In Honor of Love

In Honor of Love By Barby Ingle, Author of Real Love and Good Sex for Pain Patients and their Partners – February is the month of Love but for a pain patient and their significant other intimacy may suffer on a regular basis. We know intimacy is an important aspect in keeping a healthy lifestyle. Often times, chronic pain patients forget that sexuality is an important part in a partnered relationship when their pain levels are high. In spite of chronic pain, you and your significant other can have an active sexual relationship that is quite satisfying. You just have to be creative with getting around the challenges of chronic pain. All people need emotional and physical intimacy. The vital need for human connection helps stimulate our sexuality. Sex is an important aspect of our identity, and when chronic pain comes into the picture, it is often the last thing we are concerned with nurturing.


A normal relationship goes through 5 stages. The five stages are forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning-transforming. All relationships go through these steps. Some stages such as storming, norming and performing may occur any number of times in a relationship before adjourning due to a split of the relationship or death of a partner.


Talking with your partner is the first step in reclaiming your sexuality. Try starting the discussion fully clothed, in the living room or in a neutral setting. When speaking, use “I” so that you’re not putting stress, pressure or anxiety on your partner. An example is, “I love when you hold me close; it makes me feel cared for” versus “You must not love me; you never touch me.”  Maybe the partner is afraid of causing you pain, and if you let him or her know you are still interested and willing to have intimacy, you can put your partner at ease.  Conclusions you may have jumped to as to why your partner has stopped touching you can be cleared up. It is usually not that they lost interest in sex or in you or that they now find you undesirable.


Chronic pain can cause an emotional wedge between you and your partner. Becoming aware that your physical and emotional distance hurts your partner may add to your fear, guilt, resentment and anxiety. Relationship problems can exacerbate stress even in strong relationships. Medical problems like chronic pain lead to unemployment, financial issues, a less kept house and lower self-esteem that can uncover previously hidden conflicts with your partner. If you do not have a plan, you may suffer in the human connection and intimacy area.


If you are feeling unattractive and undesirable, your own actions may be preventing the intimacy you desire. Become aware of your needs and your partner’s needs for sexual contact and passion. There are times when sex seems out of the question. There are times when I am simply hurting too much or feel too tired for sex. However, I will try to remember that my partner needs the love just as much as I do and that for this period of time, I can get my mind off of the pain. When I am planning for intimacy ahead of time, I can take stronger pain control medication so that I can experience the same pleasure my partner is feeling. Also, medications can lower your libido just as a low self-esteem does. Some medications lower sex drive by affecting blood flow and hormones. The want for sex is also diminished by changes in your nervous system. Keeping this in mind will help your plan stay in effect and increase the satisfaction of your partner and your own intimate needs.


Being creative is a way to enhance and amplify your intimacy needs. Things such as holding hands, cuddling, fondling, massaging and kissing increase these intimacy feelings. The bottom line is that intimacy and sexuality can actually make you feel better. The contact you achieve while having sex can help you feel stronger and the intimacy you build with your partner will help you both better cope with your chronic pain. Actions you can take to raise intimacy levels and strengthen your relationship: do to your partner what you want for yourself, keep a healthy lifestyle, lean on your partner first, touch each other, and take preemptive steps to keep a close connection to your partner.


NOTE: If you think that your sex drive is not normal due to a side effect of a medication you are taking, it is important to speak to your doctor about it. Medications can also cause a lack in libido.

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