For years fictional authors have written many novels about love, romance, intimacy and sex and as human beings we devour these literary works in order to either enhance our lives or supplement what we feel is missing in ours. I received a call from Diabetes Queensland to discuss intimacy and chronic illness, the first thing I thought was where do I start? The terms love, intimacy, romance and sex are often combined together and become confused in our minds.
When I use the term intimacy I refer to the emotional attachment and closeness that we have in a relationship. It means many things to many people and it is not gender specific but rather specific to the individual. Intimacy complements our sexual relationship with our partner and is closely related to how good the communication is within a partnership. It is a special bond of understanding and nurturance between a couple and often helps us through many difficulties in our lives especially if one partner is unwell or has a chronic condition such as diabetes.
Intimacy can become the glue that holds a relationship together when physical sexual activity becomes uncomfortable or difficult to establish especially at times when our sexual functioning is impaired. Talking together as a couple is vital to maintain the intimate bond between you. If you are feeling that you have let your partner down or guilty about the change in your sexual functioning discussing this openly will either enhance or mend the bond between you. Sometimes these conversations may be difficult to start but even starting conversations with;
“I feel so guilty that I am letting you down……
“I saw you get upset/hurt last night when I did not respond to your sexual advance….
“I don’t know where to start I feel like we have lost the emotional closeness we once had…”
“You know that diabetes has changed our sex life. I feel it’s important that we don’t lose our intimacy how about we get it back by having a date night/cook together/snuggle on the lounge and talk/…..”
It is important to start talking and remembering the simplest of things about our partner. Intimacy can mean that you buy your partner their favourite magazine, make them their favourite hot drink, or even ask about their day. These are the things we did together when we first starting dating, we remembered the smallest details and showed our partner that we cared and that’s where the intimacy started. Stroking your partner’s hair, rubbing their feet or holding their hand when walking together can mean so much more when the physical act of sex becomes difficult or uncomfortable.
At times we can jump to conclusions or overgeneralise when we feel that we have let our partner down sexually, so communication is the key. Let your partner know what it means to be emotionally close to you and ask them what emotional closeness means and discuss together how you can achieve it. The next time you see an elderly couple walking together hand in hand, or a couple in a restaurant laughing and enjoying each other’s company, remember that you are watching an act of intimacy and ask yourself and your partner how can we get ours back.