Sex and relationships
The content of this information sheet is for people diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) and their partners. Although much of the information may be particularly relevant for the person with the disease, certain sections are aimed at partners/carers of people with the disease. Being part of a committed relationship and sharing the love that can bring is something many of us strive to achieve. A positive relationship between two people can bring happiness and contentment.
But what happens if illness or disability strikes? The dynamics in a relationship inevitably change if one partner needs to care for the other or if illness prevents one person from expressing their love as they did previously. Many people feel their sexuality is diminished by illness or disability and they no longer see themselves as desirable. This is usually only their perception of themselves and not their partner’s. Many couples can find fulfilment again. They may need to find comfortable positions to enable them to fully experience sexual relations, or they may find other ways to express their love. For many, cuddling and kissing play an important part of their relationship. For others, these may have become less frequent over the years. Rekindling these ways of expressing love can help to re-establish loving bonds, boost confidence and provide security. It is important to realise that if love is present it will remain and although a relationship will be forever changed it can change for the better. A greater understanding of one another’s needs may open up the excitement of experimentation and can even lead to a more fulfilling sexual relationship.
This may not happen immediately, as people need time to come to terms with the diagnosis of an illness or disability. For people diagnosed with MND, the disability may have progressively worsened over time or, for some, may have happened seemingly overnight. Everyone will have a different experience and everyone will cope in different ways. It is important to remember that you are still the same person and that someone who loves you will still see the person you were before the diagnosis. There is no reason why you should not still have an intimate relationship with your partner, you may just need to adapt and be open to new ways to express your love. This can be achieved through open communication and by talking to your partner about how you feel.
How might MND affect a sexual relationship? There are many reasons why a diagnosis of MND may affect your ability to make love as you did before, these may include: • • • • • • • Tiredness and weakness Pain Spasticity Behavioural Changes Depression Medication Self Image
The remainder of this information sheet concentrates on each of these effects in turn.
Tiredness and weakness The extreme tiredness you can feel with MND can mean that you do not always feel you have the strength to participate in any type of sexual activity, or that your libido is reduced. This may cause some confusion for your partner who may feel you no longer desire them. Talk about how you feel, explain that it is not because you do not want him/her but that your physical condition is preventing you. Give your partner a loving cuddle instead and tell them you still want them.
It could be that your physical energy levels are higher in the morning, so perhaps this could be the time for showing your partner how much you care. Maybe consider different sexual positions or practices which are physically less demanding. Just touching someone can make all the difference and make them feel that you do care.
Pain Pain can appear in many different guises with MND. Although the disease itself is not painful, many of the associated symptoms can be. Cramp can affect any one of us and can occur at the most inappropriate time. For people diagnosed with MND, cramp can pose a real problem. Speak to your doctor, as they may be able to prescribe...