Intimacy in Marriage

Encouraging Christian Women toward Healthy Sexual Intimacy

What If We Physically Can’t Have Sex?

The bulk of my writing and speaking on sexual intimacy in marriage is aimed at married couples who physically are able to have sex.

You wouldn't have to read my blog for long to see that I am trying to inspire, encourage or send a wake-up call to those marriages where sex isn't what it could be, typically because one spouse has become complacent or has refused to address struggles that they could resolve with some effort.

But I am not blind to the reality that for some couples, there are physical challenges preventing their sexual connection.

Maybe it is something serious like a chronic illness or disease or a disabling injury. In some cases, a spouse may be facing a terminal illness.

In other instances, aging, hormonal changes, ongoing medical conditions, side effects from prescription medications and/or general decline in health have made the actual act of sexual intercourse difficult or impossible.

What if you physically can't have sex? Here are my three suggestions:

1. Have you explored all sources of help?

Understandably, in the case of serious or terminal illnesses or injuries, restoring sexual intimacy is not a priority.

The loving priority in these situations is comfort, pain relief, coping, etc.  For example, if someone has been in a serious car accident, sexual intercourse may never be possible again, depending on the extent of the injuries. If someone is struggling with a serious disease, understandably the focus is likely on medical treatment and comfort.

However, for other health conditions or physical challenges that are affecting sexual intimacy, there may be hope and help that you have yet to discover or consider.

Painful sexual intercourse for a woman because of vaginismus or hormonal changes possibly can be resolved with medical treatment or use of artificial lubrication.  Sheila Gregoire did a wonderful series on vaginismus and I included a link to those posts here.  I have reviewed artificial lubricants and you can find those posts here and here.

Your doctor may have other suggestions to relieve vaginal dryness during intercourse. As far as erectile dysfunction, sometimes this can be resolved through medications, losing excess weight, and/or discussing with a doctor possible causes and treatments.

Sometimes the physical changes that start to negatively impact sexual intimacy are gradual, and you and your spouse may drift into thinking "this is just how things are now."

Or because the changes have to do with the sensitive topic of sex, you may feel embarrassed or awkward discussing the struggle. Instead, you and/or your spouse may pretend there isn't really a problem or may make up excuses to not be intimate.

I'm not denying that it takes courage to shed light on sensitive topics. Having dialogue with each other as husband and wife and/or having open discussions with doctors, other health care providers or counselors may feel overwhelming.

But it's the wise and healthy thing to do. It just is.

So be sure you have truly explored all sources of help before determining that sexual intercourse is physically no longer an option.

2. Have you learned to redefine your physical sexual connection?

If you have explored remedies and/or solutions to no avail and sexual intercourse is indeed off the menu, then it may be time to redefine your sexual connection.

Could oral sex and/or manual touch with hands or a sex toy be a viable accommodation? Could sexual caressing or sensual massage or even having skin-to-skin contact by laying next to each other naked help you nurture intimate closeness, even if orgasm is not part of the equation?

Even if nakedness is not an option, can you still maintain a closeness by being in the same bed together?

If you once enjoyed a vibrant sexual connection with lots of opportunities to make love, it obviously is going to be an adjustment to redefine what sexual touch looks like for you now. But not redefining it and subsequently giving up on any sexual touch isn't going to help matters either.

3. Are you still pursuing private moments together as a couple?

When a spouse has an ongoing injury or illness, a married couple may find that the privacy they once enjoyed even while clothed is now filled up with caretakers, medical personnel and well-meaning friends and family.

It becomes almost impossible for a husband and wife to find alone time in these circumstances.

Yes, the presence of more people is often necessary from a sheer practical standpoint.  If this describes your situation, is there a way you can set some healthy boundaries to give you and your spouse even 30 minutes to be alone together each day?

You may have to get creative in how you build this into your daily or weekly life, but you may discover the opportunity to talk and reconnect is encouraging and intimate for you both.

If you and your spouse have had to navigate the loss of physically making love, what has helped you cope? What insight and wisdom would you offer other married couples facing similar circumstances?

Copyright 2018, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.

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February 9th, 2018 by