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When you live with Chronic Pain, everything you do becomes a new challenge. Working, socializing, taking care of kids and/or a home – you still need to do it all and live your life, but now you have persistant pain as your constant companion. Often, you find yourself compromising or looking for better ways of doing things, so your pain isn’t exacerbated.
One of the areas of life with Chronic Pain which is often not talked about is intimacy and your sexual well-being. These are crucial components of a good relationship, but what happens when pain causes you to withdraw from sexual relations, and intimacy begins to suffer? Let’s talk about some of the reasons this happens and what can be done.
Difficulties with intimacy may stem from various causes, including increased pain during sexual activity, a lack of arousal and accompanying vaginal dryness, the inability to reach orgasm, side effects from the use of opioids and other commonly-used medications (eg, certain antidepressants), a past history of sexual abuse, and issues with communication in general.
Because of Chronic Pain, you may find your overall relationship has begun to suffer. A partner may withdraw from you because they don’t know how to help you. This translates to the bedroom, where they may be afraid to cause you more pain or they’re dealing with their own issues regarding your health. Perhaps your partner has become resentful of the extra burden placed on them with your inability to do certain chores now.
A change in standard routines can be upsetting for everyone and this may cause extra fatigue for you both, which also causes you to withdraw from intimacy. Sleep may be what you crave the most, and when your partner wants to have sex, it’s the last thing on your mind.
So how do you overcome these issues? What do you do to make sex more enjoyable for both of you? Here is an expanded list of ideas from a previous post that might be a good starting point.
- Talk. Make a point of talking openly and honestly about what you are feeling. If there is fear about pain, talk about it and what you can do to alleviate any extra. If you feel disconnected from your partner because it’s been a long time since you last were intimate, talk about those feelings and what you’re worrying about. Do you have scars or extra weight that is causing you concern? Be honest about how you feel. It can be very vulnerable to speak the truth, but it often brings you closer to your partner in the long run.
- Touch. Exploring your partner’s body through touch is an exciting way to express your sexual feelings. This can include holding hands, cuddling, fondling, stroking, massaging and kissing. Touch in any form increases feelings of intimacy.
- Self-stimulation. Masturbation is a normal and healthy way to fulfil your sexual needs. One partner may use masturbation during mutual sexual activity if the other partner is unable to be very active.
- Oral sex. It can be an alternative or supplement to traditional intercourse.
- Toys. Use of various sex toys can help loosen inhibitions, relax the body and make intercourse more enjoyable.
- Different positions. Lie side by side, kneel or sit. Look in your library or bookstore for a guide that describes and illustrates different ways to have intercourse. If you’re embarrassed to get this kind of book locally, try an online book retailer.
- Vibrators and lubricants. A vibrator can add pleasure without physical exertion. If lack of natural lubrication is a problem, over-the-counter lubricants can prevent pain from vaginal dryness.
- Pillows and wedges. Make use of pillows and wedges to help find comfortable positions that alleviate pressure points. A good sex shop can help you find products specifically made for this purpose.
- Change your expectations. Because reaching orgasm can be almost impossible when you are on certain medications, you may find changing your expectations for sex will help you enjoy lovemaking more. Don’t make orgasm the ultimate goal…just enjoy sex for what it is – a pleasurable experience.
- Ask for what you need. Listen to your body and what it’s telling you during sex. If certain activities make you feel better, do more of that. Lovemaking doesn’t always have to end in intercourse. Oral sex during a lovemaking session may be all that you desire, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
- Prepare in Advance. It’s important for people with Chronic Pain to understand that sexual activity often takes a lot of planning. There is not as much spontaneity as there used to be. You may find you need to take your pain medication, apply heat, or stretch before sexual activity. This is also a good time to try increasing your arousal by reading erotica, watching a video, or having your partner give you a massage in the area of your pain.
- Timing. Choose a time of day when you have less pain as a time to be sexually active. For some people as the day goes on, the pain gets worse, but the opposite also may be true for others. If you have kids, you may have to sneak away for a quickie, but even that is better than no sex at all. If you can arrange for the kids to be away overnight, it gives you plenty of time to relax and set the stage for intimacy.
Sex is meant to be a natural part of a relationship. Just because you live with Chronic Pain doesn’t preclude you from being able to enjoy lovemaking with your partner. You might want to try some of these products to bring a new spark to your bed (or living room or bathroom or…)
There Is Always Hope