Lifting the lid on sex and sickness

 Ever since I’ve been blogging I’ve tried to stay faithful to the message I believe God has given me to share. Sometimes that can make me uncomfortable.

My natural desire, yearning really, is to be bright, chatty, light and encouraging.

But, more often than not, I’ve been asked to go deep, intense even.

To write about things that are not usually discussed in polite conversation.

Now I am lifting the lid on sex and sickness issues.

Did that 3 letter word grab your attention?

It has a way of doing that.

Our world celebrates, deifies and worships at the altar of sex as if it’s going out of fashion…as if...and advertising glorifies it in all its air-brushed, honed and toned, artificial perfection.

We can be left feeling deflated, discouraged and defeated before we ever get round to performance.

So what is a mature (in years anyway) Christian woman like me doing by opening up this proverbial can of worms?

It’s precisely because God invented it in the first place and ordained it as an act of consummation, union and communion of marriage that it is open to discussion for Christian believers.

And in Scripture, the Song of Songs/Solomon stands alone as a celebration of sexual love as well as being perceived as an allegory for Christ and the church.

I’m not coming at this from the stance of moral, theological debate or opinion (though I have a strong personal persuasion there), nor from a medical, ethical viewpoint ~ though I used to be a nurse and worked in gynaecology for a few years.

Rather, my part is to share some thoughts from experience as a woman in her 50s with chronic health problems who wants to raise awareness.

Contrary to popular opinion, one doesn’t necessarily lose interest in sexual intimacy in mid-life, age 50, 60 or beyond, even if ability and agility may be less reliable than before.

Neither does interest necessarily wane when chronic illness/disability affects and afflicts us and make functioning complicated.

Couples in this scenario who love one another, and desire to be physically intimate, may have to be more sensitive, understanding, patient (and inventive) but not necessarily desist altogether.

An inability (enforced by physical illness) to make love fully and freely is an additional burden, strain and frustration in a limited and constrained life.

When chronic illness affects either partner, it can leave a legacy of great fatigue, pain and weakness that make any kind of sexual contact (never mind gymnastics) very hard to achieve.

Yes, I am fully aware that there is so much more to a marriage relationship than sex, and those other factors enhance the love and friendship that already exists between a couple.

Though nothing beats the deep bonding effect of sexual intimacy; it’s an act where mind, body and spirit engage together and can provide a brief touch of ‘heaven on earth’ at its most sublime.

But, for those who are forced to prematurely alter or relinquish what they had previously enjoyed it is a bitter pill to swallow, requiring further adjustments to a changed lifestyle.

I’ve outlined these potential problems in long-term relationships. Just think about how great the problems are for those who are younger and/or single, with every expectation of a healthy sex life to come.

To find those normal and natural expectations thwarted or unmet due to chronic sickness is a huge disappointment, source of frustration, sadness and discouragement.

Loving and being loved are among the greatest human needs we have and they encompass multiple expressions of being close and special to one another in various ways.


 

Adjustments are often necessary as we reach senior years, and also as we adapt to having long-term health problems at any age.

Despite media hype, very few of us will have a so-called ‘perfect’ sex life. The best we can hope for is that our sex lives will be mutually satisfying and fulfilling.

I haven’t included mental health issues, problems or illness here. But they (and the side effects of medication) all play a highly significant role in potentially causing alteration in both sexual function and self-esteem, requiring further adaptation and adjustment.

So why am I speaking out about these issues?

Surely they are private things?

Well, yes, and no. So many issues get side-lined, ignored or neglected simply due to fear or embarrassment about “What might people think?”

Because I am seeking to press past people-approval issues in my life in general, it seems timely to write about it now in a ‘feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway’ kind of way. Also:

  • It affects me a great deal personally ~ due to my chronic illness, disability, history of childhood sexual and emotional abuse leading to mental health breakdown and sexual dysfunction, I cannot easily be the sexy wife my husband deserves and needs ~ as I have shared in this open post about my marriage.
  • Many suffer silently and need to know they are not isolated or alone.
  • Sweeping these problems under the carpet only leads to them creeping out again, ready to trip us up when we least expect it.
  • Providing an open forum aids greater understanding and respect for sufferers.
  • Life is enhanced by mutual support and hope of seeing change.
  • Finally, I’m at that stage when I’m growing older and bolder in my life and writing!

