Love life in the face of illness: how to cope?
Published 14 Feb 2019 • By Louise Bollecker
Today is Valentine's Day! This emblematic day, sometimes criticized for its commercial and marketing impact, undoubtedly evokes love. We organised a poll* to allow you to express your views on this subject. Does being chronically ill affect romantic life? Does caring for a patient also have an impact? Here are your answers.
Maintaining an intimate and sexual life: a challenge for 31.2% of respondents
The question "as a patient or family member, what impact does the disease have on your love life", a majority of participants answered that their intimate and sexual life is difficult. There are many reasons for this: decreased libido due to fatigue, erectile dysfunction, localised pain... Having a chronic disease can severely disrupt intimate relationships with your partner. As for patients' relatives, they too may experience psychological or even physical exhaustion.
For patients who have not found a soulmate, the disease can also hinder the meeting someone. Our large isolation survey revealed that 57% of patients had reduced their outings and social activities. Opportunities to meet new people are therefore more limited. In addition, 88% of patients reported an impact of isolation on their intimate life and 98% on their social life.
Relationships with partners are more difficult for 21.5% of respondents
For 21.5% of patients and relatives of patients who responded to the survey, relationships with their partners became more complicated due to the disease. Patients may suffer from their spouse's misunderstanding or no longer have enough energy to devote time and attention to them.
Only 9.3% of the participants were lucky enough to see their relationship strengthened by the ordeal of the disease. Many couples separate after being diagnosed with a disease; moreover, a recent study showed that a woman is six times more likely to experience a separation after being diagnosed with cancer or multiple sclerosis than a man in the same situation.
Remaining alone, the solution for 18.3% of respondents
"I want to be alone partly because of the disease" is the answer given by 18.3% of respondents to our survey. Scars, weight gain or loss, or medical equipment can lead to a poor self-image. Difficulties in maintaining a normal couple's life or fear of rejection of the other can discourage people to attempt to date.
What can I do to find a fulfilling love life?
Health professionals recommend that ,first and foremost, these issues should be discussed with your partner. Communication is the tool that will allow you, in many cases, to make things happen. Everyone, at their own pace, without forcing themselves, will be able to relearn how to have a dialogue with their partner.
If you have not found a soul mate, remember that you are not defined solely by your illness. You keep the qualities you had before you became ill or cared for a sick relative. Sexuality can take many forms, whether your illness is disabling or not.
Symptoms of disease that impact on intimate life should also be treated as soon as possible. Neurological, cardiovascular, physical or psychological symptoms can affect sexuality, as can the side effects of a drug. Talk to your doctor to reduce fatigue, pain and improve your morale. You can also consult a specialist:
- A psychologist can help you overcome your problems and accept your illness or that of your loved one
- A sexologist will advise you on all aspects of sexuality, both physical and emotional
- A gynaecologist treats the disorders of the female genital system to help them limit pain or various discomforts
- A urologist is responsible for the male urogenital system and can advise you on erectile disorders or other pains.
And you, is your love life put in difficulty from a disease? Talking about it is already moving towards a loving and sexual intimacy, whatever it may be, that will open you up. Have you treated any specific symptoms?