Anger is a common emotional response to a chronic illness. You may wonder, “why me?” or feel enraged by the interruption of life plans and loss of autonomy. Anger can interfere with sexuality no matter whether the anger is directed at yourself or at your partner. Chronic illness may interfere in many different areas of your sex life. First, it is important to note that sex can be emotionless. For example, if you have a friend with benefits or you are hooking up, the sex is the primary goal and this can be considered “no strings attached fun”. However, if you are in a relationship, this is a different story. Often, your partner can be the target of your anger. Sometimes, you may become angry over your partner’s good health. I will tell you that envy, jealously, and resentment are three of the most negative emotions you can experience. Resentment may be evoked when you are getting along too smoothly. It is frightening to feel superfluous. I have seen in my work where one partner may react by trying to prove that the other partner still needs sex, or conversely by withdrawing from sexual intimacy.
Frustration may surface as a generalized irritability that interferes with your relationship. Sex becomes one more thing your healthy partner feels obligated to do. When you are not having a flare up or a relapse, this may be a great time for sex because you have desire and arousal. This is common for people that have autoimmune disorders. There are times the healthy partner may want sex, but you refuse for several reasons. You may be in too much pain or discomfort to even think about sex. Sometimes fatigue makes it hard to exert yourself sexually. But, both of you will suffer if your sex life diminishes altogether. It is important to find ways to be sexual and sensual with each other even if you can’t engage in some of the same practices and positions you used in the past. Both sexual communication and sexual empathy becomes paramount in these situations. If you have always been open to your partner, this can act as a strength because you can work on the issues that chronic illness raises. If your relationship has always been more intuitive, based on unexpressed assumptions, and characterized by less open discussion, it is important that the both of you begin to transform your communication and sexual style. Chronic illness is going to affect many aspects of your life together; therefore, to remain healthy, it is going to be a benefit to discuss these issues openly. You have to talk about it in order to reclaim your sex life!