And, though we may try hard to conceal it, all of us are broken, wounded people to some extent or other.


 

Though Jesus defeated sin, sickness and death on the cross, we do not witness the full physical reality of that in this lifetime, but will only do so in His kingdom to come. For not everyone gets healed or delivered this side of heaven.

We live with contradiction and mystery. We also live with great hope for the future. Here now, with God, we are on a journey toward greater healing and wholeness.

One day, these perishable, earthly bodies will be fully redeemed and become imperishable, eternal, resurrection bodies. And I, for one, can’t wait!

What do you think?

How have these issues impacted your life or the life of your loved ones?

Please feel free to join the discussion in the comments below.

**Note** This post was partly written in draft form several months ago, awaiting such a time as this when I felt brave enough to share. My hope and prayer is that it will help others who are struggling in this area too.

Thank you to all those who took part in the ‘Love Idol’ draw in my last post. A winner has been selected at random from all who left a comment. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to complete the draw, but my health has been particularly challenging over the last month.

However, I’m delighted to announce that Ceil’s name was drawn (by my OH) as the winner. Congratulations, Ceil! Please send me your snail mail address and a copy of ‘Love Idol’ will be winging it’s way to you asap. 
 
 

22 Comments

  1. Hi Joy! I am so happy to have won this book! Thank you so much for the opportunity to be a part of your giveaway.
    I do not see a place on your blog to contact you, so I can give you my address. My email is ceil@ceilryan.com if you'd like to write and I can respond?

    Thank you so much! You made my day 🙂
    Ceil

    1. Hi Ceil. Thank you for responding so quickly.I'm delighted you are the winner of the draw! It gives me great pleasure to make your day, knowing that this book may well be life-transforming for you. God has a special purpose in mind in making sure you read it! I will contact you, then send it on as soon as possible. Blessings, my friend 🙂 x

  2. Oh, Joy. What a gloriously honest piece lifting the lid of that box that we are so often much more comfortable to keep closed and hidden away under the bed, ha ha. Does anyone have a perfect sex life? Really? I'm convinced not, and yet there's this ideal that we all search for and fall short of. Then because it's not discussed much, even between best friends over coffee, we all think that everyone else has it sorted and we are somehow deficient. And the emotional impact of confusion or disappointment in our sex life is huge because it's so personal and intimate. You are so right to let the light shine on it so that we can see, honestly, that sex is a beautiful, difficult, fragile thing and it's just like everything else – compromised – because nothing in this life is perfect. Too often guilt and misunderstandings pile in and multiply the hurts because it's taboo to admit that it's not easy, not going right, not possible, not frequent enough…not this and not that.
    Beautiful, vulnerable post with honesty, wisdom and sensitivity. Well done and thank you. Hx

    1. Helen, I love your description, "sex is a beautiful, difficult, fragile thing and it's just like everything else – compromised – because nothing in this life is perfect." Yes and Amen! Hopefully, by bringing such issues into the light we can help others feel able to talk about them too. Thank you for sharing here, my friend. It is greatly appreciated. 🙂 x

  3. Joy thank you for writing such a bold post. Anything which can aid communication on this subject has to be a good thing if a couple is struggling in whatever way with this intimate, important and potentially God-glorifying side of their marriage for whatever reason including sickness. It is all too easy for any of us to sweep these issues under the carpet where they can fester. 🙂 Be blessed.xxx

    1. Saz, I didn't feel brave at all when I hesitated over pressing 'publish'! But I'm glad God inspired this post and encouraged me to write about such sensitive issues which are all too easily "swept under the carpet where they can fester." Thank you for being equally brave by responding here! Blessings 🙂 xx

  4. Thanks for being so bold Joy ~ wow 🙂 I think your words will be very helpful to people that read them, especially those who are living with disabilities who struggle with sex and intimacy. Kudos to you my friend… great post!

