Rekindling That Intimacy: your sex life and chronic pain

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In his theory of human motivation, Abraham Maslow suggested that the human being has several basic needs which drive us in our daily existence.

While the base of Maslow’s pyramid of needs is physiological need, the need to feel loved and like one belongs is still a high ranking and constant human craving.

For someone who suffers from chronic pain, however, the inability to satisfy some basic physiological needs leads to a difficulty in satisfying needs which fall higher up on the pyramid.

Sex itself is considered a physiological need, while sexual intimacy is grouped under the category of love and belonging.

But if you ask any person who suffers from a lifelong illness or serious medical condition, they’ll tell you that, as their body suffers, so does their ability to relate to their partner.

Sometimes the issue can be something as simple as a problem with their medication or the actual sensation of pain holding them back, while at other times there are very complex psychological factors which are at play.

Having a body which does not feel like it functions at its optimal levels can lead a person to feel a deep sense of insecurity which reflects in the way they relate to themselves and, in turn, to their partner.

Feeling like your body could let you down at any point will naturally lead to one feeling self-conscious in the bedroom.

Unfortunately, sexual intimacy is still something which we all crave – whether or not our bodies are ill or suffering from chronic pain.

Feeling close to someone is an important aspect of feeling safe and secure, and the actual health benefits of sex are also well documented – especially for someone whose body is in pain. After all, sex releases endorphins, the body’s own natural painkillers.

On the other hand, being unable to share intimacy with your partner can also make them feel incredibly alienated. It’s like your illness begins to put up barriers between you and your loved one, and often it’s something which they won’t really be able to understand.

Still, if you suffer from chronic pain, that doesn’t mean you need to give up on intimacy altogether.

It might mean that you have to learn how to do things a little differently, but being close with someone is still very important, and so it’s suggested you try the following ways to rekindle your love life:

sex life and chronic pain

Speak to your doctor

Particular types of medication are known to lower your libido, and this tends to be true for the usual prescription fare given to chronic pain sufferers.

Often these include anti-depressants and a wide variety of other drugs which affect your hormonal balance.

While medication is often necessary for many different conditions, there are some pills which will have far less of a libido challenging effect than others.

The doctor who prescribes your medication should be able to make recommendations of what changes will be helpful.

There could also be other physiological factors which are limiting you, and your doctor will be quite used to addressing this sort of issue, so don’t feel embarrassed to speak up.

Open up the channels of communication

Speak to your partner. This may seem like a very obvious step to take, but if things are feeling off for you, chances are that they’re feeling something similar and probably have no idea why you are acting differently.

Open and honest communication is in itself a good form of intimacy, and discussing what might be holding you back will allow you to feel more secure to begin connecting again physically.

sex life and chronic pain

Be creative

You might need to take a bit of a “refresher course” in each other’s bodies. Rather than having sexual intercourse be the goal, let it just be part of the journey.

Start off with just touching and exploring each other’s bodies, finding new areas which you don’t normally stimulate. Maybe the lower back is actually an incredibly erotic place to stroke gently with your finger tips.

You can also experiment with different positions. Not only does this help to spice things up a little, but you may discover that part of your problem lies in your current use of positions.

Perhaps it’s your upper back which is most affecting by your pain, and switching things up will alleviate some of the tension which you’ve been putting on that area.

You could even try things like vibrators or lubricants which will help to stimulate and create pleasure without requiring as much physical exertion.

The more open-minded you are, the greater your chances are of finding something new which works for you and your partner.

This is especially true if you’re already opened the channels of communication and begun to speak openly and honestly with your partner about what your limitations and desires are in the bedroom.

Plan ahead

Some of your friends may advice spontaneity to be the key to rekindling intimacy, but if you’re suffering from chronic pain, this isn’t necessarily practical.

Having sex sprung on you when you’re feeling weak and drained is probably the last thing you want – and turning your partner down could lead to unnecessary pressure and feelings of rejection of inadequacy.

But, if you do happen to plan ahead, anticipation can make the excitement that much greater.

You’ll also be able to prepare yourself, make certain you take your medication on time, and be ready to really connect with your partner.

The emphasis here is on making sexual intimacy something special rather than something rushed or some kind of obligation.

Make some time for yourself

Being alone is also something very important for couples. Be sure to have activities which you can both enjoy, but also have some time just for yourself.

Having time to reflect and collect your thoughts will help you be able to process the world around you much better, and you’ll also be able to build the anticipation inherent in missing your partner.

So, be prepared to spend some time on your own to give your body the opportunity to rest, but then be ready to bring your renewed sense of energy back with you so that you’ll be able to give and receive the kind of intimacy you both deserve.

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