Keep the Intimacy Alive When You Have MS
Just because you have multiple sclerosis (MS), it doesn’t mean you have to give up intimacy. When the word “intimacy” is used these days, everyone tends to assume it’s all about sex. But, there’s definitely more to it than that. Intimacy involves all of the things that keep your partnership healthy and satisfying, including:
Communication: The couples who communicate most successfully are those who can listen as well as talk, and who can recognize their points of agreement while acknowledging their differences. Too often couples clam up when they don’t see eye to eye or when things start to get tense.
Because MS is likely to throw a lot of new challenges your way, being able to talk about your issues and priorities is important — even if the conversations get a bit dicey at times.
Trust: Partners need to be able to trust that it’s safe to express themselves without fear of rejection or ridicule. In other words, they need to know that the relationship is a safe place for revealing their feelings, needs, and concerns.
They also need to feel confidence in the resilience of the relationship. If every bump in the road is a possible reason for one of you to jump ship, neither of you will ever feel safe, let alone intimate.
Mutual concern: Every intimate partnership is a two-way street. Even when one partner has been diagnosed with a chronic illness, the other partner’s well-being should be of equal concern. Try to make sure that both of you are getting equal billing.
Respect: Intimacy can’t happen without mutual respect. Particularly if roles and responsibilities change as a result of MS, it’s important that the person with MS continues to feel like a respected partner.
Sex: The sexual relationship is an important way for couples to express and experience their intimacy. Because MS can sometimes alter sexual feelings and responses (and therefore interfere with sexual activities), it’s critically important that couples get whatever help they need to deal with any changes that occur.
Unfortunately, MS seems to have its own don’t ask, don’t tell policy — doctors don’t often ask and patients don’t often tell — so sexual difficulties don’t get proper attention. Don’t let your doctor off the hook. If you’re experiencing changes in your sexual relationship, speak up. Your doctor can help you figure out what is and isn’t related to MS and can refer you to a counselor or sex therapist for help.