Rekindle the spark
Spend time just getting to know each other again. Each of you might do little things that will make the other feel loved. Restoring your emotional intimacy will make it easier to move to the next step of physical intimacy.
Start reconnecting physically with an exploration of each other's bodies that avoids the genitals entirely (sensate focusing). The goal is not orgasm. Instead, you're learning more about what feels good to you and to your partner.
Sexual intercourse is just one way to satisfy your need for human closeness. Intimacy can be expressed in many different ways.
- 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 fulfill 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.
- 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.
Intimacy can be more satisfying if you plan for it in advance. Make a date with your partner, picking a time of day when you have the most energy and the least pain.
Take your pain medication well in advance so that its effectiveness will peak when you need it. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink and avoid using tobacco in any form. Alcohol and tobacco can impair sexual function.
Give yourself plenty of time to try new things. Try to stay relaxed and keep your sense of humor. Focus on the journey, not the destination. If you encounter setbacks, try not to become discouraged or focus on the negative. Keep trying.
Worth the effort
Intimacy can actually make you feel better. The body's natural painkillers, called endorphins, are released during touch and sex. And the closeness you feel during lovemaking can help you feel stronger and better able to cope with your chronic pain.
Feb. 21, 2017
- Sex and arthritis. American College of Rheumatology. http://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Living-Well-with-Rheumatic-Disease/Sex-Arthritis. Accessed Dec. 20, 2016.
- Sexuality for the man with cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/physicalsideeffects/sexualsideeffectsinmen/sexualityfortheman/index. Accessed Dec. 20, 2016.
- LeFort SM, et al. Sex and intimacy. In: Living a Healthy Life With Chronic Pain. Boulder, Colo.: Bull Publishing Company; 2015.
- Butler Tobah Y (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 29, 2016.