With marriage and long term commitment, it is not uncommon for a couple to find their feelings of physical intimacy and acts of sexual contact dissipate. While many couples simply accept this as part of the progression in their long term relationship, there are those who are adversely affected and, ultimately, may seek relationships outside of marriage.
For couples who are affected by a life-threatening illness, these issues of intimacy and sexual contact become significantly more complex. Because terminal illness, in the patient, leads to loss of self-esteem and often results in a loss of sexual identity, it is not uncommon for an already-strained relationship to become far more strained. In fact, in relationships where intimacy and sexual contact were almost negligible, the impact of a terminal illness can result in total loss of that intimacy.
If you are married or in a committed relationship in which your spouse, or partner, has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it is important to seek therapy. While individual therapy is important to your well being, it is also important to incorporate couples therapy. Understanding your spouse, or partner, may not feel physically well enough to engage in psychotherapy, many mental health professionals, who are familiar with the dynamics of terminal illness, can provide unique options for your couple’s therapy program.
What you may find when your spouse is diagnosed with a terminal illness is that there is a general lack of support extended to you. This is not to say that the psychological and social support services are not concerned about your well being, they simply take an approach that works to avoid intruding upon your privacy. As a result, it will be necessary for you to take the initiative and ask about the treatment. Once you have reached out for these services, it will be necessary for the counselor to engage you in conversation about your needs and desires so as to ensure boundaries on intimacy are protected.
Sexual health is important to human life. For many couples, sexual activity and intimacy often wane within a long term relationship. When terminal illness becomes a factor within the relationship, the spouse who is unaffected by the illness is, often, affected psychologically. While there are many support services for the terminally ill patient, it is up to the spouse, or partner, to seek out personal services as many health care agencies will wait until you take that first initial step and ask for help. Seeking guidance and support in the areas of your personal intimacy and sexual health is not uncommon when your spouse is diagnosed with a terminal illness and may, ultimately, serve to save your relationship and marriage.