Of course, we’d all love to enjoy good health and great sex until the day we die peacefully in our sleep. While we can control many aspects of our health, sometimes we just draw the short straw. Conditions like arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and lung problems can change our lives, our self-image, our relationships, what we’re capable of doing, and our experience of the world.
And without attention, our sex life with all its pleasure, tenderness, and intimacy can become collateral damage in the wake of illness.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it’s a shame to forgo that shared pleasure and special bond just when it’s most needed. Despite the challenges, there’s no need to lay aside your sexual self in the face of health issues. And there’s every reason to make the effort to reinvent and reinvigorate the way you experience and express sex in your relationship.
In fact, illness could challenge you to communicate in ways you never did before. You might learn to enjoy the moment and be grateful for what’s left—or at least take less for granted. And the physical limitations of illness could lead you and your partner to become more sexually aware, patient, and experimental than ever before.
Recently, I attended a conference of the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH) at which a presentation on sexual rights reminded me of the many patients who try so hard to maintain normal lives in the face of life-changing health issues. This declaration of sexual rights is derived from a more extensive document first articulated by the IPPF. Here are the sexual rights as they relate to you—mature women who are redefining their lives, including their sexual lives, in the face of illness. You have the right to
- the highest level of sexual health you can attain
- information related to sexual health
- decide whether or not to be sexually active
- consensual sexual relations that are free from abuse
- a satisfying and pleasurable sex life
So, in the spirit of these sexual rights, I’ll explore some health conditions that can make sex—and life—challenging and suggest ways that might help bring back the joy of sex again. With education and commitment, you can still enjoy the highest level of sexual health possible. Despite limitations, you can express your sexual self with confidence and vitality.
(If there’s a health issue in your life that you’d like to read more about, let me know!)