By Kendra Holliday | January 15, 2013 at 5:27 am
In the past three weeks, I’ve had three men approach me for a consultation about a problem they’ve been dealing with for longer than I can fathom: their wife is chronically ill, and they haven’t had sex in years. They’ve cared for her, support and love her, would never leave her, but they are frustrated. Drained. They aren’t getting their needs met. They feel guilty. When I ask if they feel resentful, they immediately say no, but…
What should they do?
What would YOU do?
Are you partnered with someone who is ill?
Are you ill and partnered?
Are you getting your physical and emotional needs met?
Is your partner getting their physical and emotional needs met?
Are you monogamous or polyamorous?
How do you cope?
When I put the word out about this topic, I immediately got responses from both sides. It’s a delicate subject, but it’s clear that it needs to be addressed openly and honestly.
One man said:
“What do you consider illness or dysfunction? It’s been almost a year since my wife and I had intercourse, and the 2 years prior was less than 6 times.”
Another man shared:
“My wife and I have been together for seven years. I have been relatively healthy but my wife has had a host of life long issues with asthma and several sinus surgeries. After the last surgery about a year ago, she started to experience panic attacks. This has resulted in several hospital visits throughout the year.
So in terms of how my sex life is going, it’s been almost nil. Between the stress of that and me being laid off last year, sex has sucked. When we could have sex it was awesome, but it was few and far between. Considering all that’s happening, sex is the last thing on her mind. I don’t want to pressure her, but at the same time I have needs as well. We flirt with each other, but sex is something that has been put to the side.
As far as what I do to keep sane, well I masturbate a lot lol. I want to be supportive, but it makes for a difficult time sexwise.”
I asked the men if they could have an open and honest conversation with their wives to discuss options, and they couldn’t imagine putting further stress or complications on the situation. Their wives were already vulnerable, and didn’t need any trigger to make them feel further compromised.
So is it better to have these conversations before someone gets sick? Have an agreement in place?
After all, you won’t always be in sync. One of you will go through menopause, be in a car accident, get cancer or another chronic illness. Just like having a will in place, is it wise to consider the countless steps that come before death? The time when one of you is more fully functioning than the other?
Here is Liza, a sex blogger who deals with chronic pain:
Every so often we would “try again” to bring sexual intimacy back into our lives. It was almost always very awkward, and filled with “you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to” sorts of statements. Well, I didn’t want to have sex. I didn’t want to be naked in bed. I didn’t want to do any of it. But I would try.
One night we got beyond the laying in bed naked together bit and actually proceeded to the sex bit. Chronic pain was a big limiter for me, and I was having it that night. And he takes a long time to come. And he wouldn’t come and I was in misery and overall it just sucked. I shut it down.
We tried to talk about it, but I was so upset all I could do was sob. I was upset that I’d done more than I wanted to, that I was in pain, and it felt like no matter what I did I wasn’t going to be able to satisfy him. Despite saying over and over that I didn’t have to worry about not getting him off, I felt like a complete failure. I hate failing, so why would I continue to put myself in situations where I couldn’t succeed?
I think that was the last time we attempted fucking until a good 5-6 years later.
Her sexual journey is fascinating – you can read about it here.
There are several Well Spouse Associations, which are support networks for spousal caregivers.
But what would you think of a “dating” website for healthy partners caring for their ill loved ones? That way they could find someone in the same boat who could fulfill a need, but there would be a built-in understanding that they are committed to their partners and have no desire to leave them. Still, they do have desires. If the well partner finds a way to get their needs met, won’t they be stronger, more patient and supportive to their ill partner? Is that concept too taboo?
Would surrogate partners in the form of sex workers be a better option? That’s what a lot of men are doing, in secret. Is it better to keep such matters secret?
I’d love to hear from anyone who is dealing with this issue from any angle. How are we as a society dealing with this issue? What are our options? What sort of things can we do to make it better for all parties involved? How can you share intimacy with your loved one when regular intercourse is off the menu?