With February being the month of love especially with Valentine’s Day around the corner, we know that intimacy during cancer treatment can suffer. Many aspects of daily living can place a strain on intimacy in relationships and we may not be as excited some years as we are others to celebrate. There are the everyday things affecting us including raising children, stress, fatigue, changes in our body, depression and anxiety.
Cancer’s Effect on Intimacy
Then add on chronic illness or cancer with various therapies that can also affect your ability to be open to and/or experience intimacy in the same way you have in the past.
For example, chemotherapy or hormone therapies like Tamoxifen can throw a woman into early menopause causing severe vaginal dryness. Surgeries for prostate cancer can lead to erectile dysfunction. Surgeries can also alter our physical appearance leaving us uncomfortable and affecting how we feel or want to be seen or touched.
What is Intimacy?
Intimacy has many definitions and is different for each couple. One definition of intimacy is the sense of another person fully knowing you and loving you because of who you are. The feelings of intimacy deepen with time, vulnerability, honesty and openness.
It deepens when you can share your secrets, desires and your partner responds with love and support. It can be as simple as the sight of your partner, a hug, a kiss, a phone call, a gift, an intimate discussion or preparing dinner for your partner. One of the easiest and most often forgotten aspects of intimacy is sharing gratitude.
How Can Illness Improve Intimacy?
Disease, being out of ease, can be a time to re-evaluate what intimacy means to you and explore this with your partner. It is a time to step out of “ruts” commonly occurring when in long-term relationships. Take time to read about intimacy and explore new ways of being or simply add some spice to old ways of being.
For example, if fatigue is the guiding symptom, changing positions so that your partner is more relaxed and can enjoy intimacy without having to work as hard can make a difference.
Looking at what you have in common or planning a trip together can also re-ignite that love between you. Life is almost always much simpler than we like to make it. There are many tantric practices that help couples deepen intimacy.
The Heart of Tantric Sex: A Unique Guide to Love and Sexual Fulfillment by Diana Richardson is a well-known book to help in this area. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman has been on the New York Times best seller list for many years and is a wonderful resource to help re-think your relationship. Explore, live, love and laugh your way back to joy in life.
Caveats to Intimacy
Be aware that not everybody thinks like you. You may be doing things for your partner that you like, and they have no effect on them. It is better to ask for what you need or like and request the other to share his or her likes with you. Then make a concerted effort to participate. For example, if your partner requests that you make dinner and cooking is not your thing, take them out to their favorite restaurant or bring carry out food home and surprise them.
If your partner is dealing with a chronic illness, be conscious of the possible symptoms they could be experiencing. Check in with them in case they are embarrassed to share. Compassion, good listening skills and understanding allow for more vulnerability. This decreases the all too common misinterpretations we experience.
Help from a Naturopathic Doctor
If you are experiencing symptoms from treatments, it is important to discuss these with your Naturopathic Doctor. There are various natural therapies to help with the side effects of treatments and to improve your quality of life. There are answers to most questions; however, they need to be asked.
Explore, be playful and enjoy each other. Make this Valentine’s Day a special one, one to remember.