Keeping Your Relationship Alive: The Physical & Emotional Aspects of Intimacy in MS
‘Intimacy’ isn’t just about sexual feelings and sexual activity – although that’s one important part we’ll talk about later. Intimacy is about effective communication, trust and respect, shared values and expectations, and a balanced give-and take. Maintaining intimacy can be difficult in any relationship, but the stresses of MS – its unpredictability, progressive nature, complex symptoms and financial impact – can challenge any couple. Feelings of loss, anxiety, anger and guilt can interfere with communication, connection and effective problem-solving; physical changes can interfere with everyday activities and sexual intimacy. So where to begin?
Communication is the place to start – whether it’s about feelings you’re each experiencing, the daily problems you’re trying to solve, or the physical or cognitive changes you’re trying to manage. Communication is the most intimate act there is, and it lays the foundations for other ways to maintain closeness. If you need help jumpstarting the conversation, a counselor can help.
Working with one another and with the healthcare team to manage any symptoms – physical, cognitive, or emotional – that interfere with daily routines, shared activities, or physical intimacy – is step number two. Every member of the team can contribute to your efforts to keep your connection strong. The Can Do Multiple Sclerosis Guide to Lifestyle Empowermentdescribes how team members can help you – individually and collaboratively – but here are a few tips to get you started:
- Symptoms that prevent you from doing the things you want to do are best managed by a comprehensive team approach – involving the neurologist, nurse, rehabilitation experts, and mental health professionals. Your willingness to use available tools and try new ways to do the things that are important to both of you can keep your partnership active, interesting and fun.
- A balanced partnership is essential to intimacy. Each partner needs to give and receive, care and be cared for. If your partnership feels out of whack, look to your healthcare team to help you identify ways that you can each contribute to your shared goals, regardless of MS limitations.
- Sexual interest, activity, and responses can be affected by changes in the central nervous system, MS symptoms and the medications used to treat them. But they can be affected most of all by people’s discomfort with talking about any problems they may be encountering. Start by talking to each other and then bring your questions and concerns to your neurologist or nurse.
The last step is to keep communicating – to share your feelings, your appreciation for each other’s efforts, your achievements and your goals for the future. This keeps intimacy alive and well.
Click here to get even more great tips on this topic by viewing our archived webinar on Keeping Your Relationship Alive: The Physical & Emotional Aspects of Intimacy in MS.