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9 Unexpected Ways To Improve Your Sex Life As A Couple, When You're Dealing With A Chronic Illness

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How To Increase Libido, Improve Your Sex Life & Deepen Intimacy When Chronic Illness Affects Your Sexual Health As A Couple

Chronic illness doesn't have to come between you and your partner.

Chronic illness and disease changes many aspects of your daily life, regardless of whether you or your spouse is the one dealing with health problems. One of the major issues men and women deal with after a diagnosis, however, is how it impacts their relationship — namely their sex life and sexual health as a couple.

Physical intimacy and sex are a healthy, necessary part of any relationship or marriage, but when you're dealing with medical issues, your libido is often one of the first areas to be negatively impacted.

According to the CDC, chronic diseases affect 133 million Americans, representing more than 40 percent of the population of this country. By 2020, that number is projected to be an estimated 157 million, with 81 million having multiple conditions. Chronic illness can have profound negative effects on a relationship and sexual satisfaction.

More Americans are living with not just one chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart disease, or depression, but with two or more conditions. Almost a third of the population is now living with multiple chronic conditions.

Many chronic diseases can cause problems with sexual function, so you're left not just wondering how to improve up your sex life, but how to increase libido and physical intimacy so you can have one at all.

RELATED:5 Changes To Expect When The Person You Love Is Diagnosed With A Chronic Illness

These conditions can include diabetes, heart and vascular diseases, neurological, and autoimmune diseases. Recent research suggests that sexual dysfunction in couples may be one of the least talked about symptoms of chronic illness.

Experiencing a chronic illness can be earth-shattering. Individuals who are chronically ill often experience emotional distress and have difficulty participating in effective communication about how they feel. This includes the person’s ability to engage in occupational, social, and recreational activities.

Likewise, chronic illness affects a couples sex life and can become a hurdle in relationships, if not properly addressed.

Sex can involve a mix of feelings and emotions when battling a chronic illness. Life becomes uncertain, and you both feel at a loss. Your partner feels overwhelmed because you feel shame, and neither one of you are trying to better your communication, even though you're both picking up on your nonverbal communication plenty.

You may feel less attractive, less confident, and concerned about how your body works and adapts to an illness. You both become plagued with anxiety due to the worry of sexual activity, and with desire and arousal issues.

When experiencing a chronic illness, some changes may be physical, such as the changes with your body, side effects from medication, sexual dysfunction and low libido, fatigue, and pain. You may experience psychological changes such as depression and anxiety. Most of all, there is constant fear around your sexual ability and your sexual performance.

Physical intimacy is paramount to the quality of life, and it is still important if you are living with a chronic illness.

Your relationship as a couple can affect the development and management of a chronic illness in a variety of ways. When both of you are at the optimal balance between intimacy and autonomy, your boundaries touch, yet remain distinct. It is critical the both of you are aware of each other’s needs and emotions.

Why is this so important? Because this will drive and determine the sexual intimacy in your relationship. It is important to note that your previous success in resolving sexual intimacy concerns will determine how well the both of you will cope with an illness.

Since general coping skills and sexual function are linked in the chronically ill, it is important to identify and foster strengths in your relationship that can mitigate the stress of illness. Even during an illness, relationships should not be neglected. Illness can make each partner vulnerable to fear and loss and to loneliness.

Taking time to strengthen your communication skills and to reduce the impact of the chronic illness on intimacy is the key to maintaining happiness in your relationship, despite health problems.

One part of that intimacy is sexuality. What people don’t know is that with a life restricted by pain and illness, sex can be a powerful source for comfort, pleasure, and intimacy.

You and your partner can learn what is possible as opposed to what was once achievable by enhancing their sexual awareness, communication, and sexual styles.

RELATED: 6 Ways To Have A Satisfied Sex Life When Dealing With Illness

Here's how to increase libido, deepen intimacy and improve your sex life when chronic illness is affecting your sexual health as a couple.

1. Communicate your needs to your partner

And have them communicate their needs as well. Talking to each other is one of the important parts of any intimate relationship.

2. Problem solve

You can improve your sex life together by making it a team approach. State your emotional needs around sexual intimacy and the other factors in your relationship.

3. Consider couples psychotherapy

I recommend you see a sex therapist. I say this because they will have the knowledge and skill set in helping you and your partner with sexual problems, such as the issues related to sexual health and low libido.

They will also provide you with other suggestions to engage in if there is sexual dysfunction (i.e., desire and arousal issues, erectile dysfunction, and sexual pain).

4. Learn about your chronic illness

Read up on your condition and share this with your partner. Having knowledge on the illness or disease can bring you closer together. This can build intimacy in your relationship!

5. Check in with each other

For the partner who does not have a chronic illness, watch for depression in them and keep an eye on their health, as well. The goal here is to be lover not a caregiver, but we find at times, the partner may take on this role.

They may want to seek individual counseling. This is healthy and good for both your relationship and sex life!

6. Acknowledge your loss

And learn to build a relationship with the chronic illness. This can help the both of you develop the “new normal” in your relationship

With acceptance, the issue isn’t whether or not you can come to some profound insight about the nature of the illness and your experience with the illness, but rather, it is about how to live your life day to day.

The ultimate goal is to accept condition and learn to live well with it.

Of course, this is not easy. Couples experience this all the time, and when they finally decide to work as a team instead of opponents or avoiders, there is this sense of hope that emerges. This hope promotes what is possible instead of what is achievable. They also report a healthier sex life, as a result!

7. Address stress as much as possible

Don't avoid the stress. Avoidance can make the pain worse or it cause a flare up. I know this is easier said than done, but try to address the financial issues and the divisions of family responsibilities.

Addressing these stressors can help promote the desire to be physically intimate and increase your sex drive.

8. Try to be sociable

Socially isolating is common for people with a chronic illness. Try to find a balance where you can be sociable because this can make you feel more positive about life — and in turn, make you feel more open to sexual connection.

9. Practice kindness

Being kind is great. Doing something for your partner can build what is needed for sexual intimacy and to kick-start your sex life, when you're dealing with a chronic illness.

RELATED: 8 Ways You And Your Partner Can Deal With Chronic Illness

Dr. Melvin Phillips is a licensed clinical social worker who helps people handle stress and anxiety while learning about mindfulness strategies for dealing with chronic pain. For more information on how he can help you, visit his website.