Chronic Pain & Sex: Making It Work

I don't have chronic pain, but my husband does. So maybe I have a little credibility when it comes to talking about this topic. I also counselled my very good friend who deals with chronic pain in her life as well. I say that because I never really like talking about topics in which I do not have firsthand experience, but I know a lot of the people that I supported in the Wanting It More program, have chronic pain. So I have experience supporting them, I do have some knowledge and so I'd really like to help you.

If you or your partner experiences chronic pain in your life or their life, then this is the blog for you because yes, you can enjoy sex just like everybody else. And you know this already, right? So there's my disclaimer.

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My husband's story

My husband has Ankylosing Spondylitis. It's a pretty aggressive form of arthritis, which has fused his neck and makes his joints kind of hurt. So I've seen what it's like for somebody with a health condition to navigate the sexual experience. What we experience are certain positions that just don't work for us. His hands get cramped up. We have to change more frequently the positions we're in so his body gets a moment to relax. And we take it slow and easy. And for the most part, he's really good. If it was me in the position, I would probably be complaining way more.

Here are my top three tips if you experience chronic pain in your life and you’d really like to know how to enjoy the sexual experience more fully.

Tip #1

You've probably been told this before and I really hope that I don't annoy you right now, but your frame of mind does matter. And so here are some thoughts that might be helpful as you move into the sexual experience. 

  • “We are here together and that's all that counts.”
  • “My body has pleasure capacity” Because you might kind of feel like sometimes your body has no pleasure capacity and it just has pain capacity. 
  • “What feels nurturing?” You don't want to provide another need in the sexual experience for somebody. You want to go into the experience thinking and expecting it to feel nourishing, nurturing, relaxing, peaceful, because sex can be healing. So that's another frame of mind you can go into it with, is sex is healing. Touch is healing, oxytocin and dopamine and endorphins are really good for me. 
  • "I don't have to be at this no pain level or feeling my best or not be going through a flare up in order to enjoy some time with my husband. This is really good for me, my body, my spirituality, my emotions and it doesn't have to be fireworks. It can just be some enjoyment, some pleasure, a little touch, a little snuggling, a little connection, a little warmth. Nourishing and nurturing."

That was tip number one, just the right frame of mind.

Tip #2

Be brutally honest with your communication. Maybe it's not the right time. Maybe you need to take some medication and wait a couple of hours or a couple of days. Maybe you are tired of being needy all the time and being the one complaining and so you hold back on your communication. Maybe you just bear through it or you don't ask for what you need. Because I can understand if you go through chronic pain in your life, you're always going to be the one in the room who's feeling not so great as everybody else and needs to take a break or need special treatment or needs to rest.  I get it. It's hard. But the more direct you can be with your communication, the more your needs can get fulfilled. And then the more you're going to look forward to and enjoy the sexual experience with your husband.

Tip #3

You get whatever you need. If you need different positions, if you need the AC on, if you need a hot water bottle, if you need some fresh air or snack breaks or lots and lots of pillows, good things to wear that feel comfortable and cozy. Really look at the sexual experience as an opportunity for self care, not somewhere that you have to perform. Not somewhere that you're going to just provide another need for yet another person, when you have no spoons left. If you have a chronic health condition, you might know what that means. If you don't just Google it. 

I really encourage you, just have the right frame of mind, be honest and direct with your communication with your husband and you get whatever you need. Because you're the one with the special needs and so you need to be catered to and that's just the facts, that's just the truth.

So that's what you get. And now my husband's going to read this blog and be like, "Okay, great. Now I get what I want or need." And then be like, "Sure, John, that's true."

So again, just to reiterate, sex can be something that's nourishing, relaxing, peaceful, joyful, and a self care practice for YOU. Permission to design it however you need it to be for it to turn out that way. I'm sending all my love to you and all the best. It's not easy to deal with chronic pain. It's just another layer of something that's just always running in the background. And you don't need sex to be stressful. You don't need another thing to be worrying about. So have that leadership and design the experience that's going to work for you. 

All my encouragement on this journey, and I'll talk to you soon. 


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