple agrees that this is not a part of their life that they want to sacrifice then they can often get around it by paying attention to what time of the day the partner with the illness has the most energy. They will then work around that schedule to make sure that they have some private time together during that period.

    There can also be some benefit to simply conserving energy by not tackling all the day to day chores at any one given time. Then there may be enough energy for some intimate time together.

    For most people, sex is an activity that strengthens their relationship and provides them with a heightened sense of emotional closeness. Because of this, you might wonder why any couple would not want to engage in an activity that brought them closer together at a stressful time like during a serious illness.

    One of the answers is that some diseases are life threatening and therefore raise the possibility that the person suffering the illness might not survive. For some, this would lead to an increase in behaviors that brought them closer to the partner they might lose.

    But for others, the threat of losing their partner can lead to a protective disconnection designed to keep them from getting too seriously hurt. This may take the form of spending less time together, talking less, working more, and engaging in other distractions. In such cases, sexual contact is seldom maintained. If you notice that this is happening in your relationship you may need some help to cope with this impending sense of loss so that you do not end up emotionally abandoning your partner.
Published On: February 02, 2007