  5. Thanks for your honesty, Joy – it's so easy to assume that everyone else has got everything sorted, and to feel condemned as a result. There is a real need for Christians to be able to talk openly about these things. Take care. F. xx

    1. Yes, that's so true. We certainly do have a tendency "to assume that everyone else has got everything sorted, and to feel condemned as a result." Opening up about this topic will hopefully put paid to that myth. Thank you, Fiona. xx

    1. Hi Lorretta, thanks for the compliment! Coming from you, it means a lot. I think there are many who have gone before me and cornered the market in writing bold and honest. But I am grateful to have had an opportunity to join their ranks! God is calling us to speak out and help others to break free. His wisdom informs what we write and He is the Rock above all rocks. Thank you for encouraging me as I find and declare my 'brave'. 🙂 x

  6. Joy I can totally relate. After my brain surgery I suffered from a complete breakdown of all my functions – mentally, physically, and emotionally. Our marriage suffered because of it. And it was very difficult to find a safe place to work through these issues. It is embarrassing. I had a hard time really expressing how my libido was gone, how could not bear the presence of another human being let alone their touch, constant arguing and fighting due to my brain injury issues which none of us fully understood at the time. It was awfully challenging. And I wish I could say after nearly 11 years it is all fixed. But it is not. However, it is a lot better, and we do talk about it and we have learned to compromise, to accept one another as we are and to keep pressing on in our desire to be intimately known and loved by one another. It helps to have a patient husband. I thank God for that every day, and in my thankfulness, I am spurred on to try harder. Thank you for opening the lid on such an important issue. Hugs!
    Kelly

    1. Kelly, I am so sorry you can "totally relate" to this. And yet you have learnt the wisest way to recovery is to keep communication lines open, learn how to "compromise, to accept one another as we are and to keep pressing on in our desire to be intimately known and loved by one another." It certainly helps enormously to have a patient husband, and I am equally blessed in that area though I may have worn his patience rather thin by now! Seeing how we are loved, accepted and understood by our husbands is a huge relief and every reason to be thankful. Thank you for contributing so openly to the conversation here. Hugs, love and prayers. 🙂 xx

    1. Dear Kimmie, I am pleased this has resonated with you in a helpful way. We are all the stronger for sharing our struggles and the overcoming of them by God's goodness, grace and healing. Love and prayers to you, my friend. Xx

  7. If we thought too much about what might upset or offend our readers then we'd not be true to ourselves or writing from the heart, with honesty and openness. But the thought still crosses our minds when we enter new (for us) writing territory! Growing older with courage and fortitude is something I'm aiming at too. Do you mean sweet almond oil? I use natural oils as moisturisers and they work well enough without being expensive or full of chemicals. Here's to life, love and laughter as we journey along life's highway! 🙂 xx

  8. Joy, bless you for obeying the prompting of God and opening a subject to which so many people can relate. I think sometimes Christians shy away from the topic of sex because the world has turned it into something people do strictly for their own (sometimes perverse) pleasure. We know, though, that that is not how God intended it. He created it as you said to allow us a supreme intimacy with another person, a sharing of the very closest kind — and when it is that, it is so close to divine. So to lose that or have it severely inhibited because of illness (or age) is a very real loss. Beautiful post, my friend. You are a gift from God.

    1. Hi Scotti, thanks for visiting and leaving such a thoughtful comment. I also think as you do about why Christians may shy away from the topic of sex. If we dwell on how "the world has turned it into something people do strictly for their own (sometimes perverse) pleasure" then we are apt to believe it as such instead of the gift God intended it to be.
      It has taken me many years to be able to speak so openly on a subject that became distorted for me and has caused me much turmoil and pain. And the fact I can do so now is testament to God's amazing grace in changing my thinking and ways of reacting, as well as getting older and bolder! Bless you for stopping by to encourage me here. 🙂 x

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