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.
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.