People living with chronic pain can feel as though their conditions consume their entire lives. Maintaining or reviving intimacy in your relationship may end up on the back burner as you focus on managing pain during everyday tasks. There are many complex reasons why your sex life with chronic pain is challenging, including the fear of pain that you may experience during sex. It is difficult to enjoy intimacy when you associate sex with pain.
So how can you manage your sex life with chronic pain and begin to enjoy your sexual relationship again? Consider the steps below as building blocks towards reclaiming your sex life with chronic pain.
Communicate with your partner
A low sex drive can lead to feelings of embarrassment and guilt. If a lot of time has passed since you’ve been intimate with your partner, it can be hard to bring up the topic. Communicating with your partner about your specific concerns related to your sex life is one of the first steps towards reigniting your fire. Sit down with your partner and explain your concerns about your sexual relationship and that you’d like to rekindle the relationship.
Avoid asserting any kind of blame on yourself or your partner. Stay positive and discuss your concerns openly.
- Avoid saying: “You never want to spend time with me anymore,” or “My sexual dysfunction has destroyed our lives.”
- Try saying: “I really love when we take the time to spend intimate moments together.” This approach will seem less like an already-failing task and more like an exciting new chapter in your life.
Talking with your partner is also a great opportunity to clarify misunderstandings. Your partner may think that you are no longer attracted to her/him rather than understanding that as a chronic pain sufferer you struggle being aroused. Or maybe you thought your partner no longer wants to have sexual intercourse. In reality, she or he may be afraid to cause you more physical pain. Discussing these feelings together can help dissolve fears you have towards each other and pave the way towards improved communication, intimacy and sexual activity.
Create intimacy without sex
Before attempting sexual activity again, try some activities that will make you two feel close again:
- Hold hands while taking a walk together
- Cuddle before you go to sleep or while watching TV
- Kiss each other before you leave for work and when you get home
These simple signs of affection can be easily forgotten when you’ve been together for a long time or when you’re swept up by the bustle of daily life. But these actions can help you to quickly regain a feeling of intimacy.
Next, start planning dates and activities that will help you and your partner bond and get comfortable with each other again:
- Try something you used to do together that you haven’t done in a while
- Enjoy a nice dimly lit meal
- Take a short walk while the sun sets
- Sit and enjoy music you both like
If you are getting along well and would like to take it a step further, you can try activities that could lead to arousal:
- Enjoy a trip to a hot tub together
- Schedule a couples massage
- Create a massage parlor in your bedroom with candles and body oil
Coincidently, these actions can also help reduce your pain!
Remember that these events shouldn’t have any pressure to perform attached to them. They are for you and your partner to find your spark again, but if they lead to a pleasant sexual experience, that’s a plus.
If you do reach the point of sexual intimacy, there are some things you can try that may help alleviate your pain:
- Use lubricant to help things run more smoothly
- Try being open with your partner about finding new positions that make you more comfortable
- Look for adventurous ideas in resources likes the Kama Sutra
Think about your individual needs
Finding your sexual drive again has a lot to do with your inner feelings and needs, not just your relationship with your partner. There are many things you can do to set yourself up for success:
- Make sure you take your pain medications well before you plan on spending time with your partner. This will help you lower your risk of experiencing physical pain. It will also help you stay in a good mood and help you get aroused.
- Track what time of day you feel the least amount of pain. Use these times to experiment with some of the ideas mentioned above.
- Try writing down your thoughts to better explore your feelings and concerns. You can write about activities that get you in the mood, the qualities you find attractive in your partner, your fantasies, etc. Try not to focus on your physical pain or other negative parts of your day. This journal is meant to help you rediscover your sexuality and focus on the positive, rather than things that will alienate you further from your partner or remind you of your chronic pain or sexual dysfunction.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor
Although sex can be an awkward topic for some, remember that it is your doctor’s job to give you sound medical advice. Discussing your sexual drive (or lack thereof) with your doctor can help shed light on factors you didn’t realize were affecting you.
Some pain medications or antidepressants can have side effects that lower sexual drive or make you more tired. Your doctor can point these things out to you, and give you tips on how to work around your medication, or possibly try a new one.
Additionally, your doctor can help you gauge which pain levels during sex are tolerable and safe, and which can possibly be detrimental. If you are experiencing severe pain during sex, focus on other sexual activities until you have a chance to talk to her/him. Sex is natural and a very healthy part of life, so don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.
Although living with chronic pain and having a sex life may seem like two different worlds, it is possible to manage and combine the two. Ironically, sex can aid your chronic pain in many different ways. Sex releases endorphins and oxytocin, both of which help with pain relief. Endorphins alleviate nerve impulses that cause joint pain, cramps and migraines. Oxytocin lifts a person’s mood and increases their pain tolerance. You may just find that sex can become a drug-free form of pain relief.
It also helps eliminate stress, which is highly beneficial since stress correlates with increased pain levels. Becoming intimate with your partner again can boost your confidence and overall quality of life. So don’t be afraid to get back in the game. Remind yourself that you are a healthy sexual being who deserves happiness and intimacy. And remember that a better sex life is a process. Don’t rush yourself or your partner.
How have you re-claimed your sex life with chronic pain?
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