Keep Your Love and Romance While Living With Cancer

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A cancer diagnosis can affect every part of your life — including your relationship with your partner. While it can make it more challenging to be intimate, it also can bring you closer as a couple, especially with a little patience and good communication.

Accepting body changes

The effects of cancer and its treatment can make intimacy difficult simply because your body may not work the way it used to.

Prostate cancer can result in erectile dysfunction, while cancers that require hysterectomy can bring on menopause earlier than expected. Fatigue, lowered sex drive and difficulty with arousal can all create problems.

If physical problems are causing intimacy issues, talk to your doctor. In some cases, medication and assistive devices can make a world of difference.

Dealing with anxiety

Even though physical problems can make sex difficult, one of the biggest challenges is sometimes overcoming what’s going on in your head.

Cancer tends to affect your body image, whether you’ve had a mastectomy, lost a lot of weight or are now using a colostomy bag. You may feel anxiety and even grief over how your body has changed. You may worry that your partner will no longer find you attractive or will be unwilling to make needed adjustments.

Your partner, too, might struggle to adjust to your physical changes. Your partner might also worry about hurting you physically or about being rejected if you’re not in the mood. All of this anxiety can lead to definite difficulties in the bedroom, especially if you’re not talking about them.

Tips for better communication 

As with most sexual problems, having an open dialogue with your partner about what’s going on is an important first step. Here are some ideas about how to start that conversation:

Express your concerns and listen to your partner’s response without judgment. You may find that the biggest issue is simply that you’re both unsure or scared. An honest and loving discussion can reassure both of you and make it easier to connect physically.

RELATED: 6 Things to Do When You Start Dating While Battling Cancer

Exploring different paths to intimacy 

If you do find yourself struggling, this is a great time to explore new ways of being intimate.

Remember, intimacy isn’t all about sex. Cuddling, holding hands, and even trying a new hobby together can kindle emotional intimacy. Consider giving each other massages or trying a couples’ yoga workshop.

Get creative. You might find new levels of intimacy you’ve never experienced before.

If you and your partner have tried to address your intimacy problems and are still struggling, don’t be afraid to seek help. A sex therapist certified by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists can help you figure things out together.

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