Ask Athena: My Wife Has a Health Condition— How Can I Reignite Our Sex Life? | Ask Athena | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Arts + Life » Ask Athena

Ask Athena: My Wife Has a Health Condition— How Can I Reignite Our Sex Life?


Published November 8, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated November 9, 2017 at 10:29 a.m.

Dear Athena,

My wife and I are in our forties and are in a strong relationship. She has, however, been struggling with a chronic health condition for several years that leaves her in pain and sleep-deprived most of the time, despite consultations and interventions with many medical experts. So, she is understandably not in the mood for sex. Even when we do have sex, maybe once a month, I initiate, and it feels like she participates because she feels sorry for me, rather than because she wants it. Then I feel like a callous idiot and regret it. It feels like our sex life is effectively over, but I am not ready for that yet. How can I reignite it?


Pleasure and Pain

Dear Pleasure,

This is a tough situation — one that requires sensitivity, frank conversations and creative thinking. Don't give into the notion that your sex life is dead. Instead, summon the faith that you and your wife can make it through anything. After all, you've already gotten through so much.

Have you talked to her about how you're feeling? Your partnership depends on it. It will be tough to share, but she should hear your fears and concerns — they concern her, too. She should know that you're feeling insecure and that you don't want to pressure her, but that you miss your old bedroom connection. I have confidence that you can talk gently about this without blaming or shaming her.

Then you can learn how this change is affecting her. Just because her illness is causing her pain and zapping her energy doesn't mean she doesn't want to share intimacy and pleasure. Maybe you can't reignite your sex life to what it was, but you can certainly redefine your intimate connection.

Do closeness and pleasure always have to mean intercourse? Are there other ways of showing your love? What about sharing showers and baths, touching, masturbation, massage, holding hands, or learning something new together? Maybe you can do restorative yoga or take a pottery class (yes, I'm imagining that scene in Ghost).

A therapist could also help you brainstorm exciting alternatives and set realistic, fair and loving expectations. Chronic illness changes lives, but with every challenge comes an opportunity to learn and grow. Go down that road together.