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How to Deal with Sex and Disability

7 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of Sex at a Mature Age

For many people with disabilities, perhaps the most difficult part of sex is finding a partner; others lose their partner after they become disabled. Both are very, very difficult circumstances. If you are a partner of a person who is facing disability, you also are dealing with hard questions. But with the right attitudes, a disabled person can have a healthy sex life and a great relationship with his or her sexual partner.

Finding a partner

Persistence and open-mindedness are the most important characteristics for a person with disabilities to have in finding a partner. You have to learn to have faith in the fact that some people decide whom they want to have as a partner based on the inner person, not a person’s physical attributes or financial well-being. These individuals fall in love with others based on who those people are as human beings.

For such a person to discover the inner you, you must allow your inner being to shine through. This isn’t easy. It’s common, and understable for people with disabilities to hide themselves in shame or to cover their weaknesses with anger. Instead, you must let as many people as possible see the real you, the happy you, the sensitive you. Then, hopefully, you’ll find a partner.

If you act unpleasant and make it especially difficult for someone to love you, then whether the person you meet has a disability or not doesn’t really matter. There are many wonderful people to whom a disability isn’t an impediment to opening up their heart, but that doesn’t make them want to spend time with a self-absorbed grouch.

One benefit to showing your bright side is that you will certainly make new friends. People can’t help but be attracted to a sunny disposition.

In fact, experts give the exact same advice to a physically able person who wants to find a partner. Your disposition does play a role in attracting others, and just because you have a good excuse for feeling rotten doesn’t change the fact that negative feelings repel people.

Partnering the person with disabilities

Sadly, but often understandably, many people leave a marriage after their partner is disabled. They refuse to accept the limitations put on their lives and can’t abandon some of their dreams. Sometimes the relationship ends because the healthy partner just can’t find the strength any longer to take care of a disabled partner and still manage his or her own life. In other cases it ends because the disabled person places too many demands on the partner with too little consideration. In all of these cases, do not condemn the partner; it’s hard to be a hero.

No matter how difficult having a disability is, a person with physical challenges must be willing to give his or her partner a hand. Yes, you may have lost certain faculties, but you have to be willing to exercise the ones you still have to your fullest.

This applies to sex as well. If a man has an accident and, as a result, loses his ability to have erections, his wife doesn’t have to spend the rest of her life sexually frustrated. There are other ways to give his wife sexual fulfillment. If the man abandons his wife sexually while at the same time asking her for all sorts of other help, then she may not be able to bear all those burdens. The same holds true for a disabled woman who withholds sexual favors.

You should also remember that, besides sex, many other things form the glue that keeps a loving partnership together. You have to tell your partner how much you love him; you have to thank her for putting in the extra effort that your disability may cause; in short, you must nurture your entire relationship if you are going to have a successful marriage.

If you and your partner face a disability, speak to your doctor about sexual functioning. These days, medical help is available. For a man who can’t have an erection, Viagra (sildenafil), penile implants, or Caverject (alprostadil) injections may be effective. If your doctor doesn’t have the information you require on this subject, be advised that facilities exist that have helped disabled men with their sexual functioning, and make an effort to contact the one nearest you.

You also may want to see a sex therapist or marriage counselor — in particular, one who has experience working with disability issues. Both you and your partner may have worries and fears that play a role in your sexual functioning — maybe even a bigger role than the actual disability. You both need to talk these problems out, and rarely can a couple accomplish this communication without professional help. The same is true of strains other than sexual ones, which can tear at your relationship. Undergoing such trials is never easy, so don’t be ashamed to seek help in overcoming them.

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