When a spouse or partner suffers a health issue or chronic pain, it can have a long-term and detrimental impact on a couple’s sex life – and for this man, it’s meant he’s not been intimate with his wife for several years.
Writing to US-based psychotherapist Pamela Stephenson Connolly in The Guardian newspaper’s relationships column, the 65-year-old man revealed he has been forced to become his wife’s full-time carer after she began suffering chronic back pain.
It’s meant his wife, 69, now finds any form of sex too painful and any chance of intimacy between them has become impossible. As a result, the husband admitted he’s had to steal private moments whenever he can to satisfy his own libido.
“We have not had sex for several years, but I still feel the need for some sexual pleasure in my life,” he wrote. “I have come to rely on fantasy and masturbation. My wife may need assistance at any time, day or night, so it is difficult to fit in a relaxed session.”
Now however, he revealed his wife is due to start having respite care – meaning he’ll be able to take a well-earned holiday and enjoy more alone time. But he admitted it’s come with its fair share of guilt too.
“With the prospect of having whole days and nights to myself, I am excited by the thought of calling a sex line or getting a sex doll,” he admitted.
“My superego tells me not to, but my libido insists. I feel I have to keep this secret from my wife, as I don’t want to upset her.”
Offering her advice, Connolly assured the worried man that almost all couples keep some secrets from each other – but every one of them will judge which are inconsequential and which are harmless differently.
“I try to be nonjudgmental and can’t advise you regarding the morality of the choices before you,” she began, before adding: “Let me say that you are not alone. There are many people struggling with the kind of situation you are facing – trying to meet your needs while protecting your spouse’s feelings, but frightened by the secrecy that would be necessary to achieve the former.”
She said that while there are ways to help people living with chronic pain still enjoy sex, she admitted not everyone will be open to discussing them.
“Could you reframe your different physical needs as natural consequences of your physiological realities?” she finally asked. “In order to be a willing and energetic caregiver, you must look after yourself.
“Be cautious, but be kind to yourself – and recognise that the secret, low-risk, self-pleasuring activities you are considering may be beneficial to both of you.”